The idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute comes from the account given in Luke 7:36-50 of a woman who anointed the feet of Jesus with her tears and ointment. She is described as ‘a woman of the city who was a sinner’, so this woman may have been a prostitute. Jesus told her to ‘Go in peace’. For some reason, people have thought that this woman was Mary Magdalene, although there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that.

The only mention of Mary Magdalene in any of the gospels before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is in Luke 8:2, where she is described as one ‘from whom seven demons had gone out’. With a number of other women she travelled around the country with Jesus and his Apostles.

It is unlikely that Luke would have described these two women in such completely different ways if they were, in fact, the same woman.

See also the related question “How many times was Jesus anointed by a woman?”

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  • Bob Wilson

    According to an article at http://www.gospel-mysteries.net/mary-magdalene.html, the idea that she was a prostitute may have been fabricated by early church leaders to discredit her, as part of an effort to exclude women from leadership roles in the church. This can’t be proven, of course, but it makes sense to me.

  • Yang

    I think the adulteress was Mary. If you read the bible people who were cured became followers of Jesus. Mary might have become Jesus’ follower after she was rescued. however, it bring the controversy because she apparently was planing to get married. She kept perfume bottle which is for her wedding date. However, when she finally broke the bottle to wash Jesus’ feet, she finally realize that there is no one but Jesus who could save her. I would guess she was prostitutes but she wasn’t that bad. She was in love with this and that guys and frustrated and doing things but wanting to get married. I think old day was exactly the same as modern days. People think, act and do thins as we do right now. So, she was just one of those girl who got into that but thinking that she will get out someday. However, she submit her entire life to her faith in the end. It’s just fantastic that prostitutes become among the first to receive holy spirit in marks house. Also, Jesus mention that I tell you the truth, Tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the heaven before anybody else which indicated that Maria will received holy spirit for the fist time. bible is hidden but connected with associated with clues.

  • Nikki

    While I understand Yang’s thought process, I would never presume to put words in scripture that are NOT there. Is it likely and probable that Mary Magdalene was the prostitute mentioned? Yes and No. Common belief says yes, but the actual words of scripture do NOT back that up. I choose to take scripture literally and not confuse a situation by assuming anything that is not in black and white. In other words, I don’t put extra time into finding any coding or excess hidden messages when Jesus’ message of relationship and salvation are clear. Does it effect our relationship with Jesus whether or not she was a prostitute? Yes and No. Yes, because, if we can’t take scripture literally, then how is it interpreted? No, because in the long run, the woman who anointed Christ and Mary (same person or different) was freed from sin and her relationship with Jesus restored.

  • Erv

    What would 7 women be doing traveling with Jesus and his desciples when it would be considered traveling with men who are not relatives would brand you a prostitute as this is still the case in today’s Middle East. They would stone you as they do today or the family would kill the woman because the family name was dishonored. As with General Hooker during the Civil War, the prostitutes who followed the soldiers were called Hookers…after the General. Maybe we should call followers of Jesus, Christians….pun intended.

  • Charles Slakan

    No Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute, why that lie was passed down who knows. If you remember, mary magdalene was the first to find Jesus gone from his tomb and also the first to see him arisen.
    Mary is mentioned several times in the New testament and it is apparent that she was a follower of Jesus Christ.
    It’s hard to determine what function she had with the apsotles, but at some point either after Jesus ascended men thought that this woman’s relationship or part in the miracle of our saviour’s life was a threat.
    The Bible I believe says that Mary Magdalene was a woman possessed by demons that Jesus excorcised.

  • Ruby Haskins

    Proverbs 6:16-19 declares, “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: 1) haughty eyes, 2) a lying tongue, 3) hands that shed innocent blood, 4) a heart that devises wicked schemes, 5) feet that are quick to rush into evil, 6) a false witness who pours out lies, and 7) a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”
    Isn’t it possible that something like this could constitute evilness worthy of deliverence? and things that we all could be guilty of?

    • Jon Morgan

      It is certainly possible that we could be guilty of these things, and that they are an evil worthy of deliverance from. However, I don’t see the application to this question (unless you are saying that the seven demons are these seven sins, in which case I would say that there is no evidence that they apply to Mary, and plenty of evidence that demons talks about physical or mental sickness – see for example http://bibleq.info/answer/1310/).

  • Tony Watkins

    This is an interesting topic to me Thanks for the interlude. I have mainly presumed it was fabricated to discredit women having a place of athority in the church along the way. Prostitution promotes adultry, getting divorced is adultry, my interpretation of wome of the scriptures.

    • Jon Morgan

      I don’t see how one woman sinning would discredit women having a place of authority any more than a man like David sinning would discredit men having a place of authority.

      • Stephanie Stevens

        Women were ostracized then and now, Considered to be rather seen and not heard. For men even in this day regardless of character or fault would not have been discredited as a women would. It’s an unfortunate truth but the truth nonetheless. Take the case of an infidelity, the women who lays with a married man is scorned more than the man who went outside of his marriage. So I can actually agree with the intent to discredit her as well as a strong belief in women not being able to preach or spread the gospel. 

  • Stephanie Stevens

    I have always believed Mary M. was a wayward women but I never believed she was an actual prostitute in the same sense as prostitutes of today. Women back than or especially in Middle Eastern cultures were considered “whoremongers” if they lay with men who were not their husbands even if it was one man, that was risky behavior, so that is why I think people automatically assumed she was a prostitute, but the bible never stated that she lay with men for money or fortune, or whatever the value was back than. To me it is hard to go by the bible because it leaves so many big chunks out and I feel like a lot of people misinterpret or perceive the bible the way they choose for their own benefit instead of translate it into lamens terms. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CEASULLHVYQKGTKQ7A2ZAEJIZI Marisol

    Mary Magdalene has not reason to be a Prostitute, she came from a wealthy family if the church would do its real homework, Mary’s father left her and her two siblings a lot of money divided equally, yes she was a partier if you will but nowhere does it say she was a whore, she didn’t need the money it is the Church and the men who run it that made her out to be a Prostitute. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/microray Zara Rodriguez Mafanetsa

    Lenna i have the same question…can we have a specific answer….Bo re jo nna ke boutwa mogo Hosea 1 vs 2 When the LORD first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to
    him, “Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be
    conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted
    like a prostitute by turning against the LORD and worshiping other gods….

  • http://www.facebook.com/Randori Judo Jenkins

    Consider 1 Cor. 9:5 NIV – “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas (Peter)?” The original Greek says “adelphen,” which is “sister.” Paul was stating that the apostles took sisters (believers in the faith) AS wives. These women could have been wives, or even mothers, as it appears was more often the case.

    There is no point in which the Bible states that these women were NOT related to the men they travelled with, biologically, or by marriage. It does state that Jesus’s mother was Mary (Matt. 13:54-55 & 27:55-56) and that John and James’ mother was Salome or Joanna (Matt. 27:55-56, Mark 15:40-41, 16:1, and Luke 24:10) but Mary Magdalene is not tied to anyone in Scripture.

  • Graham Morris

    Mary thingy wasn’t a prozzi cos its all a made u story anyway. Durhhhh

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.feury John Feury

    The real Mary Magdalene was a beautiful soul,a spiritual woman and a driving force among the followers of Christ,some of the men, Peter in particular were jealous of her,just as some men still feel that way today. The R C church to its shame, is to blame for denigrating Mary with its misogynist and ignorant policy towards women. Mary Magdalene rise’s above all this low level none sense…as a beautiful soul. The church needs to ask for forgiveness.

    • BikeFun

      What a shame ! Peter jealous of Mary? That is not possible, He was a true believer in Christ and if there was any way Mary was undermined at all, might be perhaps some sort of disrespectfulness or some sort of thing towards the men.If jealousy comes in here, then the book of Peter should not be added to the bible ’cause it was written by a possessed man??

  • guest

    Mary Magdalene WAS a prostitute BEFORE she met Jesus. The demons that Jesus drove out of her were the demons of prostitution. That’s why they say you pick up spirits when you sleep with someone. After Jesus cleared her of her sins, she never sinned again and no longer prostituted. So the fact that she was a prostitute in no way serves as an argument to prevent women from becoming priests/ministers. All of the disciples committed sin BEFORE they followed Jesus. What prevents women from holding those positions in the church is the Apostle Paul’s words in the books of Timothy. So no one needed to make-up Magdalene being a prostitute to prevent women from holding those positions in the church. It was simply true that Magdalene was a prostitute.

  • dallastexasviewer

    I hope she was a prostitute. If she wasn’t then it wouldn’t mean very much for Jesus to have loved her and accepted her unconditionally in my book. That is the whole point of the Bible that the sick need a doctor. By the way, a prostitute is not a bad thing in all cases. No where in the Bible that I am aware of is a prostitute frowned upon unless she is married (Proverbs). In fact, it is an option for a woman instead of marrying (only OT prohibition is that a father is not to prostitute his daughter). Single women can have sex with anyone they want (OT – human only, male or female, married or single). Single women seemingly have it made. Married women on the other hand have the most restrictions and can only have sex with their husbands. Both Married and Single men can have sex with single women, but they can’t have sex with married women not their wife. The whole idea of remaining sexless until marriage is not Biblical. Read you Old Testament. That is what Jesus had and he preached from it.

    • Jonathan Morgan

      Jesus did accept a woman who was described as a sinner. The question was just “Was that woman Mary Magdalene?” I don’t understand the attitude of wanting someone to be a worse sinner just so Jesus’ forgiveness can be better.

      I also don’t understand your many points about sex single vs married. Much of it I suspect is not talked about in the OT at all, unless you give unusual definitions of words. Just for example, consider Deuteronomy 22: It talks about “evidence of virginity” at the start of a marriage (with death the punishment if there is no such evidence) and it talks of a (presumably single) man sleeping with an girl who was not engaged being required to marry her. While it certainly doesn’t cover every possible case, both of these things would point to an expectation of “remaining sexless until marriage”.

  • iriscutforth

    Jesus was scheduled to be a High Priest. The law of Moses prohibited the priests from marrying a non virgin and would be disqualified. The original wording implies that she was “unclean”. Why did she bring “precious oil” to Jesus? Was Jesus unclean because he was often touched by the unclean women, men, lepers and would have to undergo a very intense program of “cleanliness” before serving as a high priest? Perhaps, another priest wanted the job? Perhaps, his cleanliness was jeopardized intentionally to prevent his “anointing” as High Priest? The earthly mother of Jesus was also “unclean” under suspicion of adultery/fornication, right? The Catholic church holds stories of lore which implies that the mother of Jesus was burnt at the stake and survived…burnt according to the law of Moses for a priestly wife to be found inpure? Mary’s husband may have had more than one wife. If, she was not the mother of Jesus but a prositute…it may not have been sexual prostitution as a woman had several demons. The demons, before Adam and Eve, were neither male nor female. Lore has it, that God destroyed the “flesh that had come to be ruined” when the angels came down to the earth and cohabited with earthly women. It may be that they took earthly form and married women and produced highbreds that had a “soul” which would be the angel part of them doomed to roam the earth. If a woman had demons would this be considered a form of prostitution? Her having several demons would rule her out as a potential wife of Jesus absolutely. IT is not a sexual inhabitation but an uncleaness that would have prohibit the marriage. It does not mean that Jesus would not have affection for her nor would it rule her out in a resurrection. I think, personally, that this woman had tremendous insight into the evils of society and recognized the importance of Jesus succeeding as “high priest”, thus, the oils that would kill off scabies, etc. Can’t you just feel the urgency in her washing the feet, like, “this year you MUST be proven clean to serve as High Priest for us.” I see her also as a woman that watched the sick crawling past her but never being allowed into the city nor into the temple. I see her as a woman that cried for them with her whole heart and those people may have been the motive for her coming forth and not some love sick lonely woman.

  • iriscutforth

    Adonijah was also a relative of Jesus, brother of Solomon, who Solomon put to death after dragging him out of the temple in Jerusalem. Adonijah was aid to have grabbed onto the “horns of the altar”. Underpriests who touched these horns were exterminated immediately by God for not being of the first born priesthood. Thus, somewhere along the way, Jesus had, not only Royal Israelite kingly blood but highpriest first born blood. Thus, he was king/priest. This Mary seemed to understand the importance of Jesus being clean to pass inspection as she brought costly oils to him to wash him. The onus, on her part, was for him to be declared clean and not in some romantic idea as girlfriend/wife. She would have understood that, as an “unclean” person that Jesus would have been prohibited form marring her and on top of that he could not marry outside of the priesthood but would have had a cousin selected. Even if she was a relative, the fact that she was written as “unclean” may have been orchestrated to keep Jesus from becoming high priest. She would have seen this date of full moon which was Nisan when Jesus was to go to the temple to serve as high priest as a turning point for mankind and she obviously believed that he was the messiah.

    • powdr2

      A lot of folks need to read the Bible and Hollywood should consult the Bible when they write movie scripts. It is disgusting to watch a distortion of G_d’s Word.

  • iriscutforth

    Jesus said that the women declared “prostitutes” would go “into the Kingdom of the Heavens” before the menfolk of his time. In other words, why would they be resurrected first? Well, according to tradition, sometimes still carried on in nations throughout this earth, the clitoris, womb and ovaries are removed in the women born after the firstborn. Some people refer to this as female circumcision. Then the labia which is also cut off is sewn together to seal over what had once been the female genitilia. The urine is rerouted to the rectum but it drips continuously and the women are unclean. Unclean meaning that they can not sit with the rest of the family and can only be given as a wife as a secondary wife/maid. This would mean that they could not sit with the rest of the family whether mother or father or husband/owner but had to stand outside or against a wall because of the dripping of the urine. It was also these women that would be sold, found to be unworthy as a wife, and sold to another owner, and another owner…not necessarily sexual johns in the dozens on a daily basis but just passed on to another owner. Having several husbands is that worse than seven demons? Mary, the unclean person, would have known all about these unclean persons and undoubtedly would have agreed with Jesus that they should be resurrected before these self righteous hypocrites of her day.

  • Jonathan Morgan

    iriscutforth, a couple of comments:
    1. Jesus wasn’t a high priest by blood or through ordinary family descent, but because he was chosen by God as a priest after a totally different order of priests (see detailed reasoning in Hebrews).

    2. There are a number of Marys in the gospels, including Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany who anointed Jesus (and may in fact not have been the same as the sinner described here). It was a common name. I think you are assuming that they are the same Mary.

  • jason

    I don’t believe she was. We studied this in seminary and some of the best Bible scholars are there. None of them have found, even with so called evidence, that Mary was a prostitute. A person, as we well know in modern life, can have many “demons” that are fought in many forms. She could have been bi-polar, or perhaps she had any ailment that would render her considered ill. Magdala was a wealthy town and 10 to 1 she came to Jesus from a well to do family. She probably would have had perfumes and oils, as well as monies to help Jesus with His mission. Like the other scholar said, the time after the Bible was compiled was rent with men wanting to defame women.