The Rise and Fall of Mary Magdalene Class

Mary Magdalene


A devoted Galilean follower, Mary Magdalene traveled with Jesus and his apostles throughout Judea and was present at his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. She is portrayed in the gospels as a leader in the early Jesus movement, and in many ways she served as the representative of the female faithful. Despite that she is named in all four canonical accounts and is featured prominently in apocryphal literature, Mary is not mentioned by name after the passion of Christ. While it is possible that she returned to her hometown prior to the day of Pentecost, “the women” are mentioned in Acts. This may imply that Luke was less familiar with the churches of Galilee and therefore restricted his chronicle to the community at Jerusalem. Nonetheless, later tradition expanded her story with legend and lore, sometimes with deliberate derogatory imagery; in fact, few biblical characters were as intentionally enfeebled as the Magdalene. In contrast, she is featured as the most honored woman in the Eastern Church, with the exception of the Virgin, and developed an extraordinary cult status.

While she is portrayed as a member of Jesus’ family, for she traveled from Galilee with his mother, aunt, and cousins, from the sixth century onward, Mary was erroneously branded as an iniquitous woman out of whom Jesus cast seven deadly sins. By that time, however, her prestige was nearly as widespread as the Virgin, who became the prototype of faithfulness and of the saintly life. For this reason, the Magdalene was ultimately identified as a repentant prostitute, even though no early patristic writer depicted her in such a manner. It took the authority of the papacy to defame her, and consequently her authentic story did not survive. Among the Gnostics, however, she was described as a close companion to whom Jesus revealed secrets of the kingdom. She was even singled out as an apostle and a counterpart to Peter. Her genuine narrative, therefore, remains buried beneath several layers of contrived legend, sectarian revision, and ecclesiastical propaganda. Our objective is to restore this account as much as possible from the literary remains of antiquity.

  • Six Weeks on Tuesday Evenings (7:00 to 8:30)
  • January 16 through February 20
  • Trinity Cathedral in San Jose, California
  • $100 or included with membership
  • Instructor: Brent Walters

Comments are closed