July 22 is the feast of Mary Magdalene. Who was she and is it true that she was a prostitute who followed Jesus around in his ministry?
Recent biblical scholarship has been trying for a long time to correct Mary Magdalene’s misconstrued reputation as a prostitute. Biblical information reveals her as one of the most important disciples of Jesus, following and financially supporting him during his ministry. She is also a faithful witness both to the Crucifixion and the first to see the risen Jesus.
Her reputation as a prostitute arose from the misunderstandings of certain texts in Luke. Luke 8:2 reports Mary as being a follower of Jesus “from whom seven demons had gone out.” This passage follows Luke’s story of the sinful woman, a prostitute, who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Since that woman is not named, there came to be an association of that woman with Mary Magdalene, “from whom seven demons had gone out.” Thus Mary became known as a prostitute. The readings and prayers for her feast day make no mention of her reputation as a sinner. Rather, they emphasize and highlight her role as the first witness to the risen Lord, and the first one commissioned by Jesus to tell of the good news to the disciples. Let us continue to be Mary Magdalene to the world.