De Boer, Esther. Mary Magdalene: Beyond the Myth. Trinity, 1997. (176 p., $15.00)
De Boer is a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Holland. In this study, engagingly written for both lay and clergy readers, she attempts to shear Mary Magdalene of all the medieval accretions to her story and character. Focusing on the four gospels, the church fathers, noncanonical gospels and, most especially, the gnostic Gospel of Mary, she discovers in Mary Magdalene a "courageous and persistent disciple" of Jesus who, after his death, carried out her own apostolate.
Haskins, Susan. Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor. Berkley, 1997. (528 p., $16.00)
This magisterial work traces the image of Mary Magdalene through the history of Western Europe and shows the full scope of attitudes and associations this figure has evoked. Haskins study ranges over ancient gnostic tracts, medieval devotional literature, romantic painters, and such 19th century organs as Magdalene's Friend and Female Homes' Intelligencer, "devoted," in its own words, "to the cause of Fallen Women." Haskins concludes with images of Mary Magdalene in our own times, in such modern works of literature as Kazantzakis' controversial novel, The Last Temptation of Christ.
Jansen, Katherine Ludwig. The Making of the Magdalen: Preaching and Popular Devotion in the Later Middle Ages. Princeton University Press, 2000 (332 p., $39.50)
Jansen teaches history at Catholic University. In this scholarly work, she examines the transformation of the biblical Mary Magdalen into one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages. It was the late medieval preachers of the mendicant orders who transformed the received wisdom on Mary Magdalen, that she was a prostitute, into a picture of perfect penance--an image that survives to this day.
Maisch, Ingrid. Mary Magdalene: The Image of a Woman Through the Centuries. Liturgical Pr, 1998. (208 p., $19.95)
German scholar Maisch here traces the history of interpretations of Mary Magdalene, especially as they have appeared in German-speaking cultures. Her study includes the New Testament, medieval mystics, baroque and romantic poets, painters, and dramatists, among them Angelus Silesius, Clemens Brentano, and Freidrich Hebbel. She tries to show how, behind each age's representation of Mary Magdalene, stands its own attitudes towards women in general.
Marjanen, Antti. The Woman Jesus Loved: Mary Magdalen in the Nag Hammadi Library and Related Documents. Brill, 1996. (261 p., $92.00)
This Ph.D. dissertation will interest readers who wish to explore the amplification of Mary of Magdala in the noncanonical gospels of 2d and 3d century gnostic Christianity. Marjanen examines the treatment of Mary in several of the gnostic gospels, including the Gospel of Mary, Pistis Sophia, and Gospel of Thomas. He notes that in these works Mary of Magdala is typically seen as among the most intimate disciples of Jesus. That she sometimes appears in conflict with male leaders, such as Peter, suggests that some of these gospels were written in support of women struggling for leadership roles in early Christian gnostic communities.
Rabanus Maurus, Abp of Mainz, 784?-856, The Life of St. Mary Magdalene and of Her Sister Martha, translated and annotated by David Mycoff. Cistercian Publications, 1989. (166 p., $15.95)
The medieval church identified Mary Magalene with both Mary of Bethany and the unnamed penitent woman of Luke 7:36-50. As editor David Mycoff observes, this produced a character dear to the medieval heart, for she combined sin, penitence, and contemplation all in one. The legend translated here, which was very popular in the Middle Ages, continues her life after Christ's ascension. Though ascribed to Rabanus Maurus, an early medieval bishop, this work is now attributed to an anonymous, 12th century follower of St. Bernard.
Ricci, Carla. Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women who Followed Jesus. Fortress, 1994. (237 p., $20.00)
On a quest for knowledge of the women of the New Testament who personally accompanied Jesus on his journeys, Ricci finds her starting point in Luke 8:1-3, a text largely ignored in the history of biblical interpretation. Mary Magdalene heads this and several other New Testament lists of women disciples, and so she accordingly figures prominently in Ricci's research. Ricci reevaluates the traditional view of Mary Magalene as prostitute, and, through careful textual interpretation, examines Jesus' relation to other women. An appendix compares references to women in the four gospels.
Thompson, Mary. Mary of Magdala: Apostle and Leader. Paulist, 1995. (160 p., $12.95)
Thompson distinguishes the biblical Mary of Magdala from the picture of the penitent prostitute constructed by the western medieval church. What stands out about her in the New Testament is that she leads lists of women followers of Jesus. Thompson suspects that her name figures prominently because she was too well-known in the early church to be suppressed by the male gospel writers. Carefully examining passages from canonical and noncanonical gospels, and marshaling evidence for women's roles as leaders in the ancient world (among both Romans and Jews), Thompson concludes that Mary of Magdala was very likely a prominent leader in the early church.
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