Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What if Jesus had been a woman?

Responses to my blog yesterday hinged mostly on my use of the feminine pronoun for God. I can explain that1, but this is not the point of this post. Here I am using the magic wand of the imagination to propose that instead of Jesus, or Joshua, of Nazareth, there was once a Jocelyn of Nazareth.2

This fun experiment is suggested by one commenter who, unasked, offered apologetics about why Jesus was a man. The assertion that Jesus was male, assuming he was a historical person, which I often doubt, has not been seriously questioned insofar as I know. But let's question it.

Let's say that Myriam (Mary) had a girl whom she named Jocelyn.

Joss would not have been presented at the Temple, nor circumcised. She most certainly would not have had occasion to befuddle the rabbis one Passover in Jerusalem as a child; such men would not admit a girl into their presence.

The Lady (I'm going for a parallel for "Lord") would not have been trained in woodwork by Joseph. No sirree, Bob! She would have been taught to keep a kosher home by Mary.

Assuming she had been passed over, so to speak, by marriageable young men until she was 30, she would have deemed been a mature spinster woman in her society when she began her ministry. She would never have had the occasion of preaching in her synagogue in Nazareth. Women in traditional synagogues, which they all were then, were never asked to read from the scrolls of Scripture, much less allowed to comment on them.

However, Joss would have been accepted easily as a miracle worker, or healer, given the traditional nurturing role of women, and this role would have drawn a following.

It's the gospel discourses that are problematic. Would a Jewish woman be even allowed to speak in public in first century Palestine? Doubtful.

The passion and death, however, might be plausible. Instead of being crucified by Romans, she would have been stoned to death by (male) fellow Jews for breaking any one of the countless taboos within which women were imprisoned in her society. Her stopping the stoning of the adulteress would be seen as prefiguring her own stoning.

Instead of a cross on top of church spires, there would be a stone. There might not have been male priests at all, of course, until recent times. Christianity would have been a decidedly feminist matriarchal religion until these enlightened days.

The Eucharist elements of bread and wine (the latter, as a stand-in for blood, is far too problematic for words), might be replaced by latkes and water, symbolizing a woman's nurture and perhaps the breaking of a woman's waters before giving birth.Of course, the creed would go, "We believe in God the Mother ... and in Her only Daughter ..."

Hmm ... altogether a not unpleasant upending of the world as we know it.

1. God, if God exists, is obviously neither male nor female. However, for the past 5,000 to 10,000 years God has been anthropomorphized as male. In my small way, I'm attempting to balance that error. I promise I'll stop in about 10,000 years.

2. Some people suggest that in English Jocelyn might be the female for Joshua, which is likely the name of the woodworker from Nazareth, Yeshua in Hebrew, rather than the Latin Jesus. Spanish, of course, has Jesusa, a name I have only known to be given to women born in Spain.


Anonymous said...

No one would have heard of Jesus if he had been a woman.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Didn't Phillip have four virgin daughters who prophecied? Your Jocelyn might well have been a prophetess. Like Cassandra, she might well have prophecied things which no-one wanted to hear. Like Deborah, she might well have been a charismatic figure. Brougt up by Mary, she might well have echoed the "Magnificat" and become beloved of those poor and lowly.
I recall, although I have been unable to track down, a cartoon picture of the Nativity in which Mary is saying to Joseph "Let's call her Joan".

Cecilieaux said...

@Anonymous 2: The link refers to a page for Jesus Is Female: Moravians and Radical Religion in Early America by Aaron Spencer Fogleman, which seems to be more about gender issues among Protestants of that time and place than about the historical Jesus. Catchy title, though.