McCarthy, A. (2012). Jesus the Gardener – a View of the Garden Scene Through Text and Image. 5th Annual “Sharing Theological Passions”.
Our previous speaker, Jim Cregan, has given us a rich view of the notion of the Royal Gardener, the cosmic gardener, and the understanding that the gardener image is not simply a way of suggesting that Mary Magdalen was very confused, but rather the evangelist of the Fourth Gospel presenting us with a very rich symbol of the Risen Christ. From the garden of Eden, to the garden of Gethsemane and then to the garden of Paradise, the power of the symbol is there. As Jim noted, the allegorical motif of Jesus as the ‘cosmic gardener’ “achieved prominence in the Middle Ages but had its origins in much earlier Christian homiletics.” Katherine Jansen maintains that the reason for the popularity of this particular scene in the middle ages was the development of the cult of the Magdalen. This cult was powerfully developed by Dominican and Franciscan preachers who saw the Magdalen as the perfect penitent. Jansen has worked extensively on original sermons from the period not only to understand the voice of the institutional church as relayed through homiletic discourse, but she also found that the preachers responded to their audience’s feedback and hence the voice of the people can be heard as well. Mary Magdalen was not a penitent prostitute. This misconception possibly originates in Gregory the Great’s homily in 591 where he identified the unknown woman sinner in Luke’s gospel as Mary Magdalen. Hence the artworks that we have all identify her through her attributes (personally meaningful symbols), emblems (generic symbols) and symbols as the penitent prostitute.
While Jim limited his chosen pericope to verses 14-15, this paper explores the garden imagery from John 20:11-18 because the art through which this text will be viewed in some instances includes imagery relating to verses 11-18.