Saturday, December 03, 2005

BRUCE CHILTON has a new book out on Mary Magdalene:
The Jesus-was-married theory says Jews expected men to wed. That's generally true, but modern rediscovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed that some Jewish holy men in ancient times remained celibate.

There's also this issue, raised by Bruce Chilton of Bard College in "Mary Magdalene: A Biography" (Doubleday, $23.95): Judaism's Talmud said a husband cannot move his wife from place to place. Couples usually resided with the wife's parents. Jesus' "constant travel, irregular birth, and unstable economic status made him nobody's ideal husband or son-in-law," Chilton comments.

"If Jesus were to have had a sexual partner, Mary remains the best candidate," he thinks. But there's no historical evidence that Jesus did.

Chilton chides feminists and New Agers who cite depictions of Mary Magdalene to claim ancient Gnosticism exalted women and is therefore preferable to orthodox Christianity.
The earliest Gnostic text, the second-century Gospel of Thomas, says women must make themselves males to enter the kingdom of heaven. That gender elitism contrasts with the basic spiritual equality in biblical Judaism and Christianity.

Actually, it's Josephus and Philo who say the Essenes were celibate. The Scrolls never mention celibacy explicitly (odd for a supposedly celibate group), although one passage in the Damascus Document may allude to a celibate sectarian group-within-the-group. Regarding the Talmud reference (typically, the article doesn't actually give the reference), the Talmud was edited many centuries after the time of Jesus and one would have to argue that the traditions in the specific passage were very early on other grounds. But if Chilton is citing the Talmud, I assume he does this. For a different view on the Gospel of Thomas, see here. I have more on Mary Magdalene here.

Then there's this from this A.P. article, which belongs in the You Can't Make This Up File: "There's even a "Complete Idiot's Guide" to her, and a forthcoming film version of the 'Magdalene' comic books' woman warrior."

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