I am still debating whether to start my chapter about Mary Magdalene in the book I am writing, What Jesus Learned From Women, by trying to get jokes out of the way first.
Q: What did Jesus learn from Mary Magdalene?
A: How to be a good husband.
I’m not persuaded that Jesus and Mary were married. But I won’t give the issue short shrift, but will explain the reasons for my views.
For me, I think one of the biggest points to tackle about Mary Magdalene in relation to this topic is the meaning of demon possession/demonization in Jesus’ time. A woman who was liberated from seven demons was someone severely afflicted, by any range of ailments. Presenting her in this way does not carry the connotations of her having been somehow twisted or involved in wrongdoing that might have opened her to demonic influences. That’s modern fundamentalist Pentecostalism’s idea of demons, not those of antiquity. If we read the Book of Tobit, there’s no sense in which Sarah is blameworthy of the fact that a demon is making her life miserable.
I also will ask whether Matthew 12:45 (Luke 11:26) reflects something Jesus learned through his interaction with Mary Magdalene. Does that tradition suggest that Mary had been to other healers who had helped briefly only to make matters worse not long after?
What are your views about Mary Magdalene? What are the biggest questions about her that you have, that you wish could be answered?
There was an article about her in Der Spiegel. There is a Magdalene Blog that is worth following. The Episcopal Cafe highlighted things the Presiding Bishop said about Mary Magdalene in conjunction with Easter.
Ben Witherington blogged about Magdala of Galilee in a multi-part series.
RBL has a book review of Thierry Murica, Marie appelée la Magdaléenne: Entre traditions et histoire. Murica argues that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus are the same person! Reading Religion also drew attention to two books about Mary Magdalene.
I’ve also been reading about demon possession in recent to modern times as well as antiquity, to help me better understand what Mary’s experiences and social situation may have been.
More generally about women in the New Testament (and beyond):
Finally, don’t miss Adela Yarbro Collins’ article about Paul’s reference in Galatians to there being neither male nor female, in the new open access journal, the Journal of Ethics in Antiquity and Christianity.