No One in the Bible Has Been as Elaborately Misrepresented as Mary Magdalene

By Damian Thompson
The erotic Mary, left, by Gregor Erhart (c.1515–20) and the penitent Mary, right, by El Greco (c.1577)
How would the real Mary Magdalene have reacted to her posthumous reputation? No one in the Bible has been so elaborately misrepresented. In addition to not being an ex-prostitute, Mary of Magdala was not Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who anoints the feet of Jesus with ‘about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume’ and then wipes it up with her hair. Nor was she the ‘woman taken in adultery’, the one told to go and sin no more. Nor was she the wife of Jesus. Since the Middle Ages, the Mary Magdalene of tradition has proved irresistible to artists. [link]