Monday, January 5, 2015
Anthony Le Donne on Mrs. Jesus, Part Two: Most Obvious Contribution—Chris Keith
The most obvious contribution of Le Donne’s The Wife of Jesus: Ancient Texts and Modern Scandals is his demonstration of how Jesus’ sexuality (and marital status as part of that larger matter) has been variously employed in different historical contexts, including modern scholarship. He thus treats, for example, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, Mormon portrayals of a polygamous Jesus, Morton Smith’s possibly-gay Jesus from Secret Mark, and the recent scandal surrounding the (overwhelmingly-likely) fraudulent Gospel of Jesus’ Wife. (I was surprised that more attention was not given to the Jesus Family Tomb phenomenon, though.) Tying all these various portrayals of Jesus in ancient and modern contexts together in a coherent narrative demonstrates conclusively what I mentioned in the earlier post—not knowing anything historically about a putative wife of the historical Jesus does not mean that there’s nothing interesting to say or study about such a figure and the concomitant issue of Jesus’ sexuality. In a sense, Le Donne demonstrates that those interested in Jesus from various contexts have simply not been able to resist the topic. His study makes a real contribution in this regard to gender studies on the Bible as it shows that Jesus has, at times, become a mirror reflection of the sexual anxieties and issues of a given period. In my next post, I will engage some of his argument critically but in service of demonstrating the study’s most important contribution.