cover image Mary Magdalene: A Biography

Mary Magdalene: A Biography

Bruce Chilton, . . Doubleday, $23.95 (220pp) ISBN 978-0-385-51317-3

With the popularity of The Da Vinci Code , Mary Magdalene has become the "it girl" of biblical studies. Bard professor of religion Chilton (Rabbi Jesus ; Rabbi Paul ) adds another volume to the already groaning shelves of books on the enigmatic woman. As Chilton admits, the gospels contain very little explicit information about her, but he uses what fragments are there to imaginatively reconstruct her life and world. Mary's hometown, Magdala, was a wealthy Roman outpost, but contrary to legend, there is no indication that she was affluent. In fact, as Chilton points out, she came to Jesus in the garb of the poor; she was likely demon-possessed; and she was an outcast from her community. Drawing from the gospels (especially Luke 8), Gnostic writings and later Christian legends, Chilton shows the ways in which the Christian traditions have maligned Mary. Far from being simply the prostitute of legend, Chilton argues, Mary of Magdala offers us the spiritual gifts of dissolving evil (exorcism), providing unguents for sickness and sin (anointing) and understanding the truth of Resurrection (vision). While Chilton's rather stilted book is mostly speculative and offers little new information, it offers a satisfactory survey of attitudes toward Mary from the Middle Ages to today. (Nov.)