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Re: [XTalk] Re: Misogyny in GThomas

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  • Peter Kirby
    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?
    Message 1 of 3 , May 1, 2002
      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
      women.)

      best,
      Peter Kirby

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "bjtraff" <bj_traff@...>
      To: <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
      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."
      >
      {Snip}
      >
      >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
      >requisite.

      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.

      Brian Trafford
      Calgary, AB, Canada



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    • Gordon Raynal
      ... Peter, 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.
      Message 2 of 3 , May 2, 2002
        >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
        >women.)

        Peter,

        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.
        Gordon Raynal
        Inman, SC
      • David C. Hindley
        ... the second century that made Christians start to hate women?
        Message 3 of 3 , May 2, 2002
          Peter Kirby said:

          >>I guess I don't understand the premise. What is it about
          the second century that made Christians start to hate
          women?<<

          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
          Pearson).

          Respectfully,

          Dave Hindley
          Cleveland, Ohio, USA
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