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TANATA is devoted to discussing the paradoxes and the mysteries of life, among which is the paradox of the coexistence of good and evil. “God is love,” John tells us. Evil exists, we would suggest, not because God is detached or unconcerned, but because free will exists which is required for true, unforced love to exist. Still, it is painfully hard to reconcile this paradox. We believe that all evil one day will be judged and destroyed, until then we must pray.

DANIEL 7:13-14

13 “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.

14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.


7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

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« Is the Biblical Character Mary Magdalene a Fraud? »

Is Mary Magdalene a fraud, pure fiction, a person who never existed, who was spuriously written into the gospels as they were being written in the first century for the sole purpose of discrediting Jesus in our day?

Some background on the treatment of women in Jesus’ day — and how Jesus treated women — will be valuable here before we look at the gospels themselves.

Jesus’ attitude toward women in his day was revolutionary, evidenced by the manner in which he spoke to two women in particular — one apparently a Jewish woman … the other woman a Gentile from Samaria. In both cases, Jesus risked being publicly humiliated if not worse merely by speaking to these two women, both of whom were prostitutes. Public familiarity with a woman by a man who was not the woman’s husband or a relative was taboo. These two incidents involving women and Jesus were special and isolated, otherwise he could not possibly have gotten away with it. In the case involving the Jewish prostitute, Jesus intervened and prevented her public execution by stoning after the woman had been caught in the very act of adultery. The conversation which Jesus had with a Gentile woman in Samaria was much more risky, for had he been caught with her, a prostitute, he being a Jewish man to boot … the men in that village would have beaten or killed him.

Jesus’ purpose in speaking to the Samaritan and Gentile woman at the well was to teach her about the nature of God as Spirit, even as he says to her that “salvation is of the Jews.” This striking passage relevantly speaks to those of us who are Gentiles today — and perhaps Jesus, knowing this at the time, took this unique occasion to speak to a Gentile woman for that very purpose … to speak to us Gentiles right now. The woman was a prostitute, but Jesus did not condemn her. He simply told her that he knew she had five boyfriends (which surprised her), leaving the woman to be impressed by Jesus as a true prophet … so that she might convict herself later and clean up her act, if she chose to.

And yet some would like for Jesus to be portrayed as a whoremonger. If he was alive when he went to the cross — and did not fake his death, as has been alleged (and we believe that he was and did not) — he was not in any way, shape or form a promiscuous man when it came to women. If Jesus had been a whoremonger, he would have been dead before there was even a thought of crucifying him. Adultery was a capital offense. And suspicion of adultery, if the parties could not prove their innocence, was effectively the same thing as being killed in the village where the man and woman lived.

If a woman was merely suspected of adultery and could not prove her innocence, she was publicly humiliated in the temple by being forced to drink a cup of mud, which the priest made of water and dust from the temple floor.

Jesus was not crazy, but very lucid and brilliant rhetorically. It would have been insane for Jesus, given his ministry, for him to allow even the slightest hint of sexual impropriety to be associated with him. He died an innocent man. But those who promote Mary Magdalene for nefarious reasons would have us believe otherwise.

Some people it would seem want to keep on killing Jesus — and if Jesus is God’s Son (and we believe that typological scriptural evidence and relationships with personal disciples willing to die for him prove that he is) that couldn’t be sitting well with God. It may be for this reason more than any other that the preppie heretic Dan Brown has not made an appearance with or without a new novel for nearly two years. Dan Brown may have come to Jesus, which would throw a serious wrench into the works of what has become The Da Vinci Code industry. Perhaps not. But Dan was not a happy camper toward the end of the media campaign he was required to be part of as a novelist with a bestselling book. When confronted with material in his book at public events, Brown would often defer, expressing the desire that the experts should hash it out amongst themselves.

Well, he wrote the book. Presumably. What better expert would there be?

All of this background material exonerates Jesus … and suggests that Mary Magdalene is a product of someone’s fertile imagination. In a patriarchal society, as it was in ancient Israel in Jesus’ day, and still is today … no woman would refer to herself by the town from which she hailed. In short, no one would care. Women married soon after puberty, around age 12 or 13. A woman’s identity was strictly determined by her relationship to her husband, who, in some cases, might have purchased her for 50 shekels. When a man took a wife in Jesus’ day … he literally “took” a wife. Even men were not referred to by virtue of where they were from. A man’s last name was his father’s first name. John, son of Zebedee, or John Zebedee. If a woman had bopped into Jerusalem calling herself Mary Magdalene or Mary the Magdalene … she wouldn’t have lasted long. She would either have been run out of town … or admitted to an asylum. Or killed.

So right away … Mary Magdalene has a credibility problem. The fact that so many people have chosen to tell fish stories about her … makes it even worse. And on top of that … wherever we see Mary the Magdalene toward the end of each of the four gospels … she is doing and saying something different. No cred. None.

Now to the gospels. Notably, Mary Magdalene is not present with the apostles of Jesus, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Jesus’ brothers in Jerusalem in the first chapter of Acts when Jesus ascends to heaven from the Mount of Olives. Acts of the Apostles is believed to have been written by the Gentile Luke. Neither is Mary Magdalene present in the upper room following Jesus’ ascension in the same chapter. If Mary Magdalene was the leader of the apostles after Jesus’ ascension, which is inferred in the secret gospel of Mary (Magdalene), then one would expect her to be among this assembled group. But she is not. After John’s gospel we never hear of Mary Magdalene again, not on the mission fields, not in any of the writings of Paul, Peter or John. And when we do last see her in John’s gospel she behaves and speaks in a way which is contradictory to how she behaves and speaks in the three previous gospels.

Is Mary Magdalene truly a heroine and champion of gnosticism and duality, an inspiration to feminists who look up to her … or is she a fraud? Let’s be completely honest: doesn’t look good for the lady or for those who may have fabricated her.

Also very notably, Mary Magdalene is never mentioned in the writings of any of the early church fathers, the patriarchs of early Christianity who kept abreast as best they could of the gospels, who had written them and what transpired after they were written. She is an illusive figure, a very mysterious figure in those places where she does appear, being one of many women named Mary who appear at the end of the fourth gospel when Jesus is crucified, and being the woman who encounters Jesus in varying ways in each of the four gospels after Jesus has resurrected.

In Matthew and Mark and Luke, when Jesus is being crucified, Mary Magdalene stands from afar, at a distance with Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons, whom we can conclude is the woman named Salome. But in John’s gospel, Mary Magdalene is in close proximity to Jesus’ crucifixion, standing with two other women named Mary, intriguingly, the wife of Cleopas or Clopas and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary’s are everywhere. In the the first gospel she is very mysteriously in the presence of a vaguely referenced woman named Mary, who is called “the other Mary,” when Jesus is buried and at the empty tomb. (Is this “other Mary” the mother of the equally apparently hidden John Mark, “the other disciple”? We believe she may very well be.) In Matthew, Mary Magdalene greets the resurrected Jesus on the way home from the empty tomb with fear and joy and proceeds to hold Jesus by his feet, after which Jesus tells her to go and tell “my brethren,” the disciples, that Jesus has risen from the dead. After a great earthquake, Mary Magdalene is told by a man in shining clothes that Jesus has risen from the dead. This account would be much more easy to accept, and Mary Magdalene as a real person would be much more easily acceptable to us if in each of the other three gospels she does not do and say completely different things at the empty tomb, as we have suggested. In Mark, Mary Magdalene trembles and is afraid when confronted by a young man wearing a long white robe at the empty tomb, and she goes from there to tell people what she has seen, but is not believed. In Luke, Mary Magdalene encounters two men in shining garments at the empty tomb, and when Jesus draws near to her … she does not recognize him, her eyes being opened to see him during a meal. (In Matthew, Mary Magdalene is also seen in the company of this mysterious “other Mary” at the empty tomb, by the way, which, again, calls into question the validity of this verse. Who is “the other Mary”? A diversion … or a real person? If she is a real person … why is she not named? As we state earlier, we think we know who this “other Mary” is, but the case for that is argued elsewhere on this site.)

In the fourth gospel Mary Magdalene tells Peter and “the other disciple whom Jesus loved” to roll away the stone which covered the entrance to Jesus’ tomb. She weeps until she finally recognizes Jesus who calls her by her name, “Mary!” and she replies “Teacher!” It is at this point that the Magdalene reaches forward to embrace Jesus, who tells her that she must not because he has “not yet ascended to the father.” However, when Jesus does ascend forty days later … Mary Magdalene is not there among those to witness it.

She tells the disciples … and they do not believe her, or she says nothing, or she doesn’t recognize Jesus, or she suddenly does recognize Jesus upon seeing him when he speaks to her and later at a meal. Nowhere else in all of the New Testament, let alone the gospels, is there more confusion over what one person says and does. Perhaps the stories were muddled, and each of the writers of the gospels heard differently about the most important single moment in the ministry of Jesus. Since most scholars believe that John Mark wrote the first of the four gospels, we would expect the other gospel writers to align their accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and appearance with his, but here in this gospel Mary Magdalene tells everyone that Jesus has appeared to her … and nobody believes her. Clearly, the four gospels are not in accord with one another when it comes to Mary Magdalene, though, if Mark was the first gospel written and it was used by the other gospel writers … we would expect some continuity at this very important point in each. But there is none.

One of the most confusing and curious and perhaps spurious passages in the gospels which reference Mary Magdalene occurs in this final chapter of Mark’s gospel in the infamous verses nine through twenty, which apparently were not verses that were part of Mark’s original manuscript. While the majority of Greek manuscripts of Mark’s gospel contain these final twelve verses, the earliest and most reliable Greek manuscripts do not. Further, some manuscripts that include this passage note that it was missing from older Greek manuscripts, while others have scribal marks suggesting that the passage is spurious. Church fathers Eusebius and Jerome noted that almost all Greek manuscripts available to them lacked verses nine through twenty. A shorter ending than this one also existed, so there is a great deal of variation from one Greek manuscript to the next when Mary Magdalene makes her appearance at the empty tomb in Mark’s gospel.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Mark 16:9-20 centers on the internal grammatical evidence in this passage which strongly suggests it was not John Mark, an African scholar, whom we say authored this passage. The transition from verses eight to nine is abrupt and awkward: the Greek particle translated “now” that begins verse nine implies continuity from the preceding narrative — however, what follows does not continue the story of the women referred to in verse eight, but describes Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene. The masculine participle in verse nine expects “he” as its antecedent, yet the subject of verse eight is the women. Although Mary Magdalene has just been mentioned three times in in 16:1 of Mark and previously in 15:40, 47, verse nine introduces her as if for the first time. Also, if Mark wrote verse nine, it is strange that he would only now note that Jesus had cast our seven demons from her. The angel speaks of Jesus’ appearing to his followers in Galilee, yet the appearances described in verses nine through twenty are all in the Jerusalem area. Lastly, the presence in these verses of a significant number of Greek words used nowhere else in Mark agues that Mark did not write them. Verses nine through twenty represent an early attempt to complete Mark’s gospel, which was known to church father Irenaeus, Tatian, and possibly, Justin Martyr of the second century — so this change occurred in the first century, perhaps as John Mark was writing it! (Much of this material appears in a commentary by John MacArthur, whose skill at exegesis is very solid, we believe.)

And then in verses seventeen and eighteen of chapter 16 we get the alleged statement by Jesus that snake handling and drinking poison would become acceptable means of worship, and they are not.

Mary Magdalene here in Mark’s gospel appears to be the heroine, the most important figure in Jesus’ life, the misunderstood and unbelieved poor soul who only wanted to do the right thing after seeing the resurrected Jesus. But she was not so important a figure that she should be present among the apostles and the family members of Jesus when they witness him ascending into heaven. For a woman who has virtually been canonized, made a saint and even a goddess of wisdom, who is the subject of much speculation and numerous books, not the least of which The Da Vinci Code, she is an erratic figure in the gospels. We’re left to wonder after making all of these comparisons … if any of these accounts pertaining to Mary Magdalene are true at all.

Did Mary Magdalene ever really exist? Or was she a fabrication, part of a scheme of deception which does not involve one or two of the gospels … but all four? Let’s stay with that thought for just a moment and speculate about a possible campaign of deception involving Mary Magdalene. What would be the purpose of someone or many unscrupulous editors writing in Mary Magdalene, who, for starters, is suspicious to us because of her uncharacteristic name? Who would have created out of thin air a fictional person, a woman from Magdala, the location of which has long been a topic of speculation and debate?

It is interesting to note that until recently, certainly within the past six years since The Da Vinci Code was published as a bestselling novel, there has been no real hay to be made, so to speak, out of the presence in Leonardo’s painting of a woman. At least we do not know of any such attempts.

We should also note that no other person in all of the New Testament is described as having had a precise number of demons cast out of them, save the demoniac in which the evil spirits were “legion.” Other than that, there are no references to the number of demons cast out of any one person by Jesus. I recall in Sunday school, as best I can recall, having it suggested to me that Mary Magdalene might have been the woman who was caught in adultery and was about to be stoned to death and would have been had Jesus not intervened. But there is no evidence of this. Only until recently with the release of The Da Vinci Code novel and film, in 2003 and 2006 respectively, has there been the insinuation which has apparently stuck in the minds of some that Jesus may have had a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene — and that hinges on her appearance in Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, which was completed by Leonardo in Milan in 1498 at the request of the duke of Milan, Leonardo’s patron and boss for eighteen years. So, if there is anything to the idea that Mary Magdalene is a product purely of fiction, it would appear that there has been a concerted effort to reference her since the first century and thereafter in the 15th century and then of course today.

Whoa. That is quite a span of time.

It’s doubtful that the Templar Knights existed in any form in the first century. It’s doubtful, one would have to say, that those who may have written in Mary Magdalene in the four gospels would also somehow be responsible for her appearance in Leonardo’s now-disintegrated fresco on dry plaster thirteen centuries later. We can’t know what the buzz about Mary Magdalene might have been from the first century to the fifteenth or thereafter until The Da Vinci Code appeared on the scene and created presumably the greatest buzz of all. But we can say that if Mary Magdalene is a bogus figure that she is an historically bogus figure — she’s been around a long time. It bears mentioning that of the thirty-some-odd other versions of the last supper painted in the Italian Renaissance … no woman is present, at least not seated at the table with the rest of the disciples. The absence of any disciple named John in The Last Supper, very interestingly, suggests that Mary Magdalene might have been added at a later date to Leonardo’s very controversial wall painting in the same way that she was perhaps added to each of the four gospels. Either as a joke … or to achieve some purpose.

What long-standing group could coordinate an effort which spans fourteen centuries? And then five more on top of that which would bring us to the present? Surely no one could have lived so long, so it couldn’t have been done by one person, this perhaps spurious inclusion of Mary Magdalene in the gospels and in a painting … and finally in a novel and film … or could it? Is it possible that “the forces of darkness,” timeless principalities and rulers of spiritual corruption hatched this plan and have carried it out? Is there any reason to put any stock in the idea that there even is such a thing as evil?

Let’s say there is. What would be gained by evil beyond what The Da Vinci Code has done destructively to the reputation of Jesus by associating Mary Magdalene with Jesus … if she never existed? She is a strange figure in the New Testament, but she is not an overly controversial one within the context of the New Testament. She is a strange figure in The Last Supper, but she is not a controversial one in that work either, in the sense that she is not trying to kiss Jesus or that she is even sitting closely to him (And she’s not jumping out of a Passover cake, for example. Sorry. She would not have been at Passover with Jesus and his disciiples anyway.) The damage to Jesus has been done in our day. Who would want to smear Jesus over the span of two-thousand years … and why now would it only be coming to a head, so to speak?

Jesus spoke of deception in the last days. Are these the so-called last days … and is the Mary Magdalene campaign, if it is one, part of the deception to which Jesus was alluding? We know who wrote The Da Vinci Code — Dan Brown, presumably — and we know who published it — Doubleday/Random House — but can we say that either Mr. Brown or the folks at this publishing house could have made a deal with the devil to carry out such an historic sinister plot against Jesus?

I’m not prepared to say that. We don’t care for people who make judgmental statements about other people. But we can speculate. So let’s speculate for a moment that this is what has happened. The question that begs asking would be why would anyone want to smear Jesus? What would be gained by smearing Jesus? The mere idea that someone would go out of their way to smear Jesus would seem to confirm that he exists. What would make a real, true Jesus so unacceptable to people, if he came to teach love and to offer forgiveness? Who in their right minds would be for hatred and against love? Who would not wish to be forgiven or to keep others from being forgiven? One would think that would be suicide, if Jesus is in fact the Son of God. There’s the rub. Is he? Who would take on God and his plan of salvation … and why? The only answer is that such a one as this does not believe that there is a God … and they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, though by their efforts such deceivers would be admitting that Jesus is a real and historic figure.

Who believes that Jesus did not teach love and does not offer forgiveness? Who knows something that the rest of us don’t know … and what do they know about Jesus that we do not know? Apparently, that he is a fraud?

Well, if he exists, which is confirmed by an ancient campaign to smear him, and if deception must be relied upon to smear him … then the deceivers are wrong … and they lose the debate. I don’t know about you … but that is not a place where I would want to be.

Write to us, please, if you disagree: tanataeditor AT me DOT com. We will post any and all comments.

Reader Comments (1)

Many syncretistic religions formed gnosticism. Gnosticism was rivaling against Christianity and gnosticism held itself better religion as Christianity was. Word gnosticism comes from Greek word gnosis, which means knowledge. Gnosticism was various effects, for instance, some Gnostics taught that divinity can be achieved through unity of the man and woman. This thought led some Gnostics to reach for divinity through sexual intercourse between the man and woman. There existed also some Gnostics, who abstained from sexual intercourse. When we know the fact that Gnostics held Christians as their enemies and that Gnostics held themselves better as Christians and that Gnostics wanted to show in every way that Gnosticism was better as Christianity, so Gnostics made so called gnostic gospels were they twisted, slandered and misrepresented the real gospels. Gnostics went so far in this misrepresent that they wrote "new gospels" by faking the real gospels. In these faked gospels Gnostics wrote that Jesus Christ was an ordinary man who has a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene.
July 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertelson

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