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June 15, 2004     470 Words

Mary Magdalene and The Da Vinci Code: Separating Fact from Fiction

CINCINNATI—Say the name "Mary Magdalene" and many people are quick to label her either a prophet or a prostitute. Mystery has always shrouded this brave, blessed, allegedly brazen woman of God. Today, interest in Mary Magdalene has grown. Author Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code has whetted people’s appetites for information about this remarkable and often misunderstood woman. Mary Magdalene, mistakenly regarded as a fallen woman, is now rising to new heights in popularity.

The controversy surrounding Mary Magdalene, her place in Christianity and the focus generated from Dan Brown’s wildly popular novel are all featured in the July issue of St. Anthony Messenger, entitled "Cracking The Da Vinci Code: Theologian Elizabeth Johnson on Mary Magdalene." Assistant Editor Carol Ann Morrow interviews Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J., a professor of theology at Fordham University, on the subject of Mary Magdalene and how her legacy has shifted through the ages. After June 21, the article will be posted at:

A lot of mystery and myth surround St. Mary Magdalene, a.k.a. Miriam of Magdala. Some see her a hooker-made-good. One thing we know for sure: She was a woman of faith and bravery. She was also a witness to the Resurrection, not to mention a role model for women in the Church.

"Mary Magdalene is a founding mother of the Church," Professor Johnson says. "She ministered to Jesus during his own ministry, sharing things with him, was one of his followers in Galilee. She was a faithful disciple during the last hours of his life."

Although The Da Vinci Code combines a good deal of fiction with morsels of fact, it is, nevertheless, a novel. Claims such as Mary Magdalene being the wife of Jesus and mother to his children have aroused controversy. Professor Johnson isn’t offended by them. Although she gives no credibility to the theory that Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ bride, she still sees The Da Vinci Code as an aid in bolstering interest in this often under-appreciated woman. Publicity, however questionable, is still publicity.

"The novel has focused all this attention on the issues around Mary Magdalene. She’s been on the cover of Newsweek and Time. What a service to get everybody’s attention and say, ‘There’s a real story here!’"

Mary Magdalene, one of the first feminists in recorded history, was a living testament to the value and importance of women in today’s male-dominated Church.

"In the past, who women are has largely been defined by men," Professor Johnson says. "And women’s voices have not been allowed to be part of the definition. Women today are reclaiming the right to identify ourselves."


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