The ABC special Jesus, Mary, and Da Vinci was a fair program about a silly idea, but it illustrates a key distinction Christians need to be mindful of in our efforts to engage this culture.

The recent special walked through the ludicrous idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, that he had children that were shepherded off to the south of France, and that the church suppressed this information because it would undercut Jesus' deity. Furthermore, Mary's reputation as a prostitute was fabricated by church leaders to undercut her influence, and that of women in general, in the early church. The real story was kept by a secret society called "The Priory of Sion," to which many famous Europeans, such as Leonardo da Vinci, belonged. The entire theory is strung out in a novel known as The Da Vinci Code. What caused the stir, at least in part, was the author's claim that the backdrop to his fictitious story is based on the truth.

Anyone familiar with the Bible knows that three facts are clear. First, Mary indeed was not a prostitute. The effort to connect her to the woman who anointed Jesus' feet in Luke 7:36-50 or to Mary of Bethany in John 12 is fraught with difficulty. Second, Mary is introduced to us in Luke 8:1-3 as the beneficiary of an exorcism by Jesus. Third, her only other biblical role is that of witness to the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

The Apostle Mary

When some in the early church called Mary an "apostle to the apostles," the point was not to promote women's ordination (and thus pose a threat to early bishops). The title only meant that she was divinely chosen and sent to the Apostles as bearer of the good news that Jesus was raised. In an era when women were not counted as legal witnesses, ...

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