Gospel of Thomas, one of the papyri found at Nag Hamadi:
114. Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve
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."
When I first looked at this verse from a twenty-first century perspective, my first
thought was, "What? Do I have to have some major surgery?" Of course, that is
ridiculous, simply because such things werent even on the far-flung edge of
first-century thought, much less deed. So, this line of thought can be happily
and hastily abandoned.
But what did the Christ mean, and why was Simon Peter so vehemently anti-female that he
would prefer Mary Magdalene dead?
We have to examine the culture, and the roles and functions of men and women in that
ancient time. In the Judaic culture of the time, women only existed for one purpose- to
bear sons. Daughters were considered a necessary evil, but if they bore sons too, they
were tolerated. Women did not have souls, had no function in the Temple, were
unclean for many days of the month, and could be killed for touching a male
not of her own kin, or being perceived as dishonoring the males of her family. They were
empty vessels, easily corruptible, and because of their unclean tendencies, always
willing to corrupt men through their mere presence. They were considered
cunning, but not intelligent, and were not educated in the same manner as the men.
To the men raised in this culture, Jesus attention to Mary Magdalene and his
inclusion of her in his group of disciples was an outrageous insult above any imaginable.
A woman with no soul, unclean because she is a woman, perhaps educated and well read in
defiance of the cultural norm- tempting the men by her mere corrupting presence- how dare
she? It is a reflection of the Christs deep wisdom and influence that she was
permitted to remain or participate at all.
In the canonical Scriptures that were edited and became the accepted Bible, all
references to any relationship between the Christ and the Magdalene were completely edited
out, or obscured in such a way that no relationship was discernable. That she made it at
all into the accepted New Testament is a reflection of the high regard in
which the Christ held her, and perhaps to errors in its editing by the deciding councils
that finished the Gospels.
So, what did the Christ mean when he 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." What does making
(one)self male incur? And how does this affect us, two millennia later?
What guidance would the Christ give to Mary to make her male? Perhaps
first, he would have had to reeducate her as to her true spiritual nature, and help her to
retrieve and realize her concept of having a spirit or a soul. Remember, she
was raised to believe that she was pretty much nothing, with no soul or purpose except to
serve men and bear sons. He would have had to teach her that it was OK to say
no to a man's sexual advances and demands, and to find her freedom in being
her own person, outside the bounds of captivity and marriage. In that culture, married
women were basically domestic slaves, and tightly bound to the home. Since Mary was a
follower of the Christ, it had to be assumed that she was unmarried, and had no children
or controlling male relatives she had to answer to. Jesus certainly wouldnt be
openly showing affection to anothers wife and mother of his kids! The penalty for
such an outrage would have been death for both of them.
Being freed of the bonds of marriage and childbearing, he would then begin to educate
her as to the nature of God, His Messenger, and the Holy Spirit, which indwells all
people, regardless of their gender. He would have to teach her that
uncleanliness resided in all people- men and women, and was the result of the
aggregate of their thoughts and deeds, not their bodily functions. Only by making right
the consequences of their actions could they be redeemed and be clean.
He would have then taught her that because she was not bound to any man or had any
responsibility to children, had a soul, and was spiritually cleansed, she was basically on
the same footing and equal to any male of similar status. Because of this profound
spiritual transformation of thought and insight, she became male by the
standards of the culture and the time. She had the status and education/gnosis of the
spirit to enable her to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
In our day and time, man is the default neuter gender in the English
Language. "Man" and "mankind" refer to all humans, regardless of
gender. But strangely enough, the word female or woman means
not male or wife of man. Biologically, we know that female is
actually the default conceptual gender, and boys are made male by a hormonal
signal at eight weeks gestation. But the cultural bias and imperative still exists. Men
are superior and desired. Women are not.
And women are still bound by their sexual capacity- the assumption that all females
will become wives, mothers, or mates of a male at some point in their lives. Although our
Western culture isnt as starkly sexist and patriarchal as it was 2000 years ago,
most girls are still brought up to undertake their roles as a helpmeet to men.
To be taught that they can have their own lives, souls, and purpose is extremely rare, and
most Western women have a long fight ahead from girlhood to unlearn these biases, achieve
true sexual and social independence and be on the same footing as males are assumed to be
Women have had this choice and ability for less than a century, and are a very long
ways from having it as a birthright. The struggle to obtain the spiritual status of
males is a long and hard one, and many women give up and surrender to the
forces of overriding culture rather than tough it out. And even if they do achieve it,
they are looked upon as freakish or outcasts because they dared to accept their true
birthright as independent spiritual beings with lives and souls of their own.
No wonder Simon Peter was so outraged. Many men today echo his how dare she
attitude and keep their women tightly bound to their dogmas.
Jesus said, "For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of
Heaven." What did he mean by this? He meant that when a woman overcame the weight
of male contempt and and her own culturally imposed spiritual ignorance, truly understood
the concept of "The Kingdom of God within"; and made that tenet part of her life
without surrendering her integrity, she would be awakened to the Inner Light of the
Christs purpose, and would ultimately escape this world of matter.
To make oneself male, then is to lay aside the chains that bind us to the
demands, delusions, and desires of men. We must understand that all the weaknesses men
accuse us of harboring are also their own. It is to realize that we are also are humans,
with a soul, and the same yearning as the men to return to the Ultimate from whom we came.
It means laying aside the socially imposed obligation to marriage and motherhood, and
concentrating instead on the big picture, the elevation of all mankind from the material
chains of this plane. It means accepting the insight and guidance of the Holy Spirit, who
is also called Sophia and Shekinah, and understanding the true meaning of the
It means shearing away from dogma and cultural constraints, and choosing instead to get
your guidance directly from the Kingdom of God within you, and eschewing all outside
interpretation of your place and function in the world. It means serving God instead of
men, and being strong enough to stand up to men who are under the delusion that they are
superior because of their gender and the ancient cultural biases of the Bible.
It means understanding that the Christ himself will back you up- these words he spoke,
although not in the final cut of the accepted Bible, are thought by scholars to be his
actual words. No matter what Paul says about the function and place of women in the
churches and in service, Jesus' words trump them.
It is a solitary, edgy, and sometimes frightening and lonely path, but there are other
brave sojourners upon it. It is the road less traveled that leads to that narrow gate that
the Christ speaks of. It is up to you to find the strength and courage to travel down that
road. The Christ will be your delighted companion.
ã 2001 by Sunfell
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