Despite many claims to the contrary, it is not at all clear that Mary’s nickname, “the Magdalene,” indicates that she was from a place called Magdala, which simply means “the tower” in Aramaic. In a recent article I wrote with Elizabeth Schrader, we looked at how the name “Magdalene” was understood in early Christian writings.1 We discovered that some authors indeed thought the term indicated Mary’s provenance from a village called Magdala or Magdalene (see, e.g., Origen, Series Commentary on Matthew 141; Eusebius, Ad Marinum 2.9), but they did not seem to know where it was, while others thought of it as a nickname indicating that Mary was a “tower” of faith (see Jerome, Epistles 127).

Debate about the name continued through the centuries, even as some Western pilgrims began to visit the Galilean site of Magdala. But even for those early Christian writers like Origen and Eusebius who considered “Magdala” as Mary’s place of origin, none associated it with an important city on the shores of the Sea of Galilee—and certainly not with Taricheae. Mary was identified as a simple, village woman from some obscure location, a notion that would fit Migdal Nunayya on the outskirts of Tiberias, but other places as well. As such, while we might well stop, pause, and remember her at modern Magdala, we must also remember that ancient Taricheae was almost certainly not her birthplace.