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[XTalk] Re: Magdalene

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  • Mahlon H. Smith
    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
    Message 1 of 48 , Aug 6, 1999
      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.

      Shalom!

      Mahlon

      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
      Associate Professor
      Department of Religion
      Rutgers University
      New Brunswick NJ

      Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
      http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/
    • Judith Kowalski
      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
      Message 48 of 48 , Aug 7, 1999
        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
        of witches:

        "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.

        Judith Kowalski
        Milwaukee, WI, USA
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