Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | June 6, 2012

15. Hike the Bible – Mary Magdalene, Lady or Tramp?

Mary Magdalene
??Woman of ill repute??

Our virtual hike through Galilee has reached Magdala on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, about 4 miles north of Tiberias.

Magdala’s most famous personage is Mary Magdalene, a faithful follower of Jesus throughout His earthly ministry. She was at the foot of the cross, witnessed His burial, and was the first to see Jesus after His Resurrection. This is the second of a series of three blog posts on Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene – Honorable or Dishonorable?
Today Mary Magdalene is usually thought of as a woman of ill repute. This reputation is reflected in the “Magdalene Homes” that churches sponsor to rescue women from prostitution. This association of Mary Magdalene with prostitution has also been fostered by popular culture.

In the 1970’s, the Jesus Christ Superstar musical and the Jesus of Nazareth movie portrayed her as a prostitute. In 1988, The Last Temptation of Christ movie presented Mary Magdalene as a prostitute who was Jesus’ last temptation. In 2004, The Passion of the Christ movie, while mostly Biblically accurate, again represented her as a prostitute. Recently, the worldwide bestselling but totally fictional novel and movie The Da Vinci Code promulgated the idea that she was Jesus’ wife and mother of His child.

Are these characterizations accurate? How did they originate?

In a sermon in 591 AD, Pope Gregory was the first person to publicly identify Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. He said Mary Magdalene of Luke 8:1-3 was the same woman as the one “who was a sinner” of the preceding chapter (Luke 7:37-39) and the adulteress of John 8. Ever since that time, many have espoused and promoted this claim about Mary Magdalene – but only in the Western church; the Eastern church has always honored her.

In 1969 under Pope Paul VI, the Vatican abandoned this identification by distinguishing Mary Magdalene from Luke’s sinful woman in a revision of the Roman Missal, the liturgy for the celebration of the Mass in the Roman Catholic Church.

Was Mary Magdalene a loose woman? Is Pope Gregory’s characterization correct?

No, certainly not. Here are my reasons for disputing this claim:

  1. There is no Biblical or historical evidence to support a “loose woman” characterization. Nowhere does Scripture characterize Mary Magdalene in this way. It is presumptuous and malicious to malign someone’s character without clear Scriptural warrant.
  2. Luke 7 closes with the account of Simon the Pharisee’s dinner party for Jesus at which the woman “who was a sinner” washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with perfume.
    Luke 8 begins, “And it came about soon afterwards, that He began going about from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching…” This begins a completely new section of Luke’s Gospel. It is completely separate and distinct from the dinner party — in time, in place, in circumstances, and in subject.
  3. The woman of Luke 7:37-39 is not named in the passage, probably out of deference for her privacy, just as the adulteress of John 8 is not named. Mary Magdalene is introduced by name as a “new” character in Luke 8.
  4. Some think Mary’s seven demons speak of extreme license and degradation and that therefore she is a likely candidate for the presumed prostitute of the Luke 7 dinner party. However, being a demoniac is not equivalent to being a prostitute. Moreover, Luke introduces Mary as someone who has already been healed of demon possession: “Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out.” She was no longer subject to the demonic influence that some think manifested itself in prostitution.
  5. There is no hint in the text that the two women are the same. One could just as legitimately argue that either Joanna or Susanna, the other specific names in Luke’s list of women whom Jesus had “healed of evil spirits and sicknesses,” was the woman of the dinner party.

The Da Vinci Code‘s portrayal of the Magdalene as Jesus’ wife is totally fictional with no Biblical or historical evidence to warrant such an idea. If true, such an important fact would have been mentioned in the Gospels.

Moreover, marriage was incompatible with Jesus’ mission as the Messiah who came to die for man’s sin — He couldn’t tie Himself to an earthly wife. Just as Jesus made provision on the cross for His mother by giving John the responsibility for her, so He would have made provision for Mary Magdalene who was at the cross, if she had been His wife. But He did not do so.

Mary Magdalene was an honorable, faithful disciple of Jesus. She was not a prostitute. She was not Jesus’ wife.

Read the prequel in this 3-part subseries on Mary Magdalene:
14. Hike the Bible – Mary Magdalene
Read the sequel:
16. Hike the Bible – Mary Magdalene & the Resurrection

Soli Deo Gloria.

The Hike the Bible series is currently covering points of interest along two hiking trails through Galilee, the 40-mile Jesus Trail and the 39-mile Gospel Trail. These two trails re-create possible routes Jesus likely traversed during His sojourns in Galilee.

This is the fifteenth installment in the Hike the Bible series reviewing major hiking trails in the Lands of the Bible.
Read the prequels:
1. Hike the Bible – Jesus Trail (with video)
2. Hike the Bible – Gospel Trail (with video)
3. Hike the Bible – Jesus Trail vs. Gospel Trail
4. Hike the Bible – Nazareth
5. Hike the Bible – Zippori
6. Hike the Bible – Mash’had
7. Hike the Bible – Cana (with video)
8. Hike the Bible – Roman Road
9. Hike the Bible – Via Maris
10. Hike the Bible – Horns of Hattin
11. Hike the Bible – Sermon on the Mount
12. Hike the Bible – Arbel Cliffs
13. Hike the Bible – Magdala (with video)
14. Hike the Bible – Mary Magdalene

Read the sequel:
16. Hike the Bible – Mary Magdalene & the Resurrection

©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3)
Wednesday June 6, 2012 A.D.

Read my May 2012 newspaper column:

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)


  1. Just a comment about Mary Magdalene, you are correct that there is nothing in the Bible to suggest she was a woman of ill repute. Those who assert or suggest she is the woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, kissed and annointed his feet are poor students of the Word!!! John 11:2 clearly states Mary the sister of Lazarus was the one who washed and annointed Jesus’ feet. Bless you, Brother.


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