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Investigating Mary Magdalen


Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe

Mary Magdalen in the Canonical Gospels

    Of the many gospels written in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, only four are regarded by the Christian Church as canonical (divinely inspired, scripturally acceptable, authoritative).

    (1611 King James translation)
    Gospel of St. Mark, especially Chapters
    15, 40-47 (Mary Magdalen among women ministering Jesus)
    16, 1-8 [9-14] (women at the tomb; Jesus appears to Mary Magdalen)

    Gospel of St. Matthew, especially Chapters
    27, 55-61 (Mary Magdalen among women ministering to Jesus)
    28, 1-10 (Mary Magdalen at the tomb)

    Gospel of St. Luke, especially Chapters
    8, 1-3 (healed women, including Mary Magdalen cured of seven demons)
    24, 1-11 (women at the tomb, including Mary Magdalen)

    Gospel of St. John, especially Chapters
    19, 25 (Mary Magdalen at the crucifixion)
    20, 1-18 (Mary Magdalen at the tomb; 'noli me tangere')


    The Canonical Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles
      It is generally agreed that the four gospels included in the New Testament were written towards the end of the 1st century CE.

      • Gospel of "Mark" (written around 70 CE)
        It is generally agreed that the Gospel of "Mark" was written first, probably towards the end of or soon after the Jewish War (66-73 CE), when the Roman emperor Titus crushed a Jewish rebellion and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem.

      • Gospels of "Matthew" and "Luke" (written circa 80-90 CE)
        "Matthew" and "Luke" are based on the gospel of "Mark."

        "Mark," "Matthew," and "Luke" all have the same point of view and tell more or less the same story. They are thus collectively called the synoptic gospels.

        "Matthew" and "Mark" elaborate in the own ways on some of what "Mark" says but are also intent on addressing questions or problems that were raised by readers of the earlier Gospel.

        For example, both "Matthew" and "Luke" attempt to answer questions about Christ's genealogy by giving his line of descent from King David (Matthew 1:16) and from God (Luke 3:23).

        They also seem to 'fit' the story of Jesus to various prophecies contained in the Old Testament.

      • Gospel of "John" (written about 90-100 CE)
        "John" tells a different story to the one told by "Mark," "Matthew," and "Luke" and sometimes contradicts what they say.

        For example, he states that on the road to Calvary, Jesus carried his cross (19:17), whereas "Mark," "Matthew," and "Luke" all agree that a passer-by named Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry Jesus's cross for him.

        The Gospels, written during the last 30 years of the century, purport to describe what happened during the first 30 years of the century, with a gap of about 40 years between.

        What occurred in this "gap" is more or less covered in the Acts of the Apostles, parts of which were written probably around 60 CE, before the Jewish War, and before the Gospels. Other parts were written and inserted later.