31 March 2009

Dali: The Life of Mary Magdalene

The Life of Mary Magdalene (1960). Salvador Dali. Oil on canvas, 62.5 x 62.5 cm. Image courtesy of Collection New York.

23 March 2009

Caravaggio - Penitent Magdalen

Penitent Magdalen (c. 1593-1594). Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi). Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome. Image courtesy of Olga's Gallery.

Notice the Grail on Magdalen's underdress. The Galleria Doria Pamphilj's website mentions that:
. . . the provenance of this picture is uncertain. It is mentioned, however, in an eighteenth-century inventory with a frame which displays the Aldobrandini arms, a detail which perhaps allows us to deduce that it originally belonged to the collection of Pietro.

17 March 2009

El Greco Magdalens

Mary Magdalen in Penitence (1576-78). Image courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

The Repentant Magdalen (c. 1577). Image courtesy of Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA.

The Penitent Magdalene (1580-85). Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. Image courtesy of Web Gallery of Art.

Mary Magdalen in Penitence (1585-90). Museo Cau Ferrat, Sitges. Image courtesy of Web Gallery of Art.

Penitent Magdalen (1605-1610). Private Collection. Image courtesy of Web Gallery of Art.

12 March 2009

Redeeming Magdalene's Gospel Reputation

Posted by Margaret Starbird on the Da Vinci Code Forum (12 March 2009):

The first fallacy in the RCC interpretation of Mary Magdalene is that she is "of Magdala." The title of the article says "h Magdala" but that phrase NEVER OCCURS in the texts of any of the Gospels. She is called "h Magdalhnh" in those sacred texts, never "h Magdala." Since the town "Magdala" that is now cited as her "hometown" was called by a Greek name --Taricheae--in every extant record during Biblical times until AD 70, it's very unlikely IMO that the town was the source of her title. Instead, I've been shown (call it "revelation"?) that her epithet "h Magdalhnh" stems from the prophetic passage in Micah 4:8-11, a scripture passage written in 700 BC which sums up her story in a nutshell. It speaks of the "Magdal-eder"--the "Watchtower of the Flock"--identified with "The Daughter of Sion," crying aloud over the death of her King and being sent, defiled and profaned, into foreign exile. This passage as "source" for Mary's honorific has some important points: 1) it tells her story, 2) it points to her tears: "Why are you crying? Have you no King? Has your counsellor (rabbi, master, teacher?) perished that you cry aloud...?" "Magdalene's tears are marked again at the tomb when Jesus asks her the exact same question, "Why are you crying?" John 21). 3) It is JEWISH, coming directly out of Hebrew Scriptures.

Later Greek-speaking Christians of the second century were confused about the meaning of her title precisely because they didn't understand Hebrew and weren't particularly familiar with Hebrew Scriptures. Like many modern scholars, they weren't even aware that this passage in Micah even exists! When they went looking for the source of her title, the hit on a town, rebuilt after it had been destroyed in AD 67 during the Jewish Revolution, and given a new name, "Magdala Nunnayah" (Tower of the Fishes). The Talmud (written in AD 250-300) said that the town had been "destroyed for prostitution" (a euphemism meaning that it had adopted pagan (Greek) culture, gods and mores).... so, logically, early Christians who associated Mary "Magdalene" with the woman who had anointed Jesus at the banquet (the "sinner" according to Luke!) decided "ex post facto" that this must be her home town..... Then, adding to the subterfuge and confusion, Helena, the mother of Constantine in the early 4th century made a trip to "Magdala" and claimed to have discovered the ruins of the house that Mary Magdalene had lived in..... pure fiction, as far as I am concerned!

One of the reasons modern Bible scholars separate Mary "of Magdala" from Mary "of Bethany" is based on this misinformation about her "Hometown." How can she be "of Bethany" if she was "of Magdala"? How can they be the same person if they are from different home towns? But if the town "Magdala" is a fabrication (since that town was called Taricheae until AD 70!)--- then they don't have a case at all for separating the two women. In John 12, Mary "of Bethany" anoints Jesus at the banquet and Jesus says, "Let her keep it for the day of my burial" ("it" --referring to the ointment /anointing). Then, a few chapters later, it is "Mary Magdalene" who goes alone to the tomb (John 20:1). Clearly the author of the Gospel of John believed that Mary "of Bethany" was the one "called Magdalene." And it is in his Gospel (John 21) that Jesus literally quotes the prophetic passage from Micah 4: "Why are you crying?"---

This same Mary is already famous for her tears..... they moved Jesus to raise her brother Lazarus from the tomb (John 11) and she cried over Jesus' feet and wiped her tears with her hair (John 11:2 and John 12:3). She is the ONLY MARY who cries in the Gospels. As "goddess" devotées often notice, tears are one of the symbols of the Goddess, a sure sign of love and compassion. Medieval statues and painting of Mary Magdalene often include a tear in her eye--they're coming straight out of Scripture.

Another important point "missed" by the author of this article (Carol Morrow) is the fact that in the Book of Acts, Mary "Magdalene" who was so prominent in the Gospels, is never mentioned at all..... the Church goes forward without its "first witness"! In my "Bride in Exile" book, I explain in some detail that Luke was the Gospel writer that marginalized Mary Magdalene (mentioned 7 demons, moved the "anointing at Bethany" to an unknown town in Galilee, called the woman a "sinner" who anointed Jesus "in advance for his burial" and whose story was to be "told and retold in memory of her"! Luke was a friend of Paul....and if I had been the family of Jesus, Paul would have been the very last person I would have told of the post-resurrection whereabouts of Mary Magdalene. But it's clear that she was NOT included in the events of Pentecost and the early ministry of the "Apostles."

At the end of "Bride in Exile" I wrote a two-page epilogue based on the question "Who do we say that she is?"--- Styling Mary Magdalene as "Apostle to the Apostle" may give women some voice and authority in the "Church" and academia, alongside their male colleagues. It will make her about equal to Peter...but it will NOT make the flowers grow and the desert bloom. It will not reclaim her as "Sacred Counterpart" of the Archetypal Bridegroom nor will it provide a model for "Sacred Marriage" / harmony / reconciliation and symbiosis of the "Divine" imaged as both masculine and feminine in loving Union and mutuality. "Apostle to the Apostles" robs Mary Magdalene of the one attribute that heals: her HEART!

The Gnostic Gospels do not make any distinction between Mary "Magdalene" and Mary of Bethany. The "Gospel of Mary" is the correct title of the text that bears her name.... it does NOT call her "Mary of Magdala" (contrary to the impression being made by feminist scholars who use "of Magdala" to designate this pre-eminent Mary! "Mary" is often mentioned in connection with "Martha" and "Salomé"--and is always assumed to be "Mary Magdalene"---although only the Gospel of Phillip actually calls her "the Magdalene." That's the Gospel that says that Jesus used to kiss her often and the other apostles were jealous of their intimacy....

Sorry I've let this get so long..... the rest of my arguments are spelled out in "Alabaster Jar" and "Bride in Exile." IMO the RCC's current position separating Mary "of Bethany" from "the Magdalene" is based on superficial and sometimes outright false assumptions.

07 March 2009

Nuptials of God

The Nuptials of God
(1922). Eric Gill. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Image courtesy of British Wood-Engraved Book Illustrations 1904 - 1940.

I came across this telling illustration in Haskins and found a copy on a website dealing with British wood engravings. The hair is reminiscent of the St. Mary of Egypt paintings. Update (13 June 2009): Found the Gill illustration below. This print was apparently done for a prospectus of The Songs of Solomon.

Stay Me with Apples (1925). Eric Gill. Image courtesy of

02 March 2009

Albani Psalter

Mary Magdalen announcing the resurrection to the apostles (c. 1123). St. Albans Psalter, St Godehard's Church, Hildesheim. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Above is an image of Mary in her role as Apostola Apostolorum from the Albani Psalter.

01 March 2009

Secrets of Mary Magdalene

Secrets of Mary Magdalene. Dan Burstein and Arne J. De Keijzer. Image courtesy of

Every once in a while I like to recommend a book or DVD that I find interesting, entertaining, or informative in some way. From the publisher's description:

Continuing in the tradition of the New York Times bestselling Secrets of the Code, the latest book from the team, Secrets of Mary Magdalene, brings together world class experts from different faiths, backgrounds, and perspectives, to discuss the most thought-provoking new ideas and original thinking about Mary Magdalene. All of the contributors to Secrets of Mary Magdalene are well-known and highly respected authors whose books have sold more than five million copies in total. Never before has such a wide range of fascinating ideas and new scholarship about Mary Magdalene been collected in one book that is so timely, popular and accessible.
Burstein also has a DVD that goes with the book.

Recently I came across the trailer for this DVD on Youtube and thought I would add it. There was also an interview with author Dan Burstein.