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Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene, which probably means "Mary of Magdala," a town on the western shore of the Lake of Tiberias, is a character in the Bible described as a follower of Jesus Christ. Nothing is known about her outside of the Bible. Her feast day is July 22.

On part of her story, Catholics and Protestants agree: She is mentioned in Luke 8:3 as one of the women who "ministered to Christ of their substance." Their motive was that of gratitude for deliverances he had wrought for them. Out of Mary were cast seven demons. Gratitude to her great Deliverer prompted her to become his follower. These women accompanied him also on his last journey to Jerusalem (Matt. 27:55; Mark 15:41; Luke 23:55). They stood near the cross. There Mary remained till all was over, and the body was taken down and laid in Joseph's tomb. Again, in the earliest dawn of the first day of the week she, with Salome and Mary the mother of James (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2), came to the sepulchre, bringing with them sweet spices, that they might anoint the body of Jesus. They found the sepulchre empty but saw the "vision of angels" (Matt. 28:5). She hastens to tell Peter and John, who were probably living together at this time (John 20:1, 2), and again immediately returns to the sepulchre. There she lingers thoughtfully, weeping at the door of the tomb. The risen Lord appears to her, but at first she knows him not. His utterance of her name "Mary" recalls her to consciousness, and she utters the joyful, reverent cry, "Rabboni." She would fain cling to him, but he forbids her, saying, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father." This is the last Biblical entry regarding Mary of Magdala, who now returned to Jerusalem.

The idea that this Mary was "the woman who was a sinner," or that she was unchaste, is rejected by most Protestants. Catholics, on the other hand, consider this one person to be the sinner Mary of Luke 7:36-50 and also Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and the resurrected Lazarus, of Luke 10:38-42 and John 11. She is a Roman Catholic saint and, according to one tradition, her head is in her shrine in a cave at La Sainte-Baume near Marseille, France, although another holds that she died in Ephesus and was buried in Constantinople.

Easter Egg tradition

One extra-biblical Christian tradition concerning Mary Magdalene says that she was a woman of some wealth and social status. Following Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, she used her position to gain an invitation to a banquet given by Emperor Tiberius Caesar. When she met him, she held a plain egg in her hand and exclaimed "Christ is risen!" Caesar laughed, and said that Christ rising from the dead was as likely as the egg in her hand turning red while she held it. Before he finished speaking, the egg in her hand turned a bright red, and she continued proclaiming the Gospel to the entire imperial house.

Today, many Eastern Orthodox Christians end the Easter service by sharing bright red eggs and proclaiming to each other, "Christ is risen!" The eggs represent new life, and Christ bursting forth from the tomb. This began one tradition of coloring Easter eggs.

Wife of Jesus?

An extra-biblical and Gnostic tradition about Mary Magdalene holds that she was in fact the wife of Jesus, a fact which was omitted by later revisionist editors of the Gospels.

There is an argument for support of this speculation. Bachelorhood was very rare for Jewish males of Jesus's time, being generally regarded as a transgression of the first mitzvah (divine commandment): "Be fruitful and multiply". Mary Magdalene appears with some frequency (especially as compared with other women in the Gospels) and is shown as being a close follower of Jesus. In the scene of the wedding at Cana, the names of the nuptial couple are not mentioned, but Jesus acts as a groom at such a wedding would be expected to act, for example by giving instructions to the servants (in fact, those servants had to be told by Mary his mother to obey his instructions). Finally, Mary's presence at the Crucifixion and Jesus's tomb, while hardly conclusive, is at least consonant with a role as grieving wife and widow, although if that were the case Jesus might have been expected to make provision for her care as well as for his mother Mary. Given the existing record, this scenario cannot be proven, although some consider the idea desirable to believe.

On the other hand, Christians traditionally believe that Jesus is the second Adam, and like the first, his bride was taken from his side when he had fallen asleep (died on the cross). The blood and water which came from his side when he was pierced, according to the gospels, represents in traditional Christian teaching the bringing forth of the Church symbolized in the water of baptism and the wine of the new covenant in his blood. In other words, Jesus has a wife which is one body with him, only in the Church; and it is not considered possible or tolerable to believe that he was otherwise married.

Author of John's Gospel?

Some scholars have suggested that this Mary was a leader of the early Church and maybe even the "beloved disciple" who was the author of the Gospel of John.

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