What if in the divine order of things the Gospel of John was willfully changed by earliest scriptural scribes so to be included in the canonical gospels, so to provide a seed of the rise of the Feminine in our day today? What if this canonical text actually lived the pattern of the feminine so to speak today with Magdalene integrity?
Driving to Wisconsin this morning, I surprised myself by listening to a podcast I’d normally pass over: the suppression of Mary Magdalene, guest Elizabeth Schrader Polczer, a newly graduated textual critic of the Gospel of John, PhD Duke Divinity School, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Villanova University. I find podcasts/debates on the life of Mary Magdalene polarizing, ideologically driven, and insignificant for someone already well-aware of how suppressed-maligned Mary Magdalene has been, continues to be, by Christians today. Why bother? Myself, I’ve already left the sanctuary to try to spend my remaining days in sacred spaces in which I don’t (the Feminine doesn’t) have to scream to be heard.
Yet, for some reason, I clicked on the link. It’s a long drive to Madison.
Nothing was particularly surprising to me as we began. The voice of the scholar felt young to me (being the jaded-cynical old-GenX I am) but I wanted to hear context of something I’d heard in the introduction. Schrader Polczer’s work arises with the recent accessibility to hundreds/thousands of digitalized papyrii, which opened a textual-critical “discovery” not easily “seen” in previous studies of widely-dispersed papyrii. Her argument: multiple instances of Mary’s primacy in the Gospel of John were crossed out, altered, and changed to Martha, or Mary and Martha, such that Mary’s primacy was suppressed. Historical interpretations allowed Mary’s role and voice to be dispersed across “multiple women,” therefore diffusing and fragmenting her presence as the now-recognized and canonized Apostle of Apostles she actually was. Not surprising, but cool to have textual-critical contribution to document it.
Schrader Polczer’s interpretive proposal is that the scribes purposefully altered the text so to get John’s Gospel through the canonization process. This caught something in me…! Scribes hid the Magdalene’s primacy such that the ecclesial patriarchs would accept it, so that those who needed Peter’s primacy to be unquestionable would agree?
Schrader Polczer gave a much more holistic framework as well, rooted in John 11: this alteration was “an illness that does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory.” The alteration, in other words, bowed to the wounding of the feminine in a Love able to be resurrected when it was time. From the podcast itself, “If you hate the patriarchy, then you’ll never understand or know Mary Magdalene." In that hatred, you miss the depth of devotion in Mary Magdalene who bent to her own diminishment, in surrender to a deeper Wisdom.
Dare I say a deeper Magic, ala C.S. Lewis?
On my way to Holy Wisdom Monastery…This is worth chewing on for a while. It feels familiar…