Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Quest for Mary Magdalene

The skull of Mary Magdalene in the crypt at Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume in Provence

The canonical gospels say little about Mary Magdalene; in fact until the crucifixion she is absent from all of them, except for a brief mention in Luke.  Yet Mary Magdalene is the only figure described in the Bible as a witness to all three defining events of the first Easter, the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  She suffers the death of Jesus at the foot of the cross, and when he rises from the tomb it is to Mary Magdalene that he first appears.  In one of the most moving moments in the New Testament he returns to her, but he is transfigured: 'Touch me not', he says, for he is no longer of this world; and it is Mary Magdalene who understands this, passionately and spiritually, and who carries this message to the disciples.  She is the mediator of the divine mystery, and she has remained a potent and mysterious figure ever since. 

Mary Magdalene is a larger figure than any text; she has taken on a life of her own.  In medieval times she was called 'the light-bearer', recalling her Gnostic epithet, 'inheritor of light' in her search for the truth.  In the manner of a quest, this book follows Mary Magdalene through the centuries, explores how she has been reinterpreted for every age, and examines what she herself reveals about man and the divine.

The Quest for Mary Magdalene by Michael Haag will be published by Profile Books in Britain and HarperCollins in the United States in 2016.