• Elaine Kelly

Book Review: The Female Disciples of Jesus

Updated: May 16

Author: Paul De Marco

Published: 2021 (first edition 2017)

123 pages

Genre: Non-fiction, Catholic Saints


There is very little online about the author, Paul De Marco. He describes himself on Amazon as having a science background and a deep interest in Christianity.


Amazon Blurb:

The female disciples of Jesus have largely been forgotten by historians and yet they played a crucial role in establishing the early Church despite living in a patriarchal society which was oppressive to women. This book tells the story of Salome, Mary the mother of James, Martha and Mary of Bethany, Bernice, Mary Magdalene and others who worked alongside the apostles. These Daughters of Jerusalem bravely walked the Via Dolorosa behind Jesus while the apostles were in hiding, they were the first witnesses of the resurrection and they became evangelists at a time when women did not preach. This is their story.


The author states (page 4) that his purpose is to tell the stories of the brave women who have often been overlooked by other authors writing on the history of the early Church. He points out that they gave up their lives to support Jesus, often travelling with him and the apostles.


Contents:

  1. Historical setting

  2. New wine for new wineskins; showing Jesus broke taboos in how he related to women as equals

  3. Mary the mother of Jesus

  4. Mary Magdalene

  5. Bernice (woman with hemorrhage)

  6. Seraphia (Veronica’s veil)

  7. Mary and Martha of Bethany

  8. Salome

  9. Mary the mother of James and Joses

  10. Joanna

  11. Lesser-known female disciples (Susannah, the mother of Rufus, mother of John Mark)

Excellent summaries of the politics and religion of the time, and of the women who followed Jesus. It is a good introduction to the subject, interesting and easy to read. It is a short and inexpensive paperback, making history and tradition accessible at a glance. It is not a thorough discussion, and some ideas should be verified from academic sources. The author honours the women as brave followers and supporters who went on to spread the Gospel themselves.


Pros

Easy to look up information on each female disciple by page number in the table of contents

Good references and details to the political and religious setting

Focus on showing the bravery and courage of these women and their importance in supporting Jesus and the apostles

Honours Scripture as a primary resource and literally true; also references non-Biblical historical resources.

Excerpts from the Bible and from Non-Canonical or Apocryphal manuscripts are set apart by being in bold print

Good brief outlines of the women of the gospels and theories about each of them


Cons

While showing that Jesus broke traditional roles for women, the author reinforces the women's role as providing support to enable the men to do the preaching and teaching while Jesus was alive. He does state that they went on to preach and teach after the resurrection.


Heavy reliance on Catholic traditions, with a clear belief in Catholic saints, mysteries and relics. Very Catholic interpretations of Veronica and Bernice, who are not named in the Bible but have been in church history since the 1st century.


Sometimes states items as facts which are theories or traditions and some theories without sources.


Incomplete description of various views of Salome or Mary Salome and why she may or may not be related to Mary, the mother of Jesus.


The author confuses Mary the mother of John Mark in Acts 12:12 with Mary Salome, mother of James and John.


The author says Luke names four women at the tomb but Luke 23 does not name any women at the tomb; only at the resurrection in Luke 24:10.


He includes Mary of Clopas on the traditional boat with no oars Martha and Lazarus that lands in Spain, which is generally associated with Mary Magdaline or Mary of Bethany, not Mary of Clopas.


He conflates James the Less with James the brother of Jesus who became the first Bishop of Jerusalem and a pillar of the church and was martyred in Jerusalem in AD 62. This follows the Catholic tradition that Jesus had no fraternal brothers and therefore his cousin James, son of Alphaeus, was called his brother or kin.





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