In my previous post I was answering the following question: “where did the origin of Mary Magdalene as an escort/ sex worker come from?” I began my answer by citing a passage from my book on Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene, where I explained that a number of passages in the New Testament in which women are said to appear are often said / assumed to be about Mary Magdalene, even though she is not mentioned in them. That is where I will pick up the conversation here, to show that these stories are almost certainly *not* about her; I will then show how they all got mushed together in the popular imagination, largely because of a famous sermon preached by a famous pope in the sixth century. Here is where I resume:


None of these New Testament stories, however, deals with Mary Magdalene — except in popular imagination, which has kept blissfully removed from a careful reading of the texts themselves. But the New Testament texts actually tell a different tale. Mary Magdalene is not the person she is sometimes said to be.

(a) Mary Magdalene cannot be the sinful woman who anoints Jesus in Luke 7. This woman, I should repeat, is not called a prostitute. Anyone who assumes that a “sinful woman” must have been someone who was paid for sex is simply misogynist (what else could a “sinful” woman be, if not a whore?). In fact, for particularly strict Jews of the first century, a “sinful” woman could be someone who ground her grain on the sabbath or who ate a bit of shrimp cocktail — for this would be someone who did not assiduously observe the law of Moses. But in any event, this sinful woman who anoints Jesus in Luke 7 is not Mary Magdalene, because Mary Magdalene is actually introduced by Luke in his very next story (Luke 8:1-3), where he gives her name (Mary), her identification (of the town of Magdala), and describes something about her (“from whom seven demons had gone out”). As New Testament scholars today all agree, if the earlier story of Luke 7 were about Mary, he would have introduced her for the first time there — not later.


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