Jn 20:1-2, 11-18
Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have laid him.”
Mary stood weeping outside the tomb; and as she wept, she bent down to look inside. She saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, and the other at the feet. They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She answered, “Because they have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they have put him.”
As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize him. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and answered him, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and take him away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned, and said to him, “Rabboni!”—which means Master. Jesus said to her, “Do not touch me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them: I am ascending to my Father, who is your Father, to my God, who is your God.”
So Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what he said to me.”
For centuries Mary Magdalene was labeled “penitent” (i.e. former prostitute) in the official liturgy. But now she is called “disciple of the Lord.” In fact, in the Byzantine liturgy, it is said that Jesus made Mary “apostle to the apostles.” How can we explain the change?
First, there are no fewer than six Marys in the New Testament, so it is easy to confuse them.
Second, in Lk 7 a nameless woman, who is called “sinful”, anoints the feet of Jesus (Lk 7:36-50) and in the following paragraph Mary Magdalene is mentioned among followers of Jesus, and Luke specifies that “from her seven demons had gone out” (Lk 8:2). Because of this close proximity in the gospel text of a “sinner” and of Mary Magdalene having had demons in her, some early Christian writers of the 6th century wrongly amalgamated the two figures and believed Mary to have been a reformed prostitute. But to be possessed is not at all the same thing as to be a sinner.
Thirdly, according to the New Catholic Encyclopedia (9, 287), the reference to a possession by seven demons “probably describes a violent and chronic nervous disorder.”
Finally, since 1991 at least six first-class female exegetes have published scholarly monographs on this issue and showed how far wrong male chauvinism can go.
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