This compilation explores modern interpretations of the Gospel according to Thomas, an ancient text preserved in a Coptic translation at Nag Hammadi and Greek fragments at Oxyrhynchus. With no particular slant, this commentary gathers together quotations from various scholars in order to elucidate the meaning of the sayings, many of which are right...
Saying 114 - The Female Element Must Make Itself Male
Nag Hammadi Coptic Text
(114) Simon Peter said to them: Let Mariham go out from among us, for women are not worthy of the life. Jesus said: Look, I will lead her that I may make her male, in order that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself male will enter into the kingdom of heaven.
(114) Simon Peter said to them, "Mary should leave us, for females are not worthy of life." Jesus said, "See, I am going to attract her to make her male so that she too might become a living spirit that resembles you males. For every female (element) that makes itself male will enter the kingdom of heaven."
118 . Simon Peter says to them: "Let Mary go out from our midst, for women are not worthy of life!" Jesus says: "See, I will draw her so as to make her male so that she also may become a living spirit like you males. For every woman who has become male will enter the Kingdom of heaven."
Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, "These nursing babies are like those who enter the kingdom. They said to him, "Then shall we enter the kingdom as babies?" Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom]."
The Lord said to Salome when she inquired: How long shall death prevail? "As long as ye women bear children", not because life is an ill, and the creation evil: but as showing the sequence of nature: for in all cases birth is followed by decay.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christs, then are ye Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Marvin Meyer quotes Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 5.8.44 for comparison:
"For this, he says, is 'the gate of heaven,' . . . where it is necessary for them, when they have come there, to cast off their clothing and all become bridegrooms, having been made male through the virgin spirit."
(The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 109)
Marvin Meyer quotes Clement of Alexandria, Excerpts from Theodotus 79 for comparison:
"As long, then, as the seed is still unformed, they say, it is a child of the female, but when it was formed, it was changed into a man and becomes a son of the bridegroom. No longer is it weak and subject to the cosmic (forces), visible and invisible, but, having become male, it becomes a male fruit."
(The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 109)
Marvin Meyer quotes First Apocalypse of James 41:15-19 for comparison:
"The perishable has gone [up] to the imperishable, and [the] element of femaleness has attained to the element of this maleness."
(The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 110)
Marvin Meyer quotes Zostrianos 131:2-10 for comparison:
"Do not baptize yourselves with death, nor give yourselves into the hands of those who are inferior to you instead of those who are better. Flee from the madness and the bondage of femaleness, and choose for yourselves the salvation of maleness. You have not come [to] suffer, but rather you have come to escape your bondage."
(The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 110)
Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write:
"As in the Gospel of Mary (pages 17-18 of the papyrus) and in Pistis Sophia (chapter 146), Simon Peter is not enthusiastic about the presence of Mariham (mentioned in Saying 21), just as in John 4:27 the disciples of Jesus are amazed because he is speaking with a woman. Male and female must become one (Saying 23 and Commentary). Jesus will 'draw' her (John 12:32) so that she will become 'one spirit' with him (1 Corinthians 6:17). She will become a man; just so, Ignatius of Antioch says that when he receives the pure light he will 'become a man' (Romans, 6, 2; for another parallel to Ignatius see Commentary on Saying 82). In order to enter into the kingdom of heaven, women must become men. We might be tempted to take this notion symbolically were it not for the existence of Gnostic parallels, for example in the Gospel of Mary (page 9), in Clement of Alexandria (Excerpta ex Theodoto 21, 3), and among the Naassenes. The 'house of God' is reserved 'for the spiritual ones alone; when they come there they cast off their garments [see Saying 38] and all become bridegrooms [Saying 75], having been made male by the virginal Spirit' (Hippolytus, Ref., 5, 8, 44). The high point of Thomas's eschatology is thus reached, at the end of his gospel, with the obliteration of sex."
(The Secret Sayings of Jesus, p. 198)
Gerd Ludemann writes:
"The logion contrasts with 22.5. For that speaks of the dissolution of sexuality, whereas this logion speaks of a transformation of the female into the male, of a kind that occurs in numerous Gnostic ascetic texts. Perhaps Logion 114 was added to the Gospel of Thomas only at a relatively late stage. In the framework of the version of the Gospel of Thomas which has been preserved, Logion 114 is principally to be read as a polemic against procreation and the world (cf. 79.3; 27.1, etc.)."
(Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 644)
Helmut Koester writes:
"But the ideal of the itinerant man, who is independent of all social and family bonds, also seems to imply that women engaged in the pursuit of common values and social conventions likewise are not fit for this role unless they accept the ideal of the ascetic man: ."
(Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 128)
Funk and Hoover write:
"In v. 3 Jesus is not suggesting a sex-change operation, but is using 'male' and 'female' metaphorically to refer ot the higher and lower aspects of human nature. Mary is thus to undergo a spiritual transformation from her earthly, material, passionate nature (which the evangelist equates with the female) to a heavenly, spiritual, intellectual nature (which the evangelist equates with the male). This transformation may possibly have involved ritual acts or ascetic practices."
(The Five Gospels, p. 532)
Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman write:
"Indeed, Jesus says of Mary (presumably Mary Magdalene, as in most Gnostic revelations) that he will make her a male so that she may become a 'living spirit' like the male apostles: 'for every woman who makes herself a man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven' (114/112). According to the Naassenes, spiritual beings will come to 'the house of God'; there they will cast off their garments and all of them will become bridegrooms, having been made male by the virginal Spirit. [Hippolytus Ref. V. 8. 44.] This teaching is close to that of Thomas."
(Gnosticism & Early Christianity, p. 188)
R. McL. Wilson writes:
"To quote the same authors [Grant and Freedman] yet again, 'the high point of Thomas' eschatology is thus reached, at the end of his gospel, with the obliteration of sex.' It should, however, be added that this is a point of difference among the Gnostic sects. In Valentinianism, for example, the souls of the elect enter into the Pleroma not as bridegrooms but as the brides of the angels. The basic conception is, however, the same."
(Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, p. 32)
Bentley Layton writes:
"it was a philosophical cliche that the material constituent of an entity was 'female,' while its form (or ideal form) was 'male.'"
(The Gnostic Scriptures, p. 399)
John Dart writes:
"But actually, as James Brashler explains it, 'to become a male' is standard (albeit 'chauvinistic') language of the Hellenistic world for becoming pure, spiritual. The phrase was used also, he said, to describe what a teacher does for a student. In that context, woman is given an equal chance for salvation."
(The Laughing Savior, p. 129)
F. F. Bruce writes:
"This is not the only place in Gnostic literature where Peter expresses impatience at the presence of Mary Magdalene in their entourage. [In Pistis Sophia, when Mary has expounded the 'mystery of repentance' in a Gnostic sense and been congratulated by Jesus for her insight, Peter protests: 'My Lord, we are not able to bear with this woman, speaking instead of us; she has not let any of us speak but often speaks herself' (54b). In the John Rylands University Library of Manchester there is an early third-century Greek papyrus fragment (P. Ryl. 463) of a Gospel according to Mary (Magdalene), in which the disciples discuss revelations which the Saviour is said to have given exclusively to Mary. Peter is unwilling to believe that the Saviour would have committed privately to a woman truths which he did not impart to his male disciples, but Levi rebukes him and defends Mary. (Part of the same work survives in a Coptic version in the Berlin papyrus 8502.) For Mary cf. Saying 21 (p. 122).] The general rabbinic idea that women were incapable of appreciating religious doctrine - compare the disciples' astonishment at Jacob's well when they found Jesus 'talking with a woman' (John 4.27) - was reinforced in Gnostic anthropology, where woman was a secondary and defective being. Yet none could deny Mary's fidelity: to an objective observer, it surpassed that of the male disciples. Jesus's promise that she will become a man, so as to gain admittance to the kingdom of heaven, envisages the reintegration of the original order, when Adam was created male and female (Genesis 1.27). Adam was 'the man' as much before the removal of Eve from his side as after (Genesis 2.18-25). Therefore, when the primal unity is restored and death is abolished, man will still be man (albeit more perfectly so), but woman will no longer be woman; she will be reabsorbed into man. [This is the point of the mystery of the bridal chamber (cf. Saying 75, p. 141); it was a form of initiation calculated to reverse the process by which death entered. 'When Eve was in Adam, there was no death; but when she was separated from him, death came into being' (Gospel of Philip 71)."
(Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, pp. 153-154)
John S. Kloppenborg, Marvin W. Meyer, Stephen J. Patterson, and Michael G. Steinhauser state:
"Now, as is obvious, this saying does not really free itself from the mistaken notions of its day about the relative worth of men and women. Nonetheless, what it says, in its own 'back-handed' way, is very important for the history of early Christianity. First, it probably indicates that not all were in agreement on whether women should be allowed to participate fully in the Jesus movement. The opposition to women voiced by Peter in this saying is not isolated, but reminds one of later evidence of a similar dispute in the Gospel of Mary (BG 8502 17,7 - 18,15) and Pistis Sophia (I, 36; II, 72). This dispute was likely one which would be carried on within early Christianity for many years to come. The Gospel of Thomas, of course, comes down here in favor of women's participation, provided they engage in the same sort of regimen required of the men in the group. What is more, Mary (it is not clear which Mary is intended here) is taken as the predecessor of all women who would become disciples. This stands in contrast to the more traditional feminine roles assigned to Mary in the synoptic and Johannine traditions (whether one speaks of Mary the mother of Jesus or of Mary Magdalene). In Thomas, Mary is presented as the first female disciple of Jesus. Thus, Paul may well have had good precedent, even from out of the sayings tradition, for including both women and men in the organization of the Christian communities he founded."
(Q-Thomas Reader, pp. 111-112)
Marvin Meyer writes:
"The transformation of the female into the male is discussed extensively in ancient literature (the transformation of the male into the female is also discussed, in the context of the acts of self-castration within the mysteries of the Great Mother and Attis). A few ancient accounts, in authors like Ovid and Phlegon of Tralles, communicate fantastic stories of women sprouting male genitals and thus becoming male, but most of the accounts use the gender categories in a metaphorical sense. Often the transformation of the female into the male involves the transformation of all that is earthly, perishable, passive, and sense-perceptible into what is heavenly, imperishable, active, and rational. In short, what is connected with the earth Mother is to be transformed into what is connected with the sky Father. If this is a correct interpretation of Gospel of Thomas saying 114, then the saying is intended to be a statement of liberation, although the specific use of gender categories may be shocking to modern sensitivities."
(The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus, p. 109)
Gal. 3:26-28: "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ." Through faith in Jesus Mary is made male, or equivelant to the other males He was speaking to.
TSee also the treatment of Antti Marjanen on logion 114 in his book "The Woman Jesus Loved: Mary Magdalene in the Nag Hammadi Library and Related Sources."
I think this speaks to the inequality of the times. Women were always regarded as second class citizens, and inferior. Therefore, they'd always have the mindset of inferiority, and even servitude. So I think in the statement didnt mean that he would change women anatomically into men, but instead he meant to change their minds, or her mentality so that she would stop carrying about like such "women" and would instead think more like men, and so she should then be treated accordingly, be regarded as an equal.
Females are in this text still inferior to males, who should be regarded as a role model. No doubt this is a fairly good representation of past and present ideas on women. However, this saying might also represent some tendencies in the early christian movement to give women at least a chance to participate and be saved too. Not quite the "opportunity" we would consider nowadays, but it's a welcome counterargument against the general male-chauvinistic writings of that time (like Paul).
Here is the culmination of several verses about the dualities (esp. 22, 50). In her transformed state Mary will be both male and female-a living spirit-now part of the kingdom of heaven where there are no dualities. Jesus is again trying to shock us into awareness of that other dimension.
Maybe we should invent new words for this being that is comprised of both a woman and a man, and stop using the word man when referring to it. Then there would be no misunderstandings, and there would be no reason for one sex to be implied as inferior to other.
We know from the image that God give both man and woman that woman is equal with man. It is our sin that made man and woman unequal according to Gen 3:3. That is why Jesus told Peter that he will make woman a man, because in heaven, men are the same as women; people live in spirit, not in body.
Perhaps in the culture only men were worthy of great things such that (male = worthy person) or (worthy person = male). To understand better, re-read the verse replacing "male" with "worthy."
This saying could also be interpreted as: If it is the men that inhibit women from finding their true spiritual self, they should stand up and become men!(claim their right as an equal)! For the woman, as well as Jesus apparently, is the one that is not blind to the non-existence of sexual differences. And the one that sees should lead the blind.
When a woman becomes spiritual in Christ she is made alive. Compare to Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
A similar theme exists in the gospel of Matthew, where the metaphor of Lady Wisdom (Hochmah/Sophia) is used to describe Jesus as Wisdom. Thus the female figure is absorbed into the male and disappears. C.f. Paul's "in Chist there is no longer male and female" (Gal. 3:28). The issue in Thomas is not one of gender superiority or of women being as men, but a matter of being of the same spirit in Wisdom/Hochmah/Sophia.
Not being a biblical scholar I look at the text at face value within the context of the circumstances and the implications of the conversation. The text implies there is envy and contention amongst the disciples regarding superiority of position and access. This if I recall is noted within the new testament gospels as well. And would be a normal and predictable occurance amongst any human group. One classic way of establishing superior authority over a general group of colleagues is to orchestrate the ouster or demotion of one close to the power center. This appears to be what Peter is doing. In doing so Peter while overtly criticizing Mary actually seems to be using the occasion of her closeness to Jesus and the norms of the society regarding the roles of women to chastise jesus and manuver himself into a higher power position. Jesus responds to this ploy in a way that not only puts Peter in his place but also encompasses and simultaneously transcends the cultural norms of that society.
When we do a Hermanutical study on the contex of what is being said one tends to find that with out wemon there are no men. Christ asks us to love and treat one another with respect. There is no mention anywhere that says except woman. When studing scripture you cannot take things out of contex and not all things are relavent to now. I find in study of this gosple that Jesus is saying woman turn from your old ways such as gossips, and become a new creature as any one must do when they seek the arms of Christ. Male and female do not matter the heart is what matters.
I would rewrite it this way: "Simon Peter said, 'Mary should leave us since she, like most women, is personally interested in bringing more people into this world.' To this Jesus replied, 'It's easier for males to renounce parenthood than for females; I'll talk with her, and see if she can become more male-like in that respect.'"
If the Gospel of Thomas is taken as an allegorical reference to the elements of human consciousness and the practice that must be undertaken to accomplish the goal of becoming Christ's twin (awakening), then Mary represents the undisciplined, diffuse, luminous, imaginal feminine aspect of consciousness. Through disciplined practice (guided) Mary is condensed into the bright concentrated seed or Christ child. This process is alluded to in the Woman and the Dragon of Revelation.
Perhaps, in addition to the question of equality, it was also a reference to a type of Adam Kadom, the asexual man. Jewish mystics belive that man was origonaly one being (human) and then was divided into two (male/female), perhaps this is a refernce to the restoration of both men and women into that state?
It's certainly a mistake to interpret this saying via modern gender issues. The metaphor is actually a Platonic paradigm, also found in Plotinus and elsewhere in which the material and Psychic is called 'female' and the noetic, the Divine Mind, called 'male'. To enter into the Noetic realm is to become one of the Pneumatikoi, the Spirituals, in the Heavenly state.
You've all missed the point. Jesus is saying that if his disciples require that that women not be included--poof (maker of miracles) I'll make them into men to satisfy you. Jesus more than once resorted to "enlightened sarcasm," knowing the impossibility of convincing others who are so thoroughly entrenched in false thinking.
If Jesus speaks of other dualities that we believe exist, such as the outside as different from the inside, so too could this be a dichotomy of our beliefs that men and women are entirely different simply because the outer is different. Are men and women not the same inside or spiritually, do they not seek the same things from life? Perhaps on this day Jesus was tired of talking to people who had no ears? Once you have become one he said, so in this time in history the thought that a male might have a female characteristic would be unheard of, or that a female could feel equal to a male. Yet we all know in this time that we're all supposed to get in touch with our female/male sides. Sexuality might be a characteristic that only exists on this plane. When we become enlightened, perhaps we have less need for this earthy pleasure. Celibacy is a well-known practice that can lead to enlightenment.
I think it's curious that Jesus uses the phrase, "resembling YOU males," essentially omitting himself from the comparison between Mary and the male disciples. That is, he wasn't identifying himself with the males in the debate.
This is easily seen when viewed from the vantagepoint of Taoism. I read much reaction on the left side to the use of man and woman, but these are spiritual traits, yin-yang, and are quite evident to me beyond the prejudice. Masculine and Feminine are two very distinct traits. I can see two distinctly different approaches to life in each, and I can see how they interrelate and strengthen one another, but I can also see how they can hold each other down. This passage refers in part to the interrelation touched upon with 'where one or two are gathered'. There must be a union of spirit, as one. The feminine side would leave us susceptible to worldly things (not to be insulting, just generalizing), and the masculine side would leave us more single-minded of purpose in all things. Male, in the Bible, is clearly stated as spiritual head of guidance and authority. This is not men. This is masculinity, IMO. It is not a physical gender issue at all, and Truth with a capital T is never limited to an era. If Jesus is perfection and timeless (infinite), he was not confined within such misunderstandings of the world, but understood a greater totality. "Set aside concerns with presentation and status and attention to minor details. Do all things with the single purpose with which you were meant to live." Perhaps, as a sign of the times, we are less aware now that feminine is not gender. Perhaps the words male and female offered a much greater picture before the onslaught of 'politically correct'. Perhaps.
Peter is still seeing the world in terms of fragmentary opposites, defined by words and names. In this case, Peter's focus is on gender. But, when one understands that perceived opposites, whether male and female or self and other are really only different manifestations of the One, and words are only tools that we use to desscribe those seemingly separate manifestations, then it matters not whether a female becomes male or a male becomes female. Both are One. When the two become One, a person enters the Kingdom.
As I recall, in ancient Jewish tradition only males were baptised. If Mary were baptised by Jesus, she would become "male" and henceforth be eligible to enter the kingdom.