Holly E. HEARON, The Mary Magdalene Tradition: Witness and Counter-Witness in Early Christian Communities. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2004, pp. 236. $24.95 pb.
Reviewed by Gwen Laurie WRIGHT, Wright Communications, 7639 E. Amherst Ave., Denver, CO 80231.

Holly E. Hearon has written an interesting book on the Mary Magdalene Tradition which will be appreciated by those scholars who are seeking to focus on women's experiences in Biblical traditions. Professor Hearon teaches New Testament at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. She has done much research and the book is well-documented.

The Mary Magdalene Tradition is written as a scholarly work, which includes the manner in which the art of storytelling in oral traditions influences what is written down, and how it is written. The author focuses on the Magdalene accounts as one way of giving attention to women's involvement in the life of Jesus. Hearon states that during the time of early Christian communities, storytelling was the main means of communication. She writes at length about storytelling as an art, and that stories were in popular use during Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian times in the context of life in that era. The Magdalene stories were part of this oral tradition. Hearon examines the Magdalene stories in chapter 28 of Matthew, in John 20, and to some extent in the Longer End of Mark, chapter 16, verses 9-11. Since many scholars believe the Mark passage was added at a later time, her remarks are brief.

In reference to chapter 28 of Matthew, Professor Hearon states that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary contribute to the story of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection because their presence denotes faithfulness to him by seeking him after he died. The disciples, however, have run off. It is significant that the women are the first to view the risen Jesus. Hearon raises the question, Why was this story even included in the gospel? She continues by documenting her answer.

The writer's emphasis on Mary Magdalene's importance in John's account of the post-resurrection appearance also underlines women's involvement in Jesus' life and death. In the Johannine writing, Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple have often been emphasized while women's prominence in this event has been of small significance.

The importance of Holly Hearon's study is that it is an aid to New Testament scholars, to teachers, and to preachers. It is a book very full of research that many will find tedious. It is not a book for the casual reader, but for those who want to delve deeply. On the other hand, study group leaders can benefit from Hearon's conclusions. In the Christian tradition, Mary Magdalene has often been marginalized, as have other women. This study beckons those who read the Biblical accounts and try to attain meaning from sacred scripture, and to identify with persons who have been ignored or marginalized in any era.


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