Mary Magdalen (of Magdala)
|Also Known As:||"Mary of Bethany"|
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About St. Mary Magdalene
Jesus had no wife!
Mary Magdalene or Mary of Magdala (original Greek Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνή) is described, in the New Testament, as one of the most important women associated with Jesus during his ministry.
The late 20th and early 21st century has seen a restoration of the New Testament figure of Mary Magdalene as a patron of women's preaching and ministry. Her new popularity has stemmed in part from the recognition that Mary Magdalene has suffered from what is believed to have been a historical defamation of character. Some argue that she has been misidentified as a repentant prostitute in historical tradition and as depicted in art as a weeping sinner wiping Jesus' feet with her hair.
According to Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9, Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons." Some contemporary scholars contend this concept means healing from illness,not forgiveness of sin. On the other hand, some major Christian saints, including St. Bede and St. Gregory, interpret the seven devils to signify that she was "full of all vices."Hence, on this interpretation, the episode does signify the forgiveness of sins.
Mary Magdalene is the leader of a group of women disciples who are present at the cross, when the male disciples (excepting John the Beloved) have fled, and at his burial. Mary was a devoted follower of Jesus, entering into the close circle of those taught by Jesus during his Galilean ministry. She became prominent during the last days, accompanying Jesus during his travels and following him to the end. She witnessed his Crucifixion and burial. According to all four Gospels in the Christian New Testament, she was the first person to see the resurrected Christ.
Mary Magdalene is referred to in early Christian writings as "the apostle to the apostles." In apocryphal texts, she is portrayed as a visionary and leader of the early movement, who was loved by Jesus more than the other disciples.
Several Gnostic gospels, such as the Gospel of Mary, written in the early 2nd century, see Mary as the special disciple of Jesus who has a deeper understanding of his teachings and is asked to impart this to the other disciples. Speculations (though unsupported in Christian biblical canons) have emerged in antiquity and in modern times regarding Mary, including claims that she was Jesus' wife and bore him a daughter named Sarah.
Mary Magdalene is considered by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches to be a saint, with a feast day of July 22. The Eastern Orthodox churches also commemorate her on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers which is the second Sunday after Pascha (Easter).
St. Mary Magdalene's Timeline
In September 2012, Harvard University divinity professor Karen L. King made a stunning announcement, revealing the existence of an Egyptian papyrus fragment that contains the first-known explicit reference to Jesus being married. The fragile relic, measuring only 1.6 inches by 3.2 inches, appears to have been cut from a larger document and contains eight incomplete lines of Coptic script scribbled by a nubby pen. The fourth line of the text contains the words “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife,” followed in the next line by “she is able to be my disciple.”
Microscopic imaging revealed no suspicious ink pooling on the document’s lower fibers that would have indicated a modern-day application. The scientific analysis dates the papyrus to the seventh or eighth century A.D., and the carbon composition of the ink was found to be consistent with that time period. Researchers believe, however, that the date of the fragment is unlikely to be the date when the gospel was first composed. That date could have been as early as the second century A.D.
King stresses, as she has done since revealing the existence of the papyrus in 2012, that the artifact does not provide any evidence at all that the historical Jesus in fact had a wife, just as no historical proof exists to support claims that he never married. The fragment is too small and was written too far removed from Jesus’s time to have evidentiary value. Rather, the relic demonstrates that early Christians debated the roles of marriage, sexuality and family in spiritual life, and some believed that Jesus was married. “The main topic of the fragment is to affirm that women who are mothers and wives can be disciples of Jesus—a topic that was hotly debated in early Christianity as celibate virginity increasingly became highly valued,” King said.
The identity of the fragment’s author is unknown, and researchers believe it would have remained that way even if more of the text had survived. Nothing is known about the relic’s original discovery, although it is believed to have come from Egypt because it is written in Coptic, the form of the Egyptian language used by the region’s early Christians starting in the Roman imperial period, and because the region’s dry climate would have allowed the fragment to be preserved for centuries. The earliest documentation connected to the artifact is a 1999 bill of sale, and the fragment’s owner, a private collector who contacted King in 2011 to determine its contents, remains anonymous.
The scientific testing has not quelled all the critics, however, some of whom published their rebuttals in the same edition of the Harvard Theological Review. Some academics argue that the text contains grammatical errors that native Coptic speakers would never have committed. Others believe the fragment to have been copied from another ancient text, the Gospel of Thomas.
Still, King hopes that the results of the scientific analysis will now shift the discussion surrounding the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.” She told the Boston Globe, “I’m basically hoping that we can move past the issue of forgery to questions about the significance of this fragment for the history of Christianity, for thinking about questions like, ‘Why does Jesus being married, or not, even matter? Why is it that people had such an incredible reaction to this?’”