By Janice Meighan
York University Research Paper, (2005)
Introduction: The theme of this paper is Mary Magdalene: Partner or Prostitute. My intention is to prove the following three points: firstly, Mary Magdalene was most likely the partner of Jesus and rightful heir as First Apostle (Brock, 175); secondly, that for political reasons, the Early Christian Church negated this relationship and Mary’s significant role in the “Easter” revelation and systematically transformed her into the Prostitute (Haskins, Myth and Metaphor), and lastly, as attested by the volumes of scholarly, contemporary and popular works available today and despite what the Church has done over the centuries there appears to be in Western culture a very real and tangible need to understand and fascination for Mary Magdalene in regards to her authentic history and role in the formation of Christianity.
I will prove these three hypotheses by examining the primary sources found in the four canonized New Testament Gospels and four Gnostic texts. I will also examine historical, sociological and contemporary scholarship on the development of the Jesus movement, the early church and interpretations of the four Gospels and the four Gnostic texts. I will also examine how some of the theological-political constructs of the Christian Catholic Church from its early development to the time of Pope Gregory the Great (590-604 C.E.) consciously transformed Mary Magdalene from Jesus’ Partner into a Prostitute. Additionally, I will examine current popular fictional and non-fictional works that assert the resurrection of Mary Magdalene, her position in the Christian story and her authority.
It should be noted here that for the purpose of this paper, I will treat the biblical characters of Jesus of Nazareth (the “Christ”) and Mary Magdalene as historical people, all the while recognizing that as mythological figures, Jesus and Mary represent archetypical spiritual symbols and legends that transcend time.
I shall be using the following ‘map’ in exploring my thesis: 1) Mary Magdalene as “Partner” (Women in Judaism and the Jewish Jesus movement – 4 B.C.E to 150 C.E.) 2) Mary Magdalene’s systematic transformation – “One of Many” and “The Prostitute” (150 C.E. – 650 C.E.) 3) Mary Magdalene – “The Many Legends” (650 C.E. – 1900 C.E.) and 4) Mary Magdalene – “In the 20th and 21st Century: A Resurrection Beyond the Institutional Church” (Schaberg, Resurrection, 300). In this manner, I will weave scholarship from several disciplines, primary texts, contemporary and popular materials. This weaving will methodically and logically lead to completing the circle from where I began, to prove that Mary Magdalene belongs beside Jesus as his Partner and First Apostle.