Mary MagdaleneBiblical Figure / Religious Figure / Saint
Died: c. 63
Best known as: Closest female disciple of Jesus of Nazareth
Mary Magdalene is one of several women who followed and "provided for" Jesus of Nazareth during his traveling ministry, according to Christian scriptures. She is also variously portrayed in other ancient texts, medieval legends and modern interpretations as a reformed prostitute, a rich person, a disciple with special gifts and authority, and a model of feminism. Brief direct references to her in the Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, indicate her importance. She is among the women present at Jesus' execution who later discover his empty tomb, and is the first person to whom he appears after his resurrection. Some Christians also identify her with unnamed women elsewhere in the Gospels, such as the "sinner" who anoints him with costly oil, or one caught in adultery whom he saves from stoning. The mother of Jesus is a different Mary.
Extra credit: "Magdalene" means "of Magdala," a fishing village (modern-day Migdal) on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. She is sometimes called "the Magdalene"... The Bible does not say she was a prostitute. All it mentions of her past is that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her... A 2003 novel and 2006 movie, The Da Vinci Code, popularized the theory that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, had children with her, and thus has descendants -- and that the church over the centuries has suppressed this truth... Basilicas in Vezelay and Saint-Maximin, France, both claim to house her remains.
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