Mary Magdalene

The character of Mary Magdalene has raised a lot of interest and curiosity in recent times. There are mainly two reasons: first, Dan Brown’s new novel ‘The Da Vinci Code’ portrays Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus and the mother of their children; second, after Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene is the most popular character in the New Testament of The Bible.

Then, some years ago the novelist Nikos Kazantzakis published a novel entitled “The Last Temptations of Jesus Christ”. In 1988 the Hollywood film producer Martin Scorsese made a film based on the novel. I saw the film in a theatre in Switzerland. In the film Jesus without dying on the cross comes down and starts a family with Mary Magdalene. Both Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene are historical characters.

Similarly, Leonard da Vinci is also a genius painter, artist in history. In the film on Jesus and Mary Magdalene
the producer has used the name of da Vinci. The novelist Dan Brown’s success has been due to the fact that he built a magnificent story on the imagined life of historical persons. Here, we shall try to portray the character of Mary Magdalene not based on imagination, but on reliable information given in the New Testament.

All the four evangelists Mathew, Mark, Luke and John have spoken about Mary Magdalene in the Gospels. Mary Magdalene is the best known person among the women of the New Testament after Mother Mary. Apart from Mother Mary the Gospels speak
about three Marys: one, Mary Magdalene, two,Mary the sister of Lazarus and Martha, and three, Mary the mother of James and Joseph. Apart from these three women with the name Mary, there has been many other women following Jesus.

For instance, St. Luke says, “The twelve disciples went with Jesus, and so did some women who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (who was called Magdalene), from whom seven demons had been driven out; Joanna, whose husband Chuza was an officer in Herod’s court; and Susanna, and many other women who used their own resources to help Jesus and his
disciples.” (Luke 8, 2-3) Before speaking about the women disciples St. Luke speaks about a sinful woman going to the
house of Simon, a Pharisee, where Jesus was eating.She anointed Jesus’ feet, and kissed them. Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7, 48) The author of “Impressions of Jesus”, Denis Mac Bright believes that, that sinful women is Mary Magdalene. But authors like Herbert Loekyer who has written “All the Women of the Bible” says, there are no conclusive
proofs to believe that Mary Magdalene is the same as the sinful woman. Like some Bible scholars I too believe that it is an injustice to Mary Magdalene to consider her as the sinful woman. It is a defamation of Mary Magdalene.

We do not know about the parents, the family or the social life of Mary Magdalene. But Mary’s name is listed first among those women who followed Jesus and provided him and his disciples from their own means. From this we may conclude that Mary Magdalene had received a family inheritance which she was free to use for the benefit of Jesus and his disciples. But without any specific family obligations, Mary Magdalene could follow Jesus together with other the women disciples of Jesus.

From Mark (16, 9) and Luke (8, 2) we know that Jesus has driven out seven devils from Mary Magdalene. In the time of Jesus the people believed that sicknesses like epilepsy and madness were the result of the possession of devils and evil spirits. Mary Magdalene must have suffered from such a sickness and Jesus must have healed her from that sickness and gifted her health.

Mary Magdalene could have also suffered from some inherited sickness. But the main thing is that Jesus saved her from sickness or possession which harassed her and gave her the gift of full health. Thus with a grateful heart Mary
Magdalene must have offered her life for the service of Jesus and his disciples. With Mary Magdalene there were also other
women who have been freed from their sickness or the possession. The Gospel of St. Luke clearly says that among those who followed Jesus there were some women who were been healed of evil spirits and sickness.

Among these women Mary Magdalene must have been very dedicated and may have displayed leadership qualities so that her name is mentioned first among all the women disciples of Jesus. Perhaps this major role of Mary Magdalene among Jesus’ woman disciples may be the reason for novelists like Dan Brown to portray Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus. There is no historical or traditional proof to show Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ wife. Dan Brown’s novel, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is nothing more than the fruitful imagination of the novelist.

Jesus was proclaiming God’s Kingdom going from village to village and town to town. So people were needed to look after the needs of Jesus and his disciples like food and place for night-halting. The women disciples like Mary Magdalene did all that spending generously from their own wealth. Mary Magdalene may have played a leading role in it. But to conclude from it
and to portray Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus, one forgets the great difference between the mentality of people today and at the time of Jesus.

I believe, like the relation of the twelve disciples with Jesus, Mary Magdalene too related to Jesus as master (Guru) and disciple. Mary Magdalene cultivated that relation with complete dedication and service. Jesus too appreciated Mary’s complete trust and service. This becomes clear during the time of Jesus’ Passion, his death on the Cross and above all during his resurrection.

During the last journey of Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem as usual Mary Magdalene and the other women disciples accompanied Jesus and served him spending money from their own pockets. Besides, when the enemies of Jesus came to catch hold of him, the disciples fled from the scene, but Mary Magdalene and the other women disciples followed Jesus. Like Jesus they too became fearless in the face of death. So, the evangelists may have heard about the happenings and the events of the three last days of Jesus’ life from these women and narrated them in their Gospels.

St. Luke writes that on the way of the Cross, “a large crowd of people followed him; among them were some women who were weeping and wailing for him.” (Luke 23, 27) Luke has not mentioned the name of Mary Magdalene among the women following Jesus, but we would be surprised if Mary Magdalene is not there among the women. When the enemies of Jesus got hold