HERMENAUTICS MARY MAGDELENE

Mary Magdalene Was Not A Whore

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as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Easter season the church will rehearse the great truths of our miraculous birthing. Included among them will be Mary Magdalene’s role in discovering our risen Lord. And once again in popular Easter movies, pageants, and sermons, she will be cast in the role of a whore.

Poor Mary. Mary Magdalene was one of the few bold enough to watch Jesus suffer and die on the Cross. She was one of only two to see Him resurrected at His tomb, and was the first to witness the truth of His resurrection. But how is she perennially remembered? Not as the hero of Christian faith she truly is, but as a “former” whore.

Hallelujah that God sets prostitutes and the rest of we misfits free to make us new creations in Christ. This is what the Gospel is all about. But I’ve found myself an advocate of Mary’s true legacy over the years, not only because of Mary  Magdalene’s interpritive misrepresentation, but because it robs the church every Easter of a heroic model of faith. 

Like so many other biblical revelations, the truth of Mary Magdalene has fallen victim to poor hermeneutics (prejudiced study methods). And because Eschatology Today is dedicated to rightly dividing God’s Word without predetermined bias, our Easter offering to you is a fresh, systematic look at this biblical figure who knew Jesus on a personal level few have ever known. As in every Eschatology Today study, examine the cited Scripture for yourself, then consider your findings.

                                                Rightly Dividing the Truth of Mary Magdalene’s Past

So here we go. Remembering hermeneutics’ maxim: Where the Word of God is bound, so are we; where it’s not, we are free, let’s see what Scripture literally says about Mary Magdalene’s world-renowned past.

Luke 8:1-3
1    And it came about soon afterwards, that He began going about from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God; and the twelve were with Him,
2    and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
3    and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.

Verse 2 of this passage tells us Mary Magdalene was among a remnant of certain women who “had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses,” and that seven demons had “gone out” of her. Mark 16:9 says Jesus “cast them out.”

These demons could have produced sickness or disease in Mary’s life (see Luke 13:10-13; Matthew 15:22-28). They may have even been idolatry, immorality, greed, sorcery, jealousy, or strife (see Galatians 5:14-21). Whatever they were, they certainly weren’t good. But to insinuate they directed Mary to sell her body for sex acts before her deliverance is a FREE INTERPRETATION. I’ll show you why.

The Four Gospel Marys

A systematic theology of the Marys in Scripture shows there were four in the Gospels, all of whom shared an intimacy with Jesus during His time on earth.

1.  Mary, the Mother of Jesus
The most famous Mary is the blessed virgin from the high priestly lineage of Aaron who was chosen by God tomary2miraculously birth Jesus.

Matthew 1:16
16 …and to Jacob was born Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

2.  Mary Magdalene
Next best known is Mary Magdalene because of her relationship with Jesus, discovery of the empty tomb with the “other” Mary, and encounter with the angels and Jesus outside of the tomb.

mary6Matthew 28:1-20
1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.
2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.
3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow;
4 and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
5 And the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.
6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.
7 “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”
8 And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.
9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.
10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren.”

John Chapter 20 focuses on Mary Magdalene only.

John 20:11-18
11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;
12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.
13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.

3.  Mary of Bethany
Also famous in Scripture is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who chose the better thing formary_magdalene_Da_Vinci_Codesitting at Jesus’ feet.

Luke 10:38-42
38     Now as they were traveling along, He entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.
39    And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet.
40    But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”
41    But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;
42    but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

4.  Mary the Sister of Mother Mary

PassionPhoto6Lesser known than these three Marys is the sister of Jesus’ mother, Mary the wife of Clopas, mother of James and Joseph. The Holy Spirit ensured we understood this other Mary was Jesus’ aunt, and that she was with her sister, John, and Mary Magdalene during the last moments of Jesus’ earthly life. She was present with the three as witness to Jesus’ crucifixion, and encountered the angels and Jesus with Mary Magdalene during their visits to the tomb (John 19:25).

John 19:25
25 Therefore the soldiers did these things. But there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Matthew 28:1
28 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.

Luke 28:9,10
9    And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.
10  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren.”

Only one of these four biblical Marys is implicated in any literal way of living a sinful lifestyle, and it isn’t Mary Magdalene. In fact, it is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha.

John 11:1 tells us this Mary “was [that] Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.”

Luke’s account implicates her simply as a sinner who was looked down upon by the religious elite.

Luke 7:36-39
36   Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him. And He entered the Pharisee’s house, and reclined at the table.
37   And behold, there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume,
38   and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet, and anointing them with the perfume.
39   Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet HeWoman-Washed-Jesus-Feet-With-Her-Tearswould know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”

The Greek word that describes Simon’s dinner intruder is the word we derive our English word “sin” from, hamartos, “sinful, to miss the mark”. When He forgave her, Jesus did acknowledge her many sins (vs.47). But there is no huge revelation about this woman’s true condition except to understand she lived a sinful life.

Nevertheless, theologians throughout history have presumed she was a prostitute and connected her with Mary Magdalene, while at the same time protecting Mary of Bethany from any infamous connection. Why? I suppose to keep a woman from taking biblical prominence in the resurrection account during a very misogynistic time period. Outside of that, beats me. Instead of making a John 11:1/Luke 8:36-39 key event connection of Mary the sister of Martha and the woman who barged into Simon’s house, an amazing conglomeration of commentators believe John 11:1 refers to Mary the sister of Martha’s John 12:1-3 anointing of Jesus at the feast of Lazarus. The principle of chronological ascent disputes this. Why refer the reader to an act committed by Mary before the act occurred? One way or the other, this is the only possible key word/event connection with any “sinful” Mary mentioned in Scripture. And it is revelation. So far as Mary Magdalene is concerned, there is none. 

Still, this year if “Jesus of Nazareth” (my favorite Easter film) airs viewers will see Mary Magdalene portrayed again as a neighborhood whore who is told about Jesus’ forgiveness by one of her customers…and later as the sinful woman who barges into Simon’s house. In Mel Gibson’s heroic triumph, “The Passon of Christ,” viewers will see Mary Magdalene cast as the John 8 woman caught in adultery. In this year’s exciting biblical semi-fiction “Risen”, when the Tribune is searching for Jesus’ body, a barracks full of Roman Soldiers is asked if  any know Mary Magadelne, and all raise their hands with smirks on their faces. Sheeessshhh. Seasonal magazine articles, Sunday School lessons, and books will also hype her misrepresention again.

Setting the captive free, from whatever pre-salvation station, is what the Gospel is all about. But Mary Magdalene’s historic casting is hermeneutically unfair. Not because her legacy surrounds this one aspect of her misinterpreted life, but because the veracity of her Christian faith and model have been historically marred.

 The Truth About Mary

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So consider this, if you will, concerning Mary Magdalene as you celebrate Christ’s resurrection this Easter Season.

Luke 8:1-3 tells us Mary Magdalene discovered the truth of Jesus early during His earthly ministry, and that she traveled with Him and others as He ministered in Israel. This passage also indicates she financed His ministry, and confirms, along with Mark 16:9, that she was delivered of seven demons. John 19:25 says Mary Magdalene maintained a fearless fortitude with John, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and the “other Mary”, to stay with Jesus through His execution. John 20:1-16 explains it was Mary Magdalene, not John or Peter, who had the faith to stay at the grave following their investigation of Mary’s empty-tomb report. Because of this, John 20:17 tells us it was Mary Magdalene who Jesus entrusted with His resurrection appearance and gave the first commission to tell of His raising from the dead.

Did the seven demons Jesus cast out of Mary Magdalene have her bound in life as a whore? Based on a literal observation of Scripture, it is a sound biblical interpretation to answer this question: NO! Mary Magdalene was not a whore. It is as hermeneutically equitable to freely interpret Mary Magdalene’s undisclosed past as a housewife or merchant racked with demonically produced disease or overtaken by devils of greed, jealousy, or strife.

Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ most intimate disciples who followed Him throughout His earthly ministry, to the Cross, and to the tomb. It was she who held the resurrected form of Jesus on the day He was raised from the dead. And it was she who was the first to be commissioned by Jesus to preach His raising from the dead.

Who else in Scripture can attest to this?

NO ONE.

Thank you Mary Magdalene for your heroic example of faith.

John 20:1-21:25
1     Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.
2     And so she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
3     Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they were going to the tomb.
4     And the two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter, and came to the tomb first;
5     and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in.
6     Simon Peter therefore also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he beheld the linen wrappings lying there,
7     and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.
8     So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also, and he saw and believed.
9     For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.
10   So the disciples went away again to their own homes.
11   But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;
12   and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.
13   And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
14   When she had said this, she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it wasmary magdaleneJesus.
15   Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
16   Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).
17   Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’”
18   Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
19   When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20   And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21   Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
22   And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
23   “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

By Mark Norris, Publisher, Eschatology Today, M.A.

God’s Richest Blessings on You this Year as You Celebrate His Resurrection

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