Whoop-de-do. Son of a God who never picked a female prophet; who never chose a female disciple; who didn’t seem to think it a big deal to have his feet anointed by a woman’s hair — would have made a difference if he were married?
Maybe it would have. Maybe it did. Jesus was already challenging local religious authority, and materialism too. Maybe he was an activist for gender equality; in a religious tradition where only two sacred texts were named after women (and shy retiring ones at that — assassin Judith only got brought in by early Christians), he wouldn’t have had to go very far to be one.
I am neither historian nor religious scholar, but the Abrahamic religious traditions are so monolithically patriarchal that it beggars belief, save as the result of millennia of censorship so active and complete it would even impress North Koreans. Apocryphal gospels — ones not included in the Bible — make Mary Magdalene much more of a player; there is even a Gospel of Mary. In the canonical Gospels, Mary Magdalene is less important than the love interest in most action movies — and even then, Pope Gregory still went out of his way to label her a whore, six centuries after the fact.
Either women are completely useless in the realm of the spiritual — and, really, how likely is that? — or they were made so by leaders threatened by their power. I don’t mean their feminine wiles either — I mean the inherent differences between the genders in matters of thought and spirit, which have their roots in biology but have their expression in life. These differences are still going on — as I wrote this I listened to yet another discussion on the “gender gap” in the Obama-Romney election. I’m not saying one is more right; I’m just saying, we need both.
The deep-seated patriarchy in modern Western spirituality needs serious attention. Even in these days of growing political and economic parity, women are still being shut out of the guidance of our minds and souls, to great and I believe disastrous effect. At the very least it leads to skewed priorities, as we see from Catholic authorities more concerned that nuns advocate against contraception instead of for the needy. The 9/11 hijackers were rigorously kept in a male-centered world; Mohammed Atta didn’t even want women at his funeral.
Maybe this curious piece of papyrus might light the way to a discussion of just what the women were doing in Jesus’s day, and what they might do for us now. Something needs to.