Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Review: The Lost Teachings of Jesus on the Sacred Place of Women

For the past couple years, I have been studying the role of women in the plan of salvation, so when I read a review of The Lost Teachings of Jesus on the Sacred Place of Women on one of my favorite blogs, I jumped at the chance to also read this book. In exchange for this review, I received an electronic copy of the book.

Anyone else think of this?

Written by Dr. Alonzo L Gaskill, an assistant professor at BYU with a Ph.D. in biblical studies, The Lost Teachings of Jesus on the Sacred Place of Women is an examination of a portion of an extra-biblical text allegedly recounting teachings of Jesus. Indian merchants had traveled to Judea and heard Jesus preach, and their accounts were soon after recorded. Scrolls containing these records (reportedly including the words of Jesus) eventually made their way to a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in northern India, where a Russian journalist encountered and recorded a translation of the discourse in the late 19th century. In this book, Gaskill examines a portion of the text that deals with the sacredness of women.

The book shares 13 verses of Christ's teachings on the role, worth, and proper treatment of women. These were fascinating, and I would buy the book just for these verses, in my opinion. Just a few of my favorites:

Verse 10: Verily I say unto you: Respect woman, for she is the mother of the universe, and all the truth of divine creation dwells within her.

Ok, isn't this awesome? For some reason it makes me think of the all the amazing symbolism within a woman's body (menstrual cycle=creation, fall, and atonement; lactation=living water; etc.).

Verse 17: Even as the God of hosts separated of old the light from the darkness and the land from the waters, woman possesses the divine talent of separating in a man good intentions from evil thoughts.

I love how this one hearkens back to Eve's decision to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Verse 18: Wherefore I say unto you, after God your best thoughts should belong to women and to wives, woman being for you the temple wherein you will most easily obtain perfect happiness.

I believe women's bodies are literal temples where the ordinances of conception, pregnancy, and birth take place (which lead to the joy of having a family). I love that Jesus specifically called women temples here.

The rest of the book is broken into sections examining small groups of like verses. Gaskill summarizes the verse(s), then offers "counsel to men and children" and "counsel to women," drawing on scripture and the words of Latter-day prophets. The information and analysis he offered was a great overview of the wonderful potential of women, their honored place in God's plan, and the ways we should treat the women in our lives. While I sometimes felt the "counsel to women" sections were a little patronizing, I do think a lot of women would appreciate his style and approach in those areas. I'm kind of in the middle of my own feminist awakening of sorts, so some of his "women-should-be-on-a-pedestal"-style rhetoric was a little off-putting, but again, I think the majority of readers would welcome his tone as one that is seeking to honor and inspire women.

Some of my favorite parts of the book were when Gaskill's insights as a biblical scholar came through, such as when he noted that the original Hebrew word translated as "mercy/compassion" is originally "womb love," or when he elaborated on the most accurate meaning of "help meet." I just wish there were more of this! I understand that the aim of this book wasn't especially scholarly, but I would have loved more insights into the deeper meanings of the text.

I was fascinated by the origin story of this text, and Gaskill provides two great appendices elaborating on sacred texts outside the canon (both known and yet-to-be-known) as well as a thorough investigation into the legitimacy of the Russian journalist's claims (apparently there is much controversy about the authenticity of the Russian journalist's account). The scholar in me wishes these had been included earlier in the book, but I can understand how this material might not appeal to most readers.

Overall, I really enjoyed this little book. It is a quick, enjoyable read with some lovely ideas on how Jesus views the importance of women. I would definitely recommend it as a gift for Mother's day or for a girl entering the Young Women's program, or else as an addition to your personal library.

You can purchase this book on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.

3 comments:

  1. Brother Gaskill was my FAVORITE religion teacher at the Y. No one can match his frenetic energy or his know-how. Thanks for sharing about this book!

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  2. I'm curious where he got his advanced degrees.

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    Replies
    1. My googling reveals that his master's in theology is from Notre Dame, and his PhD from Trinity Theological Seminary.

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