Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Setting the Record Straight on Mary Magdalene

The crucifixion of Christ and his resurrection celebrated on Easter has been called the greatest story ever told. So it’s appropriate Easter is the day when a group of women try to set the historical record straight on what they view as one of the biggest whoppers ever told.

The Junia Project sends out an annual “public service announcement” that plainly states: Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute, even through sermons for centuries have declared her one.

The story provides a compelling narrative. A wretched sinner meets Jesus, foreswears her sinful ways and achieves forgiveness – and here own immortality. The message priests and ministers push out is that if God can forgive a prostitute, he can forgive you, too.

It turns out the biblical and historical evidence of Mary Magdalene’s salacious lifestyle is somewhere between circumstantial and non-existent. If Mary Magdalene was alive today and someone called her a prostitute, she would probably win a big-time libel suit.

Ironically, the story of Mary Magdalene we can trace to the Bible would offer an equally compelling story. She was a good woman who, through faith, found purpose and devotion in life. Mary Magdalene was the last to leave Christ on the cross and the first to go to his tomb after he had arisen.

Her devotion to Jesus has led some to speculate she was his wife – a theory popularized in the DaVinci Code. That’s a pretty good story, too.

However, the Junia Project’s message has more to do with a sad and recurring story – the marginalization of women, especially women of historical importance. This group says Mary Magdalene has been slut-shamed for centuries for the sake of a good story and at the expense of even better one. Leaders of the Junia Project seek more equality in the church. Their advocacy argues for even wider equality in society.

The Junia Project takes its name from a comment made by Paul in Romans 16:7 where he addresses Andronicus and Junias as fellow believers and colleagues. Paul notes they were followers of Christ before him and all three spent time together in jail for their belief.

Like much about the Bible, scholars have argued over whether Andronicus and Junias were early Christian apostles – and whether Junias was male or female. There is contextual evidence that suggests Junias or Junia was a female name, which would make her one of the earliest apostles.

What’s incontestable is the contemporary implications of the Junia Project outreach. We continue to see woman as the seductress and men as the innocent victims, a modern adaptation of the Adam and Eve allegory. Bill O’Reilly, despite numerous complaints and audio confirmation of his unwanted advances, leaves his high-paying job on Fox News claiming that scheming women did him in. Right.

Rehabilitating Mary Magdalene’s image may not seem like a big deal, but maybe it is. She has been slandered for centuries. Seeing her in new light without the dusty veils of history delivers more than redemption; it is rectification for persistent social stigmas of women.

We don’t need someone to belittle, but we could certainly use someone to revere. Mary Magdalene may be the perfect persona for us to admire and adulate, not malign and marginalize. Her faith and devotion are inspirations in a day and age when both are in short supply. She is a woman to emulate, not disparage. She is a person of note, not notoriety.


One comment on “Setting the Record Straight on Mary Magdalene

  1. Patrick
    April 20, 2017


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