17.9.09

Unlearning and Mary Magdalene

The passion (British drama serial) was one of the first dramas that did not portray her as the repentant prostitute.
Luke 8. She is one of the women who ministers to Jesus.

She is not the woman who anoints Jesus. She is not the woman caught in adultery, in John chapter 8.

If an apostle is a witness to the resurrection, which is Paul's definition, then Mary is an apostle.

For Luke, an apostle is someone who has witnessed the resurrection and accompanied Jesus during his ministry. She satisfies the criterion. In Mark 15:40-41 we discover that there are these key women who have followed Jesus and ministered to him. For Mark a great disciple has followed and served Jesus. Mary succeeds in this where many of the male disciples fail. Mary is there at the empty tomb in Mark and she is charged to tell the news of his resurrection. She witnesses the empty tomb and has a commissioning directly from Jesus himself in the other gospels. She is the first one there. She is apostolic. In John's gospel, we only have Mary Magdalene who has a personal encounter with Jesus - she is tell the other apostles. She is given increasing prominence as the gospels are formulated over time.

After the end of John's gospel she disappears, she is not in Acts. Paul does not mention her either. Feminist scholars wonder if her role has been suppressed. Her story continues to capture people's imaginations into the second century.
Mary Magdalene is depicted as the first apostle in the canonical gospels.

5pm tomorrow (18th Sept) go to Duke Uni website to talk to Mark directly over the net.

Listen here

13 comments:

David Ould said...

If an apostle is a witness to the resurrection, which is Paul's definition
Except that that is NOT Paul's definition.

He tells us that all the Apostles have witnessed the Resurrected Christ, but not that all witnesses of the Resurrected Christ are Apostles.

Rachel Marszalek said...

You can take this up with Mark Goodacre himself, prof at Duke Uni tomorrow at 5 pm BST. He talks more about the possiblility to do this at the end of the MP3.

This was only part of what Mark Goodacre said, he looked to Luke's definition too.

Mark does raise some interesting points though.

Rachel Marszalek said...

If an apostle is a witness to the resurrection, which is Paul's definition
Except that that is NOT Paul's definition.

He tells us that all the Apostles have witnessed the Resurrected Christ, but not that all witnesses of the Resurrected Christ are Apostles.

Granted it is much more nuanced than this. Otherwise Paul would not be an apostle. His encounter with Christ was different again.

David Ould said...

well, if it's "granted" then all claims that Mary Magdalene is an Apostle simply by virtue of her having seen the Resurrected Christ have to be set aside.

Her and the over 500 others who saw Him and testified to Him.

Perhaps the egalitarians need a better definition of what as Apostle actually is, even if it means they can't make the claims they want to make.

Sadly I will be fast asleep at 5pmBST. Perhaps you would ask Goodacre for me why he takes such a broad definition of Apostle and where exactly he gets it from?

Rachel Marszalek said...

Paul and gifts, yes?

David Ould said...

Paul and gifts? Sorry, I'm not sure what you're saying.

Rachel Marszalek said...

...just on a train of thought really regarding gifts/roles (charisma/pnuematikoi, diakonoi etc)

Mary was commissioned by the resurrected Christ to tell the news. Paul also, although later and a little differently with different aims.

How open is the church to women being apostles, in all the nuanced variations we bring to the word?

Just interested that Mary had a serving gift (served Jesus during his ministry) and a speaking gift (commissioned by Jesus to tell the disciples the news).


In Ephesians Paul says that Christ gave to the church
apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
Mary is described as the 'apostle to the apostles' - not that she was superior but that she too was commissioned to tell of the gospel. Essentially, if an apostle is a "sent one", someone who is entrusted to fulfill a task while acting in the name of someone else, Mark Goodacre says nothing controversial in his discussions of her apostleship.

David Ould said...

...just on a train of thought really regarding gifts/roles (charisma/pnuematikoi, diakonoi etc)

Mary was commissioned by the resurrected Christ to tell the news.


Again, this is a real stretch from "apostolicity" and even what the Scriptures say. Mary was told "Go ... to my brothers and tell them 'I am returning to my Father...'" and off she goes to do that.

How you get from there to a general commissioning as "Apostle" is, frankly, beyond me.

Paul also, although later and a little differently with different aims.

Well, let's look at those aims. Jesus says to Ananais (Acts 9:15) "This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kinds and before the people of Israel".

Surely you concede there is a universe of difference between the natures of these 2 instructions?!

How open is the church to women being apostles, in all the nuanced variations we bring to the word?

I have to say, introducing the idea of "nuanced variations" is a little misleading. The word αποστολος simply means "one that is sent". I have no problem saying that Mary was "sent" if that is ALL that is being said. But, of course, it is not all that is being said - the egalitarian argument is not that use of the term is "nuanced" but that Mary is an "apostle" just as James or Paul were. There is a removal of nuance in that argument.


Just interested that Mary had a serving gift (served Jesus during his ministry) and a speaking gift (commissioned by Jesus to tell the disciples the news).

Well, of course. And no-one is denying it! It is just that the egalitarians then draw an tremendously long bow from those wonderful facts and anoint her as "apostle".

In Ephesians Paul says that Christ gave to the church
apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
Mary is described as the 'apostle to the apostles' - not that she was superior but that she too was commissioned to tell of the gospel.


First, she is never called that in the Scriptures. Second, the usage of that term is such that it indicates she is an apostle on comparable footing with those that she goes to. That assertion simply cannot be argued from the Scriptures. Nor does it, in any way, demonstrate that she falls into any of the categories from Paul that you have listed. She may, of course, but her specific commissioning for a single task by Jesus hardly constitutes that argument.

Essentially, if an apostle is a "sent one", someone who is entrusted to fulfill a task while acting in the name of someone else, Mark Goodacre says nothing controversial in his discussions of her apostleship.

I'm sorry, this smacks of being disengenuous. The whole point of this "apostle" language is to argue that women held positions of authority (or at least were intended to by Jesus) in the early church on a par with those that we more regularly call "apostle".

If that is not the intention (and it would be a wholesale change if that were so) then to use the term "apostle" so deliberately is simply confusing.

So, I would suggest you must decide which it is.

1. Are you simply arguing that the word "apostle", when applied to Mary, means she was "sent"? If so then you will concede that there is no argument that can be established about a more permanent authority. She was "sent" on a single task and to say any more is an argument from deafening silence.

2. Or, are you arguing for more in that word? If so then why argue for the "nuance" if the next move is to underplay it?

Which do you want an apostolic apostolicity?
Or a woman "sent" by Jesus on a single task?

Rachel Marszalek said...

'Surely you concede there is a universe of difference between the natures of these 2 instructions?!'

But only we measure the quality of a role - such a worldly thing to do.

I suppose ultimately we are both aware that what is really going on here is, yes, the egalitarians use Augustine's declaration that she was 'the apostle to the apostles' to substantiate argument that the church ordain women and complementarians deny that Junia was described as an apostle, for example, in Romans 16:7 because they are theologically opposed to women being ordained. The Church has been so uncomfortable, it even turned Junia into a man. Now, there are those who talk about the suppression of Mary Magdalene and I do not really want to get into that because I do believe in the infallibility of the scriptures and the canon but it is good for us women to see how Jesus welcomed women to sit and learn from him (Mary and Martha), trusted them (Mary Magdalene) with information that the men would not believe because a woman's testimony didn't even stand up in court in those days and yet Mary was commissioned by the risen Lord with the news of his resurrection. Another thought, I hardly imagine Junia was silent, if she is described alongside Andronicus as an apostle who was imprisoned for her work. And so the Bible in many places has been scrutinised so that women can serve in the offices not because the Church of England, to take one expression of the Church, has given in to social mores but because under the guidance of the Holy Spirit they have looked into the scriptures.

Rachel Marszalek said...

You must tell me more about the Sydney scene. I must start thinking about you more in terms of the Sydney scene and less in terms of the American complementarian Grudem, Piper CBMW scene. (sorry about that - I mean lumping you all together in my head).

I know a little about Jensen and how he is big in Gafcon. Sydney diocese is Evangelical, yes, and committed to Reformed and Calvinist Theology? You minister in one of the largest and wealthiest Anglican dioceses in the world.

Most priests train at Moore College, right, will they train women? Were you here to start with (UK) but found yourself more spiritually, ecclesiologically, theologically at home in Sydney so minister there now instead?

The most visible difference between Sydney and other Anglican dioceses is its unwillingness to allow the ordination of women to the priesthood, yes? We are into areas of ecclesiological and theological difference now, aren't we? The eucharist can be administered by the laity now, in Sydney, yes, but not women? How do you feel about your diocese's questioning of the three-fold order of Deacons, Priests and Bishops. Do you have Lay presidancy in your church?

Is it true that Sydney Anglicans resist the influence of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movement?

And yourself? You do not believe in the ordination of women, right? In Sydney because Jensen takes a certain position on this secondary issue, do churches in his jurisdiction follow suit? Is it left up to the consciences of individual churches? I'm interested. Hope you do not mind all these questions. I think I am going through a kind of evangelical crisis, in terms of, if those who are so different to me also describe themselves as evangelical, is it really something I can describe myself as. Most of the evangelicals I speak with are reformed, calvinistic and anti-women in ordained ministry. I speak with you and Rosemary on this blog and I actually live but do not worship in a parish with two reformed, Calvinised, anti-women male incumbent-led churches. Perhaps it's time I explored lots of other strands and so college will be a healthy thing, i think.

As for me, well, all pretty straight-forward really. ABof C Rowan does, of course, believe in the ordination of women. I will train in Derbyshire, probably rural, not sure how affluent really, good mix. I am being nurtured in a college and a church which describe themselves as Open evangelical charismatic. So we are welcoming of the Holy Spirit and experiences like speaking in tongues, healing etc although I have to say it all happens in the most British of ways, ie very politely and of course, we welcome women into ministry. Ecclesiologically - well, I don't think I have worked that one out yet, sometimes I think we do dismiss the pomp and the offices but sometimes it seems very evident. ;-)

Excuse the thinking out loud.

David Ould said...

But only we measure the quality of a role - such a worldly thing to do.
But Rachel, I made no mention of "quality". I simply pointed out to you the obvious fact that they are very different roles. "Quality" is not the issue.

As for Augustine, I've searched long and hard for the quote and can't find it. In Tractate 121 on that passage of John the phrase is not used. Can you point me to where it comes from? I see it used regularly by egalitarians but never with a citation.

As for the complementarian argument that you outline, it's simply incorrect. The argument is a lot more sophisticated than that. I, for one, do not reject Junia's "apostolicity" (in the sense that she has a role on par with the 12 as Wright would argue) simply because I don't want it to be true but, rather, because the exegesis of the text does not support the heavy demands made upon it by the egalitarians. You can read the argument in detailhere and here.

Far from being a blinkered unwillingness to engage the issue I trust you will find that complementarians are, in the main, actually providing the more rigorous exegetical argument time and time again. You will note, of course, that that is the way I have argued this issue with you. I also note that conversation has always pretty much stopped once the exegesis comes out. Could that be because once the detail is worked on it becomes apparent that the egalitarian case is not as solidly based as asserted? ;-)

As for Sydney, I would rather describe us as resisting the influence of any scheme of theology that undermines the authority of Scripture. Where the Charismatics and the Pentacostals (and that latter group is hard to define here - Hillsong hardly fits the model any more but CCC do) argue things that Scripture does not argue then they are disagreed with. However, it is not their pentacostalism per se that is the issue.

Also, your language is unhelpful. This place is not "anti-women". There are more women in ministry in Sydney than in the rest of Australia. I was ordained a deacon with 5 women last year out of a pool of almost 50. Some of the other women I graduated with who are also ministering chose not to be ordained because of their convictions but they, too, are to be counted in that vast number of godly faithful women all over the diocese taking prominent leadership roles in congregations but working that our according to their complementarian convictions. I work with one such woman and she is phenomenally gifted. If you spoke to her you would get no sense of "suppression" or of being in an environment that was "anti-women".

Of course, there are a number of parishes where women preach from the pulpit and take on positions of authority that I, personally, do not think they should take. It is to the Archbishop's credit that he also licenses those women and does not interfere with their ministry. The only thing he will not do, in good conscience, is priest them or allow them to run a parish.

David Ould said...

As for our understandings of "evangelical", I do agree with you. There is a contemporary crisis and I suggest it is coming about because of the increasing number of people calling themselves "evangelical" while holding a distinctly different view to the Scriptures and practising a sub-optimal exegesis. Sadly this is becoming most apparent in the area of sexual and gender roles/ethics. This discussion is one example - the assertions being made of individual texts and the "backgrounds" being assumed but never exegetically demonstrated indicate a shift in practice that some of us are very concerned about. You will have clearly picked that up in my writing.

Ultimately, conservatives such as I don't really want to be fighting this issue. I have no more desire to be embroiled in gender issues than I do in questions of sexual behaviour. But I am very concerned about how we handle the Bible and I join with others in agreeing that the egalitarian position has done great disservice to responsible handling of the text, as I trust I have (in part) shown.

So, like you, I'm British (and slightly emotionally stunted!), open to the Spirit and all that He does. But openness to the Spirit means, above all, an openness and high regard for the integrity of His word. That's what I think is at stake here.

David Ould said...

Sorry Rachel, I realised I hadn't answered all of your questions. Let me do that now.

Yes, Sydney diocese is large but it's not particularly wealthy. Also, a bunch of money was lost last year on the stock market when everyone else's portfolios crashed. However, there are endowments in place that mean that the diocese does not charge a quota on parishes.

The current leadership are committed to classical Anglican theology - that is the theological position that produced the 39 Articles and 1552/1662 BCP. Yes, it is Reformed but that's hardly a perculiar thing - after all it's the basic theology of the Prayer Book, Articles and Homilies. It's always slightly humourous when they get accused of being "unAnglican" - I've never seen a place more committed to our formularies.
We came here from Singapore. It was a mixture of factors that brought us here - money, ordination, the college, the beautiful city and just how far our $$$ would go.

The Sydney Diocese has taken a decision not to ordain women to the priesthood (or presbytery, as it's now termed here). However there are masses of women deacons and a whole load more stipendiary lay workers.

The position on administration of the Lord's Supper is that the Diocese recognises that there is no impediment to laity presiding, but it will only at this time license deacons. Technically we have "diaconal administration". So I preside under license of the ArchBishop and approval of my local church council.

I hope that clarifies. I think the best way to avoid "lumping" anyone with anyone else is to engage with what they actually write/say.

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A little background reading so we might mutually flourish when there are different opinions