Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Red Egg of Mary Magdalene: Is it a Red Herring?

This Easter's sermon at our church started out as a good affirmation of the Gospel witness that Christ arose from the dead, but as it went on, my mind bgan to wander as we heard stories of surviving cancer being likened to "resurrection" (not exactly of the same significance to the world IMHO). As my mind drifted, the tale of the red Easter egg was recounted. I am not sure if I heard any caveats, and two witnesses likewise do not recall hearing a disclaimer to the story of Mary Magdalene standing in front of the Emperor who said to her that he would no sooner believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead than he would believe that the egg she was holding would turn red, which of course it promptly did.

That story is not in the Bible, and probably should have been prefaced with a clear statement of its folklore status.

In a fruitless quest fior the origins of this folktale, I searched the internet for an ancient fragment of papyrus, something in the writings of Dan Brown, or from the writings of a Church father that might lend some credibility to the story.

Over at Christianity Today, in an article by Anthony McRoy, Fellow of the British Society for Middle East Studies and lecturer in Islamic studies at Wales Evangelical School of Theology, U.K., I only found more stories which add to the confusion,

"One Eastern Orthodox myth presents either Mary Magdalene or Mary, the mother of Jesus, placing a basket of eggs under the cross. The blood of Christ fell on the eggs, turning them red.
According to another tale, Simon of Cyrene was an egg merchant who had to leave his basket of eggs to help Jesus carry the cross. When he returned, he found that his eggs had changed color!"
I consider the red egg story to be a bit of a red herring, distracting us from the real meaning of Easter as the article at Christianity Today rightly concludes,
"Children eagerly anticipate Easter because of the joy that Easter eggs bring. But the joy associated with Easter traditions is dependent upon the celebration of Christ's triumph over death, and the popular anticipation associated with eggs on Easter Sunday must always be surpassed by the greater anticipation that the day celebrates—the assured hope of Christ's return and the general resurrection to come."
I can't wait until Christmas to hear how Rudolph's nose came to be red. It probably has something to do with St. Peter inventing the red plastic Easter egg...


  1. Anonymous5:03 AM

    Thanks for this.

    It has given me an idea for my posts next week. I shall credit yours accordingly.

    Hope you had a good Easter!


    1. I can't wait. Maybe we will finally learn how to properly poach a plastic egg!

    2. pewster,
      Do you mean poach as in pilfer or poach as in cook? There is no proper way to pilfer an egg.

    3. I read the in biography of a Confederate soldier who had to steal eggs from a farmers hen house as he hiked home after the war, and there is a proper way to steal the egg while not causing a noise in the hen house in the midldle of the night. I'll leave it to Churchmouse for the rest of the recipe.