Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Women in the "lost gospels"

Many modern critics—exemplified by those in the documentary abut the Gospel of Judas—are eager to heap scorn on early Christian bishops for rejecting so many documents from the New Testament. Some critics also vent their wrath on St. Paul for offending modern sensibilities by telling women to keep silent in their church meetings. It is fascinating, therefore, to read the views about women contained in the very documents these critics seem so eager to support. For example:

Gospel of Thomas
Jesus said, I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every women who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven

Book of Thomas the Contender
Woe to you (pl.) who love intimacy with womankind and polluted intercourse with them!

Flee from the madness and bondage of femaleness and choose for yourselves the salvation of maleness

Letter of Peter to Philip
First of all concerning [the deficiency] of the aeons, this [is] the deficiency, when the disobedience and the foolishness of the mother appeared without the commandment of the majesty of the Father

Tripartite Tractate
When he who produced himself as perfect actually did bring himself forth, he became weak like a female nature which has abandoned its virile counterpart

And it is these who took form with him, but according to the image of the Pleroma, having their fathers who are the ones who gave them life, each one being a copy of each one of the faces, which are forms of maleness, since they are not from the illness which is femaleness…”

The Sophia of Jesus Christ
Every aeon and chaos that the defect of the female might

Dialogue of the Savior
The Lord said, ‘Pray in the place where there is no woman.’ Matthew said, ‘Pray in the place where there is [no woman], he tells us, meaning, Destroy the works of womanhood…”

Paraphrase of Shem
And my garment rubbed Nature in her covering. And her unclean femininity was strong. And the wrathful womb came up and made the mind dry…

Second Treatise of the Great Seth
And do not become female, lest you give birth to evil and (its) brothers: jealousy and division, anger and wrath, fear and a divided hearth, and empty, non-existent desire

For those who were in the world had been prepared by the will of our sister Sophia—she who is a whore—because of the innocence which has not been uttered

Apocalypse of James
The perishable has [gone up] to the imperishable and the female element has attained to this male element

(The quotes above come from The Nag Hammadi Library edited by James Robinson, San Francisco : HarperSanFrancisco, 1988)

Can you imagine the uncontrollable rage and frothing-at-the-mouth wrath that biblical critics would have vented against the church, if these documents had been accepted into the New Testament? Isn’t it ironic that these are the very documents modern critics seem so eager to support? Can anyone seriously doubt that something other than honest scholarship is going on in these bigoted attacks against traditional Christianity—like those seen most recently in the Gospel of Judas documentary?