Mary Magdalene was one of the Bible’s most mysterious characters even though her name was mentioned around twelve times in the canonical gospels (more than some of Jesus’ male disciples). The name “Mary” seemed popular at that time with several Marys mentioned in the canonical books (the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Such as:
* Mary, Jesus’ mother
* Mary, mother of James
* Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha
* Mary Salome
* Mary of Clopas
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This particular Mary was distinguished by her toponym “Magdalene or Magdala” which was a town located on the northwest shore of Galilee in the region of Tiberias. The date and place of her birth were unknown. It was also uncertain that Magdala, the place which she was associated with, was the place of her birth or where she was raised. Readers of the Gospel of Luke first see her early in the eighth chapter when Jesus healed her from demon possession (Luke 8:1-3). This event was later echoed in the last chapter of Mark (16:9).
These were the only two gospels that mentioned this particular event in Mary Magdalene’s life and both writers did not even give out more detail on the event. Her freedom from demon possession would be Mary Magdalene’s chief narrative, but somehow over the years, she would be associated with the woman who poured the costly perfume from the alabaster jar (thus, the identification with prostitution) or with mental illness—beliefs that became popular during the Medieval Period. There were no direct passages in the four canonical books to associate her with either prostitution or insanity, but the idea that stained her reputation started with Pope Gregory I’s Homily 33 in 591 AD wherein he stated that:
“She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary [of Bethany], we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. And what did these seven devils signify if not all the vices?… It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts.”
The rumors that she was a prostitute or afflicted with insanity before she was healed by Jesus stuck to her for many centuries until it was finally cleared up by the Catholic Church in 1969.
The Steadfast Disciple
Most of Jesus’ disciples left him out of fear during the most difficult and last moments of his life on earth, but Mary Magdalene was one of the few followers who stayed near him during his death, burial, and resurrection. She stayed near the cross during Jesus’ crucifixion along with Mary, the mother of James and Joses and Mary Salome (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25). She was also one of the two Marys who were present during Jesus’ burial (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47). Her loyalty stood out when she and Jesus’ other female followers (the number of other women who went with her vary in the canonical books) visited his tomb after the Sabbath, but it turned out he was already resurrected from death. She held a special place in the last chapter of Mark who asserted that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene after Jesus’ resurrection (Mark 16), as well as in John when he wrote that Mary Magdalene went alone to the empty tomb (John 20).
The events of Mary Magdalene’s life after Jesus’ ascension to heaven were virtually unknown, but tradition stated that she accompanied Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Ephesus, while others assert that she left Palestine and fled to Southern France with other early Christians. Mary Magdalene’s feast day is held on July 22.
Picture By Domenico Tintoretto – Google Art Project: Home – pic Maximum resolution., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20105581
Bourgeault, Cynthia. The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity. Boston: Shambhala, 2010.
“Mary Magdalene.” Accessed August 10, 2016. http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/marymagda.html.
“St. Mary Magdalene – Saints & Angels – Catholic Online.” Catholic Online. Accessed August 10, 2016. http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=83.
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18 thoughts on “When was Mary Magdalene first mentioned in the Bible?”
In Luke it says that she was a woman of the city and sinner, to which Jesus recounted the parable of the two debtors and Jesus did not refute it. Coupled with her possession of fancy perfume the obvious conclusion is that she was a prostitute.
In any case she was well known as a sinner around town and had 7 demons inside her, pretty bad.
Your comment is a confused mix of old Catholic Church teaching and an unawareness of period expressions. The Church has dropped any association of Mary Magdalene with any particular “woman of the street.” The expression “seven demons” means that she was a very sick person, but in no way implies like Pope Gregory did that her affliction was sexual.
In my opinion, that of a recent former Catholic, A woman’s only real value was her virtue. If she was no longer a virgin, she had no worth, an opinion that prevails today.
I think the Catholic Church assumed this because of the perfume she had. Extremely expensive and they said she was a sinner, and sin is associated with demons that cause it. She wasn’t married or had a family’s a woman with no family could very well end up a prostitue.
The prostitute that bathe Jesus’ feet with scented oil was NOT Mary Magdalene. She was an unnamed woman. Luke 8: 2 is where Mary Magdalene was first mentioned. Nothing is said of her being of the city or that she was a sinner and she certainly was NOT a prostitute. The parable Jesus told was of sowing seeds not two debtors. Mary Magdalene along with Joanna and Susanna was healed of evil spirits and infirmities. None were prostitutes.
The woman who anointed Jesus was not a prostitute. Only in Luke does it mention she was sinful, but it doesn’t say she was a prostitute.
Remember these accounts are being written by men, through a man’s eyes.,, think about today; how when someone doesn’t know the narrative they create their own. I think the fact that Mary was so reserved and so close to our Savior in a more intimate (you saved my soul kinda way) relationship…. I believe their friendship on earth was ethereally approved of… I mean come on this is Jesus we are talking about….his relationship with Mary is still going on through out the eternities….
It was implied. If you had no family or a husband in first century AD you could very well end up a prostitute to survive. It’s kinda that way today too.
Mary Magdalene, may have been called Magdalene due her castle in Magdala. With her sister Martha and brother Lazarus, their grandmother was Cleopatra VII & father Mark Antony who had twins. A daughter Selene & son Alexandria Helios who was the last in the line of Ptolemy dynasty. Queen Cleopatra Selene married King Juba II of Mauritania at about the age of 20. They had 3 children. (females births not recorded) When their mother Queen Selene died in 8AD she left a vast fortune to her children, including a Fort/castle and lands in Magdala, Galilee to Mary. Fort/castle and lands to Martha in Bethany – a few miles apart, both close to Sea of Galilee. Land in Jerusalem to Lazarus. Mary’s fortune was formidable, hence it is understandable that in her early woman-hood, away from court protocol in Mauritania with her father, King Juba II, she partied a lot! Sinner she may have been, but no need to be a prostitute – this insinuated by Gregory the Great who disagreed with female input. Mary’s gospel found in Egypt 1945 – published 1955. 1st 6 chapters missing! see witcombe.sbc.edu/davincicode/Magdalen-earlylife.html – http://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous -people … children-Cleopatra-vii
p.s. We all suffer the 7 sins – pride, envy, jealousy, rage, loose morals, hatred, selfishness. Galatians 5 22-23.
There were no direct passages in the four canonical books to associate her with either prostitution or insanity, but the idea that stained her reputation started with Pope Gregory I’s Homily 33 in 591 AD.
The rumours that she was a prostitute or afflicted with insanity before she was healed by Jesus stuck to her for many centuries until it was finally cleared up by the Catholic Church in 1969. https://amazingbibletimeline.com/blog/mary-magdalene/
Never heard this.
Mary Magdalene was not Martha and Lazarus’s sister. Mary of Bethany was their sister.
7 demons would’ve have her locked up for insanity or banished ….what demons were they …or was she just epileptic/suffered seizures …writhing , violent shaking and foaming at the mouth ……possession/or medical complaint . nowhere in any version or translation of any bible will you read …”mary Magdalene is /was a prostitute” …nowhere .
Get the facts straight. Do not judge if you are not sure for certainly of the life of Maria Magdalena .
I would like to know How long before the crucifixion of Jesus, Maria Magdalena meets Jesus. Having in mind the length of his preaching and the time he spent with his 12 apostles. How long Maria Magdalena followed Jesus before he was crucified?
Do u think she is back ? And if she has been named a different name in a life here after even if one parent only knew? The Bible asked u too do this.
She was an apostle to the apostles since Jesus ‘SENT’ her with a message to the apostles. Jesus showed by this act that He had redeemed and reinstated all women to their rightful place NEXT to men at that time…because the first will be last and the last shall be first (which has so many levels of meaning, this being only one). The culture of the day was that a woman could not be used for lawful testimony. Yet who did Jesus use to FIRST proclaim as witnesses to His resurrection? Women, namely Mary of Magdela.
Sorry, my comment should have read this instead:
She was an apostle to the apostles since Jesus ‘SENT’ her with a message to the apostles. Jesus showed by this act that He had redeemed and reinstated all women to their rightful place NEXT to men …because, when one thinks about it as Jesus put it, the first will be last and the last will be first (which has so many levels of meaning, this being only one). The culture of the day was that a woman could not be used for lawful testimony. Yet who did Jesus use FIRST to proclaim as witnesses of His resurrection? Women first, namely Mary of Magdala, then men.
Mary’s tender sacrificial act towards Jesus tells me she was Mary Magdelene (not Mary of Bethany), the one that had seven devils. Can this be proven? No.
The following commentary on her life and her act, that would accompany the gospel message the world over, is worth a read: