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Mary Magdalene and power of misinformation
The Charlotte Observer ^ | 2/15/2004 | Ed Williams

Posted on 02/15/2004 12:13:11 PM PST by autopsy

Mary Magdalene and power of misinformation

Ancient pope's slander shows how hard it is to fix damaged reputation

ED WILLIAMS

A good reputation is hard to build and easy to tear down.

I've been thinking of this since hearing a friend's remark when Mary Magdalene was mentioned in a conversation at our church.

"Mary Magdalene," he said. "We know about her."

There was an implicit leer in his voice -- Mary, the prostitute who turned to Jesus.

That's the story many of us learned growing up. It isn't true.

The biblical Mary from Magdala, a city in Galilee, first appears in the Gospel of Luke as an apparently wealthy woman whom Jesus cured of possession (he cast seven devils out of her). She then joined him and the Apostles and helped support his ministry.

There's no suggestion that her problem was sin. Her possession was considered an illness.

The next time her name appears is when she and other women witness the crucifixion from the foot of the cross, after the male apostles have fled.

Then on Easter Sunday morning she visits Jesus' tomb and finds it empty. She learns -- from Jesus in one gospel and from angels in three others -- that he is risen. In one gospel she is the first to encounter the resurrected Jesus.

All in all, she seems to be a woman of substance and prominence who was cured by Jesus and then was a devout and important supporter of his ministry.

The problem for her reputation came when early church fathers wrapped her story into those of some other women, including the "sinner" in Luke who bathed Jesus' feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed them and anointed them with ointment.

Pope Gregory the Great put the official stamp of disrepute on her in 591 when he declared in a sermon, "She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary [of Bethany], we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark."

He was wrong but, popes being what they are, his assertion became official church teaching.

Dan Brown, in his best-selling "The Da Vinci Code," portrays the slander of Mary Magdalene as a conspiracy by early church leaders to conceal a story that would change the world. (Brown writes fiction, not history.)

It wasn't until 1969 that the Catholic Church officially separated Luke's sinful woman, Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene, and quietly corrected Pope Gregory's nearly 1,400-year slander.

As my friend's offhand comment indicated, repairing a damaged reputation is no easy thing.

I'm thinking of that as I write this because of some e-mails we've received from readers who are convinced we're covering up a story about John Kerry, front-runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Internet is a wonderful source of information, but it is also the world's most powerful spreader of misinformation.

Before the advent of the Internet, journalists would hear rumors that only a few of our readers would be aware of. Now celebrity rumors are available to all.

We don't ignore such rumors. We see if they check out.

If they do, and the information is newsworthy, then we have a story. But anyone who's been in the news business for long can tell you about a desk full of rumors that never panned out.

Not all of them are on the Internet. Television spreads its share of misinformation, particularly in dramatizations of historical events. A recent one was the report that Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the murder of John F. Kennedy, a speculation that the History Channel portrayed far too seriously.

And not long ago there was the CBS docudrama about Ronald Reagan, which put words in his mouth that no one who knew him could imagine him saying.

It happens locally, too. Talk radio abounds with half-truths and fabrications. Other newspapers report stories based on assertions that turn out to be unsupported. When we don't report such stuff, we're suspected of a cover-up.

Unsubstantiated stories are hot. Rumor sells. Maybe the fact that a lot of people are talking about something is sufficient reason for it to be in the Observer.

The power of the Internet is pushing news organizations to examine their standards. After all, gossip mongers are competing with us to be the first to bring you information, and they're willing to tell you things that we're not.

But there's a difference. We do our best to bring you accurate information. I think that's a distinction worth preserving.

I believe Mary Magdalene would, too.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic
KEYWORDS: falseteachings; marymagdalene; slander
A very disturbing hit-piece on the Catholic Church. Note his only source is the anti-Christian screed The Da Vinci Code

.

1 posted on 02/15/2004 12:13:12 PM PST by autopsy
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To: AAABEST; BlackElk; ultima ratio; Loyalist; Canticle_of_Deborah; MCAJ; Land of the Irish
ping
2 posted on 02/15/2004 12:15:02 PM PST by autopsy
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To: autopsy
"(Brown writes fiction, not history.)"

Biggest understatement of the whole article. Unfortunately, too many people are reading the DaVinci Code as if it were fact.
3 posted on 02/15/2004 12:31:15 PM PST by Conservative Iowan
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To: autopsy
Total garbage. If they want propaganda value they should immediately eliminate the keywords "Da Vinci" and "code". This immediately gets any article run into the paper shredder.

The Judas was quite upset with Mary for breaking that ointment container when she could have sold it for about a year's pay.

Speaking pastorally for a moment, how many Mary's can we have that are wealthy, adore Jesus for saving them and receive divine revelations as to Christ's condition?

4 posted on 02/15/2004 12:35:09 PM PST by AAABEST (<a href="http://www.angelqueen.org">Traditional Catholicism is Back and Growing</a>)
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To: autopsy
I wonder who WAS Mary Magdalene. What was she? I've never had anyone explain her well to me. Luke repeatedly refers to her as "Mary the so-called Magdalene". That is a rather unusual way to refer to someone. It's like he is implying something special or peculiar about her. I wonder what it is? Thoughts?
5 posted on 02/15/2004 1:32:08 PM PST by bluebunny
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To: autopsy
The slander of Mary Magdalene and Christ IS the DaVinci Code. Unfortunately, many people will read it as gospel.

There isn't anything directly in Scripture which indicates Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. On Robert Sungenis' website he states that 'Magdala, or Magdalene' means 'curling hair' in Hebrew. That lends suspicion to the idea of a loose woman/place of residence but does not provide direct evidence.

The Eastern Church doesn't have history of MM as a prostitute as far as I can determine.

I have read a theory which states the story of MM may have become confused with the legendary, repentant prostitute Mary of Egypt.

6 posted on 02/15/2004 3:45:38 PM PST by Canticle_of_Deborah
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To: autopsy
Whatever the man's source for the information, the fact is that the Magdalene is never described as a prostitute. Look for yourself. For all the gospels tell of her she could have operated a gambling den or been in the publishing trade or operated a small cafe in the arty section of Magdala. The important information is that Jesus cast seven devils out of her. He cured what we now call neurosis and mental illness as well as diseases of the body. Cite me chapter and verse that demonstrates anything different. And the "sinful woman" is nowhere in the bible identified with Mary Magdaene.
The two could be the same but such information is not in the gospels.
7 posted on 02/15/2004 5:55:33 PM PST by arthurus (fighting them OVER THERE is better than fighting them OVER HERE)
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To: bluebunny
I wonder who WAS Mary Magdalene.

She is a saint of the Catholic Church.
8 posted on 02/15/2004 7:44:38 PM PST by Conservative til I die
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To: arthurus
the fact is that the Magdalene is never described as a prostitute

I never said she was.

The two could be the same but such information is not in the gospels.

Right, I agree. That doesn't me she wasn't Mary of Bethany. We just don't know.

9 posted on 02/15/2004 7:46:45 PM PST by autopsy
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To: autopsy
Sorry, it's not a 'hit piece'. The identification of the Holy Myrrh-Bearer Mary Magdalene Equal-to-the-Apostles with the repentent prostitute was an error. It is unknown outside the Patriarchate of Rome. The Orthodox Church, which honors her with the titles I have given, has always held that not only was Mary Magdalene not the repentent prostitute, but that she was a life-long virgin.

Just read the Gospels: Mary Magdalene had seven demons driven from her. Mary of Bethany, like the repentent prostitute washed Christ's feet with her tears. Magadalene = of Magdala, and Magdala and Bethany are different places.

You are also wrong that the vile neo-gnostic novel The Da Vinci Code is the author's only source: he also cites the Latin church's 1969 return to the traditional teaching about St. Mary Magdalene.

As we sing to our patron out our little Orthodox mission:

When Christ God had been born from the Virgin
Thou faithfully didst follow Him, keeping His commandment
And heeding His Sacred Laws, O august Mary Magdalene
Hence as we, today, observe thy holy rememberance
We receive the loosing of our sins and trangressions
Through thy holy prayers for us.

---The Troparion of St. Mary Magdalene Isapostolos (special Tone 1)

10 posted on 02/15/2004 8:27:57 PM PST by The_Reader_David
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To: bluebunny
Luke repeatedly refers to her as "Mary the so-called Magdalene". That is a rather unusual way to refer to someone.

Is it unusual to refer to someone as a Texan? or a New Yorker?

It's like he is implying something special or peculiar about her. I wonder what it is? Thoughts?

The people of Magdela were wealthy, so it might have been as a way to express her personal wealth. More likley, it was simply a way by the author to differentiate between her and the other Marys mentioned in the text.

11 posted on 02/15/2004 8:29:02 PM PST by Technogeeb
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To: Canticle_of_Deborah
The Eastern Church doesn't have history of MM as a prostitute as far as I can determine.

That is correct for us, if you mean Eastern Orthodox.

12 posted on 02/15/2004 9:00:01 PM PST by MarMema
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To: The_Reader_David
Sorry, it's not a 'hit piece'. The identification of the Holy Myrrh-Bearer Mary Magdalene Equal-to-the-Apostles with the repentent prostitute was an error.

You offer no evidence to support your statement that it was an error.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The Greek Fathers, as a whole, distinguish the three persons:

the "sinner" of Luke 7:36-50;

the sister of Martha and Lazarus, Luke 10:38-42 and John 11; and

Mary Magdalen.

On the other hand most of the Latins hold that these three were one and the same. Protestant critics, however, believe there were two, if not three, distinct persons. It is impossible to demonstrate the identity of the three; but those commentators undoubtedly go too far who assert, as does Westcott (on John 11:1), "that the identity of Mary with Mary Magdalene is a mere conjecture supported by no direct evidence, and opposed to the general tenour of the gospels." It is the identification of Mary of Bethany with the "sinner" of Luke 7:37, which is most combatted by Protestants. It almost seems as if this reluctance to identify the "sinner" with the sister of Martha were due to a failure to grasp the full significance of the forgiveness of sin. The harmonizing tendencies of so many modern critics, too, are responsible for much of the existing confusion.

The first fact, mentioned in the Gospel relating to the question under discussion is the anointing of Christ's feet by a woman, a "sinner" in the city (Luke 7:37-50). This belongs to the Galilean ministry, it precedes the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand and the third Passover. Immediately afterwards St. Luke describes a missionary circuit in Galilee and tells us of the women who ministered to Christ, among them being "Mary who is called Magdalen, out of whom seven devils were gone forth" (Luke 8:2); but he does not tell us that she is to be identified with the "sinner" of the previous chapter. In 10:38-42, he tells us of Christ's visit to Martha and Mary "in a certain town"; it is impossible to identify this town, but it is clear from 9:53, that Christ had definitively left Galilee, and it is quite possible that this "town" was Bethany. This seems confirmed by the preceding parable of the good Samaritan, which must almost certainly have been spoken on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem. But here again we note that there is no suggestion of an identification of the three persons (the "sinner", Mary Magdalen, and Mary of Bethany), and if we had only St. Luke to guide us we should certainly have no grounds for so identifying them. St. John, however, clearly identifies Mary of Bethany with the woman who anointed Christ's feet (12; cf. Matthew 26 and Mark 14). It is remarkable that already in 11:2, St. John has spoken of Mary as "she that anointed the Lord's feet", he aleipsasa; It is commonly said that he refers to the subsequent anointing which he himself describes in 12:3-8; but it may be questioned whether he would have used he aleipsasa if another woman, and she a "sinner" in the city, had done the same. It is conceivable that St. John, just because he is writing so long after the event and at a time when Mary was dead, wishes to point out to us that she was really the same as the "sinner." In the same way St. Luke may have veiled her identity precisely because he did not wish to defame one who was yet living; he certainly does something similar in the case of St. Matthew whose identity with Levi the publican (5:7) he conceals.

If the foregoing argument holds good, Mary of Bethany and the "sinner" are one and the same. But an examination of St. John's Gospel makes it almost impossible to deny the identity of Mary of Bethany with Mary Magdalen. From St. John we learn the name of the "woman" who anointed Christ's feet previous to the last supper. We may remark here that it seems unnecessary to hold that because St. Matthew and St. Mark say "two days before the Passover", while St. John says "six days" there were, therefore, two distinct anointings following one another. St. John does not necessarily mean that the supper and the anointing took place six days before, but only that Christ came to Bethany six days before the Passover. At that supper, then, Mary received the glorious encomium, "she hath wrought a good work upon Me . . . in pouring this ointment upon My body she hath done it for My burial . . . wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached . . . that also which she hath done shall be told for a memory of her." Is it credible, in view of all this, that this Mary should have no place at the foot of the cross, nor at the tomb of Christ? Yet it is Mary Magdalen who, according to all the Evangelists, stood at the foot of the cross and assisted at the entombment and was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. And while St. John calls her "Mary Magdalen" in 19:25, 20:1, and 20:18, he calls her simply "Mary" in 20:11 and 20:16.

In the view we have advocated the series of events forms a consistent whole; the "sinner" comes early in the ministry to seek for pardon; she is described immediately afterwards as Mary Magdalen "out of whom seven devils were gone forth"; shortly after, we find her "sitting at the Lord's feet and hearing His words." To the Catholic mind it all seems fitting and natural. At a later period Mary and Martha turn to "the Christ, the Son of the Living God", and He restores to them their brother Lazarus; a short time afterwards they make Him a supper and Mary once more repeats the act she had performed when a penitent. At the Passion she stands near by; she sees Him laid in the tomb; and she is the first witness of His Resurrection--excepting always His Mother, to whom He must needs have appeared first, though the New Testament is silent on this point. In our view, then, there were two anointings of Christ's feet--it should surely be no difficulty that St. Matthew and St. Mark speak of His head--the first (Luke 7) took place at a comparatively early date; the second, two days before the last Passover. But it was one and the same woman who performed this pious act on each occasion.

13 posted on 02/16/2004 7:47:46 AM PST by autopsy
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To: autopsy
I told what the Holy Tradition of the Holy Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church teaches about St. Mary Magdalene, Equal-to-the-Apostles. Holy Tradition preserves a memory of her being a life-long virgin, not a prostitute.
14 posted on 02/16/2004 12:32:31 PM PST by The_Reader_David
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To: bluebunny
I wonder who WAS Mary Magdalene. What was she? I've never had anyone explain her well to me. Luke repeatedly refers to her as "Mary the so-called Magdalene". That is a rather unusual way to refer to someone. It's like he is implying something special or peculiar about her. I wonder what it is? Thoughts?

My thoughts are "what Bible are you reading"? I can find no "so-called" in the half dozen versions I read.

Furthermore, Luke refers to Mary Magdalene exactly twice. Hardly "repeatedly".

Pope Gregory mistakenly misidentified her with a prostitute also called Mary. The RCC no longer holds to that identification.

15 posted on 02/16/2004 1:02:30 PM PST by OLD REGGIE ((I am a cult of one! UNITARJEWMIAN) Maybe a Biblical Unitarian?)
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To: AAABEST
Total garbage.

Is it "total garbage" that Pope Gregory mistakenly labelled her a prostitute?

Is it "total garbage" that the RCC no longer holds to that belief?

Or is it that there can be no such thing as any truth in a fictional story? IOW, is it your belief that all fiction is total garbage?

16 posted on 02/16/2004 1:07:46 PM PST by OLD REGGIE ((I am a cult of one! UNITARJEWMIAN) Maybe a Biblical Unitarian?)
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To: OLD REGGIE
Is it "total garbage" that Pope Gregory mistakenly labelled her a prostitute?

Yes it is garbage. He said she was believed to be the same person as Mary of Bethany.

Is it "total garbage" that the RCC no longer holds to that belief?

Tell me what the RCC Church does believe. Do you have any evidence of an official Church teaching that states who she was? One Pope's opinion and another Pope's disagreement, hardly constitutes Church teaching.

17 posted on 02/16/2004 1:38:05 PM PST by autopsy
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To: autopsy
Yes it is garbage. He said she was believed to be the same person as Mary of Bethany.

This kind of garbage?

"She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark," Gregory said in his 23rd homily. "And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices? ... It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts..." Pope Gregory The Great

Oh I see! Try again.

Tell me what the RCC Church does believe. Do you have any evidence of an official Church teaching that states who she was? One Pope's opinion and another Pope's disagreement, hardly constitutes Church teaching.

You are the one claiming what the Pope says is worthless. Not me.

18 posted on 02/16/2004 2:42:20 PM PST by OLD REGGIE ((I am a cult of one! UNITARJEWMIAN) Maybe a Biblical Unitarian?)
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To: OLD REGGIE
"She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark," Gregory said in his 23rd homily. "And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices? ... It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts..." Pope Gregory The Great

You have no understanding of Catholicism if you think the opinion of the Pope constitutes official Church teaching.

19 posted on 02/16/2004 4:14:28 PM PST by autopsy
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To: OLD REGGIE
Nice try referencing an ultra-liberal, feminist Catholic website.

20 posted on 02/16/2004 4:17:22 PM PST by autopsy
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To: autopsy
You have no understanding of Catholicism if you think the opinion of the Pope constitutes official Church teaching.

You have no understanding of me if you think I have no understanding of what constitutes official Catholic Church teaching.

Then again, it is not I who claims what a Pope says, writes, or preaches is trash.

21 posted on 02/17/2004 4:54:27 PM PST by OLD REGGIE ((I am a cult of one! UNITARJEWMIAN) Maybe a Biblical Unitarian?)
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To: autopsy
Nice try referencing an ultra-liberal, feminist Catholic website.

Excuse me, I thought you were interested in the words of Pope Gregory. I had no idea you were so prejudiced you would attack the site, not the truth.

Lets try another one. Harvard Divinity School

Which prejudice do you wish to exercise now?

22 posted on 02/17/2004 5:02:12 PM PST by OLD REGGIE ((I am a cult of one! UNITARJEWMIAN) Maybe a Biblical Unitarian?)
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To: OLD REGGIE
So, you have resorted to quoting lesbians and the Harvard Divinity School. How far away from God will you go to find a source?
23 posted on 02/17/2004 5:07:58 PM PST by autopsy
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To: autopsy
So, you have resorted to quoting lesbians and the Harvard Divinity School. How far away from God will you go to find a source?

I am simply exposing your blind prejudice.

To date, you have refused to examine a quote of Pope Gregory simply because it was posted on a feminine site. Misogony exposed.

You have refused to examine a quote of Pope Gregory simply because it was posted on a "Protestant" site. Hatred of Protestantism exposed.

Do you wish to keep going with your inanity?

Here is the same quote from a "Catholic" source. He agrees with Pope Gregory that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany are one and the same. However, he uses the same quote as is used in the sites you refuse to examine due to your blind prejudice.

If this argument holds, then Mary Magdalene, the penitent woman, and Mary of Bethany are the same. Granted, we are still left with a little mystery. Nevertheless, I personally agree with Pope St. Gregory, who concluded, A She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary [of Bethany], we believe to be the Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark" (Homilies on the Gospels). St. Mary Magdalene, the repentant sinner, who found both forgiveness and friendship with our Lord, who stood faithfully at the foot of the cross, and who saw the risen Lord, is a powerful example for each believer.

By Fr. William P. Saunders
Herald Columnist
(From the issue of 8/28/03)

CATHOLIC HERALD

OR - from a quasi Religious and Secular source.

Mary Magdalene, for instance, HAS been exonerated by the Catholic Church. The Vatican did it in 1969, but few Catholics seem aware of the historical cleansing. She is not the devout and penitent whore weeping at the foot of the cross, as I was brought up to believe. She didn't suffer the bum rap of being a prostitute until the end of the sixth century, when Pope Gregory I delivered a famous sermon in which he tagged her as the unnamed "sinner" in the Gospel of Luke.

John Hanchette, a professor of journalism at St. Bonaventure University, is a former editor of the Niagara Gazette and a Pulitzer Prize-winning national correspondent. He was a founding editor of USA Today and was recently named by Gannett as one of the Top 10 reporters of the past 25 years. He can be contacted via e-mail at Hanchette6@aol.com.

You may wish to continue your argument with him.

Mary Magdalene exonerated.

24 posted on 02/18/2004 10:18:10 AM PST by OLD REGGIE ((I am a cult of one! UNITARJEWMIAN) Maybe a Biblical Unitarian?)
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