Reply To: Who was Mary Magdalene in the bible

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Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ most devoted followers. She was among the last to leave His side after the crucifixion and the first to witness His resurrection.

It’s no wonder Mary was so devoted—Luke reports that Jesus delivered her from seven demons (Luke 8:2). In the ancient Jewish world, the number seven represented completion or totality. Mary’s bondage was all-encompassing—then again, so was the healing that Jesus provided. From that day on, Mary Magdalene joined several other women who followed Jesus and supported His ministry financially.

The remaining biblical references to Mary Magdalene are all connected to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Long after many of Jesus’ disciples had scattered, Mary and the other women lingered at the foot of the cross (see Matthew 27:56). As Jesus’ body was laid in a borrowed tomb, Mary was there, watching the somber, lonely procession (see Matthew 27:61). And it was Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” who ventured out from safety to anoint Jesus’ broken body—only to find that the tomb was empty (Matthew 28:1).

Mary had the honor of being the first person to bear witness to the resurrection. John provides an extended glimpse into Mary’s encounter with the risen Christ. Her initial impression—that Jesus was the gardener—was not altogether mistaken. Jesus was, after all, the second Adam (see Romans 5:17), and the first Adam was originally a gardener.

When Mary fully realized whom she was talking to, she was overcome with emotion. Jesus, however, encouraged her not to cling to Him—time was short and He had important work for her to do. Jesus entrusted Mary with the responsibility and privilege of being the first to spread the word that the Messiah had conquered death.

Some of the church fathers believed that the sinful woman who anointed Jesus in Luke 7 and Mary Magdalene (introduced in Luke 8) were the same person—which gave rise to the popular myth that Mary was a prostitute. There is, however, nothing in scripture to support this. If Luke had wanted his readers to connect the woman in chapter 7 with Mary Magdalene (one of three women mentioned in Luke 8), he almost certainly would have mentioned her by name in the story of the sinful woman.