Popular author Margaret Starbird has written several books exploring the true and historical role of Mary Magdalene in Jesus’ life, (including the likelihood they were married) and her role in the emerging Christian movement. As a student of Mary Magdalene myself, I was not surprised, in fact I anticipated many of the revelations she put forth. There was one, however, in her book Mary Magdalene – Bride in Exile (Bear & Company, 2005) that blew my mind AND answered a question that has bothered me since first reading the account of Jesus’ resurrection and appearance to Mary Magdalene in the garden as it is related in John’s gospel. Starbird’s revelation reaffirmed for me my already rising suspicion that the Church has always known that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and systematically worked to hide or obscure this fact.
Jesus’ resurrection appearance in John’s gospel:
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
John 20: 11-18
The highlighted text above, where Mary refers to Jesus as “Rabboni” and which is then further qualified by informing us “which means ‘Teacher’” has always troubled me. Why did the author of John’s gospel need to explain that the word “Rabboni” meant teacher? Wouldn’t the audience to whom this gospel was written already know this? Even if they were Greek speaking pagans, wouldn’t they have been acquainted enough with the Jews in their midst to know that Rabbi meant teacher? Nowhere else in scripture are colloquial words further defined in this way. It is assumed that the audience knows the words being used by their speaker. This is where Margaret Starbird blew my mind.
According to Starbird’s research, the word rabbi means master or teacher, but because of the traditional relationship between husband and wife in first century Judaism, rabbi could also mean husband (Mary Magdalene – Bride in Exile, pp. 62-63)! Starbird further explains that Rabboni places further emphasis on the term, meaning great (or as I like to think of it in the above mentioned passage dear). When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden on Easter morning, was she not exclaiming “great teacher” as we have been led to believe, but instead was exclaiming DEAR HUSBAND? I believe she was.
But what about the “which means teacher” parenthesis in the gospel text? Yes, what about that???? Again, why would the author need to tell his/her readers what the word rabboni meant when they would have likely been highly familiar with this term? The author didn’t need to tell their audience what rabboni meant, but the Church did if they were going to support their agenda of white, celibate, male privilege.
I have already expounded upon the obvious redactions that have been done to the resurrection account in John’s gospel – redactions which place Peter in place over Mary Magdalene as privileged witness to the resurrection and messenger of the “good news” (Read it HERE). I believe this parenthetical statement, about rabboni meaning teacher, rather than Dear Husband, is another one of those redactions – comments added by the Church (not the author) to further a very specific agenda – the diminishment of Mary Magdalene (and with her all women), the elevation of male “celibate” privilege, and by virtue of both, the degradation of human sexuality.
Rabbi as master or Rabboni as DEAR HUSBAND? This, my friends, changes EVERYTHING!
What would have happened to the development of Christianity if we had been allowed to believe that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married? What if we had been allowed to believe that Mary was Jesus’ co-equal partner and not only as active as the male disciples, but perhaps even MORE active? What if instead of developing along hierarchal, patriarchal lines rooted in fear, power and control, the Church had developed along the lines of unconditional love, egalitarianism and justice as Jesus had originally intended? What if throughout the development of the Church, women had been given the same honor, respect and privilege as men – again, as Jesus himself had modeled? What if human sexuality had been honored as holy and sacred and the intimacies between husband and wife viewed as sacrament as surely Jesus would have viewed it in his holy, beloved, marriage with Mary Magdalene? What if instead of calling Jesus master, we were allowed, like Mary, to call him DEAR Husband?
If we had been allowed to believe these things, I sense the Church and the world in which we are living would be an entirely different place!
Lauri Ann Lumby, OM, MATS is the founder of the Order of the Magdalene and creator and facilitator of the Order of the Magdalene Priestess Training Program. Consult the menu items above for more information.
To learn more about Mary Magdalene and her complete role in the life and ministry of Jesus, check out Lauri’s course, Resurrecting the Magdalene. Learn more HERE.
Read Lauri’s book, Song of the Beloved, the Gospel According to Mary Magdalene. Buy it HERE.