Around 2000 years ago, a woman walked into the House of
Bethany to anoint a Man from Nazareth who had been called the Messiah. His name was Jesus, who had brought with him his many disciples and dedicated followers. This anointing scene would end up having repercussions for this woman, whose name and image would
be tarnished and misunderstood for hundreds of years. It did not help when Pope Gregory the Great in 591 declared that a "sinful" woman in Luke's Gospel who anointed Jesus' feet was Mary
Magdalene who in turn was Mary of Bethany; "She whom Luke calls the sinful woman, whom John calls Mary [of Bethany], we believe to be the Mary from whom seven
devils were ejected according to Mark" (Homilies on the Gospels).
The Bible has different accounts as to what went on and who was present at the anointing scene in the four gospels. I have studied these passages with the increasing impression that the authors of each one had been influenced by others, for example,
St Peter or St Paul.
Below is some of the issues of conflicts regarding Mary Magdalene and possible identification to who she was:
Mary the Magdalene from Bethany
The anointing scene at the Bethany
household, Mary's home with sister Martha and brother Lazarus, brings up some interesting questions. Somewhere along the line, this Mary becomes the Magdalene and why Mary of Bethany disappears could have something to do with Mary's relationship with
Jesus. I do find it very odd that if Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene are different women, then why are they never seen together, considering the importance of both.
Also if Mary
of Bethany was separate from Mary Magdalene and we know that she poured perfume on Jesus' body to prepare for his burial (Matt 26:12-13) and also anointing his feet with expensive perfume 6 days before Passover in John 12:1-3 with Jesus saying this
act will be remembered, then how can Mary of Bethany not be at the crucifixion, burial or resurrection despite all of her previous involvement. In turn its a woman called Mary Magdalene who pops up without introduction and emerges as the woman who takes on
the role which should of been Mary of Bethany.
reading Luke 7:37, we come across a "sinful woman" who then anoints Jesus after Mary Magdalene springs up in Luke 7:36-50. Then in Luke 10:40, we are introduced to Mary of Bethany at
the Bethany home. Lukes Gospel gives a different description of the anointer and also gives a different timeframe for the anointing.
Its worth noting here that the Bible is not
a book of strict chronology following on from Genesis. Crucially, the events that happen in the Bible are also not recorded Chronologically.
Another problem we have is the source
of information from the Gospels, in particular Luke. St. Irenaeus, about A.D.185, writes: "Luke, also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the gospel preached by him." Luke was a close friend and
confidant of St. Paul, whom Paul referred to on occasion as "the beloved physician". Luke traveled with Paul throughout his journeys, remaining with him through to the close of the apostle’s imprisonment in Rome.
When looking into St Paul, I found him to be very anti-women most notably in his letters. Paul taught that "women are too poor of judgment to teach", they should "stay silent" and "not to have authority over men" (Timothy 2:12-14). Paul goes on to say that women should be submissive to men (Ephesians 5:22-23) and that
"women are inferior to men" (Corthinhians 11:4-16). Paul also states that marriage to be "not good" (Cotrthinhans 7:8) and "women
should were veils to indicate their secondary status" (Corthinhans 11:4-16).
An individual who was both an eyewitness and a minister of the word that Luke likely interviewed
is St. Peter. Peter was particularly harsh on women and Mary Magdalene herself. "Let Mary go forth from among us, for women are not worthy of life" (Gospel of Thomas). In the Pistis Sophia, discovered in 1773 and written between the 3rd and 4th century, Peter complains that Mary is talking too much with Mary Magdalene saying "Peter makes me hesitate, I am afraid of him bacause he hate the female race" In the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Levi complains to Peter that
he is "hot-tempered" after Peter rejects Mary's claim that Jesus had preferred to secretly talk to her rather than to the other disciples.
Could all this lead
to the reason why in Luke this woman was named as a sinner and the disciples were offended by this and expressed disapproval during this event?