Mary Magdalene continues to be conflated with other women today, but who was the real woman, and what did she learn that was kept secret?
Today, she’s being confused with the Mother of Jesus and a fake picture of Lady Gaga, believe it or not. A viral Tweet showing a face that could easily be Lady Gaga with a caption:
“Scientists at Stanford University have reconstructed this 3D model of how Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ might have looked.”
Obviously, it was meant as a joke inspiring lots of funny responses.
Then, fact-checkers determined the source of the image came from 2018, an image of Egyptian Queen Cleopatra also erroneously credited to Harvard University scientists. (The Twitter account is now suspended.)
Strangely, the fact-checkers called her Mary Magdalene, not the Virgin Mary, a curious mix-up but one of the untold mix-ups concerning biblical Marys. The same year, a viral Tweet confused thousands that Harvard scientists had made a model of Cleopatra that looked like Britney Spears. (Another suspected account.)
A Look at Mary Magdalene’s Face
In 2017, a scientist and artist created a more likely model of Mary Magdalen’s face using computer models of a skull from the south of France. There, at the basilica of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, a blackened skull purportedly from Mary has been in a dramatic case for centuries. The remains are from a woman around 50 years old of Mediterranean descent.
According to one story, they found the skull among 1st Century tombs uncovered during renovations.
“The then Count of Provence Charles II said he had been driven by a dream to conduct the excavation – a dream in which Saint Mary Magdalene appeared to him,” wrote the New Zealand Herald. “The sarcophagus’ lid was lifted, and a “wonderful and very sweet smell” wafted out – accounts of the event insist. It was attributed to the scented perfume Magdelene used to anoint Jesus’ feet.”
Below, you can see the facial reconstruction via National Geographic.
A previous image of Mary Magdalene from 2015 was completely by Brazilian scientists.
Who Was the Real Mary Magdalene?
Few historical women’s lives have been as misunderstood as Mary Magdalene, revered as a saint, deprecated as a prostitute, or the secret wife of Jesus, even the matriarch of a secret dynasty, as in the Da Vinci Code.
Smithsonian notes that her portrait as a “repentant prostitute” is “almost certainly untrue.” Instead, it was a means to disempower women. In 1969, Mary’s “meieval whitewash” was admitted and rejected by the Catholic church. But an image as a sinful woman has persisted in Western culture, and The Gospel of Mary is still considered apocryphal. (see below)
“On that false note hangs the dual use to which her legend has been put ever since: discrediting sexuality in general and disempowering women in particular,” wrote James Carroll.
According to the American historian Carroll, Mary Magdalene’s image became twisted in a power struggle and the blurred memory of recollection 35-65 years after the Crucifixion. At the time, most people were illiterate and passed on recollections by anecdotes subject to reinterpretation. And reinterpret, they did.
The Gospel of Mary, the Sophia of Jesus Christ, and other apocryphal texts were lost in the centuries after, only to reappear in an incomplete fifth-century papyrus codex for sale in Cairo in 1896.
Egyptologist Can Schmidt translated it into the Berlin Codex. After many roadblocks, it became the Gospel of Mary of Magdala, published in 1955. In this text, Mary was not a prostitute but a revered apostle.
Related: Long Lost Early-Christian Gnostic Beliefs: Heresy or Enlightenment?
A 2019 movie about Mary Magdalene starring Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix recasts her in a positive light. You can see scenes from it in this video by Grunge:
Transcending Death and Gender
In the Gospel, it’s Mary Magdalene and not the men who grasped the enlightened understanding from Jesus, such as that the key to salvation is looking within for spiritual knowledge. One could find a way to transcend death and gender with deep inner spiritual knowledge (or gnosis). (see video below)
Thus, Mary Magdalene was a visionary chosen to receive secret knowledge from Jesus. Even if one discounts the Gospel of Mary, the overall picture of how Jesus treated women was fully equal to men.
“Not only was Jesus remembered as treating women with respect, as equals in his circle; not only did he refuse to reduce them to their sexuality; Jesus was expressly portrayed as a man who loved women, and whom women loved,” wrote Carroll.
Video by Esoterica:
The Sophia of Jesus Christ
In Western society, how many have heard of the Gospel of Mary? Or the Sophia (Wisdom) of Jesus Christ? In the latter text, the resurrected Jesus appears as a light being. Briefly, the story it tells is of immortal, androgynous beings, the Son of Man and a consort, the Mother of the Universe, called “Love,” the first aeon. (Things you probably won’t be hearing in most Western churches on Sunday soon.)
Answering Bartholomew, the Savior said:
“The Holy One said to him: ‘I want you to know that First Man is called ‘Begetter, Self-perfected Mind.’ He reflected with Great Sophia, his consort, and revealed his first-begotten, androgynous son. His male name is designated ‘First Begetter, Son of God,’ his female name, ‘First Begettress Sophia, Mother of the Universe.’ Some call her ‘Love’. Now First-begotten is called ‘Christ’. Since he has authority from his father, he created a multitude of angels without number for retinue from Spirit and Light.”
Reminding humans about the divinity they all hold inside, that we are ‘Sons of Light,’ was the whole purpose.
“I came from First Who Was Sent, that I might reveal to you Him Who Is from the Beginning, because of the arrogance of Arch-Begetter and his angels, since they say about themselves that they are gods. And I came to remove them from their blindness, that I might tell everyone about the God who is above the universe. Therefore, tread upon their graves, humiliate their malicious intent, and break their yoke and arouse my own. I have given you authority over all things as Sons of Light, that you might tread upon their power with your feet.”
It’s for you to decide if these teaching considered apocryphal. One can possibly gain insight into what Mary Magdalene learned directly from the source rather than what was later altered to suit the agendas of men.
Featured image: Mary Magdalene via Wikimedia Commons by Itto Ogami, (CC BY 3.0)