One of the great lies and false pieces of information regarding the first disciples in the early church is in relation to Mary Magdalene. The way this woman has been portrayed in popular culture and even in some religious circles is utterly wrong and there is no scriptural justification for the portrayal.
How Has Mary Magdalene Been Portrayed?
Popular belief about Mary Magdalene suggests that she was a “lady of the night.” That is, that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. There is nothing written in the Bible, either explicitly or implied that suggests there is even a grain of truth in this portrayal.
This mis-information was first proposed by Pope Gregory in 591AD and was subsequently rejected by the Roman Catholic Church in 1969, some 1,300 years later. But this misrepresentation of Mary Magdalene still persists today and has been strengthened by popular culture. She has been misrepresented this way in various books, films and stage presentations. These include The Last Temptation of Christ, The Passion of the Christ and Jesus Christ Superstar amongst others. Some lies just don’t go away!
Who Was Mary Magdalene?
Mary Magdalene was mentioned about a dozen or so times in the New Testament. She was one of a group of women who followed and ministered to the needs of the Lord and the disciples.
What is known about her life prior to coming to the Lord is scant. Her name suggests that she came from the region of Magdala, which is an area on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. She is described in this account in Luke and also in Mark as having had seven demons cast out of her.
The Role of Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene played a very important role in the early church, which is sometimes overlooked today. She was one of the first people to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection. She was also specifically told by Jesus to go to the disciples and tell them that he had risen and was going to meet them shortly.
This is a highly important point. The most significant aspect of the Christian faith is the message of the resurrection. It is this teaching that sets Christianity apart from all other religions of the world.
And here we see that Jesus entrusted the very first message and witness of the resurrection to a woman who was to go and preach this message to the Lord’s chosen disciples. The primary ministry of the Apostles was to bear witness to the resurrection, as Peter stated in Acts when they were seeking someone to replace Judas Iscariot. He said, “…one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” (Acts 1:22)
And yet the very first witness to the resurrection who was chosen to minister this to the Apostles themselves was a woman: Mary Magdalene.
Jesus saw no distinction between men and women in proclaiming the message of the truth. In Christ there is no distinction for all are equal. Paul wrote too that there is neither male nor female in Christ (Galatians 3:28).
And yet today we still see distinctions between men and women in the church. The arguments that rage about women in ministry should be completely rejected. Men and women are equal partners in Christ and neither one nor the other is greater in his eyes. And all of this can be seen in the message that we gain from Mary Magdalene and the role Jesus gave her to take the message of the resurrection to the disciples.