Thursday, August 17, 2006

Daily Dose of Irony

There is plenty of irony in the world and I got my daily dose early today. I woke up with the sun and decided to read for a while before starting my chores. I've been reading PETER, PAUL & MARY MAGDALENE by Bart Ehrman and I was reading the section on Mary Magdalene.

There is precious little known with any certainty about Mary Magdalene. She is mentioned only 13 times in the New Testament and 6 of those are "parallel" (same story, different source) plus a few more mentions outside the accepted gospels. Despite the rumor (or should I say slander) started by Pope Gregory five centuries later, there is no evidence that she was a prostitute to be found in any of the sources. There is one thing however that is probably historically accurate. That is that Mary Magdaline was present at the crucifixion and was the one (though possibly accompanied by other women but no men) who discovered the empty tomb and reported the resurrection to the apostles. The author accepts this as accurate because her presence is recorded by every one of the sources, even those that are independent (i.e. not using one another as a source).

Prof. Erhman notes that she was arguably the first Christian in the sense that we mean the word today because she was the first to understand the meaning of the event. Prior to that event, the followers of Jesus were simply followers of a reformist Jewish teacher. It was the resurrection that set Christianity apart from the other sects and religions of the day and Mary Magdalene was the first to bear the "good news" or gospel of that event to the apostles, all of whom had gone into hiding after Jesus' arrest.

So where is the irony? As I was reading this I had the radio playing the news and there was a story about the women who have said they had been ordained as Catholic priests. The Catholic church has declared them heretics and threatens to excommunicate them. It seems that despite the fact that the most important point of faith upon which Christianity was built was first declared by a woman rather than any of the male apostles, the Catholic heirarchy still believes no woman is worthy of the role of priest. One wonders whether, without Mary Magdalene, these church leaders would even have a religion to rule over. Without Mary's news of the resurrection, Jesus might have been considered by history as just another wisdom teacher and his life would have been a footnote, rather than a major force.

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