Character Profile: Mary Magdalene

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In place of accurate facts about Mary Magdalene, strange ideas and fabulous speculations have arisen that have diminished the true image of one of the most important women in the New Testament.

“Mary!” Jesus called to her from outside the empty tomb (John 20:16). Upon recognizing Jesus, Mary Magdalene became one of the first witnesses to his resurrection and, as such, attained an important status within the early fellowship of believers.[1] Unfortunately, Mary Magdalene’s history is scarcely known, her identity has been obscured as she became confused with other Marys, and even the original form of her name has been largely forgotten. In place of accurate facts, strange ideas and fabulous speculations have arisen that have only further diminished the true image of Mary Magdalene. It is time to reacquaint ourselves with the lady from Magdala.

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A stained-glass window at the Saint Mary Magdalene Chapel in Gobertange, Belgium. Photographed by Lucyin courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

  • [1] See Tal Ilan, “In the Footsteps of Jesus: Jewish Women in a Jewish Movement,” in Transformative Encounters: Jesus and Women Re-viewed (ed. Ingrid Rosa Kitzberger; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 115-136, esp. 119-121. Mary Magdalene’s importance is likely indicated by the fact that whenever she is mentioned with other women, her name appears first (except in John 19:25, where the female members of Jesus’ family take precedence). See Carol Meyers, ed., Women in Scripture (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2001), 121.

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