I was sent a hymn for the Feast of Mary Magdalene with permission to share this on this site. The lyrics are by Lucy Nanson. The suggested tune is an arrangement by Betty Pulkingham of a Ghana folk song.
The lyrics of Lucy Nanson’s hymn are here.
Lucy Nanson’s one is the only one she knows alluding to Mary Magdalene’s Eastern tradition (while allowing the last verse to be optional). These traditions include that she was a wealthy woman who supported Jesus’ ministry financially. She was one of the few who stayed with Jesus at the cross, and the first to meet him at the empty tomb. In this tradition she journeyed to Rome where she was admitted to Tiberius Caesar’s court because of her high social standing. She told Caesar of Pilate’s poor administration of justice and told him of Jesus’ resurrection. She picked up an egg to illustrate the resurrection, at which point Caesar said that a human could no more rise from death than the egg turn red. At which point it did – the explanation of the Eastern red Easter eggs. The tradition continues to Mary Magdalene’s martyrdom.
Many of us will have heard sermons where Mary Magdalene was identified with the repentant prostitute. There is, of course, no biblical evidence for that identification. It is a conflation that developed in the West (but not in the East) and was set in concrete by Pope Gregory the Great, around 591. I was reminded of the way we treat her by the cartoon by David Hayward. Rev Susan Russell called it, “Easter Monday: AKA The Feast of the Mansplaining of the Resurrection”. I certainly spend a lot of time explaining the Resurrection: no, it was not resuscitation – divine CPR; no, Jesus did not die again; no, God does not have a right hand for Jesus to sit on; …
Here is this article by Ramon K. Jusino suggesting that, perhaps, Mary Magdalene is the anonymous unsung voice of the Beloved Disciple of the Fourth Gospel and, therefore, its primary author.
Certainly, hand the following text to someone who has no idea what is going on, and the normal reading would be that the disciple whom Jesus loved was Mary Magdalene:
standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (John 19:25-27)
After being told by Mary Magdalene that the body of the Lord was missing, Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved run to the tomb to find it so – followed by Mary Magdalene standing by the tomb weeping. (John 20:1-11).
Ramon Jusino’s article works through the use of male pronouns and having Mary Magdalene and the Beloved Disciples seeming to be two separate persons in the same scene.
In any case, would it feel any different if this gospel has Mary Magdalene as its primary author? There have been suggestions that other parts of the scriptures were produced by women. What difference might that make? To you?