[XTalk] Re: Magdalene
- Pardon me for reviving this thread but I've just been doing some
catch-up on unread e-correspondence & have a few more links to add to
the probable exegetical logic that turned MM into a prostitute. An old
rabbinic hermeneutical principle holds that one text may be used to
interpret another text if it contains the same or similar wording. This
is the principle behind the conflation of Exod 23:20, Mal 3:1 & Isa 40:3
in Mk 1:2-3.
In the case of MM the first conflation is simply one of name. Xns who
don't know their maps or that MAGDALHNH means "from Migdal" (in Galilee)
are apt to conflate MM with Mary of Bethany (in Judea) -- hence Tim
Rice's script for JC Superstar, which Mark G. already mentioned. The
mind naturally puts all texts referring to a person or object of the
same name in the same file. So the Mary of one story is easily
identified as the Mary in another.
The second conflation (also inferred by Mk) is confusing the account of
the anointing at Bethany in Jn 12:1-8 with that in Lk 7:36-50 because
the woman in both scenes wipes J's feet with her hair. Hence the logic
MM = Mary who wiped J's feet = sinner woman.
Enter sociological prejudice in a culture where decent women were
expected to keep their hair up & at least partially covered in public,
unlike women of ill repute. A woman was expected to let her hair touch
only her husband &, as anyone who has read between the lines of the
story of Ruth & Boaz knows, the "feet" have definite sexual
connotations. And VOILA! one has "clear" evidence that MM was a
prostitute. A decent girl wouldn't throw herself at a male's feet
without intending sexual submission, just as in my grandmother's eyes
decent girls didn't wear lipstick. Hence any ancient person who thought
that MM anointed J would regard MM's profession to be as plain as day.
It also helps that J says in Jn 12:7: "Let her keep this [nard] for the
day of my burial." So when one read in Mark 16:1 that MM & Co. came to
the tomb "bearing spices," it was natural to identify the principle Mary
in both scenes.
At least that's the mental process this intellectual historian has been
able to retrace.
P.S. So I broke my advertised silence! This thread was too delicious to
delete without sampling. Now back to my hole.
Mahlon H. Smith, http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
Department of Religion
New Brunswick NJ
Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
- Since Mahlon Smith renewed the MM thread, I will jump in with two items:
1. I might have missed it if someone mentioned it before, but another
book on MM is _Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women Who Followed Jesus_
by Carla Ricci, Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 1994, translated from the
Italian by Paul Burns. This book has a helpful chart in its appendix
which lists all the women in the four Gospels in the categories of
"women named," "women in speeches by Jesus," "women in speeches by
others," "parallel passages." Carla Ricci holds a PhD from the
University of Bologna.
2. Regarding the wavy hair of prostitutes, a similar charge was made
"Medieval Europe had innumerable superstitions based on the pagan
significance of hair ... Gypsies said a witch could be known by her
hair, which grew straight for three or four inches, then began to wave,
'like a waterfall bouncing over rocks.' ... The waterfall effect was
produced when naturally straight hair was kept in braids, then let
loose..." (See "Hair" in _The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and
Secrets_ by Barbara Walker, HarperSanFrancisco, 1983.)
A personal note on this: A huge stained glass window recently installed
in St. Catherine's Church in Milwaukee shows Mary Magdalene from the
back, kneeling at the feet of Jesus on the cross, her wavy red hair
flowing "like a waterfall" over her shoulders. This window was created
in 1997! And so the superstitions continue to be perpetuated.
Milwaukee, WI, USA