This strange lady holds a legendary place in the Bible story. With the possible exception of the mother of Jesus, more has been written about her than about any other lady.

Mary Magdalene captures the imagination of almost everybody who hears about her mysterious and exotic act of anointing Jesus’ feet with “precious ointment,” and then washing them with her tears—the only one such act ever recorded in human history.

Perhaps the most monumental work in print about Mary is Susan Haskins’ Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor (Harcourt and Brace, 1993). It’s a whopping 518 scholarly pages, heavily endnoted and indexed. It explores the non-canonical “gospels” and the writings of Church Fathers and scholars all through the centuries and religious art. Its basic message: the mystery only deepens the further one digs in non-biblical literature and art.

Our modest essay is concerned only with what comes to light in the Four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But when context is consulted in each, a surprisingly detailed portrait of this lady emerges.

There has to be a reason why Jesus bespoke for her act the special attention of everybody in the world wherever “this gospel” is to be proclaimed. Let’s explore the story.


Why Do We Write About Mary Magdalene?
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