Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life."
Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven."
When I first looked at this verse from a twenty-first century perspective, my first thought was, "What? Do I have to have some major surgery?" Of course, that is ridiculous, simply because such things weren’t even on the far-flung edge of ‘first-century’ thought, much less deed. So, this line of thought can be happily and hastily abandoned.
But what did the Christ mean, and why was Simon Peter so vehemently anti-female that he would prefer Mary Magdalene dead?
We have to examine the culture, and the roles and functions of men and women in that ancient time. In the Judaic culture of the time, women only existed for one purpose- to bear sons. Daughters were considered a necessary evil, but if they bore sons too, they were tolerated. Women did not have souls, had no function in the Temple, were ‘unclean’ for many days of the month, and could be killed for touching a male not of her own kin, or being perceived as dishonoring the males of her family. They were empty vessels, easily corruptible, and because of their unclean tendencies, always ‘willing’ to corrupt men through their mere presence. They were considered cunning, but not intelligent, and were not educated in the same manner as the men.
To the men raised in this culture, Jesus’ attention to Mary Magdalene and his inclusion of her in his group of disciples was an outrageous insult above any imaginable. A woman with no soul, unclean because she is a woman, perhaps educated and well read in defiance of the cultural norm- tempting the men by her mere corrupting presence- how dare she? It is a reflection of the Christ’s deep wisdom and influence that she was permitted to remain or participate at all.
In the canonical Scriptures that were edited and became the accepted Bible, all references to any relationship between the Christ and the Magdalene were completely edited out, or obscured in such a way that no relationship was discernable. That she made it at all into the ‘accepted’ New Testament is a reflection of the high regard in which the Christ held her, and perhaps to errors in its editing by the deciding councils that ‘finished’ the Gospels.
So, what did the Christ mean when he said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven." What does making (one)self ‘male’ incur? And how does this affect us, two millennia later?