The Apocryphon of the Beloved

in The Serpent's Gift

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2006 | ISBN: 9780226453804
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226453828 | DOI:
The Apocryphon of the Beloved

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In Gnostic literature, an apocryphon is a “secret book” or secret teaching usually committed to a trusted disciple by Christ after his resurrection but before he ascends into heaven. It constitutes, in other words, a hidden pedagogical moment of revelatory significance. Taking up just such a moment, this chapter demonstrates how salient the modern categories of gender, sexual orientation, sexual trauma, and the erotics of mysticism are to understanding the contours of different spiritualities. This is done by examining Jesus's sexuality “from the womb to the tomb” through the paradigmatic works of Theodore Jennings and Jane Schaberg. Jennings explores, for example, the beloved disciple theme in the Gospel of John in order to construct a vision of Jesus as a gender-bending homoerotic wisdom teacher. Schaberg, on the other hand, explores the gnostic understandings of Jesus as a heteroerotic wisdom teacher whose primary apostle was Mary Magdalene, his beloved friend, companion, and disciple whom later Christian tradition under the authority of Peter turned into a repentant whore in order to deny her, and with her all women, apostolic authority and the power to teach. Juxtaposing the homoerotic Jesus of Jennings alongside the heteroerotic Jesus of Schaberg, then, leads us to a kind of gnostic riddle or koan—here an apocryphon—in which the identity of the beloved disciple (and hence of Jesus's own love) is rendered historically, textually, and sexually ambiguous.

Keywords: Jesus; gender; sexual orientation; sexual trauma; mysticism; sexuality; Theodore Jennings; Jane Schaberg; Mary Magdalene; wisdom teacher

Chapter.  15038 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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