This is a lavishly illustrated, informative survey of how 2,000 years of Christian history has curated the memory of Mary Magdalene. The author is candid about the challenge of writing about her subject:
“To be honest, I believe it is impossible to write a book about Mary Magdalene …
“Mary Magdalene is perhaps the most enigmatic figure in the Christian Scriptures.”
This is in part because there are so many different Marys in the New Testament, and the fact that Mary Magdalene is generally viewed through the lens of “fallen woman,” or former prostitute, which the author suggests is a relatively recent interpretation.
The highlight of the book comes with the pictures of how Mary Magdalene has been depicted in art through the centuries. Reflecting on these insights while reading the gospel account could prove to be really illuminating.
The second half of book has 10 brief chapters on motifs that arise from the Mary Magdalene story as told by a variety of verses throughout history:
Sinner/Seductress; Penitent; Anointer; Weeper; Witness; Preacher; Contemplative; Reader; Patron, and Feminist Icon.
Not all of these motifs, or all of the insights within this book will commend themselves to every reader of Scripture, but there is much here that will inform.
John Woods is a writer and Bible teacher based in West Sussex. He is Director of Training at the School of Preachers in Riga, Latvia.