Fourteen friends of Jesus

Pope Benedict XVI has written a book for children called “The Friends of Jesus”. Revd Bosco Peters of noticed that every one of the fourteen “friends of Jesus” in the pope’s book was a man, and has produced his own list of female friends to correct this pontifical oversight.

Here is Revd Peters’ list, with links to each woman’s Wikipedia entry:

That took Revd Peters to fourteen, the same number as in the pope’s book. As he points out, he could have added many more:

Lois, Eunice, Pilate’s wife [um, maybe…], Peter’s mother-in-law, the daughter of Jairus, the woman with the flow of blood, the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman, the woman accused of adultery, the Samaritan woman,…

As Revd Peters observes, the pope’s choice of friends not only appears to ignore the existence of half the human race, it also overlooks a critical feature of Jesus’ own ministry:

Nothing actually very notable about Jesus in his day and culture having some male friends, what was revolutionary was Jesus’ relationship with women. Jesus’ disciples included women who travelled with him (and, take note, provided a lot of the funding!). It was to Martha that Jesus declared himself to be The Resurrection. Jesus let a woman of ill repute anoint him. In a culture where the testimony of women was not considered valid, Jesus sent Mary Magdalene as the first to proclaim his resurrection to men.

On that last one, I hadn’t realised until Revd Peters pointed it out that Mary Magdalene, “the apostle to the apostles”, is only given a Memorial in the Roman Catholic calendar: the lowest level of saint’s day. Come on, chaps, sort it out…

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5 Responses to Fourteen friends of Jesus

  1. Kyle David says:

    You forgot spell woman with a “y.” Some friend to “half the population” you make. Or put another way, we can all play this game and yet, are we any closer to Jesus?

  2. John H says:

    Kyle: a fairer criticism of the more “knockabout” aspects of both my and Revd Peters’ posts would be that B16’s book is intended to be about the apostles, so it’s not actually that sinister that it’d only feature men.

    As for bringing us closer to Jesus: I was slightly taken by surprise by how many women were prominent among Jesus’ followers and in the early church. I mean, I was aware of it intellectually, but it tends to get pushed into the background as people quite innocently and without any malice aforethought end up concentrating their attention on the men. Like B16 has done.

    So what I valued about Revd Peters’ post, and about browsing through the Wiki entries I’ve linked, was that it gave me a more vivid sense both of the early church and of Jesus himself.

  3. Phillip Winn says:

    @Kyle David, yes, I think that many women who have spent their lives being marginalized by men within the church might indeed be drawn closer to Jesus by the reminder that He calls men *and* women to Himself, and He values women enough to break many of the cultural taboos that were in place in the first century.

    A reminder that Jesus counted women among His friends is a delightful blast of fresh air in an environment that too often fails to recognize the value of women that Jesus saw.

    So yeah, this “game” does indeed help us draw closer to understanding Jesus, and to His heart, I think.

  4. Theresa K. says:

    Someone else recently (last couple of years?) wrote on the topic of Jesus’ revolutionary relationship with women. I thought it was either you or maybe Mollie Hemingway? The point being that we tend to look at women in Jesus’ time through the lens of today, instead of considering how truly revolutionary (and most likely upsetting) Jesus’ relationships with the women of his time were. Anyone else remember what my mind is trying to remember?

  5. J Random Hermeneut says:

    to correct this pontifical oversight.

    …concentrating their attention on the men. Like B16 has done.

    Oh please.

    The blurb on the cover says it’s a book about the apostles. It appears he is not “blindly” concentrating on the “men” but rather, umm, the apostles. So the apostles are all men, apparently. If this is a scandal then it’s one you need to take up with our Lord, not B16 who was not on the selection committee.

    If that’s not good enough then here’s a book penned by B16 with an entirely female protagonist.

    Happy Annunciation Day. 🙂

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