Redeeming Mary Magdalene: Correcting a Centuries-Old Injustice


Who Was Mary

For too long, one of Jesus’ most devoted followers has been unjustly maligned by an inaccurate portrayal that has persisted for centuries. It’s time to set the record straight about Mary Magdalene.

The Biblical Account

Who Was Mary

The gospels are clear – Mary Magdalene was a woman from whom Jesus cast out seven demons (Mark 16:9, Luke 8:2). The exact nature of this affliction is debated. Some interpret it literally as demonic possession, while others view it symbolically, representing various illnesses or negative influences that plagued her life.

Following her encounter with Jesus, Mary Magdalene traveled with him and the disciples, using her own means to support their ministry. She remained a loyal follower, demonstrating her unwavering devotion by being present at the crucifixion and witnessing Jesus’ burial. Most importantly, she was the first to see the risen Lord on that glorious resurrection morning.

Yet, nowhere in the Bible is Mary Magdalene described as a former prostitute or a woman of ill repute.


The Unbiblical Tradition

Despite the lack of scriptural evidence, a damaging perception arose later through the conflation of Mary Magdalene’s story with that of the unnamed “sinful woman” who anointed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50. This inaccurate portrayal, often referred to as the “composite Magdalene,” emerged in medieval Western traditions and art. It depicted Mary Magdalene as the repentant prostitute from Luke’s account.

However, the early Church Fathers like Ambrose and Chrysostom, closer to the time of Jesus, held a different view. They recognized Mary Magdalene as an influential leader among the disciples, not a former prostitute.

The Eastern Orthodox Church also rejected the “composite Magdalene” portrayal, recognizing it as an unsubstantiated tradition. In fact, Luke’s gospel clearly distinguishes Mary’s introduction in 8:2 from the previous anointing story in 7:36-50. Her designation “the Magdalene” likely refers to her hometown, Magdala, not a former occupation.

Reclaiming Her Legacy

It’s time to reclaim the true legacy of Mary Magdalene – a woman delivered from suffering, who became one of Jesus’ closest and most faithful followers. She played an instrumental role in the events surrounding the resurrection and was likely an influential figure in the early church.

The perception of Mary Magdalene as a former prostitute not only unjustly maligned her reputation for centuries but also perpetuated a harmful stereotype with no biblical basis. As modern readers, we have an opportunity to correct this injustice and honor Mary Magdalene for who she truly was – a devoted disciple and the “Apostle to the Apostles,” a title given for her role in spreading the news of the resurrection.