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St. Mary Magdalene
Her early life:
St. Mary Magdalene is called “Magdalene” because her village was “Magdala” (which in Hebrew means “Tower”). The village is located on the western side of the Sea of Galilee, about 3 miles from Capernaum. Little is known about St. Mary’s family, early years, or her age when she met the Lord Christ. Because she followed Jesus with His disciples in their journeys, we conclude that she had no family responsibilities.
We can assume that she was physically weak and psychologically tormented from our knowledge that she was possessed by seven demons. Our Lord Jesus cast out these demons from her (Luk6:1,2 ; Mk15:40,41 ; Matt27:55) before she became one of His followers. She sacrificed her efforts and money for the ministry, with other women from Galilee who had also been healed from diseases or evil spirits. As an expression of their gratitude and love they devoted their lives to the ministry (Lk3:8). They all followed Him with the twelve disciples from Galilee to Judea.
St. Mary’s name was mentioned 14 times in the Gospels; 8 times among other disciples, and 5 times during the resurrection. She was one of those who were standing under the cross (Matt27:55,56 ; Mk15:40,41 ; Lk23:49 ; Jn 19:25). She observed the taking down of Christ’s body off the cross. She assisted in His burial, and prepared the spices and fragrant oils for His body (Lk27:60,61 ; Mk15:46,47 ; Lk23:55).
Mary Magdalene and the Resurrection:
To relay the events of the resurrection accurately, it is important to take into account writings from the four Gospels. St. Matthew stated, in his Gospel, that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb on Sunday before dawn, at the time of the great earthquake. This is the same time that the angel descended to roll the stone from the door of the tomb. This angel spoke about the risen Christ, and asked the two Marys to go quickly and proclaim the resurrection to the disciples. During their return in fear and great joy, Jesus met them and gave them peace. They held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. He ordered them to tell the disciples to go to Galilee where they‘ll see Him (Matt28:1-10).
When Mary Magdalene reached Jerusalem, she was confronted by the spread of the falisy that Christ’s body had been stolen from the tomb (Matt26:11-15). So, Mary’s faith was shaken, and she doubted the resurrection, to the extent that she immediately returned back to the tomb looking for proof. When she saw the stone rolled away from the door of the tomb; and Jesus’ body missing, she falsely assumed that indeed His body was stolen. With this assumption she went to the disciples to tell them (Jn20:1-20).
After announcing to the disciples that Jesus’ body had been stolen, Sts. Peter and John immediately left for the tomb. St. Mary Magdalene followed behind, now returning to the tomb for the third time. On the way, she saw Jesus and had mistaken Him to be the gardener. She asked Him about the place in which she could find the body of Jesus. The risen Christ tried to arouse her attention by calling her “Woman” and then “Mary”. Finally recognizing Jesus, but still in disbelief, she replied, “Rabboni”, which is to say “teacher” (Jn20:11-16). Jesus, upset with her disbelief and her need to touch Him, did not allow her to hold him. He did not allow her to touch for two reasons. First, she had already touched Him and held His feet during her first visit to the tomb. This represents a good lesson for her and us that faith should not depend on materialistic proof. We also had hoped that after so many years with Christ in his ministry and seeing Him resurrected in her first visit to the tomb and believing in His divinity that she would have called Him “My Lord and God”, instead of the simple title “teacher.”
After believing in His resurrection, St. Mary returned again to the tomb, according to St. Mark, with Mary the mother of James, and Salome “so that they may see and believe” (Mk16:1-8). She returned for the fifth time when she went with Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women according to St. Luke’s Gospel (Lk24:1-10).
It is important to note the kindness that Our Lord Jesus Christ used to strengthen Mary’s faith and return her to the ministry. He first appeared to her asking her to tell His disciples about the resurrection. When her faith was shaken, He appeared to her for the second time and repeated to her His call to ministry. Her restored faith allowed Mary Magdalene to become the preacher of the resurrection to the preachers themselves. (This our Lord did also when He appeared to Peter. He first strengthened his faith, accepted his repentance and returned him back to his rank of ministry.)
Mary Magdalene and Tradition:
After the Lord’s ascension, she continued, among the other women, serving the disciples, and attending regularly the congregational prayers (Act1:14). She received the gift of the Holy Spirit with them in the upper room on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17 ; Joel 2:28). The disciples ordained her as a deaconess to preach to women and to assist in their baptism.
Her preaching was effective and successful. It was said that she was the first one to use the egg as a symbol of resurrection. The egg, showing no sign of life, has a living embryo within. And at the proper time life springs forth by itself.
Her Christian life was filled with suffering. On numerous occasions the Jews sought for her life. She patiently tolerated her sufferings and finally died peacefully at an old age. The Coptic Church celebrates her commemoration on the 28th of the Coptic month Epip (August 4th).
One or two persons:
St. Mary Magdalene is commonly mistaken for the prostitute that washed Jesus’ feet at the Pharisee Simon’s house (Lk7:36-48). This misunderstanding was adopted because the story of the repented prostitute, in St. Luke’s Gospel, is immediately followed by Mary Magdalene’s story. In the Gospels we find no proof that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute nor is there an association to the repented prostitute.
Knowing that she was tormented by seven evil spirits does not mean that she was a prostitute. The Bible clearly illustrated the demon possessed as people unable to live a normal life. The Bible never depicted them as prostitutes. The demon possessed suffered from being exceedingly fierce (Matt9:32-34) that no one could bind them with chains (Lk8:26-35). Others suffered from physical incurable diseases (Matt9:32-34 ; 12:22-24), such as epilepsy (Matt17:14-18). Others separated themselves from society to live naked among tombs (Mk5:1-15). The ones seized by mute spirits could be thrown down, foam at the mouth, gnash at the teeth, become rigid, and lead to suicide (Mk9:14-27)… etc. But none of these spirits caused a person to be a prostitute.
The Bible stated that she spent her money, among others, for the expense of the ministry. This indicates that she was rich, and at the same time, contradicts the idea that she collected her money from practicing prostitution. Moreover, Christ would not have accepted the support of the ministry with money gained by sinful practices. This correlates with what Jesus did when He called Levi to follow Him. He did so without asking him to collect his money (Matt9:9). And latter in the gospel, Jesus commanded the disciples to carry neither “gold nor silver nor copper in your moneybelts.”(Matt10:9)
Fact or fiction:
We are currently facing the spread of many books that twist and manipulate Biblical truths. Among these books, the Devinci Code, has reached the best sellers list. In this religious fiction book, Mary Magdalene, a repentant prostitute, marries Christ and has children, and later on establishes themselves in France. When the author could not find any biblical proof for his ideas, he conjured them from Leonardo Devinci’s Last Supper painting. From the painting, the author imagined that the person by Jesus was not John but Mary Magdalene?! (If this was true where was St. John during the Passover?)
Our church teaches us not to adopt any doctrine without sound Biblical proof. If this new doctrine contradicts the Biblical teachings, or changes the beliefs which were once delivered to us by the saints, we have the obligation to refuse and resist it (Jude 3). At the same time, it is not acceptable at all to reject the Divine inspiration and create or support a new one on the basis of just one picture. A picture only represents one view point. This convicts us to evaluate the accuracy of church icons in comparison to its doctrine.
If we assume that this picture expressed a doctrine that was known at that time and disappeared after a while; we could say that this proves its falseness, because it was rejected and disappeared. On the other hand, if it was expressing an old doctrine, then from where did this doctrine originate from? And why couldn’t we find any support for it in the Bible or the writings of the early church fathers?!
The imaginations created by the book writer were concocted, at the expense of the Christian Faith, either for financial gain or infamy. This book is considered a “religious fiction” because it lacks any factual proof. We may accept scientific fiction as futuristic dreams, however religion is about fixed, unchanged facts.
In spite of the fact that the Bible didn’t even refer once to the fiction written in this book, we will analyze its main points as to prove its deceit:
As Christians, we believe in the Divinity of Christ… and it is a fundamental fact the God is One, and He is not multiplied by reproduction, and no one is equal or similar to Him. So, we ask, “is marriage suitable for the incarnate God?! Was our Lord Jesus in need of marriage?!”
The objective of incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ was the salvation of mankind (Lk19:10). This salvation was completed upon the cross. Nothing could have distracted Jesus from fulfilling His great objective; since He didn’t come to our world to marry and enjoy His life on earth.
The objective of marriage, according to the Divine plan declared to Adam and Eve, was to be fruitful and multiply to fill the earth and keep the human race (Gen1:28). Thus, the offspring is of the same nature. Through marriage, the couple will be one body (Gen2:24 ; Matt5:19). All these facts contradict the idea of the claims of marriage of Our Lord Jesus Christ to Mary Magdalene or anyone else. He is the Incarnate God, who is of Divine and Human natures; while any woman has only human nature. Therefore they both couldn’t be one body. Also, the idea of reproduction does not make sense according to this book because reproduction is only suitable for human beings.
How would she treat Him?! Would she treat Him as a husband or as God?! Would she worship Him as God or live with Him as a man?! Her meeting with the risen Christ was that of a worshiper not of lovers (Matt28:1-10). We also noticed that He didn’t spend His time with her after His resurrection
Celibacy is the character of angels, and all those who have no physical body. Those who practice it will be high-minded over the body desires and lusts, similar to angels. If marriage doesn’t suit the heavenly creatures, neither mankind after the general resurrection in eternity (Matt22:30 ; Lk20:34,35), so how it suits the Creator of angels and men?! It is suitable for our Lord JesusChrist to fulfill the real perfect celibacy to its utmost in Himself as a representative of mankind.
What is the reason for speaking about Christ’s marriage?! If the reason is to honor marriage itself, so why did the four evangelists and any of the apostles not mention or refer to it in their Biblical writings?! Concerning honoring and blessing marriage, it was just enough that Our Lord Jesus Christ attended the wedding at Cana of Galilee, where He made His first miracle (Jhn2:1-11). For the sanctification and protection of marriage, and protection of the rights of the married partners, He didn’t allow divorce except in the event of committing adultery (Matt5:32 ; 19:3-9). At the same time, St Paul emphasized the honor of marriage by saying, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled” (Heb13:4).
Through the Divine Plan, Christ was born from a virgin without marriage, contrary to nature. So, is it logical that He would prefer marriage over virginity for Himself?! As He honored marriage, He also honored virginity. So that He chose among His disciples and apostles some who were married like St. Peter, and others who were celibate like Sts. John and Paul. At the same time, during His transfiguration, He honored both the married people through Moses the prophet, and the celibates through Elijah the prophet (Matt17:1-8). And as He talked about marriage, He also talked about celibacy (Matt19:10-12). Thus, why it is hard to accept that Mary Magdalene was not married, to believe that the idle fiction about her marriage from the Lord without any Biblical proof for that?!
When St. Paul speaks about marriage, He compared the relation between husband and wife with that between Christ and the church, His bride (Eph5:22-33). He should, rather, use the relation between Christ and Mary Magdalene, if they were married, as excellent logic example before us. Likewise, St. Peter should prefer to mention Mary Magdalene the wife for Christ, before women as example to follow, if that really happened, instead of neglecting that and mentioning Sara, Abraham’s wife (1Pet3:1-6).
The Apostle Paul offered himself as an example for celibacy saying “I say to the unmarried and to the widows; it is good for them if they remain even as I am… But I want you to be without care, He who is unmarried cares for the things that belong to the Lord- how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world-how he may please his wife”. About marriage, he said, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband”. In comparison between celibacy and marriage he said, “He who gives her in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better” (1Cor7:1-40). Celibacy as a virtue needs self control, and it needs a higher spiritual level. It is impossible to imagine that Christ our Lord lacks a certain virtue like celibacy or self control, while He is perfect in all His characters. On the contrary, it is proper for Him to be the perfect Man in His great image before us to follow. We need to gain self control to submit the body desires; and that is what our Lord Jesus did. We couldn’t imagine the disciple exceeds his master, but it is enough for a disciple that he be like his master (Matt10:24,25).
When St. Paul defended his apostleship, he compared himself with the other apostles. He declared that he neglect his apostolic rights; among them the right to marry like some of them. He said, “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1Cor9:5). In the origin Greek text it is “…a sister, a wife who is to take about”. Our fathers the apostles who were married before their apostleship, and when they became busy with their ministry, they lived as celibate while they were married, exactly like brothers and sisters. Do you think that these apostles could reach a spiritual summit, while the Lord Christ was busy with marriage and reproduction according to that fiction?! And why did St. Paul not mention the marriage of Jesus to prove his right for marriage?!
Celibacy didn’t only characterize some persons in the New Testament but also in the Old Testament like Elijah, Daniel and the three children. Why do we feel that it is hard for Mary Magdalene, or rather for Jesus Himself, to be a celibate, while others are capable to submit to bodily desires?! The protestant churches are the only ones who reject the life of celibacy since Martin Luther broke his celibate devotion and rejected his monastic life and married a former nun after his conflict with the pope of Rome ended by excommunication.
Marriage is a responsibility, and the husband has duties towards his family. Therefore, we wonder: Was it proper for Christ our Lord to be busy with His duties towards His family, and to satisfy their needs, as opposed to being busy with His preaching work which was extending from Galilee to Judea, to Samaria since He went about all the cities and villages (Matt9:35)?! Was this possible while He said to His mother and St. Joseph at His early age “Why is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My father’s business?” (Lk2:49)?! Was it possible for Him to have a family, while He had nowhere to lay His head (Matt8:20)?! Was it possible for Him to be caring about His mother, while He was on the cross, without caring about His wife and children?! How would He be able to support them financially when He had nothing to pay taxes for Himself (Matt17:24-27)?! Concerning paying taxes, why wasn’t He be asked to pay also for His family, but only for Himself?! Why were they not attending the ritual celebrations which demand the attendance of the whole family according to the Divine commandment?! Was He well known to the Jews in His city that He was called Son of Joseph the carpenter, and His mother called Mary, and His cousins who were considered as His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas (Matt13:55), while they were ignorant completely about His wife and children?! Was it accepted that He asked His disciple to take care of His Mother without asking Mary Magdalene to serve her?!
Now we are wondering, who were attending the Last supper at the upper Room? Or in other words, Was Mary Magdalene attending or not?
The three Evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke stated that Our Lord Jesus Christ sent two disciples to the owner of a certain house telling him:
“The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples”… “Now when evening had come, He sat down with the twelve” (Matt26:17-22).
“The Teacher says, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”… “In the evening He came with the twelve” (Mk14:14-17).
“The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”… “When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him.” (Lk22:11-14)
From the previous texts, it is quite clear that the Lord Christ gave the responsibility of preparing both the room and the Passover food to two of the disciples, and not to any woman. He established the sacrament of the Eucharist in the presence of His disciples only, since they will be the priests of the New Testament who will be responsible to practice it later on. Therefore, it is pointless to think that Mary Magdalene was there among them; a fact that destroys the whole idea the author is trying to prove, that it is not a fact but fiction.
In conclusion, the numerous points of inconsistency in this Book collectively point to evidence of an antithesis of true Christianity .