Hi Robert. Thank you for your response. I think I have a much clearer
understanding of your position now. It may not be so far removed from
my own, after all.
Robert wrote: """I am certainly ready to affirm that the textual
evidence as you quote it seems to support your position that Jesus
called an all-male Twelve, I do not feel that it proves definitively
that there was not a major redaction of the text at a later point."""
Vincent: I agree that it does not definitively prove there was not a
major redaction of the text at a later point. I was throwing out the
idea that a male-dominated leadership system may have been
implemented by Jesus himself. No I am highly skeptical of that.
Robert: """"Granted, we are still at the relative beginnings of our
study into Mary Magdalene and other female followers, but I believe
enough has been done to make a good case for a far greater influence
on the part of women in the inner circles of the early movement than
the emergent Catholic Church was willing to countenance."""""""
Vincent: I think that may very well be true. Upon further reflection,
I think the male-dominate slant of the early texts simply reflects
the culture of the time. Women certainly served a very important role
in the early church.
Robert: "The fact that women figure so highly in all the resurrection
Vincent: I concur. This looks like a very positive portrayal. In The
Gospel of Mark, as noted the women "fail" to do what the (angelic)
young man commanded them to do but the text also portrays them as
succeeding where the apostles failed. "[T]he women have already
proved themselves more faithful than the [male Twelve] disciples by
remaining by Jesus in his crucifixion, burial, and death."
Robert: """that Mary Magdalene herself is so large in the GJohn
This alone might not tell us much about the early Jesus movement--
especially since John was probably writing 50-80 years after Jesus'
death. It is very possible for one apostle or disciple to be popular
in one community but not others. But the fact that Mary is mentioned
by Mark, Matt, Luke and John is more convincing to me. Matthew must
be seen as dependent on Mk for his traditions but Luke seems to
preserve an independent one in chapter 8 (Mary was healed of 7
This threefold attestation would seem to secure the importance of
Mary Magdalene in the second half of the first century to me. One
datum goes even further. Luke 8:2 "Mary (called Magdalene) from whom
seven demons had come out; ".
Did Jesus heal Mary?
Multiple attestation is very shaky here since the long ending of Mark
is an obvious later addition to the Gospel. Yet this longer ending
does date to the second century. Tatian's Diatessaron seems to
include the long ending which would also make it possible that
Justin, his mentor, knew it as well. Irenaues also shows knowledge of
this ending (Adv. Haer. 3.10.5). But there is no way to know how
early this tradition dates too or where it stems from. So multiple
attestation is not very convincing here IMO.
As Meier noted (Marginal v.II p. 658), "in the words of Fitzmeyer,
the words "out of whom seven demons had come" sounds like a
stereotyped, inherited phrase." At the very least, the phrase seems
to suppose a fuller narrative to which it only alludes. But two other
considerations are left.
One is an argument from coherence. Mary apparently suffered from a
very severe case of possession given that Luke uses the
number "seven" in reference to the demons. Being freed from such a
disorder may explain while she followed Jesus all the way until his
death and even after. This argument is not very probative to me,
The best argument for authenticity would have to be embarrassment.
Mary Magdalene is presented as a chief witness to the empty tomb in
the canonicals. She is even the benefactor of a resurrection
experience from Jesus in Matt and GJohn. As Meier wrote (ibid), "It
seems unlikely that the early Christian tradition would have gone out
of its way to cast doubt on the reliability of such a pivotal figure
by recasting casting her--for no apparent reason--as a former
demoniac. What purpose would have been served by such an invention?
The vulnerability of a female witness who was a former demoniac was
not lost on male critics of the Gospels, from Celsus in the 2d
century to Ernest Renan in the 19th."
This is convincing to me. That Jesus was an exorcist I would call a
fact of his ministry and there is simply isn't a valid reason I am
aware of for the invention of this detail. When all things are
considered (coherence from a larger picture) it seems more reasonable
than not that Jesus actually exorcised Mary.
So we know that Mary was a follower of Jesus, she was healed by him
and she was pretty popular--at the least--in the second half of the
Robert """"" that Paul seems to affirm the concept of female equality
and even leadership in his communities (cf. Galatians), would seem,
among others, to point to the acceptance of women in
early leadership roles."""""
Vincent: In addition to there is neither male nor female Paul also
said their is neither slave nor free. I find it interesting that
three works (Eph, Col and Tit) not normally attributed to Paul all
have commands subjecting slaves to their masters and a later non-
Pauline work (1 Tim has Paul restricting women from
leadership//authority roles). I wonder if Paul would have agreed with
these later statements to slaves? If so how would that impact this
interpretation of the equality passage in Galatians?
This reminds me of Crossan's discussion in the beginning of the Birth
of Christianity on how Paul applied these three distinctions
inconsistently (BOC, pp. XXIV-XXV) and that they could "apply to
ritual present or heavenly future but not to contemporary society or
Exactly what Paul meant is open for discussion and scholars may
disagree on it but Paul's comments are consistent with an "acceptance
of woman in early leadership roles." I do not dispute that.
To add to these references I would cite Luke 8:3. I would be
interested in seeing a discussion of this verse where the women are
said to be helping to support them [Jesus and Apostles] out of their
own means." I think woman clearly were important in the early
Also we can cite Romans 16 which portrays women working for the Lord
in a very positive manner (Mary, Phoebe, et al).
Robert: """On the other hand, the pastoral letters, which most date
to the second century, show a far different picture: there is now an
order of widows, complete with regulations regarding who may enter,
under what circumstances, and what they are to be doing; bishops,
elders, and deacons are pretty much always male (there are
some female deaconesses, but their role appears to be limited
Vincent: I would agree with the Pastorals being 2d century but early
(first third of the 2d century) and 1 Timothy may have been written
as early as ca 95 C.E. Would such a dating have any impact on your
I am not certain how the requirements for widows in 1 Tim shows a
redaction of Christian experience towards the suppression of women's
authority but I do see some comments in there that would certainly
support you: For example, 2:11-5 is full of them: "A woman should
learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to
teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam
was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was
the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be
saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and
holiness with propriety. "
In 1 Corinthians Paul does tell state that woman should remain silent
in church (1:14:35) but we know that this was not an absolute mandate
given that a few chapters before women are allowed to prophecy
(presumably) in church (1 Cor 11:15). I can see Paul writing the
things he did in 1 Cor but 1 Tim appears to take things to an
entirely different level.
Robert: "If one moves more toward the latter half of the second
century and into the third, we have early evidence of cloisters nuns--
even before St. Antony went to the desert!!!"
Vincent: Can you point me to some texts so I can research this
Robert: """"Still more: it has been abundantly pointed out that the
gnostic and other so-called apocryphal Christian documents show a
much different picture concerning women in the early movement.
Granted, these stand rejected by the official Church, and this
rejection cannot be overlooked lightly; however, along with other
scholars I believe that it would not be responsible to gloss over the
rival picture we find in some of those documents. After all, we know
that there was a great political competition for which among the many
factions of Christianity would finally predominate, both in Rome and
in the Hellenistic East. That Orthodoxy and Catholicism prevailed
means, for one thing, that they got to define recent history!""""
Vincent: I might disagree on how much value most of these texts have
for discussing Christian origins but a good historian will be
dedicated to detail and testing various reconstructions so I would
certainly not discourage combing and recombing the evidence for such
Robert """"But let us say, for the sake of argument, that you are
correct: that Jesus himself set out the precedent of calling an all-
male Twelve. What, in the final analysis, does this prove? One might,
for example, suggest that in the social and religious context of
first century Jewish Palestine, Jesus might have felt constrained to
do just as you suggest--but this would not necessarily mean that
he wished to exclude female leadership altogether. Or, if, as many
have suggested, each of the disciples was to stand symbolically for
one of the ancient twelve Hebrew tribes and that a male
representative would have been considered most appropriate, could it
not be suggested that this particular role was a limited one, and
that, again, it said little or nothing about the overall role of
women as leaders in the larger movement?""""
Vincent: Yes, I have to agree. I think Jesus did call an all-male
Twelve but there are too many unknowns and uncertainties about them
to use this to infer a male-domninate authority implemented by Jesus.
That Jesus called an all male Twelve may show little more than he was
a Jew living in the first third of the first century. Jesus was
subjected to the same historical constraints as as any other teacher
of the time.
Either Jesus didn't designate Twelve specific people as his specific
authority figures or this idea simply fell apart//was greatly
expanded shortly after his death. Neither Jesus' brother James nor
Paul were members of the Twelve yet they shared authority//Leadership
roles in the early church. The calling of the Twelve can be said not
to restrict women from leadership roles anymore than it could be said
to restrict Paul or James from them.
Robert: " . . . we have the complete erasure of women in any
leadership position, replaced with the increasingly aggressive
assertion that women were spiritually dangerous and needed to be
reined in. Indeed, many scholars see the references within First
Corinthians on this subject to be second-century redactions
reflecting just this position."""
Vincent: I have to concede that this turn around which you speak of
is a big swing away from Jesus' outlook which appears to have been
pretty "radical" in regards to having women followers. As Meier
concluded, "The sight of a group of woman--apparently, at least in
some cases, without benefits of husbands accompanying them--traveling
around the Galilean countryside with an unmarried male who exorcised,
healed, and taught them as he taught his male disciples could not
help but raise pious eyebrows and provoke impious comments. As it
was, Jesus was stigmatized by his critics as a bon vivant, a glutton
and drunkard, a friend of toll collectors and sinners (Matt 11:19
par.), a demoniac or mad man (Mark 3:20-30 parr,; John 8:48). A
traveling entourage of husbandless female supporters, some of whom
were former demoniacs who were now giving Jesus money or food, would
only have heightened the suspicion and scandal Jesus already faced in
a traditional peasant society. Yet, scandal or no scandal, Jesus
allowed them to follow and serve him [and he considered them
disciples]." (ibid p. 80)
Thanks again for the response!