One of the most intriguing passages in the Gospel of Mary is the debate between the apostles on pages 17 and 18 of the Berlin Codex. In that passage, Andrew and Peter dismiss what Mary Magdalene has to say, just as they do in the canonical New Testament (cf. Luke 24:10,11). Peter’s jealousy in particular is on full display in Mary’s Gospel, where he asks about Jesus:
“Would he really speak privately with a woman, and not publicly with us? Are we supposed to turn around and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?” (Mary 17:18-22, DFV)
When I was writing my book on The Gospel of Mary in 2013 and commenting on the ancient Christian description of Mary as Jesus’ “companion” (cp. Philip 59:9,11; 63:33), I didn’t say anything about whether any early Christians may even have believed that Jesus could have been married. I didn’t say anything about the newly publicized “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” because to be honest, at the time I had been persuaded that it was a modern forgery. As someone who studies ancient Coptic texts on the side, however, I’m extremely interested in this debate and very excited about the possibility that it may not be a forgery after all. I don’t have the knowledge or expertise to weigh in on the question, but I’m closely following the debate between the experts. And that debate has taken an ugly turn right back into the very problem of sexism that many of us have been concerned about all along.
So far the most incisive comments are those of Eva Mroczek, whose op-ed (“Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” Less Durable Than Sexism Surrounding It) should be considered a must-read. Predictably, this post is being summarily dismissed by bloggers like the author of a post (What a Very Odd and Curious Response… Or, How Some Feminists Need to Learn About Adiaphora) who counsels Mroczek to “take a breath” and “count to ten” because the sexism she calls out “really exists only in [her] mind.”
(As an aside, that last comment so reminds me of Peter’s argument with Mary. “Do you really think that I made all this up in my heart?” Mary asks Peter in Mary 18:3-5.)
The male blogger in question regards the issue a matter of “adiaphora,” something “insignificant and not worth troubling yourself over.”
But is it really a matter of “adiaphora”? What about the commandment, “love each other” (John 13:34, DFV)? Is that adiaphora? What about “doing nothing through rivalry or through pride, but humbly regarding others better than yourselves,” and “not just looking to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3,4, DFV)? Is that adiaphora too?
How should we respond when we learn that we’ve offended someone? In his sermon on the mount, did Jesus say that if someone has been offended by us, we should scold them for being too sensitive? Or did he say that we should make amends?
What’s wrong with just saying to someone, “I’m sorry”?
As a white heterosexual male, I’m the beneficiary of privileges that many others don’t have. I have the luxury of being able to take it for granted, like many other white men. And honestly, even though I like to think I’m more aware of the problem of inequality, it’s still harder for me to perceive it because I can never fully appreciate what it’s like to be outside that bubble of privilege. But that’s also something I can take into consideration in measuring my response to others.
Do I ever say or do anything that offends someone else? Well, yes. (We humans are notorious for making mistakes.) But is my offense any less real if I didn’t intend to offend? Does it mean that I’m an inherently bad person if I offended someone — or does it simply mean I made a mistake? And if I can’t get myself to apologize for making a mistake, am I really the one who has a problem with being too sensitive? Now that’s something I think is worth thinking about.