We begin then with consideration of what continuities and discontinuities it is important to affirm or deny in respect of the history of Christian attitudes to the status of women. It is only one of a number of possible examples which might have been considered. My reason for making this choice is less its importance or topicality, greatly relevant though these are, more that it illustrates so well what I perceive to be the two most common hermeneutical faults of our own day—how both too much can be claimed for Scripture and too little for subsequent tradition. On the one hand, I shall reject the view that Scripture offers in itself an adequate treatment of how the question of the equality of the two sexes should nowadays be appropriated. On the other, I shall contend that the much maligned treatment of Mary Magdalene in later tradition, so far from denigrating women, actually offers an indispensable model for human discipleship, both male and female. What unites both questions is the exercise of the imagination, the need to acknowledge its capacity to operate with quite different agendas from our own immediate, analytic concerns. At the same time, both illustrate well how revelation operates through the particularities of our human situation, not despite them. The way in which the legend of Mary Magdalene has been treated over the centuries is the topic of the second half of the chapter. We begin, though, with the question of how Christian support for the equality of the sexes might most satisfactorily be maintained.
Here I shall argue against the view that equality of status between women and men can be justified on the basis of New Testament