16-3-28 Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene – Easter Monday

Mary Magdalene may have played a major role amongst the Disciples, but this may have been played down because she was ‘only’ a woman. Today’s reading is still out of the list for Easter Sunday. It is on Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb. I have extended it a little bit to include the whole interaction between Mary Magdalene and Jesus.

John 20: 1 to 9: [1] The first [day] of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. [2] Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. [3] Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. [4] So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. [5] And he stooping down, [and looking in], saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. [6] Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, [7] And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. [8] Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. [9] For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. [10] Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. [11] But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, [and looked] into the sepulchre, [12] And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. [13] And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. [14] And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. [15] Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. [16] Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. [17] Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God. [18] Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and [that] he had spoken these things unto her.

There is a theory that the Gospel according to John, the fourth Gospel, was not written by John, but by Mary Magdalene. According to this theory this Gospel was named after John since in those days nobody would have taken something seriously that had been written by a woman. Even the Apostle Paul wrote (2. Tim. 3: 6 & 7), ‘For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts (epithymia, desire), Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ Do you get the picture? By the way, the word ‘lust’ does not refer to sex here.

Scholars who do not believe this theory say that John is the disciple who is called the disciple ‘whom Jesus loved’ all through the Gospel of John. At the end of the gospel it says (John 21: 24), ‘This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: ….’ This disciple is not named in the whole Gospel, i.e. the scripture does not say who he is. The name John in the Gospel of John exclusively refers to John the Baptist, not the Disciple.

John 20: 2 could be seen as evidence against this theory., ‘Then she (Mary Magdalene) runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, ….’ This indicates that Mary Magdalene and the disciple whom Jesus loved were two different persons.

The best case for the authorship by a woman called a man to hide the author being a woman is in the last part of the Gospel when Jesus appeared to the disciples for the third time at the sea of Tiberias. The relevant part begins in John 21: 15 and features Peter and the disciple, ‘whom Jesus loved.’ Now it is remarkable that there is one disciple singled out as the one ‘whom Jesus loved’. Didn’t he love all his disciples? Couldn’t that mean that this particular disciple was Jesus’ woman?

Jesus repeatedly asked Peter whether he loves him and Peter replied every time that he does love Jesus. Jesus then commanded him, ‘Feed my lambs,’ or ‘Feed my sheep.

The last time, Jesus went on (verses 18 & 19), ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry [thee] whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me,’ meaning to heaven. Jesus asked Peter to become a martyr which he did about thirty years after this scene.

Then,’ John 21: 20 to 22 ‘Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, “Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?” Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, “Lord, and what [shall] this [man do]?” Jesus saith unto him, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.”

Peter did not us the word ‘man’ in this question. He asked, ‘What shall this one do?’ However from the grammatical form ‘this one’ is of male gender. It is noteworthy that the word ‘aner’, ‘man’, is missing. This ‘one’ wrote the fourth Gospel. This may very well be an intentional misrepresentation to camouflage the fact that the author of this Gospel was Mary Magdalene. Why would Jesus and Peter not speak about him in his presence using his name? Death was something that all the disciples might have to face and Peter had faced it and avoided it at Jesus’ trial. So Peter was not really in a situation to ask whether another, or why not all other disciples, should ‘follow Jesus’ to heaven. This question, however, may very well refer to a woman. Women were not usually called upon to fight in wars or to give their lives for noble causes. They were protected, because they bear children. Peter might even have meant with this question how Jesus wanted her to be taken care of. Maybe Peter was taking care of Mary Magdalene, after the crucifixion and he wanted to know what should happen to her, once he would have died. However, the Apostles usually were not able to provide for a woman (Even the Apostles had Sex).

Jesus answer was not very clear. He said (verse 22), ‘If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me,’ which was apparently construed by some to mean that this disciple should not die, but this was a misunderstanding. Then verse 24 says, ‘This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.’ How would a doubting person know that it is true? Well, it to be written by a man would be a good start. Old wives’ tales are plentiful. So, if the author was Mary Magdalene, she didn’t want to let on.

Mary Magdalene is first mentioned in the fourth Gospel at the crucifixion in John 19: 25 to 27, ‘Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas (it does not say ‘woman’ or ‘wife’), and Mary Magdalene (All women, not a single man!) When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, “Woman, behold thy son!” Then saith he to the disciple, “Behold thy mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

No man is mentioned here. In the society at the time it was the duty of the first born son to look after his mother in her old age. This duty, some scholars believe, Jesus passed on to this disciple. This disciple may very well be Mary Magdalene, since no male disciple was present.

In the other Gospels the disciples and the women, including Mary Magdalene, who was mentioned by name by Matthew and Mark, stood afar off and watched.

If Mary Magdalene took over the care of Jesus mother, the question arises how she earned her living. There was probably only one type of business for an unowned woman in those days. And Jesus had driven out of her seven evil spirits (daimonion, Luke 8: 2). Was she obsessed because she had been a worthless sex slave?

Mary Magdalene 

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Amen!