Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is one of the inner circle of the followers of Jesus in the Gospel narratives. Her name suggests that she came from Madala, a large city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, also called Taricheae. Magdala was know for its salt trade, for its administrative role as a toparchy, and as a large urban center that was part of the contiguous cities and large villages along the western shore of the lake from Tiberias to Bethsaida/Chorazin.
Mary Magdalen is mentioned sparingly but at crucial points in all four Gospels. During the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus, she is depicted as watching the proceedings and waiting near the tombs to attend to the body (Matt. 27.56, 61.28; par.; John 19.25). She is also one of the first witnesses to the resurrection (Matt. 28.9; John 20.11-18). These passages probably gave rise to the romantic protrayals of Mary as the devoted follower whom Jesus had saved from her errant ways.
Contrary to subsequent Christian interpretation, reflected in popular belief and recent films, there is no evidence from the Gospels that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute or for the later identification of Mary Magdalene with the women who anoint Jesus' feet (Luke 7.36-50; Matt. 26.6-13 par.) or with Mary of Bethany (Luke 10.38; John 11.1-2) In Luke 8.2 it is said that Mary Magdalene was healed of seven evil spirits by Jesus. But this is in the context of a list of women who were followers of Jesus, who had also been healed, and who supplied the material support for his mission. Since Mary Magdalene, Chuza (the wife of a steward of Herod) and Susanna are the only women mentioned, it is likely that these three were the benefactors of the Jesus movement according to Luke.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985). You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition, edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books (http://www.borders.com), Christian Science Reading Rooms, or Christian Book Distributors (http://www.christianbook.com):
Mary Magdalene, or ‘of Magdala,’ mentioned first in every listing of Jesus’ female disciples (Mark 15:40-41, 47; 16:1; Matt. 27:55-56, 61; 28:1; Luke 8:2-3; 24:10). She therefore seems to have been the leader of a group of women who ‘followed’ and ‘served’ Jesus constantly from the outset of his ministry in Galilee to his death and beyond. Matthew and Mark acknowledge them only immediately after Jesus’ death, but Luke mentions their presence with the Twelve in Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (8:1-3). Here Mary is included among the many women who provided for Jesus’ ministry from their own means and among a smaller number ‘healed of evil spirits and infirmities.’ That she was healed of some serious affliction is expressed by describing her as one ‘from whom seven demons had gone out’ (v. 2). She is foremost as a witness to Jesus’ death according to all four Gospels (Mark 15:40-41, 47; Matt. 27:55-56, 61; Luke 23:49, 55-56; John 19:25), to the empty tomb (Mark 16:1-6; Matt. 28:1, 6; Luke 24:1-3, 10; John 20:1-2), and in receiving the news or appearance of the risen Christ to tell to the disciples (Mark 16:6-7; Matt. 28:5-9; Luke 24:4-10). According to Luke the women’s testimony was not believed but was later vindicated (24:11, 22-48). According to John 20:11-18 the risen Jesus appeared first to her and talked with her about his coming ascension (v. 17). She is characterized as an apostle in some apocryphal NT writings (e.g., The Gospel of Philip). She rivals Peter in that she receives revelations from the risen Christ to pass on to the rest of the apostles.
Dictionary of the Bible, Second Edition, original edition edited by James Hastings, revised by Frederick C. Grant and H.H. Rowley (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1963, page 628-629):
Mary Magdalene, probably so called as coming from Magdala, also known as Tarichaea, on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. She is first mentioned in Lk 8:2 as one of the women who having been 'healed of evil spirits and infirmities ... provided for them out of their means.' Seven demons had been cast out of her (cf Mk 16:9), indicating, perhaps that her affliction had been particularly serious (cf Mt 12:45, Mk 5:9).
A questionable tradition identifies her with the unnamed sinful woman who anointed our Lord (Lk 7:37ff); and she has thus been regarded as the typical reformed 'fallen woman.' But St. Luke, though he placed them consecutively in his narrative, did not identify them; and possession did not necessarily presuppose moral failing in the victim's character...
... [The] first appearance of our Lord after His Resurrection (Mk 16:9) conferred a special honour on one whose life of loving memory had proved the reality and depth of her devotion.
All the biblical texts referring to Mary Magdalene by name (from the Today's English Version [book review])
Mat 27:56,61 - The Death of Jesus (Mark 15.33-41; Luke 23.44-49; John 19.28-30):
55 There were many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee and helped him. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the wife of Zebedee.
Mat 28:1 - The Resurrection (Mark 16.1-10; Luke 24.1-12; John 20.1-10):
1 After the Sabbath, as Sunday morning was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a violent earthquake; an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid that they trembled and became like dead men. 5 The angel spoke to the women. “You must not be afraid,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said. Come here and see the place where he was lying. 7 Go quickly now, and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from death, and now he is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him!’ Remember what I have told you.” 8 So they left the tomb in a hurry, afraid and yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Peace be with you.” They came up to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. 10 “Do not be afraid,” Jesus said to them. “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
Mar 15:40 - The Death of Jesus (Matt 27.45-56; Luke 23.44-49; John 19.28-30):
40 Some women were there, looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 They had followed Jesus while he was in Galilee and had helped him. Many other women who had come to Jerusalem with him were there also.
Mar 15:47 - The Burial of Jesus (Matt 27.57-61; Luke 23.50-56; John 19.38-42)
42-43 It was towards evening when Joseph of Arimathea arrived. He was a respected member of the Council, who was waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God. It was Preparation day (that is, the day before the Sabbath), so Joseph went boldly into the presence of Pilate and asked him for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead. He called the army officer and asked him if Jesus had been dead a long time. 45 After hearing the officer’s report, Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. 46 Joseph bought a linen sheet, took the body down, wrapped it in the sheet, and placed it in a tomb which had been dug out of solid rock. Then he rolled a large stone across the entrance to the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph were watching and saw where the body of Jesus was placed.
Mat 16:1 - The Resurrection (Matt 28.1-8; Luke 24.1-12; John 20.1-10):
1 After the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices to go and anoint the body of Jesus. 2 Very early on Sunday morning, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. 3-4 On the way they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (It was a very large stone.) Then they looked up and saw that the stone had already been rolled back. 5 So they entered the tomb, where they saw a young man sitting on the right, wearing a white robe—and they were alarmed. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here—he has been raised! Look, here is the place where they put him. 7 Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: ‘He is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” 8 So they went out and ran from the tomb, distressed and terrified. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Mar 16:9 - A long, old ending to the Gospel of Mark: Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene (Matt 28.9-10; John 20.11-18)
9 After Jesus rose from death early on Sunday, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 10 She went and told his companions. They were mourning and crying; 11 and when they heard her say that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe her.
BibleTexts.com footnote: Mar 16:9 was not in the original text of Mark, but the description,"from whom he had driven out seven demons," is also found in Luk 8:2. The original text of Mark actually ended with Mar 16:8. Beginning sometime in the middle of the second century, three different endings were appended to Mark. To explore these three endings and the issues involved, browse http://www.bibletexts.com/versecom/mar16v09.htm.
Luk 8:2 - Women Who Accompanied Jesus
8 Some time later Jesus travelled through towns and villages, preaching the Good News about the Kingdom of God. The twelve disciples went with him, 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.
Luk 24:10 - The Burial of Jesus (Matt 27.57-61; Mark 15.42-47; John 19.38-42) and The Resurrection (Matt 28.1-10; Mark 16.1-8; John 20.1-10)
[Luk 23] 55 The women who had followed Jesus from Galilee went with Joseph and saw the tomb and how Jesus’ body was placed in it. Then they went back home and prepared the spices and perfumes for the body.
[Luk 24] 1 Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, carrying the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, 3 so they went in; but they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 They stood there puzzled about this, when suddenly two men in bright shining clothes stood by them. 5 Full of fear, the women bowed down to the ground, as the men said to them, “Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here; he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.’ ” 8 Then the women remembered his words, 9 returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest. 10 The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; they and the other women with them told these things to the apostles. 11 But the apostles thought that what the women said was nonsense, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; he bent down and saw the linen wrappings but nothing else. Then he went back home amazed at what had happened.
Joh 19:25 - Jesus Is Crucified (Matt 27.32–44; Mark 15.21–32; Luke 23.26–43)
25 Standing close to Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
Joh 20:1 - The Empty Tomb (Matt 28.1-8; Mark 16.1-8; Luke 24.1-12)
1 Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the entrance. 2 She went running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple went to the tomb. 4 The two of them were running, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and saw the linen wrappings, but he did not go in. 6 Behind him came Simon Peter, and he went straight into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there 7 and the cloth which had been round Jesus’ head. It was not lying with the linen wrappings but was rolled up by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand the scripture which said that he must rise from death.) 10 Then the disciples went back home.
Joh 20:18 - Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene (Matt 28.9-10; Mark 16.9-11)
11 Mary stood crying outside the tomb. While she was still crying, she bent over and looked in the tomb 12 and saw two angels there dressed in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 “Woman, why are you crying?” they asked her. She answered, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!” 14 Then she turned round and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 “Woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it that you are looking for?” She thought he was the gardener, so she said to him, “If you took him away, sir, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned towards him and said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (This means “Teacher”.) 17 “Do not hold on to me,” Jesus told her, “because I have not yet gone back up to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am returning to him who is my Father and their Father, my God and their God.” 18 So Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and related to them what he had told her.
Additional information about Mary Magdalene and other women in the early church
Edited for BibleTexts.com by Robert Nguyen Cramer