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Mary of Magdala as Model

On July 22, the church observes the feast day of Mary Magdalene.

by Janet Blair

I grew up in a Lutheran church in Florida in the ‘60s and ‘70s, so I don’t remember hearing much about saints. When I learned as an adult, long before I studied to be a pastor, that my birthday, July 22, was the feast day for Mary Magdalene, I became curious about her. Who was she? Was she a prostitute? A good friend of Jesus? An apostle? What about all those other Marys in the New Testament? Did they overlap?

When Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code became a best seller, I was eager to read it. Could Mary really have been Jesus’ wife? Now that I knew my birth date was her feast day, I felt I had a special connection with her. What was her message for me?

Curiosity is a good attitude to have with Mary Magdalene, because she is multi-faceted. Yet little about her history can be substantiated. The gospels were written for different audiences and purposes many years after most of the witnesses had died, and each had its own interpretation of history.

It’s no surprise that it’s hard to get an accurate picture of who Mary Magdalene really was from the New Testament. The Gnostic gospels, discovered in Egypt in 1945, and the Gospel of Mary, discovered in 1896, give us additional potential glimpses of Mary and the time in which she lived.

Janet Blair is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Ridgefield, N.J., and the mission developer for Morning Star, a multicultural ministry with Korean-Americans.

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