Thursday, May 11, 2006

MARY MAGDALENE, THE TRUTH -- The fictions in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code are not the only errors about Mary Magdalene that modern scholars are seeking to correct. Catholic News Service reports that historians are also trying to set straight centuries of erroneous Christian tradition regarding her that evolved over time in the West. While Greek Orthodox tradition always held that Mary Magdalene, the unnamed repentant sinner who cried on Jesus' feet, and Mary of Bethany were three distinct women, a sermon by Pope St. Gregory in 591 identified the three figures as one woman, creating the notion of Mary Magdalene as a repentant sinful woman, possibly a prostitute. Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, a theologian at Fordham University, said the version of Mary as "the prostitute to whom Jesus forgave much and who loved him... took on a profound Christian ideal of a sinner who repents and therefore is a model for Christians in that way. But what got lost in the process was her actual role as a leader of witnessing to the Resurrection in the early church." Sister Elizabeth said that when one looks at Mary being the one the risen Christ appears to and commissions to announce the good news to the others, it has "many implications for how we tell the story... There is the typical story where Jesus chose the 12 and put Peter in charge, and the women were accessories. When you put Mary Magdalene into the picture, you can't tell the story that way so simply anymore."

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