I have really hesitated about reviewing this book even though I really like it. It feels a bit controversial and some might find it offensive, but I think it is interesting and it gives new ideas. It is of course fiction, but According to Mary Magdalene also paints a flesh and blood picture of one of the most important figures in the New Testament. A figure that have had scholars debating for centuries. Who was she? Was she a whore? Was she married to Jesus? Was she a disciple? And it also raises the question of who Jesus really was, if he was born to a virgin and so on.
About the author
Marianne Fredriksson was a Swedish author who started out as a journalist. She devoted a lot of her professional career to writing about existential matters and when she became an author, many of her books were based on biblical stories. She wrote 15 novels and her books have been translated into 47 different languages.
About the book
According to Mary Magdalene can best be described as a calm book. It tells the story of how Mary Magdalene lives in Antioch with her husband Leonidas, a former warrior turned businessman, who is a homosexual and who saved her life when he found her after her family had been slaughtered by the Romans. He brought her to the only woman he knew in Israel, Euphrosyne, who ran a brothel and there Mary Magdalene grew up. She was given a good education, paid for by Leonidas, and did not become a whore until she chose to after having been informed that Leonidas was dead.
This is part of the story in the book, but it also tells the story of Mary’s life with Jesus and of the crucifixion and of how Peter, Paul and Barnabas came to see her in Antioch to get her side of the story.
Jesus and the disciples as humans
The book paints a picture of the first days of Christianity that is really colorful and shows Jesus and the disciples, both men and women, as humans. It is a bit critical of the way the story has been depicted and of the fact that the female desciples have been effectively excluded.
About Mary Magdalene
She is somewhat an enigmatic figure, not mentioned many times in the Bible but still one of the most debated. Some believe she is a compilation of several women and others that she was the bride of Christ. According to the Gnostic texts, like the Gospel of Thomas, she was the desciple who was closest to Jesus and most definitely equal to the male desciples.
I like this book, it is easy to read and it is thought provoking. It also fits my thoughts that the Christian teaching in many ways has been designed to keep women in check by distorting many of the teachings of Christ. I don’t think it was done with malice, but when a new thought is presented, such as those of Jesus, we humans try to sort them into our earlier belief system to understand them. Thus when Jesus was gone, the male disciples sort of ‘reverted’ to what was familiar to them, and so the women where once again suppressed in this religion too.
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