Validating the Gospel of “Jesus’ Wife” is not Necessary to Prove Female Discipleship by Michele Stopera Freyhauf
The Gospel of “Jesus’ Wife” is certainly at the center of a battle that was last seen when questions of authenticity were raised about the James (Jesus’ brother) ossuary. In a New York Times article, September 30th, Judith Levitt states that this document adds weight to theological and historical flaws surrounding the issue of the ordination of women. The Vatican believes that their theology is still sound, calling the document a forgery.Frankly we do not need this document to validate the existence of female deacons and disciples – we have the biblical text and writings of the early church to validate this position.
Nor do we need this document to show that the standing from the Vatican’s point of view of ordaining women is theologically and historically flawed.
“In 1976, experts of the Pontifical Biblical Commission determined that there were no scriptural reasons preventing women’s ordination. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith overturned the commission’s judgment and instead wrote its own statement (Inter Insigniores, 1976) stating that women do not image Jesus who was a man; and therefore only male priests can adequately represent Christ.” – Women’s Ordination Conference
John Ortberg, in the Huffington Post, addressed a bigger issue surrounding female leadership in the Church brilliantly:
“perhaps what matters most in this discussion is the impact Jesus had — not on one woman — but on the status of women as a whole.”
To support this statement, Ortberg points out the following points:
- “The longest discussion Jesus is recorded as having with an individual is with a woman (even further an “ethnically other” Samaritan), where he treats her with dignity and respect.
- He teaches women as well as men; has them travel with him in his community, and even fund his ministry without offending his male ego.
- Women are the first witnesses to the resurrection and pillars of the early church.
- Widows, who were fined by Rome for out-living their husbands and being a drag on the economy, were cared for by the early church who remembered one of Jesus’ last acts was to make sure his mother would be cared for after his death.
- This influence of Jesus led the apostle Paul to write that in Christ there is neither male nor female, a statement historian Thomas Cahill called the first egalitarian expression in the history of literature.”
Then he asks a profound question:
“Is it possible that our world has still not caught up to Jesus?”
Clearly, the arguments against ordaining women are rooted in “tradition.” However, Catholic tradition, as it were, is not stagnant, but constantly changing. Priests, even Popes were married in the early Church (even St. Peter, the first Pope was married).
In the early Christianity, celebration of Eucharist occurred in “Church” houses – led by women. Relics and mosaics were discovered indicating that women were Presbyteras and Episcopas (priests and bishops). Texts exist confirming this position – even an epistle written by Pope Gelasius I.
The arguments against ordaining women are simply short-sided and not valid. Moreover, if we root ordination in Christ’s image, by Paul’s very definition of Christ – neither male nor female (Galatians 3:28) – does gender really matter?
The harsh judments being handed out by the Vatican against women who become ordained or people who support female ordination do not make sense – they are skewed and biased.
Would Jesus consider ordaining women as priests a “grave crime” – a category also reserved for pedophiles? Women who become priests are automatically excommunicated (their very act of becoming ordained is considered self-excommunication).
Was the punishment and judgment doled out equally against pedophiles in the Church?
Were they automatically excommunicated for their acts against children?
It is time to level the playing field and stop denying the existence of women in leadership positions in the Church – if you want to rest on tradition, then shall we return to the first – fifth century? If so, then ordaining women is no longer at issue, but an action.
Certainly the controversy over the validity of the Gospel of “Jesus’ wife” will reign on, but the controversy over validation of women as disciples, deacons, and yes, even priests, need to stop.
Michele Stopera Freyhauf is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University. She has a Master of Arts Degree from John Carroll University in Theology and Religious Studies, performed post-graduate work in History focusing on Gender, Religion, and Sexuality at the University of Akron, and is an Adjunct Instructor in the Religious Studies Department at Ursuline College. Her full bio is on the main contributor’s page or at http://durham.academia.edu/MSFreyhauf. Michele can be followed on twitter at @MSFreyhauf.