This morning I cam across a video posted on Facebook for part 5 of 5 of a National Geographic documentary called The Real Mary Magdalene. I was able to find the page where all five parts are available:
These videos were posted on the Facebook page for a group called Priory of Sion. (Not THE Priory of Sion, for all of you Holy Blood, Holy Grail fans out there…) I also noticed a few other videos posted there that I’ve not yet watched.
The National Geographic documentary was a fairly typical post-Da Vinci Code exploration of Mary Magdalene, but it focused much more on extracting an understanding of her from Biblical and Gnostic accounts than from the more recent “bloodline” legends. Although the narration and re-enactments had a sensational feel to them, it was a pretty level presentation of what there is to know about Mary Magdalene from the earliest sources.
The expert guests were:
- Professor Carolyn Osiek, Brite Divinity School
- Professor Jonathan L. Reed, University of La Verne
- Professor Marvin W. Meyer, Chapman University
- Professor Karen King, Harvard University
- Professor Marcus J. Borg, Oregon State University
- Professor Stephen Patterson, Eden Theological Seminary
- Professor Lawrence H. Schiffman,New York University
I was disappointed that the last part of the documentary focused on the idea that Mary Magdalene’s identification as a prostitute was the result of a smear campaign by early church fathers. While I have no argument with the fact that church fathers used the reputation to their advantage in controlling women, I do not for a moment believe that they are the source of the legend. I also wish that a documentary like this would, for once, mention that Pope Gregory’s homily in the 6th century was likely an action taken to organize the deep confusion over the various Marys in the Gospels and the many competing perspectives that were currently circulating. Again, I don’t suggest that Gregory was a great guy who was doing Mary Magdalene any favors, but I also don’t agree with laying 1400 years of mistaken identity at his feet.