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date: 18 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This essay examines possible ascetic tendencies in apocryphal gospels and their relationship to theological ideas and the role of female disciples in those texts. In some gospels, certain theological ideas correlate with the prominent participation of women and with statements that are susceptible to an ascetic interpretation: salvation is regarded as a (perhaps already achieved) return to an original state of creation, a spiritual existence without sexual differentiation and without birth and death; ascetic practice and an equal role for women seem to be derived from such a state. In this context, asceticism is not a separate issue and not the path to salvation, but rather the consequence of the theology. In other writings, calls to control desire and negative sexual imagery are important, although they do not necessarily have to result in abstinence; a married life (including sexuality without desire) is acceptable.

Keywords: asceticism, women disciples, sexuality, gender difference, Book of Thomas, Gospel of the Egyptians, Gospel of Thomas, Sophia of Jesus Christ, Gospel of Mary, Gospel of Philip

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