The Da Vinci Code paints a terrible picture of the church’s treatment of Mary Magdalene. According to Teabing, she was falsely called a prostitute as a result of a smear campaign launched by the early Church. The Church needed to defame Mary Magdalene in order to cover up her dangerous secret her role as the Holy Grail (Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code, Chapter 58). Is it accurate to suggest a “smear campaign”? Brown goes even further, suggesting that the Church outlawed speaking of the shunned Mary Magdalene! (Chapter 61)
This supposed “smear campaign” never occurred. Pope Gregory I, in 591AD, apparently confused the story of a reformed prostitute given in the Gospel of Luke chapter 7 with Mary Magdalene, whose name is mentioned soon afterward in chapter 8. From study of the text, this interpretation is very unlikely. It’s unfortunate that this late tradition persisted for so long before being corrected, but it’s important to remember that historically Mary Magdalene was praised by the church!
Was Mary a sinner? Yes, but in the sense that we are all sinners, and the church never ‘shunned’ the ‘sinner’ Mary Magdalene. Mary is mentioned in positive terms many times throughout the Gospels. Consider that “she followed Jesus from Galilee, ministered to Him, beheld the crucifixion from afar, stood by the cross, located and watched the tomb, came early to the tomb with spices, was first to see the risen Lord, and reported the resurrection to the disciples” (Chuck Missler). She was also named as a saint by the church. That’s right, Saint Mary Magdalene. The early Christians named churches after her and prayed at her purported tombs (Amy Weber, De-Coding Da Vinci, 68). Christianity focuses more on repentance than sin, and as Weber points out, in the Medieval and early Renaissance period Mary was “held up as a model for all Christians, male and female.”
In the first century, women in society had poor status. For example, a woman’s testimony was not considered valid in court, and teachers never accepted women as their students. But Jesus honored and taught people equally, both men and women, including Mary. Although no credible evidence exists that suggests Mary was Jesus’ wife, she was certainly not ‘shunned’ by early Christians.