Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book: Mary, Called Magdalene by Margaret George

I have this thing for Biblical fiction. Not Christian fiction, but specifically fiction based off of stories in the Bible. It's hard (imho), to find *good* examples of this kind of writing. The only one that comes directly to mind is Anita Diamant's The Red Tent.

Obviously, this book is based off of the person of Mary of Magdala from the New Testament. I enjoyed the book, even though I disagree with a few of the things that the author runs with. Such as Mary and Joseph having children together after Jesus' birth. Or the romantic (though unfulfilled) relationship between Mary and Jesus (she loves him and wants to be his wife, but he knows that that is not his path). I think she leans more heavily toward the view that Jesus was a prophet, but not divine, but that could just be my view of her writing, since she doesn't say one way or the other. Since it's from the point of view of Mary, and she's still learning, that makes sense, of course.

I liked the introduction to all of the Apostles and how each of them had a different relationship with Jesus, how he spoke differently to each of them, and they took different 'highlights' away, even though the message was the same. I was very amused when Simon bar Jonah's name was changed to Peter, at first as sort of an in joke, because he was so stubborn someone told him he had a head like a rock, and Jesus said he should be called 'Peter' because of it. :) Or, when Jesus met Judas, and they were going to eat with the 'sinners' that Jesus had told Matthew (who used to be named Levi) to invite, Jesus says 'I like sinners' and Judas says something like, 'oh, good, I like sinners too' which is less amusing, but still amusing, if you're me, I guess.

She also had a different take on *why* Judas betrayed Jesus. That he did it, misguided as it was, to try and save Jesus from himself. That he didn't 'get' what the real mission was, and was concerned that Jesus was going to get himself killed, so he thought he'd get him locked up for a little while, and out of harms way. Which didn't work out so hot.

Also, Mrs. George at least avoids the popular yet erroneous belief that Mary of Magdala was a prostitute. So she gives her a perfectly normal life, growing up, getting married, having a child, just...due to a mistake as a child, she slowly becomes possessed by demons. She wasn't a 'bad' person, just an unfortunate one, in that sense.

I enjoyed the book, but I wouldn't call it the best Biblical fiction I've ever read. Still, I don't feel as though I wasted my time with it.


  1. Sounds interesting. I like her take on Judas. I think it makes some sense with his guilt afterwards, and always saw him as a sympathetic character, though of course no one knows.

  2. The books a bit over 600 pages, so there are some slow moments, where you find your eyes skimming, and I think it could have been done well, in less space. But it was interesting.

    I have always felt bad for Judas, which is probably why I appreciate her take on it. He just got such a raw deal.

  3. Sounds good! Thanks for the review. I think it would be interesting to read how the disciples had different relationships with Jesus. It IS interesting to consider, huh?

    So you think Judas was predestined/elected if you will to do this dirty job? Isn't this against your thoughts on free will though?

    Where do you think Jesus' brothers and sisters came from? Do you think Mary and Joseph never consummated their marriage and thus she was always Virgin Mary?

  4. So you think Judas was predestined/elected if you will to do this dirty job? Isn't this against your thoughts on free will though?

    No, that's not what I think. Judas made the choice. And if he hadn't been the one to betray Christ, then someone else would have, or it would have gone down differently, but with the same ending. I just have always felt sorry for him, I guess. He screwed up, massively. He obviously didn't get important parts of the message. I just, like I said, feel bad for him.

    Where do you think Jesus' brothers and sisters came from? Do you think Mary and Joseph never consummated their marriage and thus she was always Virgin Mary?

    There're a couple of theories as to where the 'brothers and sisters' came from. One is that they were actually cousins, and that it was a common linguistic 'habit', if you will, to refer to close cousins as 'brothers' or 'sisters'. Something about there not being a word for 'cousin' in the original language. The other is that they were the children of Joseph from his first marriage.

    As to the last question, yes, I believe that Mary remained ever virgin.

  5. Thanks for answering. So Mary was destined to never experience sex and Joseph was a good enough man to never again want it? Wow!

    I always thought the Bible said she was a virgin until AFTER Jesus was born.

    " 24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus."

    I guess I always thought of "until" (vs. 25) in this way. Doesn't until usually imply a certain point when it happened?

    Your way seems a bit more like making up neat traditions when I thought the Bible was pretty clear about it. Is this Tradition? Would it have been wrong for Mary to have sex with her own husband after Jesus was born? They were married. Sex within marriage is holy and sacred. OK'd by God. Plan of God. Nothing sinful. In fact withholding from sex is more sinful within marriage, I'd think.

    To me it seems more realistic for Mary and Joseph to refrain from sex until sometime after Jesus' birth. Then later they had more children which are the ones referred to in the Bible as Jesus' brothers and sisters. No need to invent cousins although I understand what you mean that cousins could have sibling-like status in a culture that is very extended-family oriented.

    Thanks for sharing your POV.

  6. Susanne,

    My reply ran over the character limit, so you get your own post again!


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