LEARN TO LIVE, LIVE TO LEARN
“To know much and taste nothing-of what use is that?” ―St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio
"Kuya Jeff, my purpose for writing is to ask about Mary Magdalene. Was she Jesus' love interest? Was she a reformed prostitute? If so, is there biblical support for this persistent view? Talk to you soon Kuya." - R. Mendoza
1. According to the Gospel of John, the message of the Resurrection was first entrusted to Mary of Magdala. She announced to the apostles what they in turn will announce to all the world. For this, she was referred to as Apostle to the Apostles (Apostola Apostolorum) by the Angelic Doctor, Saint Thomas of Aquinas. This title was reiterated by Pope Francis as he elevated her celebration, July 22, from a Memorial to a liturgical Feast.
2. Mary of Magdala's more common though erroneous description as public sinner or prostitute comes from a misreading of Luke’s gospel which tells us that “seven demons had gone out of her” (Luke 8:1-3). Illness was commonly attributed to the work of evil spirits, although not necessarily associated with sinfulness. For example, the Gerasene demon-possessed man in Mark 5:1-20 was not spoken of as a sinner. The number seven simply demonstrates that her illness was chronic or very severe.
3. Mary of Magdala also had been confused with several other women in the Bible: the unnamed sinner in Luke 7:36-50, Mary of Bethany, Martha and Lazarus’ sister—who also anoints Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair in John 12:1-8, and the woman stoned for adultery in John 8:3-11. The public sinner and prostitute theories may have been around for centuries, but there are no biblical evidence to support these. These are clear cases of mistaken identity!
4. We have no record of Mary’s parentage or her marital status. A married woman would have carried her husband's name and she didn't. She is never described as a widow and she is not said to have any children. "Magdalene" suggests her origin as the Gentile town of Magdala Taricheae, a home to a massive fishing industry, as well as dye and textile works. That she was free to travel the country with Jesus and his disciples, suggests that she was unlikely to have a husband and children waiting for her at home.
5. Finally, a close study of Luke 8:1-3, will demonstrate that not only was Mary Magdalene one of Jesus' most devoted female followers, who stuck with him all the way from Galilee to Jerusalem, but also a "key financial supporter" of the Jesus movement which suggests that she was a well-to-do, respectable figure.
Saint Mary of Magdala, apostle to the apostles, pray for us!
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum