Most scholars agree that the verses
9-16 at the end of Mark were probably
not written by the original author.
Mark's gospel, for whatever reason,
ended abruptly at 16:8. Someone found
that totally unsatisfactory and added
a better ending, borrowing most of
the ideas from others. If this is
true, then the author borrowed this
idea from Luke 8:1,2 where it states:
1 "And it came to pass afterward,
that [Jesus] went throughout every
city and village, preaching and shewing
the glad tidings of the kingdom of
God: and the twelve were with him,"
2 "And certain women, which had
been healed of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary called Magdalene, out of whom
went seven devils." (KJV)
Because these verses come immediately
after the story of the dinner at Simon
the Pharisee's house, where a woman
washed Jesus' feet with her tears,
people have long connected them. Many
assume that the woman who washed Jesus'
feet, though unnamed, is really Mary
Magdalene. It's a stretch and one
that scholars are becoming increasingly
uncomfortable with. So for now, let's
assume that all we know about
Mary Magdalene is that seven devils
were cast out of her.
Most commentators agree that this
is an indication of the severity of
her problem, whatever her problem
was. Usually demon possession related
to mental illness or aberrant physical
behavior, but was not necessarily
a morality issue. So there is no reason
to suggest that she had previously
been immoral. It's simply a way of
saying her problem was severe. Now,
in point of fact, the "seven"
could suggest that she had been cured
of seven different illnesses either
all at once or on seven different
occasions. And sometimes "seven"
refers symbolically to "completeness."
In that case, the author would be
saying that she was totally filled
up with demons, and he is then highlighting
the remarkable nature of Jesus' cure.
We can rejoice in that and be grateful
for it, but to go beyond that would
be to engage in sheer speculation.
Mary Jane Chaignot