> What remains in this argument is a rationale for the use of the
> male pronoun in making reference to the BD. If the BD was Mary
> of Bethany, why does the narrative consistently refer to her as
> "he" or "him?" I suspect that one possible answer to this question
> may be found in the Gospel of Thomas (114) where "women are
> said by Simon Peter to be unworthy of life; Jesus responds that
> they can become 'male.'" (Jane Schaberg, The Resurrection of
> Mary Magdalene, Continuum, 2002, p. 138
Dear Tom Butler:
GTh 114 reads, "Simon Peter said to them, 'Let Mary leave us, for women are
not worthy of Life.' Jesus said, 'I myself shall lead her in order to make
her male, so that she too may become a living pneuma resembling you males.
For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of
I suggest that this passage reflects a conceptual universe alien to the
Johannine conceptual universe. So, I do not think that it lends support to
the idea that the BD is a female despite being referred to as a male.
In some circles of early Christianity, there was the idea that a human being
consists of three things.
The first is the pneuma. This is the rational element of one's soul and it
is immortal. It is the Adam, made after the Image of God.. As such,
it is the inner man. As will be pointed out later in this post, it appears
that this is pneuma spoken of in GTh 114.
The second is the psyche. It is the irrational element of one's soul and
it is also found in animals. It is mortal. It is Eve and, as such, is the
The third is sarx/swma. It is mortal. It is the Adam made out of
dust. As such, it is the outer man.
The classic portrayal of a human being as these three things is found in I
Thess. 5:23, "May the God of peace sanctify you wholly, and may your whole
pneuma and psyche and swma be preserved blameless,..".
Another classic portrayal of a human being as these three things is found
in Mark 14:32-42--where Jesus speaks about how his psyche is sorrowful unto
death and states that the pneuma is willing, but the sarx is weak. His
irrational psyche is in sorrow over his impending death, but his rational
pneuma is ready for it. His sarx/swma sides with his psyche.
The pneuma can both receive and enter into the psyche.
When the immortal pneuma receives the mortal psyche, the mortal psyche
merges into the immortal pneuma. and, thereby, becomes immortal herself.
When this happens, the pneuma then both receives and enters into the Pneuma.
Conversely, when the immortal pneuma enters into the mortal psyche, it
merges into the mortal psyche and, thereby, becomes mortal himself.. When
this happens, then the psyche, in turn, merges into the sarx/swma.
See GTh 7, "Blessed is the lion which becomes man when consumed by man; and
cursed is the man whom the lion consumes, and the lion becomes man."
Blessed is the psyche which enters into and merges into the inner man (i.e.,
the pneuma), for she comes to share in the immortality of the pneuma, but
cursed is the inner man (i.e., pneuma) which enters into and merges into the
psyche--who, in turn, then enters into and merges into the outer man (i.e.,
the sarx/swma)--for he has lost his immortality.
Also see I Cor.2:12-3: where the pneumatikos man who knows the things of the
Pneuma has a soul where the psyche has entered into and merged into the
pneuma (making his whole soul, in a significant sense, pure pneuma)--with
the whole soul, then, both receiving and entering into Pneuma; but the
psychikos man of the sarx has a soul where the pneuma has entered into
and merged into the psyche (making his whole soul, in a significant sense,
pure psyche)--with the whole soul, then, entering into and merging into the
Also relevant to the discussion is GPhilip (68), "When Eve was still in Adam
death did not exist. When she was separated from him death came into being.
If he again becomes complete and attains his former self, death will be no
more." When Eve (i.e., the psyche) is merged into Adam (i.e., the pneuma),
then one's soul is immortal. The fall, then, comes when the psyche is no
longer a part of the pneuma--this fall being the first step in the
progression that continues with the merger of pneuma into the psyche and
ends with the merger of psyche into the sarx/swma. However, if the
progression can be reversed, so that she can be merged back into pneuma,
then one's soul will again be immortal.
One final thought: that is, the Pneuma is the Kingdom (Basileia). See
GMatthew 12:28, "But if it is by the Pneuma of God that I cast out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you." Therefore, as the Pneuma can
be both received by and entered into by the pneuma, the Kingdom can be both
within oneself and exterior to oneself. As it is said in GTh 2c, "Rather,
the Kingdom is inside of you and it is outside of you."
Let us now re-look at GTh 114, "Simon Peter said to them, 'Let Mary leave
us, for women are not worthy of Life.' Jesus said, 'I myself shall lead her
in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living pneuma
resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter
the Kingdom of Heaven.'"
Here, I suggest, Mary is, initally, a woman in two senses: (1) in a bodily
sense, and (2) in the sense of having a whole soul that is the feminine
psyche, i.e. a whole soul in which the male pneuma has been absorbed by the
female psyche. Also, the male disciples are male in two senses: (1) in a
bodily sense, and (2) in the sense of having a whole soul that is the
masculine pneuma, i.e., a whole soul in which the female psyche has been
absorbed by the male pneuma.. Jesus' statement, I further suggest, is to be
thusly paraphrased, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male in
soul by changing her current whole soul of female psyche into a whole soul
of male pneuma, so that she can resemble you males in that, like you, she
will have a soul that is the masculine and eternally-living pneuma. For
every woman in a bodily sense who will make herself a male in soul will, in
soul, enter into the Kingdom, i.e., the Pneuma--here, as something exterior
Seen in this light, GTh 114 reflects a conceptual universe not found in
Johannine thought: for one does not even find, in Johannine thought, the
division of a human being into pysche, pneuma, and sarx/flesh--much less the
further idea that a saved state of being is when the psyche has been
absorbed by the pneuma.
If so, then the author and/or redactor of GJohn was unaware of GTh
114 and the conceptual universe underlying it. Therefore, I do not think
that GTh 114 can be pointed to as a reason for thinking that the BD, even
though referred to as a male in GJohn, is really a woman.
1809 N. English Apt. 17
Maplewood, MN USA 55109
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