Mary Magdalene

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Western: alabaster box of ointment, long hair, at the foot of the cross[2]

Mary Magdalene or Mary of Magdala (original Greek Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνή)[3] is described, in the New Testament, as one of the most important women in the movement of Jesus throughout his ministry.[4]

The late 20th and early 21st century has seen a restoration of the New Testament figure of Mary Magdalene as a patron of women's preaching and ministry. Her new popularity has stemmed in part from the recognition that Mary Magdalene has suffered from what some believe to have been a historical defamation of character. She has been misidentified as a repentant prostitute in historical tradition, and depicted in art as a weeping sinner wiping Jesus' feet with her hair. There is no historical, apocryphal, or canonical evidence to support this notion. Modern New Testament scholarship has shown that this picture of Mary Magdalene is not true.[5]

According to Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9, Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons," a concept usually associated in the New Testament with healing from illness,[6] not forgiveness of sin. Mary Magdalene is the leader of a group of women disciples who are present at the cross, when the male disciples (excepting John the Beloved) have fled, and at his burial. Mary was a devoted follower of Jesus, entering into the close circle of those taught by Jesus during his Galilean ministry. She became prominent during the last days, accompanying Jesus during his travels and following him to the end. She witnessed his Crucifixion and burial. According to all four Gospels in the Christian New Testament, she was the first person to see the resurrected Christ.[7]

Mary Magdalene is referred to in early Christian writings as "the apostle to the apostles." In apocryphal texts, she is portrayed as a visionary and leader of the early movement, who was loved by Jesus more than the other disciples.[8] Several Gnostic gospels, such as the Gospel of Mary, written in the early 2nd century, see Mary as the special disciple of Jesus who has a deeper understanding of his teachings and is asked to impart this to the other disciples. Speculations (though unsupported in Christian biblical canons) have emerged in antiquity and in modern times regarding Mary, including claims that she was Jesus' wife and bore him a daughter named Sarah.[9]

Mary Magdalene is considered by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches to be a saint, with a feast day of July 22. The Eastern Orthodox churches also commemorate her on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers which is the second Sunday after Pascha (Easter).

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