Book Note: Voices of Gnosticism (Miguel Connor)

The end of the semester has been so busy. The good news is that I finally finished a draft of my book

Sex and the Serpent: Why the Sex and Gender Conflicts of the Early Church Still Matter

. This was such a relief for me since I have been working on it off and on for two years. I am happy with the result, and look forward to moving it into print with Continuum.

In the midst of all this Miguel Connor's book,

Voices of Gnosticism

, has been released. It contains a wonderful collection of interviews Miguel conducted over the years for his radio show. It is so much fun to read these interviews side-by-side. Who's inside? Elaine Pagels, Bart Ehrman, Bruce Chilton, Stevan Davies, Birger Pearson, John Turner, Einar Thomassen, Jason BeDuhn, Karen King, Marvin Meyer, Jane Schaberg, and me.

Congratulations Miguel on a remarkable collection of interviews!

You can purchase the book from Amazon for 19.95



Thecla Catacomb gets a laser treatment

I meant to post this yesterday when I saw it in the morning paper, but the day escaped me.

Lasers help restore Thecla Catacomb paintings and uncover our earliest representations of Peter and Paul...and John and Andrew as young men. The technology is astonishing! Just like laser surgery removing the top layer of skin, the years of calcium build-up (5 inches worth!) were removed to reveal these beautiful fourth century paintings in the tomb of a Roman woman and dedicated to Thecla (!) and the (other) apostles...

If you haven't seen pictures yet, check out these posted on NPR's website.

Summer writing

I can't believe it, but I have cleared my desk of those lingering commitments that have diverted so much of my time and energy this past year. The lesson I have learned from this is to start saying "no" to projects that cannot be accommodated within my own research agenda. Otherwise what I research and write about begins to be what everyone else wants me to write about and not necessarily what I want to write about.

So this summer I return to my own research and writing schedule. First on my agenda is to finish Sex and the Serpent: Why the Gender Conflicts in the Early Church Still Matter.

Second is to turn my attention to my Mellon Seminar which I will be leading the next academic year. It is called Mapping Death: Religious Preparations for the Afterlife Journey. I plan to study the Gnostic movements from the perspective of initiatory cults in the ancient world, and see what happens. I have five students working with me, each preparing his or her own project. I want to build a web page for the seminar with abstracts of each of our projects. So watch for that as September nears.

Third, I want to organize my thoughts and develop my book on the Gospel of John. I have tentatively named it John Interrupted: Reconceptualizing the Origins of Christianity and Gnosticism.

So that is my summer...and my next year.


Today is the last day of classes at Rice. Will be ending my Introduction to New Testament Studies talking about androcentricism. Consider for a moment how male-centrism may have affected the memory of the early Christian traditions and their transmission. Leave me one idea in the comments (please limit to serious comments on the stated subject). Let's collect as many consequences as we can muster.

I'll start: women and their participation are marginalized and forgotten, like the woman in Mark who anointed Jesus' head...whose name the traditions no longer remembers.

Exposing the inaccuries of English translations of the bible

Bible translation has been a concern of mine, as has recovering women's history. Elizabeth McCabe has a good article on the subject of Phoebe as a deacon and a church leader on the SBL Forum and how her titles have been inaccurately translated as early as Jerome and his Vulgate. I enjoyed reading this feature which represented a compressed blurb from her forthcoming edited volume. I look forward to picking up the new book that McCabe has edited when it is released:
Women in the Biblical World: A Survey of Old and New Testament Perspectives (ed. Elizabeth A. McCabe; Lanham: University Press of America, 2009).
Phoebe is a good example (as is Junia) of how male translators and interpreters of the bible have altered our knowledge of women's history in the earlier period, erasing leadership roles that were theirs from the beginning of the movement. Historical-literary criticism being done especially by feminist biblical scholars is largely responsible for restoring these women to their historical prominence.

What does "insidious" really mean?

Sexism is insidious.

The Latin etymology is fascinating, meaning something like, "sitting there and waiting to ambush." It has a hidden treacherous quality. The lurking lion. Unknown to us. Behind the bushes. Quiet until it strikes with great force and surprise.

Why is sexism insidious? Because it is part of who we are as products of this society. It is built into the structures around us. It is our past and it haunts our present. None of us, no matter how well-intentioned we are, can completely escape it, although try we must!

Imagine my horror and guilt when I realized last week that my own blog roll sorely lacked women bloggers, that I, someone who is a vocal advocate for women's equality, was contributing to the problem of their silence in the biblioblog field! Yes, I had listed those few I knew, but I had not made a concerted effort to go out and find more. I had not networked with others in my field that might know their whereabouts. Thus my recent posts on gender included my own promise that I would try to build a blog roll that reflected what was actually happening in terms of women bloggers and the bible, whatever that turned out to be. Over the weekend, I found that indeed women's voices are out there, but they are largely unengaged, marginalized, hidden from us, or run out of the discussions. This makes it look like they aren't there or aren't interested.

So as for blame, well, who will cast the first stone? Not I. I am one of the crowd convicted by Jesus' words.

My response to the problem of the silence of women on the biblioblogs is not to fix blame, or spend a lot of time succumbing to guilt, but to analyze the problem and then immediately mobilize, to ask what needs to be done to correct it and go about doing so the best I can. So although I think that we are all part of the problem given the insidious nature of sexism, we can also all be part of the answer. We can make the choice to mobilize and make this the year that women bibliobloggers are brought into our community as welcomed and engaged voices.

What are some practical things we might do? These are only a few suggestions that occur to me based on what I have learned from other women bloggers this week and from my own experience as a woman in the blog world. I hope you will send along your own ideas so I can add to these.

The important part is to implement, whether that implementation appears to others as a "token" or not. Even something that is perceived by others as a "token" is a small step in the right direction that will help raise awareness. If we do nothing but continue to sit around our computers and complain, be bitter, criticize those who are trying to do something positive, or feel sorry for ourselves, nothing is going to change. The choice is ours.

1. Link to women bloggers on our blogs, through blog rolls and/or occasional posts that highlight a discussion going on among women bibliobloggers and religion bloggers. Engage positively with women who are blogging. Find some common ground between the two of you and blog on that. If in question, you might check out some male blogs whose authors have had positive engagements with women bloggers in their posts. I am reticent to name names in case I leave someone out inadvertently and give offense. I think it is very evident who those bloggers are.

2. Go out and support a woman in our field, help her get started with a blog of her own.

3. Follow the links on women's websites and blog rolls and find new blogs that none of us know are there. Let the rest of us know.

4. Invite a woman scholar, minister, or graduate student to write a guest post for your blog, especially if she is not already blogging. You might even do so once a month.

5. Include book notes and article notes on publications that women are making in our field.

6. Give bloggers the benefit of the doubt and don't jump to a negative conclusion immediately or sensationalize or trivialize their position. I think this must be the ideal we strive for, even if we might fail sometimes. We ought to read what they have said and allow it our best interpretation, not our worst. If in doubt, we ought to ask the blogger what he or she meant before drawing a negative conclusion. Ask for further clarification. Most of us are not trying to be jackasses.

7. Ultimately we need to recreate the biblioblog climate. My thoughts on this is that this network should not operate as a men's club. Nor should it reflect the conversation that might be going on in the men's bathroom. It should not be a male competition, an academic meeting, or a war. It is a very public and very international forum that invites us to speak together as a world community. We need to allow for the fact that different people with different backgrounds blog for all kinds of different reasons. If we want women to blog on the bible, and we want them to be counted among us, then their posts and their persons need to be treated civilly and respectfully. If in doubt, ask yourself if something you are posting about a woman or her words is something you would want said about your wife or your mom or your daughter.

I leave this post with a prayer whose words came rushing into my mind this morning while I was walking to my office. From St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

Expanding blog list with women's voices

I commented a few days ago that I thought that women blogging on the bible were invisible because we weren't including them on our biblioblog rolls and that if we linked to them and included them, that this would increase their visibility and hopefully change the appalling stats. So I had promised my readers that this weekend, when I had more time, I would get them into my own blog roll. My husband (thank you Wade!) and I are in the process of searching the web for blogs written by women who address the bible. As we find the blogs, we are putting them into my blog rolls. In order to try to organize this a bit, I have now put up two blog rolls. One I call "Women and Religion Blog Roll" and the other "Early Christian History Blog Roll." I will continue to add blogs as they come to my attention.

I especially want to thank all those women who emailed me and pointed me to their blogs. It is unfortunate, however, that the biblioblogging environment appears to have become even more hostile to women since I started talking about this on my blog. Many women have said to me in those emails that they have not felt welcome in the biblioblog environment and some have faced such hostile reactions to their previous posts that they have retreated and stopped talking about the bible on their blogs anymore. This is so incredibly sad to me. What is it about women's voices on the bible that is so threatening, especially to male readers?

I have to say that it is striking how immediately aggressive and sexualized some of the male reaction to my gender blogging has been, and how the humor used (including the cartoons and some of my colleagues reactions to those cartoons and circulation of them) turned women like me into either bitches, madams, or dominatrixes. Much of the male interpretation of my words has literalized them and exaggerated them, so that my words have been turned into the sexist words of a "man-hater" as one blogger put it. I wonder if he would say this to my husband?

I wonder if anyone else has wondered what the purpose of this kind of sexually aggressive rhetoric is? What is it trying to accomplish?

So what have I discovered out of all of this about gender and biblioblogging?

1. Males dominate the biblioblogs, not just in terms of numbers, but in terms of voice and interpretation. Many women who have tried to blog on the bible did not find it a welcome environment. They talk about aggressive and hostile reactions to their posts from male responders, so they chose to retreat and stop writing on the subject rather than become involved in a fight they didn't seek.

2. Women bloggers are not showing up often enough in biblioblog rolls. This is compounding the problem of the appallingly low numbers of bibliobloggers who are women.

3. Women bibliobloggers are usually devoting their blogs to subjects that most bibliobloggers consider marginal or uninteresting or perhaps (dare I suggest this?) threatening. A good number of women bloggers I'm finding are either blogging on extra-canonical materials or feminist issues which is not considered "biblical-enough" to bother with.

4. Women bloggers who talk about the bible are not doing so exclusively nor in the SBL sense. Women's blogs show more concerns for the present-day church and gender issues related to their relationship with the clergy and the church. They are more in line with AAR considerations than SBL. Many are confessional and include a significant amount of personal journaling. So again they are "on the margins" of the bible and not turning up in the biblioblog conversation.

5. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Gage were right (more on Gage in another post).

Last day of summer

Celebrate the last day of summer! Tomorrow will be here soon, and with it another semester of research and learning. I'm on a grant this semester - so no teaching. I'm going to be writing about star gates and ascent for an SBL presentation, but the big project is finishing my book, Sex and the Serpent: Why the Sexual Conflicts of the Early Church Still Matter. I will be returning to finishing up chapter three on Jesus and Paul. But that can wait until tomorrow. The rest of the day is to enjoy the last moments of summer. Alexander starts kindergarten at 7:35 am (!) tomorrow.

The fresco is in St. Jacobus, Urschalling

Thanks again to Mac who was most helpful in pointing me in the right direction!

The church where the fresco is located (pictured in my previous post) is St. Jacobus in Urschalling, in the Alps. I came across an article in the travel section of the New York Times which gives details about visiting the town HERE. I want to see this in person!

I have been analyzing early Christian texts and manuscripts as I have been writing a chapter on the holy spirit for my new book, Sex and the Serpent: Why the Sexual Conflicts of the Early Church Still Matter. This artwork adds new dimension to my argument that the original Christian Trinity was the Father, Mother Spirit, and Son. Here is a 12th century fresco in a European church that commemorates this!

That this was covered up by other frescos and now is being interpreted as the three angels that appeared to Abraham (because we all know the mother spirit is not part of the Trinity!) is in line with what I have found in the ancient manuscript and hermeneutical tradition.

Later religious thinkers in traditions obscure those earlier scriptures and art which no longer support their present theology or practice. This was done in manuscript copying, where sentences were altered or deleted to fit current beliefs as the scribe made the new copy of the old text. So the old tradition was erased from the manuscripts just as the old art was covered by new art in St. Jacobus. It was also done hermeneutically, by providing the correct way to read and understand the text just as is now being done by the church who wants the fresco to be seen as Abraham's 3 angelic visitors since it is impossible for their forefathers and foremothers to have a painting of the Trinity with a female holy spirit in their church.

I could go on, but I have to get back to the things on my desk that are pressing me.

Do you know the origins of this painting?

Do you know where this painting is from? Its date? provenance? Is this depicting the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (the female in the middle)?

Update: A reader (alias "Mac") has left these links for which I am very grateful. Now I need to track down this fresco. I'm assuming it is in a church? Any more leads?

I believe you will find the answer at this link (in German I think)
And at another link in Hungarian:

The Trinity:
The Holy Ghost as a Woman

Fresko, Urschalling, Oberbayern
Fresco, Urschalling, Upper Bavaria
12. Jh. / 12th c.

New article on Valentinian sex

An article that I wrote several years ago has finally been published in a new volume on Western Esotericism. The title of the article is "Conceiving Spirits: The Mystery of Valentinian Sex." It is found in Wouter J. Hanegraaff and Jeffrey J. Kripal (eds.), Hidden Intercourse: Eros and Sexuality in the History of Western Esotericism (Leiden: Brill, 2008) pp. 23-48. By the way, this is a Brill hardcover, so it is a library book unless you have $200 to drop on one volume!

I conclude in my contribution to the volume that the Valentinians believed that the end of the world and the entrance into the Pleromic Bridal Chamber would correct what Adam had perpetuated in the beginning, that is the dispersion of the spirit in immature form within the corrupted soul. Since Adam had procreated from his material aspect, he had been acting from carnality, from lust. Therefore the child he bore, Cain, had a soul inclined toward evil, one whose spiritual seed was easily overcome by the presence of powerful demons and passions. The conception of Abel, on the other hand, was believed to have taken place in such a way that he acquired a soul with a spiritual seed which was able to respond positively rather than negatively, to live righteously (as a member of the Christian church) and be redeemed. Seth's soul was endowed with an elect seed because his conception was marked by Adam's spiritual aspect, when he raised his soul to the heights of heaven as he lovingly embraced Eve. This form of lovemaking was considered by the Valentinians to be sacred, and would lead to their own redemption as well as God's.

I argue in this article that the Valentinians were not opposed to eros as long as it was not lust, that they distinguished between lovemaking and hedonism. Although they were opposed to carnality, they were not opposed to sexual pleasure between married partners. For them, sex was understood as a delightful and sacred experience when the souls of the married partners mingled with the heavenly powers, resulting in the conception of a spiritually superior child, one that would be morally-inclined and redeemable, if not elect.

This is a long way away from Augustine's reproach for eros and his notion that sex should ideally be no more than a handshake.

What would our society be like if the Valentinian understanding of sex had become our model, rather than the Augustinian?

Apocryphote of the Day: 11-17-08

Hear me, you who hear,
and learn my words, you who know me.
I am the hearing that attains everything,
and I am the speech that cannot be grasped.
I am the name of the sound
and the sound of the name.

Many are the pleasantries of numerous sins...and fleeting pleasures
which are embraced until you become sober
and go up to your resting place.
And you will find me there,
and you will live, and not die again.

The Thunder: Perfect Mind 20.27-34 and 21.20, 25-32 (Sethian ? gnostic poem from second century)

Commentary: I moved the second stanza from third person to second person to maintain consistency with the first stanza. The speaker is the female aspect of the Godhead, called by different names such as the Mother Spirit or Sophia.

Illustration: Sophia by Hildegaard von Bingen (1098-1179) according to some websites I toured. Can anyone confirm that this is indeed one of Hildegaard's paintings?

Communal memory in operation

As I have been watching the various reactions to this presidential campaign, I am fascinated with the way in which I can see communal memory in operation - how older memories are refashioned to meet the needs of a current group, especially as it attempts to solve some crisis. Usually I have only ancient texts to study, and so I cannot observe this process as an organic one. So seeing it in process now is very educational. Perhaps it will allow me to bring even more insight to my old text studies.

What do I see? Well I see some evangelical and conservative Christians in a real crisis over this campaign. Why? Because the republicans have nominated a woman as VP, and according to their strict literal readings of scripture, women cannot be in leadership positions, especially if those positions dominate men.

Let's take the Southern Baptist Convention which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago on my blog. Ten years ago there was a conservative hostile takeover of the Convention that resulted in a doctrinal and practical shift - women were told to stay home, and be helpmates to their husbands based on what the bible says literally. At the time, this was applied to secular vocations, not simply pastoral.

In fact, just last year, Sheri Klouda a Hebrew professor in Dallas (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) was denied tenure because of her gender. According to the Dallas news the controversy was over 1 Timothy which says, "I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man." This was used to fire her from her teaching post. Wade Burleson, an Oklahoma pastor who came to her defense said, "Sheri Klouda is not a pastor, she has not been ordained or licensed, she does not perform ministerial duties. She is a professor, for heaven's sake," Mr. Burleson said. "The same institution that conferred her degree and hired her has now removed her for gender. To me, that is a very serious, ethical, moral breach."

Now that Palin is on the republican ticket, there is a dilemma for these communities. So we see a shift now in some of these circles to begin emphasizing part of the past, while redefining the other part. The emphasis is now being placed on spiritual leadership - women cannot be leaders in church. But they can take on these roles if they are secular, like perhaps becoming one of the most powerful people in the world - the President of the United States. And the redefinition comes in terms of "this is what we always meant, but are just clarifying."

So now, according to David Kotter executive director of the Louisville, Kentucy-based Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, "Even though the Bible reserves final authority in the church for men, this does not apply in the kingdom of this world" (Houston Chronicle). Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, says that their leadership beliefs are based on New Testament teachings, and do not apply to women in secular leadership. "Where the New Testament is silent, we're silent," he said. "Where the New Testament speaks, we're under its authority" (Houston Chronicle).

Has this shift opened a crack for women's leadership in areas that Land and Kotter may not have intended? Sheryl Brady, one of the five pastors featured in the recent edition of Gospel Today (which I also blogged on last month), reasons, "My problem with all this is, how can we have a Sarah Palin running for vice-president and yet (Southern Baptists) don't think a woman can be preacher?" Colorado-based author Margaret Feinberg, an up-and-coming evangelical voice says that for a lot of young evangelical women, Palin's nomination is "exciting" because "it speaks to young evangelical women who face a glass ceiling in our workplaces, but also the stained-glass ceiling of the church" (Associated Press).

This shift in communal memory - really the development of a counter-memory in order to deal with a crisis situation in the present - is not being met with open arms by some of the conservative Christians because they are recognized as a change from the previous platform. In March 2007, the Pew Research Center found that 56 percent of white evangelicals thought that mothers with young children (i.e., Palin?!) working outside the home was a "bad thing" rather than a good one. Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum, a Texas-based ministry, says, "The Palin selection is the single most dangerous event in the conscience of the Christian community in the last 10 years at least. The unabashed, unquestioning support of Sarah Palin and all she represents marks a fundamental departure from our historic position of family priorities -- of moms being at home with young children, of moms being helpers to their husbands, the priority of being keepers of the home" (Los Angeles Times). Voddie Baucham, a Texas pastor who has criticized the Palin selection as anti-family in a series of blogs, said that the overwhelming evangelical support demonstrates a willingness to sacrifice biblical principles for politics. "Evangelicalism has lost its biblical perspective and its prophetic voice," Baucham wrote. "Men who should be standing guard as the conscience of the country are instead falling in line with the feminist agenda and calling a family tragedy . . . a shining example of family values" (Los Angeles Times).

Send me material and links that you have noticed about these shifting communal memories.

Erasing women (again!)

This morning, when I turned the page of the Houston Chronicle, I was confronted with a very sorry (but telling!) story about erasing women and women's issues again. The Southern Baptist Convention has pulled off of the shelves of its bookshops the latest issue of Gospel Today magazine. Why? Because it shows five women of the cloth on the front cover and "the statements that were in it took positions that were contrary to what we would say," according to Chris Turner, a spokesman for the SBC bookshops.

Really? And only a few days after the men of the Convention revised their position on women to make it possible for conservative Christians from the Convention to support and vote for the McCain-Palin ticket?

Remember ten years ago, when there was a hostile takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention? The result was the declaration that women's place was in the home, "to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation." She was not to be burdened with working outside the home, and was to happily embrace her duty as homemaker which was the backbone of our society. Only the husband should be vocationally oriented.

These were not just sexist words, they became a sexist policy that resulted in the purging of churches and seminaries of female leadership, including not only ministers but also professors who were fired along with any men who supported them. If you have never seen the documentary on this hostile takeover, "Battle for the Mind" by Steven Lipscomb (1997), it is well-worth the viewing time. In fact, it was a big inspiration for me to decide to begin writing next, Sex and the Serpent: Why the Sexual Conflicts of the Early Church Still Matter.

Enter Sarah Palin. Now the Southern Baptist Convention is in a pickle, unless its statement is reinterpreted in such a way that it denies what it declared to begin with. Robert Parham of "On Faith" reports that one SBC professor thus said, "the Baptist Faith and Message does not address the question of women in secular leadership, only spiritual leadership." Ahh, the secular loophole which allows Baptist men to vote Republication even though what Palin is doing is the opposite of their interpretation of women's roles according to the Bible. I wonder if this secular distinction means that all the women professors who lost their jobs will be reinstated in the seminaries too?

I don't even know what to say about the glass ceiling anymore. It doesn't look like glass to me, but cement.

Film production for Erotic Mysticism Documentary

Yesterday I had the pleasure of interviewing with Zeke Mazur who is going around interviewing scholars and practicioners of mysticism in order to put together a documentary on erotic mysticism. So I got to talk all afternoon to a captivated audience about one of my favorite subjects - the Valentinians and sacred marriage. You can find information about Zeke's film HERE <<<

Zeke, who is a Plotinian graduate student at University of Chicago, also has a personal webpage HERE <<<

Gnosis and sacred marriage is also the subject of one of the chapters I am planning to write for my Sex and the Serpent in Ancient Christianity: Why the Sexual Conflicts of the Early Church Still Matter. By the way, I have now finished two chapters of this book (Chapter 1: Where did the Mother God Go?; Chapter 2: Why was the Spirit Neutered?). I am going to start writing the third chapter this week: Chapter 3: Is Sex a Sin? - all about Jesus and Paul on this subject).

What about women priests?

I have to respond to José's comments on my earlier post about the Catholic church recently criminalizing women priests, excommunicating them (as heretics?). I have to respond because José presents us with the party line, which is about as uncritical and ill-informed as can be. It is a party line that we have accepted only because it has been beaten into us over the centuries, and sounds "normal" when in fact it is insidious sexism. Why is it that inequality in gender is considered normal, when inequality on other levels is fought tooth and nail? Why do we allow this to continue? We are the ones who are in control of our thoughts and our actions. It is time to step up to the plate and demand that gender not matter to the priesthood. We do not have to accept the Vatican's decision.

Consider this. We can't allow women to be priests because Jesus only selected men as his apostles. How silly is this? Let's move to another issue. What about race, age, and religion? Are men who are Asian, African-American, or Native American denied priesthood on the basis that Jesus only selected "caucasian" Middle Eastern men as his apostles? Are men who are older than forty denied the priesthood on the basis that Jesus only selected young men as his apostles? If we really were to get serious, shouldn't the priesthood be confined to young Jewish male converts who speak Aramaic, on the basis that these were the men that Jesus selected as apostles and are the only people who can represent him on earth? As soon as we move the discussion to a different issue, it is clear how silly and meaningless it is!

Besides, there is the other issue I haven't raised, and that is the issue of whether or not Jesus actually selected only twelve male disciples as his followers, or whether this is a contrivance of the later tradition which worked to eliminate women from positions of leadership which they held in the early movement.

As for José's statement: "If I were a Catholic I would be allowed to discuss and debate these views, and many other issues, but I couldn’t simply defy church teaching imagining that the church will simply capitulate to my defiance or that I’m setting some sort of good example to incite greater defiance. Not even the entire Protestant Reformation has been able to alter any of the major Catholic and Orthodox doctrines. We must marvel at their consistency and dedication while Protestantism continues to splinter and fall deeper into heretical teachings and practices." If we were to list all of the people that the Catholic Church has considered a heretic, excommunicated, tortured and killed, I think it would put things into perspective. It would also show that some of the greatest minds in our culture, the ones that have moved us forward in our knowledge of ourselves and our world, have been official heretics like Galileo. If it weren't for the heretics, we would never advance in our knowledge because no one would challenge the status quo or think beyond what they have received.

Yes, women can and should be priests. This issue is vital to us, more than ever now that the Catholic Church has criminalized us! It is the reason that I am writing Sex and the Serpent in Ancient Christianity: Why the Sexual Conflicts of the Early Church Still Matter. I'm going to now close so I can go to work on the second chapter, "Why was the Spirit neutered?"

UPDATE: Jared Calaway from Antiquitopia has posted a similar discussion HERE<<<

Ordination of women is a "crime"?!

This is just in from the Vatican City. According to the Associated Press, yet again the Catholic Church claims that Jesus only had male apostles and that Protestants are the ones who have "changed" traditions by allowing women in the pulpit.

What about Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles? How easily she has been marginalized and forgotten!

Nevertheless, to make matters worse, the ordination of women is declared a crime by the Vatican. Women priests are criminals (heretics?) who are to be excommunicated from the church.

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican insisted Friday that it is properly following Christian tradition by excluding females from the priesthood as it issued a new warning that women taking part in ordinations will be excommunicated.

The move dashed the hopes both of women seeking to be priests and of Catholics who see that as an option for a church struggling to recruit men.

A top Vatican official said the church acted after what it described as "so-called ordinations" held in various parts of the world.

Monsignor Angelo Amato of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the Vatican wanted to provide bishops with a clear response on the issue.

The church has always banned the ordination of women by stating that the priesthood is reserved for males. The new decree is explicit in its reference to women.

"The church does not feel authorized to change the will of its founder Jesus Christ," Amato said in an interview prepared for Vatican Radio that was released to reporters. The reference is to Christ's having chosen only men as his Apostles.

Asked whether the Roman Catholic Church was going "against the tide" in respect to other Christian confessions, Amato said the church was in "good company" with Orthodox and ancient Eastern churches and that it was the Protestants who are breaking with tradition.

In March, the archbishop of St. Louis excommunicated three women — two Americans and a South African — for participating in a woman's ordination. They were part of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement, which began in 2002.

The decree was published Thursday by Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, which in a headline called the ordination of women a "crime."

The congregation said it acted to "preserve the nature and validity of the sacrament" of ordination.


Apocryphote of the Day: 5-9-08

Strive and save what is able to follow [me]. Seek it and speak from it, so that what you seek will be in harmony with you. For truly I say to you, the living God [dwells] in you, [as you also dwell] in God.

Dialogue of the Savior 137.16-138.2.

Comment: Since you liked this particular text so much yesterday, here it another quote from it. By the way, this text has always fascinated me, and when I first learned Coptic this was the text I chose to translate first. For a time, I even planned to write my dissertation on it, but instead went with Thomas. I did put my thoughts on the Dialogue of the Savior into an article many years ago which I published in VC. If you go to my articles page here, scroll down to 1996 "The Dialogue of the Savior and the Mystical Sayings of Jesus" you will see a pdf file of the article that you can download if you wish. And now I find myself in this text again as I write my article on the many faces of Mary Magdalene for the Talpiot tomb volume that Charlesworth is editing. I'm also going to be using this material in a chapter in my tradebook, Sex and the Serpent in Ancient Christianity: Why the Sexual Conflicts in the Early Church Still Matter. I'm having a blast with this book! Plan to finish it by the end of the summer.

Reactions to the Trinity

Several of my readers had vivid reactions to the Trinity doctrine as I outlined it last. It must be recognized that this doctrine is not universal among Christians. Some Christians today, as well as Muslims, view the doctrine as polytheistic even in the form it was framed by the Cappadocians. This criticism of the doctrine is as old as the doctrine itself. The Cappadocians in fact tell us that they were accused of creating a doctrine that allowed for the worship of not just three but even four gods.

One of my readers wanted to know what happened to the female, quoting the Genesis story about God's image being male and female. I am writing on this topic for my new book which I'm calling tentatively, You shall be like God: Sex and the Serpent in Early Christianity. Just a brief overview of one of the chapters on the Trinity which I'm writing. The mother was originally part of the Trinity. She was the Holy Spirit. As long as the Christian tradition remained attached to Aramaic traditions, the Spirit's female gender is retained. But once the church moves away from these roots, more and more into Greek (and eventually Latin) where the Spirit is neutered, the mother falls away, or is dismissed. The result is a very awkward doctrine of a Father god who births a son god from which proceeds a nebulous neutered spirit god. My readers are always asking why the "other" gospels and gnostic materials are important. Here is a case in point. They help us to reconstruct the earliest doctrine of the Trinity as it included the female.