Friday, April 20, 2018

Mary Magdalene: Elizabeth Johnson

I have been reading more of the eminent theologian Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ and am being changed with her deep readings of the Gospels , Acts and Epistles, pointing out the central role of women as leaders, and explicitly named as Apostles that was right there in the texts as those roles have been denied to women from the early centuries of Christianity.   I will note the irony of much of that evidence, really some of the strongest, coming from Paul's Epistles and, especially his repeated praise for women's role in preaching - she goes through the often cited passage in which Paul says women should be silent in, well they weren't churches, noting that he was giving his opinion on what was obviously an ongoing practice in the earliest church.   Considering the role of women in the ambient pagan cities he was writing to, that passage might have shown he was nervous about women being freed causing a reaction.   I can very well imagine that women taking leadership and preaching must have seemed even more outrageous to Roman era pagans and intellectuals than the idea of a risen Messiah.

This lecture is a good introduction to that part of her work that deals with revealing how the evidence of Womens' central role in the beginnings of Christianity has been buried or suppressed, though, aside from one woman's name being changed to a man's name, the evidence has been laying there in the text, in plain sight awaiting a hermeneutical method for seeing that evidence and, in fact, overt testimony. 

The recording is echoy (I turned it way down) but her voice is strong and her articulation is excellent so you can hear what she says.  I don't believe I missed a word.   I think that the signs are that this information has taken root and it will grow fast and really change large parts of Christianity.   The resistance to it has already been mounted, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have condemned at least one of Elizabeth Johnson's books, though in her response she pointed out that she hadn't said what she was accused of saying and accused of holding positions she rejects.   The boys who don't like girls are nervous.   But they've done such a disastrous job and made such a mess of things that I don't think they have any credibility, certainly no moral credibility and no real arguments except a corrupted tradition that is as bogus as the view of Mary of Magdala that Gregory I gave the Western Church.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't listened to Johnson's take on it yet, but I will say teh woman described in Luke 7:36-50 (the anointing story in Luke) is immediately followed by the women who followed Jesus, among those named being Mary Magdalene, which is how Gregory made the connection.

    But why is Magdalene a "former prostitute"? Well, because the woman in anointing story in Luke presumably does as Jesus directs, and "sins no more." What was her sin? Well, eroticism, precisely, though we've lost that in cultural translation over 2 millennia. What we haven't lost is context: a woman in a roomful of men who were not family, even Simon's wife, would be considered a "whore" just by her presence. We've lost, as I said, the eroticism of the anointing (washing his feet with her tears, drying them with her hair; it could come straight out of Penthouse Forum), but we held onto the idea men and women shouldn't mix.

    Which is why Luke 8 is scandalous, too; women shouldn't have been part of the retinue of Jesus. It's one more reason we think of Jesus has hanging out with prostitutes. We use that to raise Jesus above us (kind of), but mostly to keep the women "in their place." After all, we remember the 12 apostles, even give them all names. Matthew says the woman who anointed Jesus just before his death will be remembered for what she did; but except for John's gospel, no gospel names her.

    We have continued for millennia to find ways to expunge women from the story and push them into the background. It's going to take a lot to clean away all that varnish and centuries of built up dirt, in order to see the original picture clearly.