ChatGPT on Mary Magdalene

ChatGPT on Mary Magdalene February 13, 2023

A student in my class this semester, Sophie Schieve, had the following interaction with ChatGPT:

why do people think mary magdalene was a prostitute

The idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute is a long-standing, but incorrect, tradition in the Western Christian Church. This belief appears to have originated in the 6th or 7th century and is not based on any historical evidence. Instead, it seems to have arisen from a conflation of Mary Magdalene with several other women mentioned in the New Testament, including a woman who was a repentant sinner (Luke 7:37-50) and a woman who had been possessed by seven demons (Mark 16:9).

Over time, the legend of Mary Magdalene as a repentant prostitute became widely accepted in Western Christianity, despite the lack of evidence for this claim. This depiction of Mary Magdalene as a fallen woman persisted for many centuries and influenced art, literature, and popular culture.

However, recent biblical scholarship has challenged this traditional view and shown that there is no basis for the idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Instead, she is described in the New Testament as one of Jesus’ closest followers, and was present at his crucifixion and resurrection. She was likely a well-respected member of the community, and her reputation as a repentant sinner is likely a later addition to the story.

It’s important to be cautious of accepting long-standing beliefs or traditions without evidence, especially when they perpetuate harmful stereotypes or misconceptions.


Here are some sources that provide more information about the tradition of Mary Magdalene being a prostitute and the evidence against it:

    1. The Bible: The New Testament is the primary source for information about Mary Magdalene. There is no evidence in the New Testament that she was a prostitute. Instead, she is described as a devoted disciple of Jesus who was present at his crucifixion and was the first to see him after his resurrection.
    2. Historical Documents: There are no historical documents from the time of Mary Magdalene that describe her as a prostitute. The earliest reference to this idea appears to be from Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th or 7th century.
    3. Biblical Scholarship: In recent decades, biblical scholars have examined the evidence and concluded that there is no basis for the idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. This view is widely accepted in academic circles and is reflected in many modern biblical commentaries and reference works.

Here are some examples of scholarly works that provide more information:

    • Mary Magdalene: A Woman for Our Time, by Ulrike Wiethaus
    • Mary Magdalene, The First Apostle: The Struggle for Authority, by AnneMarie Kools
    • Mary Magdalene, The First Witness, by Susan Hylen
    • The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version, edited by Robert J. Miller

These sources can provide a more in-depth examination of the topic and help to understand the evidence and arguments for and against the traditional view of Mary Magdalene.

where can i find the scholarly works

You can find scholarly works on Mary Magdalene in a variety of places:

    1. University Libraries: If you have access to a university library, you can likely find many of these works in their collections. Most university libraries have extensive collections of biblical and religious studies books, and you can use the library’s online catalog to search for specific titles.
    2. Online Bookstores: Many of the books I mentioned in my previous response can be purchased or rented from online bookstores such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million.
    3. Academic Databases: Some academic databases, such as JSTOR and Project MUSE, provide access to scholarly articles and books in religious studies and biblical studies. You may be able to access these databases through a university library or by purchasing a subscription.
    4. Open Access Repositories: Some scholarly works are available through open access repositories, which make research freely available online. You can search for these works using search engines like Google Scholar or through websites such as the Directory of Open Access Journals.

If you have specific books in mind, you can also try searching for them using these resources to see if they are available online or in a library near you.

can you provide links for the books you cited above

Certainly! Here are links for some of the books I mentioned in my previous response:

“Mary Magdalene: A Woman for Our Time” by Ulrike Wiethaus:


“Mary Magdalene, The First Apostle: The Struggle for Authority” by AnneMarie Kools:


“Mary Magdalene, The First Witness” by Susan Hylen:


“The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version” edited by Robert J. Miller:


Note: The availability of these books may vary depending on your location and the shipping options of the seller.

I hope these links help you find the information you’re looking for!

none of the links work

I apologize for the inconvenience. The links I provided might not work for everyone due to various reasons, such as region restrictions or changes to the webpages.

As an alternative, you can try searching for the books on websites such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local library’s online catalog. Simply search for the title or author of the book and you should be able to find it. If you are having trouble finding a specific book, you can also try searching for it in a library catalog or a database of academic journals, such as JSTOR or Project MUSE.

I don’t think the first three books you gave me are real

I apologize for any confusion. It appears that some of the books I listed in my previous response may not exist or have been misidentified. This can sometimes happen when a model like me, which has been trained on a large corpus of text, makes an error.

If you’re still interested in learning more about the topic of Mary Magdalene, I would recommend starting with a reputable biblical commentary or a scholarly work in religious studies or biblical studies. You may also want to consider consulting a biblical scholar or a theologian for additional insights and perspectives.

There is very little comment needed. The one thing I will point out is that one of the authors on the fake list of books is Susan Hylen, who made a guest appearance in our class just days before this exchange with ChatGPT took place. ChatGPT is here doing exactly what it has been designed to, creatively combining words in ways that are based on its data set yet don’t merely copy exactly what it finds in that data set. Ted Chiang’s op-ed in the New Yorker is also helpful for those trying to understand precisely what ChatGPT is and why it does what it does.

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