A New Vision of That Magdalene Woman
Posted: Sunday, March 27, 2005
By Linda E. Edwards
In 1984 I wrote a piece called Articles Of Faith Of A Feminist Christian in which I argued that it was to the women, the Marys that Christ had handed the mantle of leadership, since he had appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden that first Easter, and according to the gospels as told by the men, the other Mary, his mother, was there. At the time, the Anglican Church, called the Episcopal Church in th USA was steeped in the arguments for and against the ordination of women to the clergy. The main argument that male members were using, bolstered by their wives, was that it was unnatural for women to lead the Church. Oh?
This piece was published in the paper of the Anglican Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago, then under the the editorship of Father Joseph. At that time, the argument raging under Archbishop Orland Lindsay was that there is no whole number that is two-thirds of eight. Eight dioceses make up the Province of The West Indies, a two thirds majority vote was needed to ordain women.
I had pointed out then, that the Church came from Jewish origins, in which women had a subordinate role, and that they were living under the military dictartorship of Rome, in which women had a subordinate role. Double jeopardy.
I did not know then that there actually had been a Gospel According To Mary Magdalene, and that such a gospel had been found by a sepherd boy in Egypt in 1949. I am not sure if the find was part of the Dead Sea Scrolls or not, but they came at about the same time. Neither document, to this day, has been made available to lay Christians. Somebody hiding something?
This gospel was written about the year 300 AD, just prior to the time of the Emperor Constantine assuming Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire, thus clearing the way for the Holy Roman Empire and the power of a Roman Pope.(at least one based in Rome). The military top down leadership of the Roman state became the official policy of the Church at Rome, and the circular idea of leadership fell against the might of the pyramid. Men were to rule the Church henceforth, but forevermore?
Now, I am not about to start any revolutionary movement within the Christian Church, in any of its branches- Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist or Pentecostal; but I wondered if it was not time that we went back to the idea of the leadership of women in the church. Magdalene is no longer regarded as a prostitute by serious scholars, nor is she even a "fallen woman". Fallen from where? I have always wondered. For the longest while, I have regarded her as a tradeswoman, in fabrics and ointments. Things women would buy. I took the title Matthew had, Matthew the Publican, and thought that if a publican was a taxgatherer, a public woman must be a trader of some sort from which taxes were due, and to whom many people went for business purposes.(It would be typical to 'mauvais langue' such a woman, and call her names) The prostitute designation could also have come later when male scholars misunderstood the "public" word. (A similar mistake, I have been told by a speaker of Koine Greek was made in the Camel and the Eye of A Needle story, but that is another issue.) This could explain the expensive ointment with which she annointed the feet of Jesus.
As I watched scene after scene of the poor and the penitent getting their feet washed by the potentates of the Church, Catholic and Anglican, I felt that they were again, copying something Mary Magdalene did, but for which she was rebuked, and then later, maligned.
It is time for the Woman of Magdala to come in from the cold where she has lingered, faithful, weeping and grieving for two thousand years, pushed aside by those who doubted him (Thomas) and denied him (Peter) or just simply ran away so as not to be arrested by the centurions.
It is time that we regard her as the mother figure of Christianity, not as the Mother of Jesus, that clearly belongs to Mary, Wife of Joseph; but it was the Magdalene who saw Him first and realized that the promise he made, of Everlasting life, was true. She was with him at the end of his life, and on the morning of his Ressurection. She belongs with him. She is the true founder of Christianity, the movement that began immediately after his death, in secret meetings and discussions, and so changed the world these two thousand years.
God does nothing without a purpose. Clearly, the Son of God chose her. Great was her faithfulness. Faithful Christians must wonder why have the leaders of the church hidden this from us in all this time? Why have we tended to accept St. Paul's version of women's appropriate place? (Read Timothy 1 and Titus) Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus did not extend to conversion of his attitude to women. Jesus demonstrated a different attitude. He was not concerned with power struggles.
Maybe the answer lies in what one Biblical scholar said in a recent documentary: The implication of the Magdalene Gospel is that we do not need a Church- building edifice, structure, priests. We are all priestly who are spiritual believers. We do not need to have the Gospel interpreted for us. Now, that's a revolutionary idea. If it was adopted by Christian women, a lot of men would go looking for new jobs.
This Easter, this weekend of the Resurrection, let us give some serious thought to the woman who founded Christianity, who was the first to spread the Good News. Mary Magdalene, companion of Jesus, at the end and at the New Beginning.
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