ROME (ANSA) - The mysterious biblical figure of Mary Magdalene has become an icon not only for some feminists but also for many theorists interested in playing up the importance of women, according to a new book.
Written by the scholar Mario Arturo Iannaccone, the book says that in recent times Magdalene has come to be seen as the embodiment of "the sacred feminine and the spirituality of the goddess".
Iannaccone's attempt to demolish more recent views of her appealed to Italian bishops' daily Avvenire so much that it devoted a whole page this week to a discussion of the ideas in his book. The headline was Hands off Mary Magdalene.
Although Iannaccone makes no reference to Dan Brown, the new Magdalen he refers to is clearly present in the recent bestseller The Da Vinci Code in which it is suggested that Magdalene was Jesus's wife.
According to some theologians, one reason Mary Magdalene has attracted so much attention is that very little is said about her in the Bible. With nothing concrete to go on, the imagination can run wild.
But one of the latest theories to emerge about Magdalene has nothing political to it and is being taken very seriously by experts. According to Australian biblical expert Elizabeth Fletcher, Magdalene was in fact a Jewish businesswoman able to offer financial support to a roving rabbi called Jesus of Nazareth.
Fletcher maintains that the woman often depicted naked in art was involved in trading dried fish and wool dyes, two products which were important in the economy of the town of Magdala.
The book is interesting. But this last theory is even more interesting. I am wondering how a biblical scholar could get that kind of a theory out of what's in the Bible. One never really thinks of Jesus as having patrons per se and having Mary Magdalene as the primary patron of Jesus' ministry is rather novel.