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Ep. 1 - Maid or Minx: The Mary Magdalene Controversy

Hi guys!

Congrats, you made it to the Show Notes page! I'm SUPER excited to share the information that went into crafting the first full Sex and the Sacred podcast episode. Mary Magdalene, one of history's most notorious women, is one of my favorite historical figures. In fact, I wrote my honors thesis about her! I won't get into the details about it here, but if you're interested, check out my bio in the About the Show page. Alright, let's get into the notes!

First things first, you'll want to check out The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. It's a fictional novel, but with some real research behind it! It's one of my favorite stories, and inspired my love of MM (frankly, I aspire to be Robert Langdon in many ways, but without the whole near-death experiences thing). Don't take everything the book says as fact, but use it as a starting place for familiarizing yourself with the modern approach to viewing Mary Magdalene! You can watch the movie on Netflix (I love Tom Hanks, but have to admit I find the movie fun but lacking compared to the book. No surprise there though, the book is always better), or buy the book here!

Once you've gotten a taste for Mary's story, you can start looking into what scholarship has to say about her! Here's the link to that podcast I mentioned in, well, my podcast; it's BBC's In Our Time: Religion: Mary Magdalene. The full citation is at the bottom of this article!

Let's split up the next few sources by their sub-focus. I'll put them in a list so you can pick and choose which books and articles you'd like to check out! Just clink on the links to find more information.

*Quick Note: Most of these links lead to websites where you can buy each book; however, your local library might have a copy as well! Additionally, check your local community college library for them - there are tons of ways to find these sources!*

Apostle to the Apostles

Mary as Wife

Mary as Teacher

Now, let's talk about the Nag Hammadi scriptures! I mention them briefly in the podcast, but they deserve to be discussed here too! This link, from the Biblical Archeology Society, will give you a better history than I can offer; that being said, let me take a crack at it quickly.

The Nag Hammadi scriptures are documents discovered in 1945 near, you guessed it, Nag Hammadi in Egypt. The documents are - get this - copies of gnostic gospels (gospels that didn't make it into the New Testament for one reason or another; that's another long story for another day) that we had never seen before! Among these texts were the three gospels that have been used to argue in favor of Mary Magdalene's importance in the early Jesus movement: The Gospel of Philip (pictured here with that infamous hole in the parchment I told you about), The Gospel of Thomas, and The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Annti Marjanen, who falls squarely in the "pro-wife" category I mentioned in the episode, wrote a book about how the Nag Hammadi scriptures changed the debate regarding Mary's identity. If you're interested in the other gnostic texts found in 1945, you can find the entirety of the Nag Hammadi scriptures here!

Alright, now let's move forward in time a little bit. The podcast episode covers Mary's smeared legacy at the hands of Pope Gregory the Great; while my thesis finds that Gregory did NOT, in fact, mean this to discredit the Magdalene's legacy, he DID have this effect. Here are three books that discuss the way that our understanding of Mary (and her role in the formation of Christianity) changed over time:

Well, that's just about it! Check out the gallery below to see how Mary Magdalene has been pictured over time, and see the full list of citations below to find all the links shared in this article!

OH! WAIT! I almost forgot: here's a photo of the Hairy Mary I told you about; these composite Mary's are my personal favorite.

See you next time,




*All citations are in Chicago Manual of Style!*

"A Conspiracy to Suppress Mary Magdalene? No Longer Just a Dan Brown Plotline." The Daily Beast. Last modified July 20, 2018.

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Boer, E. D., and J. Bowden. Mary Magdalene: Beyond the myth. Trinity Press International, 1997.

Boer, Esther A., and Esther D. Boer. The Mary Magdalene Cover-Up: The Sources Behind the Myth. Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2007.

Brignell, Victoria. "Mary Magdalene." BBC's In Our Time: Religion. Podcast audio. February 25, 2016.

"Depicting Mary Magdalene." Film Director | Freelance Writing | Storytelling | Zam Naqvi. Last modified May 23, 2018.

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"Florence in Mary Magdalene." Ordinary and Not. Accessed January 27, 2021.

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"The Gospel of Philip -- The Nag Hammadi Library." The Gnosis Archive. Accessed January 27, 2021.

"Gospel of Philip Recreation, IBSS Gift Shop." Institute for Biblical and Scientific Studies. Accessed January 27, 2021.

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Griffith-Jones, Robin. Beloved Disciple: The Misunderstood Legacy of Mary Magdalene, the Woman Closest to Jesus. New York: HarperCollins, 2008.

Jansen, Katherine L. The Making of the Magdalen: Preaching and Popular Devotion in the Later Middle Ages. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Jones, F. S. Which Mary?: The Marys of Early Christian Tradition. Leiden: BRILL, 2003.

King, K. L. The gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the first woman apostle. Polebridge PressWestar Inst, 2003.

Leloup, Jean-Yves. The Gospel of Philip: Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the Gnosis of Sacred Union. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Loewen, Peter, and Robin Waugh. Mary Magdalene in Medieval Culture: Conflicted Roles. London: Routledge, 2014.

Marjanen, A. S. The Woman Jesus Loved: Mary Magdalene in the Nag Hammadi Library and Related Documents. Leiden: BRILL, 1996.

"Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy (after Caravaggio), Ca 1613." Magnolia Box. Accessed January 27, 2021.

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"Mary Magdalene Orthodox Icon." BlessedMart. Last modified January 23, 2021.

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"Marymimages.htm." Haverford College. Accessed January 27, 2021.

Meyer, Marvin W., and Esther A. Boer. The Gospels of Mary: The Secret Tradition of Mary Magdalene, the Companion of Jesus. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

Ricci, Carla. Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women who Followed Jesus. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994.

"The Nag Hammadi Codices and Gnostic Christianity." Biblical Archaeology Society. Last modified December 27, 2019.

Pruitt, Sarah. "How Early Church Leaders Downplayed Mary Magdalene's Influence by Calling Her a Whore." HISTORY. Last modified March 1, 2019.

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"Saint Mary Magdalene by Guido Reni." Fine Art America. Accessed January 27, 2021.

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"Saint Mary Magdalene is Our May Biblical Role Model." Church of Saint Mary. Last modified May 3, 2017.

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Schaberg, Jane. The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene: Legends, Apocrypha, and the Christian Testament. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2004.

29 views1 comment


Helen Zuckerman
Helen Zuckerman

Hey!! I LOVED the first podcast!!! I don’t know if you accept podcast topic requests but I’d love to learn more about the gnostic gospels and/or how Satan/Lucifer/The Tempter aren’t the same person, or Lilith, or any of those fun characters that didnt make the cut or got short changed, or altered

Cant wait for the next one!!!

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