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.

The Gospel of “Jesus’ Wife.” [www.boston.com]

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.

    Mary Magdalene

  • 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?

From the Community of St. Bridget’s Blog

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.

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Categories: Abuse of Power, Catholic Church, Catholicism, Church Doctrine, Community, Feminism, Feminist Theology, Gender and Power, General, Hierarchy, Jesus, Reform, Sex Abuse Crisis, Vatican, Women and Ministry, Women in the Church, Women's Ordination, Women's Rights

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5 replies

  1. The interesting thing about the “Jesus was male so priests have to be male argument” is that Jesus wasn’t male; at least not in the way we understand it. Lavinia Byrne argues in “Women at the Altar” that, as no human male was involved in the conception of Christ, then Jesus had to be made completely of Mary’s DNA, and so on a genetic level would have been female despite having male anatomy. This is just another example of how God, and Christ, fully transcend any understanding of gender that we have, and especially the narrow gender binary we have constantly forced upon us.

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  2. Jesus’ impact on women in his lifetime is worth noting. When religions are in the start up stage, women get all kinds of authority, but as they become institutionalized women get marginalized.
    And really, we’d have to see what the Caanonites were doing, and the goddess cultures that were being attacked by the new male gods of that time.

    Why anyone would say that a wife of Jesus would impact whether women could be ordained catholic priests is beyond me. It’s like saying Anne Romney can have any affect on her husbands womanhating condescending ways. Wives just play a roll in patriarchy of trying to validate their corrupt husbands… Schwartznegger anyone. So this is illogical to say the least.
    Go back to Irving Wallace’s “The Word”– the 1960s version of yet another papyrus fragment comes to light… Da Vinci Code anyone?

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  3. The teachings of Jesus were radical and revolutionary in their time. Part of his mission was to restore the Sacred Feminine as demonstrated by his baptism by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was a champion of women and taught and modeled, in his own life, the perfect balance of the masculine and feminine energies. Jesus and Mary Magdalene were a couple and the outward representation of the masculine and feminine balance. Jesus spoke about his Heavenly Father and his Heavenly Mother. These teachings were very threatening to the patriarchal religions of the time. Some groups, following the true teachings of Jesus, had male and female leaders and teachers, but the group that eventually became the Roman Church was aligned with the patriarchal culture and refused women the right to participate in a ministerial role. The Roman Church was formed as a masculine oriented organization determined to put men, and men only, in positions of power. Consequently, lost to Christians was the concept of sacred union and sacred marriage, which had originally been at the heart of the Jesus teachings. Instead Jesus was falsely represented as a single celibate male. In alignment with the patriarchal culture of the day, women were considered to be unclean and inferior, and sex was considered to be sinful, thus keeping women subjugated for millennia.
    Mary Magdalene had to be removed from the picture, since she had been in a position of power in the Jesus circle, healing, casting out demons, and being an apostle to the apostles. Of the many early Christian manuscripts circulating at the time, Constantine chose only four to be in the official bible and proceeded to edit out Mary Magdalene whenever possible erasing nearly all references of her relationship with Jesus, and obscuring the presence of the female disciples. The texts not chosen were declared heretical and subject to be burned along with many of their owners.
    The final blow to Mary Magdalene’s status was Pope Gregory’s sermon in 591 c.e. in which he stated she was a prostitute, associating her with another woman in the Bible, thereby sealing her fate. It was likely the Essenes who buried some of the so called heretical texts in an attempt to save them from being burned. But things are hidden so they can later be revealed. Now, at the beginning of the Aquarian age, these texts, or Gnostic Gospels as they are called, have been found, and reveal a different story than the one that the Church has presented for all of this time. Jesus is shown to have a close, personal, and special relationship with Mary Magdalene. She is called his “consort” and he is said to kiss her often.
    These Gospels are becoming more and more accepted as they are read and discussed around the world. Ultimately, the result will be a blessing to the spiritual evolution of humanity. Eventually we will begin to think in terms of the goodness of female sexuality and reclaim the spiritual initiation of the bridal chamber, the hieros gamos, as Jesus, the Bridegroom, once taught. Perhaps in time the balance of the yin/yang, the masculine/ feminine will be restored and men and women will know true equality. As we open our hearts and minds to the sacred union of our Father/Mother God, let us also open our hearts and minds to the sacred union of the masculine and feminine here on earth as Jesus so clearly modeled for us. As above so below.
    The other part, of course, is that each of us embody the masculine and the feminine. A woman’s unconscious masculine being the animus, and a man’s unconsciousness feminine being the anima. Our personal psychological healing and wholeness depends upon our ability to integrate both our masculine and feminine sides. Some say we cannot achieve the highest levels of spiritual initiation until we embrace both sides. When we honor both the masculine and the feminine within ourselves, within our culture, and in our God, then we find wholeness (holiness).
    Certainly we cannot achieve healing at a planetary level until we reclaim feminine values, respect Mother Earth, and restore women to their rightful place as equals with men. Mary Magdalene and the truth of who she was will help us to know women as spiritual teachers, to know sexuality as sacred, and to know sacred union as a spiritual reality.
    I remain,
    Marcella Lively
    Evergreen, Colorado

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  1. Mysteria Misc. Maxima: October 12th, 2012 « Invocatio

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