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From The Status of Women in the Christian Gospel

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1.   Briefly describe how the Jewish laws governing women made it nearly impossible for a woman to participate in spiritual life.

2.   Briefly describe how Jesus completely disregarded these laws and how he treated women.

3.   What do you think about the quote by author Ben Witherington III (who is quoting H. Flender)?  Do you think Jesus would have agreed with this quote?  Why or why not?

4.   What do you think about the idea that it was one or two women who were actually the first apostles: “The two Marys were thus the first apostles.”

From Gnosis, Mary Magdalene in the Nag Hammadi Library

5.   Why do you think the bishops and leaders of the early church renounced the idea that salvation could be achieved outside of the church?

6.   What do you think about these words by the influential church father Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240 C.E.): “People are always asking questions. It’s questions that make people heretics!” (the literal definition of the word “heretic” is from the Greek word hairetikos meaning “to choose.”  Shouldn’t we always make informed choices about what we believe?  In fact, isn’t it our responsibility to carefully choose what we believe?)

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7.   What do some of the gnostic texts suggest about the place of Mary Magdalene in the Jesus Movement?

8.   What does Professor Elaine Pagels say about the Catholic Church’s position regarding ordination of women into the priesthood?  Is the Church’s position consistent with Jesus’ life and teachings?  Why or why not?

Be sure to read this Church proclamation before answering: https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1994/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19940522_ordinatio-sacerdotalis.html (链接到外部网站。)链接到外部网站。

9.   While I am mostly focused on the unfolding scholarship regarding the spiritual relationship between Jesus and Mary, I ask you to consider this question:  Is it really so unbelievable that Jesus might have actually had a human relationship with Mary as well?  What do you think about what Dan Burstein says about this?

10.   What does this documentary say “the Orthodox Church has lost?”  Do you think it matters that this has been lost from the Church?  Why or why not?  (Note: the word “orthodox” is from the Greek meaning “right opinion.” But who gets to choose which opinion is right?)

11.   What does Professor Jean-Pierre Ruiz say about the role that Mary Magdalene plays?

From The Complete Gospels

12.   Read Luke 8: 1-3. What does this passage tell us about the gender of Jesus’ “many” followers?  Doesn’t it seem possible – given Jesus’ consistently equal treatment of women and the fact he traveled extensively with women followers – that he would surely have considered some of these women to be his disciples (meaning “follower” in Greek)? Why or why not?

13.   Read Luke 10:38 – 42. What does Jesus say is “the better choice” even for a woman? How does this compare with the Jewish scripture that says it is a waste of time to teach a woman the Torah, or with churches that have excluded women from spiritual learning and leadership?

14.   Read Mark 7:24-30. This passage is remarkable for so many reasons!  Keep in mind that Jesus is debating theological principles with a woman – and not just any woman, but a pagan woman whose ethnic identity was looked down upon by the Jews!  Why does Jesus change his mind?  What does this passage tell you about Jesus’ openness to actually learning from a woman?

15.   Read John 20:11-17.  What do you think about the degree of spiritual intimacy that is revealed in this encounter between Jesus and Mary? (Notice that she said, “My Teacher” – not my lord or my master or my savior.  He has clearly been her spiritual teacher.) Why would Mary have attempted to touch Jesus or hold on to him if they did not have an exceedingly close relationship?

From The Gospel of Mary (page 333 in Complete Gospels)

16.   What does the Introduction say about how a person achieves salvation according to The Gospel of Mary?

17.   According to the Introduction, why are the male disciples unable to comprehend the truth of Mary’s teachings? (We actually see this same attitude by the male disciples in the New Testament gospels when they ask Jesus who will be the greatest among them after Jesus is gone:  Luke 9:46).

18.  In the section, “The role of women” (in the Introduction), what does it say regarding the rightful place of women in the Jesus Movement?  Why are we asked to “rethink the basis for church authority?”

From Mary Magdalene Was An Apostle, Not a Prostitute

19.   Please summarize the points that are being made in this document.  What do you think about what the Church did to the reputation of Mary Magdalene?

Conclusion Our Semester Together

20.   Please help me improve the class by answering the following questions:

a.  What did you like about this class?  What did you dislike about this class?

b.  Which resources did you like, and which ones did you dislike?

c.  How can I re-structure the class to make it more accessible and more enjoyable?

One of the things that we have seen this semester is that Jesus did not conform to any kind of formal institution or sect – and yet, that is exactly what Jesus has been turned into: an institution, with many different sects arguing over which sect is correct!  We have also seen that Jesus was a servant of the moment, meaning that he would say one thing in one moment and something completely different in the next – all according to the moment and the context within which he was teaching.  As an example, compare these two very contradictory passages:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

But, just a few chapters later – in the very same gospel – Jesus states that following him is not easy or light at all:

If any of you wants to come after me you should deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me!  Remember, if you try to save your life you’ll lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you’ll find it. (Matthew 16: 24-25)

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