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Mary Magdalene: A Biography
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About the Author

Bruce Chilton is the Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson and priest at the Free Church of Saint John in Barrytown, New York. He is the author of many scholarly articles and books, including the widely acclaimed Rabbi Jesus and Rabbi Paul.

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With the popularity of The Da Vinci Code, Mary Magdalene has become the "it girl" of biblical studies. Bard professor of religion Chilton (Rabbi Jesus; Rabbi Paul) adds another volume to the already groaning shelves of books on the enigmatic woman. As Chilton admits, the gospels contain very little explicit information about her, but he uses what fragments are there to imaginatively reconstruct her life and world. Mary's hometown, Magdala, was a wealthy Roman outpost, but contrary to legend, there is no indication that she was affluent. In fact, as Chilton points out, she came to Jesus in the garb of the poor; she was likely demon-possessed; and she was an outcast from her community. Drawing from the gospels (especially Luke 8), Gnostic writings and later Christian legends, Chilton shows the ways in which the Christian traditions have maligned Mary. Far from being simply the prostitute of legend, Chilton argues, Mary of Magdala offers us the spiritual gifts of dissolving evil (exorcism), providing unguents for sickness and sin (anointing) and understanding the truth of Resurrection (vision). While Chilton's rather stilted book is mostly speculative and offers little new information, it offers a satisfactory survey of attitudes toward Mary from the Middle Ages to today. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Episcopal priest Chilton (religion, Bard Coll.; Rabbi Jesus) and Roman Catholic independent scholar and feminist Starbird (The Woman with the Alabaster Jar) provide two different views of Mary Magdalene, both of which agree about her foundational role in early Christianity as an apostle and intimate companion of Jesus. Chilton likens her to a woman possessed by demons, poor and outcast but not a prostitute and not Mary of Bethany, as much medieval legend claims. Through a careful examination of available texts (canonical gospels, the most important noncanonical gospels, and other early Christian writings) and sober speculation, Chilton traces her relationship to Jesus and claims that it was she who taught Jesus the power of vision, anointing, and touch and the disciples that Jesus had overcome death; without her, according to Chilton, resurrection might never have become a central Christian teaching. He also traces her later legend, the ambivalence of Gnosticism toward her, her medieval cult and denigration, and 20th-century reassessments. In her book, Starbird seeks to reinstate what she believes to be early Christian teachings about sacred marriage. To her mind, Mary was wealthy, probably the sister of Lazarus (hence Mary of Bethany), Jesus' spiritual partner, and perhaps even the mother of Sarah, his putative child, who was taken away from the Holy Land for protection. Starbird documents her study well, relying less on the canonical gospels and more on Gnostic literature, The Golden Legend, and diverse medieval sources. While Chilton's Mary teaches mainstream Christian doctrine, Starbird's-which includes a CD of The Greatest Story Every Told-leads to a more esoteric incarnation found in sacred conjunction. Chilton is highly recommended for all collections; Starbird is highly recommended for feminist collections and for all collections without her earlier books on Mary Magdalene.-Carolyn M. Craft, Longwood Univ., Farmville, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Praise for Rabbi Paul-A worthwhile exploration of a life that has richly touched all of ours.- --Dallas Morning News -[Chilton's] inviting prose, ability to recreate the cultural contexts of Paul's life, and deep affection for the Apostle bring new life to a tale that has been told many times before.- --Publishers Weekly -An eloquent biographical masterpiece.- --Jerusalem Post Praise for Rabbi Jesus-Bruce Chilton's masterpiece of religious narrative marks a genuinely new and important step beyond the now-faltering historical Jesus movement.- --Jacob Neusner, Jerusalem Post -Open this book and see Jesus as you've never seen him . . . This is one heck of a good read.- --National Catholic Reporter -Rabbi Jesus is a scholarly pursuit that reads more like a novel. The biography flows with the fluidity of an adventure tale, rich in characters, texture, and detail.- --The Herald-Sun (Durham, North Carolina) From the Hardcover edition. Praise for Rabbi Paul A worthwhile exploration of a life that has richly touched all of ours. Dallas Morning News [Chilton s] inviting prose, ability to recreate the cultural contexts of Paul s life, and deep affection for the Apostle bring new life to a tale that has been told many times before. Publishers Weekly An eloquent biographical masterpiece. Jerusalem Post Praise for Rabbi Jesus Bruce Chilton s masterpiece of religious narrative marks a genuinely new and important step beyond the now-faltering historical Jesus movement. Jacob Neusner, Jerusalem Post Open this book and see Jesus as you ve never seen him . . . This is one heck of a good read. National Catholic Reporter Rabbi Jesus is a scholarly pursuit that reads more like a novel. The biography flows with the fluidity of an adventure tale, rich in characters, texture, and detail. The Herald-Sun (Durham, North Carolina) From the Hardcover edition." Praise for "Rabbi Paul" A worthwhile exploration of a life that has richly touched all of ours. "Dallas Morning News " [Chilton s] inviting prose, ability to recreate the cultural contexts of Paul s life, and deep affection for the Apostle bring new life to a tale that has been told many times before. "Publishers Weekly " An eloquent biographical masterpiece. "Jerusalem Post "Praise for "Rabbi Jesus" Bruce Chilton s masterpiece of religious narrative marks a genuinely new and important step beyond the now-faltering historical Jesus movement. Jacob Neusner, "Jerusalem Post" Open this book and see Jesus as you ve never seen him . . . This is one heck of a good read. "National Catholic Reporter" "Rabbi Jesus "is a scholarly pursuit that reads more like a novel. The biography flows with the fluidity of an adventure tale, rich in characters, texture, and detail. "The Herald-Sun" (Durham, North Carolina) "From the Hardcover edition."" Praise for "Rabbi Paul""A worthwhile exploration of a life that has richly touched all of ours." --"Dallas Morning News ""[Chilton's] inviting prose, ability to recreate the cultural contexts of Paul's life, and deep affection for the Apostle bring new life to a tale that has been told many times before." --"Publishers Weekly ""An eloquent biographical masterpiece." --"Jerusalem Post "Praise for "Rabbi Jesus""Bruce Chilton's masterpiece of religious narrative marks a genuinely new and important step beyond the now-faltering historical Jesus movement." --Jacob Neusner, "Jerusalem Post" "Open this book and see Jesus as you've never seen him . . . This is one heck of a good read." --"National Catholic Reporter" ""Rabbi Jesus "is a scholarly pursuit that reads more like a novel. The biography flows with the fluidity of an adventure tale, rich in characters, texture, and detail." --"The Herald-Sun" (Durham, North Carolina) "From the Hardcover edition."

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