CROSSROADS OF JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN HISTORYLugar de encuentro de la historia Judía y Cristiana
Who Is This Mary of Magdala?

Crossroads of Jewish and Christian History

Who Is This Mary of Magdala?

Who Is This Mary of Magdala?

Dear friends of Magdala,

As we prepare to celebrate Holy Week and one of the most incredible miracles of our faith, we have received lots of questions via email and on-site about life of Mary Magdalene and the important role she played in the Gospel.

Magdala gives us a glimpse into the first century life of this amazing saint: how she lived…what streets she walked…where she prayed. Most importantly, Magdala allows us to see the site where she likely encountered Jesus for the first time. As we continue to develop Magdala, its archaeological park, Magdalena Institute, Guesthouse and Visitor’s Center we are able to better understand this person and also help divulge this research and message to the many visitors arriving on site.

This month, Magdalena Institute’s Director, Jennifer Ristine presents some small insights into who Mary Magdalene was. We hope you enjoy! (Please see the video below)

Fr. Juan María Solana, LC


Who is this Mary of Magdala?

By Jennifer Ristine

Was she a poor prostitute on the street? Why does she have seven demons?

Well scholars have all different types of opinions and theories but when we walk around ancient Magdala I think we get a few clues and insights into who this person was and what might have influenced her.

We go to the purification baths and we see and observant Jewish town but also a wealthy Jewish town.

Mary Magdalene was not a poor prostitute on the street. She was likely a wealthy woman of influence who was helping support Jesus in his ministry in the Galilee area and beyond.

How did she get so much money? Where did she acquire her wealth? In the Jewish culture you either acquired it from your husband maybe he passed away and she was a widow or from your father perhaps she inherited from her father as well.

In Luke chapter 8, 2-3 we see Mary mentioned with a few other women. One of those women is named Johanna, and she is actually the wife of Herod´s steward Chuza. What´s a steward? An administrator, somebody taking care of Herod´s money. … So is she hanging around these women of higher social status? Did she have some “ins” into the court… Herod´s court. This is a speculation.

Many point to Pope Gregory the Great in the sixth century as the one who´s given Mary Magdalene a bad name, “she´s a prostitute.” When we look at that passage homily 33 a bit more closely we discover that there´s actually a pastoral context in which he is speaking. He looks and he says: “you know, yes, here is a sinful woman, maybe all of us, I don´t know if anyone here today can identify with that. A sinful woman who is in need of restoration and Jesus offers that to her. And in the end what she once used for vice she now uses for virtue, she uses it to praise and to glorify her lord.  So we see this transformation that takes place.

Is Mary of Magdala the same as Mary of Bethany? The western church through history for 2000 years has associated them as one and the same person. In our beautiful Duc In Altum, where we have columns dedicated to different women of faith we have one for Mary of Bethany and for Mary of Magdala… just in case!

She becomes the first one to witness him after his resurrection and becomes as tradition has said the apostles to the apostles.


Thank you for your prayers and support and be sure of ours from Magdala!

With our most esteemed gratitude,

 The Magdala Staff

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Magdala (near present day Migdal) is located on the western coastline of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) and at the eastern foothills of Mount Arbel. Read More

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