Blessings on this feast day for Mary Magdalene!

I feel particularly close to Mary Magdalene this feast day since I just finished writing an article on her for the forthcoming Talpiot Tomb volume edited by James Charlesworth. The article is called "The Memorial Mary Meets the Historical Mary: The Many Faces of the Magdalene in Ancient Christianity". In the paper, I cover the foundational memories of Mary, counter memories of the encratite Mary, counter memories of the gnostic Mary, and the master narratives of the apostolic Mary.

I finally discuss what emerges from these memories as likely historical memories. What are they? Our oldest recoverable memories know her to be a single woman and an important woman disciple of Jesus' movement who was a public Christian leader after his death. The public nature of her mission and the authority that she commandeered as a woman disciple of Jesus became a real liability for her memory in a movement that was initially unconventional and that gradually conformed to the norms of its society, norms which often stereotyped public women as prostitutes and closed public offices to women.

Illustration: "Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene" (anon., early 15th c.; AMICO Library Image)

The New Year Ahead

The year ahead looks like it is going to be busy, and hopefully, productive. In January, I will be attending the Talpiot conference in Jerusalem organized by Professor Charlesworth as a Princeton symposium. My role is to address traditions about Mary Magdalene in the early literature. I plan to focus on the Valentinian portrait of Mary Magdalene, contrasting that with the encratic. The result will be an attempt to see if we can say anything determinative about Mary as a historical figure from this literature. A full length paper will be published later in a conference volume that is planned. I still haven't received the final agenda for the meeting, with all participants. As soon as I do, I'll post it here.

Looking forward to spring, there will be the Codex Judas Congress, March 13-16. I am receiving abstracts from the participants now. I will get those posted mid-January. I am in the process of preparing my own contribution to the Congress on issues of authority in the Gospel of Judas, the First Apocalypse of James, and other early Christian literature. I am particularly interested on how appeals to the Twelve were being used by the Christian leaders of the second century. After the Congress, full length papers will be collected and edited into a conference volume. So keep your eyes out for that book.

Over the summer, I have several articles to prepare for various projects. One will be about sexual practices among Gnostics. This is for an edited volume that Paul Foster is putting together. I also am preparing a paper on angels in Valentinian traditions for a conference in Tours which will take place in September. I will likely focus on the Jesus Aeon-Angel as the microPleroma descending to earth and incarnating.

Also in September is the Coptic Association's meeting - this year in Cairo. I hope to be part of a session on (re)defining Gnosticism.

As for the Boston SBL in November, that is too far ahead for me to know exactly what I will be preparing for, although I know that the New Testament Mysticism Project will be continuing. So I will at least be preparing an entry for that.

I am also going to begin writing my second book for the general audience. I'm trying to decide - should it be a book on the Gospel of Thomas, making my scholarly work more accessible to a broader audience, or should I begin work on a book about how I think the early Christians (as Jews) began to worship Jesus?

In terms of teaching, this semester Coptic continues. We will finish the last five chapters of Layton's book and then move on to read the Tchacos Codex to prepare for the Congress in March. I also have a lecture class, Christian Controversies and Creeds, that covers the growth of Christian thought from the bible to Chalcedon.

So in the upcoming year, this blog will probably continue to feature the newest and latest on the Tchacos Codex, the Gospel of Judas, the Valentinian literature, and the controversies between various factions of Christians in the second and third centuries. I also want your suggestions as my readers. Is there anything that you would like to see me address in the coming year? Let me know via comments or e-mail.

Evaluating the Talpiot Tomb in Context

In case you haven't heard yet, Professor Charlesworth, for the Third Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins, is holding a three-day conference in Jerusalem called "Evaluating the Talpiot Tomb in Context." Dates are Jan 13-16, 2008. The provisional agenda that I was sent looks outstanding in terms of coverage and folks involved. Actually amazing might be closer to the mark.

Topics to be covered in special sessions:
Ancient Beliefs about the Afterlife and Burial Customs
Tombs, Ossuaries, and Burial Practices: The Archaeological Evidence
Burial Beliefs and Practices: The Textual Evidence
Onomastics and Prosopography in Second Temple Judaism
The Talpiot Ossuaries and their Epigraphy
Paleo-DNA and its Archaeological Applications
Patina Testing and its Archaeological Applications
The Talpiot Tomb in March 1980
Mary Magdalene in Early Christian Tradition
Relating Tomb Archaeology with Historical Figures: Possibilities and Problem Discoveries
The Palestinian Jesus Movement: Correlating Textual and Archaeological Evidence for Jewish Christianity
The Burial of Jesus, the Empty Tomb, and the Jesus Family
Statistics and the Talpiot Tomb

This is exactly the kind of academic forum that I suggested (on this blog) was needed when all the media hoopla engaged the Talpiot Tomb. I am looking forward to participating in the Jerusalem conference, and want to thank Professor Charlesworth for organizing it.

Unearthed Texts Seminar in San Antonio

Yesterday, James Tabor posted on The Jesus Dynasty a teaser for the upcoming Biblical Archaeology Society Seminar in San Antonio, October 19 and 20. He and I have created a new seminar about newly found manuscripts and what they have to say about early Christianity. The BAR webpage with all the details about hotel, lectures, schedule, etc. is here. The city itself has so much to offer, besides the great wisdom of the lecturers (smile!).

I'm going to be addressing second century Christianity over these two days with a general lecture on the usefulness of the apocrypha, second century Christianity and its variety of expressions, Sethian Gnosis and our most recently discovered manuscript the Gospel of Judas, and Valentinian Gnosis and found manuscripts of the Gospel of Mary.

James Tabor describes on his blog the wonderful array of topics he will be addressing.

All and all it looks like it will be a great time. Hope to see some of you there!

Coverage of the Mary Magdalene Feast Day

Rev. Betty Adam has posted on her blog this morning her impressions of the Mary Magdalene Festival that we celebrated at Christ's Cathedral in Houston last week. She includes a description of the service and even posts the text of my first (and only?) homily. I am not trained in ministry, so when asked to deliver a full homily, I wasn't certain how to do that or if I really wanted to do that.

So I gave some thought to the service and instead of the traditional 20-minute homily, suggested that we put together a Taizé service using Mary's story as our focus. Betty agreed.

But in the end, I didn't get out of delivering the homily - it just became shorter. If you go over to Betty's blog and have a look, I'm sure you will see that I'm no homily writer, just a plain old teacher. Thank goodness for wonderful musicians who made up for it!

The picture I'm uploading was taken after the service, (from left to right) Rev. Betty Adam of Christ's Cathedral, me, and Pam Stockton (the president of Brigid's Place).

It was a truly beautiful and inspiring Festival, so there is talk that we might might start an annual series of these in honor of women saints like Teresa of Avila, Hildegard von Bingen, Mary the Mother, and so on. Stay tuned. I'll keep you posted on these events should they be arranged by Betty and Pam at the Cathedral.

The Magdalene Feast

I just returned home from the Magdalene Festival held at Christ Cathedral in Houston. What a fabulous, moving, and inspiring celebration. I felt that we really brought Mary Magdalene as "the Apostle to the Apostles," into the church. The icon that Rev. Mary Green "wrote" was stunning, a real centerpiece of the Taize worship service. The music was outstanding, performed by Anita Kruse (pianist/composer), Jennifer Kenney (flutist), and Sonja Bruzauskas (soloist/singer).

I am very honored to have been part of this ceremony, and thank Betty Adam and Pam Stockton (President of Brigid's Place) for bringing the service to life in such a elegant and beautiful way. And it was so much fun to see a few of you there too!

This evening will be one of those warm fond memories that I will cherish in the years ahead.

St. Mary Magdalene Festival at Christ Cathedral

Tomorrow is the feast day for Saint Mary Magdalene. The folks at Bridget's Place and Christ's Cathedral in downtown Houston have put together a Taize worship service based on Mary's story to celebrate her feast day. Rev. Mary Green has painted a gorgeous icon of Mary Magdalene that will be blessed at the ceremony. After the service, I'm giving a lecture on the Gospel of Mary and women in the early church. I am looking forward to the event, and hope that some of you who live in or around Houston might join us. Here is a link to all the information about it.