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The Typology of Mary Magdalene Part II: (Dr. Warren Gage)

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Part II: The Typology of Mary Magdalene

The Bride of Adam as a Type of Mary Magdalene

“My beloved has gone to his garden, to the beds of spices”  Song of Songs 6:2

“And they took the body of Jesus, and bound it with linen strips and spices…Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been laid…Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb”  John 19:40-20:1

John’s Gospel offers a panoramic retelling of the Genesis creation account.  Opening with the unmistakable allusion to the first creation, the evangelist describes a time “in the beginning” of the new creation (J 1:1).  As the Spirit moves through John the Baptist, the Word is spoken, and the Light of the World appears.  But that same Word was now made flesh, and was presented to Israel as True Man, as the New Adam. 

Just as it was not good for the first Adam to be alone, so also once the Word of God became authentically Man, it was not good that He should be alone.  Even though Jesus was the wholly perfect Son of God, once He was made flesh, even He must have a bride.  John the Baptist so understood the coming of Jesus, and therefore he called himself the “friend of the Bridegroom” (J 3:28-29).  By the evangelist’s presentation of Jesus as the New Adam we are challenged to wonder who she will be – who will be the chosen bride “made suitable” for the Son of Glory and the Prince of Heaven?  Who could excel Eve for loveliness as much as Jesus excels Adam in splendor? 

Our expectancy over the identity of the bride of Jesus is aroused to even greater heights as we watch the pattern of the presentation of the bride to Adam replay itself in the Gospel.  Moses had described the wisdom of the Lord God in the creation of the woman through the most tender and sacred of pictures. Father God’s heart was to present the woman as the greatest of all His wonderful gifts to Adam.  So in the mystery of divine wisdom God brought a deep sleep upon Adam.  Although Adam was as yet still innocent, God wounded him, taking from his bloody side the substance from which He would create the woman.  Afterwards God healed Adam’s wound, and awakened His son in the garden to receive his bride in all the purity and beauty of her creation. And so Adam took her to himself and called her woman,” giving her a name of great dignity.

In a similar fashion the beloved evangelist John describes the deep sleep that Father God brought upon His own Son upon the cross.  As Jesus bowed His head in death, He knew that although He too was innocent, nonetheless Father God must wound His side in order that the water and the blood of His body might purchase and purify His bride.  John’s Gospel thus tells us of a New Adam.[1]  Here is One who has left His Father and committed the care of His mother to the beloved disciple, all in order that through the sleep of death He might dream of the beauteous bride that only His loving Father could prepare for Him  – she who would stir all the passions of His heart, she whose love would satisfy His soul, and she who was to know the intimacy of His matchless love for her, like the bride of Adam, by beholding the scars He bore for her (cf. John 20:24-28).[2]

And so we all wait in expectancy, as certainly all of heaven waited in wonder early on that first resurrection morning.  Who will she be?  Who is the chosen one who will represent the Lord’s beloved?  Who will be the lovely one of whom Moses wrote and Solomon sung and all the prophets and apostles were to honor as the new Eve for this New Adam?

In the good providence of Father God, when the New Adam comes forth like the first Adam from the womb of the earth, He beholds the tearful Mary Magdalene waiting by the garden tomb.  His heart is moved in tender mercy, and He speaks comfort to her, saying, “Woman,[3] why are you weeping?”

 The evangelist has us behold this new couple in a pleasant garden.  The first Adam had made a grave of his garden, but the Last Adam has made a garden of His grave.[4]  The evangelist portrays the new Eve through this weeping and forsaken woman of Galilee  –  she who had known the desperation and defilement of the affliction of seven demons.  She who so uniquely knew the great love that could come from great forgiveness.  She who was now so desperate in her sense of loss – it is this tearful Mary who is chosen by Father God to represent the royal and betrothed bride of Jesus, the regal Lord of heaven, and earth’s King of Kings.[5]   Mary has come with her tears and with her spices, offering all that she has.  But her New Adam has no need of spices!  And His beloved Mary will soon recognize her Beloved, and realize that she no longer has need of tears![6]        

Mary of Nazareth as a Type of Mary Magdalene[7]

When we compare the Lord’s first birth in the incarnation with His “second birth” in the resurrection,[8] a beautiful symmetry emerges to frame the earthly life of the Lord.  Although, as we observed, John does not record the facts of Jesus’ first birth, his account of Jesus’ resurrection recalls a number of the circumstances of the incarnation and nativity of the Savior depicted in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, showing that Jesus’ birth had been prophetic of His resurrection.[9]  Let’s rehearse the account of our Lord’s nativity.

The Lord was born to Joseph of Bethlehem and Mary of Nazareth in Galilee.  He was born of a virgin’s womb, for Mary had “known no man” (Luke 1:34). While the conception of Jesus was altogether supernatural, the actual birth of Mary’s Son appears to have been completely natural.  We may justly infer that the sorrow of travail came upon Mary after the manner of women, but that her anguish was remembered no more for joy once this Child was born into the world (cf. John 16:21).  We can imagine that Mary and Joseph would have washed Jesus’ body of the blood of His birth, and we are told that the infant Jesus was bound in swaddling bands.  Then they laid Him in a manger (Luke 2:7).[10]  Suddenly angels appeared from heaven announcing the good news that would foretell peace on earth among men (Luke 2:13-14).

            Now John records the tender words of Jesus spoken to the disciples in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16). Jesus anticipates their grief over His death, comparing their coming sorrow to the travail of a woman in birth.  So to comfort them Jesus said, “Whenever a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world.  Therefore you too now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you” (John 16:21-22).[11] With this in mind, let’s reconsider the resurrection account of the Gospels through an analogical imagination.

The resurrection story centers on a new Mary and Joseph, Joseph of Arimathea and Mary of Magdala in Galilee.[12]  We are told that Jesus was buried after the “custom of the Jews” (John 19:40), so we know that Joseph washed Jesus’ body of the blood of His crucifixion before He was bound in linen bands.  In the background, at a respectful distance, Mary watched[13] as Joseph placed the body of Jesus in a “virgin” tomb cut out of rock, one wherein no man had lain (John 19:41, cf. Luke 23:55).  Mary’s sorrow was deep, not unlike labor pains.  As John relates the story, Mary’s heart was contracting with waves of anguish over her fear that she would no longer see Jesus.  But then suddenly angels appeared from heaven to tell her good news, and her sorrow became indescribable joy as her eyes beheld her precious Lord (John 20:18).[14]  The reminiscences of the birth narrative and Mary of Nazareth are unmistakable.  The redeeming love of heaven had appointed the virgin mother of Jesus to be a type of the restored purity of Mary Magdalene, she whose sorrow was turned into great joy!

The Aaronic Priest as a Type of Mary Magdalene:

Gazing Upon the Beauty of God through the Tears of Mary

It was the special privilege of Israel’s high priest on the day of atonement to enter the most holy place of the tabernacle.  Although the ceremony was quite elaborate, once a year the holiest man in Israel was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies.  This was the sacred place where the ark of the covenant was kept behind the veil.  The holy ark itself was a golden box, two and a half cubits long – about the length of a manSeated over the ark were the figures of two golden cherubim angelsThey sat facing each other, one at the head and the other at the foot upon the cover of the ark.   The cherubim stretched out their wings toward each other over the ark, with their heads bowed as if in wonder at the cover of the ark – the place where God had promised to meet man. (Exod 25:17-22). The ark represented the throne of God who dwelt between the cherubim (Psa 80:1).  Upon the lid of the ark, which was called the mercy seat, the high priest would sprinkle the blood of the atonement, covering the sins of the people.

As the evangelist John describes the morning of the resurrection, he shows us Mary Magdalene weeping before the tomb of Jesus.  Peter and John have come to the tomb already and having seen that it is empty, they returned home.  But Mary’s love will not let Him go.  So she stays behind, weeping because they have taken away her Lord.  As she wept, she stooped to look into the tomb, to the last place where her precious Jesus had rested in death.  Mary sees the grave clothes of Jesus lying there before her, about the length of a man, all sprinkled in blood.  Suddenly she sees “two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the foot, where the body of Jesus had been laid” (J 20:12).  The angels ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping? You are seeking Jesus.  He is not here.  He is risen!”  And stretching out their hands over the grave clothes, they say in wonderment, “Behold where He lay!” (cf. Matt 28:6). 

Imagine the scene.  The grave where Jesus had lain has become the ark of the covenant.  Here is the heavenly mercy seat, with the angels at the head and the foot.  The grave clothes of Jesus, sprinkled with blood, are the place of propitiation.  In other words, Jesus has made the grave, the place of the corruption of sin and death, into the throne of His glory, having triumphed over sin and the grave.  Mary alone is chosen to behold the reality of that which Aaron and the high priests of Israel only saw by shadow.  She is standing in the True Holy of Holies. She is standing before the throne of God, her vision veiled only by her tears. 

In this simple picture of Mary looking into the tomb, the evangelist John gives Mary Magdalene equal dignity with the twenty-four elders who sit around the throne of God in heaven (Rev 4:4).  He compares her privileges to the high priest of Israel, who alone was permitted access to the ark of the covenant, to the place where God had promised to meet man. Surely as Mary Magdalene looked into the tomb, all the redeemed hosts of heaven were singing together in wonder, “You have made us to be a kingdom of priests to our God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen.” 


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[1] If the sleep of Adam in Gen 2:21 is a preview of the death of Christ, then the Scripture is presenting a picture of redemption prior to the necessity of redemption, which arises only after the “fall of man” in Gen 3.  The theology implied by this sensus plenior reading, namely, that the “Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8), is profoundly predestinarian.  

[2]  Eric Auerbach has shown the power of recognition by a scar in his essay “Odysseus’ Scar,” Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (Princeton: The University Press, 1953) 3-23. 

[3]  Jesus addresses Mary twice by the word “woman,” the name of dignity Adam spoke to his bride (Gen 2:23), before He speaks her personal name (John 20:13-16). 

[4] Jesus Himself has become the tree of life in the midst of this new Eden, for to partake of His fruit is to live forever.  He became the tree of life by his death upon the tree where He who was wholly good was made to know our evil.  His resurrection power had been foreshadowed by Aaron’s rod that budded and Jesse’s stump that branched. The bringing forth of life from death, from the priestly rod as well as the royal tree of David, presaged the priest-king who was to have the keys of death and Hades.

[5] The meeting of Jesus and Mary in the garden is a comedic conclusion to the tragedy of the suffering and death of Jesus.  So the Lord speaks to Mary of His ascension to God the Father (John 20:17), anticipating the day when Mary, representing the bride of the Lamb, will descend from God the Father upon her wedding day (Rev 21:9-10). Once again, the endings of John and Revelation are to be read in parallel, as both anticipate the wedding of the Lamb.  The language and setting describing a divine wedding is dithyrambic or lyrical in genre, as the allusions to the Song of Songs demonstrate. (We should also note that the Lord rebukes Mary’s touching Him as being out of season.  Mary’s rebuke is chiastically related to the Lord’s rebuke of Mary His mother at the beginning of John’s Gospel.  In both instances, the two Marys are premature in what their actions signify).  Finally, the resurrection of divine Adam suggest an epic retelling of a new creation.  Consequently, the New Adam, the God-Man, breathes upon his disciples, giving them the Spirit of God, and creating the possibility of a new humanity (John 20:21-22, cf. Gen 2:7).  Similarly, as Louise Cowan has noted, one of the characteristics of epic is to restore the equilibrium between masculine and feminine.  In the great honor Jesus bestows upon Mary Magdalene, a once defiled woman now made suitable to represent a bride for the Son of heaven, we are offered a new vision of the possibility of woman.    

[6] Jesus’ resurrection wipes away the tears of Mary in the garden (J 20:13-16).  This picture at the end of the Gospel is an emblematic preview of the end of Revelation, when the Lamb will wipe away the tears of His bride (R 21:4).  Moreover, the portrayal of Mary, who had been defiled by seven demons, in the role of a new Eve expresses a redemption in the Gospel that parallels the salvation of the whore of Babylon who becomes the bride of Christ in Revelation.  Both of these Johannine books correspond in their comic ending, anticipating a glorious redemption concluding in a divine wedding.  These patterns constitute a part of the balance between the parallel stories of John’s two great books.  They sustain a perfect equipoise.

[7] We have already seen examples of the typological use of the OT by the OT in the “wife-sister” narratives.  We have also noted the typological use of the OT by the NT. Similarly, we are now examining the typological use of the NT by the NT.  Clearly typology is a broadly occurring canonical phenomenon.

[8] Unlike the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Gospel of John does not include a narrative of the birth of Jesus.  This is probably because John’s emphasis in the opening of his Gospel is the eternality of the uncreated Son of God, the One who was in the beginning with God” (John 1:2).  But John does give an account of the “nativity” of Jesus in chapter 12 of the Revelation.  This depiction is as follows:

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and pain to give birth.  And another sign appeared in heaven; and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.  And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven, and threw them to the earth.  And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour the child.  And she gave birth to a son, a male child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to his throne” (Rev 12:1-5).

While John’s language in this passage is symbolic, its general intent is quite clear.  The child that is born is Jesus, who ascends into heaven to the throne of His Father.  After the ascension Jesus assumes royal authority over all the nations to “rule them with a rod of iron” (Psa 2:9).  The Lord’s Davidic and kingly authority is His by right and title because He has been “born” of God: “Thou art My Son.  Today I have begotten Thee” (Psa 2:7).  In other words, Jesus’ kingdom authority rests upon the fact that He has been “begotten” by Father God in the resurrection from the grave. The resurrection of Jesus is thus a kind of birth story.  It is an account of our Savior’s being “born again” in a new nativity.  In His first birth Jesus was born of a woman.  But in this second birth from the tomb, Jesus was uniquely begotten by Father God.

[9] John assumes his reader’s familiarity with the synoptic Gospels.  For example, he does not provide a nativity story like Matthew and Luke that would have answered the charge that Jesus was not from Bethlehem, the city of David (John 7:42).  Without this dependence on the synoptics, the Johnannine Messianic claims of Jesus would be decisively defeated.  Moreover, the pattern of John’s nativity typology assumes a familiarity with the Bethlehem nativity account. 

[10] Mangers in Syro-Palestine were made of hollowed out limestone blocks, as observed from the royal stables at Megiddo dating from the ninth century B.C. Cf. Luke 23:53.

[11] It seems clear that the twelve disciples represent the faith community that suffers travail like that of a woman about to give birth as they see their Savior suffer death.  The disciples of Jesus are like the woman crowned with twelve stars who labors to bring forth the Child (Rev 12:1).

[12] It is noteworthy that the two Josephs and the two Marys are chiastically contrastive.  One Joseph is poor; the other is rich.  One Mary is pure, but suffers the loss of her reputation for purity because of Jesus.  The other Mary had been impure, but Jesus had restored her purity.  Morally, she had been made a “virgin” again, one worthy to “beget” the Lord Jesus in her heart!  In other words, all kinds of people, regardless of their social or moral position, are welcomed into the family of faith to have a relationship with Jesus!

[13] Matthew’s Gospel presents an elaborate New Moses typology.  In one slight detail, Matthew gives us a different perspective on Mary Magdalene’s role in the typological understanding of the apostles.  The evangelist describes Mary (Miriam is the Greek for Mary) watching the events of Jesus’ death and burial “from afar” (makrothen …Miriam).  This detail recalls Miriam, the sister of Moses, who watched from afar to see what should happen to the infant set upon the waters in an ark.  In the Exodus account, Miriam watches from a distance as the child, who was under the sentence of death, was lifted up in one hour to become the son of the royal house.  In Matthew’s Gospel, Mary (Miriam) is watching from afar as the New Moses is suffering under the sentence of death.  By so describing Mary, the evangelist anticipates the hour when Jesus will be lifted up to sit at the right hand of God on High.

     The evangelist has described the Lord’s love for woman through the figures of Eve, Mary of Nazareth, and Miriam.  His love is thus transcendent.  It is at once spousal, maternal, and sororal.  It will also be sacerdotal, as we shall see.

[14] The pattern of correspondences between the birth of Jesus as recounted in Matthew and Luke and the resurrection of Jesus as described by John demonstrate that truly the Lord is sovereign over history as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last (Rev 22:13).

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