From .......... The New Yorker
October 3, 1994
Excerpt from review of
Mary Magdalen- Myth and Metaphor [Harcourt Brace $27.95]
By Susan Haskins
Review by Anne Hollander
...... She wants to reclaim and celebrate the original Gospel character named Mary Magdalen, to detach her from the devout girl in Bethany and certainly from the weeping sinner at the Pharisee's house. That, she tells us, is something the Eastern Church has always done. And when we do it—when we get away from sin, repentance, loose hair, and expensive oil—we see a very different and very specific saint. She becomes the Apostle to the Apostles, the one who first witnessed and then announced Christ's triumph over death, which was the Church's founding moment.
This makes Mary Magdalen the first prophet of the new religion, the first of Christ's disciples to see and hear, to believe and speak- the first Christian.
Haskins is careful to point out that Mary Magdalen and the other women who travelled with Jesus were not different from his male disciples — that men and women had equal functions in the spreading of his Gospel.
Translators eventually changed what was the same word in Greek into 'followers' for women and 'disciples' for men, as if to suggest that the women had tagged along to make the coffee.
Haskins also reminds us that Jesus himself treated women as equals and paid no attention to their famous uncleanness or conventional inferiority. During his ministry, he made no distinction between male and female works, words, or faith.
As a result of this, the Early Church in its first few generations had both male and female teachers and leaders, including priests, deacons, and bishops.
This practice, so foreign to both Jews and Greeks, often brought the early Christians into disrepute. It was only later, during the establishment of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, that women were definitively banished from service at the altar and began to acquire their dependent posture in Christianity, along with the crippling blame for all human sexuality and moral weakness.
The Gospel's Mary Magdalen was notably independent, a woman defined only by her village and not by any man or any occupation. Her life was clearly her own, and she made the risky choice to be the disciple of Jesus.
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