Mary Magdalene A.D. 1st century

The most prominent female follower of Jesus of Nazareth, and the woman mentioned most frequently in the New Testament Gospels next to the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. She is a Roman Catholic saint to whom numerous, probably speculative, stories have been attached. According to Gospels of Mark and John, she was the first person to see Jesus as the resurrected Christ. She is first mentioned in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, which note Jesus cleansing her of demons. She subsequently became one of Jesus’ followers, and she is mentioned in all four New Testament Gospels as having witnessed the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Mark and John continue aspects of the story; according to their accounts, Mary Magdalene returned to Jesus’ burial site on Easter morning to anoint his body according to the Jewish fashion. Finding him gone, she went to tell the apostles and returned to the tomb with Peter. Peter then left, and Christ appeared, telling her, in John 20:17, that he was ascending to heaven. In addition to her Roman Catholic sainthood, the Eastern Orthodox tradition holds that she was a companion to John and died in Ephesus in modern-day Turkey. One of the esoteric Gnostic Gospels is also attributed to her. Other traditions grant her sacred powers and often confuse her (incorrectly) with other women attendants to Jesus. Medieval French tradition claimed that she brought early Christianity to the southern part of that country. Some Christian popular literature interprets her as a prostitute who was saved by Jesus, although there is no evidence for this in the New Testament Gospels. SEE ALSO: Gnosticism; Jesus of Nazareth; New Testament

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