Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles

The first to see the risen Lord, Mary Magdalene is most remembered for her Easter testimony.

Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles

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Renaissance and Elizabethan Englanders called Mary Magdalene the “Mawdleyn,” a version of her name that gave rise to the modern word “maudlin,” which describes someone who weeps sentimentally.

“Reformed prostitute” is the definition of “Magdalene” given by the Concise Oxford Dictionary. But do these images describe the true Magdalene of the gospels? Or has history falsely labeled—and thus badly maligned—this devoted follower of Jesus?

Most likely, the surname Magdalene indicates Mary’s hometown. In first-century Palestine, Magdala was one of the largest towns around the Sea of Galilee. Archaeologists today identify it with the excavated ruins of Magdal, located not far from Tiberias, where the hills reach down to the lakeshore.

Plagued by evil spirits, Mary Magdalene was healed by Jesus (Luke 8:2). Consequently, some have concluded that she was emotionally unstable, a volatile personality—and wouldn’t it then follow?—of questionable virtue. Adding to this impression, several early biblical commentators identified her with the unnamed penitent who anointed the feet of Jesus (Luke 7:36-50). While there’s no evidence at…

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