Re: [XTalk] Re: Misogyny in GThomas
- I guess I don't understand the premise. What is it about the second century
that made Christians start to hate women?
Aren't there misogynists in every age?
Will historians two thousand years from now argue that any text exhibiting
anti-semitism must have come before the horrors of the holocaust?
Of course, they would be on firmer ground. There is actually some kind of
comprehensible cause and effect argument in that case. Again, what is it about
the day January 1, 101 that made Christians start to hate women?
(Of course, there is also the issue of whether the author of Thomas hated
----- Original Message -----
From: "bjtraff" <bj_traff@...>
Sent: Wednesday, May 01, 2002 8:49 PM
Subject: [XTalk] Re: Misogyny in GThomas
--- In crosstalk2@y..., "sdavies0" <sdavies@m...> wrote:
>"114 Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females
>don't deserve life." Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her
>male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you
>males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the
>kingdom of Heaven."
>The phrasing in the remainder of the saying: "I will guide her to
>make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling
>you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the
>kingdom of Heaven." is not meant literally. Jesus does not intend to
>demand the physical reformation of female human beings into male
>human beings. He is speaking metaphorically. In this metaphorical
>pattern the signifier "male" is held to be proper to the
>signifier "living spirit" and the signifier "female" is not.
I have never believed that Jesus was speaking literally here, and one
would have to adopt a decidedly naïve understanding of the text in
order to read it as such. But I do see Jesus as saying that woman
are inferior to men in terms of spiritual worthiness and wisdom, the
two keys to Thomas' kingdom. Thus, they must be transformed by Jesus
into spiritual men, and in being so transformed, turned from dead
spirits to living ones. Should these women fail to become as men,
then they will remain dead, and unworthy of wisdom and God's
Kingdom. Very simply, Jesus is presented as thinking women are
unworthy, *as* women, of entering the kingdom of Heaven, and this is
misogynistic 2nd Century Greek thinking, very different in character
from Judaic thought and 1st Century Christianity.
>Accordingly, as the condition "living spirit" is evidently required
>for entry both into "the kingdom of heaven," and by implication the
>group itself, attainment of the condition "living spirit" is
>requisite or, in metaphorical terminology, the condition "male" is
And by extension males have this quality by the very nature of their
being male, while women lack it so long as they remain female in
spirit and wisdom. Women are dead spiritually, and men are living.
Even on a metaphorical level (male=living spirits, female=dead
spirits), the misogyny is very clear.
Calgary, AB, Canada
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>I guess I don't understand the premise. What is it about the second centuryPeter,
>that made Christians start to hate women?
>Aren't there misogynists in every age?
>Will historians two thousand years from now argue that any text exhibiting
>anti-semitism must have come before the horrors of the holocaust?
>Of course, they would be on firmer ground. There is actually some kind of
>comprehensible cause and effect argument in that case. Again, what is it about
>the day January 1, 101 that made Christians start to hate women?
>(Of course, there is also the issue of whether the author of Thomas hated
Point well made! And this whole discussion is missing the key issue which
**might** and I think does aid in the dating of this particular saying.
That issue is the particular kind of ascetism being avowed for the whole of
this community. As I read Thomas there seem to be 3 layers to this
writing... an early layer recording the sayings of HJ [there are instances
of straightforward parallels with other sources of the aphorisms and
parables of Jesus (#26, for example) and simpler, more direct versions of
some of the parables that don't show signs of allegorization (#20, for
example). Second there are editings/ emendations that show a focus on what
might be referred to as a contemplative form of faith. Such as #2:2-4,
3:4-5 are certainly "spiritualistic," but not Gnostic in orientation. And
then with this, there are concerns about ongoing authority and how this
movement relates to other groups [Thomas 12 deals with the line of
authority/ Thomas 39, for example raises the contest with the Pharisees]. I
would date that earliest layer probably to the 50's... and as the Synoptics
work to define leadership and raise contest with the Pharisaic foes... would
likewise date this to sometimes after the War and probably on parallel to
Matthew who raises Peter as the guy with "the keys" (so circa 80 to 90).
But then there are statements defining the character of the community which
are in accord with a clear ascetism that accords with some versions fo the
Gnostic communities. This represents one aspect of leaving the Hebraic/
Jewish heritage behind... representing a negating of God's creation and it
represents leaving "the men and women" together in mission (as Paul notes in
I Cor. 9... husbands and wives, the HJ's positive words about kids and the
bits of data we have about their being married folk celebrating around
tables **in homes**! Point being... there are sayings and emphases added
that show the turn towards Gnosticism and the ending is one of these. For
that reason I'd date the adding of such to the second century and to the 3rd
edition that was taken up by the Gnostic communities.
- Peter Kirby said:
>>I guess I don't understand the premise. What is it aboutthe second century that made Christians start to hate
Some while ago I recall reading an essay that explained the
general (although not universal) Gnostic proclivity towards
celibacy and asceticism as due to a rejection of everything
that would drag down an inquisitive person from learning
esoteric teachings or discovering "truths."
That would include a wife and children. Once an individual
in that era gets married and starts having children, the
responsibilities would weigh so heavily on the vast majority
of individuals that there would be little leisure for
reading (assuming he could read) or money to afford study at
the feet of a teacher.
The daily life of the average Egyptian was somewhat unique.
The vast majority of persons, mostly native Egyptians, were
peasants. Even in the larger nomes (villages), many of the
non-Greeks (called "Persians" regardless of nationality if
they were not Egyptian natives) and even some of the lower
level "Greeks" (a technical designation, finally defined by
law in the early 1st century CE I believe, for those exempt
from paying certain taxes) seemed to be leasing plots of
(probably somewhat marginal) land from the state to farm on
the side to supplement their regular salaries or wages. This
suggests that most folks were barely getting by, even in the
towns, in the 1st century CE.
Couple this economic stress with the Jewish/Christian
apocalyptic idea of "election," and the general male
domination of culture, and it is not hard to imagine groups
of "free thinking" men rejecting all association with women
and family as essentially a plot by evil powers to keep them
from discovering some deep truth about the world. In the
case of Gnostics, that truth was the "fact" that there was a
secret way out of the cycle of birth-marriage-death, and
that people like them (but no one else) were destined to
discover the secret.
This "classic" way of thinking can, I seem to recall, be
demonstrated in the cases of several Gnostic sects in
2nd-3rd century Alexandria. I believe the essay I read was
in _The Roots of Egyptian Christianity_ (ed. Birger
Cleveland, Ohio, USA