Mary Magdalene Was Never A Prostitute

“Can a woman not keep her lover without she study to always please him with pleasure? Pew! then let her give up the game.” —Eric Rücker Eddison, Mistress of Mistresses

In A Nutshell

Our image of Mary Magdalene has long been that of the fallen woman, contrite, repentant of her ways, looking to Christ for guidance and forgiveness. It’s absolutely false, a careful creation of a church that chose certain Gospels to read and others to ignore, combining stories and weaving a carefully formed tapestry that buried the truth of one of the strongest female characters in early literature. The biblical Mary Magdalene was never a prostitute and was in fact one of the most revered of apostles: a revelation that would have forced the church to change its thinking dramatically.

The Whole Bushel

Over the centuries of Christian doctrine, Mary Magdalene has been a number of things. She’s always a sinner, she’s often a prostitute, and she’s also an example of a fallen woman redeemed by faith. More recently, she’s been the wife of Jesus and the mother of His children. She’s an apostle, a preacher, and a saint.

But one of those things that we know she absolutely was not was a prostitute.

There’s no actual mention of prostitution in connection with Mary Magdalene in any verses of the Bible. She’s called a sinner, but that could have referred to any number of things. Her sins are mentioned, briefly, and it’s said that before her devotion to Christ, He had removed demons from her (although this in itself is pretty vague). She gets her bad reputation by being confused with a number of other women of questionable morals who are featured throughout the Gospels, including a woman with loose hair (pretty erotic stuff for the time) who anointed Christ with oil.

There are only a few concrete references to her actions in the Gospels that have been accepted as canon, including her refusal to leave Christ as He’s being crucified and her discovery of his resurrection. Add in numerous characters named Mary and many unnamed women, and it’s not surprising that her portrayal has grown into the tangled mess it’s become. And it was all helped along by Pope Gregory, an aristocrat who served as pope from 540 to 604. It was Gregory who issued statements that Mary Magdalene was the same woman as others named Mary, and in adding on all the other stories to the background of one woman, she was made much more the figure of the ideals of the day, instead of the strong apostle she was originally written and remembered as.

So why do we think that she’s a prostitute?

Because the church wanted to use evidence from the Bible to keep women out of the clergy.

During the time of the Gospels, women were on a much more equal footing with men. Mary Magdalene was considered one of Christ’s main followers, not only given the honor of discovering his resurrection, but also being one of those who didn’t desert him in the end. (All of those who didn’t flee were the women.)

The Gospels as we know them weren’t established as canon until the fourth century, during a time when the church most definitely wanted to make it clear that its upper echelons would be male-only. Certain texts were decided to be canon, but others—including the Gospel of Mary—were conveniently excluded from the church’s approved reading list.

According to the Gospel of Mary, she was not only one of the apostles, but the only one who didn’t lose faith in Christ after His death. She counsels the others, and says that He is still speaking to her through visions, choosing to appear to her instead of the others.

This Gospel dated from the fifth century; well after the others were written, but still a telling, early picture of this supposed whore that the church would obviously find very, very dangerous to their male-centric doctrine.

The same ideas that were behind the creation of Mary Magdalene as a prostitute were behind the deification of the Virgin Mary. Women were sexual creatures, that was their identity: The mother of Jesus is rarely referred to without making nought of her virginal status.

Show Me The Proof

Smithsonian: Who Was Mary Magdalene?
BBC Religions: Mary Magdalene, the clichés
PBS Frontline: The Gospel of Mary

  • Dave

    Gregory was pope for a hundred years?

    • Lisa 39

      I saw that to, i’ll bet he holds the record for that!

    • PSG
      • Joseph

        He was born in 540 so, that’s probably where the 504 came from. It’s still a pretty major mistake. The whole article is actually flawed since there’s no way to know for sure whether she was involved in prostitution or not.

  • Peter van Kan

    Texts suggesting Mary was Jesus’ lover/partner, were all written centuries after Jesus lived. In other words, their historic value is close to zero.

    • PSG

      But it isn’t like -any- of the Gospels were written during the time of the events…and to have been written at a time well before a modern womens’ liberation movement? Let that roll around.
      (Just one site, easy enough to find this information from any number of sources.)

  • Andyman7714

    So who is worse? The sinner or the person who pays the sinner for the sin?

    • gillybean

      The taxman, for taking 40%!

  • Hillyard

    The Gnostics actually allowed women to be priests. The gnostic gospels include the gospel of Mary, although there is some dissension as to whether it refers to the Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene most scholars believe it to be Mary Magdalene.

  • Scott

    The mother certainly was.

  • Angel Lawin
  • Joseph

    We don’t know if she was a prostitute or not. Unless the author of this article has a time machine, there’s no way to know that either way. It’s possible she wasn’t a prostitute, but that’s pretty far away from being able to claim that as a fact.

    • Jo Cooper

      You said that twice Joseph. So just because it doesn’t specifically say she wasn’t a prostitute we can assume she was.

      • Joseph

        The other time was in a reply to someone else Jo Cooper. No, it means that I don’t know either way. That is the first sentence of the comment that you replied to.

  • Natty

    Even if she was a prostitute would it matter?! can a person not change? the whole point of this is her faith, she stood by what she believed in so who cares what she actually did previously?! does that maker her a bad person because she changed? her “sins” may also be something beyond simple that todays person would not see this as a sin, for example the showing of feet and/or ankles was also considered a sin or even eating a piece of fruit that does not technically belong to you (we all know the apple story) so without actually going back to when this person existed, assuming she actually did, we will never know!

  • Eric Roe

    I am glad this article acknowledges the probability that Mary was Jesus’ wife. It was probably they who were being married during the wedding at Cana. The behavior of Jesus and Mary (traditionally considered to be his mother in this story) makes no sense otherwise. Guests at a wedding would not behave they way they do, while the bride and groom certainly might.

  • Marozia

    The Church was determined to make all women (except Jesus’ mum) bad. I always believed that Mary Magdalene was from an important, wealthy family. That balm she put on Jesus’ feet was not cheap stuff back then. Only good families could afford such things. She seemed well versed in certain aspects of life which came from good education and not many poor families could afford that. The loose hair probably meant that she was a single woman.

    • P5ychoRaz

      Hmm… You sure seem to know your Christian Era Roman women… What about women from this epoch?

      • Marozia

        We still get less pay than men doing the same work as them.

        • P5ychoRaz

          I suggest you seek new employment.

          • Marozia

            Not many men around as histopathology typists. No thanx…I’ll stick with the people I know. Too much stress being one of those high-up CEOs.

          • P5ychoRaz

            That does sound like kind of a niche job

          • Marozia

            Especially when you have to start at 5.15am and have to encounter drunks, meth-heads, tranqs, lobos and zip-heads chucking things at you and saying “Bitch…open up…I need drugs’.

  • Skeeter

    Pew Pew!!

  • Ryan

    A character in a book, written by over 40 authors, 600 years after the event, has a different vocation.