” While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure spikenard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted?……..
There is little historical information about Mary Magdalene, in the New Testament or elsewhere. The earliest documents of the New Testament are the letters of the Apostle Paul, and he does not mention Mary Magdalene. In the canonical Gospels we find a strangely inconsistent portrait, and one that is still hotly debated by scholars. Is Mary Magdalene the same as Mary of Bethany? Is she the one who anoints Jesus with the spikenard? If she isn’t then the famous alabaster jar is not hers. Conflated as the traditional portrait may be, the Gospels claim that she was a follower of Jesus who very likely supported his ministry financially, and that she was healed by him of some mysterious illness. Her most famous appearances are at the foot of the Cross, and most importantly, at the empty tomb on Easter morning. With eleven male disciples, it is Mary Magdalene, in each of the four gospels, who is given the singular honor of announcing the Good News of Resurrection. This bare skeleton of a story is what is left to us in the canonical Gospels. A much different, and most would say a much more complete picture, emerges from the Gnostic manuscripts Here Mary Magdalene is not just a follower of Jesus, or even a supporter. She is his beloved companion, and a disciple who understands when the others do not; who teaches and interprets, and receives her own visions of the Risen Lord.
What was it about Mary Magdalene that created such a carefully edited story in the Gospels, and yet has fanned so much interest down through the centuries? Tracing this fascinating history, Margaret Starbird’s The Woman With the Alabaster Jar offers us a road map through history, art and the esoteric.