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Hopkins Bookshop Book Review for March 2019

The Meaning of Mary Magdalene by Cynthia Bourgeault. Shambhala Publishing. 289 pages

Bourgeault asserts in her book’s preface that the historical Christian meaning ascribed to Mary Magdalene’s role in the Bible has been misunderstood, distorted, if not ignored. Bourgeault intends to “repair the damage caused by a heavily-handed patriarchal (and at times flat-out misogynistic) ecclesiastical tradition and (to) reclaim Mary Magdalene’s legitimate role as teacher and apostle.”

Bourgeault also addresses the close friendship Mary had with Jesus, a relationship often misunderstood by many whom, she claims, are not aware of the “spiritual love” possible between Jesus and the woman he helped free from seven forms of spiritual bondage. This spiritual love between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is an example of how a deeply fallen person or “recovering sinner” can experience deep healing in their lives and, subsequently, be able to accomplish important things in the world. During a time, place, and in a Hebrew Semitic culture which devalued women, Jesus’ love would impart healing to Mary, commission her as the first person to spread the good news:“the Apostle to the Apostles.”

In the book, Bourgeault addresses many taboo topics about the life and times of Mary Magdalene, but which nonetheless must be discovered in a long-standing Christian community which has chosen to vilify feminine influences of care, wisdom, love, friendship, and biblical interpretation. Bourgeault writes a beautiful book and uses both the feminine perspective and biblical hermeneutical (interpretation of texts) tools to make her important case, one that is long overdue in a failing global Christian community.

Christopher A. Ulloa Chaves is an author and college educator. He is author of the book entitled Liberal Arts and Sciences: Thinking Critically, Creatively, and Ethically. This book is used as a college textbook within first-year liberal arts and humanities programs at universities in the United States and abroad.

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