Q: #430. Was Mary Magdalene a prostitute?
By: Steve Shirley
A: We know very little about the life of Mary Magdalene. All that we know about her is mentioned in these verses (Mt 27:56,61)(Mt 28:1-10)(Mk 15:40,47)(Mk 16:1-11)(Lk 8:2-3)(Lk 24:10)(Jn 19:25)(Jn 20:1-2,11-18). Within these verses, there is nothing which indicates that she was a prostitute. So, why do so many believe she was a prostitute?
The primary reason appears to be linked to the Roman Catholic Church, and specifically Pope Gregory I. At one point during his reign (590 - 604 A.D.), he apparently taught that Mary Magdalene was the sinful woman who washed, kissed, and anointed the feet of Jesus, drying them with her hair in (Lk 7:36-50). Since the following verses in (Lk 8:2-3) go on to mention Mary, and that Jesus cast 7 demons out of her, he assumed that she was the sinful woman previously mentioned. However, there is no real evidence for coming to this conclusion, and if you use this rational, why couldn't the sinful woman be Joanna or Suzanna who are also mentioned in (Lk 8:2-3)?
In addition, if it is being taught that the verses in Luke 7 are the moment in which Jesus cast the demons out of Mary, this seems highly unlikely. Would a demon-possessed woman be washing, kissing and anointing the feet of Jesus prior to His forgiving her of her sins (Lk 7:48)? Looking at some other places where Jesus cast out demons (i.e. Mk 5:1-17, Mk 9:17-29), demon-possessed people do not act like the woman in Luke 7 did.
A secondary reason why Mary may have been linked to prostitution is because a number of sources say that the Jewish Talmud records that Magdala had a reputation for prostitution, thereby, making Mary guilty by association.
There are also a few who equate Mary with the woman whom Jesus saved from being stoned for committing adultery (Jn 8:1-11). Again, however, there is no evidence for this.
Interestingly, the Eastern Church has never held the position that Mary was a prostitute; only the Western Church.
That Mary Magdalene was a prostitute is the product of man-made tradition and a few spurious apocryphal books, with no Biblical support.
For more on the different Mary's found in the Bible, please go here.