Who was Mary Magdalene?
St. Paul’s fall educational activity will take a close look at the woman many consider Jesus’ most important disciple – Mary Magdalene. We will use the book The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity by the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault, an Episcopal priest. The instructor/facilitator will be our own Bill Jacobks, retired MCC professor.
The book is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paperback, as an ebook (both Kindle and Nook), and in an audio format.
Mary Magdalene is/was an apostle. The book we will be reading and discussing demonstrates that Mary was considered an apostle in all four canonical gospels and Acts. Further evidence of her apostleship is presented in non-canonical gospels, primarily “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene.” This gospel was discovered in 1947 in a cave in Egypt. Interestingly, Mary’s gospel had already been available in a library in Berlin since 1896! It was ignored until the discovery of what came to be called the Nag Hamadi Scriptures, so named after the place where they were found. Mary’s gospel in the Nag Hamadi Scriptures together with the Berlin scripture give the most complete rendition of this gospel. Unfortunately, many pages are missing from the document. Nevertheless, it clearly shows Mary as an apostle, indeed as the premier apostle! Bourgeault and other authors have destroyed the assertion that Mary Magdalene was a repentant prostitute and only a minor character in the new religion that was emerging in the first century CE.
Mary Magdalene’s importance is not merely an interesting historical artifact but a different gospel with a different method of spiritual living for the Christian. Orthodox Christianity, or mainstream Christianity in its many variations, places emphasis on the Crucified Christ and the subsequent Resurrection. For mainstream Christians believing in Jesus is the road to salvation. In Mary’s Gospel, which reflected the beliefs of many first and second century proto-Christians, salvation comes because one transformed one’s soul from one which lives in the world to one which lives in the realm of God. She offers a method for bringing one close to God through a deep spirituality inspired by Jesus. This view is not so alien to us. Earlier this year at St. Paul’s we read Samuel Well’s book, Hanging by a Thread, in which he advocates the use of Passion Week as a means of transformation: “Holy Week is the story of what happens when our mixed up lives come in touching distance of a goodness that goes beyond forever, and what happens to that goodness—that goodness—and what happens to us.” Wells called for a spiritual transformation and so too, does Mary Magdalene. Both place that transformation at the heart of Christianity.
Mark your calendars! You will want to attend all four sessions:
- Wednesday, Sept. 19
- Wednesday, Sept. 26
- Wednesday, Oct. 10
- Wednesday, Oct. 24
If you have any questions about the class, chat with Bill at Coffee Hour or contact him at 231-246-0819 or firstname.lastname@example.org.