Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Salome the Confidante of Jesus ~ Zooromancer Remix




Zooromancer Remix Edit

Salome the Confidante of Jesus

In Saying ll4, which closes the Gospel of Thomas , the Twin reports an encounter that seems, at first sight, to demean women. Simon Peter says to the gathered disciples that Mary Magdalene should leave them, "for women are not worthy of life." Jesus replies that he himself will "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." 

The Saying is not necessarily, as some readers tend to find it, a statement echoing the prevailing attitudes in Jewry and in Greco-Roman society that assigned an inferior position to women, or a repetition of the familiar Jewish and Christian theme that Eve was the source of sin and caused separation of the human species from the Almighty. 

Equally possible -- and more probable, in its Gnostic context -- is a reading that makes this simply another example of the union of male and female as a symbol for the ultimate unitive experience. There is an overcoming of the division of Adamic man-woman in Eden, which was the beginning of differentiation, and the restoration of oneness as a result of their reunion. A French scholar finds collaboration of such a view in the Pistis Sophia , where "Mary Magdalene feels this interior man in herself, and, identifying with him, understands All." 

It appears that women played a more prominent role in the myths and communities that arose among Christian Gnostics than they did in society at large. In the capital of King Mazdai, wherever that may have been, Thomas had an important following among women -- the wives of notables at the court, including the queen herself. And early Christian heresiologists accused Gnostic leaders of seeking out women, ones described by the heresy-hunters as weak and gullible, as easy converts. In Marcion's church women were full participants and could administer baptism. Apocryphal writings of Gnostic origin made certain of the women in Jesus's inner circle recipients of secret learning from him after his resurrection. They as well as men could be inspirited. 

Salome (not to be confused with the princess who demanded John the Baptist's head) and Mary Magdalene were confidantes of this sort. In the canonical gospels, Salome appears by name only in Mark , who gives her a role of highest importance : she is a witness of both the crucifixion and the empty tomb. The later gospels --Matthew, Luke , and John -- do not refer to her at all. It has been suggested that she was left out because the later gospel-writers disapproved of various Christian groups who invoked her as authority for what had become, in their eyes, dubious doctrine. The prominent role she plays in Gnostic literature and the conspicuous silence of later orthodoxy writers strongly support such a view. 

Salome's identity remains mysterious although some scholars, having to explain the references in Mark, regard her as in some way a kinswoman of Jesus, perhaps his mother's sister. Some apocryphal tales make Salome the midwife at the birth of Jesus. And others make her a Doubter, like Thomas himself: she is said to have demanded tactile proof, by touching the relevant parts, that the mother of Jesus was still a virgin after she gave birth. 

In the Gospel of Thomas ( Saying 61b) Salome says to Jesus that he had come up on her couch (presumably referring to reclining at meals) and eaten from her table. "Who are you, man," she asks. Jesus replies, "I am he who exists from the undivided." He goes on to say that someone who is divided will be filled with darkness, but someone [presumably "undivided": translators point out that there is a gap in the text] will be filled with light. This is one of the notable sayings on the theme of Oneness. 

Clement of Alexandria singles out for refutation a Julius Cassianus, otherwise unknown, who preaches extreme sexual asceticism. According to Cassianus a saying of the Lord to Salome -- that "death will have power" as long as women bear children -- meant that the kingdom would come when you have trampled on the garment of shame and when the male and female become one. These words, by now familiar to us, were apparently also known in Clement's time (late second and early third centuries) from a long-lost Gospel of the Egyptians. (Clement explains that the Lord's words do not really mean, as the Encratites held, that child-bearing was an evil: they were pointing out a fact of nature: so long as lusts are powerful the soul will die.)


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