July 18 2022
by Diana Butler Bass
WN: The sermon by the above historian is revolutionary in terms of the role of women in the early church. Be assured: you will not be disappointed if you listen with an open mind and heart. The implications, if the text discussed is fully corroborated, are truly gargantuan! . . . It must be shouted from the rooftops!
It has been my deep conviction for decades that biblical justice, like a garden super weed, once grasped, connects all other justice issues where domination and oppression hold sway: everything from women’s roles to racial issues; from colonization to intimate partner abuse; from treatment of criminals to international warfare. To which Amos (5:24) thunderously rejoins:
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Then the Psalmist in 85:10:
Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Amen, and again I say, Amen!
Please now click on: All The Marys. (Did I say you won’t be disappointed?!) A shout-out to our friend and mentor Elsie Goerzen, Co-Director of Mennonite Central Committee of British Columbia’s powerful End Abuse Program, for drawing our attention to it.
I’ll somewhat give the content away with this excerpt about the sermon from Ms. Bass:
Here’s my sermon from the Wild Goose Festival, based on Luke 10: 38-42 and John 11. Sorry it is a little late! Our drive home last night took much longer than expected.
Since the sermon draws from Elizabeth Schrader’s work on the Marys, I sent it to her that she might listen. She responded by saying it was “powerful” and well-represents her work (noting the stylistic differences between an academic paper and a sermon!). And she also wanted listeners to know that, at this point, the Nestle-Aland committee of the Greek New Testament is aware of this work and will take it into account as they work on updated critical editions of the New Testament. In her words, “they are unlikely to remove Martha completely unless further discoveries come to light, but the apparatus (the footnotes) in John 11 may well change as a result of this discovery.”
So, that’s where the academic discussion currently stands. And who knows where it will go as researchers follow these questions? The New Testament continues to open up with amazing new insights as scholars like Libbie press into ancient texts in new ways — and making it possible for us to understand scripture closer to original sources.
Enjoy the sermon. It is Good News indeed.
I invite you to imagine with me — What would Christianity have been like if we’d known about Mary the Tower the entire time? What does it mean for us going forward?
After having read the sermon, you may wish also to read, by Ms. Schrader (2016), the more academic: Was Martha of Bethany Added to the Fourth Gospel in the Second Century? (This was supplied through Elsie Goerzen, in correspondence with Ms. Schrader. It was published here: Schrader, E. (2017). Was Martha of Bethany Added to the Fourth Gospel in the Second Century? Harvard Theological Review, 110(3), 360-392. doi:10.1017/S0017816016000213.)
My good friend Gerry shared the following corroborating videos featuring Ms. Schrader‘s discussing at a more academic level her research on Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of John. He had sent the sermon to a friend who is an ordained Roman Catholic woman priest. I had known nothing of this! This too is exciting! Here is their website:
Unfortunately, the ordinations of these women are still not considered “licit” by our institutional Church. Some Catholic priests decided some years ago that to wait for the institution to change its position was unjust, and eventually a Catholic bishop agreed (only the Bishop can ordain) and so 7 women were ordained (in 2002). It’s inevitable that this injustice, and the blindness that creates it, will eventually change in a more universal (i.e. ‘catholic’) way. For this I pray.
The website further introduces their mandate in a recording (click on image). Below it, you may read their statement:
Roman Catholic Womenpriests are at the forefront of a model of service that offers Catholics a renewed priestly ministry in vibrant grassroots communities where all are equal and all are welcome. The voice of the Catholic people—the sensus fidelium—has spoken. We women are no longer asking for permission to be priests. Instead, we have taken back our rightful God-given place ministering to Catholics as inclusive and welcoming priests.
Yes, we have challenged and broken the Church’s Canon Law 10241, an unjust law that discriminates against women. Despite what some bishops may lead the faithful to believe, our ordinations are valid because we are ordained in apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church.
The Catholic people have accepted us as their priests and they continue to support us as we grow from the seven bold women first ordained on the Danube River in 2002. Ordained women are already ministering in over 34 states across the country and are also present in Canada, Europe, South and Central America, South Africa, Philippines and Taiwan.
We are here to stay.
I can only echo Gerry’s prayer, and add: a hearty Amen!
Now, please view the videos:
Hearing Ms. Bass’ sermon today not only gave me goose-bumps; I found it was truly revelatory and thrilling! More power to all the brilliant women doing painstaking work on early Christianity! The Gospels are impossibly hot potatoes: arguably the most revolutionary texts –“towering” in light of the sermon–in human history! Who can hold them for very long without deep soul-searching searing? . . .
Despite my having been raised in the Plymouth Brethren tradition where the Bible–an exclusive interpretation thereof–was Pope, and where women were emphatically under male leadership, Ms. Bass shatters that notion–by use of the biblical text! Enough to tease your interest, I hope. But to forewarn: I for one was, as they say: “blown away.”
- A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.–see CODE OF CANON LAW
- You may view it here:
- We read in the Wikipedia article of its influence on fundamentalism and evangelicalism:
Scottish Realism greatly influenced conservative religious thought and was strongest at Princeton Seminary until the Seminary moved in new directions after 1929. The Princeton theologians built their elaborate system on the basis of “common-sense” realism, biblicism and confessionalism. James McCosh was brought from Queen’s College, Belfast, to Princeton College’s Chair of Moral Philosophy and Presidency because of his book “The Method of Divine Government,” a Christian philosophy that was precursory to Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” (1859). Several Princeton Theologians followed McCosh to adopt a stance of theistic evolution. It was his goal to develop Princeton as a Christian university in North America, as well as a forefront intellectual seminary of the Presbyterian Church. The faculty of the college and seminary included both evolutionary thinkers and non-evolutionary thinkers. Much evangelical theology of the 21st century is based on Princeton theology and thus reflects Common Sense Realism. New Testament scholar Grant Osborne concludes that Scottish Common Sense Realism influenced biblical hermeneutics, that the surface level understanding of Scripture became popular, and individualistic interpretations abounded.
- See my book review with an evangelical response to this, of: The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, by John H. Walton.
- Please see on this:
Gustavo Gutiérrez and the preferential option for the poor, November 14, 2020.