I read this book on the trip out east today – it’s Mary Magdalene: A Biography by Bruce Chilton. It’s from Doubleday, due out on November 1.
Chilton, a scholar and Episcopal priest, is the author of Rabbi Jesus and Rabbi Paul, neither of which I’ve read. I may have to, though, because this one was so entertaining, I’m sure that the other books hold more good times, as well.
First, the good points:
Chilton mentions DVC (also published by Doubleday) and dismisses that particular trail of non-history. He also very firmly corrects those who would use and misuse the gnostic writings, especially the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary for their own ends, picking and choosing.
But that’s about it. Because, you see, for a man who scores others for picking and choosing , well…takes one to know one, I guess.
I don’t have time to do a lengthy analysis of Chilton’s interpretive framework, if there is one. Let’s just say that many of his conclusions are…odd.
Why did Jesus send out the twelve apostles to preach, heal and exorcise in his name? Because Herod Antipas had just executed John the B, and was presumably after Jesus as well. He sent out 12 men of his own age who could be mistaken for him as….decoys. I kid you not. Which explains why there were no female…apostles.
What was Jesus up to in Bethany a few days before he was arrested? He was gathering a large group of men – to charge the Temple and challenge Caiphas.
Mary Magdalene (oh yes…her) was important in the Christian movement because she was the primary teacher and practitioner of exorcism, anointing and ecstatic visioning. There’s more, and the way he presents it is interesting and, I think, important to understand because it echos a lot of sentiments that are coursing out there, particularly in mainline Protestant and even in some RC circles – that any understanding of the Resurrection that includes any element of physicality is akin to mere "resusciation," a late development, and runs counter to what Paul said (and, in Chilton’s schema, what Mary Magdalene experienced.)….