Baker Academic

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jesus, Women, and Self-projection - Le Donne

In researching for my chapter titled "Something about Mary", I committed myself to watching every film that featured and belittled Brett Favre. You may be interested to know that this is how 49er fans begin every writing project.

After completing this necessary task, I tried to read everything that I could get my hands on about Mary Magdalene. In doing so, I stumbled upon this line from April DeConick: "Jesus appears to have been something of a woman’s advocate during his era, and women were  present  in  his  mission  as patrons and  disciples" (Holy Misogyny, xi).  After reading this, I wondered how many of many folks perceived Jesus as generally progressive on matters related to woman's advocacy.  So motivated, I posted this poll:
As you can see from the final results, most people (74%) did see Jesus along these lines. The second choice here (to my mind) suggests that about one of four people saw Jesus as pretty typical on such matters as compared to his contemporaries.

This got me wondering: how much of our own reflection do we see in Jesus' ideology? Indeed, a couple commenters (including the erudite Pat McCullough) indicated a similar thought. This query led to an email to Jim West. I suggested that Jim post a similar poll on his blog a month or so later.  I suggested that his poll should assess how people see themselves along these lines. He did:

Now, there would be no way that this little test would hold up by any sociologist's standards. But it might be interesting to recognize a similar trend. Most people saw themselves (like Jesus) as "generally progressive"; fewer saw themselves as "pretty typical".  Two votes are always going to represent the anti-social among us (probably both registered by Brett Favre, under two different accounts).

I might also repeat a point that my friend Tim Stafford has made from time to time: the question "what would Jesus do?" tends to mean "what would I do if I were a better person?"  In other words, we tend to see in Jesus a reflection of ourselves, but without the acne.

Finally, I don't mind saying that I think that April is right.  I do indeed think that Jesus was "something of a woman’s advocate during his era".  I talk more about this in my latest book, so I won't detail my reasons for thinking so here. This, of course, complicates the historians task. We need to be aware that we're projecting our ideals onto Jesus.  We also should be willing to go in that direction anyway if that is where our research leads us.


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