Early Jesus films reveled in the traditional, historically inaccurate interpretation of Mary Magdalene as a penitent prostitute. While films produced since the 1980s are less heavy-handed in explicitly sexualizing or shaming Mary, promiscuity remains her most persistent trait. Traces of the penitent prostitute are detectable in The Chosen, a crowd-funded evangelical series on the life of Jesus which foregrounds Mary as a disciple. Her story arc in The Chosen mirrors that of the prostitute protagonist in Redeeming Love (2022), another evangelical film based on Francine River’s fictional adaptation of the Hosea/Gomer story. Both works adhere closely to what film scholar, Russell Campbell, identifies as the ‘martyr’ character type and ‘love story’ narrative structure commonly found in cinematic depictions of sex work. Ultimately, these films reinscribe patriarchal ideology when the woman is rescued and reformed by a virtuous man at risk of his own reputation.
In this article, the author challenges the consensus surrounding Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. This consensus claims the Bethlehem birth was a fabrication posited as messianic fulfilment of Micah 5.2. First, the author summarises the majority position on the issue. Second, the author problematises the notion that there was an expectation regarding Bethlehem as messianic birthplace. Third, the author claims the available evidence might equally suggest Jesus was born in Bethlehem, with Micah 5.2 reinterpreted in light of this. As such, the author calls for renewed discussion about Jesus’ birthplace, and the nature of scholarly argumentation surrounding the issue.
The film Mary Magdalene (2018) has been praised for its focus on one of Jesus’ most overlooked followers. But the film includes subtly negative depictions of Jewishness as well as problematic depictions of Black characters. Despite the film’s stated attempts to reflect first-century contexts, cinematic decisions reinforce harmful stereotypes about Judaism and about Black men. Viewing the film in light of historical Christian-feminist anti-Judaism on the one hand, and on the other, the figure of the ‘Karen’, a white woman who polices the presence and behaviour of Black people, this article investigates the ways in which Mary Magdalene is characterized in line with white feminism, and as such, the ways in which this white Mary is weaponized against Jews and Black people.
This article examines the source material that gave rise to the notion that Jesus befriended sex workers. It considers the first and century evidence. It turns then to medieval fiction for the source of this misunderstanding.