Magdalene.org Book Review
by Lesa Bellevie
Mary Magdalene Disciple of Christ, by Judith A. Sutherland (Additive Creations, 2001)
Mary Magdalene Disciple of Christ is a challenging book to review. Not only do I think that Judith Sutherland is a
great person, she also has a profoundly good grasp on Magdalene as she appears in historical texts and the ability to interpret
those scenes into novelized accounts. There are just elements of the book that I can't, in good conscience,
not mention to potential readers. I'm going to address my criticisms first to get them out of the way, but
please read through to the end to get a more complete picture.
My first criticism is something extremely basic: spelling and punctuation. The book itself feels like a self-publish job,
so perhaps the resources weren't available for a strong editing review. If you aren't as uptight about these kinds of things
as I am, then you won't find this hindering your ability to enjoy the book.
Second, I was surprised by the sexual content of the book. Parts of it read like a good, old-fashioned, bodice-ripping
romance novel, and although there's nothing inherently wrong with that, in this context it was more distracting than
necessary. I am hard-pressed to find a justification for the explicit sexuality in moving the plot forward, so honestly,
I'm not sure why it's there. I do feel that it detracts from the experience because otherwise, the author has a very
interesting story to tell.
Mary Magdalene doesn't have a romantic relationship with Jesus in this book, but what they share is nonetheless inspiring.
As a very bright and gifted Essene, Mary is chosen to be one of two recipients of the secret teachings of Christ, much to
Peter's chagrin. After the crucifixion, we see the conflict between Peter's orthodoxy and the true teachings of the Master
making its mark on history, and Mary is an integral part of this. Much of the book deals with Mary's preparation to join
Jesus' ministry and retelling the major biblical and Gnostic scenes involving her.
One innovation I was extremely impressed with was the treatment the author gives the annunciation of Mary, Jesus' mother.
It's extremely creative and also leaves room for the imagination to embellish. I was also very moved by Mary Magdalene's
relationships with her best friend, Joanna, and with her mother. No matter how difficult it was to accept her mother's
choices, Mary still perseveres in loving her. One thing I wish the author had expanded on a bit is "the error," which
refers to the reason why humanity is blind to its divine heritage. It's an excellent use of the Gnostic doctrine even if
a little understated.
There are some obscure facts hiding in the fictional scenes of this story. We learn about some of the eccentricities of
the Essene community, and one possible way the Nag Hammadi texts were lost to the desert. There are quite a few little
details gleaned from the cultural cross-pollination that was going on at the time; from gems to coins to symbols, and I
find that mentions of those kinds of things make for a secret delight.
With reservations in mind, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a retelling of the story from a Gnostic and
biblical perspective and who doesn't mind that it's a bit rough around the edges. Mary is a magnetic character and you'll
be surprised by certain interpretations of the biblical events we know so well.