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The life and times of Mary Magdalene
Who Was Mary Magdalene?
Mary Magdalene, or Mary of Magdala, is a woman who shows up in the New Testament only a few times. There is a commonly held belief that she was either a prostitute or the woman taken in adultery who the leaders of the community brought to Jesus and asked Him to pass judgement on her. This is where the famous line, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone" comes from.
We actually know little about Mary from the Bible and historical accounts. I have taken what we know from the Bible and written a novel about her life and how she was impacted by knowing Jesus.
Read all about it in the novel A WOMAN CALLED MARY.
We were watching for Him. For hundreds of years we had been waiting, but now we were watching. Some of the scholars and rabbis had been saying for all my life that it was time. There was a movement among the people teaching, proclaiming that this was indeed the appointed time. And the movement was growing, gaining momentum. The Priests and Temple authorities played it down, tried to make it into the wishful thinking of the masses.
“Sure,” they said, “the Messiah will come some day, but there is no way to know when. The prophecies and old writings are too indefinite, too obscure for us to narrow it down to a specific time frame.”
But there were those who said they could tell from the ancient writings that the time was near. They believed He would be here within our generation.
My father was a deeply religious man and brought us all up with the same reverence and awe of our religion that he had. He disciplined us with love and we learned to cherish our religion as much as he did. We learned to love the Lord and His ways. We learned to love the Scriptures. Our father taught us all the prophecies of the coming Messiah, the Promised One. He would be the new Moses. As Moses had led our people out of the mitzrayim, the land of great misery, and freed them from the slavemasters, so the Messiah would free us of this present tyranny. This time, though, it would not be the Israelites who fled, but the Gentile invaders. And biet’Y’Israel, the Land of Promise, would be ours again.
At least that’s the way my father told it. And that’s the way some of the rabbis at Synagogue told it. And those of us who continued to believe the prophecies, the promises of Yahweh, hoped, believed, that it was true.
And this time, when He freed us we would be obedient; we would not be the grumblers and mumblers that our forefathers had been. That much the devout hoped for, too. Too many people had the attitude, “Ever since the fathers fell asleep nothing has changed. Things continue as they always have. Where is the hope of His coming?”
We knew, though. The devout continued to believe.
And so we lived in anticipation of the day He would arrive. Father told us often of the Magi who had come sent by kings from the east looking for the King of the Jews the One born in Bethlehem, some ten years or so before I was born. They said they had read the ancient Hebrew writings and studied the heavens earnestly until the Star appeared. They had followed the Star until it stopped over the City of David, and there they found Him. They worshipped and offered their expensive gifts with tidings from their own kings. Then they went on their way, returning whence they came, never to be seen or heard from again.
All the land was taken with great joy and excitement. The Promised One had come at last.
Then great tragedy struck when Herod heard of the new King. In a jealous rage he ordered that all male children in the region of Bethlehem under the age of two years be slain. Oh, there was great mourning and weeping in those days. In the midst of it all the new King was forgotten. Nothing more was heard of Him after that.
But still the devout watched and waited.
I am Miriam bat Jacob (pronounced in the Hebrew fashion, Ya-cob’). Some call me Mary. Many people these days are going over to the Helenized versions of their names. In my family we cling to the Hebrew ways, the Jewish names, the old beliefs. So I call myself Miriam.
I come from a large family in Magdala, the oldest of seven girls. About a year after I was born Mama had one baby who died at birth. Then she couldn’t have any more for a long time. Finally, when I was about five years old, she had another little baby girl, Rebekah, who was as healthy as could be. After that there was one every year or so until Leah, the youngest. Then there were no more. Papa was not a very happy man, having no sons, but he knew Yahweh always has a plan for those who love and serve Him. And so he just loved us all the more for it.
My father, Jacob, is a farmer. He owns a great deal of land and grows mostly wheat and barley. He is not a rich man by most standards, but we never lacked any of the necessities of life.
The work was divided up among us girls, the older of us working in the fields alongside Papa and the others managing the affairs of the house with Mama. No one of us worked harder than any of the others did. Whether inside or out it was never easy taking care of the family. Whatever we did, though, it was done with love and a cheerful heart.
As I said, I am the oldest, twenty years old and divorced. No boys would ever take any interest in me, you see, what with my affliction and all. Some said I had a demon. At times I would just fall down and start writhing, my entire body convulsing uncontrollably. I would foam at the mouth and sometimes bite my tongue ‘til it bled. Sometimes I would hurt myself falling or bang my head on the furniture or on the ground. If Mama or Papa were there they would hold me until it was over, then they would get me cleaned up and put me to bed and sit beside me until I felt better. If they weren’t I would just be left lying there until it stopped and I could get myself up.
And I wasn’t the prettiest of the sisters, either. In fact, all of my sisters were far prettier than I was. Oh, Mama and Papa always told me that it wasn’t true. But I knew.
As it is with Jewish tradition the oldest daughter has to be married first, so when I was very young I had been betrothed to the son of a friend of my father. When I was fourteen we were married. We had been married only a year when he divorced me saying he just couldn’t live with a woman who had a demon.
And so my shame was triple. I was afflicted. I was divorced. I was not pretty like my sisters.
I knew I would never have the love of a man, or a marriage, or children. I had long ago reconciled myself to these facts, but sometimes it still hurt. I would just push the hurt way down inside and find a way to be happy that I was loved by my Mama and Papa.