Women and the Historical Jesus: Feminist Myths of Christian Origins
Dolan-Henderson, Susan, Anglican Theological Review
Women and the Historical Jesus: Feminist Myths of Christian Origins. By Kathleen E. Corley. Santa Rosa, Calif.: Polebridge Press, 2002. 254 pp. $20.00 (paper).
This book presents two important conversations in biblical scholarship and suggests ways to create a third. Kathleen Corley discusses both prevailing feminist constructions of Christian origins and the findings of the Jesus Seminar as they apply to women, and then attempts to eliminate the weaknesses of the first by applying the criteria of the second in order to provide new insights to the discussion.
The book has many strengths. It provides a great deal of historical and scholarly information. Indeed, almost every line has an endnote listing further examples and details. Corley discusses the prevailing myths of Christian feminist origins, primarily but not solely represented by the work of Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. Corley is at first complimentary of this feminist scholar as she presents the ways in which Schiissler Fiorenza dealt with the mistaken notion that Judaism was to blame for patriarchy and instead put Jesus' gender equality firmly within the Judaism of the Greco-Roman milieu. However, Schüssler Fiorenza does so while at the same time criticizing certain constructs of Q and the Jesus Seminar as postmodern "malestream" theory (pp. 14-20).
Corley sets out to prove Schussler Fiorenza and her reconstruction of a gender equality impulse within the Jesus movement as just another myth, rather than history. Corley painstakingly, even excruciatingly, sifts through Q sayings and other gospel verses, fragment by fragment. She identifies authentic sayings of Jesus and then contrasts these with the larger canonical texts and feminist myths. Her discussion of early Christian meals demonstrates careful work reminiscent of her earlier publications. Corley finds nuance and insight in early historical work that she brings to new light. Her reading of women and lamentation is engaging, and I look forward to her forthcoming book on the subject (chapter 4). Her conclusion, she admits, may disappoint readers: she finds no significant difference in the gender equality of the Jesus movement compared to other Jewish and Greco-Roman groups of the day, although she believes Jesus is sensitive to class. …