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Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019

Who Was Mary Magdalene?

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St. Mark’s Cathedral hosts Elizabeth Schrader

Elizabeth Schrader has her own way of honoring the woman who witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection. Schrader is a Duke divinity doctoral candidate whose academic work centers on discovering who the real Mary Magdalene was. On Saturday, Jan. 4, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., St. Mark’s Cathedral will host a free day with Schrader in the church’s Ministry Center, with a light lunch provided.

Nine years ago Elizabeth Schrader, then known more familiarly as Libbie Schrader, a singer-songwriter in the New York pop scene, wandered into a church garden in Brooklyn to pray to the Virgin Mary when she heard a voice telling her to seek out Mary Magdalene. That was the start of her dedication to discovering who Mary Magdalene really was and why her role in the life of Jesus seemed to have been deliberately downplayed by biblical scribes to minimize her importance.

“It’s not my choice to be working on this,” said Schrader, 39, who left her music career to pursue scholarship. “It happened to me.”

Since that day in the church garden, Schrader has made four trips to the cave in the town of Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume in the south of France, where legend has it that the saint lived out her remaining days after the crucifixion of Jesus. She has studied a 12th Century Greek manuscript in Duke’s library thought to be the oldest near-complete manuscript of the Gospel of John (Papyrus 66), where she purports to have found the word “Maria,” or Mary, with the Greek iota, or “i,” scratched out and replaced with a “th” to change the name to Martha, and her findings have been published in the scholarly journal, Harvard Theological Review.

Schrader’s central discovery, which she wrote about in a paper published by the Harvard Theological Review two years ago, is that Mary Magdalene’s role was deliberately downplayed by biblical scribes to minimize her importance. Schrader argues that the Mary of the original text is Mary Magdalene, not Martha or Martha’s sister, Mary. The two sisters belong to another story in the Gospel of Luke that is not repeated in John’s Gospel. The reason for the change, Schrader said, was that later scribes did not want to give Mary Magdalene too big a role in the events of Jesus’ life. Already Mary Magdalene is at the crucifixion and the empty tomb, and in the Gospel of Luke she is exorcized of seven demons and then travels with Jesus and supplies him the funds needed for his ministry.

Schrader understands her claim is provocative because it could undermine foundational assumptions about the Gospel of John. But, some biblical scholars are intrigued. If you are, visit St. Mark’s Cathedral, Saturday, Jan. 4, at 10 a.m. to hear more.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral is located at 908 Rutherford St. Visit www.stmarkscathedral. net for more information and to find out more about Elizabeth Schrader and her work. To register for the free Elizabeth Schrader event, email jennifer@stmarkscathedral.net or call 318-221-3360.

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