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The True Story of the Most Famous Biblical Sinner, or Who Mary Magdalene Was in Real Life
The True Story of the Most Famous Biblical Sinner, or Who Mary Magdalene Was in Real Life

Mary Magdalene is a key figure in the Bible, namely in the Gospels of the New Testament. The role of this woman in the development of Christianity cannot be overestimated. It also continues to be the subject of the most heated debate among theologians. Why do different branches of Christianity, as well as representatives of other religious structures (and not only) describe Mary Magdalene differently? What do professional representatives of official historical science say about this?

Who is Mary Magdalene?

In the New Testament, Mary Magdalene is described as one of the most devoted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was she who was the first to witness His resurrection from the dead. For centuries, the Western Christian Church has portrayed this woman as a repentant sinner. Recent research by scientists has cast doubt on this interpretation. Many have accepted the version of the Gnostic Gospels that has recently been discovered. Among them was the Gospel of Mary. According to these manuscripts, Mary is a reflective, wise spiritualist, whom Jesus greatly favors.

Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ

Who is Mary Magdalene according to the Bible?

This woman was one of the most ardent followers of Jesus, the most devoted disciple. Most of what we know about her comes primarily from the New Testament scriptures. Experts believe that Mary Magdalene was of Jewish origin, despite all her pagan habits. The very name "Magdalene" comes from the name of the city in which she was born, Magdala.

Compound of Mary Magdalene in her hometown

The canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John describe Mary as a witness to the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. References to the Gospel primarily speak only of her physical presence and elementary actions during these events. They do not give us the slightest idea of ​​her personality, character or details of her life history. Throughout the centuries, Western Christianity, European art and literature of the Renaissance, as well as modern media have never portrayed Mary! She was portrayed as a fallen, corrupt woman, she was credited with the role of Jesus' mistress and even his wife!

The image of Mary Magdalene in cinema

Who is Mary Magdalene for the representatives of the Western branch of Christianity

At the end of the 6th century, Pope Gregory I the Great, who was later canonized and canonized by the Catholic Church, delivered a sermon dedicated to Mary Magdalene. In this sermon, he described her as a repentant sinner. This woman was highly praised by a clergyman for her devotion and love for Jesus. Pope Gregory suggested that Mary Magdalene might be that sinner from the Gospel of Luke who broke the expensive alabaster vessel and anointed Jesus with myrrh. She could also be Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus and Martha, friends of Jesus. The third assumption concerned the story of the expulsion of seven demons from a woman named Mary. Gregory I brought these three women together.Regarding the expulsion of demons, he said that this is similar to the description of the seven deadly sins, among which not only the sin of lust, but also greed and pride. After this sermon, this very opinion about Mary Magdalene was established in Western Christianity.

Pope Gregory I the Great

This image of Mary was rejected by representatives of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Orthodox doctrine considered it only from the side of the most devoted disciple and follower of Jesus Christ. In medieval Europe, the image of Mary as a repentant sinner was strengthened. This concept flourished in Western theology until recently.

This is how Mary Magdalene was usually depicted in Renaissance art

Painters and sculptors usually represented Mary Magdalene in their works dressed as a harlot. Some representatives of the Renaissance art depicted her completely naked. For example, Titian, on whose canvases she is only covered by her long blond hair.

The Penitent Magdalene, Titian

Alternative history of Mary Magdalene

Canonical in Catholicism, the version of Mary Magdalene was challenged by the French humanist Jacques Lefebvre d'Etaple in 1518. He very actively objected to the merging of the two Mary: the sister of Lazarus and the nameless sinner in the Gospel of Luke. D'Etaple insisted on the impossibility of this theory. His position received very little support, but the opposition in religious circles was enormous. It all ended with the fact that in 1521 the views of d'Etapel were officially condemned by French theologians.

Jacques Lefebvre d'Etaple

In 1969, the Common Roman Calendar put an end to this issue. He determined different dates related to the appearance of Mary of Bethany and the unknown sinner in the Gospel of Luke.

Sisters of Lazarus - Mary and Martha

Who Mary Magdalene is represented by the Gnostic Gospels

At the end of the 19th century, scraps of manuscripts were discovered that are known as the Gnostic Gospels. Among these manuscripts were records called the gospel of Mary. The manuscript was written in the 3rd century. In her, Mary Magdalene appears as a completely different person. She has a very special relationship with Jesus, a deep understanding of the very essence of His teaching. She is a very intelligent and educated woman. The Gospel of Philip describes Mary's relationship with Jesus as partnership or companionship. This has been interpreted by many to mean that their relationship was very close.

What is known about Mary after Jesus died on the cross? Mary Magdalene is canonized by the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches. This is despite the fact that interpretations of her personality vary greatly. According to some historical sources, she accompanied Saint John the Evangelist to the city of Ephesus, near present-day Selcuk, Turkey. The researchers claim that she died there and was buried. There are documents that describe her as an evangelist preaching in the south of France. Medieval legend even tells that she was the wife of John.

Modern views on the figure of Mary Magdalene

The image of Mary Magdalene continues to be incredibly popular in all forms of art. This woman is a true object of admiration not only for representatives of the Christian religion, but also for absolutely secular people.

Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ

Many film adaptations have been made about Mary. Almost all of them are megapopular. One of the most famous is the film based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis "The Last Temptation of Christ", directed by the great Martin Scorsese. The image of Mary Magdalene is important in the rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar" by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. In 2004, Mel Gibson directed an incredibly powerful film called The Passion of the Christ, starring the gorgeous Monica Bellucci as Maria. This film uses the image of Mary as a repentant sinner who followed Christ. In 2003, Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code was released. The work gained enormous popularity; a film of the same name was filmed based on the novel.There Mary Magdalene appears in the image described in the Gnostic Gospels.

Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ in the film "Mary Magdalene"

Maria's story was again in the spotlight during the live broadcast of NBC's Jesus Christ Superstar on Easter Sunday 2018, starring Sarah Bareilles. Around the same time, the biblical drama Mary Magdalene, starring Rooney Mara, became popular in theaters. In the story, a young woman tries to avoid a marriage of convenience. The role of Jesus in this film was brilliantly played by Joaquin Phoenix.

If you are interested in the topic, read our article on how what evidence is there that Jesus Christ is a real historical figure.

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