Writing in Religion Disptaches, Elizabeth Drescher analyzes the commentary surrounding The Gospel of Jesus Wife and concludes:
It is not likely, that is, that we will ever definitively answer the question of Jesus’ marital status and the specific ministry status of women in his circle as he and his followers understood it. But there is abundant evidence, both in contradictions within the Bible as it was canonized in the late fourth century and from extra-biblical artifacts that show that women did have leadership roles from the earliest days of the church, as both priests and deacons. The “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” fragment adds to a bounty of evidence that women did hold both lay and ordained ministry leadership roles in the earliest Church and their status as such, as the with the nuptial status of priests, has been a matter of ongoing debate and divergent practice throughout the history of the church, however firmly Rome has believed it has spoken.
In this light, the questions that will stir again among my graduate students, and I suspect among many church-goers generally, will likely not have much to do with the authenticity of the fragment and what it may or may not, in itself, say about the marital status of Jesus or the leadership status of women. Rather, they will be asking again to what exactly—if the Church continues to disregard the evidence of history and the voices of the faithful in engaging the world as it is and as it can be—are its current leaders listening?
What is your understanding about the nature of women’s ministry in the Jesus movement, and in the early church?