The Lost Gospels (2 of 4)

Picking up from where I left off.

Frescoes in the St. Priscilla catacombs in Rome [visited them!] dating to the 3rd and 4th centuries back up the claims that women held central roles in the early church, in opposition to the male hierarchy that developed later. [Pete Owen Jones, the presenter, concedes that these portrayal of Mary Magdalene may not be historically accurate. He however posits a battle of the sexes in the early church in regards to leadership.]

The proponents of these lost gospels say that they have a higher view of women than the traditional view of the church. This argument leaves out two teachings found in some Gnostic texts. One regards creation—according to some Gnostic texts, Pistis Sophia, a feminine deity, was the goddess who created a messed-up physical world. It doesn’t affirm women to tell them that they were somehow responsible for creation gone awry. The second teaching is the last saying (#114) in the Gospel of Thomas:

Simon Peter said to Him, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of Life.”

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 woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

A literal interpretation of this saying may make sense. It could also be understood in symbolic terms. Whichever way you look at it though, the “male” is superior to the “female”. Traditional Christianity teaches that women enter the kingdom in the same way that men do: through faith in Christ.

On the flip side, Mary (Martha’s sister) sat at Jesus’ feet as He taught, which was highly unusual for the time. Additionally, the first witnesses to the resurrection were women, whose testimony wasn’t valid in court. Now that affirms women.

The concept that Jesus is fully man and fully God emerged after 3 centuries. In the Gospel of Peter, Jesus doesn’t die, nor does he feel pain.  [Pete Owen Jones concedes that the authorship of Peter is unknown.]

There were other views of Jesus that differed with the traditional view. Docetism held that Jesus only appeared to be human, but wasn’t.

The doctrine that affirmed Jesus as being fully God and fully man was articulated after three centuries. By and large, those present at the council affirmed what was already the widely accepted view. The differing view over the person of Jesus goes to the heart of the atonement. Only a person who was fully man and fully God could pay the penalty for sin.

The Ebionites, a Jewish sect, saw Jesus as a hijacked human—the divine Christ came upon the man Jesus at the baptism and left just before death. Marcion rejected the Jewishness of Christianity, and put together his own version of the Bible.

The Ebionites and the Marcionites weren’t Gnostics, but like them, they were alternative Christianities. The Ebionite teaching of Jesus as a hijacked human is known as adoptionism, and it isn’t taught in the Bible. Marcionites taught that the God of the Old Testament wasn’t the same as the God of the New Testament. This also is in contrast with biblical teaching, and so it was rejected.

All the posts in this series