Essays & Images on Cities, Travel and Contemporary Culture. A web journal of James A. Clapp, Ph.D., an UrbisMedia Ltd. Production

Vol.79.5: The Marymag Factor

V079-05_7820-jesus-wife-papyrus-091912My wife . . .” Did Jesus really say that? Or is it just a mis-translation, or fabrication of a 4th C papyrus fragment of Coptic text? Whatever; in the credulous world of American Christians and the always self-protecting world of the Vatican, it has the whiff of Da Vinci Code. They don’t want to be sharing their personal savior with any such lesser being as a woman. Prof. Karen King of the Harvard Divinity School mercifully dropped this little bomb of only two words of translation into a news cycle dominated by presidential politics.

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As we all know from Genesis, the Creator created heaven and earth out of nothing (or some app on his iPhone 5*), but not being able to leave well enough alone, created Man on the 6th day. We all know from this report as well that he created man in his “own image,” and plausibly, even more like him in appearance alone. Never mind that those of us who do not engage in magical thinking know from a different account of creation that it was Man that created God in his own image and fully installed the Creator with the complete range of human nicety and nastiness. But will stay with the Genesis version for the moment.

But as far we are referring to man strictly as man. We know from the biblical account that God—some would say even further not leaving well enough alone—extracted a rib from his first human creation and fashioned it into woman. That’s the story, an awful lot of people subscribed to it as they say, “chapter and verse.” So we need to suspend all we know about procreation leads to more logical conclusion that woman should have been the first of the creators human creations,** and maybe in the first “virgin birth” man could have issued from her. If you have a chicken and egg argument, it makes more sense to settle on the notion chicken being first in this case.

But unfortunately for women, they never were included in the sacred offices where such “chapter and verse” stories are concocted, and so men get to script the narrative, and men come first, both as the Creator himself and Adam, and woman, Eve, only gets to come first when it is time to inject sinfulness into the plot. It is she who consorts with serpents and fiddles with forbidden fruit; is she who makes a mess of things with her temptations, and brings about the expulsion from the Garden of Eden and brought pain, suffering and death into the human experience.

It’s enough to make some guys scream, “Bitch, now look what you’ve done! Serves you right that you will bear children in pain, have the monthlies, and deserve only three quarters of the salary that we men get. Now get dinner ready while I go to my man cave and play fantasy football.” Yeah that’s right, you screwed things up, us guys could just be lying around on an Edenic beach in Belize with a six-pack of Bud light watching Monday night football and deciding what fig leaf to wear.

It really hasn’t been all that great for women since that first apocryphal story about how they came on scene and screwed things up. In substantial chunks of the world they still rate right up there in rights and human value with goats and camels. They are still, in many places, raped, beaten, sold, maimed and murdered. Throughout history religion has been right there insuring their status as second class humans, keeping them in “their place” and murdering them as witches or whatever when they forgot where that place was.

And so when Mary of Magdala (Marymag) turns up among the entourage of Jesus of Nazareth, the man the Church decided to elevate from executed troublesome rabbi to the risen Son of God and personal Savior to annoying legions of evangelicals, the Church decided to put this woman in her place, turning her into a repentant whore whose supposed closest contact with the messianic genitals was washing his feet. It probably total bullshit, but the Church’s early “fathers” had no compunctions about trashing a girl’s reputation; after all, they had been doing that since Eve. It wasn’t as though these male overlords deprive themselves of the pleasurable offices of Venus one that Cialis moment came over them, but they felt they needed to elevate that notion of celibacy as a conference of some preternatural power.

Still, any species needs chickens to have eggs, and women––rather motherhood–was elevated and rigidly circumscribed. At the same time they were “lesser beings” women were essential (“can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em”). Before monotheism, and certainly by the time Jesus comes on the scene, there had been female goddesses to propitiate for many sons and robust harvests. But when the one and only God and his Son were “created,” they would have beards, not boobs. And hence rising on this pedestal of ambiguity came . . .

The Madonna-Whore

Freud expressed the M-W as a complex (naturally a consequence of his Oedepal complex) this way: “Where such men love they have no desire and where they desire they cannot love.” Freud had a tendency to go to he crotch too often; I would lay this one at the door of religion, and specifically Roman Catholicism which, in its obsession with power and control, murked-up the role and identity of women from the get-go. Of course, we know today that they also deserve credit for the creation of the priest–pederast complex.

That is they way the boys in robes and silly hats have had it for the first couple of millennia. But then some writings started turning up that placed women back into the creation/soteriological narrative they are insinuating themselves into the very belly of a carefully crafted religious story in which they have been cast as only as necessary, for example they need a real live mommy hope to make the Jesus God/man thing work. Solution to the Madonna whore problem: the virgin birth.

Remember how the popularity of the Da Vinci Code pissed off the Church, sent the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith looking for those exquisite devices they used during the Inquisition, and there was talk of some hit men from Opus Dei being dispatched to take out the author, and the director of the film. All because out of the best 20 centuries some clever author made use of the that Marymag was not only the lover of Jesus, but his wife and the mother of his son. So when a piece of parchment turns up, even with the vaguest of references to the possibility of such a relationship—although I think it’s a strong probability***—the Pope has a shit fit and starts goose-stepping around the papal apartment.

The little scrap of parchment that has engendered a lot of interest, and some outrage is reputedly written in Coptic (but they look like Greek characters to me) and, therefore, I must take the word of scholars who are able to translate it. But I have the sneaking suspicion that this account may well refer to the time when Jesus was doing his standup routine in Maxi’s Comedy Club in Jerusalem, and identifies Jesus as the originator of that one-liner that became a staple of Borscht Belt shtick by so many of his ancestors.

[Jesus jumps up on the stage. Applause, whoops]

“Hey, good evening everybody. It’s great to be back in Jerusalem with all you meek folks who are going to inherit this place.” [Laughter from Jesus’s fans who were in the audience at Sermon on the Mount Comedy Special]

“I just want to give a call out to my twelve buddies that I just had dinner with. Don’t stand up guys; you can be identified by that fish smelling cologne most of you wear.” [Hoots from the disciples, except for Judas, who is in a corner talking to a couple Roman centurions.]

[Jesus calls out to Judas] “Hey, Jude, why don’t you invite your goyim friends to join us in a few joints in Gethsemane after the show. . . Hey, all of you know by now that my mother was a virgin when I was born . . .  [Raucus laughter and hoots] But I want to give a special greeting to another special lady in my life. Stand up, baby, let them have a look at you.”

[From the middle of the group of disciples Mary Magdelene demurely rises.]

“Now, take my wife . . .[perfectly timed pause] . . . Please!” 
© 2012, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 9.22.2012)

*”Siri, are there any good sushi restaurants in the Orion constellation?” 
**She would have been had I been The Creator; and I would have jumped right past Eve and a couple thousand other generations, right to Sophia Loren.
***I’m still forming, and may never finish, my understanding of the life of Jesus and who he is, but I believe that he did not die on the cross, indeed lived on, probably with his Essene compatriots, perhaps even subsequently died at Masada. I also think it is quite likely that the Magdalene was his wife and that they had a son. With regard to that last point, there is no Jewish or Roman tradition of freeing a criminal when you execute another person, so the Barabbas story is probably pure fabrication. And given that it has been shown that the name bar Abbas means “ son of the master” that son might well have been abducted and used as a bargaining chip in Christ’s surrender to the Romans. Frankly, I think it’s not only a more truthful version, it’s a better story.