Mary Magdalene has become one of the most talked about figures from the life of Jesus, even though she hardly ever shows up in the Gospel accounts about him (during his public ministry, just in one verse, total!, Luke 8:2).  (She shows up only at the crucifixion and, most important, the empty tomb).

In my last post I began to explore the tradition — not found in the New Testament — that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.  Here I pick up  the thread where I left it off. I had mentioned a number of passages that people read *AS IF* they were talking about Mary Magdalene, even though her name does not occur in them.  Here I’ll show that none of these passages is about her.

And then I’ll explain why everyone today thinks she is a prostitute and where that idea came from.  Spoiler alert: a sixth-century Pope!

Once again, this comes from my book on Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene (Oxford University Press, 2006)


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

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