Why do you think the bishops and leaders of the early church renounced the idea that salvation could be achieved outside of the church?

Read/watch the following resources:

  1. Read The Status of Women in the Christian Gospels (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。.   http://www.religioustolerance.org/cfe_bibl.htm
    “Women’s status and freedoms were severely limited by Jewish law and customs in ancient Israel, as they were in essentially all other cultures at the time.” This article will give you some idea of the marginalized status women endured in first-century Palestine.
  2. Watch Gnosis, Mary Magdalene in the Nag Hammadi Library (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzNdZn39xJ0 (15 minutes)   This video will give you an overview of the 1945 discovery of extraordinary ancient texts in Nag Hammadi, Egypt – and it will introduce you to the idea of Mary Magdalene’s prominent status in some of these texts.
  3. In Complete Gospels, Read The Gospel of Mary (pg. 333 – 342).
  4. Read Mary Magdalene Was an Apostle, Not a Prostitute. Despite over 1500 years of untruthful propaganda, the Church has finally admitted Magdalene was not a whore but rather one of the first apostles!


1.  She was a disciple (meaning follower**) of Jesus: she traveled with him, she supported his ministry with her own resources, and she was healed of 7 demons by him – whatever that meant in 1st century Palestine.  Keep in mind that demon possession appears to be very common in that time and place, so we have to do some research to find out, “What did demon possession actually mean in first century Palestine?”

2.  She was present at Jesus’ crucifixion (while the men were in hiding), and Jesus appeared to her (near the tomb) after the crucifixion.  Jesus was her “beloved teacher” (Rabboni as she calls him in John) and Mary was his constant follower.  After his resurrection, he instructed her to go and tell the others (the literal meaning of “apostle”) the good news – and for this commission by Jesus, Magdalene has been referred to by certain open-minded church fathers as “the apostle to the apostles.”

3.  Unfortunately, in 591 C.E., she was labeled as a penitent prostitute by Pope Gregory the Great (see his proclamation below) and her image as “prostitute” will probably take another thousand years to get rid of – despite the fact that nowhere in the scriptures does it say she was a prostitute!!

4.  In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church officially overruled Pope Gregory’s interpretation of Magdalene’s reputation  (Seehttp://www.womenpriests.org/magdala/winkett.asp (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。) http://www.womenpriests.org/magdala/winkett.asp

5.  In 2016, Pope Francis officially declared that Magdalene shall now be known and celebrated as “The Apostle to the Apostles.”

How The Church Transformed Mary Magdalene into a Prostitute

Pope Gregory’s Proclamation in Homily 33:

In Homily 33, delivered in approximately 591 C.E., Pope Gregory the Great took the step of identifying Luke’s unnamed sinner with Mary Magdalene:

She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary, we believe to be Mary from whom seven devils were ejected according to Mark. And what did these seven devils signify, if not all the vices? … It is clear, brothers, that the woman previously used the unguent to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts.

Pope Gregory identified the seven devils as “all the vices” by which he means the seven so-called “cardinal sins” (including lust, which was understood as inordinate or illicit sexual desire).

Pope Gregory then explained that the ointment used by Luke’s unnamed sinner (now identified by the Pope as Mary Magdalene) to anoint Christ’s feet had previously been used by her “to perfume her flesh in forbidden acts.”

It was Gregory who also associated Magdalene as a penitent prostitute.

Homily 33 is recorded in Homiliarum in evangelia, Lib. II,

Patrologia Latina, vol. 76 (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1844-1864), cols. 1238-1246

The Church’s Admission of its “Error”

Nearly 1400 years later, the Church did retract its slanderous declaration by Pope Gregory.  In the April 3, 1969 edition of the Roman Missal, published under Pope Paul VI, the Vatican rectified Pope Gregory’s slander of Mary Magdalene, and clarified the distinction between her and the sinful woman, whom they now identified as Mary of Bethany.  And yet, the church itself, as well as popular opinion, still teaches, and holds the belief that Mary Magdalene was a whore.(http://www.womenpriests.org/magdala/winkett.asp)链接到外部网站。http://www.womenpriests.org/magdala/winkett.asp

What Could the Church Have Had Against Mary Magdalene

Many scholars think Pope Gregory’s transformation of Mary Magdalene into a prostitute was a way of countering the problem she posed for the Church.  Since the 2nd century, as Christianity became institutionalized along increasingly patriarchal lines, the prominence of Mary Magdalene had posed the threat of sanctioning a leadership role for women in the Church.   (http://witcombe.sbc.edu/davincicode/gregory-homily33.html (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。) http://witcombe.sbc.edu/davincicode/gregory-homily33.html

While the Church was eventually forced to admit its “error,” the image of Mary Magdalene as a penitent prostitute is burned into the consciousness of Western Christianity and virtually no knows or cares about the Church’s retraction of its error.

The Church Takes Steps to Restore This Apostle to Her Rightful Place

Please read this October 6, 2016 Decree by the Pope, stating that Mary Magdalene shall now be known as “the apostle to the apostles” and shall be celebrated liturgically like the rest of the apostles:  Mary Magdalene, apostle of the apostles, 10.06.2016. (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2016/06/10/160610c.html

Thus, it is clear that not everything we are told about Jesus and his followers – even by the Church – is always the “gospel truth.”  And thus the importance of you doing your own research and study rather than relying upon what other people tell you.

**The Literal Difference Between an Disciple and an Apostle

It is interesting to note that the definition of “disciple” is “learner” or “follower” (from Latin discipulus meaning “learner”)

However, the literal meaning of the word “apostle” is actually quite different.  Apostle comes from the Greek (apostollos) and means  “messenger” or apostellein meaning “send forth.”  Thus, while Magdalene was always a disciple (follower) during the years she traveled with Jesus, she literally becomes “the apostle to the apostles” when, in the garden, he commissions her to go forth and tell the others that he is alive.


Instructions for Final Assignment

1.  Please go through each of the resources very carefully!

2.  Answer every one of the following questions.  It will take you a little while to find the answers to these questions – so please allow yourself enough time to listen and read carefully!

3.  Use a few quotes and references to the resources to support your writing.  (Do not respond from your personal beliefs or you will not do well on this assignment)

4.  You are not required to respond to your classmates for this assignment – unless you wish to!

5.  That’s it – nothing more!  How easy is that?

Questions for Final Assignment

From The Status of Women in the Christian Gospel

1.   Briefly describe how the Jewish laws governing women made it nearly impossible for a woman to participate in spiritual life.

2.   Briefly describe how Jesus completely disregarded these laws and how he treated women.

3.   What do you think about the quote by author Ben Witherington III (who is quoting H. Flender)?  Do you think Jesus would have agreed with this quote?  Why or why not?

4.   What do you think about the idea that it was one or two women who were actually the first apostles: “The two Marys were thus the first apostles.”

From Gnosis, Mary Magdalene in the Nag Hammadi Library

5.   Why do you think the bishops and leaders of the early church renounced the idea that salvation could be achieved outside of the church?

6.   What do you think about these words by the influential church father Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240 C.E.): “People are always asking questions. It’s questions that make people heretics!” (the literal definition of the word “heretic” is from the Greek hairetikos meaning “to choose.” Shouldn’t we be able to choose what we believe?  In fact, isn’t it our responsibility to carefully choose what we believe?)

7.   What do some of the gnostic texts suggest about the place of Mary Magdalene in the Jesus Movement?

8.   What does Professor Elaine Pagels say about the Catholic Church’s position regarding ordination of women into the priesthood?  Is the Church’s position consistent with Jesus’ life and teachings?  Why or why not?

Be sure to read this Church proclamation before answering: https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1994/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19940522_ordinatio-sacerdotalis.html (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。)

9.   While I am mostly focused on the unfolding scholarship regarding the spiritual relationship between Jesus and Mary, I ask you to consider this question:  Is it really so unbelievable that Jesus might have actually had a human relationship with Mary as well?  What do you think about what Dan Burstein says about this?

10.   What does this documentary say “the Orthodox Church has lost?”  Do you think it matters that this has been lost from the Church?  Why or why not?  (Note: the word “orthodox” is from the Greek meaning “right opinion.” But who gets to choose which opinion is right?)

11.   What does Professor Jean-Pierre Ruiz say about the role that Mary Magdalene plays?

From The Complete Gospels

12.   Read Luke 8: 1-3. What does this passage tell us about the gender of Jesus’ “many” followers?  Doesn’t it seem possible – given Jesus’ consistentlyequal treatment of women and the fact he traveled extensively with women followers – that he would surely have considered some of these women to be his disciples (meaning “follower” in Greek)? Why or why not?

13.   Read Luke 10:38 – 42. What does Jesus say is “the better choice” even for a woman? How does this compare with the Jewish scripture that says it is a waste of time to teach a woman the Torah, or with churches that have excluded women from spiritual learning and leadership?

14.   Read Mark 7:24-30. This passage is remarkable for so many reasons!  Keep in mind that Jesus is debating theological principles with a woman – and not just any woman, but a pagan woman whose ethnic identity was looked down upon by the Jews!  Why does Jesus change his mind?  What does this passage tell you about Jesus’ openness to actually learning from a woman?

15.   Read John 20:11-17.  What do you think about the degree of spiritual intimacy that is revealed in this encounter between Jesus and Mary? (Notice that she said, “My Teacher” – not my lord or my master or my savior.  He has clearly been her spiritual teacher.) Why would Mary have attempted to touch Jesus or hold on to him if they did not have an exceedingly close relationship?

From The Gospel of Mary (page 333 in Complete Gospels)

16.   What does the Introduction say about how a person achieves salvation according to The Gospel of Mary?

17.   According to the Introduction, why are the male disciples unable to comprehend the truth of Mary’s teachings? (We actually see this same attitude by the male disciples in the New Testament gospels when they ask Jesus who will be the greatest among them after Jesus is gone:  Luke 9:46).

18.  In the section, “The role of women” (in the Introduction), what does it say regarding the rightful place of women in the Jesus Movement?  Why are we asked to “rethink the basis for church authority?”

From Mary Magdalene Was An Apostle, Not a Prostitute

19.   Please summarize the points that are being made in this document.  What do you think about what the Church did to the reputation of Mary Magdalene?