Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Da Vinci Code and Mary Magdalene

In Newsweek, Jonathan Darman has some interesting things to say about Dan Brown's treatment of Mary Magdalene. A quote from his article, found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12893635/site/newsweek/:

Indeed, for all its revolutionary claims, The Da Vinci Code is remarkably old-fashioned, making Mary important for her body more than her mind.... The current Magdalene cult still focuses on her sexuality even though no early Christian writings speak of her sexuality at all.

Mary Magdalene, in the gnostic works, as well as in a more limited way in the New Testament, comes across as someone who may have been important in the 'Jesus Movement' that was developing. It was to her, according to the Gospels, that Jesus first appeared after the resurrection. Gnostic works imply that Jesus appreciated her as someone who saw 'the light', and, although her answer to their questions were treated with some hostility, in the Gospel of Mary the disciples did turn to her for her insights when they were in spiritual crisis. These gnostic works were apparently an outgrowth of a tradition in which Mary was a key figure.

A truly revolutionary work would emphasize the mind and spirituality of Mary. Is Mary to represent the 'divine feminine' to us because of her pregnancy, or because of her other contributions? Does Mary matter only if she married Jesus, or should we be thinking of her in a more expansive role as a founder of the early church? Brown reduces Mary to her body, to a mere vessel. This does little to advance our thinking about the role of women in the church- past or present.

I think there is more to be explored.


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