Saying #114 / c

[114]. Simon Peter says to them: “Let Mary go out from our midst, for women are not worthy of life!” Jesus says: “See, I will draw her so as to make her male so that she also may become a living spirit like you males. For every woman who has become male will enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

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Two of the Jesus Seminar guys, RW Funk and Roy Hoover write of this saying ….. “Jesus is not suggesting a sex-change operation, but is using ‘male’ and ‘female’ metaphorically to refer ot the higher and lower aspects of human nature. Mary is thus to undergo a spiritual transformation from her earthly, material, passionate nature (which the evangelist equates with the female) to a heavenly, spiritual, intellectual nature (which the evangelist equates with the male). This transformation may possibly have involved ritual acts or ascetic practices.” (The Five Gospels, p. 532)

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Larry mentioned the gnostic Gospel of Mary … in this gospel, the male disciples despair over spreading the “good news” of Jesus, but Mary says … “Let us rather praise his greatness, for he prepared us and made us into men.” Peter disagrees with her in this gospel, as he does in Thomas #114, and he says … “Did he then speak secretly with a woman, in preference to us, and not openly? Are we to turn back and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?”
Peter obviously had some issues 🙂

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This saying brings up the subjects of the role of women in the early church and in the New Testament and in society in general at that time. A great page of very helpful links – Jesus and Women. For those who want to learn more about Mary Magdalene, the disciple to whom the risen Jesus first appeard (John 20), and who was later tarnished in reputation by the church fathers, see Wikipedia for a start.

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4 responses

  1. Crystal, Thank you for providing this background information. I find it very helpful, yet, being a woman, naturally I still have a great deal of difficulty with this passage. I keep nudging myself to read it metaphorically, and not to take issue with the overt sexism. Somehow, however, even “the higher and lower aspects of human nature” explanation does not help me to feel any connection to this scripture.

  2. Hi Meredith. I agree with you – as a woman, I find this saying offensive. I don’t know much about the social standing of women at this time/place, but I’m going to read up on it. From the little I do know, it seems Jesus was unusually accepting in his attitude towards women … obviously the male disciples lagged behind him.

  3. The general age old myth held that the male sky god concerned spirit and the female earth god concerned matter.I can’t help feeling that Jesus may have had his tongue-in-cheek when he said this. It’s very clear that he was miles ahead of the people he was talking to. He was fully aware of their endemic chauvinism although he didn’t share it.Have you ever heard a bright person use a stupid friend’s stupid language to turn his thinking about something? That’s a pretty common way that gifted people relate to the backward. I get the feeling Jesus used that ploy frequently in his conversation with his so slow disciples. Maybe Christ still does.

  4. I have to thank you, Larry, for pointing me in the direction of this gnostic stuff, particularly the gospel of Mary. I’ve been reading more about the subject and I think it’s not just intellectually interesting, but it may touch on some problems I’ve been having with my prayer-life. BTW, for those interested in links on women and early christianity, here’s another page, this one from the NT Gateway site … link

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