"Mary Magdalene, apostle to the apostles or repentant sinner." Discuss.

Essay by dr molbrayHigh School, 12th gradeA, September 2008

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Mary Magdalene was the first eyewitness of the risen Christ, and for this reason she was also the first to bear witness before the male apostles. The four canonical gospels recount Mary Magdalene's early possession by demons, her cure by Jesus, the fact that she was financially able to support Jesus' ministry, that she remained with him during the crucifixion and in coming to the tomb on Easter morning, became the first to see the risen Jesus. The Gospel of Mary does not add any biographical information about her; it does stress her spiritual and visionary wisdom, her prestige among the disciples, and her closeness to Jesus. Gnostic and other non-canonical writings show Mary as a leader in the early Church. The general public view of Mary Magdalene is the repentant prostitute. Actual biblical accounts of Mary paint a far different portrait than that of the bare-breasted reformed harlot of Renaissance Art.

Tradition has seen the merger of Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and the 'sinful' woman as one and the same. The New Catholic Encyclopaedia states that "it is more difficult to understand how the repentant sinner ... was identified as Mary Magdalene by Gregory the Great, since St. Luke introduces Mary by name immediately after finishing the story of the penitent woman, whose name he either does not know or wishes not to reveal".1 Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), she has been officially affirmed as "Apostle to the Apostles," both in the new Catholic missal of 1969 and by Pope John Paul II in his 1988 encyclical Dignitatum Mulieris.2 Hence she came to be called 'the Apostle of the Apostles.'The fragmentary snippets of information in the gospels show Mary was healed of seven demons. In the culture of Jesus' time, mental and physical illnesses were often attributed...