Noli Me Tangere/ Touch Me Not

A musing in times of Corona.

NOLI ME TANGERE || Social distancing of Biblical proportions.

In the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene is credited as the first witness to the resurrection. Intending to anoint Jesus’ body, Mary Magdalene instead finds an empty tomb. She feels lost, crying. Behind her, a voice asks: why are you weeping? Who are you looking for? Mary Magdalene mistakes the man for a gardener and asks him where the body is. The man calls her name: Mary, and she recognizes him: Rabboeni! (master), she says, reaching out to him. Touch me not, Jesus says, for I have not ascended to my Father, who is also your Father.

The Latin translation of touch me not, Noli Me Tangere, has incited a rich artistic tradition. Often the moment Jesus holds off Mary Magdalene’s touch is represented. This is not an outright rejection, as much as an invitation. In his state of transition between earth and heaven, Jesus makes a blessing gesture and asks Mary Magdalene for her spiritual understanding. He also tells her to spread the word of the resurrection to his followers. As such, Mary Magdalene has received the honorary title Apostle of the Apostles.


Image: Christ appears to Mary Magdalene, design by Albrecht Dürer (BMH g2.31). Collection Museum Catharijneconvent.

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