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Maria Magdalena

The Sinner Denigrated by the Church

Maria Magdalena

According to Peter's gospel, three days after the crucifixion of Jesus, angels came to announce the resurrection to his disciples. But it was to Mary Magdalene that they would have appeared first. Who is this Mary, a sinner denigrated by the Church for centuries?

Mary Magdalene or Maria Magdalena is one of the women who gravitate around Jesus. The latter seems to consider her as one of his disciples, perhaps the female disciple with whom Christ has the greatest connivance. It is believed to have originated in the city of Magdala, on the western shore of Lake Tiberias (now in Israel). A text of the Codex of Berlin, written in Coptic at the end of the second century, bears her name: The Gospel of Mary. It would be the restitution of dialogues between Christ and st Mary Magdalene. The monk and historian Domenico Cavalca, in the fourteenth century, suggests that Mary Magdalene was betrothed to John the Evangelist. Mary would have been abandoned by John, who had gone to follow the teaching of Jesus. She is an omnipresent character in the gospels. It is mentioned 19 times, more than the Virgin Mary. She is of all scenes until the resurrection. She attends to the cross with the other women. In the three synoptic gospels, she also attends entombment. According to the four gospels, she is the first witness of the resurrection of Jesus. Entering the tomb, she does not recognize him right away and tries to touch him, which grants her the answer "Noli me tangere" ("Do not touch me"). The Epistle of the Apostles, the Apocryphal Gospels of Peter, Thomas and Philip also evoke st Mary Magdalene. Professor Elaine Pagels suggested that Maria Magdalena was the Christian authority that would have succeeded Jesus after his death, becoming the first guide of the Christian religion. It was also attempted to identify her with the "beloved disciple" described in John's Gospel. The study of the evangelist Anne Graham Lotz in 2003 leads to the same conclusions: st Mary Magdalene would occupy the head of the early Christian community.

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The seven "evil spirits" of Mary

The identity of Mary Magdalene, as fixed by the Church, comes from an amalgamation of three characters: Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus, st Mary Magdalene, and a sinner (whose name is never mentioned) who came to spread perfume on the feet of Christ during a sermon. The Gospel of Luke presents it as the woman whom Jesus delivered from seven demons. In the Gospel of John, Mary of Bethany inexplicably disappears from the narration after the anointing episode. From the crucifixion appears impromptu another woman, st Mary Magdalene. The four evangelists do not agree on certain details, while giving these three women many points in common. The Church amalgamated them - belatedly - into one and only person. It was in the sixth century that Pope Gregory the Great decided to clarify the position of the Church. The cult of the Virgin Mary growing, the Church needs an impure figure. Mary Magdalene will incarnate both a sinner and a repentant in the Christian tradition. This vision is a point of contention at the time of the great schism of 1054. For the Orthodox, st Mary Magdalene is the equal of the apostles. In the book Trois amies de Jésus, the exegete Jean Pirot contradicts the identification made by the Catholic Church. He regrets a misinterpretation of Luke's passage that Mary was possessed by seven demons. According to him, the term "possession" does not refer to a sin but to a neurosis; and in the gospels possessions by evil spirits would be only metaphors for diseases. In 1969, however, Pope Paul VI decreed that Mary Magdalene should no longer be celebrated as a "disciple". Considered a saint, she is celebrated on July 22nd.

The wanderings of a saint

After the death of Jesus, Mary would have left Palestine, according to various legends. The best known one makes her cross the sea on a boat without sail or rowing in the company of Lazare, her brother, Marthe, her sister, Maximin, Marie-Jacobé, sister of the Virgin, Marie-Salomé, mother of the apostles James and John, and their servant Sara. The boat approaches the Camargue coast. Marie-Salome, Marie-Jacobé, with Sara, remain on the spot and will become the "Saintes Maries de la Mer". Mary Magdalene runs along the coast to the east and then arrives at the foot of a vast mountain, later called "Sainte-Baume", hoping to find a refuge to continue to atone for her sins. A star guides her to a cave; the archangel saint Michel comes to kill the dragon who lives in it. She will live for 33 years in this wet and dark cavity. Entirely undressed, she only feeds on roots and quenches herself from the water of the sky. Sensing her near death, she warns Saint Maximin, who gives her communion and places her body in a mausoleum. The tomb of Saint-Maximin-la-Saint-Baume has since been carefully guarded by the Dominicans. The Provençal tradition will transmit the legend through the centuries, making this place the third most frequented tomb of Christendom. But the point of view of historians nuance these beliefs: the writings and traditions that mention this trip date back to the 10th century and resume the amalgamation between Mary Magdalene, the sinner of Luke and Mary Bethany. Some exegetes conclude that this legend is false and that st Mary Magdalene did not travel outside Palestine. The only ancient reference to the tomb of Maria Magdalena dates from 590, when Gregory of Tours, in the Passion of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, places it in this city of Asia Minor, in the atrium preceding the sanctuary.

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Wife of Jesus Christ

According to the Questions of Mary, dating from the end of the third century, Mary Magdalene is the sexual partner of Jesus. Some exegetes go further. For them, the social behaviors of the time leave little room for doubt: among the Jews, an unmarried 30-year-old man was considered abnormal and victim of a kind of social ostracism. It's a safe bet that Jesus and Mary were a couple. A vision certainly too "earthly" for ecclesiastics, who wished to preserve the image of a lonely Christ. The figure of Mary Magdalene occupies a central place in the neognostic feminist works. A certain number of apocryphal texts (not authenticated by the Church), especially the Gospels of Mary, Thomas and Philip, are used to accredit the thesis of the marriage of st Mary Magdalene and Jesus of Nazareth, as well as the paramount importance granted to womens. In the twentieth century, theologians Jürgen and Elisabeth Moltmann pose the question of a fundamental equality between man and woman and speak of "spiritual and non-carnal marriage" between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. The latest exegetical research on the link between Mary Magdalene and Jesus is in line with this interpretation. The exegete Xavier Leon-Dufour points to nuances in the translations of texts that reveal the relationship between the two characters. In the Gospel of John, Mary calls Jesus "Rabbouni". This word, translated by the Greek "master" into the manuscripts, would be a diminutive of "Rabbi" adding a hint of affection or familiarity. For some scholars, the explanation is obvious: st Mary Magdalene would have been the wife and mother of the children of Jesus, but the Catholic Church would have stifled these facts by force, making her a prostitute to condemn the carnal desire.

The Holy Grail would be a woman

The idea of ​​portraying st Mary Magdalene as a wife has been exploited in literature since the middle of the 20th century. In his 1951 novel, The Last Temptation of Christ, which shows a Jesus succumbing to the temptation of a simple life, the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis introduces the theme of the love union between the two characters. More recently, works for the general public have diverted this mysterious aspect of the life of Jesus. In The Revelation of the Templars, Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince explore the importance accorded to Mary in the secret European societies of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The Cathars, Templars and Freemasons would be the holders of a secret, the "missing link" of Christianity, answering many fundamental questions about the true nature of Christ. According to the book, Mary, portrayed as a "sexual partner" of Christ, would maintain with him a relationship of equals, far removed from a classic relationship between teacher and pupil. The reasoning is taken up by the novelist Dan Brown in his thriller Da Vinci Code. St Mary Magdalene is presented as the symbol of sacred femininity, personification of the Holy Grail mentioned in the texts. The secrecy maintained by the Church stems from a fear of women's power. For centuries, the sacred feminine would have been demonized and considered heretical, as women's ability to give birth posed a threat to the development of the predominantly male church. This thesis is supported more scientifically and reserved by Michèle Koné in her book Myriam de Magdala. The fable of original sin and the responsibility of Eve in the decay of the human race are another example.

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