Book Review: “Magdalene”

Magdalene, by Angela Elwell Hunt, has quickly become one of my favorite books, and one of the best books I’ve ever read.  As you might guess, it is a fictionalized account of the life of Mary Magdalene, and follows her story (or what her story might have been), from her life in Magdala before she met Christ, until her death years after Christ called her by name in the garden, and then later ascended into heaven.

I read this book for the first time about a year ago, and I was struck by the balance of justice and mercy in the book. I won’t spoil the end, but I will say that it was neither cheap (too much mercy), nor was it completely heart-breaking (too much justice).  The whole book dealt with these two concepts, and in the end, they were blended beautifully, in a way I never would have conceived of at the beginning.

I just finished my second time through with this book last month, and while I am still floored by the ending, I also discovered that I really enjoyed the way the Jews (particularly Mary Magdalene) were portrayed as they were waiting for their Savior.  I have long understood that the Jews were looking for a military leader to save them from their Roman oppressors, which is why so many of them ended up being disappointed in Jesus, but this book really made me think about why they may have seen Jesus at that kind of Savior at first.

Because of the miracles they saw Him perform, they may have thought that He could feed a whole army on next to nothing (the feeding of the 5,000), He could heal injured soldiers (all of the various healings He accomplished), He could even resurrect the members of their army that had died (raising Lazarus).  There’s no way for sure of knowing if this was their line of reasoning, but it does make sense, and I could understand why, after seeing so many types of miracles, they might have thought that Jesus was the military leader they were hoping and waiting for.

I love reading Biblical fiction because it makes me get out my Bible, look for what in the story is true and what is false, as well as what we just don’t know for sure.  It invariably makes me think about a Bible story or portion of the Bible in a new way, and really search for the truth.  Magdalene was no exception–I thought, compared, learned and considered some new ways of looking at things.  Five stars from me–checked it out from the library, and later ended up buying it!

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