Jesus’s female disciples remain women of mystery

Is there a patron saint of conjecture? Perhaps it is a name known only to Bible scholars, who have rich cause to guard it jealously. Even if such a saint is invoked by the academy alone, the petitioning must be pretty constant. Lucky, then, that this account of the early female followers of Jesus is jointly authored, for it takes more than one person to dream up the vocabulary required for 200 pages of guesswork. As Joan Taylor and Helen Bond admit in their introduction: ‘Sometimes there’s not much to go on and we’ll need to use our imaginations.’ In the 184 pages which follow, we find all the usual

Celebrating Jesus’s female followers: Names of the Women, by Jeet Thayil, reviewed

The gnostic Gospel of Mary has long been the subject of controversy, even as to which of the several Marys who feature in Jesus’s life was its author. It is generally assumed to have been Mary Magdalene, not least because it depicts her regular adversary, St Peter, refusing to credit a woman’s testimony. In Names of the Women, Jeet Thayil challenges Peter, along with 2,000 years of church tradition, by placing Mary Magdalene and 14 other women at the very heart of the gospel story. His intention to retell pivotal incidents from a female perspective is evident from the opening words ‘Mary, write,’ which are repeated in various forms throughout