Mary Magdalene






    With the current controversies about The DaVinci Code, and speculation about who Mary Magdalene really was, I went to the Bible to see what it actually says about her.  As best I can tell, the following is every mention of Mary Magdalene in the Bible.

 In Galilee

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.  The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases:  Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others.  These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

Luke 8: 1-3

At the Cross

Many women were there, watching from a distance.  They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

Matthew 27: 55-56


 Some women were watching from a distance.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and Joses, and Salome.  In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs.  Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.

Mark 15: 40-41


 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.  But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Luke 23: 48-49


 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

John 19: 25 


 At the Tomb


(Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus from the cross for burial.)

 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.  He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

Matthew 27: 59-61


 So Joseph brought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock.  Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.  Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

Mark 15: 46-47


 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how the body was laid in it.  Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes.  But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

Luke 23: 55-56


 On Resurrection Morning


After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.


The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples:  ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see him.’  Now I have told you.”


So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly, Jesus met them.  “Greetings,” he said.  They came to him, clasped his feet, and worshipped him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.  Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Matthew 29: 1-10


 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.  Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”


But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.


“Don’t be alarmed,” he said.  “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell the disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see him, just as he told you.’”


Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb.  They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

—Mark 16: 1-8


When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.  She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.  When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

—Mark 16: 9-11


On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; He has risen!  Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’“  Then they remembered his words.


When they went back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.  It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them, who told this to the apostles.  But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.  Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

—Luke 24: 1-12


Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.  So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

—John 20: 1-2


(Peter and the other disciple visit the tomb and find it empty.)


Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying.  As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’s body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.


They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”


“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”  At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.


“Woman,” he said, “Why are you crying?  Who are you looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”


Jesus said to her, “Mary.”


She turned to him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”  (which means Teacher).


Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.  Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”


Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news, “I have seen the Lord!”  And she told them that he had said these things to her.

—John 20: 10-18





Marys listed in the New Testament include Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the mother of James the Younger and Joses, Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary of Bethany, and Mary Magdalene.


Mary Magdalene is always mentioned first when a group of women is listed, except in John 19: 25.


Mary is often depicted as a prostitute.  The Bible makes no mention of this.  The “woman who lived a sinful life,” who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume in Luke 7:  36-50, is not identified by name.  In a similar incident that apparently happened later in Jesus’ ministry, mentioned in Matthew 26: 6-13, Mark 14: 3-9, and John 12: 1-11, John identifies the woman as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.


Based on the scriptures, this is what we know about Mary Magdalene:


  • She was devoted.  She followed Jesus throughout Galilee and then on to Jerusalem, caring for his needs.

  • She was giving.  She and other women supported Jesus and the disciples out of their own pockets.

  • She was brave.  While the other disciples hid behind locked doors, she was at the cross when he was crucified, she was at the tomb when he was buried, and she was first to the tomb on Resurrection Morning.

  • She was independent.  She appears to have been the leader of a small group of women who continued to minister to Jesus after his crucifixion.  There is no mention of any men being along.

  • She was obedient. When told to tell the disciples about Jesus’ resurrection, she did so without question.

  • She loved Jesus.  John’s account of Jesus’ appearance to her is one of the most tender in the Bible.


Anything beyond this is pure speculation.  There is absolutely no mention of her being a 13th apostle, Jesus’s wife, the mother of his child, etc.