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Easter women: gospels, films, plays, the Pope, blogposts

March 29, 2013

Below are short excerpts from and links to recent posts on how women are portrayed around Easter.


For years, as a biblical scholar, I have been devoted to trying to understand marginalized, forbidden and forgotten people like the women in the biblical story whose stories have been sidelined. Women’s stories have taken second place to the interests and needs of male biblical writers and male leaders in Christian churches over the centuries.
Professor of Biblical Studies, Rice University in a Huffington Post piece, Let’s Remember the Biblical Women at Easter


In 597 pope Gregory the Great delivered a homily on Luke’s gospel in which he combined Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany (Martha’s sister), suggesting that this Mary was the same woman who wept at Jesus’ feet in Luke 7, and that one of the seven demons Jesus excised from her was sexual immorality. The idea caught on and was perpetuated in medieval art and literature, which often portrayed Mary as a weeping, penitent prostitute. In fact, the English word maudlin, meaning “weak and sentimental,” finds its derivation in this distorted image of Mary Magdalene. In 1969, the Vatican formally restated the Gospels’ distinction between Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and the sinful woman of Luke 7, although it seems Martin Scorsese, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Mel Gibson have yet to get the message.
Rachel Held Evans, author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood in a blogpost excerpting from the book, “Mary Magdalene, The Witness


As you know, this Easter I have worked with Reverend Betty Adam of Christ Church Cathedral here in Houston to create an Easter event for Holy Saturday that would remember the biblical women. My idea for the production was to focus on the faithfulness and feelings of the women who followed Jesus to Jerusalem and remained with him as he died.

As I wrote the script with Betty, I “stayed” with each woman in her story as it is recorded in the bible, and as I did so I imagined what it would be like to be that woman.
— April D. DeConick, Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University, in a blogpost, “Let’s Remember the Biblical Women at Easter


Throughout the history of Jesus films, the depiction of Mary Magdalene has been disappointing. And that’s an understatement. Some would say that it has been scandalous. It has been absolutely standard to depict her as the repentant prostitute, harmonizing Luke 7.36-50 (anonymous “sinner”) and John 8.1-11 (anonymous woman taken in adultery) with references to Mary Magdalene (Luke 8.1-3, Mark 15.40-41 etc.).

In Jesus Christ Superstar (dir. Norman Jewison, 1973), Mary (Yvonne Elliman) is the repentant prostitute, who now does not know how….

So too in The Last Temptation of Christ (dir. Martin Scorsese, 1988), Barbara Hershey’s Mary Magdalene is depicted in the brothel, and her repentance is part of….

Even Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ (2004), which focuses the action solely on the Passion Narrative, manages to insert a flashback to the story of the woman taken in adultery.  Monica Bellucci’s Mary is humbled by….

It is therefore a matter of great joy to see The Bible series reflecting the best scholarship on Christian origins and depicting Mary as one who follows Jesus and ministers to him from Galilee (Mark 15.40-41; Luke 8.1-3) all the way to Jerusalem, following him to the cross (Mark 15.40-1, John 19.25), his burial (Mark 15.47) and his resurrection (Mark 16.1-8; John 20.1-18).

There is no part in the story where Mary is made to….
, Associate Professor of Religion at Duke University, teaching and writing about the New Testament and Christian origins, in a blogpost “A Celebration of Mary Magdalene in The Bible series


Francis washed, dried, and kissed the feet of the young offenders: Muslims and Orthodox Christians, men and women, black and white, even those with tattoos — my stars, apocalypse is nigh — because that’s what Jesus would’ve done….

“By disregarding his own law in this matter, Francis violates, of course, no divine directive,” wrote Canon lawyer Edward Peters, who is an adviser to the Holy See’s top court. “What he does do, I fear, is set a questionable example.”

Indeed, many suspect that the foot-washing will lead to allowing women to be ordained as priests. “This is about the ordination of women, not about their feet,” wrote the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a traditionalist blogger. Liberals “only care about the washing of the feet of women, because ultimately they want women to do the washing.” And thus the evil plot is uncovered!
– Katie J.M. Baker, writer, in a blogpost, “All Hell Breaks Loose After Pope Washes Women’s Feet

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2013 4:43 pm

    This is ironic:
    Liberals “only care about the washing of the feet of women, because ultimately they want women to do the washing.”

    Women have been “washing and kissing the feet of men” for thousands of years. Catholic leaders only object to them doing it on Maundy Thursday, because then they’d be representing Jesus in doing it. Grrr.

  2. April 3, 2013 7:56 pm

    Speaking outside of any religious context, but only as a human being, I have to say that is hard not to be moved by the Pope’s washing the teenage detainees feet.

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