One of my treasured books is called Easter Enigma. My copy has an inscription to Jane and me, dated 24.2.84. It was reprinted in 2005 (2005 edition) with a new cover. It was written by my late dad, and is about the apparent contradictions between the five accounts of Jesus' resurrection. As someone put it, it's drawn from first-hand, on-the-ground investigation. Dad was not scared of thinking outside the box. In Chapter 2 he looks at the first witness, Mary Magdalene - whose saint's day is this Friday. He argues, convincingly in my opinion, that we actually learn more about her than just those times she's given the Magdalene tag (meaning "from the town of Magdala", on the west of Lake Galilee). She's also the sinner who washes Jesus' feet with her tears, and Mary, younger sister of Lazarus and Martha.
It's certainly a view shared by those who understand character such as novelists, film-makers and artists, if not by over-learned academics. Clearly the Preraphaelite artist Frederick Sandys shared the view as his picture painted at the end of the 1850s shows her holding a jar of "very precious ointment" (perfumed oil). It also, of course, depicts her with long red hair - as was traditional from medieval times. I don't know the significance of that. The Bible doesn't mention it, though it does mention her letting her hair down to wipe Jesus' feet - a culturally disreputable practice. My dad suggests that the sensitive and intuitive Mary left the dull suburban home in Bethany to find some excitement near the new royal city of Tiberias. "We should probably not think of her as a street prostitute, but as a person of poise and charm whose favours were sought by the upper ranks of society." Anyway she becomes stigmatised as a notorious "sinner", whom no self-respecting rabbi should let near him. But Jesus has already had contact with her and released her from both guilt and what's been driving her in a self-destructive pursuit of influence and pleasure. Her modus vivendi becomes quite different, but her ultimate influence far exceeds her suburban dreams, as he gives her the most historic scoop of all time, his first face-to-face interview after his death and resurrection, and commissions her to break a news story that will run and run.
I imagine most people have written Rebekah Brooks (née Wade) off by now as an icon of the worst of unethical journalism - which is pretty low on the current scale of morality, a rung or two above paedophiles perhaps. And it's true that horrendous things were carried out under her editorship, it seems. And yet... Jesus would not have written her off. There's a human story there - this Lancashire girl, state-school educated, with dreams to be a journalist, travelling to Paris for further study and experience, starting work at 20 on a very short-lived Warrington paper and then going to Wapping to work as a newsdesk secretary. By the time she's 32 she's worked her way up to become the youngest editor of a national weekly. In 2003, aged 35, she's the first female editor of The Sun. In 2009 she's the Chief Executive of the whole shooting match, News International - neighbour and friend of the Prime Minister, who, along with his two predecessors, was a guest at her second marriage. And now on 17th July 2011, resigned as CEO, attacked on all sides in Parliament, she's arrested on "
|Fra Angelico's "Noli me tangere"|