Mary Magdalene has, in many ways, become the portrait of repentance and redemption. Ask most people who Mary Magdalene was, and they will say that she was a prostitute who repented of her sins and came to follow Jesus. This picture has become entrenched in Christian culture, but there is little to no textual evidence to suggest that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute or an adulteress.
The Gospel of Luke states that she was cured of seven demons by Jesus. Shortly after, she became part of the entourage of women who traveled with Jesus and the Apostles through Galilee and helped to support, serve and care for the material needs of the men. When Jesus died, the Bible states that Mary Magdalene was there. She stood at the base of the cross and witnessed His suffering firsthand. She was also a witness to His burial and, as Matthew states, she did not leave Jesus’ tomb until the Roman soldiers sealed it. Finally, Mary Magdalene was the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection and the one who spread the news that He was risen.
Mary Magdalene is mentioned 13 separate times in the New Testament, but nowhere does the text state that she was a prostitute, adulteress or anything other than a loyal disciple. In the ancient Greek texts, the words used to describe Mary Magdalene’s support for the disciples makes it clear that she used her own finances to help support the disciples. The imperfect tense is used in the text and shows that Mary Magdalene was continually providing for the other disciples.
Mary Magdalene’s status as “repentant whore” largely comes from a sermon by Pope Gregory the Great in 591 when he merged the sinful woman who purified herself with unguent in Luke, Mary of Bethany in John and Mary Magdalene who was possessed by demons in Mark. This new portrait of Mary Magdalene was commonly portrayed in artwork and so became the accepted view of Mary Magdalene. The Catholic Church attempted to fix this mistake many years later, but, unfortunately, Mary Magdalene is still cemented in the collective Christian consciousness as a former prostitute.