Investigating Mary Magdalene
A conversation with ABCNews anchor Elizabeth Vargas, the host of 'Jesus, Mary, and Da Vinci.'
ABCNews correspondent Elizabeth Vargas is the host of Jesus, Mary, and Da Vinci, a news special looking at the claims of the best-selling novel "The Da Vinci Code" (air date: Monday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. ET). Here, Vargas discusses what her research revealed about the possibility that Jesus might have been married to Mary Magdalene.
What sparked your interest in Mary Magdalene? Was it reading "The Da Vinci Code," your own religious background, or something else?
I hadn't read the novel until after I was assigned to do the special. It was fascinating to read it and think, "Wait a second, this can't possibly be true--or could this be?" To start to investigate what parts of it there might be some evidence to back up and what parts are just pure fiction.
After I got the assignment, I began reading [many books]. There have been books around for decades talking about Mary Magdalene and theorizing about her importance--scholarly looks at aspects of Bible history, like Elaine Pagels' "Gnostic Gospels."
I didn't know that therewere
Gnostic gospels. I didn't know that it wasn't until hundreds of years after Jesus died that there was a vote that he was God-that that was a politically controversial thing at that time. I didn't know about the speech by the pope in 591 declaring Mary Magdalene a prostitute.
As someone who was raised Catholic, went to CCD [after school religion classes] every single week, and went to Mass every Sunday--during Lent, we went to Mass every day--my parents are tremendously involved in the Catholic Church...
What was your parents' reaction to the idea of this show?
Initially they weren't terribly thrilled. They were like, "Oh, you're doingwhat
?" They had both read the book. My parents are strict not-rock-the-boat Catholics. They believe, in a very educated way, in the four gospels of the New Testament, though they know about the fact that there were other gospels written.
They know that my job as a journalist is to ask tough questions and play devil's advocate to all sides. This was doing that with something near and dear to their hearts. We're talking about faith, which is as fundamental and important an issue in everyone's lives as there can be. Which is why we really, from the very beginning, tried very hard to be as respectful as we could be.
We understood that a lot of what we were saying would be controversial, and no matter how carefully we said it, some people would take offense. But we tried as hard as we could to be fair and respectful, so we could spark a discussion. Having more people talk about the Bible and go back and read the Bible, and talk about Jesus in history and in their personal spiritual lives, can only be a good thing.