Mary Magdalene gets a bad RAP!



My wife and I recently saw RISEN the movie. The acting was good, the sets were believable, and the story compelling. However, I have three grievances with the accounts portrayed (listed below in order least to greatest).  !!Spoiler Alert!!

  • When Christ ascended into heaven, after giving His apostles the great commission, it was portrayed as a blast off akin to a ballistic missile’s.
  • It is unlikely that Pontius Pilot and the Tribune were uninformed about Jesus. 
    • Jerusalem was not geographically large city.  It still isn’t.
    • To insure Pax Romana (Roman peace via iron law) they kept a tight grip on Jerusalem.
      • A legion was assigned to the area and Rome’s tax collectors and spies were abundant. Rome had a more than sufficient information gathering network in place.
        • Passover was a time rife with potential problems as the city swelled with visitors and Jewish national pride was high. Roman troops would be on elevated alert.
        • On the Sunday before Jesus’ crucifixion (Palm Sunday) He entered the city to a huge crowd proclaiming His greatness.
    • Jesus of Nazareth was known to those in power. King Herod knew of Him and had wanted to meet Him “for a long time”.
    • Jesus and His activities were common knowledge.
      • This is evidenced by the surprise of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were shocked that someone would not know what had happened in Jerusalem.

And the one that bothers me the most: Mary Magdalene got a bad RAP.

In my line of work, “RAP” is an acronym for: Record of Arrest and Prosecution. A “RAP sheet” is the documented history of a person’s arrests and the following decisions a court has made regarding them. A repeat offender of the law is often referenced as having “a RAP sheet a mile long”.

Mary the Magdalene was a Jewish woman hailing from the bustling seaport of Magdala.  She is called “Magdalene” as Jesus was called “Nazarene”. He was known to come from Nazareth.

In the movie Risen, it is heavily inferred that she was a prostitute well known by many of the Roman soldiers.

As far as I have found, tagging Mary Magdalene as a prostitute goes back to the Jewish Talmud (which portrayed her in a negative light) and a 591 AD sermon of Pope Gregory the Great. In it, Mary Magdalene was identified as the immoral woman in the book of Luke.  (In truth there is no strong evidence that the “immorality” referred to was prostitution. There are many types of immorality.)  This inference was further promoted in the 18th century when “Magdalene” houses or asylums were opened for wayward women to find shelter and rehabilitation.

I am not Pope-bashing. I assume he held her in high esteem as a faithful, devoted servant of Jesus Christ. A sinner saved. And the Magdalene houses used her name only as an aspiration for women in their care. The Talmud, being a Jewish tome not proclaiming Jesus Christ the Messiah, logically would not speak kindly of Him or His disciples.

However scripture does not speak of her in a derogatory manner.  Mary Magdalene appears in the following scriptures Matthew 27:56 and 61, Matthew 28:1, Mark 15:40 and 47, Mark 16:1-9, Luke 8:2, Luke 24:10, John 19:25 and John 20:1-18.

The only description of her in any negative way lies in Luke 8:2. Which states “seven demons had gone out” of her by Jesus’ command.  Presuming that this made her a prostitute in turn suggests the demoniac must have been a male prostitute. After all a “legion” of demons was exorcised from him. I have never heard that implied though.

The other scriptures portray Mary Magdalene as faithful and devoted, desiring to be a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ. This interestingly is the one understandable commonality between her and the demoniac.

Call me old fashioned but, you don’t name a woman “whore” unless you have proof. Even then you don’t defame her. Christians are supposed to edify our fellow humans toward the Lord not vilify them to others.

There is no evidence to support Mary Magdalene being a prostitute. She doesn’t deserve the bad RAP she has been given. Even if she had been, her RAP sheet doesn’t exist. Any criminal history she had, has been cleared by our Lord and Savior.


For Goodness’ Sake – Don’t Forget – You Are Being Watched


Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us…     Hebrews 12:1

The intent of the video highlighted above was prankish at worst; but the story makes a good point. In today’s world of Internet video-voyeurism, anyone with a smart phone is a potential video journalist. The video would rack up more views had the officer made an ethical, rather than physical misstep. This should serve as a warning for anyone who seeks a career in law enforcement or public service.

Mainstream media provides a feeding tube for the world’s footage-hungry appetite. Now, more than ever, the greater the perceived uprightness, the greater the world expects failure. People who actually live the life they preach actually impress most people. Others relish the sight of a hero figure ousted from public favor as a hypocrite.

The once common tendency to hold a higher view of good (even if only perceived) for goodness’ sake and mourn its loss has faded. As a people we have grown to love when the mighty fall, particularly when we feel they deserve it. I do not claim superior knowledge of the goings-on in heaven but I cannot imagine the angels rejoiced when Lucifer fell. I envisage mourning among them that day though the punishment fair. One who held an exceedingly upright status chose rebellion; and for goodness’ sake had justly been cast out.

Law enforcers and public officials should strive for—and hang onto—an upright status. The dark desire to see good proven evil makes them popular targets. I will not lie and say we automatically deserve a righteous status. We share the common flaws all humans have. However, a life in law enforcement or public office demands a higher standard and rightly so. Positions of authority lie under a higher standard of judgment as well. Anyone in law enforcement who knowingly fails the trust placed in his or her position deserves just and swift punishment. We should all—for goodness’ sake—mourn when this happens as well.

A Crime Scene Investigator’s actions will be recorded, questioned, and critiqued by supervisors, judges, juries, media, and public opinion. They will suffer malice for making a mistake and extreme retribution for negligence. But if you desire a career in C.S.I. do not give up hope.

I teach investigators four practices, which can sustain them throughout their career.

      1. Always feel like you are being watched.

          – This tends to keep you honest and attentive to do your job right.

       2. Your professional and ethical reputation leads to success.

          – A good reputation makes you a trusted adviser and associate.

           – A bad reputation makes you a distrusted outsider.

       3. A task properly done, and documented, will stand up against any objective scrutiny.

           – Truth will eventually prove itself.

        4. The decision to do the job properly lies in your hands.

            – No one can make you do a good job. You reap what you sew.

I try molding my instruction in the style of Hebrews’ author. He taught people the way in a kind and caring manner. In truth, he taught the bad and the good of life. He gave them the knowledge to do well and warned them of the consequences otherwise.

The four practices I teach investigators can greatly help them become the best C.S.I. or Christian (or both) you can. After all, both jobs have the common goal of revealing the truth.

Let the video also serve as warning for Christians. The writer of Hebrews 12:1 accurately stated, there is a great cloud of witnesses watching us. Many hope you will stumble and fail at living out what you speak. This empowers their denial of God. If you make a mistake they will deride you. Intentionally not living what you preach will cause you to be raked-over-the-coals as a hypocrite. Others do yearn (albeit secretly) for your success. It strengthens those who already believe and lends others hope that what you represent just might hold truth. They will listen more intently to what you say.

Society quakes at news reports about government surveillance and documentation of our lives. We fear because the world’s authorities have not always proven trustworthy with the information they gather. Remember—the world always watches, waiting to discredit you and what you believe. Sounds dire, but still true. In contrast God watches over you, ready to guide your every step for your goodness’ sake. This surveillance we should really have no problem with.