Most of what we know about Mary Magdalene is found in the New Testament or in the documents about the early groups called apocryphal writings. The texts of the New Testament are not reliable historical records, since they were written years after the events by people not personally involved, but those texts are still considered the best sources of information about Mary Magdalene, since they are the accounts closest in time that we have. In those accounts Mary Magdalene stands by Jesus at the crucifixion, goes to the tomb to prepare the body, finds it gone, and tells the other disciples. Later Jesus appears to her and to the other disciples in either Galilee or Jerusalem, and eventually ascends into heaven.After that the New Testament is silent about Mary Magdalene, but apocryphal textssuch as the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Philip, the Pistis Sophia, the Sophia of Jesus Christ, the Dialogue of the Savior, and the First Apocalypse of James portray her as a teacher or primary disciple who sometimes clashed with other disciples, particularly Peter and Andrew.
Mary Magdalene's disappearance from the New Testament stories that go on to chronicle the exploits or several men, such as Peter, Paul, Philip, and others, leaves a tantalizing question: What happened to Mary Magdalene after Jesus died? Such a tantalizing question would never go unanswered, and many legends arose through the millennia to answer it.
[...] Maximin in Provence claimed to have discovered the real body of Mary Magdalene there. Church officials claimed that they had discovered a woman's body in the tomb of St. Sidonious, along with a piece of parchment that explained why the body was there. The parchment allegedly said that the body was that of Mary Magdalene that had been hidden it the eighth century to prevent the Moors from getting it. Another body was left for the Moors to find, and that was the body that was eventually taken to Vézelay. [...]
[...] For example, the combination of stories about Mary of Magdala and Mary of Egypt could have appealed to a new interest in asceticism and sparked a level of popularity for Mary Magdalene that led to expanded legends and further popularity. IV. Mary Magdalene's Body People of the Middle Ages had a passion for relics that is hard for many modern people to imagine. Relics were associated with miracles, so if a church could successfully claim possession of a popular saint's body or body part, that would guarantee great wealth and power to the church and the religious order that controlled it. [...]
[...] European Events Since so many legends sprung up about Mary Magdalene in Europe in the eleventh century and continued to spread and grow there through the thirteenth, the question naturally arises of why she became so popular in that place at that time. After all, if Mary Magdalene really had taught and lived in France for many years, why would it take nine centuries for the story to be reported?What was happening in Europe in the eleventh century that might cast some light on events surrounding European legends of Mary Magdalene? [...]
[...] The Ephesus legend has been preserved because a Frankish historian, Gregory of Tours, wrote the story down in the sixth century CE. In 590 Pope Gregory, known as Gregory the Great, relied in part on the Ephesus legend when he combined several women in the New Testament stories and came to the conclusion that Mary Magdalene had been a prostitute, though there was no historical or textual support for his conclusion. (The Eastern Orthodox Church never accepted this characterization of Mary Magdalene and the Roman Catholic Church repudiated it in 1969). [...]
[...] III.European Legends After Pope Gregory's creation of the composite prostitute figure, Mary Magdalene emerged in Western Christian myth as a saintly repentant sinner. In the eighth century an abbot named Bede of Jarrow, in what is now northern England, wrote a commentary on Luke's gospel in which he presented Gregory's composite prostitute as a repentant sinner who was redeemed through her repentance of sin. In the following century an Anglo-Saxon legend said that after Jesus' ascension into heaven reported in the New Testament, Mary Magdalene retired into the desert of the Middle East. [...]
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