whereof every one bear twins
and none is barren among them.
Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet,
and thy speech is comely:
thy temples are like a piece of
a pomegranate with thy locks.
Thy neck is like a tower of David
builded for an armory,
whereon there hang a thousand
all shields of mighty men.
Thy two breasts are like two young
that are twins, which feed among the
Until the day break, and the shadows
I will get me to the mountains of myrrh,
and to the hill of frankincense.
Thou art all fair, my love; there is
no spot in thee.
Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse,
with me from Lebanon: look from the
top of Amana,
from the top of Shenir and Hermon,
from the lions' dens,
from the mountains of the leopards.
Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister,
thou hast ravished my heart with one
of thine eyes,
with one chain of thy neck.
How fair is thy love, my sister, my
how much better is thy love than wine!
and the smell of thine ointments than
all spices! ...
Whither is thy beloved gone,
O thou fairest among women?
wither is thy beloved turned aside?
that we may seek him with thee.
My beloved is gone down into his garden,
to the bed of spices, to feed in the
and to gather lilies.
I am my beloved's, and he is mine:
he feedeth among the lilies. ...
Make hast, my beloved,
and be thou like to a roe or to a young
upon the mountain of spices.
and James, the Magdalene and the Just, makes for sweet music
wherein harmony and melody coincide, with a tune divine.
But for the better part of 2000 years Christendom has been
denied the opportunity of hearing this music. It is
not as if the Way of the Nazarenes had been tried and found
wanting; rather, the Way was found difficult and therefore ceased
to be tried. It is the bridge not taken, the path not
followed to vistas not seen. Instead of being all-encompassing,
long ago the Way was shrunk down to mere religion, full of ceremony
and hierarchy, signifying nothing. In need not be so.
As religious innovators, Mary and James created their own religious
environment, not so that we would be their followers but that we
likewise might be innovators, that we might do something beautiful
Regarding James: he was
strict with himself, yet magnanimous toward others; austere,
yet generous. Of him T. Zahn said:
[James] speaks like a prophet ... for forcefulness ...
without parallel in early Christian
literature excepting the
discourses of Jesus.
the temporizing, have-it-both-ways types, James was severe:
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that friendship
of the world is enmity with God?
whosoever therefore will
be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
when severity was required, James could also be sympathetic:
Ye have seen the patience of Job, and have seen the end
of the Lord; that the Lord is very
pitiful, and of tender mercy.
Mary, the Gospel of Mary reads:
The Savior said ... "Peace be with you. Receive
my peace to yourselves. Beware that
no one leads you astray, saying,
'Lo here!' or 'Lo there!' for the Son of Man is within
Follow after Him! Those
who seek Him will find Him. Go then and preach the
the kingdom. Do not
lay down any rules beyond what I appointed you, and do not
a law like the lawgiver lest
you be constrained by it."
But they [the apostles] were
grieved. They wept greatly, saying, "How shall we
go to the
Gentiles and preach the gospel
of the kingdom of the Son of Man? If they did not spare
him, how will they spare us?"
Then Mary stood up, greeted them all, and said to her
brethren, "Do not weep and
do not grieve nor be irresolute, for His grace will be entirely
with you and will protect you.
But rather let us praise His greatness, for He has
us and made us into men."
When Mary said this, she turned their hearts to the
and they began to discuss the
PART II: Nazarene Scripture.
Preservation of Scripture.
Before delving into specifics
regarding the Nazarene deposition, let us consider
first the preservation of Scripture as a doctrine widely
affirmed by those of evangelical persuasion. The following,
an abridgement on the subject by Detroit Baptist Theological
Seminary's Bill Combs, presents this doctrine's main tenets:
The purposes for Scripture, to teach, reprove, correct,
and train (2 Tim 3:16) cannot be
have no quarrel with this presentation so far as it goes.
But no discussion about preservation of Scripture is complete
absent consideration of King Josiah's recovery of the lost
book of Deuteronomy (see II Chronicles 34),
which discovery sparked a revival in Jerusalem. Analogously,
much of the Nazarene deposition has survived in single manuscripts
moldering away for centuries in obscure monastic libraries or hidden
in jars in the dessert. Only when the preservation doctrine
is used prejudicially to promote a particular text type such
as the "Majority Text" (otherwise known as the "Byzantine text type")
as God's chosen text because more copies of it exists than do other form
of text, does it become pernicious. Far
fulfilled unless Scripture is
preserved. Matt 5:18 and John 10:35 strongly imply
a doctrine of
preservation with their emphasis
on the continuing authority of Scripture.
... What ... would
be the purpose of producing
an authoritative record (inspiration) and letting it perish?
for instance, let Paul write
an inspired letter to the Romans and then have it perish
on the way
to Rome? If one denies
a corollary between inspiration and preservation, Paul's
have perished before it got to
Rome. And the letter to the Romans was not meant
just for the
Romans. ... "For whatever
was written in earlier times was written for our instruction
(Rom 15:4). Similarly, Paul says,
"Now these things happened to them as an example, and
they were written for our instruction..."
(1 Cor 10:11).
We are told neither the method nor the extent of this
preservation. It is an indisputable fact,
proven by the manuscript and
versional evidence, that God has not perfectly preserved the
Scriptures throughout their
long history of transmission. ... the means he has chosen
to use to
accomplish this preservation
-- providentially, through secondary causation -- the
words of the
autographs have not been inerrantly
Since preservation is by secondary causation, through
ordinary human means, only by careful
examination of the preserved
documents can the most accurate form of the text of Scripture
be identified and ultimately
preserved. The science (and art?) of textual
criticism is thus
essential. ... Therefore,
the goal of textual criticism should be the recovery of
that inspired text
to the degree the documents will
It is perfectly reasonable to
assert a corollary between inspiration and preservation
asserting that preservation
be in every way equal to inspiration -- for example, that
inspiration demands inerrant
better is it to pursue
truth than to shelter one's convenient presuppositions behind
specious reasoning about God's intentions. Or as one scholar,
William Lane, observed, "An ounce of evidence is worth a pound
From whence came the New Testament?
the New Testament, one cannot find a connection
between the Magdalene and James. It's not there.
The last mention of the Magdalene occurs in John,
chapter 20,the day Jesus went from death to life; while the
first reference to James beyond the bare mention of his name is
Acts, chapter 12, some decades later. Yes,
'tis true, both James and Mary were all but read out of the
New Testament. But who would havedone that and
why? Meanwhile, in various non-canonical gospels, both
play a prominent, if not paramount, role and in the secondary literature,
James figures more prominently than any other New Testament
figure, including Jesus, which is why we are able to reconstruct
his life and teachings. In this regard, an obscure, if suggestive,
reference comes from a heretic hunter of that period, Hippolytus
of Rome (c. 170-236 AD).
In a five volume work titled: Refutation of all Heresies
(portions of which have survived to our day), he identifies a certain
sect, the Naassene, as having been the first of many heretical sects
to have arisen; of it he said, that they had "... very numerous discourses
which James the brother of the Lord handed down to Mariamne."
Was this a made up tale or was it based on historical knowledge?
It is not implausible that James and Mary were collaborators inasmuch
as James lived in Jerusalem and Mary in Bethany less than a mile away.
While I hold no brief for the Naassene sect, the point is that at a
time when the Church's canonical gospels were assiduously ignoring Mary
and James, others were taking them quite seriously. For nearly
2000 years the Church barred the door against Jews of James' stripe
and women of Mary's stripe, but outside its jurisdiction, always, there
has been a remnant few who have welcomed them.
the world's largest, richest, longest surviving religious
institution, namely the Church, and the little flock of Jesus,
as represented by Mary and James, lies an ongoing controversy.
At the heart of this controversy is the New Testament.
If it's valid, apostolic, indeed, the very word of God, then it
is a closed question, Mary and James are but marginal figures,
for that is how they are portrayed. Prior, therefore,
to any other consideration, if they are to get a fair hearing
or ever be taken seriously, we must tackle head-on the issue of
the New Testament's legitimacy. Though calling
into question the authenticity of the best-selling religious text
of all time could seem to be a showstopper, there's no sidestepping
this issue. It ought to be faced squarely.
of the New Testament? The term itself cannot
be traced before 200 AD. But let us not hang
up on terminology, what of its contents, are they apostolic?
For generations scholars have grappled with this question without
coming to consensus.
Certainly much of value has been
learned through the process of investigation but the
findings are not easily characterized. It is, after
all, an arcane field of study. Before getting down to specifics,
let us consider the New Testament's role:
The New Testament is in the Old concealed;
the Old Testament is in the New revealed.
Augustine's famous dictum, passes for deep insight in
many Christian circles. On its face it seems fair
enough but can it withstand scrutiny? Compare it then to
The Messiah in the Scriptures is concealed; the
Scriptures by the Messiah is revealed.
by Augustine's formulation, the New Testament has
come to occupy the place Jesus intended to occupy. It
is Jesus, not the New Testament, which is the prophetic
antitype. He is the one who fulfills biblical types.
And let us not call it "Old Testament/New Testament."
Those are not legitimate terms. Just as there is one
Lord, one faith, one baptism, so also is there one body of
Scripture - not bifurcated, Old and New.
Neither the term, New Testament (the concept) or the
book were derived from Jesus - nor from his apostles either.
Nor is it just Mary and James who were given short shrift therein
but Jesus also, for, when refracted through a New Testament
lens, he is seen in a different, distorted light than when seen through
the Scriptures which the Church did not have a chance to tamper with.
While including much that is apostolic,
the New Testament also contains extraneous material.
While containing some of God's words, it is not in every respect
"the Word of God." But it's just here that we come up against
the heartfelt convictions of fundamentalists who look, for instance
to support from the renowned scholar, Sir Frederic Kenyon, associated
with the British Museum. In 1895 in a book titled: Our Bible
and the Ancient Manuscripts, he wrote:
It cannot be too strongly asserted that in substance
the text of the Bible is certain. ...
Especially is this the case
with the New Testament. The Christian can take the
in his hand and say without fear
of hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God,
faithfully handed down from
generation to generation throughout the centuries.
But let us
keep this in perspective, even as C. S. Lewis invites us
It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true
word of God. The Bible, read in the
right Spirit and with the guidance
of good teachers, will bring us to Him.
that may be, should it turn out that the New Testament is
demonstrably a 2nd Century, Church product, instead of
1st Century and apostolic,
then what had been a
closed question regarding Mary and James immediately
turns around to become an open question.
have in hand something more substantial than guesswork or scholarly
deduction. Beyond a reasonable doubt we have an authoritative
gospel narrative provably older than the gospels commonly
attributed to the apostles Matthew and John and their colleagues,
Mark and Luke. It is here and now, translated, published,
and available to all who care to study it. It changes entirely
the dynamic of the discussion about Mary and James and much
else besides. Is it a threat to faith? To the
contrary, it puts the Faith on a firmer foundation. The document
I am referring to is MS Pepys 2498.
Recovering the crown jewel, the Nazarene
Gospel, an amazing survival.
us consider then this unique 14th Century, Middle English manuscript,
MS Pepys 2498. Once belonging to the famous
diarist, Samuel Pepys, it is presently housed in the Magdalene
College library, Cambridge, England. Published originally
by the Early English Texts Society in 1922, it attracted little
attention until 2002 when Yuri Kuchinsky's modern English translation
of it appeared. As he put it: "What was previously merely
a matter for speculation now lies in broad daylight."
beginning of the last century, a team of scholars assigned by
Cambridge University examined MS 2498.
Drawn from its medieval studies department, evidently their
expertise ran more toward Chaucer than the Bible, for all too hastily
they pronounced it "a medieval harmony." In consequence,
biblical scholars with manuscripts a 1000 years older to work
with paid it but scant notice, for who needs a medieval harmony?
(Evidently very few; for instance, my university, inter-library loan
copy, though being 80 + years old, had never had its pages cut.)
matters rested until recently, when Kuchinsky gave MS
2498 its first proper inspection, and found good indication
of its having had a primitive, Jewish-Christian gospel as
its progenitor. Unlike its more sophisticated, canonical
cousins with their dependent clauses and large vocabularies, its
simplified sentence structure points rather to a Semitic substrate,
than to a Greek substrate, the implication being that its exemplar
was of an earlier generation. This is a testable proposition.
Were it merely a harmony of medieval origin, there would not
be, as indeed there are, traces of its language in pre-medieval,
Aramaic, Parthian, and Latin biblical texts and commentaries.
Also, in its wealth of detail and in its grasp of chronological
sequence, it goes well beyond what can be derived from the canonicals.
Being in part a harmony but,
for the most part, a synopsis of the four proto- gospels which underlie
the four canonicals, MS 2498 has as its base
text proto- Matthew. With very little attempt at
integration, the other three proto-gospels are added in blocks,
the least synthesized being proto-John which is added in six
large blocks until the Passion, after which smaller blocks
of text are employed. Identifying the source of any particular
text is relatively easy, made more so by Kuchinsky's chapter
One of its
unique, distinguishing characteristics is the complete absence
of SoMs; that is to say, in the canonicals more than 70
times Jesus self-references as "the Son of Man," but in
MS 2498 he never does so. Indicative of the
cursory nature of previous examinations, Kuchinsky was the first
to spot this curious anomaly some 80 years after the manuscript's
initial publication. As an embellishment, this expression
lends to Jesus a certain, magisterial air, conceivably an inducement
for adding it. As yet no plausible motive for removing SoMs
example confirming the impression of antiquity is the comparison
of canonical John's and MS 2498's accounts of
the marriage at Cana. In MS 2498 there is a
feast but no marriage and rather than creating upwards of 30
gallons of wine, Jesus created only three. Canonical John's
expansions well illustrate the human tendency to exaggerate.
But what would induce a scribe to minimize this story? Or,
rather, we should say, multiple scribes, since Kuchinsky has located
texts in five different languages separately corroborating aspects
of MS 2498's version. As the author of The
Gospels in Four Part Harmony, 2001, J. Clontz,
Below are some important academic notes concerning the
PGH (Pepysian Gospel Harmony,
otherwise identified as MS Pepys 2498) sequence
of the gospels:
The PGH mentions the city of
Gerasa which was an ancient city in Palestine which was
destroyed by the 10th Roman legion
Firensis in AD 70. Only the very oldest existing
manuscripts of the canonical
gospels mention the city of Gerasa while later manuscripts
refer to the area as the land
of the Gerasenes. Thus the author of the original
the PGH may have lived prior
to AD 70.
The sequence of the PGH
also parallels many aspects of the theoretical "Q" text.
Greek texts of Matthew and
Luke in some areas are letter for letter matches which
led some scholars to theorize
that at one time a single text "Q" was formed from an early
form of Matthew and of Luke
and then later portions of our modern forms of Matthew
Luke were copied from this
single gospel text. Additionally, in the modern text of
"Parable of the Lamp" occurs
in both Chapter 8 and Chapter 11. It has been theorized
an early text that contained
Luke had only one "Parable of the Lamp" and that the parable
was either cut in half or duplicated
in our modern texts. The PGH sequence combines
portions of Luke Ch. 8 and 11
and only has a single account of the "Parable of the Lamp"
just as some scholars have theorized would've
existed in the single gospel forerunner of
the modern text of Luke.
Scholars have also theorized that
the "Q" text would've been constructed into categories
and composed of lists such as a list of
parables. This idea was formulated in part based
the gospel of Thomas found at Nag Hammadi.
The PGH does form the gospel account into
categories or groupings and there are two
major groupings of parables in its sequence just
as theorized for the "Q" text.
The event sequence of the PGH also enhances
the account of the four gospels. The
sequence produces cause and effect relationships
between events and the interactions of
various individuals with each other and
with Jesus. For instance, The PGH sequence contains
both Mary Magdalene's conversion and subsequent
discipleship (this is in the modern gospel
texts but is somewhat obscured due to
their non-chronological sequence). Thus Mary
Magdalene plays a major role in the account
of Jesus which is implied by many ancient
sources such as the gospel of Thomas but
not highlighted by the canonical gospels in their
present sequence. The same is true
for the significance of John the Baptist in Jesus' ministry.
In the PGH sequence, John the Baptist
is portrayed as an important ally of Jesus' ministry
and his arrest and later death are both
pivotal moments in Jesus ministry as portrayed by
the PGH sequence. The importance
of John the Baptist in the ministry of Jesus is implied
by many ancient sources and that importance
is vividly depicted in Jesus' ministry using
the PGH sequence of the canonical gospels.
Moreover, the PGH is the only manuscript
in existence which depicts an error free
chronological sequence for the events in
the life of Jesus as portrayed in the four canonical
gospels. The four canonical gospels
make no claim to being written in chronological
sequence. There are historical/traditional
accounts that indicate that the four canonical
gospels were not written in chronological
order. For instance, Papias (AD 135) indicated
that Mark was not in any particular order.
An engineered reconstruction of the chronological
order of the gospels indicates that while
several sequences are possible -- the sequence of the
modern gospels is not in chronological
order. For instance, the passage in Mark 3:13-19 not
only precedes the passage in Mark 3:20-31
by over a dozen events but in fact several
passages in Mark actually occur between
Mark 3:13-19 and Mark 3:20-31.
Also, while there have been many modern
attempts to reconstruct the sequence of the events
of Jesus life as narrated in the four
canonical gospels none of these reconstructions has as
many parallels to the theoretical "Q" text
as the PGH. Furthermore the theory for the "Q"
text was first proposed in the 1800?s
and the PGH manuscript predates the "Q" text theory
by 400 years. Thus the best candidate
to date for the "Q" text sequence is the PGH
More importantly, the best manuscript for a chronological
depiction of the actual
sequence of events in the life of
Jesus is The Pepys Gospel Harmony MS 2498.
in Four Part Harmony, 2001 by J. Clontz)
A century ago, fragments
of a biblical text were discovered by archaeologists
in central Asia, in the city of Turfan, Turkistan. These
fragments have unique textual agreements with MS 2498,
including a passage lacking a SoM. This fits a pattern
worldwide: in faraway places, beyond the reach of Rome, in
obscure languages such as Old Armenian, Sogdian, Osmaniac, evidence
of a prior gospel is found.
Working out the implications: accounting
for MS 2498.
has been described as an "abbreviating text," meaning that
many of Jesus'teachings are only alluded to or not included
at all. The explanation for this could lie in its having
been created in the 1st Century before the codex form had come
into vogue, i.e., before individual pages were folded and bound
together to form a volume. For example, we do not speak of
the Dead Sea Books but the Dead Sea Scrolls. As a practical
matter, the scroll format limits length. As it is, MS
2498's unified narrative, i.e., one gospel from multiple
witnesses, is quite lengthy and perhaps it would have been
prohibitively lengthy were the full compliment of teachings included.
It's logical to suppose that a companion sayings gospel was created
but, if so, either it has not survived or else it has not yet
to come to light. (Which is not to say that Jesus' saying are
lost, for they are embedded in the canonicals as well as in the
Gospel of Thomas.)
As one of
the more learned scholars of our time whose area of expertise
is in the study of the Diatessaron, William Petersen, wrote:
... in 1992 M.-E. Bosmard published a book in which
he argued that in addition to
Tatian's Diatession, the harmony
used by Justin had also left a mark on the harmonized
gospel tradition. He singled
out the Pepsian Harmony [MS 2498] as the best surviving
witness to this pre-Tatianic
harmony. This raises the possibility that the "abbreviating"
character of the Pepsian Harmony
and what Plooij called "mutilation" (when compared
with other Diatessonic witnesses)
may in reality, stem from the fact that it represents a
distinct textual tradition, one which
is related to the Diatessaron - for Tatian seems to
have used Justin's harmony
when he created the Diatessaron - but anterior to it.
word above is "anterior." If the text of MS Pepys
2498 predates Tatian's Diatessonic harmony, then its
text is, indeed, early. In his Apology dedicated in
about 150 AD to Emperor Antoniunus (138-165 AD),
Justin Martyr (105-168 AD), made reference
to the weekly public reading of the "Memoirs of the Apostles."
Though quoting gospel texts a couple of dozen times yet
he never mentions individual evangelists and none of his quotations
properly align with the
canonicals as we know them, leading
scholars to conclude that he was working from a different
text than now exists. Regarding this, the Catholic
It is quite probable that Justin used a concordance
or harmony, in which were united
the three synoptic Gospels and it
seems that the text of this concordance resembled
in more than one point the so-called
Western text of the Gospels.
harmony, the Catholic Encyclopedia also makes
reference to a
... a hearer of Justin, Tatian wrote many works.
Only two have survived. One of these
is "Oratio Graecos" (Pros Hellanes),
... The other extent work is the "Diatessaron", a
harmony of the four Gospels containing
in continuous narrative the principle events
in the life of Our Lord.
is not merely the view of Catholic scholars but is the scholarly
consensus of all persuasions. The only disputed points
are whether the Diatessaron was originally composed
in Syriac or in Greek; also whether it was actually Tatian
who created it or someone else. However those questions may
be resolved, the salient point here is the clear progression that
exists from Justin's less synthesized Memoirs to the highly
synthesized Diatessaron. When MS 2498 is added
to the equation, what we have are three distinct harmonies with
MS 2498 appearing to preserve the earliest, least synthesized
text, a point Kuchinsky ably demonstrates in his exposition of
Matthew 19:16-17 titled "Rich Man's Question."
point: all three harmonies share certain affinities with the
so-called "Western" text, the significance of which is that
this was the text of the 2nd century Church Fathers. Though
surviving in but one Greek manuscript, Codex Beza, the Western
Text is represented by the Old Latin (a text form later replaced
by Jerome's Vulgate) also by the Old Syriac (a text form later replaced
by the Peshita.) It has been aptly suggested that the "Western
Text" might more appropriately be referred to as the Syrio-Latin
Text inasmuch as the earliest Latin and Syriac gospels are "Western."
Indeed, in this regard, one of the most recognized authorities in
the field of biblical studies, F. C. Burkitt, over a century ago saw
that even calling it "Western" was a misnomer, for, as he said:
... we must recognize that the earliest texts of the
Gospels were fundamentally "Western" in
every country of which we have
knowledge, even in Egypt. If we have any real trust in
antiquity, any real belief in the
continuity of Christian tradition, we must be prepared
admit many "Western" readings
as authentic, as alone having a historical claim to originality.
The three commonly recognized
texts are the Alexandrian, thought to have arisen in,
or at least favored by, Alexandria to the south; the Byzantine
which was favored by, Byzantium in the east; and
the Western Text, alleged to have arisen in Italy to the west
(but, in reality, was everywhere, north, east, south, west.)
The Alexandrian is preserved in the oldest complete NT,
the Codex Sinaiticus, and is favored by most Ph.D. biblical scholars.
The Byzantine, also called the Majority Text because the vast
majority of Greek manuscripts, some 5000, are of this textual
tradition, is the one from which the King James Version was
translated. It too is championed by many. Meanwhile,
the Western Text, though having the best claim to originality
as Burkitt points out above, is all but an orphan.
times mention is made in the historical record of a fifth gospel,
one often termed the Gospel According to the Hebrews.
A question-begging title, it invites the inference that other
gospels might have been of Gentile provenance. As early
as 1814, J.C. Zahn identified this Hebrew gospel as the one
Justin Martyr was using. Is it possible that that which is
commonly called the fifth gospel was, or at least was derived from,
that which was the first?
In 62 AD
came troublous times beginning with the martyrdom of James,
followed by the flight of Jerusalem's Nazarene community
to Pella in 66 AD, after which camethe siege
of Jerusalem, followed by the temple's destruction in 70 AD.
As confirmedby 20th Century archeological excavation, the believing
community returned, reestablishing itself in Jerusalem on the
very site where the Last Supper occurred. On regrouping
there, there might well have been a strong incentive to harmonize
the movement's multiple gospel accounts into one narrative, thus
justifying the creation of MS 2498's progenitor. On
James' demise, Simeon, Cleopas' son was unanimously chosen to exercise
oversight in Jerusalem. Reputed to have lived to the ripe
age of 120 before he himself was martyred, he would have had the
requisite stature to authorize the harmonizing of the movements' competing
or, if you will, complementary gospel accounts. Lending credence
to this scenario, at that time there were yet those who understood
the chronological sequence - which is one of MS 2498's chief
virtues - that its narrative makes sense.
Credit given where credit due.
By rescuing from
oblivion the core document of the Faith, it might be supposed
that Kuchinsky would qualify as one of Christendom's greatest
benefactors, yet both he and his findings are roundly ignored.
Insofar as the Church is concerned, Kuchinsky, like Francis
of Assisi, might as well be out preaching to the birds.
Catholic theologians are probably not much perturbed by his discovery
inasmuch as a Roman Catholic claim of long-standing is that the
Church had the authority to write the Scriptures.
Nothing fazes those who believe
in the plenary authority of the Church, an organization
presumably vested by heaven to rule the earth.
Conversely, Protestantism has long maintained that it was
the apostles, not the Church, who wrote the New Testament
and so Kuchinsky's findings, once they no longer can be ignored,
will pose a profound dilemma striking at Protestantism's core
reason to exist. Christendom's problem is that it can hardly
acknowledge Kuchinsky's findings without at the same time admitting
its responsibility in the first place for losing it. And
since that admission is too humiliating, this discovery is passed
over in silence, for what other world religion ever willingly parted
with its core documents? And what if the Church didn't simply
"lose" them but actively suppressed them?
Now as sweet
balm to parched lips comes Yuri Kuchinsky's discovery.
While this should not cause us to lose sight of the fact
that his interest is driven by scholarly considerations
from a Unitarian standpoint, not faith, it remains true that
he is one of Christendom's greatest benefactors. (I
can only imagine that were he to receive the accolades due him,
that he might feel as over-honored as King Haile Salassie of Ethiopia
did that fine day in 1966 when his plane landed in Kingston,
Jamaica and he looked out the porthole to see a 100,000 worshipful
Rastafarians with their dreadlocks and colorful robes camped
on the tarmac below.)
If the canonicals
are not to be accepted uncritically, neither should the
non- canonical gospels be rejected uncritically. Both
categories have valid and invalid elements. Nevertheless,
the standard academic line remains that of Robert M. Grant,
Professor of New Testament, University of Chicago: In his book,
... since the norms for determining authenticity must
lie within the canonical gospels,
it is hard to see what contribution
apocryphal gospels could make even if some of the
material in them should be judged
genuine. (A Introduction to the New Testament)
This type of reasoning
may have had its day once but for a host of reasons is
passe. By availing ourselves of MS 2498, we can
dispense with the notion that the canonicals are "the norms."
However implausible, the standard, academic line is to deny
the existence of a Hebrew or Aramaic original. Who do
they suppose the Galilean fishermen were, Greek scholars?
Once it is recognized that the canonicals cannot be relied upon
without reservation, then the door is open to other sources
of information. From long dependence on a single textual
tradition, the Alexandrian, the basis for the vast majority
of modern New Testament translational activity, a
kind of mental laziness has overtaken the field of biblical study.
At first, parting
with this accustomed crutch will seem
painful, nevertheless doing so is not without its compensations:
narrow certitude may be out, but the joy of unfettered
discovery is in.
As before touched
upon, helping fuel the current interest in James and Mary
was a significant archeological find, a precious lode of texts
hidden in an earthenware vessel. Pulled from the sands
of upper Egypt near a place called Nag Hammadi in 1945 by an alert,
Arab farmer, Mohammed Ali, 13 codices comprising 52 texts were recovered.
Preserved seemingly miraculously, they had been sequestered in
a hillside cave about 1,500 years before. Slowly but surely,
these texts have been working their way into public awareness, along
the way altering perceptions about Christian origins.
Both the Dead Sea
Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi collections were hidden away for
the same reason, to escape destruction either by the Romans, or
by Rome's surrogate, the Church. Through confiscation and
the pyre, the Church assiduously sought to erase from memory any
telling of the gospel other than its own.
to destroy all the evidence puts one in mind of Moses who, when
he was 40 years old, slew an Egyptian and then buried him in
the sands of Egypt. Evidently he left a toe sticking up
out of the sand, because word of his deed got out and he had to
flee. Likewise, though it generally went about its self-appointed
task of suppression with great diligence, the Church overlooked
a few texts whose survival, albeit tattered and torn,
will prove in the long run most detrimental to its cause.
History it's said is written by the winners. For a long while
the Church was that winner but the truth will out in the end.
It is our privilege to relate an alternative telling and assess
In his most
famous surviving work, Against Heresies, Irenaeus
made many an argument against non-canonical gospels.
The one argument he did not make, indeed, dared not make, is
that of priority. All he would have had to do to clinch
his case was show that the canonicals are older and thus more original.
But this he did not attempt to do and for good reason. Too
many people were around at that time, the late 2nd Century, who knew
otherwise, who could have called him on it.
... there has always been a synoptic problem, ever since
the three Gospels appeared
together in the canon of the New
Testament. ... every attempt at solution seemed only
to add to the difficulty of finding
an adequate one; ...
(James Iverach, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
So many contradictory
hypotheses to contend with, so many scholars to advance
them! For instance, there is the oral hypothesis tradition
first advanced by Gieseler in 1818 and later upheld by Alford
and Wescott. But this did not adequately explain all the
verbal agreements. Thereafter a variety of mutual use
came into being in which
each of the three synoptic gospels has been accorded - by reputable
scholars, I might say - first, second, or third place chronologically.
Each has been described as either the source for, or else
as having been derived from, the others with every possible combination
having its advocates. For a century Ph.D candidates
have intently scrutinized the texts and have advanced and
exploded innumerable theories without coming to consensus:
there is Streeter and Holtzmann's Two Source Hypothesis; the
Greisbach Hypothesis championed by Farmer; the Farrar Hypothesis
backed by Goulder; the Jerusalem School Hypothesis; the Augustinian
Hypothesis wherein Mark is seen as the last gospel to have
been written, a view adopted by F. Baur and the Tubingen school
etc, etc. ad nauseam. 'Round and 'round we go. The
average Church communicant, knowing little about the growing body
of research presented here, in all sincerity struggles on, trying
to make sense of that which is supposedly "apostolic" but is not.
(I know: for 35 years that was your's truly.) But if we'd stop
and think about it, we would see that it's not credible that any of
the canonical gospels were written by a single individual, much less
by an apostle. The complex web of interrelationships and mutual
borrowings required a long-developing process. Verbatim agreements
demonstrate literary dependence and why would eyewitnesses shamelessly
crib word-for-word from each other?
years before the Gospel of Thomas was recovered from the sands
of Egypt, Rendel Harris, anticipated its recovery. He wrote:
It has been my habit for some time past, to warn my
students that the Christian literature does
not necessarily begin with the
New Testament, and certainly not with the Gospels; that there
are traces of previous documentary
matter on which the accepted and canonical New
Testament depends; and that,
until we have learnt to recognize and isolate these primitive
deposits, we shall constantly be making
mistakes in out interpretation of the New Testament
and the Apostolic Fathers.
And, in particular I tell them that there are two lost
the early Christian propaganda,
occurring in various forms, sufficiently alike to constitute
cycle or type, the traces of which
are to be found constantly in the first period of the
literature of the Church. ...
Of these the first is the Collection of the Sayings of
second is the Book of Testimonies
from the Old Testament. The first of these underlies
Gospels, and is especially an instrument
for the conversion of the Gentiles: the second is an
instrument for the refutation of
the Jews. ... when we have reduced our prejudices in favor
the antiquity of the Gospels to
more sober limits, we shall ultimately agree well enough as
to the Book of Sayings and its antiquity
(Testimonies, vol. 1)
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God shall stand
for ever. (Isaiah 40:8)
A change of Scripture signifies a change
of religion. For instance, the Samaritans
have the Torah i.e., the five Books of Moses, plus
Joshua. That is all. This, their
canon, represents their understanding as to what constitutes
God's standard for sacred literature. Rabbinical
Judaism has the Tenakh, thirty-nine books consisting
of Torah (Law), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim
(Writings); Roman Catholicism has 73 books, consisting of testaments
Old and New. (Included in this number
are seven books,sometimes referred to as inter-testamental,
deutero-canonical, or apocryphal yet, in their view, canonical);
Orthodoxy has 75 books; Protestantism, 66; the Mormons, 80
plus, while the Church in Ethiopia has two canons - one long,
In part, it is a matter of allegiance: the Samaritans look
to Moses but not to David. The Jews look to David but not
to Jesus; Christians generally look to the Jesus of the New
Testament while Mormons look to all of the above, plus Joseph
Smith and the Book of Mormon. But who has the
right to determine which books are in and which are out?
To say that it's self-evident or obvious when all the while thoughtful,
well-educated people differ, is to fly in the face of the facts.
The existence of many canons is proof that no consensus exists.
While it should be a matter of private judgment, every communion
takes pride in its own canon. How seriously is this taken?
Very. For instance, a little known fact regarding the Bible's
removal from American public schools: it did not happen, as one might
suppose, in the 20th Century due to a challenge from atheists or
by the ACLU but in the 19th Century due to a conflict between immigrant
Catholics and Protestants in Boston. No room for compromise
existed. No one wanted their child exposed to someone else's
Bible, be it King James or Douay.
Is it possible to believe in God but not believe
in God's miracle:
a Bible perfectly preserved, complete,
A Nation of Words)
living with ambiguity and uncertainty is far better than having
the kind of cocksure, know-it-all certitude that commonly
passes for biblical learning. Thus, in response to
Miriam Weinstein's question, the answer is, unequivocally,
yes, for only the anxious-minded would care to see the
great, unfathomable ocean that is the Bible reduced to a "knowable"
backwater which is biblicism. Typically, hierarchical
denominationalism, be it rabbinical Judaism or organized Christianity,
does not encourage its communicants to think for themselves
which is why it defines minutely the doctrines that are to
be believed and from which they are not to deviate. Yet it
is a believer's prerogative to form his or her own opinions and
change them as he or she grows. Thinking to clarify matters,
organized religion only muddles them further by attempting to
define for their respective members what constitutes God's Word,
then, compounding error with error, attempting to define its meaning.
While this may help bind a communion's adherents together more
tightly, it necessarily alienates all others whose scriptural
canons or interpretations differ, a surefire recipe for division.
The remedy is respect
individual judgment. If Jesus is the
Truth, then the Bible is but the truth about the Truth, while
our interpretation of the Bible is, at best, the truth about
the truth about the Truth. To make a litmus test of our
interpretation is to go the sectarian road.
say, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it," settles
nothing. Do we really know what God said? And
if so, do we really know what He meant or how to apply the
meaning correctly? Where then lies the path between denying
altogether the possibility of identifying God-inspired books
and dependance on a religious institution to define them for
us? It would be for us to make this a matter of personal
discovery, not by starting with a doctrinal claim, but with
a question mark. After that, instead of expecting a once-for-all
discovery, let's make of it an ongoing adventure of discovery.
Only the experiential approach can make the Bible come alive.
Far better is it to form a point of view slowly, hesitantly, than
smugly thinking it's all so simple and self-evident. Maybe it
is not God's communicating inadequately, but our listening inattentively
that is the source of misunderstanding, for, in substituting
what is programmatic and mechanistic, do we not inadvertently tune
out the Spirit?
Since it impinges
on our understanding of Mary and James, let us ask again,
which Bible, whose Bible? To such Protestants as adhere
to the swinging-door theory, that God closed the Old Testament
canon 400 years before opening it again for the New, it will
come as no small surprise to learn that the Nazarenes' canon
of Scripture looked rather more like Orthodoxy's and Catholicism's
canon than their own, which is to say that the idea of an inter-testamental
period Protestant theologians is a fictitious construct.
(Evidence confirming this comes from J. Rendel Harris' recovery
of Matthew's Testimonia demonstrating much Nazarene
dependence on the so-called "deutero-canonical" books to establish
Jesus' messianic claim.) If anything, however, the Nazarene's
Scriptural canon is as distinct from those already mentioned as
they are from each other.
If we want to know more about the religion of Mary and James,
we would do well to find out what they were reading - as well
as what they were writing - as Scripture. But let us not
suppose in the absence of an authoritative pronouncement from
God (of which there is none) that they held doctrinaire views on
the matter. As the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, translators
At the time of Jesus and rabbi Hillel - the origins
of Christianity and rabbinic Judaism - there
was, and there was not, a
"Bible." ... There was a Bible in the sense that there
sacred books widely recognized
by the Jews as foundational to their religion and supremely
authoritative for religious practice.
There was not, however, a Bible in the sense that the
leaders of the general Jewish
community had specifically considered, debated, and
definitively decided the full range of which books
were supremely and permanently
authoritative and which ones
- no matter how sublime, useful, or beloved - were not.
While it is
not necessarily what one believes but how one construes
it that counts (which is why good people are found spread
liberally amongst all the various communions), seeing Jesus
through the apostolic writings, rather than through a distorted
New Testament lens, can only help. My intention
is to make good the claim that with a deft hand, the Church
subtly, but systematically, skewed Jesus' portrayal in its
"canonical" New Testament gospels as one who was aloof
not only from women in general, or the Magdalene in particular,
but from John the Baptizer, Jesus' own disciples, his family, his
brother James included, as well as his Jewish people. By
gratuitously portraying a less human, less humane, more God-like
Jesus who was often angry, arbitrary and enigmatic, the Church
authorities cunningly increased their own latitude to act arbitrarily
and capriciously. By confusing the time-line, they turned what
had been a straightforward narrative accessible to laymen, into
a never ending source of controversy for theologians. Giving
the Magdalene and James short shrift was no accident; it was all
part of a bid to replace the original apostolic community with a
Gentile organization. But it didn't stop there, paganism was
replaced as well. How was this accomplished? Very ingeniously.
Just as the Church had purloined the Nazarenes' Scriptures,
so also would it mine the pagans' feast and ceremonies, stealing their
thunder, as it were, judiciously taking what served its purposes, rejecting
what didn't. Though it was quite a stretch, the Church, in fusing
monotheism with paganism, created a curious, new hybrid, a speckled
Diversity of approach.
behind the various gospel accounts, vouching for them, championing
them, were different constituencies, variously identified as
Petrine, Jacobean, Magdalene, Pauline, Thomasine. etc.
For instance, there are indications that Peter, the impetuous,but not
overly educated fisherman, was the source for Mark's Gospel,
that Matthew's Gospel was influenced by religiously observant
Jews, even those associated with James in Jerusalem; that Luke's
Gospel, which seems more inclusive of Samaritans and the dispossessed
in general was Galilean, and, finally, as previously considered, that
the Magdalene played a key role in the development of John's Gospel.
The dichotomy between
the synoptics on the one hand and Thomas and John
on the other apparently goes back to the beginning of the Nazarene
movement, even to John the Baptist, and there is reason to think
that it even dates to the Baptist's wilderness sojourn, our best source
regarding this being MS Pepys 2498 which informs us that:
And as soon as he [John] had come of age he went into
the desert and dwelled there until
the Holy Ghost commanded him to
go and preach the coming of Jesus Christ. (chapter 2)
... he went into the desert until he was thirty years
old. (chapter 7)
is that he was in the wilderness for ten or perhaps twelve
years. Since an Essene community was situated on the Dead Sea,
it is widely assumed that John the Baptist must have been
associated with them. Indeed, so strong runs this assumption
that it is not uncommon to see him termed "John the Essene."
Somehow, none of this quite computes. The Essenes, because
of their rigorous purification laws, lived a highly structured
existence. It was necessary for them to create a closed society,
isolated from all other Jews, much less from Gentiles. It
is hard to imagine how John the Baptist might have fit in. Of him,
MS 2498 relates:
And St. John ate nothing but wild garlic and bryony
and his clothes were of camel's
hair, and he had a thong about
is how a free-wheeling John the Baptist would ever have
accepted, much less been accepted in, a sectarian environment
as rigidly defined as that of the Essenes. Does that
mean by default that the only option left him was for him to be
an isolated hermit? Not necessarily for there were others
in the wilderness besides Essenes with whom he might have become
The Mandaean connection.
have seen, an enduring mystery for scholars has been the unmistakable
contrast in tone and content between John's Gospel
and the three synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark,
and Luke. This centuries-old puzzle for scholars only
deepened with the discovery in 1909 of the earliest Christian
hymnbook, the Odes of Solomon, and deepened yet again in 1945
with the discovery of the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas,
for both of these texts have numerous, albeit subtle, affinities
with John's Gospel. Instead of just one aberrant
text, now scholars find themselves trying to account for an entire
body of related literature. Initially the assumption was
that such congruences as existed amongst these texts were based on
dependence on John. Further study, however, has not
borne this out. Now the generally accepted view is that all these
writings arose in a common milieu. Still, this begs the questions,
when and how did this dichotomy between the three Synoptics and John
and Thomas arise? A follow-on question: why
did the 2nd Century Nazarene movement morph into two opposing camps,
one represented by the Church, the other by the Gnostics? By
building on the foundation already laid down regarding Mary's role in
authoring proto-John, we will seek a resolution to this puzzling question.
The situation we have uncovered is this, that the Magdalene courageously
perpetuated among the Nazarenes the wisdom of a people not even Jewish but
Persian. In this she was not alone: Jesus and John the
Baptist had proceeded her but once they were
no longer on the scene, it fell to her to carry forward with this
aspect of their legacy. Why would that be? Maybe because
Mary had a clearer understanding than others did that
God's Light was not exclusively Jewish. More so than
others, she appears to have distinguished the outer husk of
religious observance from the core of spiritual reality.
In the Pistis Sophia, a late Gnostic work, yet one containing
some early Nazarene material, the Risen Lord avers:
"You [the Magdalene] are she whose heart is
more directed to
the Kingdom of Heaven than all
your brothers." (26:17-20)
That many things from John the
Baptist's life didn't make it into the Synoptics but found
their way rather into John's Gospel (or should
we say "the Magdalene's Gospel?) is not a recent
observation. Over 1,500 years ago John Chrysostom wrote:
The Evangelists distributed the periods amongst
them; and Matthew having cut short
little-mentioned group are the Mandaeans. (An Aramaic
word meaning "knowledge"). Could this people, though
not even Jewish, have played a crucial role in the development
of the nascent Nazarene movement? It would seem that they
did. Daily baptizers, they lived along the Jordan River.
Living in stark simplicity, daily the turbaned, white-robed,
Mandaean holy men awaited the rising sun and when it burst forth
they descended into the water. Who were they? Buddhists?
Zoroastrians? Ganges river bathers? some mixture of these? or were
they something else altogether? At this late date it's hard
to say. Anthropologists think they originated in Persia.
As did the Jews of Jesus' day, they spoke the lingua franca
of the Middle East, that being Aramaic. To this day,
they seek to live at peace with their Islamic neighbors in southern
Iraq on the Euphrates river as simple farmers while practicing
their millennial-old rites. In their ancient Scriptures, the
Ginza Rba, in the Book of Souls, are found
surprising parallels with John's Gospel, particularly in
distinguishing light from darkness; also, references to living water,
the true vine, and like themes.
his notice of the time before
John the Baptist was bound, hastens to that which follows,
while the Evangelist John
not only does not cut short this period, but dwells most on
Matthew, after the return of Jesus
from the wilderness, saying nothing of the intermediate
circumstances, as what
John spake, and what the Jews sent and said, and having cut
short all the rest, passes immediately
to the prison. "For," saith he, "Jesus having heard"
that John was betrayed, "departed
thence." (Matt. 14:13.) But John does not so. He
silent as to the journey into
the wilderness, as having been described by Matthew; but
he relates what followed the descent
from the mountain, and after having gone through
many circumstances, adds, "For
John was not yet cast into prison." (John 3:24)
attainments of Israel's mighty neighbors, Egypt, Persia, and
Greece in turn tempted and
repelled. It was always a nice question which influence
were to be accepted and which rejected. Let us observe,
biblical Judaism did not simply fall from the sky as some
might suppose, for there is overwhelming evidence of judicious
borrowings for, from its inception. Israel has drawn
inspiration from a multiplicity of sources: Moses, for instance,
came of age in the courts of the Pharaoh where he became conversant
with the learning and wisdom of Egypt. Later on, fleeing
to the wilderness, he was refreshed by the Midianites, particularly
Jethro, the Midianite priest, who became his father-in-law.
Exposure to primitive, tribal religion infused Judaism with a
kind of hybrid vigor. Later Greek ideas and modes of expression
also left an imprint on the biblical record, especially on the New
Testament but elsewhere as well. Many scholars think, for instance,
that the complete absence of Jewish features in Job may
be because its origin was not Jewish at all but Greek. None of
this detracts from its value. Nor does it negate direct revelation.
The Holy Land is where East meets West, where Oriental mysticism and
Occidental logic combine. Only blind parochialism could keep
one from seeing the reality that the Israelite commonwealth was
anything but a cultural backwater. As C. S. Lewis wrote:
To a human mind this working-up (in a sense imperfectly),
this sublimation (incomplete)
of human material, seems, no doubt,
an untidy and leaky vehicle. We might have
expected, we may think we should have
preferred, an unrefracted light giving us ultimate
truth in systematic form - something
we could have tabulated and memorized and relied
on like the multiplication table.
One can respect, and at moments envy, both the
Fundamentalist's view of the Bible
and the Roman Catholic's view of the Church. But
there is one argument which we should
beware of using position: God must have done
what is best, this is best, therefore
God has done this. For we are mortals and do not
know what is best for us, and it is
dangerous to prescribe what God must have done -
especially when we cannot, for
the life of us, see that He has after all done it.
(Reflections on the Psalms)
holy men are not to be written off lightly as heathen idolaters
for their sense of the sacred had been awakened in the solitude
of the wilderness. In the freshness of the new dawn,
they offered their living souls to the Light. Stark, natural
beauty seems to have been incorporated into their vision quest,
allowing them to achieve a remarkable degree of clarity.
Camped out under star-studded skies such as desert nights alone
afford, their days spent under the blazing desert sun, they lived
with a heightened sense of dichotomy which is reflected in their
gratitude for cool, life-giving waters, warming fire, and aerial
breezes. The cyclical succession of seasons, the evidence
of times passage on sun-whitened bones, clouds, moon, sky, rain,
soil, creeping, crawling things that go snap in the night, all became
an invitation to them to move on up into an etherial abode of expanded
consciousness beyond the reach of earthly language. As participants
in the cosmic dance, the Creator became known to them through the
experience of his Creation.
Apparently the Mandaeans
and John the Baptist hit it off quite well for there is
a highly favorable recollection of John in the Mandaean's
scriptures. One can hardly imagine that this went down
too well with Pharisaical traditionalists who thought ill of
outsiders associating with Jews or Jews associating with outsiders.
As MS 2498 put it:
Then came the religious folk called Pharisees, for
to be baptized by him. And Saint John told
them that they should seek repentance,
and that they should not put their trust in their
kinship connection with those who
sometime past were well pleasing to God: for God might
make good men of those also who have
no such hope before them. And God would not
delay having each man done by him
according as he deserved. And then asked these folk
what they should do, and how might
they be saved. And John answered them that they
should give alms to the poor for
the love of God.
(MS 2498, ch. 7)
Who then were the
Mandaeans? wise men from the East. Does this not ring
a bell? Who were "the three kings" (MS 2498)? They were
wise men from the East, and among the first to herald the Messiah.
Bait and switch.
The Hadrionic war, which had wrung the death knell of
Jewish hopes of political
independence had also relegated the
church of the apostles to the rank of a heretical
(Hugh Schofield, History of Jewish Christianity)
Behind the rewriting
of Nazarene Scripture, lies a tragic story: the Roman
emperor Hadrian (76-138 AD) outlawed observance
of the Mosaic Law throughout the RomanEmpire. Jews
in the Holy Land rebelled, and justly so. The Nazarenes,
themselves Law-observant, might well have joined them except
for one consideration, the leader of the rebellion, Bar Kocheba,
had been declared to be the Messiah.
could not in good conscience accede to either party's demands.
As if caught in the pincers of a giant nutcracker, Jerusalem's
apostolic community was destroyed in a mighty bloodbath
in 135 AD when Jerusalem fell to Rome's
legions. It was then that certain Gentile Christians
found it expedient to distance their religion from its
Jewish roots. Such was the sequence of events preceding a
2nd Century Church edit when four Nazarene proto-gospels were
rewritten to accommodate not only Roman political realities but also
to suit the proclivities of the Church's dominant hierarchy men.
Thus did Rome not only conquer God's people militarily but again
religiously through the Church by subverting the sacred text.
This 2nd Century edit
spelled the final parting of the ways, when the Church
became a religion unto itself, separate and apart from that of
the apostolic community for after the New Testament was sent
forth by the Church, all the
gospels not included in it became,
as it were, incriminating evidence in need of suppressing.
It was then, in 180 AD, when he was in Rome just
before being elevated to the bishopric of Lyons that Irenaeus
(d. 200 AD), formulated the myth of four
and only four gospels. Arguing the necessity for this fourfold
arrangement, Irenaeus stated:
The Gospels could not possibly be either more or less
in number than they are. Since
there are four zones of the world
in which we live, and four principle winds, while the
Church is spread over all the earth, and
the pillar and foundation of the Church is the
gospel, and ... it fittingly has
by such weighty arguments as these, wholesale destruction
could begin in earnest with one bishop, Theodoret of Cyrrhus,
even bragging how he had withdrawn two hundred Diatessaronic
manuscripts from churches in Syria.
as if it were a tenet of their faith, Protestants believe that
through the Church God saw to it that the apostolic word would
be preserved for future generations. (The word
has been preserved indeed, just not through the agency they
suppose, nor in the form they suppose either.) The assumption
is that it wasn't until Constantine's time in the 4th Century
that the Church was seduced by the allure of state power.
True, by then the New Testament had been disseminated
so widely as to be beyond recall for major revision. (Embroidering
around the edges has always been going on.) And it's true enough
that 3rd Century papyri and 4th Century uncials confirm that 4th
Century tampering, if not completely absent, was not a significant
factor overall. But to extrapolate from this that in pre-Constantine
times the Church had been a trustworthy custodian of the apostolic
writings, as we shall see, is an unwarranted leap of faith.
In other words, what is called into question is the institutional
Church's role as historic guardian of the apostolic deposition.
Did the Church maintain the chain of possession from apostolic times
to our own? Can we vouch for fidelity of transmission or confidently
claim, as once we did, that Matthew actually wrote Matthew;
or Mark, Mark, etc.? The issue is foundational: is
the house of faith built on the Rock of apostolic teaching or is it
built on something less stable?
portrays Jesus as closer emotionally to his family, to his disciples,
and to the common folk than do the canonicals. Also
he welcomed women on an equal basis with men. "Orve suete
lord Jhesu cris," as reads MS 2498. Sweet
Jesus! Not as a remote figure was he perceived by those who
knew him best but as one near and dear.
In subtle but significant
ways, the Pepysian text tells a different story than
do the canonicals: for instance, in canonical Luke chapter
7, Jesus forgave the Magdalene"for she loved much."
But in MS 2498 it is Jesus who loved much, thus illustrating
the same point Luke chapter 15 makes, that the lost coin,
the lost sheep and, ultimately, the lost person has a special claim
to our attention. It's not as if the lost coin, sheep, or person
were intrinsically more valuable than others, just lost
and in need of finding.
Likewise with the Magdalene, so likewise with ourselves,
love does not originate with us but we respond to love.
So who pray tell, is the penitent of Luke chapter 7?
MS 2498 identifies her as the Magdalene. Not as
"canonical" Luke has it, was Jesus' parable about
an anonymous penitent's love for Jesus but, as MS 2498 has
it, it was about a creditor who, having forgiven much, loves
much. Why the reversal? Was it not because, while giving
lip-service to Jesus' humanity, the Church was uncomfortable
with its reality, thus the attempt to obscure Jesus' true feelings
for the Magdalene? Albeit Jesus was the son of God, he was
every inch a man, a man whose love for the Magdalene ran deep.
Twice Mary anointed Jesus, once out of gratitude for salvation, then
later for burial. But his spiritual anointing of her was for
MS 2498 has to say about the Magdalene's "sinfulness"
is that she was "taken in that city for being a sinful woman."
It does not say what that might have entailed. So why jump
to unwarranted conclusions? That she was sinful, we can
be sure, she and all the rest of humanity. No, what the
Pharisee was driving at was that since she was afflicted she
must be sinful. Such was the Pharisaical mind-set, a corollary
to which is that health and worldly success are signs of God's
approval. How like Job's three "friends" he was!
A family account.
A peculiar fact needing to be accounted for is the total lack
of references to the Fourth Gospel by Church Fathers before
180 AD. Some scholars say that
this is evidence that it didn't exist until then. Maybe
so, but left unexplained is how such a composition, so poignant,
so unique and filled with telling detail that only one who lived
in the Holy Land before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD
could have known, came to be. The first use of John's
Gospel that we know of was by the Gnostic, Heracleon (d.
180 AD) and from Nag Hammadi comes an abundance of
evidence demonstrating familiarity with Johannine ideas. "Orthodox"
Christians were unaccountably slow to accept John and for
a long time they seemed uncertain as to its origins, and so much
so that Irenaeus in defending its apostolic origins, had to resort
to the claim that as a child in Asia Minor he remembered hearing about
it. What a weak reed to rest his case on, his childhood recollection!
In fact, evidence this flimsy throws the whole issue of authorship
into doubt. Writes Ramon K. Jusino:
Raymond Brown has likened the quest to identify the author
of the Fourth Gospel to
a good detective story. (1966
lxxxvii). A good detective sifts through evidence which
is relevant and discards that which is
not. When the evidence begins to point in a
certain direction, he or she pursues
leads and explores all of the various explanations
and alibies. When one theory emerges
as plausible and more credible than any other,
the detective draws a conclusion
that usually involves the naming of a suspect or
suspects. ... I respectfully submit
that the "prime suspect" [based on evidence cited
herein] [as to] the author of the
Fourth Gospel should be Mary Magdalene.
Decidedly more intimate
is John's Gospel than are the three synoptics.
The reason for this has long been debated but the answer lies
on the surface, the synoptics are official, public accountings
of Jesus' ministry: his parables, his healings, his fulfillment
of prophecy whereas John's is a private memoir. Being
of a more personal nature, John's Gospel features
one-on-one meetings such as with Nicodemus or with the Samaritan
woman by the well. Its detailed recollection of Jesus'
passion is more personal and poignant.
But why do we speak of John's
Gospel, now that proto-John is available to us
in MS 2498? For that matter, why do we call it
"proto-John"? Only because John was derived
therefrom. As found in MS 2498, proto-John
is anonymous. Written from a Judean instead of a Galilean
perspective, plausibly it is the family witness of Lazarus, Martha,
and Mary as recorded by the apostle John. Or perhaps it
is the Magdalene's personal witness. Whose voice is to
be heard? On grammatical grounds alone, we can say that
it's not the voice of the John who wrote the Apocalypse.
He was noted for his incorrect Greek whereas this is beautifully
correct. Nor is it the voice of the author of the Epistles
of John which contain vague resemblances to John's prologue
but that prologue is not part of proto-John. Had Lazarus
been its author, he would have been credited, just as Luke
and Mark were credited, even though they were not apostles.
Speaking of Luke, his Greek is beautiful, but he has one
gospel to his credit already and no one is suggesting a second.
Though this is a subjective judgment,
once some of the later, churchly overlayment is stripped away from
John, in its delicacy and sensibility, one can begin
to hear the voice of a woman, perhaps even that of the cultured
Magdalene who, as one who hailed from a wealthy, distinguished family,
would have had the resources to produce a written memoir as well as
a translation for Gentiles. But most important of all, she
was an eyewitness. It is only her Memoir which allows us
to identify the proximate cause of Jesus' crucifixion.
John 10:40 records what no other gospel records, that Jesus
took refuge across the Jordan River where John the Forerunner first
baptized. It further records, to his disciples' chagrin, his
leaving that haven to return to Bethany, only a mile from Jerusalem,
where his sworn enemies were plotting his demise. This Jesus
did that he might raise the Magdalene's brother, Lazarus, from death
to life. It was this act that led Caiaphas, the high priest, in
a fit of jealous rage to prophesy that one man should die for the nation.
Perhaps out of gratitude
for restoring her brother Lazarus to life, six days before
the Passover, the Magdalene anointed Jesus with oil worth
300 denarii, no small fortune. In doing this, however,
unintentionally she raised the stakes even higher because
this so angered Judas Iscariot that it led him to betray
Jesus' location to the authorities in return for 30 denarii
- an amount equal to a tithe of the 300 denarii that the Magdalene
had expended. Only John' Gospel, (the Magdalene's
Gospel, if you will) informs us regarding Judas Iscariot's
true motivation, that he was a thief who had been filching from
the money-bag. While in a larger
Jesus came to die for the sins of the
world, the record is clear: he placed his life on the
line for the Magdalene and for her family.
Most relevant for
the current study is to note the nearly-complete absence
of the expression "the disciple whom Jesus loved" from the
Magdalene sections of MS 2498. In its stead is
the name "John." Is it possible that John, the son of
Zebedee, was not the beloved disciple? Neither at the Last
Supper (John chapter 12), nor in the courtyard of
the high priest (John, chapter 18), nor at the empty
tomb (John ch. 20), nor with the risen Christ on the
seashore (John chapter 21) is he so described in MS
2498. Only at the Cross John chapter 19, where
exists a real possibility of confusion in transmission or translation,
is he so identified. The question is, why would anyone add
this title, if it weren't there originally? It's not as if
John were unworthy of it. After all, he was at Jesus' right
hand at the Last Supper and, in the community of believers, is often
named with Peter and James in a leadership position. Certainly he
is worthy of the honor. The point is that it was a later addition.
But what motivated such an addition? If less than conclusive,
there is persuasive evidence indicating that it was the Magdalene's
title, which the Church assigned to him to keep from her. It
is true to fact to say that at some point the Magdalene, and women like
her who played an active role in ministry, became an embarrassment
to an organization which defined leadership - and not just the administrative
variety, but real spiritual leadership - as being exclusively male.
Not just a male prerogative but a male characteristic. This attitude
is the basis for cover-up. Literally. For instance, in the
apocryphal Acts of Philip (which is of a Gnostic character),
Jesus advises Mary:
As for you Mary, change your clothing and outward appearance:
reject everything which
from the outside suggests a woman.
Given the prejudices
of her times, it has been suggested that for Mary to have
acted in any capacity outside the usual domestic one, she
needed a male "covering." To that end, some have claimed
she turned to the apostle John to be her "head covering,"
her veil of anonymity. Did the Magdalene internalize this
attitude, accepting second-class citizenship as proper and
as the norm, or did she merely accede to it as a necessary
evil? Then again, maybe neither one nor the other but it was
imposed after the fact by the Church. (At least, those are
the reasonable alternatives that I am aware of.) There's one
more angle to consider: if Mary was indeed "family," then after Jesus'
crucifixion, there is the biblical injunction "that if a man's
brother dies and leaves behind a wife and leaves no child, his
brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother."
(See Luke 20:28.) In the instance at hand, James, a
surviving brother, did indeed raise up children to Jesus - spiritual
children. While it is an open question whether he did so through
Mary, there is reason to believe as we have before seen that they were
The idea of the Magdalene
as being the author who stands behind John's gospel is recent,
the first person to publicly posit this being Jusino who,
in 1998, in an article posted to the internet and titled "Mary
Magdalene: Author of the Fourth Gospel?" takes as his starting
point the scholarship of Raymond F. Brown who is generally recognized
as America's foremost Catholic biblical scholar. As
have other scholars, Brown's thinking on the question of authorship
has evolved. Backing off from his initial assessment in 1966
that the author of canonical John was the apostle John,
in 1979 he adopted, instead, the stance that there was little evidence
of Johannine authorship. Positing a three stage development,
he saw the first as being the contribution of an anonymous Beloved
Disciple who was personally known to Jesus, as well as an eyewitness
to the events recounted; the second stage he attributed to an unidentified
evangelist; and the third stage to a redactor. Of this final
stage Jusino wrote:
... an important assertion of mine is that the redactor
carefully concealed the identity of
Mary Magdalene as the Beloved Disciple,
by referring to her only as an anonymous disciple.
As the redactor reworked the seven passages
cited above [John 1:35-40; 13:23-26; 18:15-16;
19:25-27; 20:1-11; 21:7; 21:21-24]
which refer to the Beloved Disciple, he simply changed
any reference to Mary Magdalene by substituting
it with an anonymous reference to the
Beloved Disciple or to "another disciple."
For most of the document this was fairly easy to
do and the resulting text appeared to
be congruous. Instead of seeing the Magdalene's
name, the reader is simply presented
with an anonymous male disciple.
Removing references to Mary Magdalene
from most of the story was easy. However, in the
course of his work, the redactor was
confronted with a problem. The tradition placing Mary
Magdalene at the foot of the Cross
and at the Empty Tomb Sunday morning was too strong to
deny. The Magdalene's presence
at both these events was common knowledge among most
early Christian communities. (This
is evidenced by the fact that all three of the other New
Testament Gospels report her presence
at these events.) The redactor could not simply omit
any reference to the Magdalene at the
Crucifixion or any reference to her as a primary
witness to the Resurrection.
However, the redactor still wanted to establish the Beloved
Disciple as the founder of his community
and as an eyewitness to these major events in the
work of salvation. The way he
could still maintain that the founder of his community was an
eyewitness to the events in the Gospel
even though he inexplicably fails to reveal his identity
At this point the redactor probably asked himself a
question very similar to this one: How
can I suppress the knowledge of Mary
Magdalene having been the founder of our community
without being so obvious as to remove
her from the Crucifixion/Resurrection accounts,
with which most Christians are already
The redactor's solution to this problem
was quite simple. In those two events where he
could not deny the presence of the
Beloved Disciple, he would rework the text so as to
make it appear as if Mary Magdalene and
the Beloved Disciple were two different people
appearing simultaneously in
the same place, at the same time. Consequently,
Magdalene and the male Beloved Disciple appear
together in the Fourth Gospel in only
two passages - 19:25-27 (at the foot of the
Cross) and 20: 1-11 (at the Empty Tomb on
Let us consider
one of Brown's "structural inconsistences." John
19:25 begins with three Marys listed as standing by the
Cross but not the apostle John. Thus Jesus turned and
addressed his mother, about "the disciple whom he loved standing
nearby." One might on first blush assume he meant the Magdalene, that
is until reading further along to learn that John was also there.
Why was he not listed in the first place? If Jusino is right
in his supposition that the Magdalene was originally the one being
addressed, not John, then there are important implications.
For one, if the Magdalene was "family," then what Jesus said to his
mother was, in essence, this: here is your daughter-in-law and to
the Magdalene: here is your mother-in-law. Preparing Jesus'
body for burial was a family responsibility and so, for that matter,
was caring for Jesus' mother. Also, as the Magdalene was
a woman of means, it is more plausible that Jesus would advise his
mother to move into the Magdalene's home which was just a mile or so
away, rather than into John's home, which, if he had one, would probably
have been back in Galilee. As the text reads: "From that time
on, this disciple took her into his home." Or was it originally
"her home"? Since we know that mother Mary was present at Pentecost
in Jerusalem 50 days later, it is likely that she had been staying
all the while near at hand to Jerusalem with the Magdalene rather
than spending days trudging back and forth to Galilee.
Isn't that interesting?
And it is precisely at these two points that we find some
structural inconsistencies within
the text of the Fourth Gospel. Brown discusses the
inconsistencies in both of these passages.
(That shows that I'm not just reading
inconsistencies into passages that
have none.) Notably, Brown finds no such structural
defects in any of the other passages
which contain references to the Beloved Disciple.
In the Fourth Gospel, there's a curious juxtaposing of the apostles
John and Peter and when this occurs, of the two, John always comes
off on top. When they have a foot race to the Empty Tomb,
John wins. When they both see the grave clothes, John understands
the implications first and believes. When they both espy
Jesus from afar in the fishing boat, John is the first to recognize
who it is. Earlier, when they both go to the high priest's home,
John is the one who gains them entrance. At the Last Supper,
John is closest to Jesus and Peter has to go through John to get
a question to Jesus answered. What if the Magdalene is substituted
for John? In that case, rather than there being two competing
personalities, which in itself is a matter of no real significance,
there are two opposing policies: Peter's upholding male dominance; and
the Magdalene's upholding Jesus' empowerment of women. In light
of all else we know about the Church, it's quite plausible that the
Church Fathers were well aware of this gospel but, because they knew
it had been written by or authorized by a woman, they assiduously avoided
it until mid- 2nd Century when they rewrote it, attributing, thereafter,
creation to the apostle John. If this
supposition is correct, it would go along way toward explaining
what the great coverup with respect to the Magdalene was all
about - a woman so forward as to write Scripture.
Purloining the Magdalene's literary heritage
in itself would have made the Church authorities a bit nervous, that
is if they were caught in the act. But they might emboldened to
go adead when they pondered this question: how would they or civil
authorities ever justify keeping women in subjection, or
for that matter, husbands their wives, if Mary
Magdalene's example was available to show them that they needn't be?
Why the precedent of it! Were such notions of female competency
to become common knowledge, could spark a revolution!
Yes, the Magdalene was
the beloved disciple, not that the apostle John or the other
apostles were unbeloved. It's simply that this was her
title. From this, however, the Church has always recoiled
in horror as if scandalized, for while giving lip service to
Jesus' humanity, the idea of Jesus' having formed a special relationship
with Mary, even if entirely on a spiritual plane, was wholly unacceptable.
On the one hand, there is a very real reluctance
on the part of the canonical gospels to tell the Magdalene's story,
as if something about her were in need of being kept under wraps but,
until recently, any claim of coverup could be passed off as idle
speculation. No more. Thanks to MS Pepys 2498,
as well as new insights into John's Gospel, we are now able
to critique the canonicals from the selfsame texts from which they
were derived. What comparison shows is an attempt to minimize
her contribution and deflect attention from her. Thanks to
MS 2498, we can say that there were not three Marys
but one. In that respect, Pope Gregory was correct.
MS 2498's contribution is a comprehensible story of
her conversion and of her acts, thereafter, as a disciple.
Comparing textual traditions.
Following are juxtaposed
accounts of the-turning-water-into-wine incident: MS Pepys 2498,
that makes no mention of a wedding, just a celebration, nor any
specific identification as to place beyond that of Galilee and
only three gallons of wine were created, not "twenty or thirty gallons"
as we find in the canonical account. The canonical account
is the familiar, King James Version. Also,
two Diatessaronic versions are included.
The Diatessarons appear to have been dependent
on MS Pepys 2498's progenitor to sequence events.
Also, some use was made of its text. Again let it be
noted, that were MS Pepys 2498 merely the "medieval
harmony" Cambridge University's literature department long ago
it as being, then there would not be the close,
verbal conjunctions one finds between it and diverse, Diatessaronic
documents originating at different times, at distant points
on the globe, in this instance from Persia and from the Netherlands.
Unless we are willing to dismiss such similarities as "coincidences,"
then honestly compels us to face forthrightly that MS
Pepys 2498's text is indeed of ancient provenance.
A word about scribes,
theirs is not a discipline where unbridled imagination is welcomed.
A good scribe is faithful in his handling of the text.
And that's what we see here, scribes who did not promiscuously invent
things but who dutifully sought to reconcile differing accounts.
Getting down to specifics, Yuri Kuckhinsky wrote:
... the biggest interpretative problem in the canonical
text is what can be described as the
"Mystery of the Architriklinos" --
which RSV translates as "steward of the feast". Who
is this "steward", what exactly is his social status,
and why is he ordering about even the
bridegroom, of all people? ... in MG
[MS Pepys 2498] is that it's the "chief of the feast"
who is in charge of this whole affair, and not merely
a "steward/headwaiter", like in the
canonical Jn. The importance of this detail is that,
as a result, in MG, the story appears
to be a lot more coherent and logical. Indeed, logically,
how can it be that the "headwaiter"
can chide the groom for keeping the best wine for the last?
Shouldn't this be the other
way around, since it is the headwaiter, himself, who should
have normally been in charge
of the wine? And so, in the Magdalene text [MS Pepys
2498] it is indeed the "chief of
the feast" who chides the butler/headwaiter for keeping the
best wine until later. (Of
course, since in MG [MS Pepys 2498] the
feast is not a wedding, there is no "groom"
involved in this story at all.) And, very importantly,
this higher social status for this
gentleman is also supported by both the Dutch and the Persian
texts. ... in MG [MS
Pepys 2498], the servants take the jugs together
with the wine to be tasted by the "chief
of the feast", while, in the canonical Jn,
only some wine is taken to be tasted.
And the same thing as in MG [MS Pepys
2498] also seems to be happening in the
Persian DT [Diatessaron]. This indicates that
the smaller size of the jugs is an integral
part of the narrative both in MG [MS Pepys 2498]
and in the Persian version, so this
was not merely some sort of a manuscript mistake.
MS 2498: On the third day came Jesus into
Galilee, & was led unto a feast with his disciples
where his mother was.
KJV: And the third day there was a marriage
in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was
there: and both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
Leige DT: One day there was a wedding feast
in a city which was called Chana, in the land of
Galilee, and there was Mary, Jesus' mother. Jesus and his disciples
were also called there to
Persian DT: On the third day there was
a wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of
Jesus was there. And Jesus and his disciples were invited to the
MS 2498: And it so befell that the wine
had failed. And his mother said to him that they had
no wine. And Jesus said that the hour had not yet come when
he should show his power.
KJV: And when they wanted wine, the mother
of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus
saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour
is not yet come.
Leige DT: It happened at this wedding
that there lacked wine. Then Jesus' mother spoke to him
and said, "They lack wine". And Jesus answered her, "Woman, what
have I in common with thee?
Mine hour is not yet come". .]
Persian DT: The wine was running out.
The mother of Jesus said, "They have no wine." He said,
"Why do you say this, Mother? The time has not yet come."
MS 2498: & then said his mother to
the servants that they do all that he told them to do. Now
were six jars that the good man & from which all the men did wash,
each of them measuring three
KJV: His mother saith unto the servants,
Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set
there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of
the Jews containing two or three
Leige DT: Then his mother spoke to those
that were serving there and said, "Whatever he says to
you, do that." There stood six stone jars, which had been set there
after the manner of the Jews,
who used to do their purification in such vessels. Those held
as much as two or three measures.
Persian DT: The mother said to the servants,
"Whatever he tells you, do it." And there were six
stone jars there, that they had placed there for the ablutions
of the Jews, each holding two or three
measures. And the people were seated in the banquet room.
MS 2498: And Jesus told them take them
up and bring them forth to him. And as soon as the
good man had drunk thereof, he called the butler to him and said:
KJV: Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots
with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor
of the feast. And they bare it.
When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine
and knew not whence it was:
(but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast
called the bridegroom,
and saith unto him,
Leige DT: Then Jesus said to the servants,
"Fill the jars with water". And they did so, and filled
them to the brim. "Now scoop and carry it to the master of the house",
and they did so. And when
the master of the house tasted of the wine that had been made of water,
and knew not how it had
happened, (but the servants knew it well, who had filled the jars with
water), the master of the
house asked for the bridegroom and said to him thus,
Persian DT: Jesus said to them, "Fill
these jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim.
"And give [this] to the head of the assembly." They carried and gave
[this] to the head of the
assembly. He tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where
it came from (though
the mixers who had filled the [jugs with] water knew). The head of
the assembly called the
bridegroom, and says to him,
MS 2498: "Every wise man first setteth
forth the best wine, & when the men be drunken from
that, then they set forth that which is less worthy. &
thou hast kept back the best wine until
now." This was the first miracle which Jesus had performed.
& for that his disciples believed
KJV: Every man at the beginning doth set
forth good wine; and when men have well drunk,
then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until
now. This beginning of
miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory;
and his disciples
believed on him.
Leige DT: "Every man is wont to give first
the best wine, and after that, when they have
drunk of this, he gives wine of his whichis weaker. But thou has
kept thy best wine until
now". This was one of the first miracles that Jesus did in Chana of
Galilee, and there he
revealed his divine power. And therewith his disciples were strengthened
in the faith.
Persian DT: Every man brings out the good
wine first; when men have drunk freely, then
he brings out inferior wine. You have kept the good wine until now."
This was the first
miracle, that Jesus did in Cana in Galilee, and [he] manifested the
power of God; and his
disciples believed in him.
Jesus, the Wisdom of God.
... a small collection of Old Testament extracts
was gathered together in such a manner
as to be the biography of the Lord
in prophecies. (Rendell Harris, Testimonies, vol.
In the interval between his resurrection
and ascension, Jesus conducted, as it were, a six-week, non-vocational
Bible course at which time he opened the eyes of his disciples to the
prophecies found inthe Law, the Prophets and the Psalms concerning those
things in Scripture pertaining to himself. Recorded by Matthew,
these were included only partially in the gospel attributed to him. These,
the Oracles of the Lord, the Testimonia, although
foundational to Nazarene witness, especialy vis a vis the
Jewish nation, appeared to be irretrievably lost until substantially
recovered by J. Rendel Harris in two volumes in 1916 and 1922
Between his resurrection and
ascension, Jesus opened the eyes of his disciples to the prophecies
concerning himself as are found in the Law, the Prophets
and the Psalms. These Matthew recorded, and this collection
of Testimonia, otherwise known as the Oracles
of the Lord, became the basis for the Nazarene's teaching
Curiously enough, unbeknownst
to itself, the Anglican Church has preserved parts
of Matthew's Testimonia in its Advent services.
Called the "great O's for short," i.e., the great "O
Antiphons" of Advent, they are intoned with solemnity every year
before and after the reading of Mary's Magnificat:
O Sapientia / O Wisdom.
O Adonai / O Lord.
O Radix Jesse / O Root of Jesse.
O Caudius David / O Key of David.
O Oriens splendor / O Radiant dawn.
O Rex gentium / O King of the nations.
O Emmanuel rex et legifer noster / O God-with-us,
Our King and Lawgiver.
prophecies found in such books as the Wisdom of Solomon,
and Sirach, the Nazarenes, beginning with Jesus, demonstrated
that these books were held in the same high regard as were the other
Hebrew Scriptures. That is to say, the Nazarene Bible
looked more like today's Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox versions
than it did either the Pharisaic or Protestant versions.
Of this Rendel Harris wrote:
It is interesting to observe further the scriptural language
in which the Divine Wisdom is
described; she comes forth from
the Mouth of the Most High; this is Sirach, c. xxiv. 3, and
one of the proof-tests in Cyprian's
Testimonies; that is followed by a statement that Wisdom
extends from marge to marge radiantly,
and that she administers graciously; this is from the
Wisdom of Solomon viii. 1. The
prayer is made that Wisdom will come and teach us the
way or prudence. It appears that
in the great O's Christ is defined as Wisdom in the terms
the Sapiential books, much in the same
way as we found in our study of Testimonies. The
impression produced is that these Advent
antiphons are of great antiquity. This impression is
confirmed when we look at the other members
of the group, which follow the appeal to
Wisdom. They are pro-ethnic in
a remarkable degree. Christ is the root of Jesse, who stands
for an ensign of the peoples, the one to
whom the Gentiles appeal. He is the King of the
Gentiles, the Desire of the Gentiles,
the Expectation of the Gentiles and their Savior. The
term "King of the Gentiles" is interesting;
it is the correct reading in Apoc. xv. 4. ... Then we
notice also that Christ is appealed to as
the Stone, the Cornerstone, and we have shown
abundantly how characteristic such
a term is of the early years of Christianity.
On the whole we conclude that the "O Sapientia" of the
Calendar in the English Prayer-
book is a bit of early ritual, broken away from its primitive
setting, and with its meaning
so obscured by the rust and dust of time that there is
probably not an Anglican living
who knows the interpretation of the vocative vocable in his
Church Calendar. Even
if he knew the story of the Great O's, he would not be able
to tell why the Church said
"O" in the first instance, nor why she said "O" to wisdom.
as the Stone whom the builders rejected, became the
Cornerstone, a sure foundation for those who believe but
a stumblingstone for the rest. Long- debated by scholars
is whether Paul (Romans 9) and Peter (I Peter 2)
in applying such "Stone" terminology were quoting one another or
whether they were both quoting the Synoptic gospels. But,
as Rendel Harris demonstrates, neither of the above was the case;
rather, antecedent to them all, was Matthew's Testimonia.
Before there was a gospel account or apostolic epistles, Matthew's
function was to bring together relevant Scripture in such a way as
to demonstrate how Jesus' life satisfied the requirements of prophecy.
The apostolic heritage.
2nd Century reworking of the gospels from a self-interested
bias, besides leaving a dubious legacy for those so engaged,
has impoverished the world, now robbed of a clear accounting
of the Nazarene movement. However, after more than two
centuries of concerted scholarly effort which has been undergirded
by the most remarkable, one might even say, miraculous archeological
finds, this Gentile tampering (dare we call it desecration?),
otherwise known as "the great Gentile hijack," largely has been
reversed. True, much that is precious has perished, yet
much also remains. This work of recovery has attracted talented
scholars, with the following progress to report:
Recovered: MS Pepys 2498. Arguably the
crown jewel of the Nazarene movement,
this, the narrative gospel of Jesus' life and ministry, survived
for centuries in a single
late 14th / early 15th Century manuscript. Once belonging
to the famous 18th
Century diarist Samuel Pepys, it now resides in Cambridge
library. Who needs an additional gospel? scholars
for sure but believers most of all
for, by making demonstrable the tampering that has occurred,
MS 2498 confronts
us with aclear choice: embrace what is apostolic or cling
to what is churchly.
being the testimony of Holy Writ originally gathered by
the apostle Matthew. Likely circulated before the other apostolic
writings, it served
the immediate need to defend the messianic claim. It, not
the gospel that goes by
his name, was Matthew's true contribution. Its reconstruction was
a scholarly tour
de force by J. Rendel Harris and appeared in two volumes published
in 1916 and in
Recovered: by J. Rendel Harris, an ancient
Nazarene hymnbook, The Odes and
Psalms of Solomon, in Syriac. Translated into
English, it was published in 1909.
Restored: by R.H. Charles, a corrected
text of John's Apocalypse. 20 plus years in
the making, it was published in 1920, in two volumes.
Recovered: Evangelion da-Mepharreshe.
Based on the Curetonian Syriac
fragments from the Nitrian desert discovered in 1842 and a near-complete
palimpsest found at Mt. Sinai in 1892, it provides the canonical
gospels in the
"Western" text. Beautifully translated from the Syriac
by F. Crawford Burkitt,
it was published in 1904.
Recovered: from the sands of Egypt
in 1945, the Gospel of Thomas. After 1500
years, the text survives nearly complete. It was first published
in English in 1959.
Recovered: the deeds of James, the Lord's brother. Airbrushed
out of canonical
Acts, James' deeds were recorded by Hegesippus and preserved
Recovered: Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis.
A Latin/Greek diglot, uncial on vellum,
this manuscript for many centuries reposed at the monastic library
of St Irenaeus
at Lyon. So highly esteemed is this manuscript for its "Western"
texts that in
1995 a scholarly colloquium was held at Lunel, Herault entirely
devoted to its
Add to the above David
Flusser's study of the Two Ways and Brad Young's work
with Jesus' parables and we are in a position to lay claim to a
substantial body of apostolic material. Whatever their
drawbacks, the canonical gospels, long our only substantive source
of information about Jesus, continue to be of enduring, indeed,
of increasing value but now that we have in hand a prior gospel,
we can critique the edit to which the canonicals were subjected.
PART III: Placing the Nazarene movement
in its biblical setting.
All Abraham's children.
Now YHVH had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country,
and from thy kindred, and
from thy father's house, unto a
land that I will shew thee: ...
At issue was not so
much Abram's home environment, whether it was pernicious
ornot; rather, the pervasiveness of a fallen culture whose
influences, cocoon-like, could envelop and strangle.
Complying only imperfectly with the divine decree, Abram brought
with him his kinsman Lot who proved to be no end of trouble.
Nonetheless,he was sent and he went. Separating from kith
and kin was just the beginning of his trials; it was not onward-and-upward
thereafter for immediately upon getting to the Promised Land, instead
of staying put, he and his entourage headed off for Egypt where Abram
became embroiled in a tawdry controversy involving his wife Sarai
At work on Abram were
angels better and worse; also forces centripetal and centrifugal,
the former of a conforming nature, conserving of lore but stifling
of innovation, while the latter spun him off into the wilderness
where, exercised by suffering, he grew in character. A
survivalist, Abraham bloomed where he was planted precariously on civilization's
margins. There, on being renamed "Abraham," his personal redemption
become the basis for a corporate work of redemption, a pilgrim community
jealous of its divinely ordained autonomy. May those only, therefore,
whose eyes are set on the distant kingdom, who are estranged from
the present, corrupt world system, say "Father Abraham."
... and he [Abraham] was called the Friend of
God. (James 2:23)
Other than Abraham,
in all the world one cannot find a figure more widely
revered, remarkable considering his having flourished almost
4000 years ago. Credit Genesis' laconic account (chapters
11-26). There by definition "Abraham" means "father
of many nations" (Genesis 17:5), from which one might
infer that Islam's, Judaism's, and/or Christendom's 2.5 billion
adherents were intended, inasmuch as each of these entities
credit their corporate existence to God's covenant with him, but
before any religious denomination had arisen, Abraham was already
father of the faithful.
Faithful is as faithful does.
It is not the many who
are called, rather, the faithful few whom God has chosen
who constitute his society of friends. Not just Abram,
weall need the integrity of our individual identities, i.e.,
our self-ownership under God, hard-won though this may be.
Abram had his challenges as do we ours, out of which, for better
or for worse, we forge a relationship with God. As with Abram,
so likewise with ourselves, the world system is too much with
us as larger and larger political,
economic, and religious units, call them power pyramids
or empires if you will, are formed which exist mainly
for the benefit of those controlling them. Opposing
this are individuals, communities, nations, religions, seeking
to maintain their autonomy.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he
had offered Isaac his son upon the
half dead from old age, and though there seemed to be no way,
yet Abraham, hoping against hope, believed that God would make
a way for him to have a son,which hope God fulfilled. What
Abraham wanted is what most people want: a place on the good earth
for themselves and their progeny. More than life itself,
Abraham loved Isaac whom God had gifted to him in his old age
but somewhere along the way he had learned a deep lesson: that of
putting the giver above the gift. Thus he subordinated his
personal desires to a higher consideration which stood him in good
stead came the day of testing and:
altar? Seest thou how faith
wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
... it was counted unto him for righteousness." (Romans
to Abraham's faithfulness, the angel of God said to him:
By myself have I sworn, saith YHVH, for because thou
hast done this thing, and hast not
withheld thy son, thine only son:
that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will
multiply thy seed as the stars of the
heaven, and as the sand that is upon the sea shore;
and thy seed shall possess the gates
of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations
of the earth be blessed; because thou
hast obeyed my voice.
It's not as if there
weren't outstanding men of God before Abraham, for certainly
there were, men such as Enoch or Noah for example, but it
was with Abraham that a corporate work was begun, which work
was passed on from generation to generation. But whom
does it encompass? That is to say, who's in, who's out?
One hint: indicative of the nonsectarian nature of the divine
call and contrary to anyone's exclusivist claims, Jesus said:
And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east
and west, and shall sit down with
at the heavenly banquet table: Socrates? Confucius? Buddha?
Lau Tzu? Rumi? Chief Seattle? Harriet Tubman? Queen Liliuokalani?
Ghandi? Marian Anderson? Einstein? but more so than these
worthies, there are the little people the world over who eke out
a meager existence in obscurity with the love of God and their
neighbor in their hearts, these are the ones who will be invited.
Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob,
in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom
shall be cast out into outer darkness:
there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Sages from the west, sages from
the east, wise men and holy men, artists and poets, the spirit of
the Nazarene penetrates all societies, all religions. That's
the eastness and the westness of it all:
I have my brothers among the Turks, Papists, Jews, and
all peoples, not that they are Turks,
Jesus had his
own criteria for determining who shall, or shall not, have
table fellowship with Abraham. Thus, when certain Pharisees
said to him "We be Abraham's seed," (John 8:33), Jesus replied:
Jews, Papists and sectaries, or
will remain so. In the evening they will be called into
vineyard and given the same wage as we.
From the east and from the west children of
Abraham will be raised up out of the stones
and will sit down with God at His table.
"If you were Abraham's children, ye would do
the works of Abraham." (John 8:39)
to stone him, the aforementioned Pharisees asserted
to Jesus that"Abraham is our father" (John 8:39).
Not mincing words, Jesus retorted:
Ye are of your father the devil, ... (John
"The works of Abraham"?
Since so much seems to depend on it, we should like to
know more about this. What works are these? Offhand,
it would seem they have something to do with simple honesty
and good will motivated by kindness. Two forks in the road:
the one Pharisaical, the other ecclesiastical.
The Rabbinic and
Christian movements that emerged in the late 1st and early
2nd Centuries, both laid claim to being Abraham's promised sons
and the Prophets' exclusive heirs. (Later Islam, too, would
advance such claims, not through Isaac but, rather, through Ishmael.)
While it's late in the day to be backtracking to a 1st or 2nd Century
fork-in-the-road, enough of the historical record survives
to sort out and examine the validity of these claims.
The plan is, beginning with normative/rabbinic/Talmudic/Pharisaical
Judaism (denominate it as one will), to reconstruct the sequence
of events giving rise to Judeo-Christianity, a heritage which
for better or for worse impacts us all. The contention
advanced here is that both rabbinical and ecclesiastical authorities,
when confronted by the claims and principles of the carpenter
from Nazareth, blew right through the intersection, right past
the narrow gate. It is further asserted that normative Judaism
took the form it did in part as a reaction to the Nazarene movement,
rejecting not only the Nazarene's Scriptures, but its principles
and not only its principles but its participants; most particularly
it rejected Jesus:
Jesus' most venomous opposition came from conservative
groups in the synagogue: not from
the indifferent, but from the strict, not
from the backsliders, but from those who knew the law
and fulfilled it to the letter, proud
that they were more virtuous than their neighbors.
(Lewis Mumford, The Condition of Man)
Also anathema to the Pharisees
was any outreach to Gentiles as Gentiles. Before
being martyred and perhaps as a contributing factor to his
demise, James, Jesus' brother, brought forward this prophetic
word to the believing elders in Jerusalem:
After this I [God] will return and will build again
the tabernacle of David, which is fallen
down; ... that the residue of men
might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom
my name is called, saith the Lord, who
doeth all these things."
Glory and its soon departure.
with theocracy began with mighty signs and wonders as he preformed
when he went before the people as a pillar of smoke by day and
as a pillar of fire by night. After 50 days, when Israel was
in the wilderness, the first Pentecost occurred, the highlight of
which was the giving of the Law when the mountain all a smoke and
God came down even as it us recorded in Exodus 19. Thus
God fashioned for Israel an independent, communal existence with the
Law serving, as it wer,e a marriage contract, representing Israel's
betrothal to God. But from the get-go it was a stormy relationship
- the kind where they throw pots and pans at each other. When
Moses came down the mountaintop with the stone- engraved contract in
hand, he found the people dancing naked about a golden calf. Not
an auspicious beginning. Moses smashed the tablets to smithereens,
then had to do up a replacement copy. This was just the beginning
to one of the most thoroughly disfunctional marriages on record:
And they [the people] said unto Moses, Speak thou with
us, and we will hear: but let
not God speak with us, lest we die.
So he [YHVH] gave them their request, but sent leanness
into their souls. (Psalm 105:15)
By various stages
God disengaged himself from Israel. First there were
intermediaries but eventually the whole venture fell apart
until catastrophe overtook them.
Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together
and came to Samuel at Ramah;
and said unto him, Behold thou art grown
old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now
make us a king to judge us like all the
nations. But the things displeased Samuel when they
said, Give us a king to judge us."
And Samuel prayed unto YHVH. And YHVH said unto
Samuel, "Hearken unto the voice of the
people in all that they say unto thee:for they have not
rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that
I should not reign over them. According to all
the works which they have done since the
day that brought them out of Egypt even unto this
day, wherewith they have forsaken
me, and served others gods, so do they also unto thee.
Now therefore, hearken unto their voice:
howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew
them the manner of the that shall
reign over them. ...
So Samuel spoke all the words of YHVH the people who
had asked of him a king. And
he said, this will be the procedures of
the king who will reign over you; he will take your
sons and place them for himself in his
chariots and among his horsemen and they will run
before his chariots. And he
will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties,
and some to do his plowing and to reap
his harvest and to make his weapons of war and
equipment for his chariots. He
will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and
bakers. And he will take the best
of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves,
and give them to his servants. And
he will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards,
and give to his officers and to his servants.
He will also take your male servants and your
female servants and your best young
men and your donkeys, and use them for his work. He
will take a tenth of your flocks, and you
yourselves will become his servants. Then you will
cry out in that day because of your king
whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord
will not answer you in that day.
Nevertheless the people refused to to obey
the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we
will have a king over us; that
we may be like all the nations; ...
(I Samuel 8:1-20)
up-ticks, the overall trend was downward until eventually
the prophets ceased prophesying, the priests ceased ministering,
and the people ceased living in the land for all had been
laid waste and they were cast forth out of it. For a 1500
years, from Moses to 70 AD, the theocratic Kingdom
of Israel stumbled along.
And they [Jesus disciples] asked him whether he would
restore the Kingdom of Israel, and do
away with the alien king, and Pilate,
Caesar's steward, and himself reign, or else establish the
kindred of David. And then Jesus
answered and said that it was not for them to know the
time which his father had ordered
according to his will. "But ye shall," he said, "receive
virtue of the Holy Ghost, who shall descend
within you. And ye shall, before that time come,
be witnesses of my words & of my deeds
and of my resurrection in Jerusalem, and in Judea, &
in Samaria, even unto the ends of the world."
(Nazarene Narrative Gospel,
The receiving of the
"virtue of the Holy Ghost" represents the spiritual continuation
of the Kingdom of Israel by other means with the promise that
at some unspecified future date Jesus will restore the visible kingdom.
All other attempts at restoring it are presumptuous. Diabolical
is the interpretation that the State of Israel is the Kingdom
of Israel. The Zionist mess in Jerusalem is an obscene imposture.
And YHVH rooted them out of their land in anger,
and in wrath, and in great indignation,
and cast them into another land, as it is
to this day. (Deuteronomy 29:29)
God no doubt
had his reasons for doing this to them. He had his reasons.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall
prosper that love thee. (Psalm 122:6)
In praying for Jerusalem let us not fail to distinguish which
Jerusalem whose peace we pray for. Is it the one which
is below or is it the one which is above? The apostle Paul
made the distinction between them abundantly clear:
For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one
by a bondmaid, the other by a free-
woman. But he who was of the bondwoman
was born after the flesh; but he of the free-
woman was by promise. Which things
are an allegory: for these are the two covenants;
the one from the mount Sinai, which
gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar
is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth
to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage
with her children. But Jerusalem
which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
The Jewish Religion as it is today traces it descent
without a break from the Pharisees- their
ideas and methods are found in the Talmud.
(The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, 1943)
On seeing that
the siege of Jerusalem by Rome's legions would succeed, the
wily,Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, ever the realist, managed to get
himself smuggled out of the city in a coffin after which he presented
himself to Vespasian, the Roman general (later emperor), with
the purpose of securing Yavneh as a city of refuge for Jewish scholars
and sages. Pharisaical Judaism would begin over in Yavneh,
demonstrating that little had been learned by that devastating
experience - except to regroup and exercise more cunning the next time
around. Here Judaism reconstituted itself along Mishnaic
lines, elevating as the Pharisees had done before the "oral" law which
Jesus had dismissed as:
... the tradition of men ... making the word
of God of no effect, ... (Mark 7:8, 13)
Thus it was that
instead of being forsaken, Jewish nationalism continued to simmer
below the surface until bursting forth anew in modern times as
Zionism. There, in Yavneh, ben Zakkai's successor, Rabbi Gamaliel,
in order to uproot the growing Nazarene presence in their midst
(for they were a great embarrassment, reminding them as they
did of Jesus and what they did to him), doctored the Eighteen Blessings
of the daily standing Amidah, the ancient Synagogue prayer
credited to Ezra, adding to it the
Birchat Minim. Why? because a sizable
minority of observant Jews had come to belief in Jesus and
Birchat ha-Minim (benediction 12), introduced
in Jabneh by Samuel ha-Katan, at the request
As for the
text of the added curse, it read:
of Rabban Gamaliel II, was the
added benediction ... It is generally assumed that this new
formulation was meant to force the Judeo-Christians
out of the Jewish community; in the
Genizah version, the word Nozerim
("Christians") actually occurs. ... This severance of the
minim from the national body of Judaism
had obvious halakhic implications. Thus, meat
slaughtered by a min was forbidden to
a Jew (Hul. 13a). Likewise Torah scrolls, tefillin,
mezuzot written by him are barred from
use (Git. 45b; cf. Tosef., Hul. 2:20).
'For apostates let there be no hope, and the kingdom
of arrogance do Thou speedily uproot
in our days; and let the Nazarenes
and heretics perish as in a moment; let them be blotted
out of the book of life and not enrolled
with the righteous. Blessed are You, YHVH, who
humblest the arrogant.'
By reason of its
universal appeal, the story of Jesus' cross and resurrection
has hadthe effect of breaking down the middle wall of partition
separating Jews and Gentiles. But Jewish exclusivity
was inherently at odds with this result. A "light to the
Gentiles" they were not, nor did they want to be. Moreover,
to those reconstituting Judaism along Mishnaic lines, it was
the Jewish people, not Jesus, who was God's chosen Son.
Their idea of Kingdom Come is that the Jews, not Jesus, should rule
the Earth. But just as a joint of meat without juice is dry
and unsavory, so also is that religion that exults its own participants
instead of God. As best they could, the Jewish hierarchy tried
to limit exposure to the Nazarenes' writings and so it became incumbent
upon them to define canonicity in such a way as to exclude views
so inimical to their own:
After the fall of Jerusalem, [70 AD]
the Sanhedrin was reconstituted at Jabneh, first under
R. Johanan and then under the patriarch
Rabban Gamaliel II (Tosef., Ber. 2:6). The
Sanhedrin met in the upper story of a house
or in a vineyard near a pigeon house. In
some respects, the city was now regarded
as the equal of Jerusalem: there the year was
intercalated and the shofar blown, and
pilgrims from Asia visited the city three times a
year (Tosef., Hul. 3:10; RH
29b; Shab. 11a). Among the most important decisions
at Jabneh was the arranging of the definitive
canon of the Bible. Between 70 and 132 C.E.,
Jabneh was "the great city, the city
of scholars and rabbis"; most of the Tannaim of this
period taught there and Rabban Gamaliel
was buried there. (Encyclopedia
With the passage
of more than a thousand years, hatred for the Nazarene has not
subsided one iota:
It is a mitzvah [religious duty] to eradicate
Jewish traitors, minnim, and apikorsim, and to
cause them to descend to the pit of destruction,
since they cause difficulty to the Jews and
sway the people away from God, as did
Jesus of Nazareth and his students, and Tzadok,
Baithos, and their students. May the
name of the wicked rot."
(Moses Maimonides, Mishneh Torah)
this same late 1st and early 2nd Century period, a process
of churchification had set in which was a turn toward hierarchical
religion. On its face, with few tangible assets, the Nazarenes
were not an inviting target. All the same, wolves had entered
in unawares to harry the flock, not that the Nazarenes could have
been subverted so easily, if only they had stuck to their core principles,
which some did but from which some apostatized. Enter into the
picture then such enticements as buildings, rituals, and entertainments,
in exchange for which submission and obedience were sought. Thus,
before Rome was ever on the scene or could gather in its hands the reins
of power, already a false leadership principle had been introduced,
at least in certain locales. For instance, in 107 AD
(thereabouts, authorities differ), Ignatius, Antioch's celebrated
bishop, was led captive to Rome, in the course of which journey, he
is credited with having written seven letters to seven churches.
It is well to reverence both God and the bishop.
... He who honors the bishop has been
honored by God; and he who does anything
without the bishop does [in reality] serve the
devil. ... It is manifest, therefore,
that we should look upon the bishop even as we would
upon the Lord himself.
While Ignatius' courage
is not at question, the wisdom and propriety of his advice, as
quoted above, is. It amounts to a poison pill which, if swallowed,
absolutely guarantees first authoritarianism and ultimately
subjugation. Clearly Ignatius (or, if not he, then whoever
forged the above statements) was well down the slippery slope
of false assumption of authority. History offers many
an object lesson as to where it all ends. But first,
let us consider how it begins. It begins with those who presumably
are "living stones" (I Peter 2:4) allowing themselves to
become steppingstones on the career path to someone else's over-arching
ambitions. And when that is the case, we cannot claim
that it's strictly a matter of an out-of-control leadership, but
contributing to this falling away from apostolic principle were followers
who would rather take their guidance from men whom they could see
than from God whom they could not see. Those willing to settle
for this arrangement generally shrink from freedom, preferring regimentation
instead, while finding safety in numbers. One usurpation leads
to and justifies another. Once individual autonomy is violated,
then the collegiality of the eldership can be
breached. That is the progression: an
eldership assumes an unjust authority over its flock setting
the stage for the next power play, when an elder of elders assumes
an unjust authority over the other elders. Then, once a monarchial
bishop has been installed, there arises a bishop of bishops, that
is, an archbishop who assumes an unjust authority over a group
of communities, thereby terminating community autonomy.
But it continues up the line from there until a power pyramid
is formed with the capstone in the West being the Pope:
The vicar of Jesus Christ on earth and the visible
head of the Church. (Catechism of Pius X)
Now, therefore, we declare, say, determine and pronounce
that for every human creature
hierarchy. The evidence has been gathered, the verdict
is in, writ large for all to see: futile wars, broken hopes,
dashed dreams, interminable wrangles, pogroms, inquisitions,
a violated environment has ruined the testimony of Jesus Christ
for millions, if not for billions, worldwide. From this
succession of power plays humanity struggles to awaken. Such
has been the effect of unleashing a false leadership principle
on the world. Nor did this happen because a heretic sneaked in
unawares, at least not initially; nor because of pressure applied
from Rome, not initially; rather, a trusted insider, the second bishop
of Antioch, embraced an unworthy concept of theocratic authority, raising
high his seat over his fellows. This didn't happen at the periphery
(nor, so far as we know, at the center, in Jerusalem) but at Antioch,
where Paul and Barnabas had ministered a generation before.
it is necessarily for salvation
to be subject to the authority of the Roman pontiff.
(Unam Sanctam, 1302)
Top down organizations
rely on imposed uniformity of doctrine and practice, not unity
of the Spirit. For example: in 190 AD, Pope Victor
I proposed excommunicating throughout the entire all in the Roman
Empire who observed Christ's passion at Passover instead of at Easter.
Fancy that, apostolic tradition replaced on pain of excommunication
and for Eastre's sake, a pagan deity! Coerced conformity satisfies
the sectarian imperative to establish group discipline and a unique
corporate identity through boundary setting, the more arbitrary the
better to subdue the rational mind and to hammer down the nail which
sticks up. Recently Pope Benedict XVI (9/21/05) warned that"religion
constructed on a 'do-it-yourself' basis cannot ultimately help us."
Do it ourselves or let them do it for us, that's the choice.
PART IV: Praxis.
Jesus replaced the narrative of power
with the power of personal example.
"Not by might, nor by power, but by
my spirit, saith the YHVH of hosts." (Zechariah 4:6)
as Israel's rightful King, Jesus appointed 12 men to rule
Israel's 12 tribes. But his bona fide offer was rejected.
Instead of being crowned, Jesus was crucified. Every
institution of Jewish corporate life had failed the test.
In the absence of national sovereignty, lost to Rome in
63 BC, the temple had fallen under the thumb
of self-serving Roman sycophants. Meanwhile, subject to
the Pharisaical party, the synagogues were into Mishnaic nitpicking
and extra-biblical rule-making.
by temple and synagogue, Jesus' fall back position was to establish
an egalitarian society of friends against whom the gates of
hell would not prevail. Rather than replace, abolish,
or reform any of the aforementioned institutions, Jesus simply
moved on. Instead of promoting a reformed synagogue or even
a substitute synagogue movement, or a purified Aaronic priesthood,
or a resurrected Davidic kingship, Jesus moved on, turning to the
last bastion of civility, the home and to the individual believer.
By radically reaching out to those of other races, genders, religions,
economic, and social backgrounds, and especially to the dispossessed,
Jesus set the tone for how to conduct redemptive fellowship, teaching
us to see possibilities where before others only had seen impossibilities.
Nearly 4000 years
have elapsed since the Covenant was established with Abraham.
In this expanse of time, testings have been frequent, while
respites have been relatively few and brief. From the shadows
of the pyramids to the shadows of the crematoria, Abraham's
descendants have long been a perishing people, yet they live
and the promises of God remain. From Abraham to Jesus, 1970
BC to 30 AD (2000 years),were the
former days and - since that time - are the latter days.
In the former days were patriarchs, kings, and priests; in these
latter days there are redemptive fellowships in which context no
special place is accorded priests, prelates, popes, vicars, rabbis,
or any other authority figure - God the Father being sufficient.
If there are priests, it is the priesthood of believers. All
are priests and kings or none are. Nevertheless, believers are
finite and fallible. Though ruled above and from within by God,
as social beings we need each other, but only on the basis of mutual
respect. The Nazarene distinctive is to take the message of peace
with God and the message of God's peace within, which messages
had been extended previously to the Jews, and see to it that these
messages are extended to all peoples everywhere and on an equal basis.
Deconstructing the sacrificial
Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the
sins of the world. (John 1:29)
Jesus did not
come, as some suppose, for the purpose of negating the principle
of blood sacrifice; rather, to center it in himself. In
doing so, however, he undermined the temple's ritual, sounding
the death knell to the priestly system of sacrifice:
But Christ being come an high priest of good things
to come, by a greater and more
Those who depict
biblical faith as a "slaughterhouse religion" are not incorrect
in their perception that the temple functioned as an abattoir:
perfect tabernacle, not made with hands,
that is to say, not of this building; neither by
the blood of goats and calves, but by his
own blood he entered in once into the holy
place, having obtained eternal redemption
for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats,
and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the
unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
how much more shall the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered himself
without spot to God, purge your conscience
from dead works to serve the living God?
Essentially, this [Temple] ritual involved the worshiper
laying hands on the head of an
animal (for example, a lamb or a bull),
and then slaying the animal. The priest then took
the blood and poured it on the altar as a
sacrifice to God. Now, as many commentators
have noted, the Old Testament never
really tells us how such a sacrifice is supposed
to provide Atonement, except for laying
down the principle that the "life is in the blood"
Given this principle, and the claim, advanced
by many commentators, that laying on
of hands is best interpreted as an act of identification
with the one on whom hands
are laid (Taylor 53-4; Dunn 44-5), a straightforward
Christian interpretation of the
Hebrew sacrificial ritual follows. ... The animal can
be seen as analogous to Christ,
the offering of its blood can be seen
as analogous to Christ's offering his life over to God
and others in love and trust, and thus
the laying on of hands can be seen as analogous
to our identification with, and thus sharing
in, that love and trust expressed by Christ on
the Cross--a sharing that results
in our redemption. From this analysis it indeed follows
that we are saved by Christ's blood shed
on the Cross, but not in the magical way
commonly conceived. Rather, Christ's
blood represents his life completely given over
to God in love, trust, and self-sharing,
and we are saved from sin by sharing in this life
given over in perfect love. This
is why Jesus says in John 6 that we must drink his blood -
that is, his life - in order to have eternal
life. (Robin Collins, "Incarnational Theory")
The old cross is a symbol of death.
It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human
being. The man in Roman times
who took up his cross and started down the road had
already said good-by to his friends.
He was not coming back. He was going out to have
it ended. The cross made no compromise,
modified nothing, spared nothing; it slew all
of the man, completely and for good.
It did not try to keep on good terms with its victim.
It struck cruel and hard, and when it
had finished its work, the man was no more.
(A. W. Tozer, Man the Dwelling Place
Running through the Scriptures
is the scarlet thread of redemption:
This "blood-red" thread begins in Genesis, in the garden
of Eden, with God himself
On account of guilty
performance, humanity rightly seeks to propitiate an offended
God but why does that require a blood sacrifice? How
is this redemptive? While we might know what guilt is,
do we know how to expiate it? The Nazarene answer is found
in Jesus who, in their estimation, knew no sin yet was made sin
on our behalf:
shedding the blood of animals to clothe
Adam and Eve in their sin. By following this
bloodline we can discover the greatest
story ever told, the story of our Redeemer, Jesus
Christ, and the story of salvation for
all mankind through salvation in His blood.
(John & Jackie Matthews, Scarlet Thread
Let's begin by analyzing what unity with Christ
amounts to. A variety of metaphors
which suggest a very intimate relationship
are used in Scripture: Various passages
compare our future unity with Christ to
that between a vine and its branches (Jn. 15),
to that between the parts of a body (I
Cor. 12:12-28), to that between the Son and the
Father (Jn. 17), and to that which ideally
occurs in marriage (Mk. 10:8; Eph. 5:25-32).
What is common in each of these analogies is that
unity is conceived as involving a
mutual sharing, integrating, and intertwining
of two selves, along with the sharing of a
common life. For example, the vine
and the branches are inseparable from one another,
sharing the common life of the plant together,
and the life and well-being of each part of
the body is intimately tied to that
of all the other members, so that no part can get along
without the other members. ... just
as an apple tree branch, for example, cannot be
successfully be grafted into a form of
life that is totally alien to it, such as a horse, God's
self cannot be united with our selves in
the way scripture suggests if God's self is too alien
from our selves. But, apart from
the Incarnation, God's self would be very alien to ours.
After all, God is infinite, we are finite; God knows
everything, our knowledge is limited;
God is eternal, we are not; God is everywhere,
we are confined to a body; God is not
dependent, we are vulnerable and dependent;
and the list goes on. Thus, in order to
establish as much common ground between
God's self and ours as a basis for the deep
sort of intertwining unity the biblical
images point to, God must not only take on human
nature, but God must share what I call our
life-situation, for our life-situation as human
beings is inseparable from what we are.
(Robin Collins, "Incarnational Theory")
Thus it was that
God sent His dear Son to experience what we experience which
Collins lists as "alienation from God and others (ourselves included),
vulnerability, suffering, victimization, and mortality."
He goes on to write:
... the Eastern Orthodox theologian Kallistos
Ware stresses, the Cross represents the very
climax of Christ entering into our human condition,
and thus the very climax of Christ's
atoning work. On the Cross
Christ even experienced our alienation from God, as evidenced
by his exclamation "My God, my God, why have
you forsaken me?" (Mark 16:34).
The function of the Messiah
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted yet he opened
not his mouth: he is brought
as a lamb to the slaughter and as
a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth
not his mouth. He was taken from prison
and from judgment: and who shall declare his
generation? for he was cut off out
of the land of the living: for the transgression of my
people was he stricken. And he
made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in
his death; because he had done no violence,
neither was any deceit found in his mouth.
Yet it pleased YHVH to bruise him; he
hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his
soul an offering to sin, he shall see
his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure
of YHVH shall prosper in his hand.
In religious history,
it was a step forward when animal sacrifice replaced
human sacrifice, as was the case with the Mosaic system of sacrifice,
but even within that system of atonement it was understood
that physical sacrifice was merely symbolic while what really
counted was interior and of the heart:
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give
it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou
wilt not despise. Do good in thy
good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of
Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased
with the sacrifices of righteousness ...
of sacred violence, which is what sacrifice is, is to expiate
rivalry. When rivalries over mutually desired objects occur, the
potential for destabilizing violence exists, particularly when
neither party to a dispute would admit fault (as was usually the
case). Thus, it was found convenient to find some marginal
third party to blame and through this metaphysical fiction make peace.
As Rene Girard wrote:
Sacrifice has often been described as an act of mediation
between a sacrificer and
a "deity." Because the very concept
of a deity, much less a deity who receives blood
sacrifices, has little reality in this day
and age, the entire institution of sacrifice is
relegated by most modern theorists to the
realm of the imagination. ... Nevertheless,
there is a common denominator that determines
the efficacy of all sacrifices and that
becomes increasingly apparent as the institution
grows in vigor. This common
denominator is internal violence - all the
dissensions, rivalries, jealousies, and quarrels
within the community that the sacrifices are
designed to suppress. The purpose of
the sacrifice is to restore harmony to the community,
to reinforce the social fabric. ...
(Violence and the Sacred)
There is one who can forgive everyone everything
because he shed innocent blood for everyone and
And [God] having made peace through the blood
of his [Jesus'] cross, by him to reconcile
all things unto himself; ... whether
they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
On quoting in the Assembly Amos 9:11-12, James then
advised (Acts 15:19) "that we trouble not them,
which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: ..." In
doing so, he expressed the common Nazarene understanding regarding
Jesus' blood sacrifice, that it was universal. The choice
before the Jewish people always has been either to show forth
God's Light to the Gentiles or else to shun them at every turn.
Said another way, the alternative always has been either to serve
the Gentiles or master them. God's plan was for the Jews
was to serve the nations in a priestly capacity, not dissimilar
to the Levitical priesthood's role within Judaism. It was
not because the Jews were better or stronger or wiser than others
that they were chosen, for they are not so; rather, they were chosen
because God wished to demonstrate His grace in those who were weakest.
Not for privilege were the Jewish people chosen but for responsibility.
Thus, the all-time worst mistranslation is that found in the
King James Version (as well as in many others) where the text is
made to read that God loves the Jewish people "above" all other people.
This is wrong. The Hebrew original does not say "above."
God does not love the Jewish people above all but among all other people.
The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose
you, because ye were more in number
than any people; for ye were the fewest
of all people: but because the Lord loved you, and
because he would keep the oath which he had
sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord
brought you out with a mighty hand,
and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from
the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
We have no idea how bitter the divisions of the ancient
world were. WE HAVE NO IDEA.
We have violated the law against one
another, so someone must die. Violence is necessary.
Hence, as the work of Rene Girard has dramatically
demonstrated, every people group was
built around and survived around some central
scapegoat who represented the threat of the
outside. Someone must die for our
souls to be satisfied. Well, Christ died for ALL (every
people group, every generation).
Now, we can be reconciled. ... Our collective task in
future is to bring the supernatural power
of Christ to people who hate one another, and in
fact predicate their whole identity on
being against each other. The "us against them" mode
is very potent. But it can be overcome.
Not through programmes or discussion, but by the
power of the Matchmaking Spirit of God.
And it does not need to wait for international
conferences in church, business, or
state. It can start right now in little churches, where
Spirit is always operating through Word,
Community, and Sacrament, as we follow the
Apostolic command to "one-another each other,"
so that "each esteems the other better than
himself." This is the meaning
of justification by faith for our time.
Through Jesus Christ,
the middle wall of partition separating Jews and Gentiles
was done away with. It was done away with not by requiring
Gentiles to become Jews. It was not done away with not
by requiring Jews to become Gentiles. Rather, it was done
away with by establishing a greater truth around which all can
coalesce - the unity of faith in the bond of love for all people.
In this instance, no one has stated the underlying principle better
than did Paul:
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace;
to the end the promise might be sure to all
the seed; not to that only which is of
the law, but to that also which is of the faith of
Abraham, who is the father of us all, (As
it is written, I have made thee a father of many
Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the
same are the children of Abraham.
And the scripture, foreseeing that
God would justify the heathen through faith preached
before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In
thee shall all nations be blessed. So then
they which be of faith are blessed with
By undermining cultural and religious presuppositions
about purity and moral rectitude,
Jesus' parable [regarding the Good
Samaritan] confronts his audience (the Pharisees)
with the fact that they can no longer justify
themselves or the cosmology of violence by
the sacrificial systems and scapegoating
mechanisms that they themselves have
created for precisely that purpose.
The Cross and the begging bowel)
In Jesus' death and resurrection the myth of redemptive
violence has received a fatal
blow. Jesus has become the scapegoat
to end scapegoating. For those who truly
follow Jesus, the myth of redemptive violence
is forever rejected, ... (Joe
But what happens once
the judicial and sacerdotal structures are corrupted?
Where does one turn for satisfaction of wrong when God's high
hats, the mitered priests and the long-robed scribes who minister
the Law, have lost all credibility?
Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people
with his own blood, suffered
without the gate. Let us go forth
therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his
reproach. For we have here no continuing
city, but we seek one to come. By him
therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise
to God continually, that is, the fruit of our
lips giving thanks to his name.
Though Jesus' was a "once
for all" (Hebrews 10:10) atonement, he still calls
us to take up our cross, which could be interpreted as an invitation
to become fellow participants in his redemptive activity,
sacrificially bearing one another's burdens.
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and
follow me. For whoever wants to
save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for
me will save it.
and being helped, we participate in the life of God as well
as participate in one another's lives which is the meaning
of the vine and branch teaching of John's Gospel, chapter
15: he in us and we in him and all in God.
Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs
of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed
we share in his sufferings in order that
we may also share in his glory.
The end of tithing.
A basic principle
is that of the lesser giving to the greater. Hence Abraham's
tithing to Melchizedek or the Israelite people tithing to the
temple. But the temple's function, Jesus' sacrifice
superseded. 40 years later, when the temple was destroyed,
tithing effectually was brought to an end. Since then he
who receives a tithe, as well as he who grants it, are alike mistaken,
yet how often have we heard bigshot religionists quote Malachi
3:10, saying "bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse,"
meaning, not the Lord's house, but their own? Once believers
learn to put their relationship with God above all else, then
they will be fortified against institutional conceits as well
as the blandishments of charismatic, pay-the-fee-I-set-you-free
charmers. There's no percentage in joining someone's 10% club.
Jesus undermined the tithe for good.
I have called you friends. (John
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Henceforth I call you not servants;
for the servant knoweth not what
his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things
that I have heard from my Father I have
made known unto you.
Only in a few key instances
is the term "friend" applied in Scripture to an individual
in his relationship with God. As James wrote:
Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto
him for righteousness: and he was
called the Friend of God.
And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face,
as a man speaketh unto his friend.
identifies David as God's friend, for of him God said:
... I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after
mine own heart, who shall fulfill
all my will.
The principal design of James was to show that when
God justifies or reconciles a sinner
to Himself, He also works in that
person a disposition which is friendly toward Him, a spirit
and attitude which reciprocates His
own benignity. In a genuine conversion an enemy is
transformed into a friend to God, so that
he loves Him, delights in Him, and serves Him.
No one has any right to regard himself as a friend
of God unless he has the character of
one and conducts himself accordingly.
If I am the friend of God then I shall be jealous of
His honor, respect His will, value His interests,
and devote myself to promoting the same;
in a word, I shall "show my self friendly."
(The Doctrine of Reconciliation)
Out of this friendship came "a covenant of salt." (See
Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave
the kingdom over Israel to David
for ever, even to him and to his sons
by a covenant of salt? (II Chronicles
In the Middle East's
sultry climate 3000 years ago, salt was a precious commodity
used in food preservation. By reason of its association
with food, salt was emblematic of hospitality and friendship.
Thus the expression, "to have eaten of his salt." To withhold
salt bespoke of stinginess or suggested a lack of respect.
Thus the Levitical priesthood was enjoined by God:
And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou
season with salt; neither shalt thou
suffer the salt of the covenant of thy
God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all
thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.
To make an offering acceptable,
salt was required - and this is true, not just of physical
sacrifices, but spiritual. Said Jesus:
... every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.
To his disciples, Jesus said:
Ye are the salt of the earth. (Matthew
Warning his disciples against salt substitutes,
Salt is good; but if the salt have lost its
saltiness, where with will ye season it? ...
... salt in yourselves, and have peace one
As we see above, salt and peace relate to each other:
The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his
face shine upon thee, and be
of favor to "make his face shine upon thee" is the opposite
in meaning of the expression "to hide the face." The expression
to "lift up his countenance upon thee" is the smile of acceptance.
The "giving of peace" is more than absence of hostility. It is
the beriti shalom of Numbers 25:12 or the berit shelomi
of Isaiah 54:10. At the end of his earthly ministry,
when Jesus pronounced a benediction on his twelve messengers, it
is likely that it was according to the above prescribed form.
gracious unto thee: the LORD lift up
his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
There ain't no magic.
Behold, the mother of the Lord and his brothers
said to him [Jesus], "John the Baptist
baptizes for the remission of sins; let us
go and be baptized by him." (Gospel of the Hebrews)
Just as a wedding ring
symbolizes commitment, so baptism symbolizes commitment.
No matter how fancy the ring, it is not efficacious.
The success of the marriage does not depend on it. It is
laughable to think it could. Likewise baptism.
Was the water blessed? the priest sanctified? or the event Church
sanctioned? It doesn't matter. Why? because there ain't no magic;
never was, never will be. While symbolic statements of
intent have their place, what lies behind such statements is what
really counts. So what if Judas Iscariot was baptized, probably
either by John the Baptist or by Jesus, and probably in the Jordan
River? Everything was optimized. Did it save him?
Of course not. Some Gnostics probably thought their "bridal
chamber" ceremony which incorporated the Magdalene was efficacious
but no more so was it than any of the Church's sacraments were
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into
Jesus Christ were baptized into his
death? therefore we are buried with
him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was
raised up from the dead by the glory of the
Father, even so we also should walk in newness
of life. For if we have been planted
together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also
in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing
this, that our old man is crucified with him,
that the body of sin might be destroyed,
that henceforth we should not serve sin. For
he that is dead is freed from sin.
Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we
shall also live with him: knowing that Christ
being raised from the dead dieth no more;
death hath no more dominion over him.
For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but
in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead
indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through
Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans
Asked the Ethiopian
convert of Philip:
See here is water; what doeth hinder me to be baptized?
hindered for, in reply to his question, the apostle Philip said:
If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.
Then affirmed the Ethiopian
I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Acts
Just like that, a done
deal. No creed, no catechism, no period of investigation
necessary, just faith. Neither time nor place were the
issue: any season, any body of water would do. Such were
the ways of the Nazarenes: their ordinances were simple, their teachings
public, their standard of admission, heartfelt faith alone.
And they went down both into the water, both Philip
and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
Said the apostle Paul:
For as many of you as have been immersed
into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
This statement of
Paul's is not actually about a ceremonial rite but about a
spiritual transaction that rightfully should precede any physical
baptism. That which makes the baptismal covenant sacred,
is that which makes the marriage covenant sacred, the parties
involved mutually committing to each other. The Magdalene
and James knew nothing of sacraments but the Church and, to a
lesser degree, the Gnostics, introduced such concepts.
When Nazarenes broke
bread in remembrance of Jesus, it was just that, a memorial
- not a sacrament, the real sacrament being life itself.
Digging ditches, patching britches, whatever we may do, when rightly
motivated, that becomes our sacrament.
Said Cyprian of Carthage,
"outside of the Church there is no salvation." But
if we take seriously James' words and deeds, we will not
look to magical rites, institutional affiliation, or a churchly
middleman to mediate our spiritual life. Simply put, there
is no substitute for a personal quest, each grappling individually
with the great issues of life. But as James interpreted
and applied it, it was an active, not a passive, principle:
Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being
alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith,
Real wisdom is not
necessarily a matter of knowing more but of actually applying
what we already know. Or as Paul puts it in Ephesians:
and I have works: shew me thy faith without
thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my
works. ... For as the body without
the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
For we are his [God's] workmanshp, created in Christ
Jesus unto good works, which God
hath before ordained that we should
walk in them.
The thrust of the Nazarene
message is a call toto put forth our best effort.
There is naught to be offered to those at ease in Zion.
As for the once-in-grace- always-in-grace-no-matter-how-much-a-disgrace
crowd, let them hang their heads in shame. Not hand-folding
and star-gazing, not easy-believism or cheap grace - only serious
commitment and works of compassion will do. The need then
is for workhorses, not show horses. Show horses need not apply,
... gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from
all iniquity, and purify unto himself a
peculiar people, zealous of good works.
The little flock: a
society of friends, the fellowship of the faithful.
Fear not little flock; for it is your Father's good
pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)
By deconstructing the
narrative of power, Jesus freed up local, small-scale,
Christian societies from centralizing bureaucratic constraints
so that they could proceed unhindered with ministries of reconciliation
The dynamic of
breaking bread from home to home is qualitatively different
from that of a congregational setting. Whereas one is a face-to-face
community actively relating to each other as a society of friends,
the other involves a crowd passively gazing upon the backs of
strangers while looking forward to a raised platform from which
professional clergy minister. It is true that the sound
of congregational singing is liable to be more impressive than what
might emanate from the home and it is true that a professional platform
speaker is liable to be more eloquent than a home speaker.
And therein lies a temptation,
that of going with what is most outwardly impressive. It's
not as though congregating per se was anything to
be ashamed of, no, it's just that Jesus didn't sanction it;
rather, he sanctioned his little flock. Albeit modest in scope,
his approach is revolutionary in its potential to exercise moral
authority through force of personal example. Let us not
rue the day of small deeds. As leaven infiltrates dough,
so also does the fellowship which Jesus envisioned quietly infiltrate
society, spreading contagiously from individual to individual,
from home to home. The disciples went house to house breaking
bread, because the home is the last bastion and truly appropriate
place of assembly. Home sweet home. As Samuel Johnson remarked:
To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all
ambition, the end to which every
enterprise and labor tends, and of which
every desire prompts the prosecution.
learned anything over the last 2000 years, it is that God
does not indwell organizations; rather, the life of God is in
the heart of man. But with personal authority goes increased
responsibility, for to whom much is given, so also much is
The kingdom of heaven is like to a mustard seed which
is the smallest of all seeds but
when grown is the greatest.
(Matthew 13, Mark 4)
It is not fully appreciated
how wonderfully subversive Jesus' concept of fellowship can
be. Absent a centralized hierarchy or even a local congregation,
absent building, creed, membership list, preacher, or budget,
all that is left to it that might serve as an organizing principle
is holy friendship and sacred purpose. Ecclesiastics
don't often get it but plain folk will understand and appreciate
that this really can be enough. The concept then is one
of a voluntary, ethical fellowship, maintaining the unity of theSpirit
in the bonds of love. This is God's ekklesia, his summoned-out
Not unlike the quest
to find the holy grail, the quest to find the true Church
has led seekers down a variety of roads. Is the true Church
the one headquartered in Rome? Salt Lake City? Brooklyn? Nashville?
Tacoma Park? Boston? The unquestionable assumption (unquestionable
because presumably it is biblical) is that the Church IS; Godinstituted
it and now it's just a question of our locating the right one
and joining it. And though this assumption is practically
axiomatic for most Christians, it is well worth reexamining.
Recently (05/98), Hebrew and Greek scholar, James Tabor, lead translator
of the Original Bible Project, in an open letter, stated:
The Original Bible will be one of the few modern English
translations of the Greek
Christian Scriptures in which the
word "church," so sacred to millions, will not appear!
Odd indeed that one Greek New Testament
word , ekklesia, would be translated by another Greek word,
kyriakon (from which our word "church"
is derived), a word not found in all the New Testament.)
This wholesale substitution of one Greek word for another
has occasioned great confusion. The former word applies
to a people, but the latter originally meant "the Lord's house,"
a physical structure; then, by extension, it was applied either to
the organization owning it or else to the membership thereof.
there is much to share and to receive - the true give-and-take
of friendship. If there is any place for rivalry, it
is to see who can be most generous, most hospitable, most
forebearing, with reciprocity being the norm. Sun-crowned
in private life and public thinking, believers seek to live in
harmony with man and the natural world. Ill becoming is
it of any society so conceived to subordinate some while exalting others.
To be sure, there are going to be individuals who excel in one area or
another; but this is no excuse for their being elevated. In this
the age of personal responsibility and individual initiative,
there is no call from God that any should rule. It matters not who
the man is, our lives are our lives. No one should fall into another
person's orb: "I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, I am of
Christ" (I Corinthians 1:12), or, for that matter, of Mary or
of James. The trick is to be independent but not aloof, for
we are all as unique as our own DNA is unique, yet as interconnected
as is the web of Life is interconnected.
heads the home assembly? The head or heads of household.
On this basis is the Lord's good order maintained. When
each home is the source of its own discipline and generates its
own tradition, then the basis for a diversity of practices exists.
Unlike sects or congregations, a community can tolerantly accept
a diversity of paths. Only in such an environment can Jews
be Jews and Gentiles, Gentiles, with equality of fellowship between
them. Jesus' generous universalism transcends every form of boundary
setting sectarianism. Pray, sing, dance, break bread,
read, converse, highly structured or spontaneous, jovial or solemn,
it all depends on the tradition of the particular home and the inclinations
of those present. Giving good expression to the freedom that
is ours in Jesus Christ, Paul wrote:
How is it then, brethren? when ye come together,
every one of you hath a psalm, hath
a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation,
hath an interpretation. Let all things be
done unto edifying.
(II Corinthians 14:26)
Even as Holy Writ is
diverse and multifaceted (consisting as it does of narrative,
chronicle, prophecy, law, proverbs, poetry, lament and much
else besides) so also is the community founded upon them.
Thus is genuine unity, unity in diversity. The apostolic
community, not being an organization, but an organism, found
unity in diversity and therefore
could delight that the mountain of faith was climbable
from many directions. We all have need to learn from
one another, but this can happen without becoming each other's
disciples or disciplers. Therefore, neither a disciple
nor a discipler be, except, that is, to be the Lord's disciple; also,
neither a victim nor a victimizer be. There's no percentage
in it. Either a group dynamic prevails or a God dynamic.
The apostolic approach beautifully enhances the latter.
Because there is that of God in every man, the approach is one of
open arms to those without.
Just as a coal taken
from the hearth burns less brightly in isolation so also do
our lights burn less brightly in isolation. We have God
above and within, for he is both transcendent and immanent, yet
we are also social beings in need of one another. Whereas
walking in the light is a move toward personal transcendence; holy
friendship is a move toward mutual transcendence; while the home-based
community is a move toward societal transcendence. One expression
of this was the Jerusalem fellowship's move toward voluntary communitarianism,
that is, a cooperative, face-to-face community. As they
practiced it, this proved to be a joyful lovefest, one of open-handed
giving and receiving, in good measure, pressed down, shaken
together, and overflowing:
And all that believed were together, and had all
things common; and sold their possessions
A lover of equality,
James would have seen in this the opportunity to put into
practice the egalitarian principles he advocates so eloquently
in his epistle. Perhaps the bartering of services helped
offset the lack of money while the tightening of bonds that goes
with communal living helped stave off the demoralizing effect
of having individuals picked off one-by-one by the authorities.
There is unity to be found in community.
and goods and parted them to every man had need.
And they continuing daily of one accord
in the temple, and breaking bread from house
to house, did eat their food with gladness and
singleness of heart, praising God and having
favor with all the people. (Acts
For if there come unto your assembly a man with
a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and
there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
and ye have respect to him that weareth
the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou
here in a good place; and say to the poor,
Stand thou there, or sit here under my
footstool: are ye not then partial in yourselves,
and are become judges of evil thoughts?
(James 2: 2-4)
Be it said that the history
of intentional community too often has been one of too
many intentions, and usually of the wrong kind. One should
know in advance, because they are well-articulated, what those
intentions are and whether they are worthy. Beyond that,
what determines the success of such a venture are imponderables
relating to the character of the community's participants,
and their spiritual fervor.
... God has created believers as the "first fruits"
of the final harvest (James 1:18). They
represent the entrance of the endtime into the
present time. Believers, therefore, must wait
in an alien and hostile world for God's
righteousness to be established (James 5:19, 1:20).
The early rains must be followed
by the latter rains before the final harvest comes (James
5:7). Like a farmer waiting
for the "precious produce of the field," believers are to wait
patience. The Prophets "who
spoke in the name of the Lord" provide the pattern "of
suffering and perseverance" that
we are to imitate. Those who persevere prove the goodness
of God, that he is full of compassion
and merciful (James 5:10-11).
Waiting for the endtime brings responsibilities
toward one another in the meantime. One of
the chief concerns of the letter is the conduct
of believers in Christian community. ... Faith
in Jesus Christ incompatible with favoring
the wealthy ... We must rather love our neighbor as
ourselves, especially the neighbor in need (James
2:1-13). Not many are to become teachers
... Those who do so are to display their wisdom
in kind and gentle behavior (James 3:1-2, 13-18).
... Believers must not "groan to God"
against one another, calling down his judgment on their
neighbor. The Judge himself is at the
gate (James 5:9). Probably James's stern prohibition
against swearing an oath also has in view
relations within the community of faith. Above all
else we are to be open and honest in our dealings
with one another. (James 5:12).
(The Waiting Church and
its Duty: James 5:13-18, Mark A. Seifrid)
Living lightly: the Nazarene lifestyle.
From frugality cometh
saving; from saving cometh having, and from having cometh the opportunity
But when this same Domitian [Emperor of Rome from 81
to 96 AD] had issued his
orders, that the descendants of David should
be slain, an ancient tradition says that
some of the heretics brought accusation against
the descendants of Judas, as the
brother of our Savior, according to the flesh,
because they were of the family of David,
and as such, also, were related to Christ.
This is declared by Hegesippus as follows.
There were yet living of the family of our
Lord, the grandchildren of Judas, called the
brother of our Lord, according to the flesh.
These were reported as being of the family
of David, and were brought to Domitian by the
Evocatus [the Homeland Security of the
day]. For this emperor was as much alarmed
at the appearance of Christ as Herod.
He put the question, whether they were of David's
race, and they confessed that they
were. He then asked them what property
they had, or how much money they owned.
And both of them answered, that they had between
them only nine thousand denarii
[a denarii being worth about $1 or $2 or
so in our terms], and this they had not in silver,
but in the value of a piece of land, containing
only thirty-nine acres; from which they
raised their taxes and supported themselves
by their own labor. Then they also began
to show their hands, displaying the hardness
of their bodies, and the callused hands
caused by incessant toil as evidence of their
labor. And when they were asked
concerning Christ and his kingdom, of what
sort it was and where and when it was to
appear, they answered that it was not a
temporal nor an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly
and angelic one, which would appear at the end of
the world, when He should come in
glory to judge the quick and the dead,
and to give unto every one according to his works.
Upon hearing this, Domititian did not pass judgment
against them, but, despising them
as of no account, he let them go, and by
a decree put a stop to the persecution of the
Church. Thus delivered, they oversaw the
churches, both as witnesses and relatives of
the Lord. When peace was established,
they continued living even to the times of Trajan.
A voluntary simplicity.
He [James] drank no wine or strong drink, nor did
he eat meat. No razor came near
his head, nor did he anoint himself with oil,
and he did not go to the [Roman] baths
[a place of debauchery.]
practice could give rise to dark images of self-abnegation,
implying a vain attempt to propitiate an angry God, it can also
indicate that higher motives are at work. In elucidating
Hegesippus' statement above, one Jamesian scholar wrote:
A minor tractate of the Talmud lays down the rule
that a mourner ('aval) "is under the
prohibition to bathe, anoint [the body],
put on sandals and cohabit" (Semachoth 4:1).
This largely corresponds to the requirements of
a Nazarite vow and to Hegesippus'
description of James' practice; ...
Jesus' Brother" by Bruce Chilton)
Another take on James'
The abstinence of St. James was not exclusively directed
to the mortification of the flesh ...
He who abstains from meat altogether would
not be called upon to eat the Paschal Lamb; he
who had no land or possessions was not concerned
with the laws of Tithe ... Like Jesus the
Temple was for him a House of Prayer:
he was Righteous, he kept the Law, so far as it
applied to him, but sacrifices were a matter of
flesh-eaters and tithes for the rich.
(F. C. Burkitt, Christian Beginnings)
Beyond such motives as are adduced above, living lightly and
inoffensively upon the earth, particularly vegetarian practices,
could qualify as practical applications of Jesus' ethical
teachings, representing an outward expression of inner
commitment. Because consumption of plant life is a vastly
more efficient use of land and resources than is the consumption
of animal life, it could serve as an alternative to a life
of vain striving and conflict. In accommodating
one another, even while treating the natural creation with respect,
we help create a place under the sun for all, while staving off
the day of shortfall. Embracing the vegetarian lifestyle
in 1962, Isaac Bashivis Singer (renowned for his sketches of Jewish
shtetl life), thirty years later, in 1982, wrote:
This is my protest against the conduct of the
world. To be a vegetarian is to disagree -
to disagree with the course of things today.
Nuclear power, starvation, cruelty - we
must make a statement against these things.
Vegetarianism is my statement. And I
think it's a strong one.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father
is this, To visit the fatherless and
widows in their affliction, and to keep
himself unspotted from the world.
is one of good deeds performed, not a belief system or an organization
to instil it, much less all the trappings and extraneous paraphernalia
that undergird religion. As can be seen from history,
over time more and more religious organizations have come into
being as old ones fractionate and new ones arise, and why not?
None of them has any more claim to sanction than does any other.
Underwriting much of this religious activity are folk afraid
to stand on their two feet, afraid of unstructured freedom.
Claiming God, they follow man; they want the security of knowing
what to do, without personally having to figure it out. More
than the freedom that is ours in Jesus Christ, what they want is
security, even the everlasting arms of the Church. Whereas
pure religion is the Golden Rule of compassionate living, impure religion
is a crutch leading to closed minds, ritualistic behavior, and blind
compulsions. Orthopraxy - i.e., right deeds, not orthodoxy
- i.e., right creeds, is the true indicator of the Nazarene way.
But more than just good deeds performed, James saw humanity's potential
to walk with God and to be blessed by God and ultimately to:
... receive the crown of life which the Lord
hath promised to them which love him. (James 1.12)
As a part of the
radical deconstruction of power, the status of women was
raised, Jesus himself setting the tone and example through
many positive female relationships. On finding Jesus
engaged in a well-side conversation with a Samaritan woman,
his disciples were offended. But what was it that was disturbing
to them? that she was a woman? a Samaritan? or that she had been
married five times? Maybe it was simply that Jesus was upsetting
the norms and conventions of Jewish society. Some also were
scandalized that Mary Magdalene was one of his dearest friends.
While information is sparse
regarding how the community of faith handled this issue in the
days of its youth, whether it was gender inclusive or not, we
know that Jesus was. On the day of his resurrection, Jesus
stood male-dominated, patrilineal Judaism on its ear by elevating
the Magdalene, making her his apostle to his
apostles. Jesus did
not demote patrilineal Judaism but raised up matrilineal Judaism
to be its complement. When Jesus elevated the home
over a public or institutional setting, one consequence was
that of elevating the status of women. The home is God's
appointed place of worship, the nexus for faith, culture, and
civility. It is where friends meet, where life happens.
In the classical world, it was traditional for men to dominate
in a public setting, but not so in the home. Thus it was
that a new criteria for leadership was established. Not only
to the Magdalene but to qualified women generally, Jesus opened
the way whereby they could exercise moral leadership.
My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Lord of Glory, with respect
of persons. ... But if ye have respect
of persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of
the law as transgressors.
(James 2:1, 9)
James' supporting example
has to do with the dichotomy of rich and poor, but the underlying
principle is applicable to Jewish/Gentile, male/female
dichotomies or other such distinctions as would artificially limit
spiritually-motivated fellowship. In that respect, one
of the few churchmen of his day to rise above the making of
invidious, biological distinctions was Clement of Alexandria
who about 180 AD wrote:
... men and women share equally in perfection,
and are to receive the same instruction
and the same discipline.
For the name "humanity" is common to both men and women;
and for us "in Christ" is neither male nor
(c. 150-225 AD), speaking for the vast majority
of his colleagues, enunciated the opposing position, one
ever since upheld by the Roman Church:
It is not permitted for a women to speak in
the church, nor is it permitted for her to teach,
nor to baptize, nor to offer [the Eucharist],
nor to claim for herself a share in any masculine
function - least of all, in priestly office.
Making what presumably
is the biblical case, the monk, Bernard of Morlaix (mid-12th
Because of a woman, Joseph was locked up and Samson
had his hair cut off. Reuben
Who had the mind of Christ in this matter?
Was it the apostle Paul (assuming it was
Paul and not a 2nd Century Church editor) when he wrote:
got into trouble because of a woman.
So did David and Solomon, and so for the matter
of that, did Adam. ... The sins of men
are more pleasing to God than the good deeds
of a woman.
Let your women keep silence in the assemblies:
for it is not permitted unto them to
speak; but they are commanded to be under
obedience, as also saith the law. And
if they will learn anything, let them ask
their husbands at home: for it is a shame for
women to speak in the assembly. What?
came the word of God out from you? or
came it unto you only? If any
man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him
acknowledge that the things that I write
unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
(I Corinthians 14:34-37)
or did the Pistas Sophia and Acts
better express Christ's intentions?
Who ever the Spirit inspires is divinely ordained
to speak. (Pistas Sophia 36:71)
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak with other tongues. I will
pour out my spirit on all flesh
... Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. (Acts,
The question arises, how did we get from
all down to just some? When it came to equality between
Jewish and Gentile believers, Paul was fierce the way a mother bear
is fierce in defending her cubs. Wrote Paul:
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood
him to the face, because he was to be
blamed. For before that certain
came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when
they were come, he withdrew and separated
himself, fearing them which were of the
circumcision. And the other Jews
dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also
was carried away with their dissimulation.
But when I saw that they walked not uprightly
according to the truth of the gospel,
I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew,
livest after the manner of Gentiles, and
not as the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to
live as do the Jews? (Galatians
The operative word above
is compel, "why compellest thou?" Here Paul displays an
excellent understanding of the importance of maintaining strict
equality between Jews and Gentiles. In this he is straight
and true. But, when it comes to gender equality, all
of a sudden he grows squishy soft and retreats from the same
standard. Paul, why would you try to compel the ladies to be
silent? That's not right. They have as much right to
be heard as you do. Everyone with a voice has a right to be
What! was there not anyone to withstand
Paul to his face, even as he withstood Peter to his face?
If not, too bad, he could have used correcting in this matter.
A larger-than-life personality, Paul could be, unquestionably,
an awkward sort of fellow to confront. Nor is there any
mistaking his misogynistic tendencies which would have unfitted
him for pastoral duties had he chosen to go in that direction.
Nevertheless, if the report in Acts is to be believed,
James extended to Paul the
right hand of fellowship. No doubt
he saw Paul's good side, his deep commitment, his
sincerity. If he had reservations, and there's
no record of that, he probably kept them to himself.
Nor is there any record of Paul and the Magdalene having
ever met. Had they done so, she might have set him straight
on a few matters. Whether it is Peter or Paul, just because
a person happens to be an apostle or a pillar of the community,
doesn't automatically make for infallibility. That hold
true for the Magdalene and James as it does for anyone else.
Everything stands or falls on its merits, not on who said
it. Test everything, eschew evil, do good. One of
the finest formulations of equality is Paul's, who wrote:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither
bond nor free, there is neither male nor
female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
There's one more Scriptural
verse in need of consideration, that from Ephesians:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own
husbands, as unto the Lord.. For the husband is the
a woman as this, with such a man as that, with such a vision
as this, a great marriage can be achieved. But one cannot
extrapolate from marriage how other institutions ought to function
or vice versa. More then about marital dynamics:
head of the wife, even as Christ is the
head of the summoned-out community: and he is the
savior of the body. Therefore as the
summoned-out community is subject unto Christ, so let
the wives be subject to their own husbands
in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even
as Christ also loved the summoned-out community,
and gave himself for it; that he might
sanctify and cleanse it with the washing
of water by the word, that he might present it to
himself a glorious, not having spot
or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy
and without blemish. So ought men
to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth
his wife loveth himself. For no man
yet hated his own flesh; but nourish and cherish it, even
as the Lord the summoned-out community:
for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and
of his bones. For this cause shall
a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined
unto his wife, and they two shall be one
flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak
concerning Christ, and the summoned-out
community. Nevertheless, let every one of you in
particular so love his wife even as himself;
and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
... A real woman is designed to finally shed her
"independence" and become one with the
man she loves. This view
is not popular because for decades feminists have taught that
women must be equal and independent. If
you are happy in a feminist marriage, I
congratulate you. But if marital happiness
eludes you, consider what I have to say. Feminism
is based on political notions that ignore
and defy human nature. Most women are passive
by nature. They want to be possessed
and used for a purpose they consent to. I suspect
many women want more control from their
husband, not less. The feeling of "neglect" arises
from not being needed, sexually and otherwise.
Men have been conditioned not to lead, not
to make demands. They are taught to
be cool, laid back and have no plan. Women lose
interest in these men. It
is about a man convincing a woman to do what he wants. Women
are so formidable these days; men don't know
how to approach them. But the essential
relationship hasn't changed.
It is about a man convincing a woman to do what he wants.
course, this is easier if he wants the same
thing that she does. Generally, women want a lot
more than casual sex. A woman
shows she loves a man by obeying him. Nothing makes a
man happier than a woman who is acquiescent.
Sexually, women are excited by male power,
men by female vulnerability. ... Sexually,
women are excited by male power, men by female
vulnerability. By equalizing power,
feminism is really about neutralizing and destroying the
male-female dynamic. It is a vicious
government assault on heterosexuals. It is about
depopulation, emasculation and alienation.
It is about banishing love from the world. ...
Men and women have an equal right to dignity
and self-fulfillment but this isn't achieved by
giving each equal power. That often
is a recipe for disaster. Men and women find fulfillment
in marriage by becoming one spiritually.
This is the only thing that finally assuages the sexual
urge. Spiritual union takes place
through the exchange of female power for male love. When
a wife accepts a man's marriage proposal,
she gives him the power to love her. It is a
decision she should not make lightly.
Once she has, she must be patient and have faith in
him. That is love. When a
woman tries to take control, and tell her man how to love her,
the relationship is headed for the rocks.
I'll wager this is the main cause of marriage failure.
Power is the male principle. Love
is the female principle. They are two sides of the same
coin, symbolized by marriage.
(How Marriages Go Off the Rails
Musings Of An Unrepentant Heterosexual, Henry Makow)
Going back to Genesis
in chapter 2, verse 22, one finds the Hebrew word ha'-adam
which can well be translated "humanity" or "humankind," for
in the very next verse,the word translated "man" comes from a different
Hebrew word, ish. Once God took from Adam
a rib, then the genders are differentiated, necessitating a
change in terminology. Thereafter the man becomes ish,
the woman ishshah. One could say that by creating
Woman,God also created Man. As Genesis reads: "Bone
of my bone, flesh of my flesh." This expression applies to trusting
soul mates, intimately joined at the rib. This suggests that
in the beginning there was equality, not dominance. However,
for argument's sake, let us agree with Paul that the woman was
deceived first, not the man. Let us further agree with Paul
that sin entered the world by Adam, and that death, therefore, was
passed on to all of humanity. Specifically then, what Paul wrote
was that "in Adam [not Adam and Eve] all die." (I Corinthians 15:22)
and "by one man [not one man and one woman] sin entered the world."
(Romans 5:12). Accepting this implies that Adam's sin
was more egregious than was Eve's but if that is so, why penalize womankind
One theme found in
the non-canonical gospels, not found in the canonicals
is the jealousy that the Magdalene occasioned amongst Jesus'
male disciples. In the Berlin Museum's Gospel of Mary [Magdalene],
Peter asks Mary:
Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more
than the rest of the women. Tell us the
words of the Savior which you remember.
As Peter requested,
Mary provided her recollection but Peter in disbelief exclaimed:
Did he really speak privately with a woman
[and] not openly with us?
Breaking into tears,
Mary then said to him:
My brother, Peter, what do you think? Do
you suppose that I thought this up myself in
my heart, or that I am lying about
Here Levi jumps
into the fray, taking Mary's side, saying:
Peter, you have always been hot-tempered.
Now I see you contending against the woman
like the adversaries. But
if the Savior made her worthy, who are you indeed to reject her?
Surely the Savior knew her very well.
That is why he loved her more than us.
In the Gospel of Mary
[Magdalene], Peter asked:
Did he [Jesus] really speak privately with a
woman, (and) not openly to us? Are we to turn
about and all listen to her?"
One of the more
curious documents fashioned by the institutional Church in the
2nd Century was the Apostolic Church Order, in which
work some aspects of the Pauline and Petrine legacy were
upheld but adjusted in such a way as to serve as a lever to dispose
of other aspects of the Nazarene legacy less suited to the
Church's program of male-dominance. For instance, the apostle
John is depicted here as saying:
When the Master blessed the bread and the cup
and signed them with the words, "This
is my body and blood," he did not offer
it to the women who are with us. Martha said,
"He did not offer it to Mary, because he saw
her laugh." Mary said, "I no longer laugh;
he said to us before, as he taught,
"Your weakness is redeemed through strength."
As portrayed here
Mary fails to carry her point. Afterwards the male
disciples are alleged to have disallowed women from becoming
priests. Said Tertullian biliously:
These heretical women - how audacious they
are! They have no modesty; they are bold
enough to teach, to engage in argument,
to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures, and it
may be, even to baptize!
Virginibus Velandis 9)
Oh, horror of horrors, even to baptize!
What will those uppity women think of next! Evidently
the idea of a woman serving in a leadership capacity was enough
to send someone of Tertullian's dyspeptic disposition into
a tailspin. But on the 6th day of the Passover, while
Jesus was supping with Lazarus, it was the Magdalene who:
... took a pound of greatly precious ointment,
and anointed Jesus' head and feet as
he sat at the meal: and all the house
was full of its sweetness. (MS 2498, ch. 81)
By Mosaic provision,
it was the High Priest's place to anoint Israel's King.
But it was the Magdalene who fulfilled this function for Jesus.
Of her anointing Jesus said:
... her deed shall be spoken of over all the world
wherever the Good Tidings are
2498, ch. 81)
was Mary: she exemplified the towering feminine instinct to
protect life, come what may, which quality I believe Jesus wanted
us to see in her and the quality he wanted us to adopt without
shame or apology. Then being "woman" might not seem
a reproach but a compliment. Nevertheless, standing
apart from, rejected by, and ultimately persecuted by the Church
were Christian communities where women enjoyed equal standing
with men. Commenting on this phenomenon, Elaine Pagel,
Professor of Religion, Princeton University, said:
The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, for example,
shows us a Christian community in which Mary
Magdalene is regarded as a disciple,
as a leader, as one of the major teachers in the group.
And one who claims that woman should be able
(PBS Frontline '98)
If many of the non-canonical
gospels seem more than a little fanciful, obscure, orjust
plain, over-the-top farfetched, which they often do to me
yet, in this instance (in the fight for gender equality), they
were fighting the good fight when none else were. It was
a worthy principle which they sought to uphold and for that they
should be credited though, admittedly, the Gnostics' gospels seem
to take a wicked delight in tweaking the Church's nose, contradicting
its imposition of a masculine hierarchy.
A marriage of equals
fosters a stereoscopic not a monoscopic perspective.
The idea of God speaking to the husband and the husband
to the wife is cultish nonsense. Yet equality of position
need not mean equivalence of function. Men be men and
women, women. It's only common sense that they take
into consideration their differing capacities, natural inclinations,
and aptitudes such as the male's proclivity to protect or the
female's proclivity to nurture. When couples, under God,
co-operate realistically with the natural order, then a division
of labor between the homemaker and breadwinner often makes sense,
with the man out on the job, while the woman, the helpmate, at
home making it an inviting refuge. But
it's every couple's call to make their own life
adjustments, not according to some preconceived
notion as to what constitutes the model family, but
according to their own circumstances as they perceive
them to be and as need and prudence dictate. Somewhere
between chauvinism and Lilith lies a happy medium.
The way of peaceable accommodation is the way of the Nazarene.
The Magdalene was a Nazarene woman;
Where she trod impressions of spiritual
It is not the
Gnostic's non-canonical gospels which take the greatest liberties
with the Magdalene's good name, but the Church. For example,
in Ireland, "Magdalene asylums" were established ostensibly
to help rescue indigent, fallen women. In reality they
were a form of white slavery in which the hapless women who
fell into their clutches were stripped not only of their infant
children but, ever afterward forced to perform uncompensated, hard
labor in laundries, a form of drudgery from which they could escape
only by death. For too long the Magdalene's good name has been
abused by a hierarchy bent on demoting women to meanest servility.
"My Mother the Holy Ghost." (Jesus,
Gospel of the Hebrews)
Sophia, the Wisdom of God,
in Greek or Hokhmah in Hebrew, is feminine and
isidentified with the Ruach haKodesh, Hebrew for Holy Spirit,
also feminine, but the Greek, Pneuma, is neutral,
and the Latin, Spiritus, is masculine. Thus in
English"Spirit" is usually rendered as "it," as in Romans 8:26
"... the spirit itself ..." But then complete gender reversal
occurs in John 16:13:
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of
truth, is come, he will guide you ...
Rest assured, that
is not the way it read on leaving the hands of its Semitic
author. Apparently between the canonical Greek text of
John as we now have it and the Semitic original, there once
stood a Latin text. MS 2498, is lacking this pronoun
altogether, which shows it to have been a late introduction.
Let us not lose sight of the appropriate use of the feminine, for
once it is recognized as scripturally sanctioned that within the
Divine nature there is a duality of capacity, male and female, then
the gender issue can be approached anew. Humanity was created
in God's image male and female, because Father/Mother God, made them
so. Though largely absent in Protestantism, this Father/Mother
concept is found in Catholicism, albeit modified as Father priest/Mother
Mary. Let us embrace both feminine and masculine principles,
not placing one above the other, for Mary and James were not ranked
one above the other but linked one to another. Feminine "being"
and masculine "doing" compliment with sensitivity and the analytical in
No discussion of power
relationships would be complete without some consideration
regarding how the our English Bibles have been translated.
Generally speaking folk are not aware that embedded in
the very Bibles which they trustfully read are grave mistranslations,
the effect of which, if not the purpose, is to perpetuate
dependence on human, instead of Divine authority. Fortunately,
elementary acquaintance with the Hebrew and Greek from which
they are translated can go a long way toward remedying this defect.
Compared to certain modern translations - The Living Bible,
for instance, which has well merited the scholarly contempt it
has received - The King James Version (KJV) is the very picture
of integrity. But on occasion even the KJV is marred
by the bias of its sponsor, the Church of England. Several examples
apropos to our subject follow.
Obey them that have the rule over you.
With all due respect,
I give this piece of advise: "Don't!" Don't obey for
obedience sake any religious Pooh Bah whatever may be his ecclesiastical
affiliation or high office. Commit neither to man nor
institution but to God alone to whom alone are we accountable!
First of all forget "obey." The underlying Greek word,
peitho, means something else altogether. As
used by the author of Hebrews, it means "persuade". In fact in
an earlier verse he employs the same word, peitho, and notice
how the KJV translates it:
... we are persuaded [peitho] better
things of you. (Hebrews 6:9)
Had the author of Hebrews
really meant "obey" he would have used the word, hupakouo,
as he did two chapters before in the sentence:
By faith Abraham when he was called to go out
into a place which he should after receive as
an inheritance, obeyed [hupakouo];
"rule over." Sorry folks, it's not there. Neither
"rule" nor "over" is there. The Greek word used is hegeomai.
It is the same word used in Luke when quoting Jesus
He who is greatest (i.e. a leader) [hegeomai]
among you, let him be as the younger, and he
who governs as he who serves.
Isn't this yet another
example of Jesus' anti-hierarchical imperative at work?
(A personal aside: I can not tell you how often in thirty-five
years as a believer that I had quoted to me, even thrown in my
face and often in dark and ominous tones:
by Catholics, by a Jehovah
Witness, by a Plymouth Brethren, by a Church of Christ,
Adventists, Nazarene, Bible Church, non-denominationals,
Charismatics - the list is seemingly endless - but it's always
the same dreary message "obey." Obey who?
Their organization, of course. But the unification God seeks
is not that of coercion but persuasion. Thus
Hebrews 13:17 is more correctly translated:
Encourage those who provide leadership
[hegeomai] among you ...
from Paul's letter to the Thessalonians:
And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which
labor among you, and are over you
[proistemi] in the Lord.
(I Thessalonians 5:12)
the "over you" is not there. The underlying Greek is:
proistemi, the same word as is found in Titus 3:14
where it is inculcated that we should:
... learn to maintain [proistemi]
As it turns out
in this instance, it is possible to have one translation suitably
fit both quotes. It is "to care for." Those who
"labor among you" are those who "care" for you. And so the
proper translation is to "take care to learn good works."
Putting into proper
perspective the whole question of obedience, the apostle Peter
and the other apostles said to the Sadducee's High Priest:
We ought to obey God rather than man.
In attempting to elevate
church attendance to the level of Sacred Obligation,
sectaries regularly trundle out another "bugaboo" verse, this
one also found in Hebrews:
Forsake not the assembling of yourselves
together ... (Hebrews 10:25)
is divided, but this is usually taken to mean assembling for
worship. Of course, in the context of the time in which
it was thought to have been written, that is, before 70 AD,
there were no designated places of worship. It could only
mean a home or, conceivably, a hired hall, but this latter
option is rather doubtful because faith in Jesus was not considered
licit by the Roman authorities. Either way, it is not
by any means, as is so often portrayed, a clarion call to "go to
church." The situation as now pertains is that believers
are offered unpalatable choices. There is this congregation
or that one, take your pick. But you don't have to pick.
Just be and do in Him. Don't
join what you don't believe in; don't go except in God's
What we bring to
the Bible in the way of personal experience we carry away again,
only in enhanced form, as biblical instruction. Only for those
possessing broad sympathies and wide interests will the Bible
ever come to life. As Daniel 4:17 informs us,
the basest of men are promoted into high office. It's
not that cream doesn't rise to the top. It does. It's
just that scum gets there faster. The answer is not to
have any high offices. That is the Nazarene distinctive
of James and of the Magdalene who followed in the footsteps of the
Master. Frustrating is this approach to those who lust
PART V: Spiritual experience.
Jesus exemplifies Light.
There is a principle which is pure, placed
in the human mind, which in different places
and ages has had different names; it
is deep and inward, confined to no form of religion
nor excluded from any, where the heart
stands in perfect sincerity. (John
So inclusive was
the Nazarene movement under Jesus, that it hardly fit the description
of a sect. Sects embrace only a sector of the truth,
not the whole, just as partisanship embraces some part of the truth,
but closes its eyes to the whole. And this is where Jesus'
teaching regarding the left hand not knowing what the right hand
is doing comes into play, for it is not necessary to bridge every difference
or co-ordinate every action. We are answerable to God, not
each other. From its inception, the Nazarene movement was no
homogenized monolith but there were fissures not always easily bridged.
One would like to think that with Jesus' example before their eyes,
with his words ringing in their ears, and with the descent of the Spirit
at Pentecost, that the Nazarenes would have risen above human foibles
to always make correct choices but that was not so. There was emboldenment
and ennoblement for a season, yes, but that did not cure all problems
or resolve all issues. Jesus' followers were men and women of
like passion as ourselves. Putting them on a pedestal can easily
become a copout, an excuse to look backwards instead of forwards, to institutionalize
their memory instead of learning from their example. Ideally the
light of Jesus will shine through and there will be harmony and agreement,
even as Paul admonished us:
... I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ, ... that there be no
division among you; ...
(I Corinthians 1:10)
doesn't always happen. In fact, it rarely happens.
Ideally people will work out their differences because the
Way is big enough to accommodate much variety, obviating any need
to go separate ways but at Corinth Paul had to concede:
... I hear that there be divisions among you;
and I partly believe it. For there must also be
heresies among you, that they which
are approved may be made manifest among you.
Far be it that factionalism
should rear its ugly head, likewise partisanship, yet honest
differences of opinion do occur. Not only that, there
are liable to be instances of insincerity, yet even this is
not without its value in the stark relief it creates. No
one knew this better than Paul who for one reason or another experienced
many a falling out but that is the way it is. People have to "call
'em the way they see 'em." Afterward, sometimes, they have to
part company. Just as it's better to restrain the noble
it's better to restrain the noble horse
than to prod the reluctant mule, so also is it better
that large personalities clash than that namby-pambies agree.
Not only that, one should note the existence of a free-floating
pool of self-appointed "prophets," the world over.
Eventually, one or more of their number is liable to land
on our respective doorsteps, ready to exercise his or her "God
given gift" as teacher, prophet, leader, whatever. In
many instances, these are people who spent years at the feet of
some religious bigshot and, having paid their dues in submission,
now expect others to do likewise for them. In such an instance,
one of two things will happen: either they will be rebuffed, if not
immediately, then after a period of investigation, or not.
If not, then the time is at hand to shake dust, for the Spirit
lists where the Spirit will, and so must believers accordingly
when a fellowship abandons its foundations. As Paul put it:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which
Christ hath made us free and be not entangled
again with a yoke of bondage.
Out of the Nazarene
movement emerged two horns, as it were, two rivals, one,
the institutional Church, the other being Gnosticism. From
early times, so far as the hierarchical Church was concerned,
the lines were clearly drawn: it was to be their way or the highway.
Gladly would the Church do our thinking for us, letting us know
what is or is not catholic and orthodox. On the other hand,
as "an elevated being," the Gnostic, hankers for getting out on
the high seas of feeling- based experience. By splitting the
difference between them and transcending them both, the Nazarene
position is one which believes, as do the Gnostics, in the inner
Light, i.e., experiential religion, and also, as were the Gnostics,
were anti- imperialistic, but, as does the Church, associating this
with Jesus and biblical revelation, which is to say, that Nazarenes
did not perceive themselves as elevated in themselves but as elevated
in Jesus under God.
For what the Literalist Christian says of Christ,
the Gnostic is free to say of himself. By this
they do not denigrate Jesus but they
believe that they have discovered the proper dignity of
man: that a Gnostic is an elevated being.
Gnostics define Literalist believers as "hylic", that
is "material beings" who have no divine
light within them. ... It is easy to understand
the Church Fathers included only the narrative
Gospels in the canon and rejected those
dealing with Jesus' esoteric teachings.
They wanted to create a universal church and a
religion that everybody could understand.
(Gilles C. H. Nullens)
From the quote above
we get an inkling that between Gnosticism and Catholicism
lies a yawning chasm with the Church offering a doctrinal
and sacramental safe harbor:
... like a rich man [depositing money] in
a bank, [the apostles] placed in the church fully
everything that belongs to truth: so that
everyone, whoever will, can draw from her the
water of life. Suppose a dispute concerning
some important question arises among us;
should we not have recourse to the
most ancient churches, with which the apostles held
continual intercourse, and learn from them
what is clear and certain in regard to the
present question? ... that
tradition, derived from the apostles, of the very great, the
ancient, and universally known church
founded and organized at Rome by the two most
glorious apostles, Peter and Paul ... For
it is necessary that every church should agree
with this church, on account of its preeminent
authority. (Irenaeus, Adversus Heraeses)
Whereas a Gnostic tendency
is to promote a rose-colored view of humanity; that it'sjust
a matter of our getting in touch with our divinity, Church
theologians of John Calvin's stripe (the "Pope of Geneva"), building
on the foundation Augustine of Hippo laid before him, promote a
dark concept accentuating human inadequacy called "total depravity."
Is there no middle ground?
Do ye think that the scripture saith in
The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth
may be that of God in each of us, the Divine Light, it's
safe to say thatwe have a responsibility to let it shine.
A balanced approach then is James' who, recognizing our
being subject to contrary impulses, saw that we have an active
role to play in responding to our better angels, while resisting
our bad angels. Or, as Paul wrote: "Let your moderation,
i.e., your sweet reasonableness [not your extremism] beknown to all
men" (Philippians 4:5). Resisting the temptation
to over simplify or distort by making it all one way or the other,
let us commit ourselves to humane principles. May we not be surprised
if in response that Providence is moved beyond our ability to comprehend.
As James wrote:
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation:
for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown
of life, which the Lord hath promised
to them that love him.
As we see below: these
are James' imperatives: "lay apart," "receive," "be
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and
superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness
the engrafted word, which is able to save
your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not
hearers only, deceiving your own
Taking hold to one
side of James' equation, the Church posits sin as the
problem and faith as the answer, while Gnostics posit ignorance
as the problem and wisdom as the answer. By contrast,
James, ever practical, combined thought and action, holding
wisdom and faith together in creative tension with good works:
If any of you lack wisdom [sophia], let him ask
of God, that giveth to all men liberally,
between guilt-ridden self-revulsion and self-justifying self-worship
lies a happy medium a realistic, meastured self-esteem.
One extreme is that of the penitent Magdalene, passively sticking
out her tongue that the male priest might place upon it the
communion wafer; over against which is the Gnostic extreme, a self-assertive
Magdalene on steroids, as it were, some kind of Aimee Semple
McPherson, barrelling into the pulpit astride a Harley-Davidson
motorcycle. Whereas the Church associates sexuality with
Adam's fall, Gnostics of the more advanced type tended to see the
Creator God as the one who fell but why must sexuality be intrinsically
sinful or sacramental? Isn't the more balanced approach that
of the Nazarenes who, being blind neither to its dangers or to its
pleasures, appear to have taken sexuality in stride? After
all, it's just one aspect among many necessary for keeping the race going.
and upbraideth not; and it shall be given
him. But let him ask in faith [pistas], nothing
wavering. ... Even so faith, if it
hath not works [ergon] is dead, being alone.
(James 1: 5,6;2:17)
More than just the
sweet bye-and-bye, there is hear-and-now experience:
The Lord is on my head like a crown,
and I shall not be without Him.
They wove for me a crown of truth, and it
caused Thy branches to bud in me.
For it is not like a withered crown which
But Thou livest upon my head, and Thou hast
blossomed upon me.
Thy fruits are full-grown and perfect; they
are full of Thy salvation.
(Odes of Solomon
The Inner Light.
is an empirical reality known to many religious traditions.
In the Nazarene context this is interpreted as God immanent,
the Light within. Manifesting in various ways, this could
manifest outwardly as ecstatic speech or inwardly as dreams and
visions or as refinement of sensibility. Enkindling empathy
its fruits are kindness and good deeds.
In James' Epistle,
in the first chapter, one finds a cluster of richly metaphorical
sayings of a mystical nature, not easily explained:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from
above, and comes down from the Father of
lights, (1:17) ... of his own
will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a
of first fruits of his creatures (1:18)
Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of
naughtiness, and receive with meekness
the engrafted word, which is able to save your
souls. (1:23) But whoso looketh into
the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he
being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer
of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
The "Father of lights" begets
the "children of light," and how is this accomplished? through
precept of Scripture? Granted, this is contributing
factor, yet more is implied. Conditions must be conducive.
There must be receptiveness for these words to become engrafted
within. For instance, Peter wrote:
Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but
of incorruptible, by the word of God, which
liveth and abideth forever."
As Paul wrote:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in
all wisdom; ... (Colossians 3:16)
Or as Jesus said:
"The words that I speak unto you, they
are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63)
For the implanted
word to take root and bear fruit, the ground must first
be properly prepared, the weeds removed, the soil plowed and
tilled. Rightly do we approach this matter with meekness:
Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile,
and hypocrisy, and envies, and all evil
speakings, as newborn babes desire
the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among
you? let him shew out of a good
conversation [conduct] his works
with meekness of wisdom.
(James 3: 13)
And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the
word of his grace, which is
able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance
among all them which are sanctified.
is the concept of the entire world being subordinated to
the kingdom of God. That is yet future. Partially realized
eschatology means in the interim finding the kingdom within.
Light within, immanent, Light above, transcendent, perceive
each other for the two are One.
Beyond teacher, miracle
worker, fulfiller of prophecy, on another level entirely, by
a work of self-revelation, Jesus presented himself as nothing
less than the light of God. Infuriating to his
Jewish critics was his unassailable sense of mission such that
no matter what happened on the earthly plane, so far as Jesus was
concerned, on the heavenly plane all was secure, the power of God being
over all. Was this insouciance on Jesus' part or was it: