The Life of Mary Magdalene

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Mary Magdalene, next to Jesus' mother, is arguably the most well known woman of the New Testament. This is quite surprising given what little Biblical information is available about her and the fact she is only recorded, by name, fourteen times.

The earliest chronological reference in the Bible to Mary Magdalene is in Luke 8:2 (Harmony of the Gospels in Modern English).

"Now it came to pass afterwards that He traveled through all the land, city by city and village by village, preaching and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God;

and the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary who is called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out . . ." (Luke 8:1 - 2).


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Where did she live?

The Greek word translated Magdalene in the New Testament, Strong's #G3094, means a female resident of Magdala. The city, which is referenced by name in Matthew 15:39, can also be spelled "Magadan" in some Biblical translations. The parallel account in Mark 8:10 calls the area where the city is located the "district of Dalmanutha."

Picture of Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene
Titian, 1565 A.D.

Mary's hometown sat on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was known for its dye works and the ability to manufacture fine woolen textures. These industries made the area quite prosperous. Magdala's prosperity was such that it was one of only three cities that sent their contributions to Jerusalem's temple in a wagon!

Quick Facts

Mary Magdalene was one of the first three people (the others being James' mother and Salome, Mark 16:1) to discover Jesus' empty tomb and enter it (verses 4 - 5). She is also the first person to inform Peter and John that Jesus' body was missing from its burial location (John 20:1 - 2).

God specially selected Mary to be the first person to see Christ alive after his crucifixion. This tremendous event took place shortly before 9 a.m., after which the Lord ascended to heaven to present himself before God the Father as the fulfillment of the wave sheaf offering (firstfruits of the dead, John 20:14 - 17).

Mary was the only person who had three angels appear and speak to her (Mark 16:5 - 7, John 20:11 - 13) on the day Christ revealed he was resurrected.

Though not stated, Mary was likely one of the 120 people who gathered on Pentecost in Jerusalem who were the first to receive God's Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14, 2:1 - 4).

Mary is referenced fourteen times in the New Testament. She is the eighth most mentioned woman in the entire Bible (tied with Hagar, Abraham's concubine). Jesus' mother is mentioned, by name, nineteen times.

Who was the whore of Luke 7?

In Luke 7:36 - 48 Jesus has his feet washed and anointed by a sinful woman. The woman was either promiscuous or a whore, as her sins were known throughout the city and by the Pharisee whose house she entered (Luke 7:37, 39, 47). Was Mary Magdalene the sinful female who sought the Lord's forgiveness? The short answer is no.

The Bible is silent regarding the name of Luke 7's sinful woman. Additionally, since the first Biblical mention of Mary in Luke 8:2 does not immediately follow the events of Luke 7, there is no immediate chronological linkage between the two references.

A good Harmony of the Gospels shows that after Jesus visited the Pharisees' house in Luke 7 he went to Jerusalem to keep the fall Feast of Tabernacles. This special Holy Day period ran from sunset September 22 to sunset on the 30th in 28 A.D. (John 5).

Jesus, after the Festival, traveled north preaching the gospel in every city and village. It is after leaving Jerusalem that we are introduced to Mary Magdalene, as well as other women, who chose to follow Christ on this journey (Luke 8:1 - 3).

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