The Suppression Of Women In Religion
We are all familiar with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – but what about the other Gospels: those of Philip, of Thomas, of Mary and of Mary Magdalene? What of all the numerous Gospels, Acts and Epistles that were not approved by the Church councils when the New Testament was compiled? Why were they excluded when the choices were made? There were actually two main criteria for selection, and these (from an earlier short-list prepared by Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria) were originally determined at the Council of Carthage in the year AD 397, to be finally ratified in the later Renaissance era.
The first criterion was that the New Testament Gospels must be written in the names of Jesus’s own apostles. Matthew was, of course, an apostle, as was John – but Mark was not an apostle of Jesus as far as we know; neither was Luke; they were both colleagues of the later St Paul. Thomas, on the other hand, was one of the original twelve, and yet the Gospel in his name was excluded. Not only that but, along with various other texts, it was sentenced to be destroyed. And so, throughout the Mediterranean world, numerous unapproved books were buried and hidden in the 5th century. Only in recent times have some of these early manuscripts been unearthed, with the greatest of all discoveries made (after 1500 years) in 1945 at Nag Hammadi in Egypt.
Although these books were not rediscovered until this present century, they were used openly by the early Christians. Certain of them, including the Gospels mentioned, along with the Gospel of Truth, the Gospel of the Egyptians and others, were actually mentioned in the 2nd-century writings of early churchmen such as Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus of Lyon and Origen of Alexandria. So, why were these and other apostolic Gospels not selected? Because there was a second, far more important criterion to consider – the criterion by which, in truth, the Gospel selection was really made. It was, in fact, a wholly sexist regulation which precluded anything that upheld the status of women in Church or community society.
Indeed, the Church’s own Apostolic Constitutions were formulated on this basis. They state, ‘We do not permit our women to teach in the Church, only to pray and to hear those who teach. Our master, when he sent us the twelve, did nowhere send out a woman; for the head of the woman is the man, and it is not reasonable that the body should govern the head’. This was an outrageous statement with no apparent foundation, but it was for this very reason that dozens of Gospels were not selected, because they made it quite clear that there were many active women in the ministry of Jesus: women such as Mary Magdalene, Martha, Helena-Salome, Mary-Jacob Cleophas and Joanna. These were not only ministering disciples, but priestesses in their own right, running exemplary schools of worship in the Nazarene tradition.
In his Epistle to the Romans, St Paul makes specific mention of his own female helpers: Phoebe, for example, whom he called a ‘sister of the Church’ – along with Julia, and Priscilla who ‘laid down her neck for the Cause’. Writings of the Gospel era are simply alive with women disciples, but the Church ignored them all. When the Precepts of Ecclesiastical Discipline were drawn up, they stated, ‘It is not permitted for a woman to speak in Church, nor to claim for herself a share in any masculine function’. The Church of Rome was so frightened of women that it implemented a rule of celibacy for its priests – a rule that became a law in 1138: a rule that persists today. But this rule has never been quite what it appears on the surface, for it was never sexual activity as such that bothered the Church. The more specific problem was priestly intimacy with women. Why? Because women become wives and mothers – and the very nature of motherhood is a perpetuation of bloodlines. It was this that bothered the Church: a taboo subject which, at all costs, had to be separated from the necessary image of Jesus.
However, it was not as if the Bible had said any such thing. In fact, quite the reverse was the case. St Paul had actually said in his first Epistle to Timothy that a bishop should be married to one wife and that he should have children, for a man with experience in his own family household is actually far better qualified to take care of the Church. But, even though the Roman Church authorities claimed to uphold the teaching of St Paul in particular, they chose completely to disregard this explicit directive to suit their own ends, so that Jesus’s marital status could be strategically ignored. Notwithstanding this, the Church’s celibate, unmarried image of Jesus was at variance with other writings of the Gospel era, and it was openly contradicted in the public domain until the perpetuation of the truth was proclaimed a punishable heresy (only 450 years ago) at the Italian Council of Trento in 1547 (the year that Henry VIII Tudor died in England).
It is, however, not just the Christian New Testament which suffers from these sexist restrictions. A similar editing process was applied to the Hebrew Old Testament, making it conveniently suitable to be added to the Christian Bible. This is made particularly apparent by a couple of entries that bypassed the editors’ scrutiny. The books of Joshua and 2-Samuel both refer to the importance of the more ancient book of Jasher. But where is this book? Like so many others of equal importance, it is not to be found in the Bible!
–Bloodline Of The Holy Grail
- The Forbidden Sayings of Jesus: What the Church Doesn’t Want You to Know. ~Tom Rapsas (elephantjournal.com)