Have We Really Found Mary Magdalene’s Birthplace?

IIt is indeed a thing that is rarely to be confused with a sex worker that will bring someone permanent fame and popularity. However, this is exactly what happened to Mary Magdalene, the financial supporter of Jesus, who was misidentified as a prostitute who had followed her for 1,500 years. In an increasingly religious society, Mary has cemented her place as a cultural icon.

Now, she sells digital newspapers: a lot of store declare During the Christmas season that archaeologists excavating in “Magdala” may have identified her place of birth. But are there them?

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As originally reported in Jerusalem Post, a “salvation excavation” (the type of excavation done before construction in culturally rich areas) co-organized by the University of Haifa and the Israel Antiquities Association, unearthed the remains of a 2000 year old synagogue in Migdal, Israel. Migdal is located on the Sea of ​​Galilee and has traditionally been determined as Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene. In one statement“We can imagine Mary Magdalene and her family coming to the synagogue here, along with other residents of Migdal, to participate in religious events,” said excavation director Dina Avshalom-Gorni. church and community.”

In fact, the excavation of the synagogue is the second such find in town. In 2009, a larger, more ornate synagogue was excavation complete with an elaborately carved stone in the shape of a seven-branched menorah. Both synagogues date from the Second Temple period, when Jesus lived and preached in the area. The smaller synagogue consisted of a main hall and two other small rooms (one of which may have contained Torah scrolls). The remains of the ruins of ancient ceremonial life were present at the site. Ceramic lamps, molded glass bowls, rings and some stone utensils are all round among the remains.

But does any of this get us to Mary Magdalene?

Just days after the story was released, Bible scholars and experts on Mary Magdalene, Professor Joan Taylor, of King’s College London, and a doctoral student of Duke University Elizabeth Schrader published a critical survey of early evidence for “The Meaning of ‘Magdalene'” in Journal of Biblical Literature. Three years in the making, this article looks at literary data to know most of what we know about Mary and comes to some compelling and eye-opening conclusions about the meaning of her name.

When it comes down to it, the association of Mary Magdalene, the apostle of Jesus, with this town on the Sea of ​​Galilee is based on two assumptions. First, Magdalene is a type of surname that denotes her geographical origin as archaic names usually do. Second, this city by the sea was called “Magdala” in the first century C.E. As you delve into the historical underpinnings of the argument, Schrader and Taylor show, cracks begin to appear.

Schrader told me there was considerable disagreement about the meaning of Mary’s name. The fifth-century translator, St. Jerome thought it was a nickname, meaning “tower”. Nicknames like these were common in ancient times, especially among the followers of Jesus. Just as Peter was “the rock,” and James was the “righteous man,” so Mary is the “tower of faith.” Some ancient authors thought it referred to her birthplace, but no two ancient authors think so. The brilliant third-century theologian Origen identified Magdala as Mary’s hometown, but never specified where it was located. This is especially strange since Origen spent most of his life in Caesarea and circumnavigated the Sea of ​​Galilee. How famous could the city be if Origen didn’t know where it was? In fact, he spends more time stressing that her name means “Exaggeration” and is a fitting title for a “prominent” witness to the resurrection. Taylor told me that “Because” Magdala “means “tower” (as well as “magnify”) in Arabic and that there are many places called “tower of something”, Origen… and these other people may choose different ways of identification.” Given all these differences of opinion, we certainly shouldn’t jump to conclusions based on geography, says Schraeder: “Since there was no consensus in antiquity as to the meaning of her name, So modern theories that she came from somewhere on the shores of the Sea of ​​Galilee are highly doubtful. “

Aside from her name, archaic views of where Mary came from also differ. Some early exegetes of the Gospels — for example, the third-century Rome writer Hippolytus — suggested that Mary Magdalene was the sister of Martha and Lazarus mentioned in the Gospel of John. If true, this means that Mary, like her brothers and sisters, is from Bethany and is the woman who anointed Jesus in John 12. (This woman, Schrader and Taylor argue, is distinct from the anonymous sex worker, who also anointed Jesus in Luke 7. It is worth noting that in ancient times the anointing was not a once-in-a-lifetime event.) To make things even more strange, early fourth-century historian Eusebius of Caesarea suggested that there were two Mary Magdalenes. Eusebius did indeed visit a “Magdala” himself but, according to him, the town was in Judea, to the south. We are clearly going in the wrong direction. Schrader and Taylor conclude that “the archaic position Mary Magdalene hailed from Bethany is still within the realm of rational explanation” but her name says more about her religious character than anything else. what else.

Archaeological evidence shows that the town on the Sea of ​​Galilee known today as Magdala was certainly a fishing village in the first century. And that is just the place from which Jesus recruited his disciples. However, the geography and chronology are a bit misleading. Taylor told The Daily Beast: “In the time of Jesus, there was a village called Migdal Nuniyya (‘fish tower’) located very close, just a ‘million’ (about 1 km) from the northern boundary of Tiberias. . , a city located further south than the current town. The Christian pilgrimage site of Magdala is located about 6 kilometers from Roman Tiberias on the other side of Mount Arbel, and archeology increasingly indicates that it was a separate, rather large town. There is no evidence from Christian sources that the pilgrimage site was called “Magdala” until the sixth century, when the site began to become a destination for religious tourists.

That traditions relating to archaeological sites have evolved and grown over time in tandem with a broader explosion in the Mary tradition as a whole. Some early Christian documents are not included in the New Testament — including Gospel of Mary, the The Gospel of Philip, and Pistis Sophia—Mary was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, whose authority was challenged in the orthodox. Several generations of important archeology and history Taylor’s work pushes back against false but still cherished historical assumptions. While others, like Karen King, explored the ways in which the importance of Mary was contested in the early church because it served as a code for women’s rights questions in general. The church’s tug-of-war over her memory and importance means that even as some traditions and details of her story have gained traction and development, others have been contested. accept and delete.

This controversy, Schrader argued, spilled over into the copying and editing of manuscripts of the New Testament. “There are also some major textual issues surrounding the word ‘Mary’ in the important manuscripts of the Gospel of John (especially throughout John 11 and John 20:16). The fact that there are ancient controversies surrounding Mary’s legacy – as well as significant contradictions in important manuscripts of the Gospel of John – warns us of the possibility that her story may have changed in this way. “

The preservation of evidence of changes in the text, together with the discovery of new Christian documents, opens new possibilities for how we view the Magdalene legacy, says Schrader. It ties into the art historian’s recent work Ally Kateusz, The author of Mary and the Early Christian Women: Hidden Leadership, who discuss that Christian artwork was enhanced to conceal the leadership role of women in the early church.

Beginning with Gregory the Great misidentifying Mary as an influential prostitute, Mary Magdalene is identified with an anonymous woman from Nain who anointed Jesus in Gospel of Luke. Because of the atmosphere’s loathsome nature, the history of patriarchy looks down on women unduly. The fact that Mary Magdalene did not come from Magdala on the Sea of ​​Galilee – a city that did not seem to have existed with this name in the first century – does not mean that we reflexively collapse into the bad habits that can take place. his prize. As Taylor writes in this section, “the central hermeneutic error of Western Christianity that needs to be corrected is not the idea that Mary Magdalene might have come from Bethany; rather, according to Gregory the Great, the notion that all the anointed women in the gospels can be clarified into one. Instead, we suggest that Biblical scholars may celebrate Mary Magdalene’s deliverance from inaccurate depictions while acknowledging that Mary’s origin need not be ‘Magdala’ to maintain This hard-won position. “

This is not to say that excavations in the Sea of ​​Galilee are somehow meaningless. After all, it’s not always about Christianity. These discoveries give us a richer picture of the diversity of ancient Jewish religious life during the Roman period. More importantly, they replace a common assumption in the history of Judaism; In particular, synagogues emerged only in the aftermath of the compensation for the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD 70. The existence of not one but two synagogues just 650 feet apart, Avshalom-Gorni said, is a testament to the vibrancy of first-century Torah study, social gatherings and life. religious life outside Jerusalem.


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