Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Saintly Sinner

The Saintly Sinner
Joan Acocella (The New Yorker)
One wonders, at first, how it would help the Church’s new chastity campaign for the first witness of the Resurrection to be a prostitute. But, as noted, the Church was pretty much stuck with the Magdalene. Furthermore, the keynote of Jesus’ ministry was humility. A god who chose to be born in a stable might also decide to announce his Resurrection to a prostitute. And Luke’s sinner was not just a prostitute; she was a repentant prostitute, shedding tears so copious that they sufficed to clean the feet of a man who had just walked the dusty road to the Pharisee’s house. But the crucial gain of grafting this woman onto the Magdalene was that it gave the Magdalene some fullness as a character while also lowering her standing. The conflation was already being made by the third or fourth century, and in the sixth century it was ratified in a sermon by Pope Gregory the Great. Mary Magdalene, one of the few independent women in the New Testament, became a whore.


Ashley said...

No one loves Jesus bashing more than I and I admit I've repeated these same tales as mythology. But that's all they are. Mary M isn't described explicityly as a prostitute in the Bible. It's a debatable tradition. And the "manger" may have been a very regular and proper inn of the day where the lower floor was where the animals were.

Of course, Jesus being wife-less and surrounded by male "friends" into His thirties does suggest something else.

Plan 8 said...

Indeed. The piece does mention that.

As Warner shows, many of the details of the Nativity so familiar to us from paintings and hymns and school pageants—“the hay and the snow and the smell of animals’ warm bodies”—are not in the New Testament. People made them up; they wanted a better story. Likewise, they made up a better Mary Magdalene.


The academic feminists have very little patience with the Jesus-married-the-Magdalene plot. As Schaberg sees it, these stories are not about the Magdalene. They are about Jesus; they are an effort to make him a “real man,” and not just for humanistic, Christ-is-your-friend reasons. (In the sixties, there were some naughty suggestions that maybe Jesus was gay.)