Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and the Sinful Woman of Luke 7: The Same Person?

Publication Date
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Peer Review Status

Used by permission: Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies

At the time of writing Grenville Kent was affiliated with Wesley Institute.


This article argues that Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and the sinful woman in Luke 7 should be identified as one and the same, as long held by Christian tradition but recently challenged. Comparison of the four Gospel narratives of Christ’s anointing reveals numerous details supporting this identification and none contradicting it. For privacy and security reasons the synoptics may have suppressed Mary’s identity, backstory and hometown of Bethany, linking her instead to Magdala, her temporary workplace. John, writing later, can reveal more. Sustained literary motifs also build a consistent characterisation. An intriguing story emerges which, far from discrediting Mary from influence or ministry, honours a woman called by Christ to be an apostle even to the apostles and an eyewitness to his resurrection and transformative grace, the essence of his message. This reading recognises sexism in Christian history even from the first but critiques it, affirming egalitarianism.

Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, “sinful woman”, women, sexism, women’s ordination

Kent, G. (2010). Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and the sinful woman of Luke 7: The same person? Journal of Asia Adventist Seminary, 13(1), 13-28.

International Standard Serial Number
International Standard Book Number