Sunday, May 21, 2006

Freeing the Magdalene

If anything good is to come from the hype surround the movie version of the "Da Vinci Code," it is perhaps the mystery that surrounds the life of Mary of Magadala, who was arguably the most important disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. Although the movie reduces the importance of the Magdalene to her role as a breeder, the movie's release has given others the opportunity to delve deeper.

In "An Inconvenient Woman," Newsweek's Jonathan Darman, together with collaborator Anne Underwood, offer, in this week's cover story, a succinct yet substantive history of the myth of Mary Magdalene, even as they explore possible historical truths.

"The Da Vinci Code" seems to think that the secret tradition of Mary Magdalene speaks to the carnal. In reality, it tells of something far more subversive: the intellectual equality of the sexes. The current Magdalene cult still focuses on her sexuality even though no early Christian writings speak of her sexuality at all. "Why do we feel the need to resexualize Mary?" wonders Karen King, author of "The Gospel of Mary of Magdala.""We've gotten rid of the myth of the prostitute. Now there's this move to see her as wife and mother. Why isn't it adequate to see her as disciple and perhaps apostle?"


Brown's mistake is understandable. Sex sells in our time, as it did in Gregory's, and probably Jesus', too. Mary remains a prisoner, a mistaken creature of sex. History may yet set her free. There are still undiscovered gospels sitting in unknown deserts or on unknown library shelves. Scholars say it is only a matter of time before some of them surface and upend our notions of Mary and Jesus once again.
Great work.


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