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The Historical Mary Goes to Church

April 28–29, 2017
Asheville, North Carolina

Much attention has been given to the historical Jesus of Nazareth, but what about the historical Mary of Magdala? In the rise of Christianity, some held that Mary was the person closest to Jesus, that she was a true Apostle, and that her understanding of the gospel was an authentic path of knowledge. The Gospel of Mary rejects the suffering of Jesus in favor of wisdom and inner light. What can we know about the historical Mary and communities that revered her as a prophet and emissary of the kingdom of God? Can we take the historical Mary to church?

ShellyMatthews photo

Shelly Matthews (ThD, Harvard Divinity School) is Professor of New Testament at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. She is an author and contributor to numerous books and articles, most recently The Acts of the Apostles: Taming Tongues of Fire (2013).

Photo of Perry Kea

Perry Kea (Ph.D., University of Virginia) is Associate Professor of biblical studies at the University of Indianapolis, Indiana. A Fellow of the Jesus Seminar since 1987, he currently serves as Chair of the Westar Institute Board of Directors.

Program Details

Mary Magdalene: Setting the Record Straight

In a recent mass-marketed movie, Risen (Feb 2016), the joke among a group of Roman soldiers is that they have all had sex with Mary Magdalene. The movie perpetuates a nearly 2000-year-old slander of Mary, unsupported by historical sources. This lecture considers both what can be known from ancient sources and the question of why the sexual slandering of Mary continues into modern times. (Matthews)
Friday evening, 7:30–9 pm

Nagging Questions from Nag Hammadi

The discovery of ancient Christian texts at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, has considerably broadened our understanding of the contours of early Christianity. Why were these documents buried in the ground, and what options for being Christian were buried along with them? During this segment, we sample several of these texts in order to hear their concerns and hopes. (Kea)
Saturday, 9:30–10:30 am

Reclaiming Mary and the Wo/men she represents

In this hour, we consider research avenues that would bring Mary from the margins to the center of scholarship on Christian beginnings. We will also ask companion questions about how the church of the 21st century might incorporate that research into their communal practices, such as in their worship, study, advocacy and visions for common life. (Matthews)
Saturday, 11 am – noon

Varieties of Christianity: Some Surprises from Antiquity

Ancient Christian practice and belief were more diverse than many imagine. What would a Christianity without the Old Testament look like? Or a Christianity that rejected marriage and family? Or a Christianity that embraced female leadership? During this session, we examine some of the variety that existed among early Christian groups. (Kea)
Saturday, 1:30–2:30 pm

Open Forum

A question and answer period with Shelly Matthews and Perry Kea.
Saturday, 3–4 pm


Brooks-Howell Home

Local Contact and Information

All events at:

Brooks-Howell Home
266 Merrimon Ave.
Asheville, NC 28801

For local information, contact:

Brewier Welch


All Sessions

  • Individual Rate $75
  • Pre-registration Rate (by April 14) $60
  • Additional Family Members $50

Single Sessions

  • Friday Evening Lecture $20
  • Saturday Morning Workshop $30
  • Saturday Afternoon Workshop $30

Refunds are available until two weeks before the event if requested in writing, minus a $10 administrative fee. No refunds will be given after that date.