Monday, May 9, 2011

Magdalene

MARY

OF

MAGDALA


 

Magdalene, the Forgotten Aramaic Prophetess of

Christianity


 

By


 

Stephen Andrew Missick


 


 


 


 

Introduction


 


 

"You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free."

-Jesus of Nazareth, Gospel of John 8:32


 


 


 

One cannot read the New Testament without realizing that Jesus had a special ministry to women. He understood their unique needs in a way no man ever had. He felt their longings, sensed their pain, and shared their sorrows. With compassion he met them at the point of their need and ministered life unto them. Such sensitivity would be remarkable in any circumstance, but given the conditions under which women lived in Jesus' day, it becomes even more impressive. Women had no rights. Before marriage they were considered the property of their fathers, and following marriage they became property of their husband. Jesus ministered not only to individual women, but to women as a whole. He treated them as full-fledged human beings with all the rights of citizens in the kingdom of God. As far as he was concerned, they were equal in value to men, just different in function. In ministering to Mary Magdalene, Jesus violated all the prohibitions of the religious leaders of this day. Not only was she a woman-which automatically made her a second class citizen-but she was also demon possessed. Given these facts, it is not hard to see why the religious leaders considered her a lost cause. To their way of thinking, her kind was not worth saving. But Jesus saw things differently. Instead of giving up on her, he redeemed her and made her the first missionary of the resurrection and commanded her, "go… to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'." There is, I believe, a message in her story for everyone. It is our Lord's way of saying that none of us are so lost that we cannot be found, nor so sinful that we cannot be forgiven. Even if everyone else has given up on us, he hasn't. Even if we give up on ourselves, he will never give up on us!

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."(Matthew 18:11)


 

-"Witness the Passion"
by Richard Exley


 

Mary of Magdala was a woman of means who provided for the ministry of Jesus. As a disciple, she left her home in Galilee and followed her Master, Jesus. When the male disciples ran away and abandoned Jesus, she refused to leave him. She was with him when he was crucified. According to the Biblical account Mary of Magdala was the first witness of the resurrection. The early fathers of the church called Mary Magdalene the "Apostle of the Apostles". She played an important, but until recently, largely ignored role in the early church. Aramaic was the language of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Her name "Magdalene" is an Aramaic name meaning "the Tower". St. Jerome, who was fluent in Aramaic, believed she was called "the Tower" due to her ardent faith. In our Bibles Mary Magdalene is also quoted speaking in Aramaic when she addresses Jesus as "Rabbouni", which is Aramaic for "Master". This book explores Mary of Magdala through the Aramaic language and ancient Aramaic sources and traditions.

The Aramaic language was the language of the Jews in the Holy Land at the time of Jesus. It is also found in the Old Testament. The books of Daniel and Ezra have long sections that are in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. Many Aramaic words are found throughout the New Testament, especially in the Gospels, which are the Biblical accounts of the life of Christ. Jesus is often quoted verbatim speaking in Aramaic. Abba ("Father," Mark 14:36), Talitha Cumi ("Little girl, arise," Mark 5:41), Ephphatha ("Be opened," Mark 7:34), and Eloi, Eloi Lama Sabachtani ("My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?," Mark 15:34) are Aramaic words spoken by Jesus found in the Bible. Other Aramaic words are found in the New Testament which includes statements such as Rabbouni ("My Rabbi," John 20:16), prayers such as Maranatha ("Our Lord, Come!," 1 Corinthians 16:22), and the names of places such as Golgotha ("Place of the Skull," Mark 15:22), Gethsemane ("Olive Press," Mark 14:32), Akel Dema ("Field of Blood," Acts 1:19) and Gabbatha ("Stone Pavement," John 19:13). Many people in the New Testament have Aramaic names such as Thomas ("Twin," John 21:2), Barnabas ("Son of Encouragement," Acts 4:36), Bartholomew ("Son of Ptolemy," Matthew 10:3), Silas (Acts 15:22), Cephas ("Stone," John 1:42), Martha ("Lady," Luke 10:38), Tabitha ("Gazelle," Acts 9:36) and many others. Aramaic is a Semitic language and is closely related to Hebrew and Arabic. Jesus spoke in Aramaic but the New Testament as we have it now is written in Greek. Although the New Testament is written in Greek, it is full of Aramaic words.

Many people mistakenly assume that Aramaic is a dead language. Aramaic is still spoken by a minority of Christians in the Middle East. The Aramaic speaking Christians are called the Assyrians. For a long time, few Christians knew anything about the Aramaic language. However, when Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ came out in theatres more people were exposed to Aramaic that ever before. Mel Gibson chose to film the movie in the original language Jesus spoke in order to be more authentic and also to show that the message of Jesus transcends language and culture.

Many important ancient manuscripts written in Aramaic have come down to us. These ancient writings include several of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Targums, the Talmud and the Kaballah and the writings of the Syriac Aramaic Church Fathers. (Syriac is the name of the ancient Aramaic that is used by certain Eastern Christians. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic that is very close to the actual form of Aramaic that was spoken by Jesus of Nazareth.) The Dead Sea Scrolls is the name of a library of Biblical and extra-biblical scrolls that dates to the time of Jesus. The Targums are ancient translations of the Old Testament into Aramaic. These Aramaic versions of the Old Testament are quoted from at times in the New Testament and were used by Jesus Christ. The Talmud is Rabbinic commentary on the five books of Moses. It was written long after the time of Jesus but may contain traditions that date to his time and earlier. The Aramaic language is an important tool in studying the original and authentic message of Jesus. The Aramaic Christians of the Middle East have preserved an ancient version of the Bible through which it is possible to study the words of Jesus in the language in which they were originally spoken, Aramaic. Aramaic Christians, called Assyrians, have also preserved old traditions and ancient manuscripts that contain additional information about St. Thomas, St. Thaddeus and Mary of Magdala that are not found in our Bible.

Bruce Chilton is an Aramaic scholar who has written on Jesus. Rev. Chilton is a priest in the Church of England. He has studied the most ancient sources which include archeological discoveries, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Aramaic Targums. I do not agree with all of Chilton's conclusions but his books do contain some helpful information. Chilton has written Mary Magdalene: A Biography in which he avails himself of information from Aramaic sources to reconstruct the life of Mary of Magdala. He states:


 

Mary's nickname, "Magdalene," also resonates with a name applied to Jesus, linking the two of them in key Gospel texts with a verbal echo. Jesus "the Nazarene" (Nazarenos in Greek) is the grammatical equivalent of "Magdalene" (which also represents the Greek usage), allowing for a change of gender. (In Aramaic, which both Jesus and Mary spoke, the antecedents would have been the equally resonate Natsaraya and Magdalata.) English pronunciation conceals a rhyme that would have caught the ear of any Greek or Aramaic speaker who heard these names spoken aloud: The texts reverberate with an implicit connection between Jesus and Mary.

To call Jesus "the Nazarene" naturally evokes Nazareth as his native village, just as the designation "Magdalene" evokes Magdala on the Sea of Galilee. The verbal echo between the names reflects the geographical proximity between the two villages and their contacts with each other. Mark's Gospel, the earliest of the Gospels and the closest to the Aramaic idioms of Jesus' movement, preserves the resonance between Rabbi Jesus' nickname and Mary's.

The designation "Magdalene" distinguishes Mary from the other Marys who were associated with Jesus. Several women named Miriam, the Semitic name anglicized as Mary, were close to Jesus, including his mother and the mother of the disciples James and Joses (Mark 15:40). Moses' sister was called Miriam, and Jews of Galilee and elsewhere proudly embraced that name for their own daughters. But only one of the Miriams in Jesus' group was identified as coming from a town called Magdala in the Aramaic spoken there.

Magdala was important both practically and symbolically for Jesus and his disciples. The name Magdala derives from the term migdal, a low stone tower for keeping fish. Holding facilities were part of the complex of stone breakwaters, docks, reservoirs that distinguished this town of three thousand residents. [Note: Other scholars and ancient sources have a much higher population estimates for the city of Magdala.] Local fishermen netted fish from the Sea of Galilee, especially the plentiful sprat, a small boney fish about six inches long that could be dried for export. They dragged loads of live fish into stone holding tanks and then stockpiled them for drying and salting.

The Galilean sprat was one of Rabbi Jesus' favorite foods, as it was for many of his countrymen. Dried fish was also popular among his followers long after his death and far from Galilee, because Jews and non-Jews in Jesus' movement could eat fish together without raising the question of whether it was kosher, always an issue in case when meat was involved. In fact, the fish became as a symbol for Christians in the second century: The letters of the word fish in Greek were an acronym for "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior" and stood for Christ.


 

During 1988 and 1989 while I was in High School I came across a certain three books, one was entitled Guardians of the Grail by J. R. Church and the other two were entitled Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Messianic Legacy written by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. Holy Blood, Holy Grail was originally published in 1982. It was based on an idea from the book The Passover Plot by Hugh Schonfield. (Schonfield later rejected the premise of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Schonfield held to the swoon theory. In this theory Jesus survived the crucifixion and woke up in the tomb and thus only seemed to have died and then to have risen again from the dead. However, Shonfield believed that Jesus had been mortally wounded on the cross and that he survived only long enough to send a message to his apostles before he deceased.) These books presented a new, bizarre and unsubstantiated theory that Jesus survived the crucifixion and that he escaped to Europe with Mary Magdalene and later had children by her. These children were reputably the ancestors of a certain royal family in Europe called the Merovingians. I was not convinced by this theory and dismissed it. J.R. Church did not accept the claims of Holy Blood, Holy Grail as being true either. He took them as a deception of the Anti-Christ and as a sign of the End of Days.

Right when I left to go to the Iraq War as a soldier in 2003 I came across information about the book The Da Vinci Code. I didn't take it seriously because I had seen numerous books and novels on this new Magdalene Heresy. These books were accepted only by fringe groups, and with the exception of J. R. Church, no one in Christian leadership, as far as I was aware, took this new theory seriously enough to respond to it. When I returned home from the war I was shocked to see how successful this book had become. Christianity Today magazine contained stories about how people were leaving the church and renouncing Christianity after discovering "the truth" from The Da Vinci Code! I had just began giving lectures about the Aramaic roots of Christianity in Humble (pronounced "Umble"), Texas when I was deployed for the war in Iraq. When I returned from the war the controversy about the film The Passion of the Christ was still brewing in the United States. I decided to give lectures on Aramaic and the Passion of Jesus and on Mary Magdalene. I used Mary of Magdala as an introduction to the Aramaic roots of Christianity since her name is Aramaic and she is one of the figures in the New Testament who is quoted speaking in the Aramaic language in the Greek text. This book is an expanded version of my Mary Magdalene lecture that I have at the Nathaniel Center for Cultural and Biblical Education.

The Da Vinci code isn't just a work of fiction. Dan Brown is trying to convince readers that his contentions are historical facts. He has stated that he views this book as a one that teaches history through a fictional storyline. Many who have read his book have been convinced that it presents historical facts. In reality the book is blatant deception and is viewed by many people, especially Roman Catholics, as hate literature. Some view. Some view the Da Vinci Code and the phenomenon surrounding it as a new cult movement. I believe that The Da Vinci Code is also an attack on Christianity. Dan Brown is attacking Christianity through attacking the Roman Catholic Church. I am not a Catholic. I am a Baptist. In my view Catholics are my fellow Christians. The Da Vinci Code is an attack against all Christians who believe in the New Testament. Dan Brown's previous Robert Langdon book, Angels and Demons, was also anti-Catholic. It has been said that what we have now is the Da Vinci Cult, a new religion founded by Dan Brown. Dan Brown claims to be a "skeptic" but he seems to be a believer in strange conspiracy theories. (Of course true believers in wacky conspiracies from their point of view think that they have a healthy skepticism and see things as they "really" are.) So far, every book he has written is about a conspiracy. As I wrote this book Dan Brown was being sued by the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. In my opinion this was a case of authors of a work of fiction suing another author of a work of fiction for plagiarism. It was also a publicity stunt. At the time of the trial The Da Vinci Code had sold forty million copies and Holy Blood, Holy Grail had sold two million copies. I am disturbed how The Da Vinci Code film is being promoted. The film trailer contains slogans such as "Witness the Biggest Cover-up in History," "Discover a secret so powerful that if it were revealed it could devastate the very foundations of mankind," and "Seek the Truth". The paperback version of the novel is being marketed with this slogan, "An astonishing truth concealed for centuries…unveiled at last!" The Da Vinci Code doesn't represent the truth. It is fiction, falsehood and outright lies masquerading as fact. Dan Brown is an aspiring musician and a former high school teacher. He is not a historian, he as no education in theology, art or art history, and has not studied the ancient languages and neither has he critically examined the source texts. He is, in fact, incapable of doing so as he doesn't have the necessary academic training. In the front of the book Dan Brown has a page that says "FACT," that is followed by a series of untrue statements. On numerous occasions, including on a television on "Good Morning America," Dan Brown has stated that he wants to convince readers that the allegations that he has made in his book are true. Dan Brown's seems to want to avoid accountability for his false assertions. He wants it both ways, where he can say, "It's all true!" and "It's just a work of fiction!" at the same time. Dan Brown in this novel attacks the most cherished beliefs that are held by millions and calls into question the sanctity and credibility of the institution founded by Jesus of Nazareth, the Christian Church. I have read accounts of women reduced to tears by Dan Brown's attack on Jesus Christ and the Bible they found in The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown states that the known history of the past 2,000 years is false. I am a historian and I have examined primary sources. Dan Brown is not a historian, he is a novelist and he is someone who doesn't know the difference between fact, fiction and fantasy. Not one credible Bible scholar or art historian accepts Dan Brown's allegations as factual, only charlatans. I challenge him to produce one, knowing that he won't be able to. If he did, that person would immediately become the laughing stock of the international intellectual community. I find it very difficult to believe that Dan Brown actually believes the hogwash presented as fact is true. This is simply a pernicious attack on Christianity. The basic premise of The Da Vinci Code has been exposed as a hoax perpetuated by a con-man named Pierre Plantard. He confessed to the fraud in court while under oath and he had earlier served time in prison for fraud. Several books written in French have exposed this fraud several years ago. These books include Mythology of the Treasure of Rennes by Rene Descadeilas in 1974, The Fabulous Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau: The Secret of Abbe Sauniere by Jacques Riviere in 1986, and Autopsy of a Myth by Jean-jacques Bedu in 1990. Unfortunately, although The Da Vinci Code has been exposed as a fraud ABC News and U.S. New and World Report have re-packaged it as if it were credible. (See "Jesus, Mary and Da Vinci" ABC News Special, November 3, 2003 and U.S. News and World Report Collectors Edition, Secrets of The Da Vinci Code: An Unauthorized Guide to the Bestselling Novel, February, 2005. After presenting The Da Vicni Code as plausible, U.S. News and World Report does finally admit it is actually a hoax near the last page.)

Hoping to join in on the fray and make money by selling books the National Geographic Society has chosen this time to release their fraudulent "Gospel of Judas Iscariot." This spurious gospel is based on absurd fantasies and is now being passed off as an authentic gospel by unscrupulous individuals who are preying on the uninformed. The Gospel of Judas is an important text, but how it is being marketed, and the time in which it was released to the public, is entirely unethical. This text is important for what it tells us about the ancient Gnostic heresy. It has absolutely no historical value in telling us about the historical Jesus. As Bart Ehrman has noted, "The mere fact that a source is ancient doesn't necessarily make it reliable, it simply makes it older than sources today." The Gnostic texts, including the Gospel of Judas Iscariot, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene and the entire Nag Hammadi corpus are not as ancient, nor as accurate as the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

As millions have been deceived, perhaps J. R. Church's idea that the anti-Christ will arise as someone claiming descent from Magdalene isn't so far-fetched after all. (J. R. Church believed that the "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" is authentic, but originated from the Priory of Sion rather than the Jews and Zionists. "The Protocols of Zion" is a book purporting to be the official records of a secret plot of the Jews to subvert and take-over the world. I believe that this book of protocols is in reality a blatant anti-Semitic forgery. According to Dan Brown, the Priory of Sion is a secret society that protects the descendents of Mary Magdalene.) Richard Abanes in The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code describes The Da Vinci Code as a "well-crafted, cleverly written 454-page diatribe against Christianity." According to Abanes, Dan Brown portrays the Christian Church as "…patriarchal…religious villains…[who] changed the originally pagan, goddess worshiping church into a Jesus-worshiping, power-crazed den of evil doers who perverted Christ's teaching to further their own political agenda." He also notes that in The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown presents the Holy Bible as "little more than a fraudulent compilation of texts initially used by scurrilous deceivers, bent on controlling the masses." Ironically, all of the documents that Dan Brown touts as proof of his extravagant claims have been revealed as forged documents. His evidence consists of documents forged in the name of the apostles over a century after the time of Christ by the Gnostic sect and also other documents that were forged in the twentieth century as part of a hoax perpetrated by Pierre Plantard. Plantard's hoax was exposed in court in 1993.

My goal in this book is to give a factual account about Mary of Magdala. Many people are being deceived into what is called the Da Vinci Cult. At first I took this Magdalene Heresy as a bad joke that no one was laughing at. But now I am angered that a mother of the church and a favored disciple of Jesus has been insulted in such a manner. My aim is to defend her honor.

When I was in the Sahara Desert in Egypt at the Monastery of St. Paul the Hermit near the Red Sea in 1991 I noticed Ostrich eggs hanging in an ancient sanctuary. I had seen photographs of ostrich eggs in a Coptic church in Ethiopia in an old National Geographic magazine. (Egyptian Christians are called "Coptic," a word meaning Egyptian. Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians belong to the Coptic Church tradition.) I asked one of the monks what the eggs meant. I couldn't understand everything he said but he told me a story about Mary of Magdala going and preaching as a missionary to a great king. Apparently, she used the egg as a symbol of the unity of God, or the resurrection. This sparked my interest in Mary of Magdala.

Recently, Mary Magdalene has been the subject of much interest that has been generated by the novel The Da Vinci Code. The Da Vinci Code in reality is at its core about Mary Magdalene. In the novel Dan Brown popularizes interesting decades-old theories about who Mary Magdalene really was. Also, much curiosity has been aroused by the "Gospel of Mary Magdalene" and the Gnostic literature that was discovered among the Nag Hammadi Codices. Many books have been published about Mary Magdalene and almost all of them take unorthodox and feminist positions. I am going to evaluate the evidence in a manner not given to wild speculation. From the beginning I want to state that I believe gender is important. I also believe that accuracy in translation is important. Thus, I will present literal translations of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and I will not use politically correct "gender neutral" language. God's spirit used the "grammatical gender" in sacred scripture and I believe He did this for a divine purpose by his providence and this is one of the subjects I hope to explore in this book. Let us now explore the facts about the Magdalene, Mary of Magdala, the forgotten Aramaic prophetess of Christianity.


 


 


 

The Apostle Magdalene: Miriam of Magdala and the Holy Women


 

In the apocryphal First Apocalypse of James the Just it is claimed that Jesus had twelve male disciples and seven female disciples. Of course, Jesus had more disciples that just the twelve and probably had more than seven female disciples, but it is possible that that number did represent a core. (Matthew says "many" women followed him in Matthew 27:55.) Female disciples of Jesus included Mary of Magdala, Salome, Susanna, Joanna, Mary of Bethany, Martha of Bethany, Mary the Mother of Our Lord. Jesus' aunt, who is un-named in the scripture, was also a follower of Jesus. When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman he was doing something which was unheard of. As Jesus was resting at a well, a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Samaritans were looked upon as an inferior and despised race by the majority of Jews. Jesus struck up conversation with this woman and he began teaching her about the Kingdom of God and about his identity as the Lord's Messiah. It was unacceptable for a Rabbi to speak to a woman in public much less take women as disciples. This woman was converted by Jesus and she became one of his followers. When the disciples returned they were shocked to find Jesus talking in such a way to a woman. This story is found in the Gospel of John chapter four.

Mary Magdalene is not to be confused with Mary of Bethany. Mary of Bethany of Judea was the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Mary of Bethany is mentioned in both Luke and John. An important story of Mary and Martha is found in the Gospel of Luke 10:38-42.

Now it came to pass as they entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.


 

Here Jesus shows that a woman's place isn't confined to the kitchen but that instead women are welcome to sit at his feet as his students. In Aramaic the name Martha means 'Lady'. Peter is famous for his statement in which he said in his confession of faith, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16:18). Martha also made such a statement of faith saying to Jesus, "Yea, Lord: I believe that thou are the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world" (John 11:27). Martha was a very fervent follower of Jesus and had a great faith. She worshiped Jesus by serving him. Mary and Martha were present at Jesus' most spectacular miracle, the resurrection of their brother, Lazarus, from the dead after he had been dead in the tomb for four days. Lazarus is an Aramaic form of the Hebrew name Eliezer. (This name is derived from Eliezer in the Old Testament, who was an Aramaic man from Damascus and was Abraham's most devoted servant. See Genesis 15:2 and Genesis 24:2.) Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus, anointed Christ's feet with an expensive perfume shortly before his Passion (John 11:2, John 12:1-8). Mary the sister of Lazarus and Martha was from Bethany, a town very close to Jerusalem in the southern region of the Holy Land. Mary Magdalene was from Magdala a city on the coast of the Sea of Galilee in the northern region of the Holy Land. These two Marys were from different towns and are two distinct individuals. Many have made the mistake of assuming that Mary of Bethany and Mary of Magdala were the same person.

Mary of Magdala was a woman of wealth from Galilee who supported Jesus from her means. This is clearly stated in Matthew 27:55, "And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee ministering unto him: Among these was Mary Magdalene…" Jesus cast seven demons out of her. A Catholic tradition says the demons were the "Seven Deadly Sins" (Pride, Avarice, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Greed, and Wrath) this is unlikely. Mary was a demoniac. We need to consider the First Century and Biblical understanding of demonic possession. In the Holy Gospels Jesus is presented as an exorcist. Demonic possession was manifested by madness, disease and blasphemy. This was due to the victim being inhabited by an evil personality that was a spiritual being or entity. Jesus warned that the demons could return to the hosts if the host did not repent and do good works (Matthew 12:44-45, John 5:14). Innocent children sometimes suffered from demonic possession (Matthew 21:22, Mark 9:41). However, the demon is usually attracted by sin and "invited in" by it. Mary of Magdala was under evil spiritual influence. She may have been physically healed by Jesus since one of the demons inhabiting her may have been a spirit of infirmity. Mary, or more accurately Miriam, was a Jew, and not an Egyptian, Ethiopian or Greek. She was named after the Hebrew prophetess Miriam the sister of Moses (Exodus 15:20-21, Numbers 20:1). She definitely was not a priestess of Isis or any other pagan deity. Her name is Jewish and she is depicted in the Scriptures as observing the Jewish Sabbath. Studying archeological sites help us to understand how Jewish women lived in the Holy Land at the time of Christ. Masada was a fortress that was used by King Herod. A group of Jewish insurgents, called the Zealots, held his fortress during the Jewish War against Rome. Rather than surrender, these racial Jewish revolutionaries committed mass suicide. Yigel Yadin excavated this site and uncovered the remains of some of the Jewish women that died there. Their hair was still preserved and so it can be seen how women braided their hair at the time of Christ. It would be exceptional to find a woman who could read at that time. Very few men were literate. Women were segregated from men and separated from them in worship in the synagogue. Women had many responsibilities managing the household that required much hard labor. Many women found happiness in their children and in the love of their husbands. As can be seen by the followers of Jesus, many women were religiously devout. Although the Law of Moses gave women the right to a divorce decree they had few rights. Mary Magdalene was apparently a well-to-do woman. (Shortly before the time of Jesus, the Jews were actually ruled over by a woman. Of course this wasn't the first time a woman ruled. In the Old Testament, the godly Deborah presided over Israel as judge and general and the wicked Athaliah ruled as queen. The Hasmonian ruler Alexander Janneus died leaving his widow, Salome Alexandra, as ruler. She ruled from 76 until 67 B.C. under her leadership the Pharisees rose to power in the Sanhedrin, which was the ruling Jewish counsel. Her reign is depicted in Jewish literature as an era of prosperity and tranquility. Upon her death, a controversy over succession arose and the Romans took this as an opportunity to intervene. As a consequence the land of Israel was added to the Roman Empire and the vile Edomite King, Rome's puppet, was placed on the throne as King of the Jews. As a foreigner Herod took Mariamne, a Hasmonian princess as his bride, to give his rule legitimacy. The Hasmonians were of the family of Judas Maccabeus and has ruled as priest-kings. As Salome Alexandra supported the Pharisees, other widows would give to support a particular rabbi. Jesus rebuked the hypocritical Pharisees for exploiting such women, saying they "devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers" in Matthew 23:14.) The personal effects and legal documents of a woman named Babatha were discovered in the so-called "Cave of Letters" among the Dead Sea Scrolls. These documents, many of which are in Aramaic, give us perspective on what life was like for a woman of the same social status as Mary Magdalene.

The Aramaic Miriam D' Magdala Nunayya is in English Miriam of Magdala or Mary Magdalene. In Aramaic Magdala means 'tower', "fortress, or "watch-tower". St. Jerome, who was fluent in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, commented on Mary from an Aramaic perspective,


 

Those unbelievers who read me may perhaps smile to find me lingering over the praises of weak woman. But if they recall how holy women attended our Lord and Savior and ministered to him of their own substance, and how the three Marys stood before the cross, and particularly how Mary of Magdala, called "of the tower" because of her earnestness and ardent faith, was privileged to see the rising Christ even before the apostles, they will convict themselves of pride rather than me of folly, who judge virtue not by the sex but by the mind.


 

In the Talmud she is called in Aramaic Miriam Megaddlela: "Miriam with the braided locks" and there is presented as an adulteress and a sinner. Saint Jerome said that the name Magdala, meaning Tower, denoted the steadfastness of her faith. Origen of Alexandria saw in her name the Aramaic word "gadal" meaning "to be great" and saw in her name a prophecy of her spiritual greatness as having ministered to her Lord and having been the first witness of the resurrection. In the Eastern Churches she is called Holy Myrrh-Bearer and Equal to the Apostles Mary Magdalene and also Apostle to the Apostles. Magdala is on the banks of the Sea of Galilee between the cities of Capernaum and Tiberias. The Gospels relate that Mary was a constant companion of the Lord and followed Him when he went with the apostles through the cities and villages of Judea and Galilee preaching about the Kingdom of God. She most likely shared with the Apostles the evangelistic tasks with the other women as well. The Gospel relates that Mary of Magdala was present at Golgotha (Aramaic for "Place of the Skull") during the Lord's crucifixion. While the other disciples of the Savior ran away, she fearlessly remained at the cross together with his mother and the Apostle John. She was faithful to him not only in the days of his glory, but also at the moment of his extreme humiliation and agony. As the Evangelist Matthew relates she was present at the burial of the lord. Before her eyes Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemas went to the tomb with his lifeless body. As a Torah observant Jew she kept the Sabbath day and returned to the tomb Sunday morning. The form of her name is Aramaic and in the Gospel she is quoted speaking to Jesus in Aramaic saying "Rabboni", meaning "my teacher". She was Jewish and Semitic in her cultural orientation. Many Bible scholars believe Mary of Magdala began following Jesus after the miraculous feeding of the multitudes. This is so depicted in the television mini-series Jesus of Nazareth and the motion picture The Gospel of John. Probably the most accurate depiction of Mary Magdalene in a motion picture was in The Miracle Maker. The Miracle Maker actually depicts the exorcism of Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene enters the Gospel narrative, with certain other women, as "ministering to Jesus of their substance" (Luke 8:2 and see also Matthew 27:55):


 

Accompanying him were the twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.


 

Obviously, she was a woman of wealth and social status. The life of ministration brought Magdalene into companionship of the closest nature with Salome, the mother of James and John and also with Mary the mother of the Lord. They stood afar off beholding these things during the closing hours of the agony of the cross.

Church tradition testifies that when the Apostles departed from Jerusalem for preaching to all the ends of the earth, with them also went Mary Magdalene to preach. A daring woman whose heart was full of the memory of the resurrection of our Lord, she went beyond her native borders and set off to preach in pagan Rome. Everywhere she went she proclaimed Christ and his teaching. And when many did not believe that Christ had risen she said what she had said to the disciples that radiant morning, "I have seen the Lord!" She traveled across all of Italy. According to later legend, she with Lazarus and Martha evangelized in France as well. Mary continued her preaching in Italy and in the city of Rome itself. Evidently, the Apostle Paul has her in view in Romans 16:6 where together with other brothers and sisters he mentions Mary. It seems that she extensively served the church, being exposed to dangers and sharing with the Apostles the labors of preaching.

She was faithful to Jesus not only in the beginning when surrounded by enthusiastic crowds as they passed through the cities and villages of Palestine, winning for Himself the glory of a miracle-worker-but also when all the disciples in fear deserted him and he, humiliated and crucified, hung in torment upon the cross alone. This is why the Lord, knowing her faithfulness, appeared to her first and esteemed her worthy to be the first to proclaim his resurrection. She was an influential figure, a prominent disciple and a valuable leader of the early Christian movement. Mary Magdalene is always mentioned first when the women are listed with the exception of a passage in John were the mother of Jesus and her sister are mentioned first.

When Paul mentions Mary in Rome he says that Mary has "labored much". Besides Mary, Paul mentions other prominent people from the land of Israel, such as the son of Simon the Cyrene, Rufus (Romans 16:13). Rufus had seen the Romans compel his father to help Jesus carry the cross to Golgotha (Mark 15:21). According to Bible scholars, the Roman church had a large number of Jewish Christians both before and after the visit of Paul. The writer of Hebrews writes to them his epistle because he fears the influence of radical Judaizers in the church at the city of Rome. (A Judaizer is a legalist who expects all Christians to adopt the Jewish culture and to observe all Jewish customs, laws and holidays. A Judaizer believes that salvation is found through observing the rites, regulations, and ceremonies of the Jewish people rather than in simple faith in Jesus the Messiah.) Mary of Magdala may have lived to old age perhaps her seventies but maybe even as old as ninety. Certain traditions state that she died in Ephesus as a martyr. She may have died in Jerusalem. A legend that places her in France is unreliable and confuses her with Mary of Bethany.


 

Was Mary the Harlot?


 

In the Talmud Magdalene is related to the Aramaic word "megadlella" or "hairdresser". There it is a term for a prostitute. In the Talmud Mary Magdalene is depicted as a whore, adulteress and sinner. It may have been some sin that attracted the demons to her that possessed her. It is very possible that the sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus was Mary Magdalene but that is not clearly stated in scripture. The woman taken in adultery was probably not Mary Magdalene. Mary very well may have been a prostitute but we know for sure that she was a woman of means that supported Jesus' ministry with her finances and that Jesus had cast out seven demons out of her. The city of Magdala, Mary Magdalene's hometown, was noted for its wealth, depravity and its prostitutes. In Jesus and His World: An Archeological and Cultural Dictionary the authors, John Rosseau and Rami Arav, ask concerning Magdala, "Can a correlation be made between its depravity and the seven demons that Jesus cast out of Mary?"     

Mary of Magdalene is held by some to be the woman of sin, or harlot, who anointed the feet of Jesus (Luke 7:36-50). This interpretation of a certain passage of scripture is open to dispute. Even though many believe that the identity is strongly implied by the text others beg to differ, since the text does not specifically identify this repentant woman as Mary of Magdala. No one is trying to malign or denigrate Mary by saying that she is the woman of sin mentioned in this passage of Scripture. James the Just mentioned Rahab, whom he calls the harlot, in his epistle. He gives Rahab as an example of someone who showed faith in God by her deeds, the way Mary of Magdala did. James isn't trying to insult Rahab, he is identifying her by her past and showing that God can change, and save, the worst of sinners (James 2:25, citing Joshua 2:1-24). And even those who have shameful pasts, may yet be able to do great works for God. I don't believe it can be definitely stated that the woman with the alabaster jar who anointed the feet of Jesus was not Mary Magdalene. There is no plot or conspiracy to taint Magdalene's reputation. Mary of Magdala has always been honored and venerated by the church.

It is important to note that Mary's wealth if it came from prostitution could not have been used to support Christ's ministry since that would have made it dirty money and thus it would have been considered unholy or unclean. The Law of Moses states, "You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the price of a dog to the house of the Lord your God for any vowed offering, for both these are an abomination to the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 23:18). The chief priests would not put Judas Iscariot's blood-money into the temple treasury because they believed it was "dirty money" (Matthew 27: 3-10). They took the money and used it to buy a field to use as a common graveyard. They gave it the Aramaic name of "Akel Dema," the Field of Blood. Mary, if she was the 'woman of sin' may have been an adulteress or fornicator rather than a prostitute. It is likely that Mary inherited wealth or that she was independently wealthy.


 


 


 

Was Mary divorced?


 

Mary of Magdala may have been a divorced woman. This is a cause for us to look at Jesus' teaching on divorce. In the Mary Magdalene motion picture in the Close to Jesus film series, Magdalene is depicted as a divorcee. Many women were identified by their relation to a man, such as Joanna the wife of Chuza, or Mary the mother of Joses. Mary is not identified by her relation to a man but rather by her hometown. This may be because he was never married or she was divorced. Her demonic possession may have been the cause of the divorce, or why she couldn't find a husband. Although Jesus preached against the hypocrisy and corruption of the Pharisees, he shared many doctrines in common with them. Christ's teaching regarding angels and the afterlife were similar to the teaching of the Pharisees and clearly distinct from that of the Sadducee faction. There were two main schools of thought among the Pharisees; the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai. Certain scholars believe that Jesus was close in spirit to the Great Rabbi Hillel, who lived before the time of Christ. (Hillel was active at around 20 B.C.) There is a legend of a gentile who was a seeker after religious truth. He came to the Holy Land to learn about Judaism. He became weary of trying to grasp the complexities of Jewish doctrine so he decided to confront the two greatest rabbis of the time, Shammai and Hillel, with a question. He approached Rabbi Shammai and asked him, "Explain the whole of the Law of your God while I stand on one foot." Shammai became infuriated. He took a plank (he, like Jesus, was a carpenter by profession) and began swinging it at the gentile, hitting him and shouting rebukes to the gentile "blasphemer". Then the gentile went to Hillel and asked him the same question. Hillel told him, "Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow-man. This is the whole Law. The rest is commentary. Now go and study." The statement was also repeated by Jesus as the Golden Rule. (Actually prior to the time of Hillel, it was written in the old Aramaic book of Tobit. Here is reads in Tobit 4:15, "Do to no-one what you would not have done to you.") While, here we see a similarity in both the teaching and gentle spirit of Jesus and Hillel, in his teaching on divorce, Jesus agreed with Shammai rather than Hillel. The Law of Moses states, "When a man takes a wife and marries her, if she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some shameful thing in her, and he writes a bill of divorcement and sends her out of his house" (Deuteronomy 24:1). The disciples of Hillel interpreted this as any displeasing thing. According to Hillel, if a wife burned the dinner that would give her husband the grounds for a divorce. Shammai taught that "shameful thing" referred only to a sexual lapse. Christ's teachings follow that of Shammai in this instance. Jesus taught, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so, and I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 19:8-9). Jesus taught, "At the beginning he made them male and female, and said, for this reason shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19: 4-6). Divorce rates among professing Christians are at over 50 percent in the United States. This is shameful. Men and women are breaking their marriage vows for selfish unbiblical reasons and this displeases God. Jesus asks us, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord', and then you won't do what I told you to do?" (Luke 6:4). Now we have many professing Christians who are the victims of divorce. I believe that this issue should be dealt with in a loving manner. However, divorce in a hateful thing and the Bible is very clear about this matter. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin so that we may repent. A dark power causes people to seek to justify their actions and blame others instead of taking personal accountability and doing what is right, no matter how difficult it is. Divorce was very harmful to women in the first century. Today, divorce is out of control. Many homes and hearts have been shattered and scarred. Love ought to be more than following a fleeting passion, but rather the making of a strong commitment. Love should be a firm decision than involves making sacrifices. Divorce is harmful to individuals, families and society and is against the teachings of Jesus the Christ. Even in the Old Testament book of Malachi God speaks and says, "I hate divorce." It says, "For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garments with violence, says the LORD of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously" (Malachi 2:16). We live in a wicked and adulterous generation. In this era of moral confusion, perhaps part of the problem is people don't know right and wrong any more. The Lord's Spirit says, "My people perish for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). Perhaps, since this is the problem people need the church to instruct them. For this reason Gary Chapman has written Five Languages of Love: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. (Elizabeth Marquerdt has dealt with the effect of divorce upon children. She is the author of Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. Her research has found that many divorces are unnecessary and that most marriages that are ending in divorce are low-conflict and are much like the marriages that are staying together. In an interview with Christianity Today magazine she makes two interesting comments. She says, "Your preschooler doesn't care if you're having great sex with your husband. But she will be concerned when she wakes up every day and Daddy's not there like he used to be." Commenting on her understanding of marriage, she says, "Marriage is a complex institution that secures mothers and fathers for the children that their sex acts create. It is flawed, but it's the most pro-child social institution that virtually all civilizations have come up with so far. It's a rich and fairly radical idea that different people should come together and do something really hard, like stay together for a lifetime despite everything in the culture that's encouraging to go it alone." Actually, before much of the decline in American culture, marriage and the family life was encouraged. Since no one is perfect then there is really no much thing as the perfect relationship. People committed to one another have to learn to make adjustments and sacrifices for one another. It isn't easy. According to the account in Genesis, "He created them male and female and blessed them and called them Mankind [literally "Adam"] in the day they were created" (Genesis 5:3). It also says that when God saw what he had made he said that it was "very good" (Genesis 1:27; 31). God created humans as sexual creatures and he blessed us as such and said it is "very good." The Bible also teaches that Mankind fell into sin and so we have suffering in this world. Peace, happiness and love is found in obeying God and in those things that God has said are good, such as marriage and having a family. See "Christianity Today" Magazine, March 2006 pages 40-43. )


 


 


 


 

Mary's Wealth


 

Since we know that Mary of Magdala supported Jesus from her wealth we should look at what Jesus teaches about money and finances. Jesus warned his disciples about the deceitfulness of riches. He called the evil of greed "Mammon" in his Aramaic language. Christ's word for the "deceitfulness of riches" in Aramaic is Mammon. Mammon is greed personalized. This Aramaic word is also left un-translated in our Bibles. This has become an Aramaic loan-word even in our language. To find out Jesus' teachings we must do two things. First, explore the scriptures and, second, look at the meaning of the Aramaic term, in this case the word Mammon. This is particularly important. Attention is called to this word in that it is an Aramaic word that is left un-translated both in the original Greek and in our English translation. With "mammon" we have what is called by scholars the Ipissimo Vox, or Ipissimo Verbo, the actual words of Jesus as he spoke them in his original Aramaic. Mammon is the Aramaic word for "riches" or "wealth". It was pronounced Mamona. Jesus spoke of the "mammon of unrighteousness". In Aramaic it is wealth personified as in an evil false god. In the Greek of the New Testament the equivalent Greek word is Plutos, from Pluto, the God of the wealth and the dead. The Harper Collins Study Bible NRSV notes, "the retention of the Aramaic word mammon contributes to the personification of wealth as an evil master." Jesus tells us that you cannot serve God and Mammon (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16: 13). Jesus warns us about he that "layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God" (Luke 12:21). Jesus reminds us that it is difficult for the rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23, 24, Luke 6:24). It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. There was no gate in Jerusalem called the Needle's Eye, contrary to a popular myth. (Some people have spread the false teaching that there was a gate in Jerusalem called the 'Needle's Eye'. They taught that to get a camel through the Needles Eye gate it was necessary to unload that camel then bring it through the gate and then reload it on the other side. This simply isn't true. There was never a gate called "Needle's Eye" in Jerusalem.) George Lamsa said the Aramaic should be translated rope rather than camel. In his version it would thus read, "It is easier for a rope to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God." But, either way, it isn't going through! I checked the Aramaic and found Lamsa to be incorrect. However, Jesus said what is impossible with man is possible for God (Mark 10:27).

Jesus condemned the rich who flaunted their wealth in their offerings (Luke 21:1, Mark 12:41). Jesus told us the parable of the rich fool in Luke Chapter 12. Life is very short and passes away like a shadow. The Rich Inquirer went away sorrowful because he loved mammon more than God (Mark 10:25). But with God all things are possible. Jesus did have rich disciples; Nikodemas, Joseph of Arimathea, Joseph Barnabas and John the Priest. He asked John the Priest to look after his mother as he was dying on the cross.

In the incident of the cleansing of the temple in John 2:13-22 Jesus says, "Take these THINGS from here! Do not make my Father's house a house of MERCHANDISE!" The court where this was being done at was the court of the gentile, where Yahweh's house was to be a "house of prayer for all nations" instead they had made it to a market, or a "den of thieves". (Yahweh is the ancient name of "Jehovah," the God of Israel.) The chief priests were making people change coins and purchase animals for sacrifice within the temple precincts. Part of the reason was so the priests could fix the prices. In the Parable of the Sower it is the deceitfulness of riches that as weeds choke the seed and makes it unfruitful (Matthew 13:22, Mark 4:19). In the Parable of the Sower, the weeds, representing mammon, choke the growth of the seed. In Matthew 13: 21 Jesus explains, "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches [mammon] choke the word and it becomes unfruitful." Jesus warned his followers of the dangers of wealth to the soul and these warnings are found throughout the New Testament. Many preachers are preaching a "Prosperity Gospel" in which God wants his followers to "name it and claim it" and be rich and materialistic. This is an example of how we have strayed away from the teachings of Jesus Christ and why it is necessary to return to the Aramaic source. The Apostle Paul also taught that, "The love of money is a root of all evil, for which some have strayed away from the faith in their greediness and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Timothy 6:10). Many Evangelical Christians are part of the so-called "Religious Right." In their efforts to protect family values, many Christian conservatives also support the interests of Corporate America. I believe that they need to realize that times have changed that that "Big Business" is no longer a friend of Christianity. I believe that it is the duty of the Church to be God's prophetic voice to the world and that the Church should voice opposition to the abuse, exploitation, and advocacy of immorality by "Big Business." Mammon is hurting families because parenting suffers when both parents have to work either to maintain a certain standard of living or out of economic necessity. Government exists to protect human civilization. The basis of civilization is the family. When the government, or other forces wage war against the family, there must be change. I have preached this message in "Mammon, Inc.: Christ's Aramaic Warning of the Evils of Materialism and Greed." I live in the rural American South. It distresses me to be the urban sprawl and destruction of the beauty of God's creation. Jesus said, "Consider the lilies of the field" (Matthew 6:28) but it seems everywhere I look the fields and forests are being cleared and paved over. God made Man as a steward of this earth. Out of worship of the demon-god Mammon, men are harming this earth. We are only passing through this life. We should leave the unspoiled beauty and natural resources to future generations. Finally, Evangelical Christians are starting to wake up, with the "Evangelical Climate Initiative". The statement of this initiative is as follows,


 

For by Him (Christ) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth. Colossians 1:16.

As evangelical Christians, we believe we're called to be stewards of God's creation, and after considerable study, reflection, and prayer we are now convinced it's time for our country to help solve the problem of global warming. We are compelled by our deep commitment to Jesus Christ and our study of God's word. Working together and with God's help, we are convinced that global warming can and must be solved.

It is no small problem. Pollution from vehicles, power plants, and industry is having a dramatic effect on the earth's climate. Left unchecked, global warming will lead to dryer droughts, more intense hurricanes, and more devastating floods, resulting in millions of deaths in this century.

Therefore, with the same love of God and neighbor that compels us to preach salvation through Jesus Christ, protect unborn life, preserve the family and the sanctity of marriage, defend religious liberty and human dignity, and take the Gospel to a hurting world, we…evangelical leaders resolve to come together with others of like mind to pray and to work to stop global warming.

We call upon leaders in government and business to act boldly and set the course. Let's solve global warming in a way that creates jobs, cleans up our environment, and enhances national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, thereby creating a safe and healthy future for our children.


 

For more information see www.christiansandclimate.org. I believe that Christians should be conservationists if not environmentalists. (Environmentalism promotes worship of Gaia, or "Mother Earth" and radical junk science, and so many conservative Christians have attacked it.) Preserving our natural resources and our rural communities should be something everyone would support. Nazareth was a rural community. Jesus grew up close to nature. His observation of the beauty of nature and the simple country life greatly influenced his teachings and his parables. Mary of Magdala, in contrast to Jesus, grew up in the city. She left the big-city life to travel in the countryside and live out of doors, and thus close to nature, with Jesus and his Kingdom Community.

Mary of Magdala was someone who gave. She was a giver. She have to help Jesus, who in turn helped the poor, the infirm and the suffering. By her giving she enabled him to speak words of life and to give hope to those who had none. Mary's financial support enabled Christ to perform his ministry. Her investment in Jesus the Messiah changed the world and led to her having great riches in glory. She did as her Master taught her and did not lay up treasures in earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but she laid up treasure for herself in heaven, where neither moth nor doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For, as Jesus taught, where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6: 19-20).

    Mary is also an example of Christ's concern for the poor (Mark 10:21). Jesus often told the rich, to sell their possessions and to give to the poor. James the Brother of Jesus commissioned Paul to give aide to the poor. Paul said that he was eager to do so (Galatians 2:9-10). The early Aramaic church in Jerusalem was a community that held everything in common and that gave to the poor and needy (Acts 3:40-47, 4:32-37, 6:1-7). Mary of Magdala gave her wealth to the poor. Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor" (Luke 6:20). Early Christians sometimes called themselves "the Poor" and were called Ebionites, from the Hebrew word for "the poor" (Romans 15:26). The Brother of Jesus reminds us that, "Has God not chosen the poor of the world to be rich in faith and heir of the Kingdom which he promised to those who love him?" (James 2:5). Jesus said that his mission as the Anointed One of God was to give the good news to the poor (Luke 4:18).


 


 


 


 


 


 

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene


 

In all the controversy of whether or not Mary of Magdala was an apostle and in all the theories surrounding her role and function as a disciple of Jesus, something very basic has been overlooked. Granted that Mary of Magdala was indeed an Apostle of Jesus Christ and a prominent disciple, then of what philosophy was she a disciple and of what message was she the apostle of?

Jesus preached Joyful Tiding (sabreatha in Aramaic) of the Kingdom of God. In Aramaic Malkutha Dealaha is properly translated into English as the Kingdom of God. God in Aramaic is Al-aw, or Alaha. This word is related to Elohiem, the Hebrew word for God, and Allah, the Arabic name for God. I believe the Islamic conception of God is vastly different from the loving Heavenly Father preached by Jesus. In fact, it is forbidden by Islam to refer to God as 'Father'. Islam teaches "Allah hath no son." The proper translation of Malkutha is kingdom, not 'reign', 'rule', or 'dominion,' although all of these connotations can be derived from the Aramaic work Malkutha. Jane Schaberg in The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene avoids using the word Kingdom so she calls Jesus' movement the "Basilious Movement," using the Greek word for "kingdom" in order to avoid using a masculine word.

Let's try something different. Lets throw out all of this politically correct nonsense and try to look at the Aramaic literally so that we can try to examine how people thought at the time of Christ, how they understood his words when he spoke them and also let's try to think how Christ intended for himself to be understood. To do this we must stop torturing the English language in order to speak in this ridiculous politically correct gibberish. This bizarre mistranslating in using politically correct language obscures the sayings of Jesus and creates a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding. I want to avoid imposing our current absurd and irrational "politically correct' idiocy upon the thinking of people at the time of Christ. Jesus had a new and revolutionary message about God. This was a message of hope for sinners like Mary of Magdala. God loved them and is offering them his mercy freely is they accepted with repentance.

In Aramaic the Four Gospels are called KAROZUTHA, the announcements, the proclamations, the gospels. A Kazora, which is what all believers must be one way or another, is an announcer or herald, and ones who proclaims a message. Joachim Jeremais notes the good news that Jesus proclaims is "You share in God's reign' (Luke 6:20). Jesus had a message of Good News before he suffered on the cross. He was preaching that we must be Born Again even before his resurrection and he told Nicodemas that this was an elementary spiritual truth. As noted above another word for "gospel" in Aramaic is "Karazutha" this means to herald or to proclaim. The duty of every Christian is to proclaim the good news of Jesus the Messiah and to be a witness to him in word and in deed. Mary was sent as the first herald of the Gospel, when the risen Jesus sent her to preach his word to his disciples, who were at that time fearful and in hiding. Mary brought them the Good News, the best news. This news that Mary was the first herald of is always good and it is always new. The scriptures plainly teach that Mary of Magdala was the first herald of the resurrection. There are certain important themes of the Gospel that Mary preached. These are Repentance, the Kingdom of God, Baptism, the Fatherhood of God, Faith, the Prayer of Jesus and the Doctrine of Jesus.


 

Repentance


 

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son the underlining Aramaic word for the Greek phrase in Luke 15:17, "he returned to a rational state of mind," is hadarbeh, meaning, "he repented." Both John the Baptist and Jesus the Messiah, began their ministries by preaching the Good News of Repentance. Matthews introduces John the Baptist by saying, "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, "Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:1-2). When Jesus begins his public ministry after his baptism by John the Baptist, Matthew says, "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4"17). The English word "repent is a compound word. "Re," which means to turn or return, and "pent," which, means highest, like in a penthouse suite. So we have "Turn to the highest, the Kingdom is at hand." Who is the highest? He is the most high God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We must turn to him for his Kingdom-his Dominion-is at hand. At the time of Jesus, many strict sects would not ever receive someone who had been a sinner in the past. In their view someone who committed a shameful sin was outside of the grace of God and were to be exiled from the community of the righteous. The opportunity to repent was not available to those who were lost. Sinners were to be shunned. Jesus offered Good News. Those who had committed sins in the past would be accepted into this family, the community of the Kingdom of God, is they admitted their sins and made a change in their life. Jesus made God's grace available to any man or woman who was willing to confess his or her faults and turn away from them. This repentance was not to be half-hearted but rather complete and sincere. This repentance was joy, joy came to the one who repented but Jesus taught that a sinner coming to repentance brought joy to the heavenly Father (Luke 15:7). Jesus angered the religious establishment by accepting repentant thieves, whores and revelers into his Kingdom of God (Mark 2:13-17). The Good News of Jesus was that God offered the gift of repentance to every man and every woman. Mary of Magdala was one of those who answered Jesus' call to repentance.


 

The Kingdom of God


 

The ancient Aramaic word behind the Greek word "evangelion" or "gospel", is besora meaning a message of triumph of the victory of God's Kingdom. Dr. Mark D. Roberts, examines the Aramaic behind Jesus' teaching of the Kingdom of God in What Language(s) Did Jesus Speak and Why Does it Matter? (this is available on-line). He says,


 

Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus continually refers to the kingdom of heaven, as in "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (Matt 3:2). Many Christians take the phrase "the kingdom of heaven" as a description of what we call heaven: the place where we go to be with the Lord after we die. This makes good sense in English, because "kingdom" signifies a place ruled by a king, and "heaven" is the place we believers go after we die, the place where God rules (Matt 6:10).

But this is not what Jesus meant when he used the Aramaic phrase malkuta dishmaya (which appears in the Greek of Matthew as he basileia ton ouranon ). For one thing, the Aramaic word we translate as "kingdom" referred, not only to the place where a king rules, but to the authority of the king. Thus malku could be translated as "kingly authority, rule, or reign," and should be in the case of Jesus' usage. He's not saying that the place where God rules in coming near, but that God's royal authority is about to dawn, and is in fact dawning in Jesus' own ministry. Moreover, the Aramaic term we translate as "heaven," literally a plural form meaning "heavens," was often used as a circumlocution for God, much as my grandmother used to say "Good heavens!" rather than "Good God!"

So when Jesus said "the malkuta dishmaya has come near," he didn't mean that the kingdom of the "the place we go when we die" has come near, but rather that God's kingly authority was at hand. Jesus proclaimed the reign of God and demonstrated its presence through doing mighty deeds, such as healings and exorcisms.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that there isn't such a thing as a blessed afterlife or that Jesus has nothing to do with how we enter this afterlife. But I am saying that when we understand Jesus to be talking continually about what we call heaven when he speaks of "the kingdom of heaven," we are fundamentally missing his point. He's speaking, not so much about life after death, as about the experience of God's kingly power in this life and on this earth.

Jesus invited everyone willing to repent to come and to participate in this Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 8:11). Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian who lived and wrote at the time the New Testament was being written. He demonstrated the common view of women among Jewish men towards woman in that era. He wrote that a woman "is in every respect of less worth than a man" (Against Apion 2:201). Josephus is the author of "War of the Jews" and "Antiquities of the Jews." In contrast the Family of God, in the Malkutha of Jesus, there is no devaluation of women. As Jesus said, "For whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and my mother" (Mark 3:35).

Baptism


 

Jesus began his ministry by being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Jesus thought very highly of John the Baptist and saw him as a unique and powerful prophet of God (John 11:11). Mary of Magdala, upon following Jesus, was baptized into his ministry. Although, Jesus baptized more people that John, Jesus himself didn't do the baptizing, his disciples did (John 4:1-2). Perhaps Mary was baptized by John the Disciple seeing they had a close relationship. The Mandaeans are the last surviving Aramaic Disciples of Saint John the Baptist. After enduring persecution from the Jews in the Holy Land the Aramaic Baptists fled and eventually settled in the marshlands of southern Iraq, where they remain today. When I was in Iraq, a friend of mine returned from downtown Baghdad and told me that he saw a Christian church. I asked him to describe it to me. He told me that on the outside of the building there was a cross with a cloth hanging from it. No, I told him, that wasn't a church, that was the Baptismal Temple of the Aramaic Disciples of Saint John the Baptist. The Mandaeans are the last Gnostics and we will speak of Gnostics in more detail later. The Mandaean symbol for their religion is what they call the "Holy Banner." Their focus is on the cloth, and not on the cross it hangs. The Holy Banner looks very similar to that way crosses are displayed in many churches in the Easter season.

At the time of Jesus Jews often underwent baptisms. This was in order to fulfill Old Testament regulations about ritual purity. Many baptistery pools from the time of Christ have been excavated by archeologists. They look very similar to baptistery pools found in modern Baptist churches. The requirement was a total immersion. Even all the hairs on the head had to be totally submerged. Usually there was a witness to make sure it was a total immersion and to see that no hairs floated on the surface and so that it was insured that the person was to be totally submerged in the water. Jews actually still maintain the tradition of baptism and all converts to Judaism must be baptized. This is called Tevilah (baptism) in a Mikveh (Baptistery pool). In Iraq and Iran there are the followers of St. John the Baptist, called the Mandaeans. Every Sunday, their day set aside for worship, many Mandaeans undergo baptism. Mandaeans are continuously baptized throughout the year. These Mandaeans are an important Aramaic people. They maintain the ancient tradition of baptism by immersion. Among them, as it was with the ancient Christians and the Jews of Christ's time, baptism must be in 'living,' meaning flowing water. The Mandaeans are baptized by immersion in rivers or in their baptismal pools. Jesus began his ministry by being baptized by immersion by the prophet John the Baptist and then by being filled with the Holy Spirit. Christians undergo baptism in order to identify with Jesus as their master. There are also two important symbols in baptism. It symbolizes a washing away of sins. Baptism by immersion is also symbolic of death and resurrection (Colossians 2:12). This is a symbol of the death and resurrection of Christ but also of the convert's death to self and death to the life of sin without Christ. Being immersed is a symbol of being buried in death. Rising out of the water is a symbol of the New Birth and to the hope of a resurrection unto eternal life in the world to come. The word for the Baptist is Mammdana. This Aramaic word is related to the Aramaic word for pool "Maamoditha," and for washing or bathing "mashuta." The earliest concept of the Church was believers baptism by immersion. The original practice was self-immersion in the presence of a witness. According to Joachim Jeremias the precise ancient Aramaic word used was Tebal which he translated as "undergo immersion, to immerse oneself." In the inauguration of the Old Testament the nation of Israel was baptized (1Corintiahs 10:1, Exodus 19:10) and when we enter the New Testament we also must be baptized. It symbolizes consciously identifying with the Messiah in a visible ceremony. It represents washing away of the old life of sin. It also is symbolic of death and a rebirth and a testimony to the burial and resurrection of Jesus.

The Gospel of Phillip in regards to its explanation of baptism says in one place that God is a dyer. It says "God dips those to be dipped in water." Interestingly, although it is written in the Coptic language it often explains doctrines by looking at the Aramaic and Hebrew words behind the teachings of Jesus. The Gospel of Phillip examines the Gospel through the original languages, especially Aramaic, but also Syriac Aramaic. (Syriac is a form of Aramaic that is very close to the Aramaic that was spoken by Jesus of Nazareth. Today Assyrians speak Modern Aramaic but they use the ancient Syriac form in their Pesheeta Bible and also they use the ancient Aramaic in their religious services.) Dan Brown states incorrectly that The Gospel of Phillip is written in Aramaic. It is not. It is written in the Coptic language. The Coptic language is a form of the ancient Egyptian language that is written with Greek letters. Egyptians Christians still use the Coptic language in their religious services. The Gospel of Phillip does contain a few Aramaic words. The author uses them for word studies. However, the word that Dan Brown brings special attention to is the word "companion," where it says Mary of Magdala was she was the "companion of Jesus." Bart Ehrman who knows the original languages (unlike Dan Brown) shows Dan Browns error. In Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code Ehrman shows that Dan Brown, "claims that the Aramaic word for "companion" really meant "spouse," and uses this to show that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. But as we have seen, the text is not written in Aramaic but in Coptic, and the word 'companion' (it's a Greek loanword koinonos) in fact means not 'spouse' but 'companion,' 'friend,' or 'associate'" (see Ehrman page 178). The author of The Gospel of Phillip says, "Messiah has two meanings [in Syriac: Meshikha] "Christ' and measured. In Hebrew the name "Jesus" means "redemption" [In Hebrew Yoshua means "to save." In ancient Aramaic 'yisi' meant salvation. In Aramaic the name Jesus is Yeshua or Yeshu and means "salvation".] Nazara means "truth." [This is his interpretation of the word "Nazarene".] He also states "the eucharist is Jesus. In Syriac it is called pharisatha, which means that which is spread out." For Jesus came to crucify the world [as he was spread out] on the cross". Again about Baptism, The Gospel of Phillip says, "Anyone who goes down into the water and comes up without having received anything and says "I am a Christian," has borrowed the name. But the one who received the holy spirit has the name as a gift. A gift does not have to be returned, but that which is borrowed must be paid. That is how it is with us when one of us experiences a mystery". Baptism was clearly an immersion with water. This ancient mode of baptism is still being correctly carried out by Christian Baptists and the Mandaean Aramaic Baptists. The Gospel of Phillip contains truth mixed with error. Whoever wrote it was definitely not the Apostle Phillip.


 

Abba, Father


 

Jesus taught that God is the nurturing loving Father. He taught his disciples to call God as "Abba" in Aramaic. In Aramaic Abba means 'daddy'. This was a revolutionary new teaching that was unheard of in his day. God as Abba loves his children, and wants to bless them and give them the gift of his Holy Spirit. I have devoted an entire chapter of this book to this central doctrine of the teaching of Jesus. Dan Brown and others like him are trying to create a new Feminist neo-Pagan religion built around Mary of Magdala. Mary was a pupil of Jesus. She accepted his teaching of who God is. Two of the central doctrines of Jesus, "Abba, Father," and "Barnasha, the Son of Man," can be traced to the Aramaic as it was spoken by Jesus himself. This also relates to contemporary gender issues and each of these two subjects needs to be explored in-depth. The Gospel that Jesus taught is that repentant sinners, after a change of heart, are given the right to cry out to God as "Abba, Father," through the power of the Holy Spirit. God was revealed to be the loving Father by Jesus, the Son of Man. This is the Central Message of Jesus. (Joachim Jeremias is the author of a wonderful little book on this theme that is entitled The Central Message of the New Testament.)


 

Faith


 

Haimanutha is the Aramaic word for Biblical Faith. Joachim Jeremias focuses on the Aramaic meaning of the word 'faith,' which is hemin and hemanutha. Jesus says that if you have faith you can move mountains (Mark 11:23). This means making possible what seems impossible. According to Joachim Jeremais,


 

The Old Testament word for 'to believe' is he'emin. The basic meaning of the root 'mn is 'firm, constant, reliable". In the qal and sometimes in the niphal [conjunctions], 'mn denotes the carrying of a child in the folds of a garments or on the hips, because it is safe and sheltered there. The hiphil [conjunction] ('gain or keep confidence, trust') is used only sparingly in the Old Testament in a religious sense (25 times) but in very significant expressions. If we consider the passages which have had an influence on the New Testament (Gen 15:6, Isa. 28: 16, 53:1, Psalm 116:10), we discover that hemin describes not so much reliance on God in daily life as searching for God in a crisis, fighting down temptation. What is meant is a faith that trusts God against appearances. Thus even in the Old Testament, the decisive significance of the concept of faith emerges clearly, as it also remains normative for the New Testament. Faith is a trust which does not allow itself to be dissuaded.


 

So looking at the Aramaic and the precedent for the root word in Aramaic we see that Faith in Aramaic (Haymanutha) means a complete and stubborn trust in God and does not refer to predestination. When Jesus affected miraculous cures he reminded those that were healed that it was their faith that enabled the miracle to happen. Haimanutha is to have faith and to trust in the truth of the words and deeds of Jesus. In the teaching of Jesus the idea of faith is closer to taking a 'leap of faith' rather to an idea of fate or kismet as some 'Reformed' theologians contend. Faith also means a belief in Jesus as Lord and in his resurrection (John 6: 28-29; 17:3). When asked by the Philippian Jailer; "What must I do to be saved?" Paul answered; "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." (Acts 16: 31).


 

The Lord's Prayer as the Gospel of Jesus


 

Jesus taught his disciples, including Mary of Magdala, to pray a simple, and yet very deep and profound, prayer that we now call "the Lord's Prayer." In his book The Prayers of Jesus Joachim Jeremias also reconstructed the Lord's Prayer. His version is as follows:


 

Abba

Yithqaddash shmakh

Tethe malkuthakh

Lakhman d limbar

Habh lan yoma dhen

Ushbhoq lan hobbain

Kedish hhaqnan le hayyabhain

Wa la Thalinnan lenisyon


 

It should be noted that when Jesus prays, as he did in the garden of Gethsemane and as he teaches his disciples here to do, he addresses God as Father, Daddy in Aramaic. The Assyrians still pray the Lord's Prayer in a very ancient Aramaic form, much like Jesus originally uttered it. In God's New Covenant: A New Testament Translation by Christian Jew Heinz W. Cassirer the Prayer of Our Lord is translated in the following manner;


 

Father of ours, you who have your dwelling place in heaven:

May your will be accomplished on earth as it is accomplished in heaven.

Provide us this day with the bread that is needful to us.

Remit us the debts we have incurred against you

as we have done to those who owed us a debt.

And do not bring us to the point of being put to the final test.

On the contrary, come and rescue us from the evil one.


 

In has been confirmed by scholars that Jesus composed his famous prayer in Aramaic and not in Hebrew, Greek or Latin. To understand the Lord's Prayer properly we must study it in Aramaic. Very few people have attempted to understand the Lord's Prayer by studying it in the original Aramaic. The best work available in which this is done is by Joachim Jeremias and is entitled The Prayers of Jesus. How do we know that the Lord's Prayer was composed in Aramaic and not in Hebrew or Greek? Sebastian Brock notes, "A further important pointer to Aramaic is provided by the two different versions of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:9-15 and Luke 11:2-4: while Matthew has 'and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors' (verse 12), Luke has 'and forgive us our sins and we forgive everyone who is indebted to us' (verse 4). In Aramaic, but not in Hebrew of this period, the words for 'debt', 'debtor', are frequently used in the sense of 'sin', 'sinner'; in Matthew we have a literal translation of the underlying Aramaic words, while in Luke, in the first half of the verse, there is a more idiomatic rendering." There are three indications that the "Our Father" was composed in Aramaic. First is the use of the Aramaic "Abba" in the opening. The second indication is the similarity between the Lord's Prayer and the ancient Aramaic prayer of the Jews that was called the Kaddish. At the time of Jesus, the Kaddish was used to conclude worship services at the synagogue. The Kaddish is an important Aramaic prayer that the Jews still use. Jewish people now recite the Kaddish in times of mourning. The Kaddish begins with "Magnified and sanctified be His great Name in the world which he created according to his will. May he establish His kingdom during your life and during your days, and during the life of all the house of Israel." Notice how, like the Lord's Prayer, this prayer, sanctifies the name of the Lord then prays that his will be done and the Kingdom come." The last indication that the Lord's Prayer was originally in Aramaic is the use of the word for "debt" in its Aramaic context was noted above. Jesus was all about forgiveness. Jesus forgave sins during his public ministry. Jesus also commanded his followers to forgive others who have sinned against them. This is hard to do when we have been wrong. Jesus tells us that in order for us to receive God's forgiveness for all of our sins, we must forgive those who have sinned against us. Jesus taught that, "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matthew 6:14-15). As a demoniac, Magdalene probably was subjected to cruelty. She was most likely mocked, beaten and banished from the community. She forgave those who mistreated her. In America to day we have to deal with the Cult of Victimization. In the Cult of Victimization or the Culture of Complaint individuals find their very identity in a wrong committed against them or the group to which they belong and the individuals seek redress and celebrate the belief that they were wronged. This is totally contrary to the teachings of Jesus who taught his disciples to forgive. Dan Brown, and others like him, makes attempts to find some offense from the past, and if they can't find one they make one up. As "victims" they dwell on supposed crimes of the past festering in bitterness and un-forgiveness. I knew an African American man who was consumed by bitterness from some incident that occurred decades ago in which he was a victim of racism. He couldn't move past it. It consumed him. It is wrong to encourage these unhealthy emotions. Jesus came to liberate people held captive by such spiritual bondage. Black men and women have indeed been victimized for centuries. However, in this cult of victimization, Dan Brown has invented "facts" that are totally untrue. An example is the statement that millions of women were sentenced to death as witches in the Middle Ages. Dan Brown says that 5,000,000 women were put to death as witches in Medieval times. Historians have determined that between 1500-1800, the most intense period of witch-hunting in Europe, at most 40,000 people were executed for witchcraft. Many of the women were accused by other women and many men, such as the infamous Johannes Faust, were also tried for practicing sorcery. Dan Brown's figure has absolutely no basis in fact.


 

The Doctrine of Jesus


 

The Sermon on the Mount found in The Gospel According to Saint Matthew Chapters five through seven contains the core of Jesus' teachings. Christians should read and meditate on the teachings of Jesus and apply these teachings to how they live their lives. Mary of Magdala sat at his feet and learned from and committed to memory the teachings of Jesus, such as those found in the beatitudes. Here are some of these beatitudes in English and then followed by the original Aramaic, as Magdalene would have originally heard them.


 

Blesses are the meek,

For they shall inherit the earth.


 

Tuwaihon Lmakekhe

D'hinnon Nertoon Ar'a


 

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst

After righteousness,

For they shall be filled.


 

Tuweihon lailen D'khapneen

Washein Lkenootha

Dhinnon Nisboon


 

Blessed are the merciful,

For they shall obtain mercy.


 

Tuweihon Lamrahmane

Daleihon Nihwon Rahme


 


 

Tuwahoon, the Aramaic word translated as "Blessed" also means "Happy" or "Good". Many people are searching for happiness. Some people try to find it in money, houses and cars. Others try to find happiness and security in relationships and try to gain men's esteem. Many men and women try to find happiness and love and acceptance in sex or other venues of 'fun'. Others turn to drugs to gain fleeting pleasures and enjoyment out of life. This philosophy of hedonism which our world currently ascribes to is destructive not only to individuals but to society as a whole and it is even harming future generations. Where does one find a lasting happiness? There is more to life than the self and part of the reason for so much un-happiness is that many people are unaware of a higher purpose for life. And so we have despair, such terrible despair that many turn to self-destruction, in self-destructive life-styles and suicide. (As the Rolling Stones sang, "I can't get no satisfaction.") God is a good God and there is a better way. Besides this, don't we all want to be happy? All of us should want a blessing from God. When we love others, such as our children, we want them to be blessed of God too.

Jesus is the road to happiness. In his life and person he exemplified to us what happiness is and in his instruction he told us how to achieve that happiness. The Patriarch Jacob serves as an example for us. He wrestled with God and would not let go until God blessed him. He received that blessing as God desired. We to need to wrestle to achieve a blessing from God, we need to wrestle against our sinful desires in our flesh, to wrestle to understand the words of Jesus and to wrestle in prayer until the light of God shines all around us.

What are the significance of the saying of Jesus called the beatitudes? How do we understand them? First we need to put them in their proper Jewish context. Also, we need to think about them in an eschatological manner. Jesus taught that there will be a Judgment Day in which the Lord rights all wrongs. This is a theme of the beatitudes.

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls there was found a scroll that is called the Beatitude Scroll. It is written in the Hebrew language. The Beatitudes Scroll is Dead Sea Scroll number 4Q525. It reads, "[Blessed is he]…with a pure heart and does not slander with his tongue. Blessed are those who hold to her [Wisdom's] precepts and no not hold to the works of iniquity. Blessed are those who rejoice in her, and do not burst forth in ways of folly. Blessed are those who seek her with pure hands, and do not pursue her with a treacherous heart. Blessed is the man who has attained Wisdom, and walks in the Law of the Most High…" [Note that while God is presented as masculine in the Bible, God's attribute of Wisdom is feminine.] Both this Dead Sea Scroll and the teachings of Jesus on blessedness have a precedent in the Old Testament. Psalm 1:1 reads, "Blessed is the man who walks no in the counsel of the ungodly…but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night…" Several other Psalms and a few proverbs pronounce the Blessedness but not in the structure used by Jesus or the Dead Sea Beatitude Scroll.

Blessed in Hebrew is Ashira and in Aramaic it is Tuwehon. Another word for "Blessed" or "Fortunate" in Aramaic is Barikha. In the Hebrew tradition not only does God bless his people, people bless the Lord their God. Tuwahon could be translated "Happy are those", "Blessed are they", "Fortunate are they", "Favored are those who…" or "Praiseworthy are the…", or "O the Bliss of those..." and even "Congratulations!" Tuwa in Aramaic (the cognate of the Hebrew tov) means "happy" or "blessed".

According to The Complete Gospels, "The beatitudes takes their name from the Latin term beati, used to translate the Greek word, makarios. The corresponding Hebrew word is ashre…The language of the beatitudes is performative; performative language means that the words accomplish what they say. When the minister says, "I now pronounce you husband and wife," that declaration makes it so. When the judge says, "I sentence you to six months in jail," that statement is the fact. Analogously, when Jesus says, "I declare you poor to be in God's special favor," that is a performative statement. In English we can achieve that sense by translation, "Congratulations, you poor! God's domain belongs to you."

The Beatitudes, and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, is a concise statement of the philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth. Dan Brown discusses the Book of Q. Q is from the German word "Quell," meaning "source." It is a theoretical document. The Q theory has been explained by the Aramaic expert Maurice Casey. According to Casey, the Q sayings were saying of Jesus that were passed down orally in Aramaic. Finally, they were written down in Aramaic. Soon afterwards this Aramaic collection of teachings of Jesus was translated into Greek. Then this collection of the saying of Jesus was used by Matthew and by Luke when they wrote their gospels. So, Q was incorporated into these two Gospels. Thus what are called the Q sayings are actually a selection of the teachings of Jesus that are found in the New Testament, in both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke.

Basic Christian doctrine is also laid out in Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life and Jamie Buckingham's Power for Living. Two books that introduce basic Christian doctrine from the ancient Aramaic Christian tradition include "The Doctrine of Addai," which contains the teaching of Saint Thaddeus, and "The Pearl" by Mar O'dishoo of Suwa.


 


 


 

The City of Magdala


 

According to the Gospel account Jesus traveled through and ministered in the city of Magdala. In the Talmud Magdala is presented as a prosperous city of exceeding wickedness which was destroyed by God through the agency of the Romans. In Matthew 15:39 it is stated that Jesus came to the region of Magdala. Magdala is also associated with the name Dalmanutha as in Mark 8:10. What do we know about the city of Magdala? In Aramaic it is Magdala-Nunnaya, Fish Tower. In Greek it is called Tarichae, place of salted fish. It was a prosperous city.

Magdala was an important agricultural, fishing, boat-building and trade center at the junction of the road coming north from Tiberias and the Via Maris coming from lower Galilee into the fertile plain of Gennesaret. It is between Tiberias and Capernaum. The city of Magdala is one the coast of the Sea of Galilee near the towering base of Mount Arbel. The town was a center for processing fish, which was sold in the markets of Jerusalem and exported as far as Rome. The boy who gave his food to Jesus in the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 had fishes that must have been either preserved by being salted or smoked (John 6:8-9). It is possible that these fish were processed at Magdala. Magdala was also renowned as a center for flax weaving and dyeing, and the robes worn by Jesus at the time of his crucifixion are said to have been made there. (In contrast with Magdala, Nazareth was a very small place, about 60 acres with a maximum population of less than five hundred at the time of Christ. Jesus was born into a poor family and never had wealth. While Jesus was from a rural area, Mary of Magdala was from a city.)

During the Jewish War that ended in 70 AD Magdala was defeated by the Romans. Josephus recounts that the Romans under Titus conquered the city with much blood shed. Since Magdala was a center of boat building, many of the remaining residents fled to the sea in their vessels a great sea battle erupted with a total of 6500 Jews slaughtered in the sea and on land. The Sea of Galilee turned red with blood and was filled up with dead bodies. Titus's father Vespasian declared that the whole city and its inhabitants should not be spared. Even the old and infirm were slaughtered. Those that survived where sold as slaves. According to Jewish tradition Magdala was justly destroyed by the Romans because of the moral depravity of its inhabitants.

An important mosaic dated to the first century was discovered in Magdala. It depicted the type of boat that Jesus, Peter and the other disciples would have used on the Sea of Galilee. In 1986 there was a drought in Israel and the shore of the Sea of Galilee at the town of Magdala receded and a boat from the time of Christ was revealed. It is the exact same type of boat that was used by the apostles. It was discovered at Magdala and was preserved and is now on display in a museum. It is called the Jesus Boat or the Galilee Boat.

After the destruction of the Temple, Magdala Nunayya became the seat of one of the twenty-four priestly divisions and several doctors of the law were from Magdala. Magdala is at the base of Mount Arbel which is mentioned in Hosea 10:13-14. Magdala is called Migdal in Hebrew. It is also may mentioned in Joshua 19:38 in the Old Testament where it is Migdel-El, the Tower of God.

Jane Schaberg includes much valuable information in her The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene: Legends, Apocrypha and the Christian Testament:


 

[Discovered at Magdala were]…a synagogue of the early Galilean basilica type…a tower, an aqueduct, a large paved court enclosed by colonnades…an urban villa…Josephus says the city was surrounded by a great wall…and mentions there were two grain markets, a large aqueduct system, a theatre and a hippodrome, the latter holding 100,000 men [a hippodrome is a place where horse races and gladiatorial combat were held]…reports also list from the digs at Magdala one needle for repairing nets, lead weights for nets… pottery…Many coins were found…In 1991 when the waters of the Sea were low after a severe drought, a tower appeared about 150 feet from the shore of Magdala…this was… a lighthouse for the fisherman working at night on the Sea…Rabbinic literature mentions a synagogue and a famous beth midash (study house), famous scribe (Niqai) and rabbis (Isaac, Judah) at Magdala. The priestly order of Ezekiel is said to have had its seat there. The Talmud mentions that the town had a small harbor…Strabo reported that "In Taricheae [Magdala] the sea provides the finest fish for pickling and on its banks grow fruit trees which resemble apple trees." The town had a reputation for opulence and immorality. According to the Talmud "Magdala was destroyed because of prostitution (znut)"…So strong is the Magdalene's legend that some have suggested that "Mary the Magdalene" might be the equivalent of "Mary the Harlot," since "by the Jews the word Magdala was used to denote a person with plaited or twisted hair, a practice then much in use among women of loose character." Since the Aramaic word for hairdresser is megaddlele, some sort of pun may have linked the city and the profession, but I have found no description of prostitutes wearing their hair plaited, or working as beauticians, though that occupation may have been regarded as disreputable…As a site of military history, Magdala and the are around it ran with blood. [The city figured prominently in the revolt of Judas Maccabee and the Jewish War.]


 

Bruce Chilton notes that Magdala may have been considered a place of impurity due to its proximity to Tiberius. In 19 A.D. King Herod Antipas began building the city of Tiberias, which was names after Tiberius, the ruling emperor. The city of Tiberias was built on the outskirts of Magdala. Temples to the Roman gods were built in this new city. Certain devout Jews believed that Tiberias was a city of impurity and idolatry that rendered the towns near it unclean.


 


 


 


 

The Biblical Account of Mary Magdalene


 

Only twelve verses of scripture in the New Testament specifically refer to Mary of Magdala. Since these passages are the earliest and most historically reliable we have of Mary Magdalene we will explore them here.


 

Matthew 15:39

And He sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came to the coasts of Magdala.


 

Jesus visited Magdala, and an area near it called Dalmanutha, after he fed multitude of four thousand with seven loaves of bread and a few fishes (Mark 8:10). This is most likely when Jesus and Mary of Magdala met. Mary was in a bad state when she met Jesus. She was demonized and living a life displeasing to God. Jesus preformed the exorcism of Mary Magdalene and then she joined his company as one of his students. Films, such as Franco Zefferini's Jesus of Nazareth and Phillip Saville's The Gospel of John accurately depict Mary beginning her walk of faith with Jesus the Christ after the miraculous feeding of the multitudes.


 

Matthew 27:55-56

And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's children.


 

Here, as in all passages of scripture listing the holy women save one, Mary of Magdala is mentioned first.


 

Matthew 27: 60-61

And when Joseph [of Arimathea] had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. And laid it in is own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and a he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed. And there was Mary Magdalene sitting over against the sepulcher.


 

Jesus was placed in a cave tomb that was carved out of rock. A large round, flat stone was rolled over the entrance to close it. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, a prominent Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling counsel of the Jews, entombed Jesus. They placed a mixture of myrrh and aloes with his body in the tomb. This verse specifically mentions that Mary sat and watched the burial of Jesus.


 


 

Matthew28:1

In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.


 

The scriptures strongly imply that Jesus rose from the dead very early on Sunday morning. As an observant Jew, Mary of Magdala had to wait until the Sabbath had past in order to properly embalm the body of Jesus.


 

Mark 15:40

There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the less and Joses, and Salome: (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women who came up with him unto Jerusalem.


 

As Magdala is along the coast of the Sea of Galilee, Mary Magdalene, like Jesus, was a Galilean. She accompanied him wherever he went including going to Jerusalem with him. Actually, what we call the "Sea" of Galilee is in reality a lake and is also called Lake Genesserat.


 

Mark 15:47

And Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses, beheld where he was laid.


 

Since the Sabbath was fast approaching the women were unable to properly pay their last respects to Jesus. However, they noted where he was.


 

Mark 16:1

And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.


 

The women went and purchased spices and prepared them for the anointing and then waited for the Sabbath to pass.


 

Luke 8:1-2

And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil sprits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.


 

Many women in the Gospels are identified by their relationship to a man. Sometimes the men that their names are connected to are their husband's but sometimes it is their son's. Mary is not identified with a man rather she is uniquely identified with the place she came from, Magdala. Mary of Magdala may never have been married. (There is a possibility that she may have been engaged or married later, as will be discussed later.) Perhaps she was a single independently wealthy woman. But it is possible that she may have been divorced or was a widow. While she leads the female disciples there is nothing to indicate that she had a physical relationship with Jesus or was intimately involved with him. To imply such a thing to a woman of virtue like Mary Magdalene is to insult her memory. She may have had a shameful past but the virtue of Jesus purified and transformed her. Women were part of Christ's close circle of friends and companions. The Greek verb diakoneo, meaning to minister or serve and from which the English word "deacon" is derived, is used to describe what these women did in addition to following Jesus. To suggest that Jesus had a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene or any of his other female disciples is blasphemous.


 

Luke 24:10


 

It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles, And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.


 

Initially, not only Thomas, but all of the apostles doubted (Matthew 28:17, Luke 24:41, John 20:24-29). Later, Jesus showed himself alive with many indisputable proofs (Acts 1:3).


 

John 19:25

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.


 

This is the only list of the women where Mary is listed last rather than first. However, Mary the Mother of Our Lord is mentioned here, and she obviously takes the place of honor.


 

John 20:1-18

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, while it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. Then she runneth and cometh unto Simon Peter, and to the other disciples, who Jesus, loved, and saith unto them, They have taken the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came unto the sepulcher.

So they ran both together; and the other disciple did outrun Peter and came first to the sepulcher. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying: yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him. And went into the sepulcher, and seeth the linen clothes lie. And the napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher. And seeth two angels in white standing, the one at the head , and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they said unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them. Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, said unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast lain him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and said unto him, Rabboni: which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her. Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.


 

Certain people who are involved in Magdalene studies have postulated that Mary of Magdala was the author of the Fourth Gospel, which we call the Gospel of John. But here in this passage Mary Magdalene is distinguished from the "Beloved Disciple," who is the author of this Gospel. On the other hand, this resurrection sequence is Mary Magdalene's account and obviously it came directly from her. Certain traditions about the Magdalene connect her with Ephesus, where John, the author of the Fourth Gospel, ministered. An author of one of the Gospel's is sometimes called an "Evangelist." According to an old tradition recounted in The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, Mary of Magdala was engaged to John the Evangelist. Note how in the above sequence from the Gospel of John, Mary, like Thomas, assumes that Jesus is dead and does not believe in the resurrection until she experiences the risen Jesus. The New King James Version more accurately translates the statement of Jesus as "Do not cling to me," rather than "Touch me not." (The King James Version is a good translation from the Greek but it is only a translation. What the original Greek says is authoritative and sometimes translations need to be revised, especially after important archeological discoveries of ancient manuscripts which have expanded our knowledge of the original languages of the Bible. The Bible is written in three language; Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.) Why did Jesus say this to Mary? Some people have assumed that since Jesus is the Great High Priest, he had to stay ritually pure as he was going to appear before the Father as a priest. (The doctrine of Jesus as the Great High Priest is explored in the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament.) In this understanding, being touched by Mary would have, at this point, rendered him unclean. Hence, he forbad her to touch him. In this interpretation he would allow himself to be touched only after he had preformed certain priestly duties before the Father. The New Testament contains many stories of how the disciples touched and felt the resurrected Jesus. The Bible is very clear that the Risen Jesus was not an apparition but could be fully experienced as a real human being by all the senses and by everyone present. However, this interpretation of the risen Jesus forbidding Mary to touch him is not faithful to this text and other Scriptures. Jesus is so pure and holy, that, during his ministry, he would touch lepers and the ritually unclean and thereby render them clean (Matthew 8:3-4). (The Jews had many regulations about being ritually clean and unclean. There were also elaborate rituals required for purifying oneself from a state of ritual impurity. These usually involved baptismal ceremonies. Unless they were totally healed and were pronounced so by a priest, those with what were called leprosy, as well as other skin diseases, could never become ritually clean. Thus they were shunned by the Jewish community. It seems unloving but the motive was to limit the spread of infectious diseases.) Rather than rendering Jesus unclean, his touching the unclean purified and cleansed the unclean and gave them virtue and healing. Jesus is the Holy One of God. There is nothing unclean about Jesus, except when he on the cross, took upon himself the sins of the world. On the cross the Just suffered for the unjust and the beloved only Son of God became accursed in identifying himself with the sins of Mankind. This was the Atonement and how Jesus redeemed wicked mankind. If Jesus during the ministry could dispense virtue and power by touching others and by being touched, then how much more so would he have done so as the resurrected and glorified Jesus? Mary recognized Jesus when he spoke her name to her. Out of joy she grabbed hold of him. Perhaps she gave him a tight hug but maybe she was clinging to his clothing or his feet. Jesus said, "Do not cling to me" because Mary was clinging to him and it was time for them both to go and do an important work. Mary had to release him because he gave her a commission to be the Apostle to the Apostles and be the first human being to proclaim the Glorious Gospel of Our Lord and Savior Jesus the Messiah and his resurrection. He did go and appear before the Heavenly Father in glory and perform priestly duties. Mary wasn't unclean and the idea that she was unclean because she was a woman and would render Jesus unclean by her touch is not true and reflects the type of attitude that Jesus worked to change in his ministry.

Marvin Meyer in The Gospels of Mary states that "the scene in the Gospel of John seems to express such intimacy that it may recall the description of a woman seeking her lover in Song of Songs 3:1-5." I have to disagree. In the Song of Solomon the Shulamite woman is looking for her beloved but in John's Gospel, in a heartbreaking scene, Mary of Magdala is looking for the corpse of her dead rabbi. The differences here are very profound.


 

Mark 16:9

Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.


 

This passage is from what is called "the longer ending of Mark." It is not found in certain old manuscripts of the New Testament. This is an ancient account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and has been canonized as Scripture. This reading affirms that Mary of Magdala was the first witness of the risen Jesus.


 

Romans 16:6

Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.


 

The church at Rome had a strong Hebrew Christian presence and character. Paul addresses himself to the Jewish Christian community at Rome in this epistle. Paul greeted many people in Rome of Jewish descent and from the Holy Land in this epistle. This Mary mentioned here is most likely Mary of Magdala, but we cannot be for certain. However, in the following verse a woman, Junia the Apostle, is also greeted by Paul. He says that she is "of note among the apostles," perhaps meaning that she is a noteworthy apostle of Jesus. Paul's name was Saul Paulus of Tarsus. His given Hebrew name was Saul, but his Roman name was Paul. Junia is believed to be the Roman form of the Aramaic name Joanna. Richard Bauchham in Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels argues that the Junia mentioned by Paul here is the same Joanna who was the disciple of Jesus and associate of Mary Magdalene. Christian tradition states that Mary of Magdala traveled to Rome as a missionary preaching the Gospel. Perhaps this verse supports the truth of this story and maybe we see here Mary of Magdala (mentioned first as usual) and Joanna continuing in their gospel ministry together.


 

Acts 1:14

These all continued in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brethren.


 

We see here that after the departure of Jesus and while the apostles were building up the church founded by Jesus that the important and unique role of the holy women, led by Mary of Magdala, continued.


 

These are all the verses that specifically mention Mary Magdalene. However, we know that she was present during the days the Resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples before his Ascension into heaven (1 Corinthians 15:6). She traveled back to Galilee with the apostles when the risen Jesus appeared to them there (Matthew 28:7&16). She was also there when Jesus ascended to the Father (Acts 1:9).


 

The Christian Church began on the Jewish Festival of Shavuot, called "Pentecost" in Greek. Pentecost means "fifty" and it was fifty days after the Passover. It was an agricultural ingathering festival, in which the first of the crops were given as an offering to the Lord. According to tradition, this holiday was to remember the giving of the Ten Commandments by Moses on Mount Horeb. On this feast day the Holy Spirit came in a mighty way. Those that remained faithful to Jesus along with Mary of Magdala numbered only one hundred and twenty (Acts 1:15). All of this one hundred and twenty were together to celebrate Shavuot.

Documents of the Gnostic religion that were written hundreds of years after the time of Jesus depict Peter trying to silence Mary Magdalene and depict friction, animosity and conflict between them. The Biblical account contradicts this statement. In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, Mary Magdalene prophesizes and Peter, rather than attempting to silence her, defends her doing so. Women in Jewish culture during the time of Jesus were expected to keep silence and behave in a respectful manner. For a woman to speak, teach or preach to men would be very controversial and indeed offensive to many. Peter defends Mary speaking words of prophecy and defends her actions by appealing to Old Testament scriptures. Look carefully at this passage. The Book of Acts specifically mentions the women being present with the 120 and then it states that on the day of Pentecost they, including Mary Magdalene, were all gathered together. Then it specifically states that they all, including the Magdalene, were filled with the Holy Spirit, and that they all spoke divine utterances. At this point Peter mentions that it was foretold that woman should prophesy. Let us examine the words of Scripture from Acts Chapter Two.


 

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?...Others mocking said, These men are filled with new wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words, For these men are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.


 

Here Peter quotes from the Old Testament book of Joel 2:28-32. Here Peter defends the actions of Mary of Magdala in her giving an ecstatic utterance. This prophecy of Joel states, "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour my spirit on all flesh: your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on My menservants and My maidservants I will pour My Spirit in those days. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. And it shall some to pass that whoever call on the name of the LORD shall be saved" (Joel 2:28-32 NKJV). Peter continues and preaches the message of the Resurrected Jesus, the message that was first proclaimed by Mary of Magdala, the Apostle to the Apostles, and the scriptures which spoke of the Resurrection which before the revelation they could not understand (John 20:9). Peter stated,


 

Ye men of Israel, hear these words, Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning him, "I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known tome the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance" [Psalm 16:8-11]. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, "The Lord said unto my lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool" [Psalm 110:1] Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ…Then Peter said unto them, "Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call!"


 

Far from being in conflict with the Magdalene, the New Testament shows Peter affirming her message of the Resurrection and defending her as a prophetess of the Lord by appealing to Old Testament scriptures. This passage tactfully and indirectly deals with Mary of Magdala and other women prophesying on the day of Pentecost. It is clear from the text that Magdalene and the women spoke words of prophecy and not only did Peter not try to silence the Magdalene, he publicly defended and encouraged her. According to Papias, who was a second generation, Mark wrote his gospel at Peter's dictation. This seems very likely since there are so many Aramaic words and figures of speech in the Gospel of Mark. Peter probably spoke to Mark in Aramaic and so Mark left many words in the original Aramaic as he wrote at Peter's dictation. Papias knew some of the last surviving apostles of Jesus and he also questioned those who had known other apostles and remembered them. The Bible does associate Peter with Mark in 1 Peter 5:13. Sadly, we have only fragments of Papias's writings. His description of the origins of the Gospel of Mark and Matthew probably reflect historical facts. (Papias says that Matthew's Gospel was written in Hebrew, by which he means Aramaic, and was then translated into Greek.) In Peter's version of the Gospel as he told it to Mark, he admitted that while he denied and abandoned Jesus, the Magdalene had stayed with him until the end, that she was there when he buried him, and was the first witness of the resurrection. In the most ancient and reliable historical accounts Peter respected and honored the Magdalene. If Papias is correct, and Mark's Gospel came from Peter, then we have material that came directly from Peter that shows he held her in high regard.


 


 

Legendary Accounts of Mary Magdalene


 

Tradition relates that after traveling to Italy Mary of Magdala visited the Emperor Tiberius and preached to him about Christ's Resurrection. According to tradition, she took him an egg as a symbol of the Resurrection, a symbol of the New Life, with these words, "Christ is Risen!" Then she told Tiberias that, in his Province of Judea, Jesus the Nazarene, a holy man, a worker of miracles, powerful before God and man, was executed at the instigation of the Jewish high priests and sentenced by the procurator Pontius Pilate and yet he had risen from the dead. Tiberias scoffed that no one could rise from the dead, any more than the egg she held could turn red. Miraculously, the egg immediately turned red as a testimony to her words, Then, at her urging, Tiberius had Pilate removed from Jerusalem to Gaul, where he later suffered a horrible sickness and an agonizing death. According to early church tradition she then went to Ephesus and became the wife of St. John and may have with him composed the fourth gospel. In the medieval period her remains were relocated from Ephesus to Constantinople.

Pope Gregory the Great (540-604) created the confusion of Mary of Bethany, Mary of Magdala and the Sinful Woman as one person. He gave this misunderstanding official sanction as the teaching of the church. In the early church fathers Mary Magdalene and the Sinful woman are seen as the same person. Tertullian (160-225) used the touch of the Sinful Woman to argue against the false Gnostic teaching that Jesus was only a spirit and did not have flesh and blood. Tertullian says Magdalene approached Jesus to touch him out of love and not out of curiosity nor out of the incredulity of Thomas. Hippolyptus (170-235) depicts Magdalene seeking Christ in the garden as the woman seeking her beloved in the Song of Solomon. He says that the sin of the first Eve has been compensated by the obedience of Magdalene and the faithful women. She is depicted as the second Eve ("Eve has become and apostle.") and is an apostle to the apostles. Only Tertullian, Irenaeus, Hippolytus and Origen among the early church fathers refer to Mary Magdalene. Gregory of Nyssa (330-395) also calls Magdalene Eve.

    In Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ," Mary of Magdala is shown to be the woman caught in the very act of adultery. This story is found in John 7:53-8:11 but it is not found in the most ancient manuscripts. In certain other older manuscripts it is found in different places such as after John 7:36 or after John 21:25, thus making it attached as an addendum to the end of the Gospel of John. Some manuscripts even place it in the Gospel of Luke, where it is found after Luke 21:38. I have heard some Christian conservatives argue that it is an apocryphal story and doesn't belong in the Bible at all. It is problematic in this wicked and adulterous age. People proudly live in blatant sin and angrily quote the only verse in the Bible they know at any attempt at moral guidance, "Judge Not!" (Matthew 7:1). Jesus clarified his teaching in John 7:24, "Judge not according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." The story of the woman caught in adultery is as follows;


 

Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, he said unto her, Woman where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.


 

This story does belong in the Bible. Jesus does not condone her sin. He gently rebukes her. Jesus shows us here that we need to be loving and forgiving, and look inward at our own faults before we try to find error in others (see also Matthew 7:3-5). This story is consistent with the nature of the teachings and character of Jesus as he is depicted in the Holy Gospels.

There is a late legend that is rather unreliable that states that Mary traveled to and evangelized France. This legend confused Mary of Magdala with Mary of Bethany and says that Mary Magdalene was the sister of Lazarus. The New Testament clearly states that Mary was from Galilee. In Luke it says women from Galilee (including Mary of Magdala) supported Jesus and John's Gospel has Mary of Bethany a resident of that city in Judea in the story of the resurrection of Lazarus and the story of the anointing of Christ's feet. Further complications and confusion arose from the story of Saint Mary the Egyptian. She is also known as Saint Mary the Hermit. She was a Christian ascetic that went about the deserts in the Holy Land totally naked and covered only with her hair. She died around 500 A.D. Mary the Egyptian had been a harlot who repented and dedicated the rest of her life to prayer, fasting and contemplation. Eventually, she was also confused with Mary Magdalene. Now there are depictions in art that are titled Mary Magdalene which feature her naked or covered only by her hair. In these works of art we have stories of Mary the Egyptian confused with Mary the Magdalene.

These is a legend that Mary aroused public indignation by divorcing her husband, Pappus Ben Judah to marry Pantheus, an officer of Herod Antipus's entourage, but this is probably incorrect.


 

Mary Magdalene: Tower of the Flock


 

    Jesus often gave his followers Aramaic nick-names. These names include Cephas, meaning "Stone", the Aramaic equivalent for the Greek "Peter", Thomas, meaning the "Twin," James and John were called Boanerges, which is Aramaic for "Sons of Thunder," and Barnabas, meaning "Son of Encouragement." There are many other Aramaic names found in the New Testament. Migdal is Hebrew for "tower." Magdala is the Aramaic cognate. Cognates are certain words in different languages derived from the same root. Hebrew and Aramaic are very similar. They share a large vocabulary and have many words that are similar in sound and meaning. According to a teaching of the so-called "Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints," also known as the Mormon religion, there is a prophecy of Mary of Magdala in the Old Testament. This Mormon interpretation is presented in the following manner by David Bruce Clark:


 

Magdalene' was not Mary's last name – it was her title, signifying the role she played in the early Christian assembly. It is a conjunction of two Hebrew words – magdala and eder. 'Magdala' is the feminine form of the word for 'tower', and 'eder' is the Hebrew word for 'flock'. The name that we know as Magdalene means, literally, 'the [feminine] tower of the flock'. The Old Testament prophet Micah wrote of the Magdalene. "To you, Tower of the Flock [magdala eder], the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you the former dominion will be restored, the kingdom will return to you." [Micah 4:8]


 

It is my view that Mormons are outside of traditional Christian orthodoxy. Certain Mormons teach that Jesus was a polygamist and that he was married to both Mary and Martha. Some Mormons also teach that in heaven there is God the Father and his wife, Eloah. They also teach that the wedding of Cana in Galilee, when Jesus changed the water into wine, was the marriage of Jesus to Mary of Bethany, whom they identify incorrectly as Mary of Magdala. (The story of the marriage of Cana is found in John chapter two.) Mary's name may be Mary the Tower, but it must have meant Mary of the city of Magdala. I am opened to the possibility that this may indeed be a prophecy of Mary of Magdala, but the context is speaking of the nation of Israel as the "Tower of the Flock." Jesus remained unmarried. His mission was to live for others and to redeem mankind and not to sire a family.


 

Aramaic Oral Traditions about Mary Magdalene: Mary of Magdala in Babylonia


 

    In southern Iraq and in Iran there is a group of Aramaic people called the Mandaeans. They are also called Sabaeans and are mentioned in the Koran. They are an Aramaic Baptist sect and venerate John the Baptist. They are not Christians, but they have vestiges of an ancient form of Jewish Christianity in their beliefs, practice and their writings. Their theology is Gnostic. Vestiges of their Christianity can be seen in that they worship on Sunday, as early Christians did (1 Corinthians 16:1). According to the earliest historical sources, while Christian Jews did observe the Sabbath day, even the most radical sects of Jewish Christians met together for worship services on Sundays. The Mandaeans also venerate a cross-like object. They call their priests the Nazoreans. In ancient times Christian Jews were called the Nazoreans. Also, they practice baptism by immersion and the laying on of hands (see Hebrews 6:2 and 2 Timothy 1:6). They also venerate Adam, Abel, Seth, Noah, Shem, John the Baptist, Mary and Elizabeth, James the Just, who was the brother of Jesus, and someone named Benjamin. This Benjamin was probably also of the family of Jesus. According to Eusebius, one of the earliest Jewish bishops of Jerusalem was named Benjamin. Often, among the Mandaeans, Jesus is viewed as a false prophet. This isn't universally true, but now it is the official treating. Mandaeans currently have a good relationship with Christians and with the Roman Catholic Church. In 1990 a delegation of Mandaean priests was received by the Vatican, with whom they currently enjoy cordial relations. There are currently around 50,000 Mandaeans. (There are perhaps over a million Aramaic Christians.) While there are many unorthodox beliefs that are held by the Mandaeans, they also observe fossilized customs that originated from the earliest Christian Jews. The Mandaeans teach that due to persecution by the Jews of their forefathers, they were forced to migrate from the Holy Land and to re-settle in the region of Babylon. This seems to have happened in the first century near the time the Temple was destroyed (70 A.D.).

    It is possible that the Mandaean Book of Saint John the Baptist contains oral traditions of Mary of Magdala that was later written down and included in this book which is written in the Aramaic language. The Mandaeans didn't write many of their sacred scriptures until after the rise of Islam. In the Talmud, the Rabbis often confused Mary the Mother of Jesus with Mary of Magdala. So in the Talmud, both Marys were merged and were incorrectly thought of as being the same person. The same thing seems to have happened in the Mandaean tradition. The Mandaean veneration of either Mary, and of James the Just, shows that they were believers in Jesus at one time in their remote past. (Probably what happened was that groups of the followers of John the Baptist migrated to Iraq. There they mingled with other groups, including Gnostics. Followers of John the Baptist recognized Jesus as John had. When Christianity became dominant, the elders of the Baptists wanted to maintain their traditions and felt threatened by the emerging church and didn't want to be absorbed into it. They wanted to maintain their distinctive traditions and identity. Certain Baptist elders then revised their beliefs and rejected Jesus. The Baptist sect that has survived is Gnostic. As there were "Christian" Gnostic sects, there were also Baptist Gnostic sects. In ancient times there were probably Baptists sects that were not Gnostic. While they have not survived many of their practices have in the Mandaean religion. There was also another Gnostic Baptist sect that developed into the Manichean religion and which was once very widespread. The church father Pelagius unsuccessfully tried to oppose the influence of the Manichean religion that was coming into Christianity through a man named Augustine. Pelagius failed in his attempt to prevent these false ideas from influencing Christian thought. Augustine's Manichean beliefs, which originated in Iraq among a Gnostic Mandaean-like Baptist sect, have been very influential in Christian history and theology.) Ancient Christians developed an elaborate story of the childhood of Mary the Mother of Jesus. She was believed to have served in the temple as a child until she reached puberty. These legends are found in books such as The Proto-evangelion of Saint James the Just. In Mandaean literature Mary is called Miriai. In the Mandaean tradition, Miriai like Mary the mother of Jesus, served in the Jewish temple as a child. I believe that the other Mandaean stories about Miriai refer to Mary of Magdala rather than Mary the Mother of Jesus. In the Aramaic Book of St. John the Baptist, Miriai is called the daughter of the kings of Babylon and of the powerful kings of Jerusalem. As a child she serves in the temple of Adonai, the God of Israel. Later she entered into the "Temple of Knowledge' and accepted the new faith. Her father (called "Lazar" or Eliezar in the tradition) castigates here for this conversion and accuses her of being a prostitute. She proclaims her innocence. (Note that Eliezar is called Lazar, which is the same Galilean Aramaic form Jesus used for his friend Lazarus.) Miriai is condemned as one who has abandoned Judaism and has gone to "love her lord." "Her lord" is the man who introduced her to her new found faith. Following this story Miriai has flees her persecutors and has gone to Mesopotamia. Here Miriai is presented as the True Vine, "the tree that stands near the mouth of the Euphrates. The leaves of this tree are diamonds. Her fruit are pearls. The leaf of the vine is splendor and its tendrils are precious light. Its perfume has extended to all the trees and has gone out to all the worlds." Among her branches many find shelter. Mary as the vine is a founding mother who provides sacred food and drink to the community. Her father, Lazar, and her mother and a delegation of priests from Jerusalem have come to apprehend her. Lazar is a Cohen, a priest of the temple. They are pursuing Miriai because she "fled from the priests, loved a man, and they held hands." This man they accuse of being with Miriai is accused of the crime of breaking down the dovecotes of Jerusalem. For this crime of this man, whom they call a "stranger" or "alien man," they have "prepared a pole." This is a reference to the cross of crucifixion. When this delegation of priests finally find Mary they discover that she is now a priestess! This is the only Mandaean writing featuring a priestess. Miriai wears the white robes of a priest, she carries a priestly staff and sits reading scriptures from upon a throne. (Note that is was very unusual for a woman to be literate in ancient times.) Her mother condemns her mentioning that as a child the Torah was upon her lap but now she reads from a different Aramaic sacred text. The Jews are enraged to see Mariai reading these sacred texts. As she speaks, the worlds shake. As she prays and preaches even the fish and birds listen and a fragrant aroma envelopes her disciples that are attentively listening to her. She rebukes her accusers saying, "I am not a woman who has left through wantonness, and it is not that I have loved a man. I did not go away to come back and see you again, you, the vault of error. Go away! Go away from me, you who have testified false witness and lies against me. You have testified against me wantonness and theft and have presented me as you yourselves are. May the man who has freed me from my chains and has planted my feet here be blessed. I have committed no wanton act with him and no theft have I performed in the world. Instead of the testimony that you have borne against me, prayer and praise be showered on me." After this the wrath of God brings about the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem for the persecution of Mariai and other disciples such as Jacob, who is James the Just.

    This Miriai is clearly identified as being a Jewish woman in The Book of John the Baptist. In this Aramaic book Miriai is called the True Vine and the Treasure of Life, Simat Hiia in Aramaic. She is the daughter of kings and is raised in the Holy Temple where she was a minister of the Temple. She begins to wear the white garments of a Mandaean and is a female priest. She is pursued by her persecutors to the mouth of the Euphrates. She overcomes them and is depicted as a founding mother who gives spiritual nourishment to her community. She is called the perfect one and the pious believer. I believe that the story of Miriai is the legend of Mary of Magdala as remembered by the Mandaeans. Here is where we find of the life of Mary of Magdala. Mary/Miriai is born to a noble house of wealth and influence. She joins with a new temple of knowledge, which is the Kingdom community of Jesus. Jesus is this unnamed "seducer." (It must also be noted that Miriai does not deny a relationship with this man but she does adamantly deny that their relationship was a sexual one. If my interpretation is correct here we have an ancient Aramaic text in which we have Mary Magdalene affirming a relationship with Jesus but denying it was sexual.) I believe that it is interesting that they want to crucify the man they perceive as Mary's lover because he broke their "dove coats" and took their doves. I believe that one of the primary reasons that the chief priests decided to have Jesus crucified was the incident of the cleansing of the temple. Jesus forcibly cleared out a courtyard in the Lord's Temple that the chief priests had transformed into a market place in which they were selling animals for sacrifice, including doves! Let us look at the scriptures. In Mark it says, "and Jesus went into the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves" (Mark 11:15). In John's gospel, special attention is brought to the dove sellers again. John states, "And [Jesus] found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and moneychangers doing their business. When he made a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And he said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make my Father's house a house of merchandise!" (John 2: 14-15). Note that Christ's actions and his words were directed against the dove sellers. Apparently, after the crucifixion, Mary went to Babylonia and Mesopotamia to preach the message of Jesus to the Aramaic peoples there, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans and the Babylonians. There was a large Jewish community in Babylonia. Much of the standard Jewish texts still used today, the Massoretic text of the Old Testament, the Talmud and certain Targumim, originated from the Jewish community of Babylon. As the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem sent a delegation to question John the Baptist (John 1:19-28) and sent Paul out to apprehend believers in Yeshua (Jesus) even to the city of Damascus (Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-30), it is likely that they sent a delegation to investigate the actions of Mary of Magdala when she was preaching in the Aramaic east. All Jewish communities were seen as being under the authority of the high priest in Jerusalem. There was a large and important Jewish community in Babylon that maintained a relationship with the authorities in Jerusalem. It is likely, as these Mandaean texts indicate, that they intended to apprehend Mary of Magdala and perhaps to have her executed as they did Jesus of Nazareth and his servant James the Son of Thunder. The Mandaen texts seem to indicate that these events happened near the time of the martyrdom of James the Just, who was murdered by the high priests in 62 A.D. According to Mandaean tradition and the tradition of the early Christian Jews (no, they didn't consider that an oxymoron at the time) the Temple was destroyed because God was angry at the Jews for persecuting and killing James the Just. Josephus mentions that others disciples, who are unnamed, were killed along with James. It is possible that the Jews captured Mary of Magdala in Babylonia and brought her in chains back to Jerusalem to face trial and execution with James the Just. It must be noted that the High Priest who had James the Lord's Brother and others put to death outraged most of the Jewish people by these actions. There was a popular uprising at this and the people demanded that this High Priest, Ananius, be deposed for his crime in killing James and the others and he was. While most Jews did not accept Jesus as Messiah, the majority viewed James and the Nazoreans as devout worshipers of God and as fellow Jews. I believe that these Aramaic traditions of Miriai are stories that were passed down about Mary of Magdala and her missionary journeys to the east. (For more information on the Mandaeans see E.S. Drower The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran (Oxford 1937), Edmondo Lupieri The Mandaeans: The Last Gnostics (William B. Eerhman's Publishing Company 2002) and Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley The Mandaeans: Ancient Texts and Modern People (Oxford University Press, 2002).)


 


 


 


 

Angels and Demons:

The Exorcism of Mary Magdalene


 

Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

-Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 10:8)


 

Aramaic scholar Bruce Chilton explores Mary of Magdala as a demoniac in his book Mary Magdalene: A Biography. Liz Curtis Higgs in Mad Mary: A Bad Girl From Magdala, Transformed at His Appearing also looks at Mary Magdalene through her past as one who was demon possessed. (This book has been recently re-titled Unveiling Mary Magdalene.) Chilton believes that Mary Magdalene's "signature" is found in all the accounts of exorcism in the New Testament. In other words, he believes that since Magdalene personally experienced an exorcism by Jesus of Nazareth, this faucet of his ministry was of a particular interest to her. Thus, in his theory, she circulated the stories of the Christ's ministry of casting out demons. Bruce Chilton believes that it was Mary of Magdala who insured that these stories of Jesus were included in the gospels that were written down. Stories that Chilton believes come from what he calls "The Magdalene Source," stories of exorcisms that Mary re-told, include the exorcism of the Man with the Legion of Demons (Mark 5:1-13) and the Boy with the Deaf and Dumb Spirit (Mark 9:14-29). In Greek a "Legion," refers to a Roman military division of 6,000 soldiers. Like Mary Magdalene, the Man with the Legion of Devils was totally demonized. It is plausible that perhaps Mary of Magdala became an exorcist herself.

Mary came to Jesus a mess. According to the Gospels, Mary of Magdala, was possessed by seven demons. In the Aramaic, seven is a number that is symbolic of totality and fullness. The "seven demons" show that Mary of Magdala was totally and completely demonized. Jesus told the story of a man who had been set free from demonic influence. This man, however, failed to repent and do good works. The demon later returned and brought seven demons that were even viler than the first. This mans later state was worse than his first (Matthew 12:45). (The Aramaic book of Tobit also has the story of a woman troubled by a demon that also has a connection with the number seven.) When Jesus arrived in Magdala while on his preaching tour through Galilee, Mary was brought before him. It is possible she threw himself at his feet asking for mercy but she may have been in such a terrible mental state that she was forcibly brought before Jesus against her will by the townspeople in the hope that he may be able to help her as his reputation as an exorcist preceded him. A. Moody Stuart in The Three Marys states, "Although this is not expressly asserted, but only that Jesus cast the devils out of her, we are left in no uncertainty regarding the fact; because no demoniac ever sought Jesus, none in all the Gospel narrative, and the soothsaying damsel of the acts forms no real exception." (The story of the sooth-saying damsel is found in Acts 16:16-18.) Stuart believes that Mary was not seeking Jesus but rather she was brought before him as demoniacs are in Mark 4:24, "They brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments and those which were possessed of devils and he healed them" (see also Mark 1:32). It is likely that Mary was filthy, that she stank and had disheveled, matted hair. She may have been naked or dressed in rags. (The man with the legion of demons had went about naked.) It is possible that she was kept in chains or bound some other way. She may have been afflicted by some horrible repulsive disease. The exorcism of Mary Magdalene may have been an almost violent confrontation with her shouting at Jesus and Jesus shouting back at her and the demons that possessed her. (This happened when Jesus called the demons out of the man with the legion of devils.) When it says that she had seven demons in means that she was totally and completely demonized. Mary was beside herself, she was in confusion and was totally under diabolical influence. Jesus practiced a ministry of deliverance. Jesus delivered Magdalene from the power of evil spiritual influences. (Bruce Chilton in Mary Magdalene: A Biography notes that Mary of Magdala, "She had no doubt been ostracized in Magdala in view of her many demons. The Jews of Galilee defined themselves, in contrast to the Gentiles around them, by their devotion to stringent laws of purity that were commanded by the torah the Law of Moses that was written in Hebrew and passed on in oral form in the Aramaic language. What they ate, whom they could eat and associate with…whom they could touch or not touch…all this and more was determined by this Torah." Chilton is right to emphasize that the people of Christ's day understood the scriptures in an Aramaic oral tradition called the Targum. The Targums (or more accurately "Targumim") are quoted from in the New Testament. Also, as one who was demon possessed Mary of Magdala was impure or unclean. Jesus changed that.)

People wonder who, or what did the people of Christ's day believe demons to be? And where were they believed to have originated? At the very beginning God lovingly warned Cain that, unless he softened his heart, demons may take him (Genesis 4:7). The mention of demonic activity is found in the original Hebrew. In anger and pride, Cain did fall prey to demonic influence and murdered his brother Abel. Satan is also referred to in the Book of Chronicles, Job and Zechariah. Various devils are mentioned in the Bible, Satan the Accuser, Abaddon or Apollyon the Destroyer and the female demon, Lillith, Queen of the Night. (Lillith is mentioned in Isaiah 34:14 but is translated as "screech owl" in the Authorized Version. Abaddon is mentioned in Apocalypse 9:11 and in many places in the Old Testament where his name is usually translated as "Destruction" such as Proverbs 15:11.) The book of Daniel also describes Angels and Demons and these spiritual beings in conflict with one another (Daniel 10:12-14). According to the Book of Daniel, angels and demons are engaged in an epic battle of good verses evil and that this conflict is going on around us, but it is beyond our sight and senses. Jesus speaks of the Devil and his angels. Demons are evil spiritual beings that feed off of human suffering, they gain pleasure off of people's emotional pain. The Bible warns us that the Devil is like a roaring lion, going about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Jesus gave the church power and victory over the powers of evil and that of the devil. We keep ourselves free from these dark forces by living a spiritual life. Eastern Christians have a good manual on praying without ceasing entitled "The Way of The Pilgrim." In this approach it is recommended to pray the prayer "Lord Jesus, thou son of the most High God, have mercy upon me." Christ's power is great than Satan's. It is greater than that of any devil or demon and is greater than all the powers of hell.

Madness was sometimes thought of as demonic activity. Aramaic people believe in devils, which they called, sheyda and angels which they call, malaka. Aramaic Christians also believe in binding and loosening spiritual powers through prayer. A manual of such prayers in Aramaic has come down to us. It is called "the Book of Protection". It contains many prayers for healing and against the activities of demons. One such prayer is "Concerning Lunacy":


 

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. O Lord, God of Hosts, and possessor of all! Thou hast said in thy Gospel, that "everyone who asketh receiveth and he that seeketh findeth and it shall be given unto him." So also now, O Lord, God of Hosts, I ask of thee on behalf of thy servant who carries these writes, regarding the bitter sickness which is called 'lunacy': mayest thou send the angel which bears words of compassion and healing, and may he who carries these formulae be healed from the sickness of lunacy, through the prayer of Mar Jacob [who is James the Brother of Jesus], who was killed by the violent with a fuller's club at the time when he suffered martyrdom. Thou, O Lord, aid him carrying these writes. Amen!


 

Charismatic ministry was a central part of the ministry of Jesus and also a central part of the great commission. The belief in miracles is also a part of the tradition of the Aramaic churches. In the eastern churches there is a belief in miracles. The Aramaic Christians believe miracles still happen. I have been to an Aramaic chapel in the Middle East where crutches and leg braces were left behind as a testimony to divine healing. These supernatural events occur because among the Aramaic people faith exists for these things to happen. According to Aramaic tradition, Thaddeus and Thomas, went forth performing miracles in Assyria, India, Socotra and other lands as a sign of the power of Jesus the Messiah. Jesus gave his followers power over the forces of evil. When he gave the Great Commission he said,


 

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents, and if they drink anything deadly, it will be no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick and they will recover (Mark 16:15-18).


 

The Catholic Church still practices exorcisms as do Pentecostal churches. Many "Full Gospel" churches carry out ministries of "deliverance" over demonic forces and carry out "spiritual warfare." Paul the Apostle reminds us that "we wrestle not with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against and spiritual forces of wickedness in high places"(Ephesians 6:12) An advanced study of angelology and demonology from an Evangelical perspective can be found in Dr. Ed Murphy's The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1996). Mary needed a physical healing and a spiritual healing. Jesus healed her by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and received an anointing from above. Part of the Gospel of Jesus is to pray for healing and cast out devils. There are spiritual conflicts but there are also psychological problems that may become chemical imbalances. I believe the use of mind-altering drugs should be avoided, but in certain very rare cases it may be necessary. It is important to realize that the battle is in the mind. If you think thoughts of faith, you are empowered. If you focus on the doubt and discouragement you will have a negative spiritual charge, and become susceptible to depression and possibly demonic oppression. Many people live in misery and despair because they haven't mastered their thoughts. Christians ought to possess the Mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16, Philippians 2:5).This is a Biblical teaching. Jesus says he that has, will be given more, he that has not even what he has will be taken from him (Mark 4:25). In other words, if you think thoughts of faith, positively of who you are in Christ, you have victory. If your focus is on negative things, you bring defeat upon yourself. James also teaches that a man plagued by doubt and uncertainty cannot receive anything from the Lord (James 1:7). As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, he comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarded of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). The Bible declares that "as a man thinketh in his, heart so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). These issues have been dealt with in Biblically based books such as As A Man Thinketh by James Allen, The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, and Happiness is a Choice: A Manual on the Symptoms, Causes, and Cures of Depression by Frank B. Minirth, M.D. and Paul D. Meier, M.D. Jesus was able to heal Magdalene's mind and change her thinking. Magdalene's exorcism was probably very much like the Man with the Legion. After his encounter with Jesus, he was clothed and in his right mind (Mark 5:15). Jesus came to give people happiness and peace of mind. He also commanded us to love the Lord with all of our mind (Matthew 22:37). Doing so gives us power over evil spirits. Loving God with all of our minds means not having our focus of failures or hurts from the past, or on obstacles in life that we may face, but instead having confidence in his grace, his goodness and in his love for us.


 


 


 

Messiah: The Anointing, the Anointer and the Anointed One


 

"God anointed him with holy spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him."-Acts 10:38


 

Who or what is the Messiah? It means "Anointed One" in Aramaic. This refers to an anointing with oil. In Aramaic oil is MESHKHA one who is anointed with oil is MESHIKHA. This word means 'messiah' and the equivalent Greek word is CHRESTOS, or Christ. It is possible that the woman with the alabaster jar who anointed the feet of Jesus at the house of Simon the Pharisee was Mary Magdalene herself. Luke 7:36 introduces a woman that was a sinner. She brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil and anointed the feet of Jesus with the oil. Then she washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. The next passage immediately following this story speaks of Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:1-2). This has led some to believe that the woman introduced in the previous passage is here identified as Mary of Magdala. This is a possible interpretation but is open to dispute. Bruce Chilton in his book Mary Magdalene: A Biography states, "One such inference is that Mary Magdalene is the nameless anointer, which Eastern Orthodox and medieval interpretation correctly surmised-unlike many of their modern counterparts. She is not named, but the clear implication of the Gospel overall when we read from beginning to end (as it would have been recited to those who prepared for baptistm) is that she anointed Jesus prior to his death , and that he wanted her name remembered." Jesus probably had his feet anointed by Mary of Magdala and then later, Mary of Bethany followed her example and anointed Jesus as well. Ancient Oral tradition has identified Mary of Magdala as the woman with the alabaster jar. (Archeological findings in the ancient Aramaic kingdom of Palmyra mentioned perfume in alabaster flasks. Palmyra was located in a strategic area where caravans of merchants passed through. There was a special tax on alabaster flasks of perfume. This was a sign of considerable wealth. Mary of Bethany anointed the feet of Jesus with spikenard, which came from India. Judas Iscariot, the keeper of finances of the disciples and a man who pilfered through those sacred funds, complained that the ointment should have been sold and the proceeds should have been given to him so he could in turn give it to the poor. Judas stated that the price of the spikenard was almost equal to that of the entire yearly income of the common man. Jesus rebuked Judas for his criticism of Mary and then indignantly Judas immediately went to the high priests in order to betray Jesus to them for money. See John 12:1-8 and Mark 14: 3-11). There is the possibility that it was not Mary of Magdala who anointed the feet of Jesus. However, if that is true, the Bible clearly states that Mary of Magdala came to the tomb with the intent of anointing the body of Jesus. Mark clearly states that Mary Magdalene had come to the tomb on that Sunday morning that she "might come and anoint him" (Mark 16:1).

Jesus' last name wasn't 'Christ" it is a title that means "the Anointed One" or the deliverer who would be prophet, priest and king. Priests and kings were consecrated by an anointing. Prophets were anointed in a spiritual sense. In the East, instead of a coronation of a king they anointed the king when he was enthroned. It is important to realize that Jesus as the Anointed of God is more than a prophet. The Messiah was to be the anointed Son of David, God's chosen deliverer-king who would save his people. This ancient practice of anointing is mentioned in Psalm 133.


 

    Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.

It is like the precious ointment upon the head, even Aaron's beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments, Like the dew of Hermon and like the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion; for there Yahweh has commanded his blessing, even life forever more.


 

Jesus is the Anointed One. In the Aramaic his name is Yeshu Mashika, Jesus the Anointed. He was specifically anointed by the Holy Spirit upon his baptism by John the Baptist. The oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. What is the Holy Spirit? He is the breath, the wind of God. We as the followers of Jesus are given the Holy Spirit as a Guarantee or an Advance Payment to our future rewards in glory according to Ephesians 1:14. Paul tells us twice in his epistles that it is the Holy Spirit (Rukha Qadsha in Aramaic) that makes us able to cry out unto God, "Abba, Father." In the Beginning of creation we find the Holy Spirit playing an active role in creation. In Genesis1:2 we find the Spirit of God hovering over the waters. In Psalms 51 David is repenting of his most grievous sins. In verse 10 he cries out, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me." So we see that the Holy Spirit is God's empowering presence. It is a very grave thing to offend God's Holy Spirit as can be seen from Isaiah 63:9-10.


 

For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie; so he was their savior. In all their affliction, he as afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them, and he bore them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled, and vexed his Holy Spirit, therefore, he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.


 

To reject God's Holy Spirit is to become God's enemy and to incur his wrath. Therefore Jesus said:


 

Wherefore, I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him, but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit it shall not be forgiven them, neither in this age, neither in the age to come (Matthew 12: 31-32).


 

Jesus ascended to the Father in order to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:25). The Holy Spirit is the Life-giver. In Aramaic Rukha means "Breath" as well as "Spirit". He is the breath and the wind from God. Jesus uses this language in John 3:8. We receive true life, meaning eternal life, through the Holy Spirit. As in Psalm 133 there is a connection between the anointing and "the blessing, even life for evermore." Jesus did not begin his ministry until he was filled with the Holy Spirit. If God Incarnate, the Word made flesh, needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit, how much more do we? Believers in the Messiah need to live a spirit-filled life. The Holy Spirit is not just a power or a force, it is a being and a person, one of the three persons that constitutes the one eternal living God.

Gethsemane in Aramaic literally means "wine press of oils" or more plainly "olive oil press". The Aramaic is pronounced Gat-Shemanim. It was an oil press, where olives are crushed into oil. Here Jesus was "crushed" for our sins and here Jesus "crushed" the serpents head. (Isaiah 53 is sometimes translated as "he was crushed for our iniquities".) God cursed the serpent at the Garden of Eden and said, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15). The Fall of Man took place in a Garden and here the Redemption of Man is begun in the Garden. Interestingly, recent archeological evidence shows that in crucifixion the nail went through the heel, which could be a fulfillment of this ancient messianic prophecy.

The olive oil represents the Holy Spirit and the anointing. The word in Aramaic for Messiah is Meshika and it means Anointed One. A priest or a king was consecrated to the holy office by being anointed with oil. This is described in the Book of Hebrews where it says, "But about the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy'" (Hebrews 1:8-9 NIV, Psalms 42:6-7). It was because of this joy that was before him that Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2). I have been to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. There are some living trees there that are perhaps 2,000 years old that may have stood as silent witnesses of those terrible events that occurred there so long ago.

In Luke 22:43-44 it says that as Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, "He was in such agony and He prayed so fervently that His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground." Such a phenomenon is known in medicine and similar occurrences have been recorded of others while in extreme mental, emotional and physical stress. The medical term for this is HERMATIDROSIS. Agony is an intense mental or physical suffering, an intense feeling, a hard struggle; the Agony is the suffering of Jesus in Gethsemane. The word comes from the Latin AGONIA. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews describes the agony of Jesus in the Garden of the Gethsemane:


 

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him who was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared. Though he were a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him (Hebrews 5:7-9).


 

He took Peter, James and John with him to pray. However a great feeling of distress and desolation began to fill his mind. He said to them, "My soul is sadly distressed. It feels as though I were dying. Stay with me here and be wakeful by my side" (Mark 14:34). They however, quickly fell asleep. So he awoke Peter and said, "Is it true then that you lacked the strength to remain wakeful by my side, and be it only for an hour? Do remain wakeful, while uttering a prayer to be spared from having to undergo the final test. As for the spirit, it is indeed eager enough, it is the flesh that makes us weak." (Matthew 26: 36-41). We need to understand that Jesus was fighting a terrible spiritual battle here. As Paul tells us, we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against evil demonic spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12). (Aramaic Christians believe that there are angels that watch over us, but also that there are evil spiritual forces, devils, that tempt us to do wrong.) Also, Jesus asks us, "Can you not pray with me for one hour?" (Mark 14:37). We can spend hours in idle conversation and watching inane films and television shows and, yet, we cannot find time to talk to the Lord. How much do we love him?

Jesus began his ministry by preaching that he was the anointed of God. Jesus was anointed to do a special work-to bring God's Good News to the world. According the Luke 4: 16 Jesus inaugurated his ministry by preaching from Isaiah 61:1-2.


 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor, he hath send me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim deliverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to get at liberty them that are bruised to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.


 

Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the mighty acts, the miracles, he performed. God often speaks in the masculine gender in scripture. I believe this is important. However, in extremely rare occasions God speaks in the feminine gender. Such places include Isaiah 66:13, Psalm 131:2 and in the Book of Proverbs where God's Wisdom speaks as a woman's voice, in Proverbs Chapter Eight (See also Matthew 23:27 and Isaiah 49:15). These verses do not sanction goddess worship. Goddess worship constitutes idolatry and breaks God's commandments. When God speaks with a gender this is of course not a physical or biological gender. I believe God's nature is indeed masculine and this was an important teaching of Jesus. I will soon illustrate this. There is a precedent in early Aramaic Christianity for the Holy Spirit being regarded as feminine in nature. In Aramaic the word "spirit" is feminine. An example of this is seen in Psalm 34:2 where David says, "My soul shall make her boast in the Lord" (KJV). Most modern translations, which are not literal translations from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, in contrast to the King James version, mistranslate this as, "My soul shall make it's boast in the Lord." Different body parts and physical or other characteristics can have either grammatical gender in Aramaic and Hebrew. David is a man but the word "soul" is grammatically feminine. This is why certain passages in the Ancient Syriac Aramaic version of the Bible God the Holy Sprit is spoken of in the feminine gender. In Romans 8:16 of the Aramaic version, the Holy Spirit is actually referred to as "she." While, the teachings of Jesus were originally in Aramaic, Paul's epistles were written in Greek, so this verse here is a translation of the Greek into Aramaic. There are many other places were the Holy Spirit is spoken of in the feminine grammatical gender in the Aramaic Bible. The Holy Spirit is not female but He does have certain attributes some may think of as being "motherly," such as that of His role as "Comforter" (John 16:5-15). Aramaic Christians now avoid speaking of the Holy Spirit as feminine, and I believe all Christians should as well.

    Living a spirit-filled life does not wholly consist of speaking in tongues and working signs and miracles. It means living a consistent godly and spiritual life and demonstrating what Paul calls the "Fruit of the Spirit." The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul says, "If we then live in the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25). As Jesus the Messiah is the Anointed One, his followers too, are to be anointed ones. 1 John 2:20 says, "You have been anointed by the Spirit and have knowledge…the anointing you received abides in you." All true Christians, like Jesus, have an anointing. Mary of Magdala was, in a certain sense, an anointed one of God. The Holy Spirit is the empowering presence of God. The Holy Spirit is available to empower all believers to overcome the difficulties that they face in life. Jesus is the Messiah. He is the message as well as the Messenger. He has given the Holy Spirit as a gift to His Church, a gift to be received with joy. Paul teaches that, "the Kingdom of God is not food and drink [Paul is saying here that Christians shouldn't worry too much about Jewish dietary regulations, God's kingdom is something more], but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit!" (Romans 14:17).


 


 


 

Magdalene: Witness of the Passion of the Christ


 

Mel Gibson's Aramaic movie The Passion of the Christ was about the last twelve hours of the life of Christ. To fully understand the Passion we need to understand it in the context of the Jewish Passover. Jesus arrived in Jerusalem in what is called the "triumphal entry," or what is known as "Palm Sunday." Jesus came to Jerusalem, with his disciples and with Mary Magdalene and the women. Mary had come to Jerusalem with Jesus to celebrate the Passover. The events of this final Passover in Jerusalem led to the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Mary of Magdala and Jesus were both observant Jews. The Gospel of John uses Christ's observance of Jewish feast days, including Hannakuh, to structure his Gospel account (John 10:22). (While Jesus was an observant Jew, he did at times reject certain Jewish traditions. The Sabbath day was meant to be a joyful rest, but the Pharisees and others had added so many rules and restrictions upon it that it became a terrible burden. Essenes were not allowed to relieve themselves on the Sabbath days in their communities. Jesus simplified Sabbath observance and taught that the Sabbath man was made to benefit and not to enslave man. Jesus elevated the written law above oral law. The Oral Law is the traditions of the Rabbis that are not necessarily Biblical. Jesus taught that duties to support elderly parents were more important than a "rash vow" to give that money instead to the rich and corrupt high priests. Jesus also went against convention and accepted repentant sinners into his Kingdom family. Also, Jesus elevated the status of women in his Kingdom movement.) John's Gospel also teaches that Jesus was the "Passover Lamb." In the Fourth Gospel when John the Baptist prophecies over Jesus he says of him, "Behold the Lamb of God that Taketh Away the Sins of the World!" John the Baptizer proclaimed this at the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus (John 1:29). John was saying that Jesus is the world's Passover lamb. (In the Passover story it is the blood of the lamb that saved the people from the angel of death and granted them freedom from slavery.) James Strong in his Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible makes a connection between the Aramaic word Pascal, meaning Passover, and the Greek Pathos, meaning "passion." The word for Passover is Pascha, Chaldean [meaning Aramaic] for the Passover (the meal, the day, the festival or the special sacrifices connected with it). Passion or Suffering is Paskho, including the forms, patho, and pentho. It is used in certain tenses, apparently a prime verb to experience, a sensation or impression (usually painful) to feel, passion, suffer, vex. In certain Christian traditions, Jesus is called the Paschal Lamb.

The Greek word is connected to the word "experience." We need to experience the passion with Jesus. Suffering and Pain are apart of life, we come in and depart from this life with pain and mourning. Passion is defined as an intense or violent emotion, especially sexual desire or love, intense anger, a great liking or enthusiasm, a violent emotional outburst, the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, one of the gospel accounts of this, a musical work based on such an account. Through the Passion we can experience true and unconditional love, joy and forgiveness. Jesus endured the cross for joy. The Bible says, "Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God" (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

In A Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions About the Passion of the Christ, the authors state:


 

This event [referring to the Exodus], which occurred about 1,200 years before the birth of Jesus [actually 1,500 years is a more correct number], is the key to understanding Christ's Passion, because the Passion is the fulfillment of the Jewish Passover ritual. The Passover event of Exodus is a foreshadowing of Christ's death on the cross. The blood of Jesus, the perfect "lamb", would be sprinkled on the cross (the doorpost) for His followers. All who accept Christ and keep His commandments will be saved by His blood; death "passes over" them, for they have eternal life.


 

On the Mount of the Transfiguration Jesus was discussing the "Exodus" he would soon undergo in Jerusalem. The Bible says, "He took with him Peter, John and James and ascended the mountain to pray. As he was praying the appearance of his face changed and his clothing turned a dazzling white. And now two men were conversing with him. These were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and discussed his exodus which he was soon to solemnize in Jerusalem" (Luke 9:31). It is impossible to fully understand the Passion apart from the Jewish Passover meal. The Cup of Blessing is one of the four cups of the Passover meal. It is interesting that Paul the Apostle calls the cup used in the Eucharist, the Cup of Blessing (1 Corinthians 10:16).

In John's account of the Last Supper he does not include the institution of Holy Communion. Instead of introducing that sacred rite, John's Gospel has Jesus instituting the ritual of foot-washing (John 13:5-20). Jesus commanded us to wash each others feet. It is done (very rarely) in Catholic and Orthodox churches on Maundy Thursday. This shows Christ's humility. Christ humbled himself, in washing the feet of the apostles.


 

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; But he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2: 5-11)


 

In John's Gospel and in the Apocalypse Jesus is the Lamb of God, whose blood takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29, Revelation 5:12). This is the Blood of God (Acts 20:28). For Salvation to take place the blood had to be applied (Exodus 12:7). Jesus was the Firstborn Son (Luke 2:22) and the Only Son (of God, Jesus did have brothers and sisters). As a sign of the coming Savior, God had told Abraham to sacrifice his "only son" (Isaac was symbolically the "only son", Abraham had fathered Ishmael, but had banished him. See Genesis 22:16). Abraham prophesied that God would provide a lamb for a sacrifice (Genesis 22: 8).

It is significant that while Jesus was being crucified the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple. Jesus is the Passover Lamb. This sacrifice of the lamb is uniquely connected to Passover. The atoning annual sacrifice at Yom Kippur was a bull, and not a lamb. It was the blood of a bull that was sprinkled on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant (Leviticus 16:11-14). The blood of a bull was atonement for the priest and it was followed by the blood of a goat which was atonement for the people. John said that Jesus is the Lamb because he is the Passover sacrifice that frees us from the land of slavery. As Joshua, Jesus leads us into the land of promise. (Joshua and Jesus are two forms of the same name.) Only the Blood of the Lamb could free the captive slaves. This is the only way God has made for atonement. Who went out with Moses? Those who obeyed God's word through Moses did. The Bible says it was a "mixed multitude" because some Egyptians were obedient to God (Exodus 12:38). Once more, ethnicity or race doesn't matter. Whoever applies the Blood of the Lamb of God has salvation.

As the apostles fled and left Jesus upon his arrest, Mary of Magdala, who stayed as close to him as she possibly could until the tomb was sealed, is probably the source of much of the information of what happened to Jesus that we have in the Passion narratives in the Gospels. Actually, Mary of Magdala was a participant in all the events of the Last Week that led to the crucifixion. At the cross, Mary was there listening as Christ uttered his last seven saying from the cross.


 

Abba, Shwoq ilhon: La Geir Yadien Mana Audien!

"Father, Forgive them for they know not what they are doing!"

Luke 23:34

Jesus showed his extreme love for others, and practiced his law of forgiveness, even when suffering in agony on the cross.


 

Amen Amar Na Lakh, D'Yawmana Am Thihui B'Pardaisa

"Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

Luke 23:43


 

Jesus saved the soul of the repentant thief who was crucified with him. Jesus taught that Paradise and Hell (Gehenna) exist.


 

Attha, Ha Brekh. Ha, Immakh.

"Woman, Behold your son. Son, Behold your mother."

John 19:26-27


 

Jesus did have brothers and sisters but his family was poor. John, who is John the Priest, was a wealthy man and was known to the high priest (John 18:16). He was a man of means and influence and was equipped to look after and to provide for our Savior's mother. One of Jesus' final thoughts before he died was for the welfare of his mother. Bart Ehrman has argued on the basis of Matthew 10:34-36 that Jesus was against "family values." In this passage of scripture Jesus says,


 

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to "set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Micah 7:6). And "a man's foes will be those of his own household" (Malachi 3:1). He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.

A decision to follow Jesus could result in rejection by family and loved ones. That was true at the time of Jesus and is still true in many places even today. As I wrote this Abdul Rahman, an Afgan man who had been a Christian for over ten years, was on the verge of being sentenced to death for converting to Christianity and abandoning Islam. His own family turned him over to face death as an apostate from Islam. Islamic Shairi law is clear, whoever is a Moslem, or is born into a Moslem family, must die if he or she converts to another religion. Adbul Rahman was betrayed to face death by his own family because he was a disciple of Jesus the Prophet. Devotion to God is to be preeminent above everything, even family. Obedience to God's word is above any other duty, obligation or connection, even if it is a family connection. Putting God first, usually will actually strengthen family and the home. In his teaching Christ did support family values. We are told that as a child, Jesus honored his mother and Joseph (Luke 2:51). Jesus commanded a man that came to him as a religious seeker to obey the commandment to "honor your parents" (Mark 10:18). Another example of Jesus supporting family values is his opposition to the Jewish practice of Korban. When Jesus denounced the false practices of the Pharisees he condemned their practice of the Korban (Mark 7:1-23). Korban refers to an "offering" and is still used to refer to such in modern Aramaic. Jesus was concerned that his followers obey the spirit of the law and not be lost in the letter of the law (see also 2 Corinthians 3: 3 and 6). He also warned them for violating scripture by putting tradition, in this case Jewish tradition, over what the Bible actually said. The High Priests of the Temple were teaching that Jews could be released from their obligation to support their parents in their old age if money that was to have gone to the support of their parents was instead given as a gift (Korban) to the High Priests. Jesus rebuked this practice as a breaking of the Ten Commandments and as elevating Man's tradition over the Word of God. Jesus obeyed the Bible and did observe the Biblical Feasts as is shown by the Gospel of John. Jesus worshiped in the Temple and held the Temple as a place of great holiness. Jesus, however, while sharing certain beliefs with the Pharisees, did not adopt their practices especially when he viewed them as at variance with scripture. Jesus, in fact, mentioned the Law of Moses that stated he who cursed mother or father is worthy of death (Mark 7:10).


 

Shiena!

I thirst.

Researchers have discovered that being in the position of crucifixion causes profuse sweating and obviously dehydration. In a spiritual sense Jesus represents God thirsting for communion between God and man and Jesus is symbolic of this thirst. (See Stephen Cottrell I Thirst: the Cross-The Great Triumph of Love (Zondervan, January 2004).

John 19:28


 

Elohi, Elohi, Lamana Shabacktani!

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34


 

In the Bible, in the Gospel of Mark, we find Jesus Christ on the cross of Golgotha suffering for the sins of all the world. "And at the ninth hour (three o'clock) Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eloi, Eloi, lama Sabachtani?" Which, translated (from the Aramaic), is, "My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34) (If Jesus had been speaking Hebrew he would have said, "Eli, Eli, lama azabtani." Jesus was not speaking Hebrew but Aramaic, the sister language of Hebrew.) Jesus spoke these words shortly before he died. Many have been confused at the meaning of these words. Some people believe that Jesus cried these words in despair as he neared death and realized that his messianic hope was false. Many Christians understand this to mean that God the Father looked away from Christ because, "he who knew no sin became sin on our behalf"- (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is a theory of Atonement called the substitution theory. While we deserved to die for our sins, Jesus, who was innocent and holy, died in our place on the cross. Those who accept this gift of love gain salvation. While this is true, Jesus was quoting Psalm 22 from the cross. The word's, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?," are found in Psalm 22:1. This prophetic Psalm was written nearly 1,000 years before the birth of our Lord. It perfectly describes everything Christ endured on our behalf upon the cross.


 

When comparing Psalm 22 with the story of Jesus' crucifixion amazing parallels appear:    

Jesus is mocked for his trust in God

Psalm 22:6-8 and Mark 15:29-32

Jesus suffers thirst

Psalm 22:15 and John 19:28-29


 

Jesus' hands and feet are pierced


 

Psalm 22:16 and Luke 23:33


 

(In this passage we must also note John 19:37 and Zechariah 12:10. There was a controversy concerning Psalm 22:16. The traditional Hebrew "Masoretic" text reads "Like a lion are my hands and my feet." Jews accused Christians of altering the text. In Christian versions the verse reads "They have pierced my hands and feet." Christians and Jews debated this passage for over a thousand years. Who changed it, did the Christians or did the Jews, and what did the original actually say? Since the original manuscripts of the Bible have disappeared it was difficult to know for certain. Finally, in 1948 a version of the Bible was discovered that predated both Christianity and Judaism. The religion we know as Judaism was founded after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. The true culprits who altered the text were exposed by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here the original reading of "They have pierced my hands and my feet" has been preserved. See Martin Abegg Jr, Peter Finch & Eugene Ulrich The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: the Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English (Harper, San Francisco, 1999) p. 518-519. So it was the Christians preserved the original reading of this passage of scripture.)


 

Roman soldiers took Christ's clothes, divided them up and gambled for them

Psalm 22:18 and Matthew 27:35


 

This illustrates the prophetic significance of Psalm 22 and shows us why Jesus was quoting this verse in Aramaic from the cross.


 

Many people wonder why it was necessary for Jesus to die. The answer to this question is found in a prophecy written 700 years before the time of Christ.


 

Isaiah wrote about Jesus in Isaiah 53:3-12.

"He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our

iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by

his stripes we are healed."


 

Jesus took the punishment for our sins that we deserve upon himself when he died on the cross. He made a way for everyone to be saved by trusting in him. This atonement is further explained in the Book of Hebrews, "But we see Jesus,…for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that he, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone…Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He himself likewise shared in the same, that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:9, 14-15). He proved that he accomplished this by his resurrection from the dead on the third day after his suffering. Jesus quoted this Psalm from the cross. Some scholars believe that he quoted it in its entirety from the cross.


 

What does "Why hast thou forsaken me?" mean? Did God forsake Jesus?


 

George Lamsa, an Assyrian Christian and Aramaic Bible scholar reread Christ's cry from the cross and retranslated it as "My God, My God! For this I was spared!"

Lamsa denied that this Psalm was quoted by Jesus at his crucifixion and denied that this Psalm had any prophetic significance. Lamsa obviously denies that Jesus said anything about God forsaking him at all. According to Lamsa, Psalm 22 is a Song of Complaint or a Song of Distress in which King David is crying out to God in sorrow and thus has nothing at all to do with Jesus. Is Lamsa right? Is Psalm 22 a prophetic psalm or not? Two important things show that Lamsa is wrong. First, he has no manuscript authority for his claim. Second, the authors of the New Testament contradict his claim. His translation of "My God, My God for this I was kept" or "for this I was spared" doesn't even make sense. Lamsa's retranslation is in error and the traditional reading is correct and accurately translates the Aramaic. (Originally Aramaic didn't have written vowels. Aramaic vowels are extra marks dots and dashes added above and below the letters. Lamsa changes the word by altering the vowels.) Lamsa also is in disagreement with how the sacred authors of the New Testament interpret this passage. According to Saint John the Beloved Disciple, Evangelist and Follower of Jesus Christ, Psalm 22 is a Messianic prophecy. When the Romans were casting lots over the garments of Jesus John 19:23-24 says this happened in fulfillment of Psalm 22:18. In Matthew 27: 35 Saint Matthew says the same thing. Two apostles of Jesus say that Psalm 22 is a messianic prophecy. I think we should defer to the interpretation of these holy apostles who knew Jesus and were chosen by him and reject this new rewording by George Lamsa. The prophecies state that the enemies of God's servant would "shake their heads" and say "he trusted in God, let God deliver him". The prophecy is found in Psalm 22:7-8 and its fulfillment is noted in Matthew 27: 30-43. The point is not the being forsaken of God, but the fulfillment of prophecy. It is important that Jesus felt these human feelings. This shows us how Jesus identified with us as human beings. Jesus felt the sadness and despair we all experience. Jesus fully identified with the human experience when he became incarnate as a man. The New Testament emphasizes the true humanity of Jesus of Nazareth very strongly.


 

Jesus spoke two other "words" from the cross.


 

Ha Mshallam!

"It is fulfilled!" (Finished or consummated)

John 19:30

This may be the last verse in Psalm 22. It is possible that Jesus quoted it in its entirety from the cross. This is also understood to mean, "It is accomplished." Jesus upon the cross accomplished the means by which Mankind is saved.


 

Abba, biedeik saum na Ruack

"My Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit." Luke 23:46


 

Mary was there mourning and weeping, as her Lord and Savior died on the cross. Jesus died for Mary of Magdala. The Bible teaches that Jesus died for the sins of all of humanity after his sufferings on the cross. People have indeed corrupted Christ's teachings. There are now theologians who claim to be Christians who do not believe that God loves everyone (contrary to the teachings of Jesus in John 3:16). They do not believe that God wants to save everyone (contrary to the teachings of Paul in 1Timothy 2:4). This new "reformed" idea teaches that Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world (contrary to what the Bible says in 1 John 2:2-3). Not only are these new doctrines contrary to the Bible they are contrary to what the vast majority of Christians, including those of my denominational background, the Southern Baptist Convention, believe. It is frightening to see how quickly false ideas spread. But there are still those who speak the truth. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is explained from scripture and defended from those who oppose the truth in the book The Death Christ Died: A Case for Unlimited Atonement by Robert P. Lightner.


 


 


 


 

Rabboni: Mary the Apostle of the Resurrection


 

In the New Testament, Mary of Magdala is quoted speaking the Aramaic words exactly as she said them. His is when she called Jesus "Rabboni." This Aramaic word, Rabboni, is used twice in our Greek text of the New Testament. In Mark Jesus is called Rabboni by Blind Bartimaeus. This passage is found in Mark 10: 46-52. Here the Aramaic name "Bartimaeus" is translated as "the son of Timaeus". He cries out "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me". Jesus, as the time of his glorification had arrived, accepted this Messianic title. (Son of David, Bardawood in Aramaic, is the an Aramaic title for the Messiah. The Messiah was to be of the royal lineage of the House of David, and the rightful king of all Israel. This Jesus was.) Jesus asks him, "What wilt thou that I do unto thee?" To which the blind man replied, "Rabbouni, that I might receive my sight." Jesus restored unto him his vision and Bartimaeus began to follow Jesus. Andrew Murray in With Christ in the School of Prayer presented Bartimaeus as an example of a prayer warrior. He persisted to call out to the Lord despite efforts at people to silence and discourage him. When Jesus called he came to the Lord. In faith he cast away the mantle of a beggar. Jesus asked him "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" Jesus asked about the will of Bartimaeus not his wishes. To often our prayers are not answered because we approach the Lord with idle wishes and not our wills. Jesus taught that God desires to answer our prayers (Luke 11: 5-13). Andrew Murray notes that Prayer must be specific and says:


 

The blind man had been crying out loud repeatedly, "Thou Son of David, have mercy on me." The cry had reached the ear of the Lord. He knew what the man wanted and was ready to grant it to him. But before He did, He asked him, "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" He wanted to hear not only the general petition for mercy, but the distinct expression of what the man's desire was that day. Until he verbalized it, he was not healed.

There are still petitioners to whom the Lord puts the same question who cannot get the aid they need until they answer that question. Our prayers must be a distinct expression of a definite need, not a vague appeal to His mercy or an indefinite cry for blessing. It isn't that His loving heart does not understand or it not ready to hear our cry. Rather, Jesus desires such definite prayer for our own sakes because it teaches us to know our needs better. Time, thought, and self-scrutiny are required to find our what our greatest need really is. Our desires are put to the test to see if they are honest and real and are according to God's World. We also consider whether he will receive the things we ask. Such reflective prayer helps us to wait for the special answer and to mark it when it comes.

So much of our prayer is vague and pointless. Some cry for mercy, but do not take the trouble to know exactly what want and why they want it. Others ask to be delivered from sin, but do not name the sin from which a deliverance can be claimed. Still others pray for God's blessing on those around them-for the outpouring of God's Spirit on their land or on the world-and yet have no special field where they can wait and expect to see the answer. To everyone the Lord says, "What do you really want, and what do you expect me to do?" …The Lord warns us against the vain repetitions of the Gentiles, who expect to be heard because they pray so much. We often hear prayers of great earnestness and fervor, in which a multitude of petitions are poured forth. The Savior would undoubtedly have to respond to some of them by asking, "What do you want?"…

But the word of the Master teaches us more. He does not say, "What dost thou wish?" but, "What doest thou will?" One often wishes for a thing without willing it. I wish to have a certain article but the price is too high, so I decide not to take it. I wish, but do not will to have it. Many people wish to be saved, but perish because the do not will it.

The will rules the whole heart and life. If I really will to have something that is within my reach, I do not rest until I have it. When Jesus asks us, "That wilt thou?" He asks whether it is our intention to get what we ask for at any price, however great the sacrifice. Do you really will to have it enough to pray continuously until He hears you, no matter how long it takes? How many prayers are wishes sent up for a short time and then forgotten! And how many are sent up year after year as a matter of duty, while we complacently wait without the answer.

One may ask if it wouldn't be better to make our wishes known to God, leaving it to Him to decide what is best, without our seeking to assert our will. The answer is: by no means. The prayer of faith which Jesus sought to teach His disciples does not simply proclaim its desire and then leave the decision to God. That would be the prayer of submission for cases in which we cannot know God's will. But the prayer of faith, finding God's will in some promises of the Word, pleads for that promise until it comes.

In Matthew 9:28, Jesus said to the blind man, "Believe ye that I can do this?" In Mark He said, "What wilt thou that I should do?" (Mark 10:51). In both cases He said that faith had saved them. And He said to the Syrophenician woman, too, "great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt." Faith is nothing but the promise of the will resting on God's word and saying, "I must have it." To believe truly is to will firmly.

Such a will is not at variance with our dependence on God and our submission to Him. Rather, it is the true submission that honors God. It is only when the child has yielded his own will in the entire surrender to the Father that he receives from the Father the liberty and power to will what he desires. Once the believer had accepted the will of God, as revealed through the Word and the Spirit, as his will, too, then it is the desire of God that His child use this renewed will in His services. The will is the highest power of the soul. Grace desires above everything to sanctify and restore this will to full and free exercise because it is one of the chief traits of God's image. God's child is like a son who lives only for his father's interests, seeks his father's will rather that his own, and is trusted by the father with his business. God speaks to that child in all truth, "What wilt thou?"

It is often spiritual sloth that under the appearance of humility, professes to have no will. It fears the trouble of searching for the will of God, or when found the struggle of claiming it in faith. True humility is always accompanied by strong faith. Seeking to know the will of God, that faith then bolding claims the fulfillment of the promise, "Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."


 

Toward the end of his life, C.S. Lewis wrote, "If God had granted all the silly prayers I've made in my life, where would I be now?" We ought to bring our wills into conformity with the Lord's and pray prayers that we will to be answered.

In John's Gospel Jesus is called Rabboni by Miriam of Magdala at the Resurrection of our Lord. John 20: 16 says, "Jesus saith unto her, "Mary." She turned herself and saith unto him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master." What does this Aramaic word mean? It means "My Master" but it also means "my rabbi" and "my teacher". The book Rabboni: The Life Story of Jesus by W. Phillip Keller is a retelling of the life of Christ. He correctly begins the story in 'eternity past'. He states, "Our Lord did not have His beginning at the little hamlet of Bethlehem. His story does not start with a stable. This may be the common concept of Christ but it is not the correct one. He cannot be confined to the limitations of earthly time and space. For before the earth was, He existed."

In Modern Aramaic the word Rabbi is Rabi. It means "teacher". School teachers, professors and learned men are called 'rabi'. Rabboni is the personal form it means "My teacher" and "my master". Jesus must be our personal lord, master and teacher just as he was to Mary of Magdala as she called out to him.

The Gospels portray Jesus presented as a Jewish Rabbi. We must however concede that Jesus did not have formal rabbinic training (John 7:15). Jesus was self-educated. Jesus is referred to as Rabbi more often than any other title in the Gospels. That he is a Rabbi is conceded even by his enemies. The Aramaic scholar Bruce Chilton has shown that the formal training as a requirement necessary to be granted the title "Rabbi" had not yet been established at the time of Christ. Jesus was often addressed as Rabbi, meaning 'master' or 'teacher' and Mari, meaning 'lord'. Interestingly, the precise form "rabbi" is used more often in John than in any other gospel. Jesus was indeed a Jewish Rabbi. Jesus demonstrated that he was a rabbi by expounding on the scriptures, by being 'torah-observant' (for instance in observing Jewish feast days) and by interpreting the Old Testament as a meturgeman. A translation of the Bible into Aramaic is called a Targum. After returning from exile in Mesopotamia, Aramaic became more and more dominate among the Jewish people. Since the common Jew no longer had a command of the Hebrew language, the Bible had to be explained to them in Aramaic. At the time of Jesus a significant part of the synagogue service was the reciting of the Targum. The practice actually began much earlier, when Ezra helped re-establish Jews in the Land of Israel after the period of exile called the Babylonian Captivity.

The tradition of the Targum was started by Ezra the Scribe. These Aramaic versions of the Bible were the Bible of the people. When Ezra began the practice of rendering the Bible into Aramaic orally he specifically made sure that women were not excluded.


 

So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the congregation, of man and woman and all who could hear with understanding…Then he read from it in the open square…from morning until midday, before the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. So, Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which had been made for that purpose…And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered "Amen, Amen!: while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground…So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe…said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Holy your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.


 

This story describes how the people had the Torah explained to them in their own Aramaic language. For many this was the first time they had ever understood the Bible. They reacted by weeping. There are probably three reasons they wept. First, tears of joy for the wonderful privilege of being able to listen to God speak in a way they could understand for the very first time. The second reason was probably tears due to the conviction of sin. Earlier, King Josiah reacted the same way when the Bible was first read to him. He felt guilt, grief and repented. When he learned that he had been sinning in ignorance, he sought a word from the Lord from God's spokesperson at the time; Hulda the Prophetess (2 Kings 22:3-20). The third reason they cried was because of the heavy burden of the Law of Moses, a burden which Peter said, was a burden which, "neither our forefathers, nor we were able to bear" (Acts 15:10). While Moses offers a heavy burden, Jesus offers a burden as well. Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest from your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light' (Matthew 11:28-30 KJV). The people were reminded that "the joy of the Lord (Yahweh) is your strength." After hearing the Bible for the first time, the people had a party to celebrate the beginning of the Aramaic Bible. Aramaic Targums were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Jesus quoted from the Targums. Targums were explanative translations and were not literal word-for-word translations. Quotations from the Targums are also found in Paul's epistle and in the writings of Saint John the Revelator. This is important evidence for the influence of the Aramaic language and Aramaic sources on the formation of the New Testament and in early Christianity. Jesus as a meturgeman brought the word of God to the common people and to the simple, uneducated peasants in their Aramaic language. Jews still use Targums till this day, continuing an ancient tradition began by Ezra.

Jesus was also a traveling rabbi and a man of the people. He didn't spend a great time on arcane and largely irrelevant points of doctrines. The Parables of Jesus were practical and dealt with everyday life and the common people. Jesus explained the mysteries of the Kingdom of God in modes familiar to the shepherd, the fisherman and the farmer. Speaking of his parables, Joachim Jeremais also brings this point out, saying, "We find no fables on the lips of Jesus; fig tree and vine do not speak in his sayings. Also, in Ethiopian Enoch we read an outline of the history of Israel in the form of a long-winded allegory involving various animals. Jesus indeed regularly uses familiar metaphors, mostly drawn from the Old Testament and familiar to everyone at that time, but he does not construct allegories. His parables take us, rather, into the midst of throbbing, everyday life. Their nearness to life, their simplicity and clarity, the masterly brevity with which they are told, the seriousness of their appeal to the conscience, their loving understanding of the outcasts of religion-all this is without analogy. If we want to find anything comparable we have to go back a long way: the parable of Nathan (II Sam. 12:1-7), the song of the vineyard (Isa. 5:1-7)". Jesus also demonstrated that he is a Rabbi by expounding the scripture. On many occasions Jesus clarified his teachings or challenged his adversaries with the word of God, that is, quotations from the Old Testament (Matthew 12: 3-8, Mark 29: 27-18, John 10: 34-35).

Interestingly, the first word uttered by the risen Christ was "woman". Both John and Mark specifically state, "He appeared first to Mary Magdalene…" (Mark 16:9). A very detailed account of Mary's encounter with the risen Lord is found in John 20. This account must have come directly from Mary Magdalene. (Interestingly, Paul does not mention Mary Magdalene when he lists witnesses of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul does seem to mention Mary in Romans 16:6, "Greet Mary who has labored much for us.) Note that Mary wept and mourned over the body of the Lord. This was a real love. She said, "They have taken the body of MY LORD, and I do not know where they have laid him." Like Thomas, Mary did not believe until she had seen. When she saw the resurrection Jesus she exclaimed in Aramaic, "Rabboni", this means "my teacher" or "my master". This Aramaic word is used only here and in the story of blind Bar Timeaus in Mark's Gospel. Mary wasn't believed by the apostles when she proclaimed the Gospel to them. When she recognized Jesus she reached out to embrace him. He said "Touch me not" or "Don't cling to me" (in Latin Noli Me Tangere, but Jesus said this in Aramaic not Latin). He had to appear before the Heavenly Father. After this he did allow the disciples to touch and handle him. It is important that when Magdalene recognized Jesus, whom she thought was dead, she exclaimed in her surprise "Rabboni!" She didn't say "My Beloved!," "My Husband!," or even "My Jesus!" Instead she said, "Rabboni," my Rabbi. This clearly defines the nature of the relationship between Jesus and the Magdalene. It was one of Master and student, Lord and disciple and not of husband and wife. What we are looking at here is the original Aramaic source and the very words spoken by Mary Magdalene as she actually uttered them. The Aramaic clarifies the true relationship between Yeshua (Jesus) and Miriam D'Magdala (Mary of Magdala).

There are six possible explanations of the Resurrection event. First is that the women went to the wrong tomb. This is unlikely because Mary of Magdala sat there watching his burial carefully. She has a deep and abiding love for Jesus. When she went to the tomb she brought others women with her. Later, Peter and John and other disciples went and verified for themselves that the tomb was indeed empty. John checked it himself and wrote a description of what he saw there. The second explanation is that unknown to the disciples, some independent unknown person had removed the body. This is what Hugh Schonfield argued in the "Passover Plot." This isn't logical. Why would someone do something so bizarre and cruel? Who would deceive the women and the apostles of such a thing? The problem with this is that Mary of Magdala saw the risen Jesus, as did later, according to the earliest account, about five hundred people. The third explanation is that the disciples removed the body and invented the whole story. Hugh Schonfied did not believe this because the way the apostles died for their belief in the resurrection. They died because they were totally convinced in the truth of the resurrection. According to Christian tradition, all the apostles, except John, died a martyr's death because of their belief in Jesus and his resurrection. We know from the Bible that James the Son of Thunder, not the brother of Jesus, was decapitated and that Peter was crucified (John 21:18, Acts 12:1-2)). Both of these apostles paid the ultimate price for their belief in the Resurrection. The Jewish-Christian historian Heggisipus, wrote of the trial and execution of James the Lord's brother which occurred in 62 A.D. James the Just was given the opportunity to recant and deny his faith in Jesus. He refused to do this and joyfully accepted the gift of martyrdom, much to the horror of the Jewish community in Judea at that time, among whom he was greatly loved and admired. Compare these actions to those of Dan Brown's main source of his theory of the family of Mary Magdalene-Pierre Plantard. When Plantard was brought to trial he quickly admitted that it was all a hoax. He wasn't faced with death and he broke down under trial. The Apostles strong belief and willingness to die for this belief in the resurrection produced the fourth theory. This theory is that since the disciples sincerely believed in the resurrection, there must have been a "resurrection experience," which was a mass hallucination. But the disciples touched, felt and saw the risen Jesus. Thomas didn't want to believe, and refused to until he touched Jesus. Thomas wasn't the only doubter. The Apostles didn't really expect or hope for a resurrection. Something happened to convince them that Christ was truly alive, despite their doubt. The fifth theory was that Jesus did not die on the cross, but was resuscitated and survived. Of course this is the theory behind the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail. Originally, Dan Brown was going to include this story in The Da Vinci Code but he decided against it. If Jesus wasn't dead, the thrust of the spear to his side by the Romans would have killed him. Mary of Magdala, who was there, was convinced that Jesus was really dead as were all of the disciples and his own mother. The sixth theory is that Jesus really did rise from the dead. If this is true, there is a life beyond this life, and everything that the Bible says about Jesus is true. Of course it takes an element of faith to accept the historical reality of the resurrection. The resurrection is the foundation of the Christian faith.

The scriptures declare, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but quickened by the spirit"(1 Peter 3:18). The resurrection proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah and was not only a martyr. Many people complained about the film The Passion of the Christ, saying that our focus should be on his resurrection rather than his crucifixion. We need to preach the Resurrected Christ, but it was his death that paid the price of our sins and it is by his stripes that we are healed. The Risen Jesus appeared to Mary of Magdala and she proclaimed him RABBONI, Aramaic for "my teacher." W. Phillip Keller in his book Rabboni: the Story of Jesus, "This was the loftiest adulation she could confer on him." (In the scripture Jesus is addressed as "rabbi" more often than any other designation.) In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul proclaims the story of the Resurrection. Jesus appeared to Cephas, the Twelve, to James the Just and then 500 believers, and lastly, the resurrected Jesus also appeared to Paul. Jesus fulfilled the Jewish Festival of First-fruits in his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:23, James 1:18). (Paul lists the important men who were witnesses of the resurrection. At the time of Christ, a woman's testimony carried little weight. Giving witnesses as important witnesses as the Four Gospels do was going against social norms.)

There is transforming power in the resurrection. It was necessary for the resurrection to occur for the Holy Spirit to be given. Jesus did not begin his ministry until he was baptized by the Holy Ghost. We need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and live a spirit filled life. The Risen Jesus breathed upon the disciples and said "Receive ye the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). Through the power of the Holy Spirit Christ "opened their minds" so they could understand (Luke 24:45). Fifty days after the Passover on a Jewish Festival called Shavout or Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was sent down in a dynamic way and the church was born. Jesus gave his disciples supernatural power. He told them to do the things he did. He promised them that they would do greater things than he did. When he commissioned them he commanded them to work miracles and make disciples. This miraculous power is for us today if only we have faith to use the power and authority that has been made available to us. Jesus will come again in power and glory. The realm of God will burst into human history. Jesus will come and answer the Lord's Prayer; he will make it so his will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

Salvation is found in the Resurrection power of Jesus the Christ. As soon as I heard that Mel Gibson was going to make a film on the last twelve hours of the life of Christ shot entirely in Aramaic and Latin, I contacted Father William Fulco, Gibson's historical consultant, Aramaic scholar and translator of the script into the original languages. My concern I expressed to him was that it was vital that movie contain a resurrection sequence because a failure to depict the resurrection in the film would be a denial of the resurrection. I was assured by Father Fulco that the Resurrection would be depicted in the film. Some have complained that the movie should have shown more of the Resurrection, but the movie was about the Passion and not the Resurrection and I am pleased with how the Resurrection was depicted in the movie. The Passion alone did not achieve our salvation. Redemption would not have taken place without the Resurrection. Jesus arose victorious over death, hell and the grave. The Gospel's depict a physical resurrection of Jesus. John speaks of it as that "which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled" (1 John 1:1). The Resurrected Jesus is not a ghost or an apparition nor is he a hallucination. He spoke to the disciples and said "It is I myself. Handle me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have" (Luke 24:39). He ate food (Luke 24:40-43). He was even able to convince a skeptic like Thomas, who refused to believe until he had poked his finger in the nail-holes and stuck his hand in the place where the spear pierced his side (John 20: 24-30). While Thomas did doubt, earlier he had shown extreme faith for Jesus and even willingly risked his life for his Master (John 11:16) and later he did again when he preached in Assyria, Parthia and India.

Eastern Christians place a higher emphasis on the Resurrection than do Western Christians, who instead focus on the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus. This is illustrated by a powerful ancient painting of Christ as the Son of Man defeating the powers of evil by his resurrection. This painting is entitled "The Harrowing of Hell" or alternately "Anastasis", meaning "Resurrection" in Greek. This painting is in the Church of the Blessed Saviour of the Chora in Constantinople. The church was forcibly taken from the Eastern Christians and is now a mosque. The painting was made some time around 1215-1321. In the painting Christ, after his death on the cross, descends into Hell, tramples on Satan and rescues Adam and Eve while other saints from the Old Testament await their liberation. Christ stands on the gates of hell, which he has just broken down, the chains and locks of hell are broken to pieces and Satan is chained hand, feet and neck. In a very ancient Christian tradition, while Jesus was dead in the tomb his spirit "descended into hell." While there he defeated the power of evil and death and brought the souls of the righteous dead out of Sheol, the realm of the dead, and brought their spirits into God's heaven. In my opinion this is one of the greatest pieces of Christian art ever made and it also captures the Biblical concept of Jesus Christ as the Son of Man.

    Peter teaches that we are saved and born again through the power of the resurrection of Jesus. He says "blessed be the God and Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah from the dead" (1 Peter 1: 3). Paul agrees with Peter and meditates on the importance of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul says that in the Resurrection Jesus is a "First-fruits" of those who sleep (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Jesus fulfilled the Passover on the 14th of Nisan, He also fulfilled the Jewish Feast of First-fruits, which Josephus says took place on the third day from Passover which he places on the 16th of Nisan. The salvation experience includes our becoming resurrected with Jesus, in a spiritual sense. Paul says, "Ye are buried with Him in baptism, wherein ye are also risen within through the faith in the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead" (Colossians 2:12). Being adopted into the Family of God, by being engendered or begotten from above, is accomplished through the resurrection power of Jesus the Christ. This is a core doctrine of the Christian faith.

Rabboni is one way of saying "Jesus is Lord". Another word for Lord in Aramaic that is found in our Bible is the word "Mar" and this Aramaic word is found in the prayer "Maranatha". In Aramaic "Mar" means "Lord" and "Maran" means "Our Lord." The Maranatha prayer has greater significance than just a prophetic significance. Ben Witherington III notes the importance of the Maranatha prayer in his book The Brother of Jesus, "In concluding his letter, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 16:22 offers up a prayer in Aramaic, "Maranatha", which means "Come, Lord." In other words, Jesus is already called Lord by Aramaic speaking Jewish-Christians, and he is prayed to. Now, early Jews did not pray to people who were merely revered dead rabbis, teachers, or even prophets. They might well pray for a rabbi to be raised on the last day, but they would not pray to him and implore him to come. Yet, that is what Paul is doing here, and he is probably echoing a prayer he heard offered in the Jerusalem church, where such prayers were spoken in Aramaic. The dramatic importance of such a prayer should not be underestimated. Jews were forbidden to pray to someone other than God. This prayer strongly suggests that Jesus was included within the earliest Aramaic Jewish Christians understanding of God. In other words, Jesus was already viewed very early on as divine by his earliest followers, and this included James [the Just]. The notion that seeing Jesus as a divine figure was added only late in the first century and was done so only by Gentiles is simply not true."

Mary Magdalene's main New Testament claim to fame is the fact that she was the first witness of the resurrection of Jesus. This fact is denied in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.


 


 


 

Women in the Early Church


 

In Galatians 3:28 Paul says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus". In the New Testament church, women were not silent observers of worship but rather active participants. The Aramaic Christians take the injunctions of the New Testament very seriously and follow them literally. Paul instructs women to cover their heads when they worship in the church. When I visited the Aramaic Christians in the Middle East, I noticed that all women wear head coverings when they entered the sanctuary. If a woman by chance forgot to bring her head covering, the church provides them at the entrance. Aramaic Christians are very particular about following the commands of scripture. In this case we are looking at 1 Corinthians 11:5. "But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven." Paul clarifies what prophecy entails in 1 Corinthians 14:3, "But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." Therefore women were audibly praying and speaking messages of hope and encouragement to the church. Today in the Aramaic Assyrian Church of the East, choirs of women participate with the liturgy and sometimes during worship services, women sing solos. There are many good Aramaic choirs and vocalists among the Assyrian Christians.

The New Testament begins with the family tree of Jesus. Usually, at that time, the names of women were omitted from genealogies, but the genealogy of Jesus includes the names of women. Every woman that is mentioned in this genealogy has some sort of shameful past. They were either pagans, prostitutes, seducers, adulteresses, or suspected of sexual impropriety. (Mary the mother of Jesus, was of course innocent. However, the conception of a child before her marriage had been finalized with Joseph, apparently created something of a scandal. If Joseph hadn't married her she would have been stoned to death. Joseph initially planned to secretly send her away.) The women are mentioned because God come make something glorious out of broken lives. These women, despite their mistakes or ancestry, were considered to be worthy to be mentioned in the family tree of the Messiah.

In ministering to women Jesus ignored Jewish ritual impurity laws. In Mark 5:25-34 it records the incident of Jesus healing a woman who suffered from menstrual bleeding for 12 years. Being touched by such a woman would rendered the person touched ceremonially "unclean." Instead, through her touch of faith Jesus healed her. (She touched the fringes on his garment that Jesus was wearing in fulfillment of the Mosaic law.) When she confesses to having touched him, Jesus didn't rebuke her, but rather spoke words of kindness and compassion unto her. In the Jewish society of Christ's day, it was a terrible transgression for a man to talk to any woman other than his wife or close relative. Jesus did not only talk to Jewish women, he also spoke to pagan women. In John chapter four he spoke to a woman of Samaria. Samaritans were viewed as foreigners. In Matthew 15:21-28, Jesus spoke to a Syrian woman from Lebanon who was a pagan. She followed after Jesus begging her to heal her daughter. His disciples asked Jesus to send her away. Instead Jesus decided to stop and talk to her. He told her that his mission was to the Israelites. Due to her persistence and to her great faith Jesus said, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire!" In the Gospels Jesus heals gentiles when he healed the servant of a Roman official and when he healed the demoniac of the Gergasenes. Jesus never completely excluded non-Jews from his ministry. As has been demonstrated Jesus took female disciples. In Jewish tradition at the time, it was forbidden to allow women to be taught. Rabbi Eliezer, who lived in the first century A.D., taught, "Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman…Whoever teaches his daughter Torah is as one who teaches her whoredom" (Mishna, Sotah). Some Messianic Christians want to bring people under Rabbinical tradition, which includes traditions such as this and contain traditions Christ himself opposed. (The Messianic Movement is a movement in Christian circles to restore Christianity to its original Jewish context. Messianics often celebrate the Old Testament festivals and attempt to use more Hebrew or Aramaic vocabulary. In many ways it is a positive development. We do need to explore Jesus in the context of this original language, culture and times. There are some extremists who move around in Messianic circles and some among them who are introducing false teachings.) Some rabbis in ancient times did receive support from women as means, but to give religious instruction to woman was considered scandalous. Jesus at times used terminology that made women equal to men. In Luke 13:16 Jesus healed a women who was bound by an indwelling demonic spirit. He called her a "daughter of Abraham." The term "Son of Abraham" was often used to respectfully refer to a Jewish man. The term "daughter of Abraham" seems to have been coined by Jesus. In Luke 7:35 Jesus says "wisdom is justified by all her children." "All" here includes men and women. In Jewish law, a man could divorce his wife, but a woman could not divorce her husband. In the Law of Moses, a man would give his wife a bill of divorce, but a woman could not divorce her husband. The only right she had was the right to a divorce decree. Jesus condemns divorce, but then mentions a woman divorcing her husband as a legal possibility, something that was rejected by Judaism of his day. Jesus also used women in the stories he told to teach the principles of the Kingdom of God, his parables. He used women in the parable of the leaven (Luke 13:21), the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10) and in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). In this parable the oil for the lamps represents the power of the Holy Spirit, which must energize our lives.

We should also, remember that Jesus as an infant was prophesied over by Annah the Prophetess (Luke 2:36-38). Mary the Mother of Jesus and Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist spoke words of prophecy to one another before the births of their sons (Luke 1:39-56). Acts 2:1-21 Peter quotes Joel's prophecy that God's Holy Spirit will fall on men and women. In Acts 9:36 the disciple and minister Tabitha, Gazelle, whose name is Aramaic for Gazelle, is mentioned. She is resurrected from the dead by Peter. In Acts 21:9 it is mentioned that Phillip the Evangelist's four daughters are prophetesses. Romans 16:1 states that Phoebe is the minister of the church at Cenchrea. Romans 16:3 we see that Priscilla (Prisca) is a fellow-worker with Paul. See also Acts 18:24-26. Priscilla is often mentioned before her husband Aquila. Priscilla took the preacher Apollos, an important early evangelists, and instructed him on the doctrine of Jesus. In Romans 16:7 Junia the Apostle is a woman "outstanding among the apostles." Women leaders of house churches in the New Testament are Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11), Mary the mother of John Mark the Evangelist (Acts 12:12), Lydia (Acts 16:14), Nympha (Col 4:15) and Apphia (Philemon 2). (The house of St. Mark, according to ancient tradition, was where the Last Supper was held. Its traditional location is now an important sanctuary for the Aramaic Syrian Orthodox Church. Mary, the Mother of John Mark, was the lady of the house and hosted Jesus.) Euodia and Syntyche are mentioned as co-workers who were active evangelists (Philippians 4:2). 1 Timothy 3:11 in the Greek refers to a deaconess. (Eastern Christians have an old tradition of allowing women to serve as deacons. The deaconate is an office of the church. A deacon serves the church, mostly with administration duties. However, two of the first deacons, Stephen and Phillip, were preachers as well. In Aramaic the word for deacon is "shamasha," and means "servant." In Aramaic churches the shamasha assists in the worship services.) Paul says that Timothy's mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois, had a godly influence on him (2 Timothy 1:5). John the Revelator saw of vision of a woman, who was symbolic of the Nation of Israel and of the Mother of Jesus, in his Apocalypse (Revelations 12:1-6).

Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries says most early Christians were women. He says that, "Christianity promoted liberating social relations between the sexes and within the family," he writes, giving women more status than they enjoyed in Roman society, where they remained the property of men. Moreover, from the very beginning Christianity opposed infanticide and abortion, gruesome procedures that produced a pagan population that was disproportionately male. Women also benefited from the church's sanctification of marriage and opposition to divorce. "Roman men held marriage in low estate," he observes, and even when they did marry produced few children. (This book was reviewed by Kenneth L. Woodward in Newsweek, August 19, 1996. See also Wayne A. Meeks The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul.) Even among the ancient Greeks and among the Romans all women, even wives, had a status equal to that of slaves. Jesus showed his honor for marriage by performing his first miracle at a wedding.

In the "Messianic" Jewish-Christian movement there is an emphasis on Jesus being Jewish and also his place in Jewish culture. However, we need to realize that Jesus at times broke with Jewish culture. He did this in his teaching of God as Abba, Father and also with his teaching and practice concerning the place of women. Jesus ministered to several women during his ministry including the Syrian Phoenician woman, Peter's mother in law, Mary the mother of John Mark, the woman healed of the issue of blood, the Samaritan woman, the widow of Nain, among others. Joachim Jeremias noted that in the Marcion Bible, when formal charges were brought against Jesus by the Jewish leadership, one of the accusations was about his scandalous acceptance of women and his dealings with them.

In the Old Testament there are many important female figures, Sarah, Rachel and Leah, Miriam the Prophetess, Rahab, Deborah the Prophetess and Judge, Ruth, Hannah, Huldah the Prophetess, Esther, the Personification of Wisdom in Proverbs, the "Good Wife" of Proverbs (Proverbs 31), and the wise woman of Abel. The daughters of requested equal inheritance rights for women from Moses and he granted it to them at God's command (Numbers 27). In the Apocrypha there are also several important female characters which include, Asenath the wife of the Patriarch Joseph, Judith, and Sarah wife of Tobias (who is in the Book of Tobit, which was originally written in Aramaic and was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls.)

Saint Tekla was a woman who was converted by St. Paul the Apostle. She is especially venerated by the Aramaic Christians of the village of Maloula outside of Damascus in Syria. While Tekla was fleeing from the Roman authorities she sought refuge among the Aramaic people in Maloula. She was accepted by them and shown great hospitality and kindness by the Arameans. She was no doubt instrumental in the conversion of the Aramaic people to faith in Jesus as Lord and Messiah. The canyon in Maloula were she escaped from the pursuing Roman authorities is still regarded as a holy place. I wrote my book The Words of Jesus in the Original Aramaic: Discovering the Semitic Roots of Christianity in Maloula, and parts of it I wrote in the Church of Saint Tekla. Mary of Magdala and Saint Tekla demonstrate that women played an important role in early Aramaic Christianity. In the first century Aramaic speaking women were coming to believe in the God of Abraham. Queen Helen of Adiabene converted to Judaism and was buried in the holy city of Jerusalem. Later, Queen Zenobia of Palmyra bestowed royal favor upon Christianity.

    There were certain restrictions on women in ministry (1 Corinthians 11:2-16, 14:33-36; 1 Timothy 2:11-15). Since women could pray and prophesy aloud in church the statement that women should "keep silent" in church may refer to the habit of some women in Corinth to rudely interrupt services with questions. This seems to be the context. In Timothy the passage seems to be restricting women from serving as pastors over churches. While there is obviously a ministry for women in the church, none of the twelve apostles were women and certain offices of the church were restricted to men. Some people use these verses to totally exclude women from any ministry in the church. I believe we should look at all the scriptures together and take a more balanced position.

    Submission can be a virtue and being submissive to proper authority, and being submitted to someone you love, can be a strength and a virtue. The Old Testament states that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. (This statement was directed against a man, King Saul, and not a woman.)

What does it mean to be a woman? To be a lady (Martha in Aramaic)? Radical feminist try to dictate this and put the focus on self in such things as "Our Bodies, Our Selves". Do lesbianism, abortion, and sexual promiscuity really define what it means to be a woman? Motherhood is a beautiful thing and a gift from God. Anti-family feminism is not of God. As Christians we are to be Christ-centered and not self-centered. We all should live for others. Radical feminism is about self-centeredness and physical gratification without accountability for actions. A recent feminist book "The Myth of Motherhood" dares to attack motherhood! Certain radical feminists are harming people's lives and damaging society. Women need to look to God and virtuous role models such as Mary Magdalene to pattern their lives after, and not allow themselves to be deceived by the radical left. Early Christian prophetesses, such as the associates of Montanus, supported traditional morality. (Montanus created a scandal in the era of the early church by allowing women to prophesize.) Magdalene was a real woman and a person whom young women today should imitate. Mary of Magdala serves as an excellent role model for today's young women. She was probably illiterate but she still pursued an education. She rejected society's conventions and as an intelligent and independent woman who defied custom she chose to be a rabbinical student and study under one of the most famous rabbis of her day. While she may have been illiterate we should recognize that at her day there was an important oral culture. The meturgeman had an oral form of the entire Aramaic versions of the Old Testament memorized. (During the synagogue service the meturgeman would recite a portion of the Old Testament in Aramaic. Targums were necessary because many people no longer understood Hebrew and thus needed the Bible to be explained to them in Aramaic. If Hebrew was the primary spoken language at the time of Christ, Targums would have been superfluous. But we know that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament quoted from renderings from the Targums and that Jesus himself functioned as a meturgeman, especially when he recited Psalm twenty-two from the cross.) Mary of Magdala undoubtedly committed the doctrine of Jesus to memory and taught it to others. Part of the reason that Mary of Magdala is mentioned so often in the Gospels is because she was widely known in the early church as a prominent traveling missionary and also as a leadership figure.

Many women, such as Phyllis Schlafly and Ann Coulter, are very intelligent and articulate spokeswomen for the conservative view. I believe that women are capable of independent and rational thought. In my view it is a bit presumptuous to say that extreme left wing radical feminist organizations speak for all women. Radical feminist organizations and various "abortion rights" organizations do not, and cannot, speak for all women. Dr. James C. Dobson, a prominent psychologist, in Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives deals with realities of sexual differences.


 

It is my deep conviction that each sex displays unique emotional characteristics that are genetically endowed. Cultural influences cannot account for these novelties. Few psychologists have had the courage to express this view in recent years, because the women's movement has perceived it to be insulting. But to be different from men does not make women inferior to men. Males and females are original creations of God, each bearing the strengths and weaknesses that counterbalance and interface with one another. It is a beautiful design that must not be disassembled. (162)


 

It is sad to see many women these days engaging in raunchy behavior, displaying immodesty and demeaning themselves through shameful sexual lifestyles. Sexual promiscuity is wrong and harmful. Neither males nor females should live in such a manner. It is harmful and destructive. The problem with sexual promiscuity is dealt with in the Bible. In the book of Proverbs, young men are warned to avoid promiscuous women and to instead be faithful to and rejoice in the wife of their youth.

Dan Brown depicts Christianity as a religion that is against women. Is the Christian religion anti-woman? Let us see by comparing it to societies influenced by other religions. Here I am not trying to defame Hinduism or Confucianism, only to show how women in these cultures have been treated in the past. There is wisdom to be found in both of these systems of thought, but not in how women have been treated in the past. (I have read the Analects of Confucius, the Mahabharata and the Upanishads and thoroughly enjoyed all three of these works.) In China, a culture influenced by Confucianism, women had to endure foot-binding. Almost all Chinese women had their feet mutilated. This kept them from moving about freely and confined them to the home. The last aged women who had her foot bound in her youth died only a few years ago. Confucius had a low opinion of women and expresses this in his "analects". (Confucius was a wise man but he had a low opinion of women.) Women were not allowed to participate in the ancestor worship rituals. Worship was a man's duty alone. In Hinduism of the past, when a man was being cremated it was his widow's duty to kill herself by being burned alive in his funeral pyre. This practice was called suttee. Hinduism also had temple prostitutes in the past, as recently as in the colonial era. Unwanted girls were forced into prostitution in Hindu temples. Until recently, Hindu society has had problems with "bride burnings" or "dowry deaths," in which new wives were burnt alive over their dowry. Of course, there have been reform movements in these religions. What I am trying to illustrate is that to say women are mistreated in Christianity, is a mischaracterization, especially when compared to abuses against women in the past in non-Christian cultures.

Many Islamic cultures practice what is called female genital mutilation, in which the vulva and clitoris are cut up in order to limit a woman's sexual pleasure. The Koran teaches, "Men are superior to women by a degree. God is mighty and wise" (Sura: The Cow: 2:228). (A Sura is a chapter of the Koran.) The Koran also teaches, "Men have authority over women because Allah has made one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because Allah has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey, take no further action against them. Allah is high supreme" (Sura, Women 4:34). Islam also sanctions the veil and polygamy. Sura an-Nia orders Islamic men to "marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four…" Concerning the veil in the Sura of the Confederate Tribes it states, "Prophet, enjoin your wives, your daughters, and the wives of true believers to draw veils close around them. That is more proper, so that they may be recognized and not molested. Allah is forgiving and merciful." In Sura 4:24-25 the Koran states that female captives are allowed to be taken by Moslem men and to become their concubines. Before the dawn of Islam, certain Arab tribes were matriarchal and at times powerful Arab queens, such as Zenobia, reigned. Mohammed permanently put an end to this aspect of Arab culture. In strict Islam, such as among the radical Wahibi cult group, women must never show their face in public and are not allowed to drive a car. Unfortunately, the Wahibi cult is now very powerful and influential in the Islamic world. (For more information on Islam see www.answeringislam.org.)

In contrast women, such as Joan of Arc for instance, have played an important role in Christendom. Even in the Byzantine era women, such as Emperor Justinian's wife, Theodora, were very powerful and influential. Theodora is practically viewed as a saint by the Syrian Orthodox Christians. Among Protestants, women have been very influential among the Methodists, Holiness and Pentecostals. John Wesley's mother, Susanna Wesley, created a controversy by preaching and leading worship services. Famous Christian leaders who were women include, Perpetua and Felicitas, St. Clair, the associate of St. Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Sienna, Hildegard of Bingen and Catherine Emmerich, the author of The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, on which Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was based. Women served as pastors in early Pentecostal churches. Phoebe Palmer was the founder of the Holiness movement. Catherine Booth founded the Salvation Army. Aimee Simple McPherson founded the Foursquare Gospel Church. Ellen White was a important influence in the Adventist church. Many of the most popular Christian hymns sang across the world were composed by Fanny Crosby, a blind woman. Helen Barrett Montgomery was the president of the American Baptist Convention and she also translated the New Testament from Greek into English. As can be seen, women have always played an important role, even in leadership, in many Christian denominations. I believe that women can enter ordained ministries as prophetesses, ministers, and deaconesses, but not as pastors of churches. Women were behind the global missionary movement of the nineteenth century. Women would organize missionary societies and finance missionaries. Although they were not allowed to preach in America, Baptist churches did send missionaries to preach to the 'heathen' overseas, including the famous missionary Lottie Moon. Often, missionary work has also been mischaracterized. As Justo Gonzalez has noted in his The Story of Christianity, "Although the accusation is often made that missionaries were agents of colonialism, this is not always true, for some opposed it and many criticized various aspects of it. Nor is it true that missionary work entered through a door opened by colonialism; for. Although in many cases missionaries worked in colonized areas, there were many cases where missionaries reached regions never visited by white traders of colonizers. Also, many of the colonial authorities and commercial interests opposed missionary work, for they feared that religious conflict would interrupt trade…For years, the British East India Company tried to bar missionaries from the lands under its rule. Most European governments, and the United States, adopted a neutral-and sometimes slightly hostile-stance towards missionaries and their goals." The reality is that whatever their origins, the churches of the third world are coming to dominate global Christianity. Christianity is on decline in the west and in ascendancy in the third world. These Christians represent the future of the Church. (These facts are explored in Phillip Jenkin's The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford University Press, December 111, 2003) and Lamin Sanneh's Whose Religion is Christianity?: The Gospel Beyond the West (Wm. B. Eerdmands Publishing, September 20003).) I believe that Dr. David Livingston represents the good in the global missionary movement. Dr. Livingston had a heart for Africa. He wanted the people of Africa to know the love of Jesus. He also wanted to improve their lives. He also dedicated his life to ending to Islamic slave trade in black Africans. Many Africans still admire Dr. David Livingston till this day.


 


 


 

The Desposyni: The True Story of the Holy Family of Jesus


 

The Da Vinci Code claims that there is a secret family of Jesus Christ. In reality the family of Jesus was known in history. This family of Jesus was known and widely respected and played an important role in the early church. This family of Jesus was made up of his brothers, his cousins, and their children. Jesus himself remained unmarried and had no children. In the Biblical account and in the most ancient historical sources, it is seen that the family of Jesus played a vital role in the early church. The man who played the most important role was James the Brother of Jesus. When Jesus departed into Glory, James became head of the church. After James was brutally murdered, another near-kinsman of Jesus, Simeon, succeeded him. Stephen Neill in A History of Christian Missions states that "great change came about when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. Until that date Jerusalem had been without question the mother Church of the whole Christian world. James the brother of Jesus had presided over its fortunes, and there seems to have been a feeling in the minds of some Christians that a kind of caliphate out to be developed in the family of the Lord." The first eighteen bishops of Jerusalem were all Jewish Christians and most of them were close relatives of Jesus, being his brothers or first cousins, or their descendants. Originally, the Christian Church had its headquarters in Jerusalem. Stephen Neill compares the practice of the earliest Christians to elect one of the closest relatives of Jesus to be the leader of the church to be similar to the practice of the later Shiite Moslems in their view of the Caliphate. The Caliph is the secular and religious of a Moslem state. It comes from the Arabic word Khalifa, successor, which is derived from the word khalafa to succeed. A Caliphate is the office, jurisdiction, or reign of a caliph. The Shiite faction believes that the Islamic world ought to be ruled over by a caliph who is a descendant of the so-called "prophet" Mohammed. In a somewhat similar manner the brothers of Jesus led the early church. Preference was also shown to Jesus nephews, Jacob and Sokker, when they gave a bold confession of their faith in their uncle as Messiah, during the Roman persecutions. Jacob and Sokker were chosen to govern the church.

"Ya'kov bar Yosef akhui diYeshua", James the Son of Joseph, the Brother of Jesus. So reads the Aramaic inscription on the recently discovery Sarcophagus of St. James the Apostle, the leader of the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem. This discovery has become very controversial with some maintaining it is an authentic relic and others denouncing it as a fraud. This bone box is a twenty inch long lime stone box with an Aramaic inscription (not Hebrew or Greek) that reads, "James, the Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus". It is a 10 inch by 20 inch by 12 inch limestone box. It is properly called a ossuary or "bone-box". At the time of Jesus people were buried in caves. Bones of those whose bodies had decayed were collected and put in stone boxes called ossuaries. The ossuary of Caiphas, the High Priest behind the death of Jesus, has been discovered. His bones were still inside the box. The ossuary of Caiphas was also inscribed in Aramaic. If the James bone box is real or not doesn't change the fact that James the Just, the brother of Jesus, played a central role in the early church in Jerusalem.

Although Jesus is known to have "brothers" what this means was interpreted in different ways. Early church fathers such as Tertullian, Hegesippus, Helvidius of Rome and others believed that they were sons of Joseph and Mary after the virgin birth of Jesus. Eastern Orthodox interpretation is that they were sons of Joseph, a widower, from a previous marriage. Catholic Interpretation is that 'Brothers' a Semitic idiom for 'cousin'. Jerome is credited with this interpretation.

What the scriptures say: Matthew 1:25, "and he [Joseph] did not have sexual intercourse with her [Mary] until she brought forth her firstborn son. And he called his name Jesus." This verse strongly implies that Mary and Joseph did have sexual intercourse. God blessed their love with four sons and at least two daughters. The boys names were James [James is an old English form of the name Jacob], Joseph, Judah and Simeon (Mark 6:3). His sisters names may have been Mary and Salome.

There are three people named James in the New Testament. James the Just was also known as James the Brother of Our Lord and as St. James of Jerusalem. He is also the author of the Epistle of James. James was the leader of the Christian community. Another James was known as James the brother of John was the son of Zebedee. This James was given along with his brother the nick-name of Boanerges by Jesus. Boarnerges in Aramaic means "Sons of Thunder". He was murdered by King Herod. The third James, St. James the Less, was an apostle of whom we know very little.

As with all the disciples who had their moments of doubt, so did his brothers. Apparently, even Mary his mother went through a crisis of doubt. In the Bible we see the family of Jesus actively involved with his ministry and supporting Jesus at the very beginning and also at its very end (John 2:12, John 19:25). When the church began after the glorification of Jesus the brothers of Jesus played an important role in its leadership. There was a time during his ministry that the family of Jesus thought Jesus had lost his mind and went to attempt to discourage him from continuing his ministry (Mark 3:20-2). In this account it states that they believed Jesus had lost his mind (Matthew 12:46-50). In one passage they attempted to take Jesus away from the crowds and put an end to his ministry (Luke 11:27-28). At the Feast of Tabernacles, James and his other brothers showed a lack of faith in Jesus. John states, "Even His brothers did not believe in him" (John 7:1-9). This time they want him to prove himself. So then, when did the brothers of Our Lord come to a complete faith in Jesus? The Bible isn't specific but we can infer that it was either in the midst of his ministry or during the Holy Week. Ancient extra-biblical accounts state that James was present during the Last Supper. According to St. Paul, the Resurrected Jesus appeared unto James and then later unto the rest of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:7). This account by Paul is the early written account of the Resurrection that we now possess. We know that on the day of Pentecost that James, Mary and the rest of the brothers of Our Lord were present awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit along with the other apostles and saints (Acts 1:14). Due to the fact that they quickly rose to prominence in the early church shows that they must have played an important role during the earthly ministry of Jesus.

James was the leader of the church with authority over Peter (Cephas) and the rest of the apostles. According to the Gospel of Thomas Christ himself appointed James to lead the church. [The Gospel of Thomas may be based on an authentic gospel but the original is lost and it now exists only in a version that was reworked by heretics. Thus it should be used only by specialists and only with extreme caution.] Thomas Verse 12, "The Disciples said to Jesus, "We are aware that you will depart from us. Who will be our leader?" Jesus said to them, " No matter where you come it is to James the Just you shall go, for whose sake heaven and earth have come to exist."" This verse doesn't tell us whether Christ commissioned James during his public ministry or after the resurrection. Either way his authority is unquestioned. (The latter part of the Thomas saying is a primitive Jewish figure of speech used to praise those of virtuous character.) In Galatians, Paul describes the church being led by the 'pillars' James, Cephas and John. Here James is given precedence over Peter (Cephas). The Bible and early church history is very clean in stating the fact that James and not Peter was the leader of the church. At the Counsel of Jerusalem the decision of James was final and not subject to debate. "James answered, saying, 'men and brethren, listen to me…I judge that we should not trouble those from among the gentiles who are turning to God…" (Acts 15:13-21). (There was a controversy in the church about circumcision. After a discussion, James, as head of the church, dictated church policy. No one questioned his authority. Peter was in submission to James. The reason for this is because the citation from "The Gospel of Thomas" is authentic, Christ himself put James in charge over the church. We know that James was extremely "Torah-observant". He was a devotee of the Mosaic Law, which he described as "The Perfect Law of Liberty" (James 1:25). Paul met with James after his conversion (Galatians 1:19). James was called the Zaddick, which means in both Hebrew and Aramaic 'the Just' or 'the righteous.' He was very Torah Observant and Christian Jews who were "Zealous for the Law" surrounded him (Acts 21:20). Cephas (Peter) was intimidated by these people (Galatians 2:11-12). The other "Brothers of Our Lord" [Joseph, Judah and Simeon] also had a special function in the Church as apostles and missionaries. Like Cephas (Peter) they were married (1 Corinthians 9:5). This verse implies that James was married as well. When Cephas (Peter) was freed from prison by the angel he instructed the disciple Rhonda that she was to report to James and the other Brothers that he was safe (Acts 12:17). Paul reported to James on the progress of his missionary endeavors and to bring an offering to support the Ebion, the poor saints of Jerusalem (Acts 21:18). Paul was an observant Jew but he stressed the difference between being saved and observing Jewish rites. James instructed Paul to worship with some brothers in the temple and perform Jewish rites and to pay their expenses. This was to show that Paul was a Jew and had a deep respect for Jewish tradition. Neither Paul nor James was in error for doing this.

James is the first of the General Epistles because he was the preeminent apostles and had authority over Peter, whose epistles follow that of James. James style is the most similar to that of Jesus as found in the Synoptic gospels. (Matthew, Mark and Luke). It is wisdom literature and actually only mentions Jesus once. It is addressed to the Jewish Diaspora specifically but it is obviously intended for all Christians as well. It has a strong focus on works; "Be doers of the word, not only hearers" (1:19-27) and "faith without works is dead' (2:14-26). He also encourages praise and worship and Charismatic ministry especially praying for supernatural physical healing (5:13-15). He also stresses the power of prayer (5:16). James is a powerful and inexhaustible book.

Josephus was a contemporary of St. Paul who wrote two important histories of the period of the New Testament. In his works he mentions John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and James the Brother of Jesus. His writings include Antiquities of the Jews and War of the Jews. He presents us with one of the most important accounts of the martyrdom of James the Just. Josephus was probably an eye-witness of these events since it is known that he was in Jerusalem when these events transpired. Josephus, although not a Christian, was opposed to the persecution and murder of James. He says,


 

Ananus…was a bold man in his temper and very insolent…he though he now had a proper opportunity…and he brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others. And when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned; but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa] desiring to send to Ananus that he should act no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified;


 

The Roman governor Felix had died and the new Roman governor was in route. Ananus became high priest and there was no one there to check his power. He had an opportunity to pursue his personal vendetta against James and the other Christian Jews. Before he was authorized to hold office the new high priest had James murdered. The people were outraged and this led to the high priest being deposed. Other apostles were probably also martyred at this time. James popularity among the people is proven by their rising up against the high priest after he had James put to death. Eusebius quotes another saying of Josephus, "Some held that these calamities happened to the Jews to avenge Jacob (James) the Just, who was the brother of Jesus called Christ, and who at this time the judges had executed, although he was a man distinguished for his justice." Many early Christian Jews and non-Christian Jews believed that the temple was destroyed because James's intercession was ceased by his murder. James is said to have been so continually on his knees in the temple that his knees became as hard as a camel's. Even the unbelieving Jews were filled with awe at his devotion and called him "Jacob the Righteous." According to ancient Jewish Christian sources he was martyred during the Fest of the Passover by being thrown down from a tower of the temple, stoned and then clubbed to death. According to ancient Jewish Christian sources, James officiated as a priest in the temple. There are also strong traditions that he was a vegetarian. In this tradition, bishops of the Aramaic Assyrians Church of the East are also vegetarians. (In the Aramaic church tradition, pastors may marry. However, currently bishops take a vow of celibacy. In the past there were married bishops in the Aramaic churches. Vegetarianism among certain early Christian Jews is mentioned by Paul the Apostle in Romans 14:1-4. Early Christian Jews were called Ebionites. Many Ebionites were vegetarians. See "Literature on the Ebionites" by Keith Akers www.compassionatespirit.com. A theological argument for vegetarianism is presented in Matthew Scully's Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy (St. Martin's Griffin, 2003). Proverbs 12:10 states that "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." Thus the Bible enjoins the humane treatment of animals. The slaughtering of animals should be done in the most humane way possible. I learned while I was preaching in Iowa that kosher slaughtering is not necessarily humane slaughtering. Christ's teachings and morality superceded those of the Old Testament.)

Jerome quotes from the now lost Gospel of the Hebrews in "The Lives of the Illustrious Men"


 

And when the Lord had given the linen cloth to the servant of the priest, he went to James and appeared to him. For James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour in which he had drunk the cup of the Lord until he should see him risen from among them that sleep. And shortly thereafter the Lord said; bring a table and bread! And immediately it is added: he took bread, blessed it and brake it and gave to James the Just and said to him: My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of Man is risen from among them that sleep.


 

The Aramaic Christians believe their Churches were founded by the Brothers of Our Lord. The Syriac Syrian Orthodox Church counts James as its founder and uses a liturgy called "The Liturgy of St. James". The Syriac Ancient Church of the East claims to have been founded by the Apostle Thaddeus, a disciple named Mari and by first cousins of Jesus. They have a tradition that Simeon the Brother of Jesus sent apostles to maintain the ministry to the Aramaic speaking Assyrians and Babylonians. These missionaries included Abras, who was a first cousin of Jesus and of the family of Joseph. Thomas founded the Church in Assyria, Babylonia, Persia and India. He is also believed to have been a near kinsman of Jesus. The Liturgy of St. James is described as "The Anaphora of Mar James, the brother of our Lord. And this is the first Corban, which he said he heard from the mouth of the Lord. And he did not add, and did not omit in it a single word…For also James, the brother, according to the flesh of Christ our God, to whom the throne of the church of Jerusalem was first entrusted…"

Jude the Brother of Jesus was an important Christian missionary who is alluded to by Paul (1 Corinthians 9:4). Like the apostle Paul Jude was a traveling missionary and went from city to city preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Jude wrote an epistle that is included in our New Testament. Jude quotes from the Book of Enoch and a lost work called "The Assumption of Moses." This epistle has a strong Jewish flavor. Jude was married, as Paul states, and when he traveled and preached his wife accompanied him to assist him in his ministry. His wife probably also preached and had also personally known Jesus. Jude had children and his grandchildren played an important role in early church history. Probably no one knew Jesus better than his brothers, James, Jude, Simeon and Joseph.

Another brother of Jesus was Simeon. After James was murdered Simeon succeeded him. Simeon was also a near-kinsman of Jesus. Even though he was a very aged man over one hundred years old, the Romans crucified him. This was how Simeon the Aged, the Brother of Jesus and Bishop of Jerusalem suffered the martyr's death.

There are reliable historical accounts of the relatives of Jesus. Eusebius, the Father of Church History, mentions them in The Church History which was written about the year 325 AD.


 

So Herod, with no Israelite ancestry and pained by his base origins, burned the genealogical records, thinking he would appear of noble birth if no one were able to trace his bloodline from public documents. A few, however, carefully kept private records of their own, wither remembering the names or finding them in copies, and took pride in preserving the memory of their aristocratic birth. Among these were the desposyni ["Belonging to the master" in Greek, since Jesus was Lord or "Despot". In a spiritual context the Greek flavor of "despot" was not politically pejorative.], so called because of their relation to the Savior's family. Living in the Jewish villages of Nazareth and Cochaba, they went through the rest of the land, explaining the above genealogy of their descent and quoting from the book of daily records as much as they could.


 

Later members of this sacred family were persecuted by the Emperor Domitian.


 

Still surviving of the Lord's family were the grandsons of Jude, who was said to be his brother according to the flesh, and they were informed on as being descendants of David. The officer brought them before Domitian Caesar, who like Herod, was afraid of the coming of Christ…They were asked about Christ and his kingdom-its nature, origin, and time of appearance. They replied that it was not of this world or earthy but angelic and heavenly, and that it would be established at the end of the world when he would come in glory to judge the living and the dead and reward everyone according to his deeds.


 

They were released and became the leaders of the church. The names of these two young men were Jacob and Sokker. Apparently, over the centuries the family of Jesus either died out or somehow forgot its true identity. They are lost to history. It is very possible that there are people in the Middle East, maybe among the Christian population, who are of the family of Jesus. These people, if they exist, would be totally ignorant of this. In the early centuries of Christianity, the Desposyni were known. But now this family of Jesus has been totally lost and forgotten. The Desposyni of history, were not the children of Jesus and Mary of Magdala, they were the family of his brothers, sisters and near cousins. Jesus and Mary of Magdala never married and never had children. This is a recently devised myth. We have historical accounts of the Desposyni. There are no historical accounts of the children of Magdalene because this is not history but the product of twentieth century imagination. (For information about the Desposyni Eusebius consulted the writings of the Jewish Christian historian Hegisippus. He lived in the early second century and got his information from ancient Aramaic sources. Unfortunately, the writings of Hegisippus only survive in quotations from his works that are found in other writings such as those of Eusebius. I wish archeologists would discover the writings of Hegisippus, or the life of Christ written by Papias, or the Diatesseron, or some other important historical documents rather than these fraudulent Gnostic writings. The Gospel of Thomas is the only valuable historical source found among these Gnostic writings and it is a tainted, altered text.)

The sisters of Jesus Christ are mentioned in Mark 3:32, 6:3 and Matthew 13:56. In this passage the people of Nazareth say, "Are not his sisters here with us." In the History of Joseph the Carpenter the sisters are named Lysia or Assia and Lydia. In Epiphanius of Salamas they are named Mary or Anna and Salome. Epiphanius is a more reliable source. The names of Jesus' sisters were probably Maryanne and Salome.

In the ancient Aramaic The Acts of the Apostle Thomas, Thomas, who is called Judah Thomas, is depicted as the identical twin brother of Jesus! This is, of course, impossible. In Aramaic Thomas means "the Twin." In Greek the name Thomas didn't create such curiosity and confusion as it did among Aramaic speakers. It is supposed that Judah was given the nickname "Thomas" because he was a close relative of Jesus and bore a striking resemblance to him. It is very possible that Thomas was a cousin of Jesus. In an ancient tradition, Thomas, like Jesus, is a carpenter from Galilee. In The Acts of Thomas Thomas is depicted as an Apostle of Jesus Christ and as a man who dies a martyr's death for Jesus in India. According to the ancient Aramaic tradition, Thomas evangelized Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, the Island of Socotra and also India. In the Old City of Damascus, one of the ancient gates is called "Bab Tooma", or the Gate of Thomas, because it is held that Thomas passed through that gate on his missionary journey. In southern India there are many "St. Thomas Christians," who are the descendants of those who were converted at the preaching of Thomas. Thomas is held in an extremely high place of honor among the Christians in India who belong to the Aramaic Church Tradition. (When European explorers first came to India they were surprised to find that many Indians were already Christians. Christianity is as old in India as it is in Europe. The Acts of Thomas refers to events and personalities that have been verified by archeological discoveries. It does also contain much material that is obviously legendary. Many historians have conceded that the story of Thomas evangelizing India is most likely true. Some of the earliest Aramaic sources we have mention Christianity as being firmly established in India. Soon after arriving in India, the Roman Catholics arrested the leaders of the Aramaic churches there and began burning libraries of Aramaic books. The Catholics were deeply offended that these Aramaic people claimed to be Christians and yet they did not know who or what a "pope" was. Indian Christians were put through the inquisition. As the time, obviously, Roman Catholics viewed Aramaic Christians are heretics. The Catholics tried to violently convert the Saint Thomas Christians to European modes of worship but failed. A few short years ago, the Roman Catholic church has decided that perhaps Aramaic Christians are not heretics after all.) Thomas is the reputed author of the Gospel of Thomas. There is also the "Revelation of Thomas" and the aforementioned "Acts of Thomas."


 


 

Abba, Father


 

Jesus called upon God as "Abba, Father," in his Aramaic language. Understanding this concept is crucial to understanding the message of Jesus, his concept of God and how he related to Mary of Magdala. When we do this we are looking at the most primitive source we have on Jesus the Messiah and his conception of who God is. This most primitive source is the actual Aramaic words he originally spoke as he originally spoke them. Who was God to Jesus? Did Jesus worship God as the "Sacred Feminine" as Dan Brown claims? The answer to this question is found in the Aramaic word Jesus used to call upon God when he prayed. The first thing we need to do is to define this Aramaic word, Abba. This Aramaic word found its way into Hebrew and is now the Hebrew word for 'Daddy'. The Hebrew word for Father is Avi. In Modern Aramaic the pronunciation of Abba has changed and now it is 'baba'. The Aramaic word "Abba" is found three times in the Greek New Testament. Jesus cries out to "Abba, Father" in the Garden of Gethsemane. Paul uses the Aramaic word 'Abba' twice in his epistles. This is significant because Paul rarely uses Aramaic in his epistles. The only other two Aramaic words he uses is "Maranatha" for "Come, O Lord" and he refers to Simon by the Aramaic form of his name "Cephas" more often than the Greek form "Peter". The word "abba" is significant because it comes from the lips of Jesus Christ himself. St. Paul thought is was significant enough to expand on this word and include it in two of his epistles.

Jews did not and do not address God as 'abba'. There is however one old story from the first century of a Rabbi who did refer to God as Abba.


 

Hannan He-Nehba was the son of the daughter of Onias the Circle-drawer. When the world needed rain, our teachers used to send school-children to him, who seized the hem of his coat and said to him "Abba, Abba, Hab Lan Mitra" (Aramaic for 'Daddy, Daddy, give us rain!") He said to Him (God 'Master of the world, grant it for the sake of these who are not yet able to distinguish between an Abba who has the power to give rain and an abba who does not."


 

(This story calls to mind certain teachings of Jesus. Jesus says that the Father knows what children need in Matthew 6:32. He tells us that the Father sends rain on the just and the unjust in Matthew 5:25. We are also told that the father gives good gifts to his children who ask of him in Matthew 7:11.)

In ancient records there is an isolated instance of an adult referring to his father as "Abba". This does not mean that Abba does not mean 'Daddy'. My mother called her father 'daddy' until his death. (In old Aramaic 'Abba' is 'daddy' and 'abhi' is 'father'.) Some rabbis used 'abba' as a title. Jesus, perhaps partly for this reason, said, "Call no man 'father' on earth" (Matthew 23:9). An equivalent to Abba is perhaps "papa" as well as "daddy". In certain languages the Roman Catholic pope is addresses as papa, which is what the word 'pope' is derived from. In the Targums, the Aramaic version of the Old Testament, it is seen that the Jews deliberately avoided using the word Abba to refer to God.

In The Books and the Parchments F.F. Bruce makes an interesting note about ABBA; Aramaic for "Daddy"


 

We read in Mark 14:36 how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee'. While Abba is an Aramaic word, it made its way into Hebrew use as well; to this day a Hebrew-speaking boy will address his father as Abba. But in addressing God, Jews did not and do not employ this form, the affectionate term for intimate use within the family, but the more formal Abi, 'my Father', or Abinu, 'Our Father'. Jesus, however, or set purpose used the intimate and affectionate from Abba when addressing God, and His example was followed by the early Christians, who used the same Aramaic word. So Paul, in Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4:6, reckons it a sign that God has sent the Spirit of His Son, 'the spirit of son-ship, into the hearts of believers in Christ when they pray 'Abba, Father'. Many grandiloquent phrases are often employed in addressing God in prayer and worship but none of them is so Christian as the simple 'Abba, Father', used by our Lord.


 

In the Greek New Testament the Greek word pater, which means "father," is used to explain the Aramaic word Abba. If pater captured the full meaning of the Aramaic word abba, what is the point for using the Aramaic word in the first place? If abba merely means pater, or "father," why is it used so many times? If abba merely meant 'father' the Aramaic term wouldn't have been used at all. William Barclay believed that Abba is un-translatable. According to Barclay,


 

There is extraordinary intimacy which Jesus put into the term. Jesus called God, Abba, Father" (Mark 14:36). As Jeremias points out there is not even the remotest parallel to this in all Jewish literature. Abba, like the modern Arabic jaba, is the word used by a young child to his father. It is the ordinary, everyday family word which a little child used in speaking to his father. It is completely untranslatable. Any attempt to put it into English ends in bathos or grotesqueness. It is a word which no one had ever ventured to use in addressing God before.

For Jesus the fatherhood of God was something of almost inexpressible sacredness, and it was something of unsurpassable tender intimacy. In it is summed up everything that he came to say about God in this relationship with men.

When we set this conception of God as the Father, to whom a man may go with the same confidence and trust as a child goes to his earthly father, beside the Jewish conception of the remote transcendence of God and beside the Greek conceptions of the grudging God, the gods who are unaware of our existence, the god without a heart, we see it is indeed true that Jesus brought men good news about God.


 

So, why did Jews avoid using Abba in reference to God? Joachim Jeremias explained this in his book The Central Message of the New Testament:


 

The reason why Jewish prayers do not address God as Abba is disclosed when one considers the linguistic background of the word. Originally, abba was a babbling sound. The Talmud says: 'When a child experiences the taste of wheat (that is, when it is weaned) it learned to say [in Aramaic] abba and imma' (that is, Dada and Mama are the first words it utters); and the church fathers Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Theodoret of Cyrus, all three of them born in Antioch of well-to-do parents, but in all probability raised by [Aramaic-speaking] Syrian nurses, tell us our of their own experience that little children used to call their fathers abba.


 

Abba means Daddy. It seems almost irreverent to address God, who is seen as distant and sanctimonious, in such an intimate and loving way. But this is what Jesus dared to do and what he dares us to do. That is to have an intimate loving relationship with almighty God.


 

God as Father


 

    Christ's teaching of the Fatherhood of God was a radical new message but it did have an Old Testament precedent. God referred to the nation of Israel as his son. Moses said to Pharaoh, "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my Son, even my first-born. And I say unto thee, "Let My son go, that he may serve me" (Exodus 4: 22) There are other important scriptures were God is the father to the nation of Israel.


 

    Yet, O Lord, thou art Our Father,

    We are the clay, and thou are our potter (Isaiah 64:8)


 

    A son honors his father,

    And a servant his master.

    If I am a Father, where is my honor?

    If I am a master, where is my fear (Malachi 1:6)


 

An important passage shows that God in the Old Testament desired to have a relationship with Israel as a Father, but this desire was rejected by Israel and had to wait until the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom of God by Jesus Christ.


 

    I thought how I would set you among my sons,

    And give you a pleasant land,

    A heritage most beauteous of all nations.

    And I thought you would call me, My Father,

    And would not turn from following me.

    Surely, as a faithless wife leaves her husband,

    So you have been faithless to me , O house of Israel (Jeremiah 3: 19)


 

According to Witherington Yahweh (the Lord) desired to have the Fatherly relationship with Israel but He was resisted and this relationship that God desired with his people was rejected by the nation of Israel and hence this revelation had to await the coming of the Messiah. As Ben Witherington III states in The Shadow of the Almighty: Father, Son and Spirit in the Biblical Perspective:


 

We may also with to point to several prophetic texts as possible exceptions to the rule about [not] naming God as Father in the OT. In Jeremiah 3:19 God's people are upbraided with the words: "I thought you would call me, my Father, and would not turn from following me." The implication is that God's people have not addressed God in this way, though it was something God had hoped for. Notice too here the connection with the estrangement from God. Instead of having an intimate relationship with God characterized in familial terms, just the opposite was happening. Israel was turning away from God and ceasing to follow Gods ways. Jer. 31:9 also emphasized that it is God's own earnest desire to relate to his people as a father. He will protect those returning from exile "for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim [Ephraim was the prominent northern Israelite tribe] is my firstborn."


 

The Davidic King was considered the Son of God in a special way. Of the Son of David God spoke and said, "I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son" (2 Samuel 7:14). This is Messianic is significance and is why Jesus was called Bar-Dawood, the Son of David. He had the right to call God his Father. This special prerogative of the Son of David, the Messiah, is seen also in Psalm 2. In the Targum of Psalme 89:27, God promises the future anointed Davidic King that he will call on God saying, "You are abba to me, my God!" In ancient Judaism only the king that was of the dynasty of King David, could dare call upon God as Father. But as Joachim Jeremias says, with Jesus' doctrine of Abba; "We are confronted with something new and unheard of which breaks through the limits of Judaism. Here we see who the historical Jesus was: the man who had the power to address God and Abba and who included sinners and the publicans in the kingdom by authorizing them to repeat this one word, 'Abba, Dear Father'.

With Dan Brown's book The Da Vinci Code attention has been given to the so-called 'sacred feminine'. Some people feel that it is no longer appropriate to refer to God as Father much less as Daddy (Abba). My interest is to explore what Jesus taught and believed about the nature of God and not shifting fads in our contemporary society. In our scriptures God reveals himself in a masculine gender. This is divine revelation and has nothing to do with "sexism". Jesus taught the Fatherhood of God but his consideration of women is seen in his life and ministry. To protect women and the family he discouraged divorce (Matthew 5:32). He taught women the mysteries of the Kingdom of God (Luke 10: 39, John 4: 10-15) and he took women as disciples (Luke 8: 2-3). These women traveled with Jesus and supported his ministry.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT GOD'S ETERNAL NATURE IS THAT OF A FATHER. God is about relationships. That is why he desires relationship with people. God's eternal triune nature is about a relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. At Ephesians 3:14 St. Paul states, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ from whom all fatherhood in heaven and earth is named." This is a direct translation from the Greek. Most modern translations, including the King James Version, read "every family" rather than "all fatherhood". The original Greek has "all fatherhood". God as "Our Father" has been an established Christian doctrine but now this central tenet of the Christian faith is being called into question. In The Promise of the Father: Jesus and God in the New Testament Marianne Meye Thompson attempts to minimize the significance of Christ's teachings on God as our Father. Thompson is a revisionist trying to develop a new unorthodox feminist theology. Thompson argues that there was nothing new, unique or revolutionary in Christ's teaching of God as Father and that it had all been stated in Judaism before. She attempts to dismiss this teaching as irrelevant and presents this doctrine as merely echoes of the barbarism of primitive near eastern tribal culture. She even attacks the Lord's Prayer and states that it she finds it offensive since it "excludes" people. In her book she also attacks the research of the great Aramaic expert and Bible scholar Joachim Jeremias. Besides being factually incorrect, Thompson's views are in conflict with the teaching of the New Testament and also with Christian tradition. A rebuttal to her book is found in The Shadow of the Almighty: Father, Son and Spirit in the Biblical Perspective by Ben Witherington III and Laura M. Ice.

Despite the claims of Thompson, it is evident that the Father/Son relationship is important in the very identity of God. Andrew Murray makes this clear in With Christ in the School of Prayer. Murray describes this as the Key to the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. It explains that the reason that God desires relationships and prayer from us is that his eternal nature and person is that of such relationships. Murray states,


 

Seeking answers to such questions provides the key to the very being of God in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. If God were only one Person, shut up within Himself, there could be no thought of nearness to Him or influence on Him. But in God there are three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is in the Holy Spirit that the Father and Son have their living bond of unity and fellowship. When the Father gave the Son a place next to Himself as His equal and His counselor, He opened a way for prayer and its influence into the very inmost life of the Trinity itself…As the representative of all creation, Christ always has a voice in the Father's decisions. In the decrees of the eternal purpose, room is always left for the liberty of the Son and mediator and intercessor. The same holds true for the petitions of all who draw near to the Father through the Son.

                                            

Murray illustrates that the Infinite Fatherliness of God is an indispensable doctrine, fundamental in the message of salvation and crucial in prayer. Concerning the Father-hood of God in the message of repentance and salvation Murray states


 

Jesus came to baptize with the Holy Spirit, who could not stream forth until Jesus was glorified. When Jesus made an end of sin, He entered into the Holiest of All with His blood. There on our behalf he received the Holy Spirit and sent Him own to us as the Spirit of the Father. It was when Christ had redeemed us and we had received the position of children that the Father sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts to cry; "Abba, Father." The worship in spirit is the worship of the Father in the Spirit of Christ, in the Spirit of son-ship. This is the reason why Jesus uses the name of Father here. We never find one of the Old Testament saints personally appropriating the name of child in relationship to God or calling God their Father. The worship of the Father is only possible for those to whom the Spirit of the Son has been given. The worship in spirit is only possible for those to whom the Son has revealed the Father, and who receive the spirit of son-ship. It is only Christ who opens the way and teaches the worship in spirit.


 

Jeremias also illustrates this fact saying,


 

Judaism had a great wealth of forms of address to God at its disposal. For example, the 'Prayer", Tephilla, (later called the Eighteen Benedictions), which was already prayed three times a day in the New Testament period, ends each benediction with a new form of address to God…It can be seen here that one form of address to God is put after another. If we were to collect all the forms of address that appear in early Jewish prayer literature, we would find ourselves with a very extensive lest. Nowhere, however, in the Old Testament do we see God being addressed as 'Father"…In post-canonical Jewish literature there are isolated examples of the use of pater as an address to God; these. However come from Diaspora Judaism, which is here following the influence of the Greek world. In Palestine, it is only in the early Christian period that we come across two prayers which use 'Father' as an address to God, both in the form abinu malkenu. But it should be noted that these are liturgical prayers in which God is addressed as the Father of the community…the Father to whom the community calls is the heavenly king of the people of God…It is quite unusual that Jesus should have addressed God as 'my Father"; it is even more so that he should have used the Aramaic form Abba.


 

Jeremias's point is still well established despite Thompson's efforts to discredit him. She

finally admits near the end of her book, "it is particularly striking that no passage in the

Old Testament gives an account in which God names himself as Father." This revelation of God's nature was only hinted at in the Old Testament. Jesus brought the full revelation of God's eternal nature of Father.


 

Abba's Child


 

    In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee. Take away this cup form Me; nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark 14: 36). Never in Judaism before Jesus did any rabbi dare to address God as "My Father" as Jesus did. Jesus also instructed his follows to pray to Our Father as he did. The use of the word 'Abba' is very important because it is what scholars call "ipissima vox", the Original Voice, or" ipissima verbo", the authentic words. There is no doubt that his was the exact word Jesus spoke. And Jesus always prayed to God as Father. How important is this saying of Jesus? No less than 170 times in the Holy Gospels does Jesus call God 'Father'.

    Abba is however a mystery, a special revelation that comes only through Jesus Christ. The Messiah said, "All things are delivered unto Me by My Father, and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father, except he Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him" (Matthew 11: 27). Paraphrased from the Aramaic this means, "Only Father and Son truly know each other. And because only a father and a son truly know each other, therefore a son can reveal to others the innermost thoughts of his Father." So, only Jesus can pass on to others the real knowledge of God. This is further shown in John 14: 8:


 

Phillip said unto him, "Lord, show us the Father and it will suffice." Jesus said unto him, "Have I been so long a time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Phillip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,; and how sayest thou then, 'Show us the Father'? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself; but the Father dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me…


 

How important is Christ's teaching about God as Abba? Joachim Jeremias goes as far as to say that Jesus "goes as far as to say that only he who can repeat this childlike Abba shall enter into the Kingdom of God. This is why Jesus says "Let the little children come unto me" (Mark 10:14) and "Unless you humble yourselves and become like little children you shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of God" (Matthew 18:3-4) and "Unless a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3) Repentance means a turning away from sins but for the Christian it is more than that because we believe in salvation by grace through faith and not a works based salvation. Joachim Jeremias also says, "Becoming a child again means: to learn to say Abba again. This brings us to the meaning of repentance. Repentance means learning to say Abba again, putting one's whole trust in the heavenly Father, returning to the father's house and the Father's arms…repentance of the lost son consists in his finding his way home to his father. In the last resort, repentance is simply trusting in the grace of God."

    The word "Abba" was used and understood in churches that were founded by Paul, such as those in Galatia but it was also used in churches not founded by Paul, such as Rome. (The Greek word for Father is Pater.) The two passages in which Paul refers to God as Abba are very significant. The first one is Galatians 4:6


 

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive adoption of Sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, "Abba, Father." Therefore thou art no more a servant but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.


 

What is important here is the agency of the Holy Spirit in adopting us into the family of God. This same theme is picked up in Romans 8: 15


 

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live according to the flesh, for if ye live according to the flesh ye shall die, but if ye through the flesh do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God. For we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit itself bears witness with our sprit that we are the children of God; and if children then heirs,-heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if so it be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.


 

The greatest difficulty is humiliating ourselves as children. In our human nature we cannot do this, and this is why we must be born again. In both of Paul's Abba passages he notes that it is through the agency of the Holy Spirit that we are empowered to address God as "Abba". Carlo Caretto reminds us of the difficulty of becoming like a child and embracing God as Abba-Daddy.


 

"If you do not become like little children you shall not enter the Kingdom," and that's not easy for those who have been complicated by sin. To become like children means to increase our feeling for God's fatherhood over us, it means to think and act as little children do to the father they love. He looks after everything, he resolves everything and so on. When does a little child ever worry about tomorrow? Never, the father takes care of it…All our plans, even on the road to holiness, are perfectly useless: the real plan is in His hand and we need to go to Him like children seeking love. I want to become little so I can run more swiftly towards the great final fire…no holding back, just trust in the immense mercy of the One who immolated His Son to save a slave."


 


 

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we may be called the Sons of God! (1 John 3:1). We were not born as the Sons of God naturally. In our original nature we are fallen. We must be born again in order to become children of God. God loves us so much. The Bible says that God is Love. God desires a relationship with us but we must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God. We are saved by trust; that is by trusting in Jesus as our Savior. The only way to do this is to make Jesus our Lord. This is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thompson is forced to concede that,

Paul explicitly locates the believer's address to God as "Abba, Father!" in the work of the Holy Spirit (8:15)…Paul's use of the unusual verb "to cry" (krazein) has been taken to point to the emotional, enthusiastic, or spontaneous prayers of believers. At the same time, the address to God as abba has been read, in light of Jeremias's arguments about Jesus' use of the term, to refer to the believer's sense of intimacy in relationship with God…Paul's use of krazein, rather than a word for confess, speak, or pray is indeed striking. One does not confess that God is Father; one does not even pray to God as father. Rather, they 'cry' to God as Father. The term krazein is also found in Galatians 4:6...It seems likely, therefore, that the verb krazein is used because the Spirit is the ultimate source of these words , rather than because they signify the interior or emotional state of those who are speaking or a particular setting of prayer or worship.


 

Ben Witherington III and Laura M. Ice suggest that this occurs through the infilling of the Holy Spirit in The Shadow of the Almighty: Father, Son, and Spirit in Biblical Perspective. They suggest that by the Holy Spirit "Christians are enabled to cry "abba, Father!" Notice that the verb "cry" here, which suggests at the very least an earnest imploring of God, if not an ecstatic experience engendered by the Spirit…our minds also are not capable of articulating what we ought to be saying to God in prayer and so the Spirit intercedes and prays with and through the believer, with sighs too deep for words, a possible reference to glossolalia…" Glossolalia means "speaking in tongues." It is a radical supernatural experience with the Holy Spirit that enables us to cry out, like a child for her daddy, "Abba, Father!"-"Daddy, God!"


 

Abba's Image


 

God is our eternal Father. But we are not to remain children but to grow in the Lord. Paul says that, "for whom he foreknow, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren" (Romans 8: 29). Paul says that we are to be conformed to the image of the Son of God yet he warns us, "be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12: 2).

We are saved and what are we saved from? Not just hell, but the hell we make of our lives with Hate, Anger, Gluttony, Greed, Indulgence, Selfishness and Sexual Sin.

We are saved unto Love, Mercy, Compassion, Kindness, Joy, Happiness and unto good works. No man can serve two masters, Jesus warns us. He will either love the one and hate the other, or hold to the one and despise the other. Love the Lord, hold on to Him, make Jesus your first love. Jesus calls us to be lost in the Love of God.

The importance of the Aramaic concept of Abba is seen in a careful examination of the Greek text of the New Testament. Fatherhood is a universal concept. The idea that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament want to connect with God as Father isn't just the current cultural norms and mores of fatherhood but also the biological act of begetting. Fathers begetting is inherent in being a father no matter what culture you are born into. Frank Stagg in his New Testament Theology notes that, "It was Jesus' function to "bring many sons into glory" (Hebrews 2:10). He could only do this by expiating (overcoming) the sins of the people (2:17). He also identified himself with us as our brother (2:11), having fellowship (koinonia) with "blood and flesh, that he could break the power of sin and death for us (2:14f)." The Eternal Son of God, who is eternally begotten of the Father, took upon himself flesh so that we may be born into the family of God (Colossians 1:15). This is done by us being, as Stagg notes, "Begotten from above". Stagg says, "Newness of life is described through the "birth" analogy, but probably the stronger New Testament emphasis is seen in its tracing the new life to a divine begetting. John 3:3 may best be translated; "Except one be begotten from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God." The familiar "born again" misses the meaning at two points. The Greek anothen means "from above" not merely again. It is not just another beginning but a new kind of beginning that is required…Man needs more than improvement; a new destiny requires a new origin, and the new origin must be from God. But even "born from above" leaves something to be desired in translation. Probably "begotten from above" is the meaning. The Greek verb genna…normally…describes the father function of begetting. In effect John 3:3 may declare: "Except one be begotten of God, he is not able to see the kingdom of God." This underscores the fact that one enters the new life through an act of God. The act is not coercive, but it is essential and indispensable." Jesus identifies God as Father through the act of begetting sons and daughters and says we cannot see the kingdom of God unless we are engendered from above by the Father. Peter specifically reaffirms this is when he says, "Blessed be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).

The role of fathers was crucial not only in the ministry of Jesus Christ but also of John the Baptist. Elijah is prophesied to come to prepare the way of the Messiah. According to Jesus, John the Baptist had the anointing, the spirit and the role of Elijah. Elijah will come again (Matthew 17:11) as a minister of reconciliation. This is the concluding word of the Old Testament. As it close it sets the stage for Jesus by stressing fatherhood and the coming of the Messiah.


 

Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of Yahweh comes. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6)


 

Elijah's mission is to restore fatherhood. According to the Book of Revelation, for this preaching of Elijah he will be killed and his death will be celebrated (Revelation 11:4-14). Satan hates fatherhood so much that when Jesus was calling upon God as Abba the satanic oppression against our Lord was so strong that Jesus began sweating blood (Luke 22:43-44). Satan and his forces of evil hate God. As God's eternal nature is father, Satan hates fatherhood. Satan hates mankind because Man is created in the image of his enemy, God. We are stewards of God's revelation. We do not have the right to revise, change or adapt his holy word. Those who do so, according to the scriptures, are cursed. According to the divine revelation God is our king, not our ruler nor our queen. God in his sacred voice speaks not in a neuter or feminine voice but in the male gender. God created the man, Adam, in his image. Adam was created first and in his masculinity more closely reflected the divine nature (1 Timothy 2:13-14). God created woman, in his glory and to the glory of man, and in Christ men and women are equal. Jesus revealed to mankind the perfection of the Gospel. He showed us God, not as parent, not as mother, and not only as father but as Abba, daddy, father. Before the creation of the universe in eternity past God chose to reveal himself in the most perfect way in human flesh. The perfect revelation of God in human form was not a hermaphrodite or some type of fairy but the body of a man. Romans crucified men on the cross totally naked. Crucifixion was not only a slow and painful death but also one of shame and humiliation. When Jesus suffered on the cross, according to God's plan, he was crucified totally naked showing his manhood to the whole world and for all time. Christian art depicts Christ on the cross wearing a loincloth but in reality it wasn't there. Jesus was on the cross a completely naked man. Jesus was shown to the world on the cross to be a man and a man who was circumcised. Thus, this man on the cross was shown to be, in his flesh, in covenant with the God of Israel. The cross of Christ and Jesus upon that Cross was a declaration of God's identity and the everlasting Gospel. Jesus is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelations 13:8). The cross was always God's plan. (When I was studying art history, my minor, I came across an articled with a provocative title, The Sexuality of Christ. The article showed that medieval artists often made a point of painting the Christ-child's penis. The reason was to emphasize that Jesus was a real man and felt the same temptations that all men experience. After I had studied this it so happened that there was a controversy about a Madonna and Child Christmas stamp put out by the United States Postal Service. Initially, they airbrushed off the Christ Child's penis, probably seeing it as irreverent to show it. This, of course, also erased the theological statement the artist was trying to make. The stamp was eventually released with the non-altered, non-emasculated image.) Since, as Ephesians declares, fatherhood is an expression of God's nature Satan hates it and wars against it. Hence we see homosexuality, single parenthood and abortion. Fathers, despite what the feminists say, are necessary. Boys need a man to emulate and girls need a daddy just as much. Feminists have said many obvious untruths to the harm of women and the detriment of society as a whole. Some of these statements are absurd and obviously untrue, such as there is no difference between boys and girls except for the difference imposed upon them by our culture. Men and woman are not just anatomically different, we think differently and experience emotions in different ways. It is not a matter of better or worse, but different. These differences, if under God, glorify God and enrich both men and women. We need one another to be complete. Abortion and birth control are about preventing men from becoming fathers and the human species from perpetuating itself. Also the effect of birth control is we have men and women pleasuring themselves, shunning the consequences and obligations that must accompany sexual intimacy. This is displeasing to the Lord. This is rebellion and it brings a curse on the land especially with the shedding of innocent blood. Abortion is blood sacrifice to wanton sexuality. This is a spiritual issue. The issues here are the nature of Man, the nature of God and living a life that is aligned to the will of God. Men need to learn to "be a man". God wills this and so do women though political correctness forbids this to be uttered. (Liberalism and the Politically Correct movement have the same agenda and it is described in Revelation 17: 13. "These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.") Even in the Old Testament it says of the Lord, "Did he not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring ["seed" in the King James Version]. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth" (Malachi 2:15, NKJV).

Despite what many radicals say, fatherhood is important and families do need fathers. Jesus said that earthly fathers may learn from and apply principles of fatherhood from their heavenly Father (Matthew 7:7-12). John the Baptist preached that although earthly fathers are important, it is far more important to have a spiritual renewal and transformation of the heart and thereby come to know God as Father (Matthew 3:9). It doesn't matter if you are a Jew or an Arab, black or white, male or female. What matters is being fathered into the Kingdom of God through Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. God's grace has been made available to every man and every woman who believes.


 


 

The Son of Man


 

"The Son of God became the Son of Man so that men may become the sons of God."-C.S. Lewis (paraphrased)


 

The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)


 

When the Son of Man shall be lifted up, all men shall be drawn unto him.(John 3:14, 12:32)


 

Christ often referred to himself as "the Son of Man". Now in an attempt to avoid "sexist" language this is being translated in a variety of rather absurd ways. The attempts at translating this in a gender neutral manner include the Human One, the Child of Humanity, the Person, and the Son of Adam. I really don't understand the logic in deliberately mistranslating a phrase, especially one as important as the phrase "Son of Man," in an attempt to avoid identifying his gender. Jesus was a man. He was the son of Mary and was considered the son of Joseph. He had secondary sex characteristics such as a beard, which he, as a Jew, grew. Jesus was a man and he was Mary's son. He considered himself to be the Son of Man. Radical feminists are not satisfied with their attempts to emasculate God, they want to emasculate Jesus Christ himself as well! For clarity and accuracy this term must be translated as "Son of Man".

Jesus calls himself the "Son of Man" over eighty times in the Gospels. It is used in all four gospels (and in the Gospel of Thomas). Obviously it is central in our understanding who Jesus is and who he understood himself to be. When it is mistranslated this creates and unnecessary difficulty in researching this term. Son of Man is an Aramaic figure of speech. It has several levels of meaning. The phrase "Son of Man" is not proper Greek. The Aramaic word "Barnasha" underlines this phrase in the New Testament. Jesus taught that he was the Son of Man. Mary Magdalene accepted Jesus as the Son of Man. To understand Jesus Christ, as he was and who he believed himself to be, and also who his disciples, such as Mary Magdalene accepted him to be, we must look at the underlining Aramaic of his words. This is especially true of the phrase the Son of Man. Investigating the meaning of Son of Man will also clarify the relationship between Jesus of Nazareth and Mary of Magdala. One of the reasons that Mary of Magdala followed Jesus was that she believed him to be the Son of Man foretold by the prophets. Ancient Aramaic texts that were excluded from the Bible, such as the Book of Enoch and the Odes of Solomon, deepen our understanding of the phrase the Son of Man. These Aramaic books were used by, and some of them were written by, early Aramaic Christians but they failed to be included in the New Testament.

The title "the Son of Man" is used in all four gospels. After the gospels it isn't used again in the rest of the New Testament, except one place in the Book of Acts and twice in the Revelation of St. John. This has led many scholars to believe that it had a special significance for Jewish believers but when the church focused on the Gentile mission, its use was dropped. However, while the term "the Son of Man" isn't used in the epistles the concept of the Son of Man is found in the writings of the apostle Paul. Mystery also surrounds the title "the Son of Man". What does it mean? Why did Jesus call himself the "Son of Man"? The Aramaic word that Jesus used was "Bar Nasha", literally translated it means "Son of Man" but in Aramaic it means a man, a person or a human being. Now people are translating it in different ways included Son of Adam (in Hebrew "Ben Adam"), Child of Humanity, the Human One, the Person, Mortal, and the Human Being. Part of the reason for this new translation is to avoid the use of the masculine gender. This political correct reasoning is absurd and confusing. The correct literal translation is Son of Man. It is scandalous that our Bibles are no longer being literally translated from the original languages. With the title Jesus is identifying himself with the human race but it is also important that Jesus uses the masculine gender.

What is the difference between the titles Son of God and Son of Man? Son of Man refers to the cosmic pre-existent judge, redeemer and Messiah. This is the Elect or Chosen One. In reality "Son of Man" and "Son of God" are practically synonymous.


 

Son of Man in the Old Testament


 

The Hebrew word is Ben Adam. In Ezekiel it means Human being. In Ezekiel God addresses Ezekiel as "Son of Man" but in this writing it does not have the significance that it latter had in the teachings of Jesus. Although the term "son of man" is found throughout the Old Testament, the basis for the understanding of the term the Son of Man is in the Book of The Prophet Daniel. Daniel was partially written in Aramaic. In both Hebrew and Aramaic the term, "the sons of men," is a figure of speech that means people or human beings.


 


 

The Son of Man and the Son of God


 

So what does "Son of God" mean? In Aramaic it is Bar Elaha or Brona D'Alaha. Son of God refers to the Christ, the Anointed King. This is because the Son of David, Bardawood, has the right to call God his Father according to 2 Samuel 7: 13-14, God promised David that the Messiah would be his son. The Lord spoke and said, 'I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his Kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be my son." This prophecy was fulfilled in part by Solomon and the Davidic dynasty but was fulfilled in its completion in Jesus Christ (see also Psalm 2). In the Gospels, the Son of God is always mentioned with the word or connected to the word, Christ. This begins in Mark 1: 1, "The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." In Matthew 26: 63 Caiaphas says, "I adjure you by the living God that you tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus answers and says, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man…" Here Caiaphas equates the Son of God with the Messiah and Jesus equates the Son of Man with the Son of God. When Peter confesses Jesus as the Messiah he says, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16: 16). Nathaniel does that same thing when he confesses Jesus as King Messiah. He says, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel" (John 1:49). In certain extra-biblical writings the Son of Man is a pre-existent divine being who stands in the presence of the Ancient of Days (the Lord) and will come in the future to implement God's judgment. Jesus as the "Son of God" also means that he is a Divine Being. But Jesus is the Eternal Son of God and is called God the Son. Many scriptures proclaim the deity of Christ and explain that it was through the Son that God created the Universe.


 

The Son of Man in the Apocalypses of Daniel and Enoch


 

The Book of Daniel is written in Aramaic. Our Old Testament as we have it today is written in two languages Hebrew and Aramaic. Ezra and Daniel have large sections that are in Aramaic and not Hebrew in our manuscripts. Daniel, in the Aramaic section, contains a prophecy of the coming of a cosmic judge who will come and reward the righteous and condemn the wicked. Daniel symbolically represents the various world empires of man as "beasts" and "monsters". Suddenly a divine being appears who is "one like the Son of Man". Instead of a monster we have a human being who brings God's eternal kingdom. This Son of Man stands before the Ancient of Days, that is, God the Eternal Father. DANIEL REFERS TO THE SON OF MAN IN A FORM OF THE ARAMAIC WORD BAR NASHA, HE USES THE SAME PHRASE JESUS USED. Jesus was citing the old prophets when he called himself the Son of Man. Daniel prophesied saying, "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him befor him. And there was given to him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14).

Another book that contains important prophecies of the coming of the Son of Man is the Book of Enoch. Jude quotes from it as scripture and it was known and used by early church fathers and is referenced by the epistle of Barnabas, the apocalypse of Peter, by Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origin, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian. Augustine wrote against it and due to his influence it lost its canonical status. (Jude quotes from Enoch in verse thirteen and fourteen of his epistle saying, "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against them.") Ethiopia, however, has preserved the Book of Enoch in their version of the Old Testament. It was lost to the Western World until explorers brought it back from Ethiopia and translated it into European languages. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in Qumran copies of the Enoch, in its original Aramaic language were discovered. Of particular interest is the messianic prophecies of the coming of the Son of Man found in Enoch. The copies of the Book of Enoch found among the Dead Sea Scrolls are not complete and the Son of Man prophecies have not been found among them. There is a complete copy of the Book of Enoch that has been discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls but it is being held by a private collector and has not been made available. Despite this fact, most Enoch scholars do believe that the Son of Man prophecies were not added by a later hand but existed in Enoch as it was in the first century. So certain scholars say that "Enochic concepts" are found in various New Testament books including the Gospels and Revelation. The Book of Enoch was quoted from in early Aramaic (Syriac) Christian sources and was distributed by Eastern Christians as far as Turfan, China where fragments of it were discovered.

Many scholars believe that when Jesus said that he was the Son of Man he was identifying himself as the Messiah to those who were familiar with the prophecies in the Aramaic section of Daniel and in the Aramaic Book of Enoch. As Christ says in Revelation, "He who has ears let him her", which is an Aramaic figure of speech which means, "Let he who can catch my meaning do so" (Rev. 12: 1, 11, 17, 29; 3: 6, 13, 22; 13: 9). Jesus specifically tells us he expects us to be familiar with the Prophet Daniel, he says, "As was spoken by the prophet Daniel, let the reader understand" (Matthew 24:15). Lee Strobel also explores The Son of Man in The Case for Christ:


 

Son of Man is often thought to indicate the humanity of Jesus, just as the reflex expression Son of God indicates his divinity. In fact, just the opposite is true. The son of Man is the divine figure in the Old Testament who would come at the end of the world to judge mankind and rule forever. Thus, the claim to be the son of Man would be in effect a claim to divinity. (p. 36-37)


 

The Aramaic Book of Enoch


 

In Enoch the Son of Man is also called the Elect One (the Chosen One) and the Messiah (the Anointed One). An important section in Enoch dealing with the Son of Man is Chapters 45-48. He stands before the Ancient of Days. He is the righteous one. The Son of Man brings deliverance, salvation and judgment.


 

And [the people of God] had great joy, and they blessed and praised and exalted because of the name that the Son of Man had been revealed to them. And when he sat on the throne of his glory, and the whole judgment was given to the Son of Man, and he will cause sinners to pass away…And from then on there will be nothing corruptible, for that the Son of Man has appeared and has sat on the throne of his glory, and every thing evil will pass away and from before him. (Enoch 69)


 

Here is another example of one of the prophecies concerning the Son of Man found in the Book of Enoch:


 

At that hour, that Son of Man was given a name, in the presence of the Lord of the Spirits, the Before-time, even before the creation of the sun and the moon, before the creation of the stars, he was given a name in the presence of the Lord of the Spirits. He will become a staff for the righteous ones in order that they may lean on him and not fall. He is the light of the gentiles and he will become the hope of those who are sick in their hearts. All those who dwell upon the earth shall fall and worship before him; they shall glorify, bless, and sing the name of the Lord of the Spirits. For this purpose he became the Chosen One; he was concealed in the presence of (the Lord of Spirits) prior to the creation of the world, and for eternity. And he has revealed the preserved portion of the righteous because they have hated and despised this world of oppression (together with) all its ways of life and habits in the name of the Lord of Spirits; and because they will be saved in his name and it is his good pleasure that they have life. In those days, the kings of the earth and the mighty…shall fall on their faces; and they shall not rise up (again), nor anyone (be found) who will take them with his hands and raise them up. For they have denied the Lord of the Spirits and his Messiah.


 

Enoch was removed from the canon by the Jews because it was too Messianic and by the Christians partly because it was too Jewish. As Dr. Francis Potter noted, "when the official canons and doctrines of Jew and Christian were established, in a period when each side hated the other bitterly, as the contemporary literatures of both show historically, the neither side wanted any evidence which would reveal that the… Book of Enoch was the missing link between Judaism and Christianity." The Semitic Judeo-Christians of Ethiopia preserved the Book of Enoch. It has survived due to Ethiopia's isolation from the rest of the Christian world. In Ethiopia it is given canonical status by the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches. The book of Enoch is valuable, but contains later additions to the text and is thus comparable in value to the Book of Maccabees. As important as the Book of Enoch is, in its present form it does not belong in the canon of scripture. That being said, the Coptic Christians have done us a great service in preserving this vital ancient text for us.


 

The Son of Man in the Teachings of Jesus


 

    Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" (Matthew 16:13). Jesus repeatedly designated himself as the Son of Man. He also made prophecies of the coming of the Son of Man, who would bring Judgment Day. He said, "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then he will sit on the throne of glory. All the nations will be gathered before him" (Matthew 25:31-32). Jesus in saying that he was the Son of Man was identifying himself with the human race but he was also identifying himself as the coming Messiah. As he used this Aramaic expression over eighty times in the Bible, and it is found in all four gospels (five if you count Thomas) this Aramaic phrase is of the greatest significance in understanding who Jesus proclaimed Himself to be.


 

The Son of Man in the Preaching of Jesus and in the Apocalypse of John the Revelator


 

    After the Gospel accounts, the use of the Aramaic term "the Son of Man" seems to be suddenly dropped. It is found again only once in the Acts of the Apostles and twice in the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Before the martyrdom of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, he cried out; "Look! I see the heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" (Acts 1: 56). When this statement the ruling Jewish counsel took Stephen and stoned him to death. The reference to the Son of Man enraged these Jewish leaders. With this it should be noted that at his trial, after Jesus claimed that he was the Son of Man, the High Priest said, "What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy" (Mark 14:62-63 NKJV). With this they sentenced him to death. This shows that the enemies of Jesus took his claims to be the Son of Man to be a claim of being a messianic diving being. When Jesus appears to John in his superhuman divine form, John calls this manifestation of the Christ "the Son of Man." John says, "I turned to see the voice that spoke to me. And having turned I saw…one like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes like a flame of fire; his feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and his voice as the sound of many waters…his countenance was like the sun shining in its strength" (Revelations 1:12-16 NKJV). In our culture we personify death as the "Grim Reaper" carrying a scythe with which he harvests souls. In Revelation King Messiah carries this sickle and uses it. John says,


 

And I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on his head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for you to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." So he who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped (Revelation 12:14-16 NKJV).


 

This figure is the Son of Man and wears a crown and so we know that this is Lord Jesus. The Aramaic figure of speech, "Barnasha," has many levels of meaning. One of these meanings is that of a title for the great cosmic judge and redeemer of all mankind, the pre-existent Messiah. When Jesus called himself the Son of Man, and when he is called the Son of Man, this is what this term means.


 

Paul's Son of Man Theology: The Second Adam


 

It may seem that the use of the term and of the concept of the Son of Man, suddenly drops off after the Gospels, but this is a misconception. Paul also refers to the Son of Man but he uses a different form. In Jewish mysticism the Messianic Son of Man was also called the Adam Kodman or the New Adam. Paul refers to this doctrine of the Son of Man when he calls Jesus the Second Adam or the New Adam (Romans 5:17-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:45-49). This idea of the Adam Kodman is found in the book of Jewish mysticism called the Kaballah. One of the most important texts of the Kaballah is the Zohar and it is written in the Aramaic language. The Aramaic Kabbalah, has gotten a great amount of publicity from popularizers such as Madonna. I find certain parts of the Kaballah problematic. (The Kabbalah is speculative Jewish mysticism. Some concepts in the Kabbalah are very interesting, but others are unbiblical. The Kabbalah has been influential in both Judaism and Christianity. It is very complex and difficult to understand. I personally believe that for certain people Kabbalah studies can be dangerous and so it should be studied with extreme caution. False ideas such as astrology and reincarnation are part of the Kabbalah.) Hugh Schonfied explains the Jewish theology of the Adam Kodman/Son of Man and its relation to Paul's doctrine of Jesus as the Second Adam in this book The Jew of Tarsus.


 

The chief Pauline documents which treat of these matters are Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians…But there are passages in earlier writings, Romans and Corinthians, and earlier still Galatians…The essential element in the teaching with which we are concerned, is that the visible universe conforms to a pattern of design, which represents the image of the Invisible God, who Himself has neither form nor substance. Man, the crown of creation, being made "in the image of God," answers therefore completely to the original pattern, which thus may be conceived as manlike figure. This primordial or archetypal man, the "heavenly man" of Philo [of Alexandria] and the Adam Kadmon of the Jewish occultists, is the true image of God, the beginning of creation and the lord of it. Hence the first man on earth was given dominion over every living thing in it. In the Jewish esoteric circles in which Paul had moved the archetypal man was already being equated with the Messiah as the "Son of Man" or "Elect One".


 

[Paul was a rabbi who had been trained by one of the most famous and widely respected Jewish rabbis is all history, the great Rabban Gamaliel. Gamaliel is often mentioned and praised in extra-biblical Aramaic Christian writings. In fact, he is presented as a man sympathetic towards Jesus and as someone he met with him and had spoken to him on friendly terms. Paul had apparently studied Jewish mysticism, and the Son of Man theology or "kabbalah," while a rabbinical student around the time he studied with Gamaliel.]


 

In Paul's words, Messiah is "the expression (or image) of the Unseen God. The first-product of creation, that everything might be founded on him which is in heaven or upon earth, seen and unseen alike, whether (angelic) Thrones or Lordships, Rulers or Authorities. Everything was founded for him and because of him. He is both the antecedent of everything, and that on which everything is framed. So, too, is he head of the body, the Assembly, he being the original, the first-product from the dead, that in all connections he may take precedence: it being thus fitting that in him the whole totality should abide. And that because of him-his peace-making through the blood of his cross- all things, whether on earth or in heaven, should be brought into harmony with himself" (Colossians 1: 15-20).

The archetypal man [the Son of Man] was necessarily conceived as a vast universe-filling figure, even the microcosm, the first man Adam upon earth, in his first state was held to be of gigantic stature…Adam in this sinless state was a being of transparent light, and only after his fall did be become opaque and skin-covered. [In Jewish legend, Adam was a gigantic superhuman being until he ate of the forbidden fruit, which reduced him to a common mortal man.]

Accepting with Paul the equation of Messiah with the Adam Kodman, it required that he should cast aside his glory and "make himself small' so as to enter the man Jesus for the salvation of Israel and the restoration of harmony between heaven and earth. By the resurrection there was restored in Jesus the light-body which the first man had possessed and lost, and the re-expansion of his stature to that of the first man before the fall. Thus ennobled and reintegrated wit the Adam Kadmon Jesus became the Lord Jesus Messiah.

So Paul writes: "Let your disposition be that of Messiah Jesus, who, though once (as the archetypal man) he wore godlike guise, did not cling tenaciously to that estate; but divested himself (of his garment of light) for the guise of a slave, donning the likeness of man. And thus in man's array, he abased himself, and became subject to death-death on a cross. This is why God has so elevated him and bestowed upon him the chiefest name, that when Jesus is named every knee, heavenly, earthy and infernal, should bend, and every tongue attest the Lord Jesus Messiah to the glory of God the Father' (Philippians 2: 5-11). He goes on to say: "But our type of government is of heavenly derivation, for which source we expect a deliverer, the Lord Jesus Messiah, who will transform our plain body into the likeness of his splendid body by the power which enables him to bring everything under his control" (Philippians 3: 20-21).

Because of the supremacy of Messiah, with whom Jesus, the earthly man is now compounded, it is not for the saints-as Paul argues- to be subject to any lesser controls as if they were still ruled by them, for they, too, in Jesus messiah, share the totality and the kingship. Paul childes those who "follow human tradition, the zodiacal influences of the universe rather that the Messiah. In him alone (as the image of God) the whole totality of what is Divine finds its corporate abode, and in him it is –the head of all (angelic) Rulers and Authorities- that you are made complete…Why having died with Messiah to be free of the zodiacal influences of the universe, are you subject to control as if you still belonged to their sphere? For once having died (in effect with Messiah) your life has been hidden with the messiah in God so that when the Messiah, who enshrines our life, appears, you , too, will appear with him in glory…You have put off the old man with his ways, and put on the new man, who is continually renovated as he becomes intimate with him, who represents the expression of the Creator, where there is no question of Greek and Jew, circumcision or un-circumcision, Barbarian, slave or freeman, but Messiah is everything and in everything" (Colossians 2:8-10, 20, 3: 3-4; 9-10)

Here again Paul adapts Jewish mystical teaching for his own purpose. So we find it written in…Enoch: "And the Lord of Spirits will abide over them (the elect), and with that Son of Man, will they eat and lie down and rise up forever and ever. And the righteous and elect will have risen from the earth and ceased to be of downcast countenance, and will be clothed with garments of glory. And these shall be your garments, garments of life before the Lord of Spirits; and your garments will not grow old, and your glory will not pass away from before the Lord of Spirits."

According to Paul the community of believers represents the Messianic Body as Jesus is its Head, and it is the world of redemption to transform that Body into the Messianic Body of Light, and so to bring about the union of the two. The concept also goes back to the Adam Kodman. In the archetypal man the attributes of God are made to correspond with the parts of the human body. These are the ten sefirot [Note: this is classic Kabbalah]. Surmounting the head is kethe (the crown). The Head and brain is chokma (wisdom, the Logos), the Neck is Binah (intelligence), the breast is tiferet (Beauty), the right arm is chesed (loving-kindness), the Left are is Pahad (Justice), the Belly is Yesod (foundation), the Right Leg is Netsach (firmness), the Left leg is Hod (splendor), and the feet represent Malkuth (kingdom). The Messiah's descent into Hade is therefore described in the Primitive Christian Odes of Solomon as "the Head went down to the Feet," the feet being the Old Testament saints, and of the resurrection that followed it is said that Hades "let go the head with the feet."

The secrets are made known "that you may apprehend with all the saints what is the Breadth, the Length, the Depth and the Height, that you may know what indeed surpasses knowledge-the love of Messiah, that you may be filled with the whole totality of God…Till we arrive at the integration of faith, at intimate knowledge of the Son of God, as manhood's perfection, at the dimension of the growth of Messiah to his full proportions; that you be children no more…but grow up to him, who is the Head…Messiah is the Head of the Assembly, and the deliver of the Body…For we are members of his body, his flesh and bones" (Ephesians 2: 18-19, 4: 13-15, 23 & 30).

Jesus and his people together personify the universe-filling and ruling Messiah-Spirit.

Paul in magnifying "the mystery of filial piety: how (messiah) was manifested in flesh, justified spiritually, seen of angels, proclaimed among the gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory" (1 Timothy 3:16).

In this aspect he Messianic role [of the Son of Man] is that of intermediary between God and Man, since it is the image of God which is the link between them. "There is One God," writes Paul, "and one intermediary between God and men, the Man Messiah Jesus" (1 Timothy 2: 5). And again "for us there is One God, the Father, out of whom is everything and into whom are we; and one Lord Jesus messiah, through whom is everything and through whom are we (1 Cor. 8: 6). Therefore, as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, much more the grace of God, and the gift of grace, by one man has abounded to many. As in Adam all die, even so in Messiah shall all be made alive. The first man was made a living soul, the second man a life-giving spirit. The first man is of the earth: the second man is the Lord (Messiah) from heaven; so that as we have borne the image of the earthly man, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man (Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 15).

Out of and into the macrocosmic the microcosmic proceeds and returns: the unification of things in heaven is reflected in the unification of the saints on earth: and ultimately these distinct units are blended into one through the Messianic Head who come who comes down and the Messianic Body which rises up. Finally, everything having been brought into harmony with God, the expression of God-the Messiah-for the need of creation has fulfilled its function and is reclaimed by God, that He may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15: 28).


 

It should be noted that while in the main Biblical text for the Son of Man, the Prophecy of Daniel, that while the Son of Man is clearly an individual, a messiah-figure, this title also encompasses the people of God. When Daniel continues to speak of the Son of Man the term also includes "the people, the saints of the most high" (Daniel 7:27). All of this demonstrates that Paul was teaching that Jesus is the Son of Man using a slightly different vocabulary, that of the Jewish kabbalah (this word means "tradition" and usually refers to a theological tradition) of the Adam Kodman/Son of Man. (Also, the Mandaeans also have a theology of Adam who has the status of a prophet. Among them he is as important as John the Baptist. They also believe in the Celestial Adam, who is called the Adakas in their texts.) God's people, the Church, shall be joined together in the mystical body of Christ, the Son of Man. Paul used the language of the Jewish mystics concept of the Adam Kodman, the Son of Man, to explain the identity of Jesus as God and Messiah.


 


 

The Son of Man in the Aramaic Odes of Solomon


 

The Odes of Solomon is a very ancient collection of Christian hymns. Scholars date it from 70-100 AD. It was written in Aramaic. It was circulated widely enough to have been used by the early Father Ignatius of Antioch (who died 117 AD). It seems to be an ancient Jewish Christian hymnbook. The Odes of Solomon also teaches us about the Son of Man. One of the Odes reads:


 

He hath caused me to know himself, without grudging, by his simplicity; his kindness has humbled his greatness. He became like me, in order that I might receive him: he was reckoned like myself in order that I might put him on; and I trembled not when I saw him; because he was gracious to me; like my nature he became that I might learn him. And like my form that I might not turn back from him…[The voice of Jesus says,] "The Spirit brought me forth before the face of the Lord, and, although a Son of Man, I was named the Illuminate, the Son of God"…I shall love him that is the Son, I shall become a son; for he that is joined to him is immortal will also himself become immortal; and he who has pleasure in the Living One will become living. This is the Spirit of the Lord, which doth not lie, which teaches the sons of men to know his ways, be wise and understanding and vigilant. Hallelujah. And his Word is with us in all our way, the Savior who makes alive and does not reject our souls, the man who was humbled and exalted by his own righteousness; the Son of the most High appeared in the perfection of his Father, and light dawned from the Word that was beforetime in Him. The Messiah is truly one, and he was known before the foundation of the world, that he might save souls for ever by the truth of his name [Jesus]: a new song arises from those who love him. Hallelujah!


 

This is an excellent explanation of the theology of the Son of Man. God became flesh as the Son of Man to be the supreme revelation of the Word of God to mankind and to save us by becoming exalted as the Son of Man on the Cross of Golgotha. As Philippians 2;8 says, "He being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death upon a cross." When Jesus claimed to be the Son of Man, he was stating that he was divine. Earliest Christianity preached Jesus as the Son of Man. This proves, contrary to what Dan Brown says, that when the earliest Aramaic Christians proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of Man, they were preaching that he was much more that just a human prophet but was rather a pre-existent divine being.


 

As Jesus was the New Adam, in a sense Mary of Magdala was a New Eve. The early church father Hippolytus, who lived from about 170 until 236 A.D., said,


 

Lest the female apostles doubt the angels, Christ himself came to them so that the women would be apostles of Christ and by their obedience rectify the sin of ancient Eve…Christ showed himself to the (male) apostles and said to them:…'It is I who appeared to there women and I who wanted to send them to you as apostles.'


 

Pope Gregory has now been repeatedly castigated for his supposed error in confusing Mary of Magdala with the woman of sin and is accused of questionable motives, an attempt to denigrate Magdalene, in doing so. Was his motivation really to impugn the honor of Mary Magdalene? Sharan Newman decided to go and look at the source text to find out. (She also read the "Malleus Maleficarum." In doing this she does what real historians do; examine source texts. Real historians investigate data in order to establish fact.) In his now infamous Mary Magdalene speech he actually praises her and speaks of her as the Second Eve. He says of Mary Magdalene at the tomb, "We must consider this woman's state of mind, that a great force of love inflamed her…She sought for him whom she had not found, weeping as she searched; being inflamed with the fire of her love, she burned with desire for him who she believed had been taken away." As he continues he speaks of her meeting the risen Christ in the Garden, "See how the sin of the human race was removed where it began. In paradise and woman was the cause of death for a man; coming from the sepulcher a woman proclaimed life to men. Mary related the words of the one who restored him to life; Eve had related the words of the serpent who brought death." Anyone who examines evidence will quickly see how false The Da Vinci Code is. (It should also be noted that many Christian theologians believe that mankind's 'original sin' nature is inherited from the man, Adam, and not the woman, Eve. Adam is viewed as responsible for the fall of humanity, not Eve. Eve was deceived but Adam willfully disobeyed God. The Bible says "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell…" (1 Timothy 2:14). Thus Adam committed a willful sin, not in ignorance, against God. Paul also states that it was the sin of "one man," Adam and not Eve, that brought sin and death to the world (Romans5:17). Some theologians also believe that the Virgin Birth was necessary since the sin nature is transmitted through the father and not the mother. Joseph was a father to Jesus but he was not Christ's biological father.


 


 


 

The Bride of Christ


 

    The Song of Songs is an Old Testament book that many Bible scholars believe is a collection of songs to be sung at weddings. The songs are romantic and some are seen as erotic. Only two books in the Old Testament do not mention God at all. One of these books is the Song of Solomon the other is the book of Esther. So why is a collection of love songs in the Bible? The rabbis said that the Song of Solomon isn't about romantic love but is rather an allegory about the love that God has for his people, Israel. The church came up with a similar interpretation saying that the Song of Solomon is about the love between Jesus and his bride, the Church. In reality sensual love is a part of life and is blessed of God when it is sanctified by marriage. This being so, a book praising passion-ate and sexual love between a man and his wife merits a place in the divine library we call the Bible.

    In the Epistle to the Ephesians and in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Church is called the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33, Revelations 21:2, 22:17). There are two words in Aramaic that are translated "Church," one is Edha and the other is Kenushta. Both of these words refer to people gathering together in a fellowship. These words do not refer to a building but rather people joining together in love and unity as a congregation or assembly. The Bible describes the Church coming into unity with Christ at his Second Coming as "the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19: 6-10). Jesus founded the church. It is the family of God and the fellowship of his children. Despite the failures of human beings in the church to live up to the teachings of Jesus, I don't see what moral authority an organization that exists solely to make money, such as Hollywood, has to judge the Church as it has in movies such as Stigmata and The Da Vinci Code. (When I was in Syria I visited a woman with the Stigmata named Sister Myrna. I have seen various miraculous events in eastern churches, such as an icon crying and exuding oil. However, I don't follow after such signs. These things do show that eastern Christians never believed that the Holy Spirit stopped granting miracles and signs.)

    Aramaic Christians follow the instructions of the Bible as literally as possible. As instructed by the Scriptures Aramaic women wear veils when they enter into a church (1 Corinthians 11:2-16). Since Christ commanded foot washing, every year Aramaic Christians have a foot washing service (John 13:14). And since we are commanded to greet one another with a Holy Kiss, giving the holy kiss is a part of the weekly worship (1 Corinthians 16:20). Much ado is made of Jesus kissing Mary Magdalene on the lips in the apocryphal "Gospel of Phillip." First, this gospel was not written by the Apostle Philip but was written by someone else almost two hundred years after the time of the Disciple Phillip. Second, it reflects the teachings of a Gnostic sect and is not dependable, either historically or theological. Thirdly, the verse mentioning the kiss is mutilated so it is not certain exactly what was written. (The text may very well have read hand, cheek, forehead as well as lips. With the hole in the text the reading is entirely conjectural. Even if it said "kissed on the lips" it wouldn't prove anything since this Gnostic writing was written centuries after the time of Jesus and does not present credible historical information.) There is a hole in the manuscript where it mentions the kiss. Besides all of that, the ceremonial "kiss of peace," rather than a passionate romantic kiss may be what is mentioned. Originally, early Christians kissed the kiss of peace with the lips to the face. Now, however, most Aramaic Christians kiss their hands and exchange the "kiss" with a handshake.

According to Dan Brown the Roman Catholic Church conspired to sublimate the feminine aspects of deity and spirituality and became patriarchal. Is this true? In the Catholic Church Mary the Mother of Jesus is the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of God and the Co-Redemtrix. If the Roman Catholic Church is so anti-woman, how does Dan Brown explain the excessive and even controversial veneration of Mary the Mother of Jesus? As a Protestant I totally reject this Roman Catholic teaching about the Mother of Our Lord. In the Aramaic tradition, especially of the Assyrian Church of the East, it is preferred to call Mary, the Mother of Christ, or the Mother of Our Lord, rather than Mother of God or Birthgiver of God. The Aramaic Christians do believe in the deity of Jesus and in the Holy Trinity and they hold Mary the mother of Jesus in very high honor. (The Aramaic Assyrian Church of the East was cut off from other Christian churches due to its resistance to innovations in the veneration of the Virgin Mary and also due to its resistance at attempts to de-emphasize the true humanity of Jesus. The Assyrian Church also provided a safe haven for famous theologians from Antioch who advocated a literal interpretation of scripture and who were being persecuted for this belief.)

In writings of certain of the heretical Gnostic sects, Mary of Magdala is depicted as a receiver of special revelation. The Gnostics were not concerned about the historical Mary Magdalene. She is used as a literary device, a mouthpiece to expound the bizarre beliefs of the Gnostics. There is little to no historical value to the Gnostic texts, at least when we are dealing with events and personalities of the first century. The Gnostic texts are enormously important historically in what they tell us about the beliefs of the Gnostics. These beliefs were formulated centuries after the time of Jesus. Gnostics were concerned with esoteric lore, "Gnosis" meaning knowledge, which was available only to the privileged few. In the biblical account Mary preached the resurrection, unlike the Gnostic she did not keep it a secret to be only revealed to initiates. According to Christian tradition she was an evangelist, traveling from town to town preaching the gospel to the common people at the street and marketplace. Even though Mary Magdalene is used in these Gnostic texts as a figure espousing Gnostic views that the Mary Magdalene of history could never have held, a low view of women is found in Gnosticism. Nowhere in any historical document is Mary of Magdala called the "Bride of Christ" and nowhere is there any mention of Jesus having children. Mary Magdalene was a companion and disciple of Christ, not his wife or lover. No gospel, not even the Gnostic gospels, portrays Mary Magdalene as the Bride of Jesus.

While in certain Gnostic groups the female was seen as debased and inferior to the male, in ancient Aramaic Christian tradition women were honored. The female deaconate was a very significant feature of the church within Eastern and Aramaic Christianity. Western Europe did not have deaconesses until around the fifth century and then only begrudgedly. Latin sources are punctuated by prohibitions against the ordination of deaconesses. The early Syriac Aramaic Didascalia Apostolorum, which is called "The Apostolic Constitutions" or "The Teachings of the Apostles" was written around 225-250. Samuel Hugh Moffett in A History of Christianity in Asia: Volume I: Beginnings to 1500 describes it as "the oldest manual of church order extant, written...by a bishop living between Edessa and Antioch who was perhaps Jewish…" (This book by Moffett is the best history of Aramaic Christianity currently available.) The Didaskalia outlines certain activities of deaconesses. They assisted the bishop in the baptism of women and in the anointing with oil. They assisted women who were in need, sick or afflicted. They served as intermediaries between women and the male clergy. They insured that women in the church behaved with respect and propriety, especially towards elderly women. They insured the chastity and godly living of young women in the church. They bore messages and traveled about on church business. They gave instructions to new converts learning the fundamentals of the faith. Particularly with in Aramaic Christianity, deaconesses administered the Lord's Supper, to women who were sick, to nuns, to younger children and to other deaconesses when the pastor was unavailable. In ancient Aramaic Christianity women had a greater role in the ministry of the Church that is intolerable in the tradition of the Westernized Roman Catholic Church. Since Jesus was a Middle Easterner and a speaker of Aramaic, he belonged to the same culture as the Aramaic people, since he was one of them. In Europe Christianity had to go through many different cultural and linguistic barriers before it reached the common person. Before Christianity reached Roman culture it went from Aramaic, to Greek and then finally into Latin. The common Roman worshiped the God's of Olympus or belonged to a mystery religion. The culture of the Romans and the Greeks was vastly different from the Semitic cultures of the Near East. The Aramaic people received Christianity directly from the Apostles and they received the Gospel in its original Aramaic language and in its original cultural context. The Aramaic Church, not Rome, is the mother church. The Aramaic tradition more accurately reflects the original practice of the Messiah and his apostles than does the Westernized Roman Catholic Church. (In the Bible women are described as ministering unto Jesus. In the Greek version of the Bible the Greek verb diadoneo, which mean to minister and to serve, is used. This is the word from which the English word "deacon" is derived, and it is used to describe what the women did in addition to following Jesus. Tertullian of Carthage (c. 160-220 A.D.) considered widows an order (in Latin "ordo") in the church that were to be given a place of honor in the congregation equal to that of the elders. Paul mentions the role of the Order of Widows, and who should be admitted to this order in 1 Timothy 5:3-16.)

In the Aramaic tradition there were also the "Daughters of the Covenant," called Benat-Qeyama. These women were totally committed –celibate, single-minded and separated. According to Moffatt, the word most characteristically used of them is singleness, with all its overtures of virginity of the body, commitment of the heart and mystical union with Christ. There were also men "Sons of the Covenant," the "Benai-Qeyama," who took vows to be warriors of God against the world, the flesh and the devil.

In this chapter I will deal with what some people consider "women's issues", notably abortion, but also the related issues of euthanasia, sexual morality and homo-sexuality.

Mar Bawai Soro is an Assyrian Bishop within the Church of the East. He resides in California and leads three Assyrian congregations as well as two English congregations who are part of the Aramaic Church of the East. His works have been mainly focused on inter church relations with an aim of sharing the true doctrines and beliefs that the Church of the East has kept throughout the past 2000 years. Concerning the Ancient Aramaic tradition which the Assyrians have maintained since the time of the holy apostles, Mar Bawai states,

The Church has always taught that taking an innocent human life is a violation of God's law in the Ten Commandments and in the teaching of Christ. The fifth commandment as given in the Book of Exodus or in Deuteronomy simply states, "You shall not kill." (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17) The Lord also warned his people against the abominations of surrounding nations, which many times included infanticide (cf. Leviticus 18:21, "You shall not offer any of your offspring to be immolated to Molech," referring to the practice of throwing infants into a fire dedicated to the god Molech.)

Jesus always showed a deep respect for life in the way he treated people, in his teaching, healing, and miracles, and in the ultimate gift of his own life for his friends (John 15:13). In the gospels he taught his great commandment of love, on which the whole law and the prophets is based. Love God with all your mind, strength, heart, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. "There is no greater commandment than these," Jesus taught, (Matthew 22:38-40) and "love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12)

Those who promote abortion on demand note that Jesus did not specifically forbid abortion in the gospels – he did not use the word "abortion" or talk directly against it. Clearly he did not need to. The Ten Commandments are unequivocal, and Jesus upholds the law of his Father, even the "smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter" without exception (cf. Matthew 5:18), strongly cautioning those who break God's commandments (cf. Matthew 5:19).

Abortion is morally wrong for many reasons. It is contrary to the law of God, who is the author and giver of all life. It also offends the dignity of the human person, created by God in his image and likeness. No human person, no matter how small or large, how young or old, how healthy or sick in body, mind, or spirit, ever loses the gift of human dignity given by God. An unborn child in the womb, small, defenseless, unseen, incapable of self-defense, has immense dignity in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the disciples of Jesus.

Abortion is dealt in two ancient writings many experts believer originate from the apostolic period. Both of these books contain Aramaic and seem to reference even more ancient Aramaic sources. Both of these books were among the "disputed books" that almost were included in the New Testament. As "disputed books" certain Christian communities accepted them as part of the Bible, while others did not. The first is The Didache: The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles and the other is The Epistle of Barnabas. The Didache has been dated to 70 A.D. by many scholars. It contains an organized presentation of core Christian dogma. There are no strange doctrines or heresy in this writing, only simple truths all Christians ascribe to. The Didache contains the ancient Aramaic "Maranatha" prayer and Hebraic figures of speech such as references to King David. In accordance to the most primitive Jewish Christian practices, and to the mode of baptism carried out by the Mandaeans, baptism is recommended to be believer's baptism by total immersion in flowing water. This book, a collection of instructions from the Apostles, specifically forbids Abortion. If the church received such instructions from the apostles then we can be sure that it came to the apostles from their master and instructor. Jesus Christ himself and the Holy Spirit taught the apostles that abortion is the taking of an innocent human life. The New Testament also teaches that an unborn child is a human being and not only a potential life (Luke 1:39-45).

As we saw earlier, there is reason to believe that Mary of Magdala was in Rome. What was she doing there? She was instructing the church there in the teaching of the apostles. Abortion and infanticide were accepted in Roman culture. I have read a letter that was discovered in Oxyrhncus in Egypt. It was written by a Roman man to his wife while he was far away from home on business. After expressing his love for her he mentioned that she would give birth to their child before he would be able to return home. He gave her instructions, if it was a boy she was keep it, if it was a girl she was to throw it into the garbage dump. Such a thing was a common practice. Women had a very low place in both Greek and Roman culture. Many women were attracted to Christianity because it the church women were viewed as creatures of equal value to men. Many pagan Greeks and Romans found Christian acceptance of women as repugnant and offensive. Archeologist excavating a Roman era city in Gaza found the sewers clogged with the bones of victims of abortion and infanticide. This was the reality of life at the time of Christ. Mary responded with the love of Jesus. It is likely she was in Rome educating new converts against the evil and barbaric practice of abortion. The Epistle of Barnabas, which was written about the same period that the Didache was, also prohibits Christians from practicing abortion and infanticide. St. Justin Martyr, Tertullian of Carthage (my favorite church father) and others from among the early church fathers, taught against abortion. (Here is a reference list of Church Fathers who spoke out against abortion; Apocalypse of Peter 26; 2:264 (135 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria, Paedgogus 2 (150-180 A.D.), Athenagoras, Legatio 35 (165 A.D.), Tertullian, Apology 9:6, De Anima 26:4 (160-240 A.D.), Minucius Felix, Octavius (180-225 A.D.), Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 9:7 (170-236), Basil the Great, Letter 188:2 (330-379 A.D. ), Jerome, Letter 22:13 (342-420 A.D.), John Chrysostom, Homily on Romans 24 (340-407 A.D.) and Ambrose of Milan (339-397A.D.).)

Christianity's opposition to abortion represents a core and foundational teaching of the faith. Abortion is a very serious and very grave sin to commit. God is forgiving, but a human being is not going to manipulate God's goodness. Abortion is a mortal sin. Anyone who condones or encourages abortion in any way incurs blood guilt. Sex has consequences. No one should have sex with a person that they don't want to have a child by. Sex is meant to be an expression of love. Men and women who pleasure themselves with the bodies of another are corrupting their souls. Sex is a spiritual experience. It is impossible to be more intimate with another human being. Sex isn't really a private affair, it involves other people and sexual behavior affects society as a whole. These issues were addressed in traditional Christian morality, which our culture has moved away from. Chastity and sexual morality protects men and women. It protects their hearts and it protects the coming generation. I desire to follow the same teachings that Mary of Magdala received from her Master, Jesus. This included his condemning abortion as the taking of an innocent human life. When Jesus was carrying his cross to Golgotha women showed compassion upon him. He took this opportunity to make a prophecy of a coming evil day. Luke says that Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never suck" (Luke 23:29-30). Sadly, we live in such an evil day. Being a parent is the greatest joy one can have. Our forefathers always understood this. In Biblical times, the woman who was the envy of the neighborhood had the most children, and especially the most sons. The worst thing that could happen to a woman was for her to be barren. As the Bible is a book about mercy and compassion, some of the greatest heroines of the Bible were barren women. It was normal for one woman to give birth to ten or more children. Even in the 1700s, such as in the family of the Wesleys, women would give birth to nineteen to twenty-four children. In those days, as in Bible times, chances were that only seven or eight of those children would survive into adulthood. Most died in infancy. In our age of scientific advances it is hard for us to imagine how difficult life was for our ancestors. I think we whine and complain and blame God too much. It always seems to be, "Why did God allow this-or-that to happen?" We ought to be thankful for His blessings. Many godly people have suffered terribly in their lives and many people who were good and doing great things for God met untimely deaths. Blaise Pascal was a Christian philosopher who died a slow agonizing death. He did not cast aspersions at God and rail against his creator. He had peace and simple trust. Jesus said that we should live one day at a time and be thankful day by day. Live day by day and try to show God's grace day by day. We should also consider what Jesus went through when he suffered his passion or what the martyrs suffered in the coliseum.

Mar Bawai also addresses the issue of "mercy-killing" or Euthanasia, which is being advocated by the so-called "right to die" movement, Dr. Jack Kevorkian and the Government of the Netherlands.

"I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Euthanasia is the intentional killing of a terminally ill or otherwise dependent human being, whether by active means (such as giving a lethal injection) or passive means (withholding ordinary care such as food and water). As such, euthanasia violates the fifth commandment against killing. Like abortion…, the issue of euthanasia relates to what the Church has called the consistent ethic of life, where all human life is to be respected from the moment of conception until natural death.

The word euthanasia is used appropriately when the intention of what is done is to bring about or hasten the person's death…Trying to save a person's life through a difficult, risky surgery or other procedure would not be euthanasia if the person died, for the intention was to save life, not to take it.

When discussing euthanasia, it becomes clear that it is often suggested to put an end to a person's pain and suffering; in other words, euthanasia is seen as a compassionate measure when someone we love is suffering greatly. Especially when that person is terminally ill, perhaps on life support systems or in a coma or permanent vegetative state with no hope of recovery, or even in the case of elderly nursing home patients who are more or less physically sound but mentally devastated by Alzheimer's disease or other dementia, euthanasia is promoted as a way of hastening what will happen naturally. The person will die, sooner rather than later, bringing their suffering to an end.

Sometimes people who promote euthanasia in a particular instance will say that a person in a coma or on life support would not want to live that way, whether dependent on machines or not. They also struggle to see the person they love in such a state, giving rise to conflicting personal feelings about the situation.

Other reasons given to support the idea of euthanasia are that it frees up financial and medical resources to be used to greater benefit on other persons more likely to recover. A family's finances can be devastated by a serious illness, especially a prolonged one without hope of recovery. Medicines and the skills of doctors and nurses are used in what seems a hopeless situation where they could be used to help others. Thus euthanasia is seen as a measure that alleviates suffering and relieves other excessive burdens.

The Christian Church rejects the direct and intentional taking of human life in such cases, as it does with abortion…Recalling the dignity of the human person and the importance of the basic right to life (rooted in the fact that every human being has been created in the image and likeness of God), Christianity calls upon her members and all members of the wider human family to respect human life always.

Scripture teaches respect for the elderly. In addition to the fourth commandment of "Honor your father and your mother," we read "My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate with him; revile him not in the fullness of your strength." (Sirach 3:12-13) Today when medical technology permits people to live longer, the physical and mental strength of our parents and the elderly in society may fail with age. Scripture teaches us to treasure and protect them.

Jesus, throughout his ministry, showed his special love and care for the poor and the sick. He cured lepers, cripples, the blind and deaf, and people with many different types of diseases. These were people the society of the time had given up on as hopeless cases, but the heart of Jesus went out to them. He went out of his way to show that no human being was beyond the reach of God's love. He taught his followers that same respect and love for everyone. Those who are handicapped in body or mind, in any way, deserve to be protected and respected.

Popular today as a tool for ethical decision-making is the acronym WWJD, which stands for "What Would Jesus Do?" It's a simple way for people to look at a situation and try to decide what is the right thing to do by imagining how Jesus would handle it. Sometimes this technique can be abused, however. For example, someone who has decided that euthanizing another person would be the best thing might say, "Jesus would have compassion on this individual and not want them to continue living in this state." While the basic concept of WWJD is sound, an approach like this latter one shows a basic ignorance of the person, life, mission and ministry of Jesus. Jesus is always for life, not death, for healing, not killing.

As disciples of Jesus, members of the Church seek to emulate his love, his genuine compassion for the human person, his deep respect for human life and human dignity. This is shown most easily in how we treat the weakest among us, whether the unborn, the elderly, the sick, the handicapped, or anyone in need of society's protection and special respect. Where society promotes death, not life, it fails in its sacred duty to all its citizens. Where society respects the right to life and the dignity of every human being, it lives up to the authority and trust given it by God, from whom life flows and to whom all authority, ultimately, is responsible.

Motivated by a false sense of compassion, euthanasia (or "mercy killing," as it is sometimes called) masks what it really is: just plain killing. What would Jesus do? He would reach out in love and kindness, with hands for healing, with words of hope. So must the Church teach society to do.

Certain individuals are trying to spread moral confusion by equating abortion and capital punishment. Both Jesus and the Apostle Paul spoke favorably of capital punishment (Luke 19:27 and Romans 1:32). Ann Coulter made an interesting comment when she remarked about people who "believe it's perfectly acceptable to kill an innocent unborn baby, but morally unthinkable to execute a serial rapist-murderer." We are dealing with two completely different issues here.

Sexual Morality

In the Old Testament and in the New Testament, sex was to be confined to marriage. This was not only for hygienic reasons or to avoid the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The most important reason for this is for men and women to live happy lives and also to strengthen the family. Sexual behavior effects society, it isn't just a private matter. Girl's need to learn to be ladies and boys should be instructed to be gentlemen. Part of the problem today is that our youth are not being given moral guidance. This is especially important in this evil sex-obsessed age we live in. Christian leadership has failed to provide guidance in the area of sexual morality probably out of fear of dealing with controversial issues and out of fear of causing offence. People will be offended no matter what you do. The church must bluntly deal with the stark reality of sexual matters and how they are affecting society and the church. There is no difference in the sexual behavior or divorce rates of church-going Christians and Americans of no religious practice. Biblical morality must be taught in a compassionate manner. People need to be shown how to live Christian morality but in a loving manner to help them not to be judgmental. Finally, a series of Christian books is available that deals with these issues. Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker have written a series on Sexual Integrity for men entitled "Every Man's Battle." One book, on biblical parenting is entitled, "Preparing Your Son For Every Man's Battle." Shannon Ethridge has written a similar series for women "Every Woman's Battle" for "Sexual and Emotional Integrity." Dan Brown tries to promote sexual perversion and androgyny. To Brown sex is about communing with God. In reality sex is about reproduction. It is meant to be about life, love and creating a new life. Life comes from love. God created all life and the Apostle John teaches that God is Love in 1 John 4:7-8. All human life comes from love. No newborn child can survive without being shown love and compassion. Even a child conceived through rape cannot survive without love. Babies and children will die if they are not shown love. God meant for children to be raised by a mother and a father. I've seen many places and many things in my life but I am convinced that parenthood is life's greatest and most meaningful adventure. Maybe the reason Dan Brown has such strange beliefs about sex is because he isn't a father. For many men it takes becoming a father for them to gain a perspective on life and what really matters in life. Until the Kingdom of God fully comes, we pass through life and we should leave a legacy of love and honor to our children. Men of honor live for others. A father is to be a protector, sustainer, a mentor and leader. Without a father a family is broken. Good fathers provide moral authority and protect their daughters and sons. The father should be that enforcer of sexual morality in the home. Marriage is an honorable institution. Hillary Rodham Clinton equated marriage with slavery in the 1973 Harvard Education Review. She also wrote a book entitled "It Takes a Village," citing an African proverb that states, "It takes a village to raise a child." Some have stated that Hillary's book should have been titled, "It takes a Big Brother to Raise a Child." This Orwellian vision for America needs to be resisted. Children need a mommy and a daddy and not to grow up under complete government control of a totalitarian police state.

One purpose for which we are here is to reproduce. True love involves sacrifice. Many people today want to pleasure themselves with other and use other people without love, without obligation and without sacrifice. This is evil. Sexual promiscuity is a selfish self-destructive lifestyle. Both men and women are meant to be monogamous. Hollywood creates moral confusion with its products such as Sex in the City and Desperate Housewives. (Both of these programs are created and written by men and thus are about male fantasies rather than how women really live.) Hollywood also puts a lot of effort in confusing gender roles as we see in movies and television shows such as Charlie's Angels, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Xena, Warrior Princess. Biological differences between men and women are real and not imposed by society. I am not a very strong man but working as a soldier and as a stockboy I realized very quickly that as weak as I am, as a man, I am much stronger than most women. Having worked with women on different jobs and in the military, it strikes me as very ridiculous seeing Hollywood movies showing little petite women beating large muscular men into a bloody pulp. In reality, no matter how much karate a woman knows, due to anatomical differences, a woman doesn't have the strength to beat up a large muscular man. It is impossible. Women's considerable strength is directed toward the great physical feat of giving birth to children. Mothers deserve our respect and honor. In a sense, abortion and birth control frustrate God's purpose for people to have families. The human species and human civilizations, such as Dutch, French, ect, need to perpetuate themselves. Because of widespread abortion that is a problem of population decline in Europe. The population is not replacing or even sustaining itself. An entire generation, that was needed to supply a workforce and from which to collect tax revenues from, has been aborted. Because of this fact, immigration is necessary. However, the immigrants do not want to integrate into European society. The end result is violence and bloodshed and great European civilizations facing extinction.

One of the most powerful anti-woman and anti-family forces in the world today is the pornography industry. Gail Dines and Robert Jenson made some very valid and interesting comments about Pornography in their book Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality. They say,

While pornography has never been treated as prostitution by the law, it's fundamentally the same exchange. The fact that the sex is mediated through a magazine or movie doesn't change that, nor does the fact that some women use pornography. The fundamentals remain; Men pay to use women for sexual pleasure. Gone is any pretense-and it was always pretense-of pornography being a celebration of a woman's beauty, and in its place is an industry that promotes itself as overtly cruel and sadistic to women. [Pornographers] would have us believe that it is a new expansion of freedom. But it's an old story about men's domination and use of women…In the pornographic world…men of all ages hold on the fantasies about sex and domination. And all too often these fantasies become a grim reality for women, children, and vulnerable men, who end up a target of men's violence.

Pornography's harmfulness is well documented. (See Gail Dines and Robert Jensen "So, What do you give our society's most influential pimp?" gdines@wheelock.edu and rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu.) Sexually charged music, magazines, television, and movies are pushing young people into sexual acts and sexual intercourse at an earlier age acting as a kind of virtual peer telling them that everyone is doing it. The problem isn't just internet porn but also how "heroes" are depicted as engaging in unsafe and immoral sexual acts on television shows and film. Hollywood is corrupting our youth and our culture. Both men and women are being harmed by such things. Men are harmed by pornography. The lure is there because men are easily visually stimulated. Many women, in contrast, are stimulated verbally and emotionally. This is why many women read pornographic "romance" novels but do not often look at pornographic images. The saddest victims of our sex obsessed culture are our children, who are exposed to vulgarity, obscenity and sex at such an early age and robbed of their innocence. Christians must avoid reading and viewing trash, such as The Da Vinci Code. Christians should read and view things that are wholesome and edifying (see Philippians 4:8).

Homosexuality

We live in days of moral confusion. The family is the basis of civilization. Government exists to protect civilization. When the state tries to redefine what a family is or attempts to undermine its structure, it is a sign that we live in frightening days of decline. The church, according to Jesus the Christ, is to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Instead the church has become a reflection of it. People look to the church for guidance, and sadly the church has lost its way and has come to ape the ways of the world in order to seem relevant. The church needs to return to the simplicity of the message of Jesus. The enemy within the church, the tares Christ warned of, state that Jesus never gave clear instructions about homosexuality or sexual conduct (Matthew 13:25-40). Jesus did speak of the Judgment against Sodom for its sin (Luke 17:29, Luke 10:12). Certain people say that Jesus did not specify exactly what sin for which Sodom was judged. Judah, the Brother of Jesus, dealt with the issue of homosexual conduct in the church in his epistle found in the New Testament. Judah, or Jude, clarifies the teaching of Jesus on this matter. (Judah, Judas and Jude are three forms of the same name.) Jude was the brother of Jesus and had grown up with him. As Jude knew Jesus better than most people ever could have, and as he was probably raised by Jesus after the death of his father Joseph. I consider Jude a reliable source for the teaching of Jesus rather than a contemporary liberal theologian. Jude condemns Sodom for sexual perversion and going after "strange flesh". He compares their sins with a sin of certain fallen angels mentioned in the book of Enoch. In Enoch, certain angels lust after human women and so tempted took upon themselves corporal forms and had sexual relations with women. These sinful angels were punished by God. A version of this story is found in Genesis 6:1-8 (see also 1 Corinthians11:10). Jude says,

And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities round about them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality, and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.

Jude compares these stories. In Enoch, fallen angels took upon themselves a physical form and raped women. In the Story of Lot, fallen men attempted to sodomize God's angels (Genesis 19:5). Jude connects "going after strange flesh" with homosexual conduct and condemns it. Liberal advocates try to argue that it wasn't homosexual conduct for which Sodom was destroyed, rather it was because they were an unkind and inhospitable people. The liberal argument is that in ancient Semitic culture a godly man shows compassion on the stranger and offers hospitality as Lot did to the angels. In contrast, the wicked men of Sodom are cruel to the stranger and sojourner and showed this in their attempts to brutalize the angels. Ignoring the clear teaching of Saint Jude the Brother of Jesus they turn instead to Ezekiel 16: 49:

This was the iniquity of Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, abundance of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.

"See," the liberals say, "no mention of homosexuality!" However, as is said, a text without context is a pretext of a proof text. The next verse, Ezekiel 16:50, says, "And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit." The Hebrew word here Tawebah, is the same word for "abomination" found in Leviticus 11:22, which says, "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman. It is an abomination." Ezekiel concludes this section, alluding to Sodom again by saying, "You have paid for your lewdness and your abominations, says the Lord" (Ezekiel 16:58). Liberals are defiling their flesh, through sinful sexual behavior, they despise authority by speaking against God's moral law, and they blaspheme glorious beings when they accuse saints of the Bible of engaging in immoral sexual behavior as The Da Vinci Code does. Jude is written to warn sincere Christians about professing Christians who live in sexual immorality. Christians must live holy lives and only engage in sexual behavior with someone whom they are covenanted to by marriage. Jesus honored marriage and performed his first miracle, which was called his first "sign," at a wedding (John 2). (Liberals try to make and argument from silence. Since Jesus never specifically taught on homosexuality he must have approved it, they argue. But to Jews homosexuality was unthinkable. Also, it is specifically proscribed in the Law of Moses. Jesus did preach against the sin of Sodom and against the sinners who lived in the day of the prophet Lot in Mark 6:11 and Luke 17:28-32.) Christians must be a loving, accepting, compassionate and kind people but we must also uphold biblical morality. I don't desire to be confrontational however we must maintain the traditional understanding of marriage as between a man and a women, with the hope to bear children together. Christians should be gracious and kind even to those with whom they disagree and also those whose lifestyles they disapprove of. (Liberals complain about the so-called "Religious Right." We still live in a free country where people have the right to speak their minds and vote their conscience. I totally reject liberal's attempts to control what I think, how I think, what I believe, what I say and how I choose to say it. The liberals haven't been able to take that away from us yet, but they are working on it. I believe there should also be a "Religious Left." There isn't because the liberal establishment has taken extreme positions on abortion, homosexual "marriages" and the fallacious "separation of church and state." Their actions have driven out Christians who would otherwise support liberal causes. The Baptist theologian Walter Rauschenbusch developed a theology of compassion and social action based on Christ's teachings on the Kingdom of God entitled A Theology of the Social Gospel as did a man named Josiah Strong in a book entitled The Coming Kingdom. (See also Bruce J. Malina The Social Gospel of Jesus: The Kingdom of God in Mediterranean Perspective.) The Good News of the Kingdom of God changes the individual and then it also changes society. Recently, Christians have been discovering a Dominion theology where the principles of Christianity transform society. I am not speaking here of eschatology. The prophecies of the coming of the Anti-Christ, the tribulation, and the Battle of Armageddon will be fulfilled in God's time. It is inevitable that the prophecies of wars, rumors of war and the great tribulation will be fulfilled. I believe that an anti-Christ mentality is taking over our culture and is actually held by many professing Christians. Christians need to possess a Christian or Biblical "world-view." Christians need to possess the mind of Christ, meaning that the Bible should shape how they view the world and the teaching of Jesus should shape their morality. Concerning the contributions of my fellow Baptist, Rauschenbusch and Strong, they were, of course they were men of their times. Francis Schaeffer, a Christian philosopher, said that Christianity is neither conservative nor liberal; it's revolutionary. Liberals, in taking extreme positions and taking up radical causes have become too confrontational. U2's Bono has taken the correct approach. I am convinced that even though he is a flawed man, he is a sincere Christian. He proves it by reaching out to conservative Christians, Evangelicals and the so-called "religious right" to join him in his Jubilee campaign to end poverty in Africa. This program for debt relief is actually Biblical and is commanded by God in Leviticus 25 and 27. Bono is trying also to help children orphaned by AIDS in Africa. Bono proved his Christianity by not listening to accusations made against the so-called "religious right" and instead he decided to try to reach out to them and attempt to work together with them to do what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 25, help suffering people. Until the Kingdom of God comes, Christians should be occupied with the work of helping the suffering and sharing the love of Jesus with others.


 


 


 

The Lost Scrolls


 

In 1946 and 1947 Bedouin Arabs exploring a cave found scrolls hidden in a cave in the desert region near the Dead Sea. They thought the scrolls were Aramaic (and were correct in that many of them were) and so they brought them to some of the Aramaic Christians nearby that they knew of. The leader of this community was Mar Yeshua Athanasius Samuel. He announced the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the world.


 

What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?


 

These Bedouin Arabs exploring some caves at Qumran near the Dead Sea found a library of scrolls that dated to the time of Jesus. These scrolls date from 200 BC until 70 AD. Some scrolls found in the area date to a slightly later period, that of the revolt of Bar Kokba (Aramaic for "the Son of the Star") in 132 AD.


 

"Dead Sea Scrolls" include the following documents:


 

The Cairo Genizeh: At the end of the 19th century a hoard of ancient manuscripts in Hebrew and Aramaic was found in the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo. A Genizeh is a place where aged books are reverently buried. Interestingly, the Damascus Document, which is an important Dead Sea Scroll was previously found in the Cairo Genizeh. It was probably brought from the Dead Sea Caves when certain Dead Sea Scrolls were found during the Middle Ages. The Cairo Genizeh is not, strictly speaking, Dead Sea Scrolls. However, there is a connection between the Dead Sea Scrolls and certain documents previously discovered in the Genizeh.


 

The Masada Scrolls: 17 scrolls were found in Masada, which was the last Jewish fortress to fall to the Romans during the Jewish War. They include biblical manuscripts and some Sabbath songs. (The story of Masada was portrayed in a motion picture featuring Peter O'Tolle. The archeological ruins have been made into a tourist attraction.)


 

The Bar Kokba Documents: Several documents of the Jewish revolutionary Simon Ben Kosiba, or Bar Kokba in Aramaic, were found in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Bar Kokba was proclaimed to be the one true Messiah by a false prophet named Akiva.


 

The Cave of Letters: In this cave the legal archives of a Jewish woman named Babatha was found.


 

Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?


 

There are two major contesting theories, first that it is the library of a sect known as the Essenes and the second that it represents the library of the temple of Jerusalem that was hidden in the cave for safekeeping during the Jewish War. There are too many "sectarian" documents, in my opinion, to support the theory that it is simply the temple library. It may very well indeed contain books from the temple that were brought there for safety. What we do know is that the Qumran community called itself the YAHAD, a Hebrew word meaning "unity'.


 

The scrolls enigmatically refer to a "Teacher of Righteousness", a "Wicked Priest" and a "Spreader of Lies". We don't know exactly who these people were but these events that are referred to cryptically transpired about a century before the ministry of Jesus. In the Standard Theory the wicked priest is Jonathon the Maccabee, or perhaps his brother Simon who ruled from 142-134. The new theory states that the best suggestion is that the "wicked priest" the Jewish ruler Hyranus II. Hugh Schonfield argued that the Teacher of Righteousness may have been named Asaph, or gone under that pseudonym. Michael O. Wise called him "Judah". Certain of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by him and others may have been. No one has been able to positively identify the Teacher of Righteousness with any known historical figure. Certain dubious theories state that the Teacher of Righteousness was either Jesus Christ, or his brother James the Just. The Dead Sea Scroll community was not Christian. The Yahad actually favored the Sadducee faction. Jesus and the early Christians had more in common with the Pharisees rather than the Sadducees.


 

Who were the Essenes?: Early Christianity and the Dead Seas Scrolls Community


 

The word Essene derives from the ancient Aramaic word Chasya which meant "pious" or "the pious ones". They were ascetics. This means that they were Jewish monks who took vows of celibacy. There are similarities between certain of the practices of the Essenes and Christian practices. The similarities between Christianity and the Essene religion included Communal Meals, Baptism rituals, Communal ownership of property, a focus on eschatology and prophecy, Ecclesiastical structure with "bishops" or overseers, and they both worked cures. One sect of the Essenes was called the "Therapeutic." While there are certain affinities between the early Christians and the Essenes there are also profound differences between Christianity and the Qumran sect. The Yahad were oppressively legalistic, they held women in low regard, they disdained sexual intercourse and they now seem to be closely related to the Sadducees. Many of the Essenes totally renounced marriage and sexual intercourse. The Qumran community believed it was a sin to have sexual intercourse unless it was solely for the purpose of procreating. While Jesus rebuked the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, much of Pharisee doctrine was correct. This includes their belief in Heaven and hell, in the Resurrection and in angels and demons. The Sadducees rejected a belief in spirits and in the afterlife and their chief concern was safeguarding the temple and their position with the Romans. (We aren't even positive that the Qumran sect were Essenes. It may be a completely unknown sect. Most likely, the Qumran group was a distinct branch of Essenes and one that had Sadducean leanings.)


 


 


 


 


 

In what language are the Dead Sea Scrolls written?


 

The Dead Sea Scrolls are mostly in Hebrew and Aramaic although very few are in Greek. One sixth of the non-biblical scrolls are in Aramaic (one fourth of the scrolls are biblical manuscripts). The vast majority of the rest are in Hebrew. The alphabets used are ancient Hebrew and Old Square Aramaic (the alphabet we now call 'Hebrew'). Maurice Casey states, "most of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written, in Hebrew and Aramaic, because these were the sacred tongue and lingua franca of the vast majority of Jews in Israel."


 

What Christian Literature is found among the Dead Sea Scrolls?


 

Several books used by Christians rather than Jews were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. These include,


 

The Book of Tobit, this story of Israelites in Assyria was canonized as scripture in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Several Aramaic copies of Tobit were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Book of Jubilees, this book contains a longer account of events mentioned in the Book of Genesis. It is part of the Christian Bible in Ethiopia and is an example of Ethiopia's Jewish Christian links.

Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs This is a book of the last words spoken by each of the twelve patriarchs on their deathbeds. It was thought to have been Hebraic Christian apocrypha but has now been discovered to predate Christianity.

The Book of Enoch This book has been preserved in its entirety in Ethiopia were it is canonized.

The Two Ways Letter (4Q473) This ancient document probably dates before 70 AD. It seems very similar to parts of the Didache. Perhaps it was incorporated into "the Didache" and also "the Epistle of Barnabas".

The Mount Athos Document (4Q213-214)
Mount Athos is the Greek Orthodox equivalent of the Vatican. This scroll, the "Words of Levi" was earlier found in the library of Mount Athos in Koutloumous, Greece. It shows a link between the Orthodox church and primitive Judeo-Christianity.

The Syriac Psalms Among the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered extra-Psalms previously only known through the Syriac Pesheeta. This includes Psalm 155.


 

    O Lord, I have called to you, listen to me.

    I spread forth my palms to our holy dwelling;

    Incline your ear and grant me my petition,

    And do not withhold my request from me.

    Build up my soul and do not cast it down,

And do not abandon it in the presence of the wicked.

May the judge of Truth turn back from the rewards of evil…


 

In The Syriac Version of the Old Testament: An Introduction by M.P. Weitzman the author argues that the Pesheeta was translated from a Hebrew text and it was make by a "small Jewish community estranged from the Rabbinic majority. This community eventually embraced Christianity and brought the Peshitta with them." The Pessheeta therefore, with its origin and its link to the Dead Sea Scrolls shows a connection to the Holy Land at the time of Christ and was translated from very ancient texts of the Old Testament. The Dead Sea Scrolls show ancient links between Eastern and Aramaic Christianity and the Judaism of first century Palestine. (The Pesheeta is a Jewish-Christian Targum.)


 

Christian Scriptures Discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls


 

Why has no clear reference to Jesus been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls? It is plausible that there may have been references to Jesus among the Dead Sea Scrolls. If there was a mention of Jesus in scrolls among the Dead Sea Scrolls, these scrolls may have decayed with the passage of time, as many did, or they could have been removed long ago. Origin of Alexandria in 185 AD mentions using Hebrew scrolls that had been discovered hidden away in the region of the Dead Sea that had been found during his lifetime. Aramaic Christians also mentioned scrolls being removed from the area. Also, many of the scrolls have deteriorated and we could possess a reference to Jesus that is so badly deteriorated that we cannot make it out. However, certain of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been identified by some scholars as quotations or portions of the New Testament.


 

7Q4 has been identified as 1 Timothy 3:16-4:1-3

7Q5 has been identified as Mark 6:52-53


 

In The Bible: Designed to be Read as Living Literature: The Old and the New Testaments in the King James Version edited by Lodowick Allison it is noted that, "in 1991, a sophisticated computer analysis in Germany of a fragment of papyrus found in a Qumran cave twenty year before identified it as a small piece of the First Letter to Timothy. The only other Christian writing found there has been a fragment from the Gospel According to Mark." The finding, still disputed by some scholars, would mean that this letter to Timothy, at least, was written sometime before A.D. 68, when the caves were sealed off by Roman legions suppressing the unsuccessful Jewish revolt." These two Christian Dead Sea Scrolls are 7Q5, which is Mark 6:52-53 and 7Q4 which is 1 Timothy 3:16-4:3. This evidence is presented in The Jesus Papyrus: The Most Sensational Evidence on the Origins of the Gospels Since the Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Carsten Peter Thiede and Matthew D'Ancona.The so-called Aramaic Apocalypse seems to quote Luke 1:35. This is 4Q246 and refers to a figure that will be called "the Son of the Most High God".

In Jesus: The Evidence author Ian Wilson mentions the "pierced messiah" Dead Sea Scroll fragment. He mentions that


 

According to Californian Robert Eisenman, this fragment refers to a Jesus-like death…[referring to a] "the leader of the community, the Branch of David…with wounds [stripes? Piercings?], and the Priest [the High Priest] shall order…"


 

It seems to describe the Messiah, the Branch of David, suffering wounds and piercings at the order of the High Priest. Geza Vermes translated it as "and the prince of the congregation, the branch of David, will kill him by strokes and wounds. And a priest of renown will command…" So who is right? This is open to interpretation. Hebrew was written with no vowels and in certain ancient manuscripts there are no spaces between words and there are only in capital letters (usually Hebrew and Aramaic scrolls do have spaces between words but the oldest Greek texts do not). Lower case letters were later invented for Greek. Aramaic and Hebrew have no lower case letters. "GODISNOWHERE" does this say, "God is now here" or "God is nowhere"? The importance of vowels can be illustrated by the game show "Wheel of Fortune". John Strugnell, a prominent Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, questioned Vermes scholarship. Eisenman probably has the correct reading. However, the Dead Sea Scroll community was not Christian and there are no indisputable Christian writings that have so far been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. (Just because they were not Christian doesn't mean that they didn't posses any Christian writings.)


 

Links Between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament are seen in the following Dead Sea Scrolls.


 

Beatitudes (4Q525) This is a collection of Beatitudes very similar to those given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.


 

Tongues of Fire (1Q29, 4Q376) This text describes the breastplate of the High Priest but mention "Tongues of Fire" which is how the phenomenon of Pentecost is described in Acts. It should be remembered that the Urim and Thummim and the ephod were oracular devices. Acts 2:3 reads that on the day of Pentecost, "There appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, that sat upon each of them."


 

A Collection of Messianic Proof Texts (4Q175) Theoretically, an early edition of Matthew was a list of prophecies fulfilled by Jesus. This is called "the Book of the Testimonies" and I referred to this in "The Hebrew Origin of Matthew's Gospel" and I cited a passage in the Talmud that may refer to this document. The Qumran sect had their own "Book of the Testimonies". (This is discussed in my Treasures from the Language of Jesus.)


 

The New Jerusalem (5Q15) This text is a description of the New Jerusalem as it will exist in the heavenly age of the Kingdom of God in the future. It is similar to the description of the New Jerusalem found in the Apocalypse 21: 9-27 in the New Testament.


 

Crucifixion and the Dead Sea Scrolls


 

I would strongly recommend the movie The Gospel of John. What bothers me about the movie, however, is that it opened with a disclaimer. It said,


 

The Gospel of John was written two generations after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It was set in a time when the Roman Empire controlled Jerusalem. Although crucifixion was the preferred Roman method of punishment, it was not one sanctioned by Jewish Law. Jesus and all his early followers were Jewish. The Gospel reflects an antagonism between the emerging church and the religious establishment of the Jewish people. This film is a faithful representation of that gospel.


 

This is not an entirely accurate statement. Crucifixion was sanctioned by Jewish law at the time of Christ, although it remained a distinctive Roman form of execution (John 18: 31-32). As Dr. Frederick Zugibe notes in The Crucifixion of Jesus, "It is of interest to note that according to recent studies of the Pesher of Nahum in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Qumran Cave 4), the Essenes, on of the Jewish sects, performed crucifixions for the crime of blasphemy or idolatry." Ian Wilson mentions in his The Bible Is History Dead Sea Scroll 4Q448 that praises King Jonathan, called Alexander Jannai. He was a Sadducee who crucified eight hundred Pharisees. The commentary on Nahum praises him as "the Lion of Wrath" who used to "hang men alive as it was done in Israel". Also, the Dead Sea Scrolls have shown that the Gospel of John has a stronger Jewish flavor than many people had previously thought.


 

The Sacred Name of God in the Dead Sea Scrolls


 

The Dead Sea Scroll community so venerated the Sacred Name of God, Yahweh, that they dared not utter it. They would banish those who did, even if by accident. In their manuscripts that usually used ancient Hebrew rather than Aramaic to write the Divine name. Jesus, in his practice, also avoided uttering the Sacred Name. The non-use of the name of God isn't mandated in scripture but is rather a Jewish tradition. The exact pronunciation of the name of the Lord is unknown. It could have been Yahweh, Yahwah, Yahowah or Yahu. In certain Aramaic texts found in Egypt, belonging to a Jewish tribe that settled there in the Persian era, the name of the Lord is Yahu. This pronunciation is used in Israel today, in such places as the name of the former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Dan Brown tries to use the name of the Lord to support his belief in goddess worship. He says Yah (sometimes written Jah) is the masculine and the later part of the name, "weh" is derived from the sacred feminine, Havah, the Hebrew form of the name "Eve." This is completely wrong and unfounded. The earliest references we have of the name "Yahweh" is found in Egyptian hieroglyphics were it is Yahu and is indicated to be the god of a certain tribe of Bedouin Arabs. Apparently, later an exiled Egyptian prince was given sanctuary by these Arabs. Later this prince Moses received a revelation that this Arab God was the same God worshipped by his Hebrew ancestors, but by a different name (Exodus 6:3). When Moses brought the freed Hebrew slaves through the desert they became allied with the Arabic worshipers of Yahweh and this Arab tribe assisted the Israelites in the conquest of the Holy Land and settled in the land with them (Judges 1:16). This tribe, called the Kenites, were fanatical worshipers of Yahweh and they fervently opposed any adopting of the worship practice of the Canaanites (2 Kings 10:15-17, Jeremiah 35). Among the Kenites, Yahweh alone was to be worshiped and no other gods or goddesses and especially not the "Baal pantheon" of the Canaanites. Inevitably, however there was in certain circles a mixture of worship of Yahweh and others gods and goddesses. When this happened Yahweh was given a wife called Asherah. There are inscriptions referring to "Yahweh of Teman and his Ashterah." Of course, the Kenites, and their Hebrew allies, such as Elijah the Prophet, strongly opposed these innovations. Later, the Philistines started worshiping Yahweh as well, and they also gave him a wife, named Anath (Anath is actually mentioned in the Bible in Jeremiah 1:1). If Dan Brown did real research he would have known about the names of the goddesses attached to the worship of Yahweh and would not have been forced to "find" the name of a non-existent goddess in the name of Yahweh. What Dan Brown has done here has profaned or taken the name of God in vain and is a breaking of the Ten Commandments. Dan Brown also states that the ancient Jews worshiped "Shekihah" a female deity as the consort of Jehovah. This word means "dwelling place" in Hebrew and is not used as the name of any deity in the Old Testament. Later, in Jewish Kabbalah there developed the idea of many "emanations" from God. One of these emanations was a female energy that was designated as the Shekinah. In ancient Judaism, shekinah referred to the glory of God that abode among his people, either in the temple or upon the ark of the covenant. The shekinah was not a goddess. In many Evangelical churches a teaching is widespread that the Shekinah was like a glowing cloud or mist that rested on the Mercy Seat upon the Ark of the Covenant within the most holy place in the temple. Because of the sins of the people, this glory departed from the temple. Ezekiel describes his event in Ezekiel chapter ten. In the Hebrew the word "shekinah" isn't used for this glory, the word is "kevod."


 

New Testament Vocabulary and the Dead Sea Scrolls


 

Scholars believe that 1 Thessalonians is the oldest book in the New Testament. In 1 Thessalonians 5: 5 Paul states, "You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness." One of the Dead Sea Scrolls is entitled, "The War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness." The similarity in vocabulary is not coincidental. Another scroll speaks of the Children of Dawn (4Q298). Paul also refers to "the works of the law" and states, "for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified" (Galatians 2:16). In Hebrew this is Miqsat maase ha-torah and is the name of a scroll that is abbreviated MMT (4Q394-9). Basically it is extreme legalism. Don't eat gentile grain. Don't use gentile pottery. Don't allow gentiles to offer a sacrifice, don't eat peace offerings on Wednesdays, lest this bring a curse on the people. Don't bring skins of cattle or sheep in the temple. Don't let dogs near the temple. Don't allow the blind or deaf to worship at the temple. Ect. Ect…These petty rule and regulations are exactly the kind of thing that Jesus and the apostle Paul opposed.


 

What are the links between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Assyrian Aramaic Christians?


 

Aramaic Christians were instrumental in the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls were twice. In The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish Origins of Christianity, Carsten Peter Thiede notes that


 

Timothy I, Patriarch of the Nestorians at Seleukia-Ktesiphon, some 60 km north-east of ancient Babylon on both sides of the River Tigris…was a highly respected learned theologian and diplomat. His correspondence with Caliph al-Mahdi remains an outstanding document of Christian-Muslim dialogue. He encouraged missionary activities in countries such as China and India, and taught mainly by letters (of which some 200 have survived) on questions of biblical studies, philosophy and the Nestorian theology. The one letter which concerns us most was addressed to Sergius/Mar Sargis, the metropolitan of Elam. Writing in Chaldean, a form of Aramaic which has survived until today, Timothy informs his contemporaries about the complicated process of copying different editions of the Hexapla. [The Hexapla was a critical edition of the Old Testament produced by the theologian Origen of Alexandria.] He complains about the incompetence of quarrelsome scribes, and describes his own role as corrector. So difficult was this work, he says, he nearly lost his sight. And then, all of a sudden, he tells a fascinating story: "We learned from trustworthy Jews who have just been taught the Christian faith, as catechumens, that books were found in a cave near Jericho ten years ago. It is said that the dog of a hunting Arab went into a cave, chasing an animal, and did not return. Its master followed the dog and found a cave among the rocks, and in it many books. The hunter went to Jerusalem and told other Jews about his discovery. Many of them came to the place and found the books of the Old Testament and other writings, in the Hebrew language.".


 

Timothy the First, called Mar Timotheus the Great (779-823 A.D.), is considered one of the greatest leaders of the Aramaic Assyrian Church of the East. In the Middle Ages he became familiar with ancient Hebrew and Aramaic scrolls that were found near the region of the Dead Sea. After the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1948 they came into the possession of the Aramaic Mar Athanasius Yeshua Samuel, the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church. The scrolls he possessed included the famous Isaiah Scroll. Aramaic Christian George Shaya personally explored the caves and found additional scrolls. It was through the Aramaic Syrian Orthodox Church that the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was made known to the world.


 

The Book of Enoch


 

One of the most important extra-biblical documents is the Book of Enoch. The Dead Sea Scrolls community regarded it as scripture. Aramaic Christians carried the Book of Enoch to China. This book, like the book of Daniel, is written in Aramaic. The book of Enoch is quoted from in the New Testament and is often alluded to. Jesus when he refers to himself as the Son of Man is most likely referring to the prophecies of the Messianic Son of Man in the Book of Enoch. Ethiopia preserved Enoch in its entirety. Large portions of the Book of Enoch were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (See The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4 by J.T. Milik.) The Son of Man prophecies of the book of Enoch were not found among the Dead Sea Scrolls but the book had several sections missing and Enoch scholars are unanimous that the Son of Man passages were known at the time of Christ. John Strugnell claims that a private collector has a complete copy of Enoch that he is hoarding to himself. This copy may contain the Son of Man prophecies.


 

The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible


 

According to The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation the "Dead Sea Bible" is the oldest group of Old Testament manuscripts ever found-at least a thousand years older than the traditional Hebrew texts…In many cases, the scrolls have supported the traditional text of the Bible, but in others…agrees with nontraditional versions like the Septuagint…Sometimes the scrolls preserve [alternate] readings we didn't know existed." So, the scrolls show us that the Syriac Peshitta, the Greek Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch may preserve authentic readings and at times may be more accurate than the traditional Hebrew text. At the time of Jesus there was not yet a uniform universally recognized version of the Bible. There is now a Bible available that features only direct translations from the Biblical Scrolls found at Qumran.


 

Christian equivalents of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery


 

The Nag Hammadi Codices or Chenoboskion Library contained many Gnostic writings which includes the Gospel of Thomas. These were religious writings of an extinct Christian heretical Sect called the Gnostics. The Gospel of Thomas is believed to have originated in Syria. Many scholars look upon it as a "Fifth Gospel". Thomas is important and may be authentic but the version found at Nag Hammadi is an altered version. It is a collection of teachings of Jesus and has only 114 verses. The Gospel of Thomas was used by the Aramaic Christians and portions of it have been found in China. (When I lived in Egypt I was able to visit the Coptic Museum and Library in Old Cairo and read from the manuscript of the Gospel of Thomas that was found at Nag Hammadi.) The oldest fragment were have of the New Testament is John Rylands Gospel of John Fragment. This is a portion of the Gospel of John that has been scientifically dated to 100-125 AD. The Chester Beatty New Testament Fragments, fragments of the New Testament believed to have originated in Egypt, have been dated to the 200s. The Chester Beatty New Testament is the oldest New Testament we have but it isn't complete. The Chester Beatty papyri was found in what had been ancient Aphroditopolis, north of Memphis, Egypt. It also includes Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy and several other Old Testament books and also the Book of Enoch.


 

Dead Sea Scrolls Bibliography


 

F. Garcia Martinez The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English (Leiden, 1994)

The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered by Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise

Complete World of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Phillip R. Davies

Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their True Meaning for Judaism and Christianity by Lawrence H. Schiffman

The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Vanderkam and Flint

Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Hershel Shanks

Dead Sea Scrolls: The Untold Story by Kenneth Hanson

The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior before Jesus by Michael O. Wise

The Complete World of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Essene Odyssey by Hugh Schonfield


 

The Gnostic Gospels


 

Ancient Gnostic writings were discovered in Southern Egypt in 1945. Gnosticism was a mystical school of thought that became fully developed some time in the second century. Several scriptures in the New Testament can be used against the teachings of the cult of Gnosticism. It seems that the apostles preached against certain beliefs very similar to Gnosticism. It may have been a proto-Gnosticism. Many people have been surprised by the discovery of these new "gospels." These writings cannot be authentic apostolic writings. They are heretical and some of their content is bizarre and absurd. One of the most important of these codices is the "Gospel of Thomas." Even if the "Gospel of Thomas" is authentic, the edition found among the Nag Hammadi Codices is altered and has been tampered with. In "the Gospel of Phillip" it seems that Jesus kisses Mary Magdalene on the lips and in "the Gospel of Mary Magdalene" he says that sin is only a state of mind. This is not the Jesus of the Gospels nor of history. Mary Magdalene is depicted as a source of wisdom but the texts are misogynist. For instance, Jesus in the Gnostic tradition states, "I am come to destroy the works of the female!" In these writings Male is a force for good and Female is wickedness. While these texts seem very ancient to us they are actually centuries removed from the time of Jesus and the Apostles. To help illustrate this point let me use an example. Many of these Gnostic writings date at least 200 years after the time of the Apostles. George Washington lived approximately 200 years from my time. Now imagine if today someone anonymously wrote "The Life of George Washington," or perhaps writing under the pseudonym of Thomas Jefferson, Martha Washington, or one of the other founding fathers. Then imagine that this new "Life of George Washington" consisted of very little historical information, but rather lengthy speeches declaring "and Washington said…" and then giving long speeches that are totally out of character of Washington from what we know from history. And imagine that the political speeches in this new "Life of Washington" consisted of political views, controversies and issues that did not exist during the life time of George Washington. And let us say that this new "Life of Washington" contained blatant anachronisms and assertions that are totally impossible. In 2,000 years if someone found this "Life of Washington" it would be an ancient manuscript. However, discriminating historians would have to dismiss it, because they would see that it has no historical value in understanding the historical George Washington. The Four Gospel accounts contain first hand testimony and are our earliest and most reliable sources on the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The Gnostic Gospels are not early nor are they reliable. The Gnostic Gospels are not the teachings of Jesus that have been lost for over a thousand years. They are teachings that were falsely attributed to Jesus. The Gnostics were not concerned with the historical Jesus. They were not interested in his parables, his moral teachings, his miracles, or even his passion. The Gnostics sole concern was usurping the name of Jesus to further their own cosmology. They were not interested in equality between men and women because most of them viewed women as inferior and saw sexual relations as intrinsically debasing. They did not believe in reproducing, since they believed that this world is an evil world and one which they wanted to escape. The Nag Hammadi Chenoboskion Codices are the equivalent of discovering the literature of a deviant cult group, similar to Jim Jones's People's Temple, David Koresh's Branch Davidians or the Heaven's Gate Cult.


 

Saint Thomas


 

In December 1952, the sixth year of India's independence in August 15, 1947, F. A. Plattner, a Roman Catholic, arrived in Malabar to celebrate two important anniversaries of the Christians in India, the 400th anniversary of the death of Saint Francis Xavier (who ministered and died in India) and the 1900th anniversary of the arrival of St. Thomas in India and his founding of the Church of India. During the celebrations the Archbishop of Ernakalum (a city in South India) serving as the Metropolitan of the Syro-Malabar Catholics (Mar Thoma Christians who acknowledge the Roman Catholic pope), said to the Papal Cardinal Legate as he received his credentials, "You come from Peter; and we are the sons of another Apostle-Thomas."

Judah Thomas, the Apostle of Assyria and of India, is the famous "Doubting Thomas" who refused to believe the resurrection of Christ until he could see, touch and feel the risen Jesus. He is only mentioned in lists of names of the disciples in the New Testament except for The Gospel of John which tells of a few fascinating incidents involving Thomas that give us insight into his personality. Thomas, or Thoma in Syriac, means Twin. (The old Aramaic word for twin is teoma.) The Greek word for twin, Didymus, is also used in reference to Saint Thomas in the New Testament. This led to the blasphemous assertion in certain heretical Gnostic sects in Syria that Thomas was the twin brother of Jesus Christ.(Gnosticism was a widespread school of esoteric occultism that plagued the early church.) Hugh J. Schonfield in The Jesus Party says, "There are legends that Judas Twin [his translation of Judah Thomas] was so-called because he bore such a striking resemblance to Jesus."

The name Thomas appears only twelve times in the New Testament. Only three stories directly involving Thomas appear in the New Testament and all three are found in The Gospel of John. In the first, Thomas expresses despair at Christ's willingness to confront his enemies in Judea yet also states that his devotion to Christ is so great that he is willing to die with him.


 

The disciples said to Jesus, "Rabbi, lately the Judeans sought to stone you, and you are going there again?"…Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (John 11:16)


 

In the second incident Thomas questions Jesus about 'the way' during the final dialogue between Christ and the Disciples before the crucifixion.


 

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:5-6)


 

In the third, and most famous incident, after the crucifixion Thomas refuses to believe the stories he is told about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


 

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side [where he was stabbed with a spear while on the cross], I will not believe. And after eight days his disciples were again inside and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." And Thomas answered and said, "My Lord and my God!' Jesus said unto him, "Thomas, because you have seen me you believe. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:24-29)


 

This scripture was very important during doctrinal debates early in the Christian era because it describes a literal physical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and not a ghost haunting and Thomas ascribes divinity to Jesus calling him "Lord" and "God". (Arians were heretics who denied the deity of Christ. Docetists were Gnostic heretics who denied a physical resurrection. The Docetists were Gnostics who denied that Jesus ever had a physical form.) In all of these stories Thomas is presented, not as a man of great faith, but of fear, doubts, questioning and hesitancy. In Thomas' last appearance in The Gospel of John his presence is noted at the miraculous draught of fishes in the only list of the apostles names given in The Gospel of John (John 21:2). Interestingly his name immediately follows Peter's, which may be an indication of the prominence in which Thomas was held.

After a mention in the book of Acts of the Apostles Thomas disappears from the New Testament. However Thomas apparently played a significant role in the history of the early church. Several apocryphal writings are attributed to him, these being The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Thomas, The Acts of Thomas, and The Apocalypse of Thomas. All of these writings attributed to Thomas, many of which are pseudopigraphal, are believed by scholars to have originated in the Near East and to have originally been composed in the Syriac Aramaic language. All these books show us that Thomas was a very important figure in early Christianity. The wealth of ancient writings dealing with Thomas that come from ancient Aramaic sources confirm the traditions of the Assyrians that their church was founded by Saint Thomas and Saint Thaddeus. The most important and genuine work was discovered in Egypt in the 1940's. Fragments of which had been discovered earlier by Bernard Pyne Grenfeld and Arthur Surridge Hunt in their expedition that began in 1895. They made their discovery at Futuh el Bahnasa, which was known in ancient times as Oxyrhynchus, in an ancient seventy-foot high rubbish heap. The fragments of The Gospel of Thomas they discovered were dated before 200 AD. Marvin Meyer used this information to date the composition of The Gospel of Thomas to the time of Thomas himself. Meyer says,


 

Since the earliest of the Greek Oxyrhynchus fragments has been assigned a date of around 200 AD, the Gospel of Thomas must have been composed during the second century or even the latter part of the first century AD. Considering the prominent place of Thomas in Syrian [meaning Assyrian] Christianity, we may suppose that The Gospel of Thomas was composed in Syria, possibly at Edessa (modern Urfa), where the memory of Thomas was revered and where, it is said, even his bones were venerated.

The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus which many scholars believe if not to be genuine at least as reputable as the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In reality there are three types of sayings of Jesus found in the Gospel of Thomas, sayings that are found in the Gospels of the New Testament, sayings that are not in the Bible but sound like things that Jesus would have said, and then saying that are totally false. These false sayings totally contradict everything we know about Jesus from the best historical sources. These sayings contradict his beliefs and the spirit in which he taught. Some Gnostic took a collection of saying of Jesus that had been written by Saint Thomas and altered it to fit his views. Gnostics were not concerned with the Jesus of history. They were not concerned with miracles of Jesus or with the events surrounding his death. What they were concerned with was with a figure associated with wisdom to whom they could attribute and thus give credibility to their twisted and bizarre beliefs. Also, teachings of Jesus such as those found in the Sermon on the Mount or his parables are not found among the Chenoboskion Gnostic books. All of these are very complicated esoteric beliefs that ramble on about deities and astrology and other strange and false doctrines. With the exception of the Gospel of Thomas, these gospels tell us nothing about the historical Jesus, but they do tell us a lot about lunatic fringe cult groups that the early church fathers heroically worked against to keep the common Christian from being victimized by. Elaine Pagels in The Gnostic Gospels describes the exciting discovery of a complete edition of The Gospel of Thomas among the Nag Hammadi Codices in December 1945.


 

Shortly before Muhammad Ali al-Samman and his brothers avenged their father's murder in a blood feud, they had saddled their camels and gone to Jabal al-Tarif in Upper Egypt [which means southern Egypt] to dig for sabakh, a soft soil used to fertilize their crops. Digging around a massive boulder, they hit a red earthenware jar, almost a meter high. Muhammed Ali hesitated to break the jar, considering that a jinn, or an evil genie, might live inside. But realizing that it might also contain gold, he raised his mattock, smashed the jar, and was disappointed to discover thirteen papyrus books, bound in leather. Returning to his home in al-Qasr, Muhammad Ali dumped the books and loose papyrus leaves in the straw piled on the ground next to the oven. Mohammed's mother, Umm-Ahmad, admitted that she used several pages as kindling to start the fire.

A few weeks later he and his brothers avenged their father's death by murdering Ahmed Ishmael. When they learned that their father's enemy was nearby, the brothers seized the opportunity. They hacked off his limbs, ripped out his heart, and devoured it among themselves, as the ultimate act of blood revenge. Fearing that the police investigating the murder would search his house and discover the books, and because he recognized that the books were written in Coptic, the ancient Egyptian language preserved by the Coptic [meaning Egyptian] Orthodox church, Mohammed asked the village Coptic priest Al-Qummas Basiliyus Abd al-Masih to keep them for him. From there they eventually found their way to Cairo, the black market in antiquities and eventually were discovered by the academic community.


 

The Nag Hammadi codices were buried around the year 400 AD. They were probably purged from a monastery library during the period the church was purifying itself of the Gnostic heresy. Most of the Nag Hammadi Codices are Gnostic. The Gospel of Thomas
is colored by Gnosticism. This is due to several verses, which may be either later additions to the text by a Gnostic attempting to credit his religious views to Jesus and his apostles. The Gospel of Thomas begins with the statement; "These are the secret sayings of the living Jesus which Judah Thomas the Twin wrote down. Whoever discovers the meaning of these sayings will gain eternal life". The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of teachings and wise saying of Jesus some of which are found in the New Testament but many others are not. A few of the new sayings that are not found in the Bible are in harmony with Christ's message, method, and style of preaching. The Gospel of Thomas is the only complete reputable extra biblical gospel yet discovered. As of now, beside the Gospel of Thomas, there are no extra-biblical Gospels that have any historical credibility. The second important work dealing with Saint Thomas is The Acts of Thomas, which records the story of Thomas' missionary journey to India. The Acts of Thomas is an apocryphal Christian book. It was written in either the late 100s or the early 200s AD in Syriac Aramaic and was soon translated into Greek, Latin and Ethiopic. The Acts of Thomas begins with the apostles casting lots to see which region of the world each of them was to go to spread the light of Christ's gospel. The lot of India fell to Saint Thomas. He did not wish to go, saying that he was too weak to travel so far, and said, "How can I, who am a Hebrew, go and preach to the Indians?" That night Jesus appeared to Thomas in a dream compelling him to go, but still Thomas refused. The next day, according to The Acts of Thomas, a merchant from the kingdom of King Gundaphernes in India arrived in Judea looking for workers. Jesus came to the merchant in the form of a normal man. Jesus asked the merchant if he were looking to buy a carpenter. (According to legend St. Thomas was a carpenter. Thomas is the Patron Saint of Architects for the Roman Catholic Church) The merchant replied that he was. Then Jesus said to the merchant, "I have a slave who is a carpenter and wish to sell him." He then showed the merchant Thomas at a distance. Jesus then sold Thomas to the merchant and wrote a deed of sale:


 

I, Jesus, the son of Joseph, the carpenter, confirm that I have sold my slave, Judas Thomas by name, to Abban, Merchant of Gundaphernes, the king of the Indians.


 

The merchant then showed Thomas the deed and asked, "Is this your Master?" And the apostle said, "Yes, he is my Lord." "I have bought you from him.", replied the merchant. Thomas then resigned himself to going to India. Thomas then went to India as a carpenter and eventually preached the Gospel to King Gundaphernes and his royal court and despite initial opposition converted the King. Thomas then traveled across India going to the Kingdom of Mazdai spreading the good news until, according to tradition, in the year 72 AD Thomas was attacked by a worshiper of the goddess Kali who thrust a spear through Thomas' heart at the command of King Misdeus. Thomas was thus martyred because he refused to reverence Kali while passing by one of her temples on her holy day. Christians and Hindus mourned his death.


The Acts of Thomas contains many legendary, and even fantasy, elements but may be based on a historical tradition. For centuries most scholars dismissed The Acts of Thomas as a complete myth. They claimed there never existed a king in India named Gundaphernes. In the nineteenth century a treasure of ancient coins was discovered near India. These coins bore the name of King Gundaphernes and were dated to the time of Saint Thomas! Stanley Wolpert in A New History of India, mentions King Gundaphernes in connection with Saint Thomas. He states that Gundaphernes was a Parthian ruler "whose name has long been associated with that of the Apostle Thomas".Gundaphernes has been discovered to have ruled over a Parthian kingdom that stretched from eastern Iran to northern India.

Recent archeological excavations in Sepphoris in Israel have authenticated the description of Thomas skills as a carpenter as described in The Acts of Thomas. The traditional view of a Galilean carpenter is that of a simple woodworker yet in The Acts of Thomas St. Thomas describes his skills by saying, "In wood I can make ploughs, yokes,

balances, goads and oars for ships, and masts and pulleys and in stone, pillars and temples and royal palaces." Sepphoris, which is only a few miles from Nazareth, has been discovered to have been at the time of Christ a bustling urban city of 35,000 with colonnaded streets, a theatre, monumental arches, pagan temples and Jewish synagogues. These exciting new discoveries have led scholars to believe that the word carpenter in the New Testament means builder in general and often implied stonemason as well. Richard A. Batey in Jesus and the Forgotten City: New Light on Sepphorus and the Urban World of Jesus says, "carpenter as applied to Jesus meant not simply a worker in wood but one who labored at the building trade in general." Jesus and Thomas probably worked in the construction of Sepphoris and were highly skilled craftsmen. Thomas' skills as a builder and stonemason were highly in demand even in faraway India.

Professor M. M. Ninan, as part of the Fremont Celebrations connected to the 50th Indian independence anniversary presented, "The Story of Saint Thomas the Apostle and the St. Thomas Christians of India", in which he discussed the oral tradition of south India concerning the ministry of Saint Thomas in India. According to Professor Ninan local tradition and folklore gives almost complete support to The Acts of Thomas. He mentions various time-honored oral traditions in Malabar, which were handed down the generations in The Songs of the Nazranis known as Margom Kali. In southern India there are millions of Christians who belong to the Aramaic church tradition.

Another form of the Thomas story is the Veeradian Pattu, which is still preformed by a Hindu caste for Christians during Christian festivals. India is the only place, besides Coptic Ethiopia, that the Christian community embraces such dance worship. Even among the Hindus, temple dancing, which formerly had a prominent place in Hindu worship, is no longer practiced. In Kerala religious dance is called Kathakali, these dances often retell stories from the great Hindu epics, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata. Southern India has several such traditional songs and dances in honor of Saint Thomas.

In 1601 Thoman Parvam recorded the Indian traditional version of the story of Saint Thomas in India for the Niranam Church. Parvam's work is entitled Thomma Parvam. According to the Thomma Parvam the Apostle Thomas landed in Cranganoor and took part in the wedding of Cheraman Perumal and then proceeded to the courts of King Gondaphernes. The initial visit of St. Thomas to Kerela lasted only eight days. During this period his converts were the Jews who had settled in Malabar in the vicinity of Cochin. Later, Saint Thomas returned to Kerala and on this visit over three thousand became Christians, His first Hindu convert was a Brahmin (which is the priestly caste and a high caste in India) from Maliyakal who became Thomas Maliyakal the Rambam, from whom Thoman Parvam believed himself to have been descended. Among the three thousand converts were 75 Brahmin families as well as other castes such as Kshatriyas, Nairs, and Chettiars. More Jewish converts were made one notably being a Jewish prince named Kepha, Syriac for Peter, who was ordained as a bishop when Thomas left to continue his work throughout India. The seven original churches established by St. Thomas, according to Professor Ninan and Thomma Parva, were located at Malayankara, Palayar, Koovakayal, Kokkamangalam, Kollam, Niranam and Chayal. Other versions of the story have survived in episltes written in the Syriac language by Indian priests.

I have spoken to several Christians from Kerala, the land of Saint Thomas Christians in southern India, who believe they were descended from Brahmins converted by the Apostle Thomas. I have also seen genealogies written in Malayalam, the Dravidian language dominant in Kerala, that purport to trace the family line of several Mar Thoma families to Brahmins and others converted by Saint Thomas. Many Mar Thoma Christians trace their Christian families back 40, 48 and even 80 generations. In an oral tradition I have heard Thomas approached four Brahmans worshiping the sun god in a sacred river. Thomas asked them of their practices, declared there is only one God, and performed a miracle that compelled the Brahmin to become his disciples. This story is probably one of the many stories about Saint Thomas that are told to children in India.

The Gospels of Phillip and of Mary Magdalene

The Gospel of Mary was discovered in 1896 by Dr. Carl Reinhardt but it wasn't published until 1955. It is missing several pages. The Gospel of Phillip contains the famous Jesus kissing Mary passage. The Gospel of Phillip was found with the Nag Hammadi Chenoboskion codices. All of these discoveries of Gnostic writings are from Egypt and are in the Coptic language. (I lived among Coptic People and have traveled across Egypt visiting various Coptic churches and communities. The Coptic people are very kind and are enduring terrible persecution from Islamic radicals and from a government that wants to appease Islamist fanatics often to the detriment of Egypt's Christians. Egypt was Christian before Islamic armies invaded the country. Now Egypt is about 15% Christian and perhaps more than that. Coptic Egyptians are Orthodox and hold the same core beliefs that all Christians hold. They have been accused of under-emphasizing the humanity of Jesus Christ. Coptic Christianity spread from Egypt to Ethiopia. Nubia was also Coptic and fervently Christian. The Moslems required Nubians to sacrifice hundreds of their population as slaves to the Arabs in exchange for the Moslems tolerating the Nubians' practice of Christianity. In the Middle Ages the Moslems went on a Jihad and exterminated the Nubian Coptic Church. Coptic Christianity has survived in Egypt, Eritrea and Ethiopia.) Neither the Gospel of Phillip nor the Gospel of Mary Magdalene are true Gospels. Gospels are biographies of Jesus that contain stories of miracles, teachings and the death and resurrection of Jesus. Usually in Gnostic "gospels" Jesus is quoted giving a lengthy monologue, usually espousing views and beliefs that the Jesus of history could not possibly have held. Philip consists of a collection of doctrines that a particular Gnostic community held. Since Gnostics were so concerned with private revelation, there were several Gnostic cults that held a similar world-view, but many different beliefs. It seems that in most Gnostic texts the Jesus that speaks isn't the Jesus who lived as a man among his disciples but rather an ascended spiritual being. In the beginning of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene Jesus is speaking then he disappears and after this Peter asks Mary Magdalene what "secret revelations" that Jesus had given her. Once again we go into a lengthy monologue about various gods and astrological concepts. (Gnostics were concerned with the ascent of the soul as it travels back to its true source after death in this ascent the soul had to do battle with astrological powers.) Most of this section is missing. Then Peter doubts Mary's teaching, but Levi Matthew defends her and then they all leave to preach the Gnostic "gospel". The most outrageous claim in the Gospel of Mary Magdalene is the statement attributed to Jesus, "There is no such a thing as sin." This is totally against the heart of Christ's teachings. Jesus preached that we should repent from our sins and forgive those who sinned against us. He also taught that the Son of Man was coming to judge the world and to condemn it of sin (John 16:8-9). "Sin" in the teachings of Jesus meant "missing the mark," coming or falling short of God's moral law. (Interestingly, the Aramaic word for 'abortion,' iahti, is also based on the Aramaic root Hta, to sin. Even in is basic Aramaic source, abortion is viewed as sin.) The mission of Jesus was to defeat the power of Sin and bring forgiveness. The early church fathers viewed these Gnostic Gospels as demonic and containing devilish views that are anti-Christ.

The Gospel of Judas Iscariot

    The National Geographic was able to acquire an ancient manuscript containing additional Gnostic writings, including a "Gospel of Judas Iscariot." They held on to this discovery for several years and then in a cheap publicity stunt, decided to release news of this discovery in 2006 a few days before Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week and also a few weeks before the release of the Hollywood film The Da Vinci Code. This was crass commercialism and sensationalism. The motivation of this carefully planned release was to capitalize on the curiosity over the Gnostic Gospels generated from interest in The Da Vinci Code and also to market the book along with the release of the paperback version of The Da Vinci Code and publicity with the film version. This way the National Geographic Society could maximize its sale of two books on the Gospel of Judas and a DVD. I believe this action by National Geographic is immoral and unethical. Mr. James Robinson, a noted Gnostic expert, has criticized the actions of those involved in this Judas Gospel project saying that they have violated an agreement made years ago by Coptic scholars that new discoveries should be made accessible to all qualified scholars.

    The Gospel of Judas is included in Codex Tchacos that was found around 1978 in Middle or central Egypt in the vicinity of Al Minya. It contains the Letter of Peter to Phillip, and also the First Apocalypse of James both of which were found at Nag Hammadi and a Book called the Book of Allogenes. The National Geographic Society has had these documents since 2001 but carefully calculated to release this information to the general public in time to capitalize of off The Da Vinci Code phenomenon in 2006.

    Irenaeus was an early church father who read the Gnostic Gospel of Judas Iscariot and exposed it as a fraud. He wrote, "They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas." Without annotations the Gospel of Judas is incompressible. It begins, as most Gnostic gospels do as the "secret account of the revelation that Jesus spoke." This time, instead of to Thomas or Mary of Magdala it is to Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed him. In this so-called Gospel, Jesus laughs at and scoffs at the disciples for their worship of the God of Israel, which is presented here as a false god. Also, as is typical with other Gnostic gospels, Jesus isn't truly a human being. Instead of taking on a normal physical form, he takes on the shape of a child. In other Gnostic gospels, Jesus is a shape-shifter and changes from a man to a child and then to an old man, while his disciples watch him speaking! This is fantasy not history. Note that in the Gospels on only one occasion did Jesus change form and this was in a private revelation seen by Peter, James and John. In this one occasion Jesus was glowing. As is typical of the Gnostic gospels we have some very bizarre beliefs described. In the Gospel of Judas, Jesus isn't from Nazareth, he is from the immortal realm of Barbelo! Then as usually we have a lengthy description of gods and astrological concepts. In this false gospel Jesus asks Judas to betray him to his death so he can be set free from the evil of being imprisoned in a human body. (Remember, other Gnostic sects did not believe that Jesus had a human body at all but rather was a phantasm.) The Gospel of Judas is obviously false and it is also very absurd. (In the Bible, Jesus is a real flesh and blood human being. In Gnostic writings, Jesus doesn't have a physical form. He is a phantom! According to the Bible, Jesus was a practicing Jew who honored the Old Testament and worshipped the God of Israel. In the Gnostic writings, Jesus teaches that the God of Israel is a false God, he denounces His worship and they have Jesus worshiping secret deities.

    There is no cause for alarm. The Gospel of Judas, and the other Gnostic gospels as well, are in reality totally false and unhistorical. What Dan Brown calls the "secret" gospels are not secret at all. Both the Nag Hammadi Codices and the Dead Sea Scrolls have been translated into English and are available through many booksellers. I truly do not understand why so many people who have never read the Bible, and apparently have no interest in doing so, have such a burning curiosity about the books that did not make it in the Bible, especially when they are of such an inferior literary and spiritual quality. The church fathers rightly dealt with these false beliefs long ago and it is sad to see people falling into these same ancient deceptions and also evil people trying to use heresies to confuse people, to make money off of their gullibility, and to cause people to lose faith in their religion.


 


 


 

The Truth of the Holy Grail


 

Both numbers and facts can be manipulated and both can be used to deceive. That numbers can be made to lie as has been demonstrated in the Enron scandal. When I was in Damascus in a fine restaurant with my friend Lina, Ghassan Massoud, the famous Syrian actor who played Saladin in the motion picture The Kingdom of Heaven came and sat across from us. So, I had dinner with Saladin! This movie was fairly accurate, perhaps as accurate as such a film can be in this historical revisionist, politically correct Post-Christian neo-Pagan age we live in. What did disturbed me was a "documentary" that was included with the DVD. In it the "History Channel" manipulated facts in a manner that would confuse and deceive uneducated people. First, when introducing religions of the Holy Land they introduced Judaism, then Islam and then Christianity, in order to confuse people and cause people to think that Islam is older than Christianity. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, died in 632 A.D. A.D. means Anno Domini and is Latin for "the Year of Our Lord." This calendar counts from the year of the birth of Jesus (most scholars however believe the calendar is slightly off and that Jesus was actually born 4 B.C., which means Before Christ.) Mohammed lived centuries after Jesus. Then this documentary did not explain why the pope called for the crusade. In fact the documentary insinuated that the motive was to exploit the land. In reality the Byzantine Empire was on the verge of falling to invading Islamic armies and the Byzantine Emperor appealed to the Pope for help. This fact is omitted in the documentary. Another misleading statement in this documentary is the statement that before the Crusades the Holy Land had been "lost" to the Christians without explaining how it had come to be lost! It fell when it was attacked by Islamic armies who drove out many of the indigenous Christians who inhabited the land and whose families had lived in the Holy Land for centuries.

One of the greatest distortions of history is the nature of the crusades. Actually, especially from the Islamic perspective, there has been one great Jihad, and it is ongoing. (Jihad means an armed struggle to advance Islam. It may have other uses in metaphors but this is the primary meaning.) This war will be over when Islam dominates the entire globe. To understand the historical reality of Jihad, I would recommend The Crisis of Islam by Bernard Lewis. People don't realize that at the time of the crusades the Middle East had a Christian majority that was being ruled over by an Islamic minority. A crusade was also fought in Spain. This was called the Reconquesta and was waged to drive out invading Islamic forces from Europe. The Ethiopian Christians have had to fight several crusades against Islamic armies but we aren't taught about this in our history books. The Crusades were defensive wars that were fought to reclaim Christian lands that had been invaded and subjugated by Islamic armies. (Other useful books on Islam and on the Crusades include Serge Trifkovic's Sword of the Prophet (Regina Press, September 11, 2002), Bernard Lewis's What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East and Andrew G. Boston The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (Prometheus Books 2005). I think that it is interesting to note that the Maronite Middle Eastern Christians supported the Crusaders as did the Moslems of Damascus. Most people do not realize that it wasn't long before the "crusaders" or the "Latin Christians" were speaking Arabic and dressing in Arab mode of dress. They quickly became part of the culture of the Middle East. Also, there were Baltic Crusades and an Albigensian Crusade which aren't discussed very often.

The Da Vince Code corrupts and misrepresents the traditional medieval legends of the Holy Grail. The grail was not in the earliest sources called the Holy Grail, but rather only the grail. The Latin word is thought to be derived from the word for a dish. In the earliest accounts it seems to be a type of platter rather than a cup. The earliest references to this word are not connected to the word "Holy Blood." The Holy Grail was apparently based on a pagan legend that was Christianized. These were stories that celebrated knightly chivalry. These legends celebrated knightly values such as honor, courage, integrity and valor. They show what it means to be brave and noble. These are virtues we need more of today. I believe that movies and literature should extol principles of heroism. The recent movie The Kingdom of Heaven, which was somewhat ambiguous, did celebrate the knightly principles of chivalry. The United States Army has a serious problem with lack of moral values among many new recruits coming into the military. In order to deal with this moral crisis among soldiers the United States Army had began promoting the "Army Core Values." The Army core values include loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. Other moral values are honesty (note how honesty is not included in the army core values), fairness, respectfulness, caring, trustworthiness, comradery, and patriotism. I believe that we are indeed in a culture war and so Christianity needs to engage the culture. How should the church do this? I believe we should "evangelize" through the arts. The Grail Lore is one mode of imparting Christian morals and ideals through popular culture. (Grail literature includes Morte Dearthur, The Quest for the Holy Grail and The Holy Grail by Gile Morgan.) I believe C. S. Lewis's Narnia Chronicles are also an effective mode of communicating Christian beliefs and morals.

Contrary to the claims of Dan Brown the crusades were not fought over Mary Magdalene. The Crusades were fought to contain Islamic aggression and to create an environment in which Christian pilgrims could worship in the Holy Land in peace. They were fought because the Byzantine Empire was being invaded by Islamic armies and they called for aide from Europe because they were on the verge of falling to Islam. In 1453 the Byzantine Empire finally did fall. (The Koran states in Sura 8:13-17, "I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips of them. It is not ye who slew them, it was God.") According to Dan Brown and his sources Mary Magdalene is the Holy Grail. Her womb contained the blood, meaning blood-line, of Jesus Christ. This is a terrible blasphemy that has no basis in truth. Two symbols are mentioned by Dan Brown representing Male and Female; the V or chalice and the up-side down V which is the spear. The chalice is supposedly the Holy Grail. The chalice is supposedly a metaphor for Mary Magdalene who as the mother of Jesus' children is the bearer of the blood of Jesus or his linage. This is untrue. In the legend of the Holy Grail, Joseph of Arimathea caught the blood of Jesus from the cross in the chalice that was used at the Last Supper. He is believed to have brought the grail to England. Some scholars believe that the legend of the Holy Grail was a pagan myth that was Christianized. The Spear is the Spear of Destiny or the Spear of Longinus which was used to pierce the side of Christ. The legend was if you possess the Spear of Destiny you gain the power to rule the world but the day you lose possession of it you die. Adolph Hitler possessed the Spear of Destiny during most of World War II. Supposedly the day the allies gained possession of the Spear of Destiny was the day Hitler died. If you superimpose the Blade and the Chalice you have the Seal of Solomon which has occult significance. There are two ancient cups that may be the actual "Holy Grail," one in Britain is called the Nanteos Cup, the other is called the Chalice of Antioch and is now in a museum in America.


 

There are many blatantly false statements, outright lies, in the novel The Da Vinci Code.


 

First, early Christians saw Jesus as just a human prophet and not as the Son of God.


 

The Gospels in the Bible, show that Jesus was a human being. He became tired, hungry, he cried, he felt pain, became surprised, he got thirsty and he died. Jesus was also God. Christianity has from the beginning taught that Jesus is both God and man. In the New Testament Jesus is fully God and fully man. In The Da Vinci Deception Mark Shea and Edward Sri note


 

If Constantine or the Catholic Church were trying to suppress gospels that spoke of Christ's human traits, they should have gotten rid of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, for these gospels clearly present the humanity of Jesus. The four canonical gospels show that Jesus has real flesh and blood. He gets hungry and thirsty. He eats, drinks, talks, prays, sleeps, and weeps. He increases in wisdom and stature as he grows from a child to a man. He suffers and dies.


 

While Jesus is man, he is also God. Paul notes that Jesus is no mere mortal man in his epistle to Galatians when he notes that he is an apostle, "not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" (Galatians 1:1). J. Gresham Machen, in his book Christianity and Liberalism notes that Paul and his opponents, who were the radical Judaizers, did not disagree about who Christ was. They were in agreement that Jesus was Lord, the Son of the Living God and God in the living flesh. What they disagreed about was how much of the Mosaic Law were Christians to observe in their day. In Colossians Paul teaches that the aspect of God that was the force that created the Universe was incarnate in Jesus. Paul says, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible" (Colossians 1: 15-16). Paul also describes Jesus as being "in very nature God" (Philippians 2:6). John the Disciple, knew Jesus personally. John in his gospel emphasizes both Christ's humanity and his divinity. He calls Jesus the Word and says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made. In him was life and the life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness and the darkness cannot comprehend it" (John 1:1-5). Early Christians believed that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies such as Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the Virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call his name Emmanuel, which means "God is with us." Another prophecy was found in Isaiah 9:6-7, "For unto us a Child Is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. Upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice. From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of Yahweh of Hosts will perform this." Jesus was believed to have suffered on the cross as an atonement for the sins of mankind. This means he was a sacrifice that redeemed men from the penalty of sin and made peace between God and man. Jesus didn't die as a martyr, in his death he became the savior. Jesus was seen by his apostles as having become the Passover lamb that died to set people free from "the law of sin and death." If Jesus was only a sage or a philosopher, then why was he put to death? Paul taught that after the death of Jesus, God now calls "all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). Jesus said that he was one with the Father (John 10:30) and told his disciples, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6). Why did the Romans put Christians to death in the Coliseum? It wasn't because they worshiped the "Sacred Feminine" and revered Jesus only as a mortal prophet. It was because they worshiped Jesus as God incarnate and accepted his exclusive claims. Because of their accepting Jesus as Messiah and King, they had to reject the emperor's claim to be a god, in addition to all the gods and goddesses of paganism. We know from historical sources that when the Romans set out to destroy Christian scriptures, it was the writings of Paul they were after. In these writings Jesus is God, and true man, and is the redeemer the believer must trust in to receive the gift of salvation. The early Christians were not fed to the lions, crucified and burned alive for any other reason than they believed in the teachings of the church as they are found in the New Testament and Roman authorities saw this as a threat.


 

Second, the Four Gospels are not historically reliable.


 

Tatian the Assyrian was an Aramaic Christian from Mesopotamia. He was a disciple of Saint Justin Martyr. After the death of his master he became a prominent leader of the Christian community. He wrote an important book entitled "Oration Against the Greeks" in which he demonstrated that everything in Greek civilization was actually borrowed from other more ancient cultures, especially those in the region of Assyria and Babylonia. Tatian also demonstrated the truth of the way of Jesus and showed that it was a superior way. Later, around the year 170 A.D. Tatian composed "The Diatesseron of Tatian the Assyrain." This was the first harmony of the Four Gospels. He made an Aramaic and a Greek version. Diatesseron is Greek for "unity out of four." He also supplemented the Diatesseron with information from Aramaic and other lost gospels. The Aramaic and Greek version of the Diatesseron have disappeared, but it has survived in two important versions. These are a commentary on the Diatesseron by Ephraim the Syrian and an Arabic translation of the Diatesseron. As the Diatesseron was becoming more popular among Aramaic Christians the Four Gospels, church leaders from the Syrian Orthodox Church decided that it was necessary that the Diatessron be destroyed. The Diatessron proves that by 170 A.D. the Four Gospels as we have them now existed and were universally recognized as authoritative. They held a unique position in the church. So, this proves that Constantine had nothing to do with the composition of the Four Gospels and nothing to do with their being selected for use among Christians. The Diatesseron also shows that before the middle of the second century all four gospels were known and were universally accepted as authoritative and authentic by all Christians in the known world. The New Testament is the earliest and best source we have for the teachings of Jesus Christ. F.F. Bruce has written Are New Testament Documents Reliable? which investigates this issue from a scholarly perspective. The New Testament has also been supported by archeological discoveries and is supported by contemporary historians. Much of the evidence is presented in Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ.


 


 

Third, Constantine corrupted Christianity and re-wrote the Bible.


 

Constantine has been demonized and accused of so many things. Well, "Constantine Didn't Do It!" He ended the persecution of Christians with the Edict of Milan. Christianity did not become the official religion of the Roman Empire until long after his death. Constantine did not make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in the year 381 A.D. Constantine had nothing to do with the establishment of the Canon of Scripture. Constantine had nothing at all to do with what books were accepted as part of the Bible, and which books were left out. The process of determining the make-up of the Bible began centuries before his life and wasn't completed until several decades after his death. Constantine was a general. He wasn't an intellectual or a theologian. When theological controversy erupted he called wise and learned men to resolve the issue in a church counsel. He deferred to their judgment. Most likely he didn't care what the outcome of the counsel would be. His primary interest was unity and peace. Constantine may have had faults but I feel he is being unfairly maligned. I believe he was a sincere convert to Christianity in his own way although he had many flaws. He ended the terrible persecutions of the Christians and brought peace and freedom. The Creed that came out from the Nicea is a wonderful concise statement of basic Christian dogma.

The Aramaic New Testament is shorter than that of all the other churches. The Aramaic churches never formally accepted 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation as scripture. Of course, they use these books, but they still are not officially part of the Aramaic canon of scripture. These books were not accepted officially because they were not held to be part of the Bible universally at the time that the Aramaic people set their canon of Scripture. For a long time many people did not recognize the Apocalypse or the Book of Hebrews as canonical. Second Peter and Revelation were almost excluded from the New Testament, some of the later lists did not include Revelation. Hebrews almost wasn't accepted because its authorship is unknown. The Didache and Barnabas almost made it into the Bible. It took a long time before a determination was made and Revelation, still isn't part of the Aramaic Bible, because the Aramaic Christians made their list while the rest of the church hadn't determined whether to include Revelations or not. Aramaic Christians do use the entire New Testament they just haven't gotten around to officially recognizing what used to be included among the disputed books.

Constantine commissioned the production of fifty Bibles that were to be made of the highest quality materials. One of these Bibles has survived the passing of centuries and it actually shows that at the time the list of books accepted as part of Bible had not been set at the time. Constantine's Bible included The Epistle of Barnabas and The Shepherd of Hermes, because at the time these were also disputed books, some Christian communities put them in the New Testament and others did not. Of course, in the end Barnabas and Hermes did not make it into the New Testament. Constantine had nothing at all to do with what books were to be included in the Bible. Marcion was a heretic who was the first person to make a list of what he thought were the "official books" of the Bible. Church leaders opposed this effort and so a long process of determining what books made up the New Testament began. It was finally completed in two church counsels late in the fourth century and both long after Constantine was dead. The listing of the "official books" to be included in the New Testament began hundreds of years before Constantine's birth and continued until almost one hundred years after he came to power. In reality, The New Testament came to be through the universal consent and common use of churches all over the world. When the church made an official announcement it was only conceding what had been acknowledged across the Christian world for hundreds of years. Our first evidence for the Books of the New Testament includes ancient manuscript such as the John Ryans Papyrus of John's Gospel (P52), and three ancient manuscripts Codex Siniaticus, Codex Alexandrius, (I have personally viewed these manuscripts) and Codex Vaticanus. The second primary source is found in quotations of the New Testament by early church fathers, which included people who personally knew the apostles such as Polycarp, Papias, Clement of Rome, and Ignatius of Antioch. Then later church fathers also quoted from the Bible as we have it, hundreds of years before Constantine. The heretic Marcion used scriptures from the New Testament to create his new Bible and he created an early list of what he considered the canon of scripture in the 140s. The Muratorian Canon was another list of books of the New Testament that was enumerated around the year 180. Eusebius Pamphylius made his list in 325 and Athanasius of Alexandria, whose list is the same as ours today, made his list in 376. In between these dates a church counsel held at Laodicea created a list in 365. The Counsel of Laodicea did not include Revelations in the New Testament. There were some church leaders who opposed the Book of Revelations being in the Bible because they objected to its content. However, this book was ancient, written by an apostle and was universally acknowledged by the church as scripture. Their efforts to remove the Revelation from the canon of scripture failed. The final official lists were made in Counsel of Hippo in 393 and the Counsel of Carthage in 397. (Notice that these two counsels took place in Africa. Africa played an important role in early Christianity before north Africa fell to the Islamic conquest. Great church fathers, such as Tertullian, were Africans. Historical revisionists try to portray Christianity as a European religion. In reality Africa and even China have played a vital role in Church history since before the year 650. However, in our Euro-centric Church history text books the contributions of the Coptic and Aramaic churches are either marginalized or omitted all together.) The counsel in 397 was a mere formality and recognized what had been accepted by the church for a long time. Finally, in 417 the church Father Pelagius spoke of the New Testament as consisting of twenty-seven books that were recognized as authoritative by the whole church. As far as the Old Testament, the list of those books was determined by a group of Rabbis in Jamnia in the Holy Land in the year 90 A.D. Catholic and Orthodox Churches have a few extra books because they accepted the version of the Bible that the Jews translated into Greek in Egypt a few centuries before the birth of Jesus. This Greek Version of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint, contained some extra books. The New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman, who is neither an Evangelical Christian nor a conservative, states in his book Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code states that, "This historical reality is that the emperor Constantine had nothing to do with the formation of the canon of scripture: he did not choose which books to include or exclude, and he did not order the destruction of the Gospels that were left out of the canon (there were no imperial book burnings). The formation of the New Testament canon was instead a long and drawn-out process that began centuries before Constantine and did not conclude until long after he was dead. So far as we know, based on our historical record, the emperor was not involved in the process."

Constantine was not the "first pope." At his time the idea of the papacy had not developed. In fact Constantine in a way undermined the authority of the Bishop of Rome by moving the capital of the Roman Empire out of Rome and establishing the city of Byzantium as the New Rome and re-naming it "Constantinople." For much of the Medieval period, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Christians called the Patriarch of Constantinople, was the most important Christian leader in the world, rather that the Bishop of Rome. It took centuries for the office of the Pope to evolve into what it is now. Certain Eastern Churches consider themselves as apostolic in their own right and do not recognize the authority of the Bishop of Rome over their churches and never have. The pope became so powerful because Western Europe declined into the Dark Ages. Europe fragmented and the Bishop of Rome became more powerful because, beside the pope, there was no other ruler whose authority was recognized across all of Europe. The Roman Catholic Church and the "Vatican" do not, and never have, led all Christians. Until the decline of Europe, controversies were settled by church counsels and not by the pope. The Catholic Pope could not settle all controversies because Eastern Christians, while respecting him as a Christian bishop, did not see themselves as being under his authority. There have also been reform movements within the Catholic Church that have sought to limit the power of the pope.

Brown states that Christians and pagans were "warring," This is not true. Christians were still a minority and were on the verge of being whipped out by the persecution of the Romans. The persecution was so terrible that even today the Coptic Christians have not forgotten it. Coptic Christians still use the ancient Egyptian calendar. They count their years from that of "the martyrs" meaning the martyrs that died under the persecution of Emperor Diocletion. So many died for Jesus that to this day they haven't forgotten the multitudes that died. Egypt was one the most ancient communities to convert to Christianity. After the Aramaic people they are one of the most ancient Christian peoples. St. Mark, the disciple of Simon Peter, preached to the Coptic people in Alexandria in Egypt and began the Coptic Orthodox Church. The Copts have their own pope who is the successor of Saint Mark.

Another thing Constantine did not do was establish Sunday as the day of Christian worship. Romans did not use a seven day week. The divided months into divisions such as Calends (from which we get the word Calendar), Nones, and Ides. Everyone should have heard of Ides since Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March. When Constantine introduced the seven day week it was a major innovation. The seven day week was before this time used by Romans only for astrological purposes. Thus every day of the week was named after a celestial object. Sunday, Moon day, Mercury day, Venus day, Mars day, Jupiter day, and Saturn's day. These days were not associated with worshiping these celestial objects. Romans did not have a weekly day of rest, they didn't even have weeks! Since they didn't use Sundays, as they didn't use a seven day week, Sunday wasn't dedicated to the worship of the sun. Christians worshiped on Sundays hundreds of years before Constantine and the New Testament itself mentions Christians having meetings on the first day of the week. Although Sabbath was observed from sunset to sunset, in neither the Old Testament nor in the New Testament periods did all Jews or the average Jew think of a day as beginning in the evening. In the Old Testament it reads, "Saul also sent messengers to David's house to watch him and to kill him in the morning. And Michal, David's wife, told him, saying, "If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed" (1 Samuel 19:11). In the Gospel of John, Mary of Magdala comes to the tomb while it was so early it was still dark (John 20:1) But then, on the evening when it was very late and doors were shut, Jesus appeared to the other disciples. It says this appearance was on "the same day at evening, being the first day of the week" (John 20:19). The Greek word for evening here means late at night. While certain Rabbis counted days from evening to evening, most Jews, including the writers of the New Testament who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, did not. This is also seen in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus teaches all day and when the evening had come, "one the same day," Jesus told his disciples he wanted to cross the sea of Galilee (Mark 4:34-35). Note that Jesus considered the evening to be the same day and not the beginning of a different day. Sometimes Rabbinic and Jewish tradition does not accurately reflect what Jesus and the Apostles did and taught and so we should be wary of accepting Rabbinic tradition without checking it with scripture. So, when Luke or Paul refers to Christians meeting on the first day of the week, we shouldn't see it as a Sabbath evening, since this is not how the apostles or their gentile audience counted days. The writers of the New Testament did not hold that a day began at evening. When the Bible mentions Christians meeting on the first day of the week, it was Sunday and not Saturday night. Constantine did not introduce Sunday worship, Mary Magdalene and the apostles did. (They also observed the Sabbath day.)

Constantine did not introduce paganism into the church. Those who accuse Constantine of paganizing Christianity have been influenced by a book written by the cultist heretic Alexander Hislop (1807-1862). This book is entitled The Two Babylons: Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and his Wife. It is a racist, unscholarly and rather absurd book that attacks basic Christian doctrine. It has been exposed as a fraud by Ralph Woodrow in The Babylon Connection?
The Two Babylons is a blasphemous assault on the core doctrines of Christianity, including baptism, the concept of the Messiah, the Holy Trinity, the cross of Christ and the atoning death of the savior. Hislop tries to pass himself off as an expert on pagan mythology and ancient Babylonia but it is obvious he knew nothing of Babylonian mythology and religious practices. Those who promote or propagate this book are spreading falsehood and are attacking the Bible and the Christian faith. People advocating this state that Christianity is actually a mixture of the religion of Jesus with Mithraism. I have seen people argue that Constantine founded Christianity and created this new religion by taking beliefs from Jesus and mixing it with those of pagan religions. No one promotes information about pagan gods than certain so called "Messianics." (The Messianic Movement represents an attempt to understand Jesus within his own Jewish culture. The movement as a whole is good but there are some extremists among them. These extremist may destroy the positive developments of the movement.) They say that we shouldn't utter the name of false gods, but more than anyone else they say the names of Zeus, Apollo, Ishtar, and Mithras and carefully study these false religions. They try to say that Jesus is Greek for "hey Zeus!" (which is entirely untrue). They also state that Apollo was worshiped on Sundays (also untrue). They claimed that Easter is actually the worship of the fertility goddess Ishtar (which is also untrue). All this information they promote is false and based on shoddy scholarship and hoaxes. Their motives are to restore Christianity by riding it of "pagan" influences. What these "Messianics" are doing is spreading lies and confusion and actually blaspheming. They blaspheme by stating that core spiritual and biblical truths are pagan. One of their major contentions is that Mithraism influenced Christianity. It annoyed me a little bit that I had to interrupt my studies to investigate a pagan religion in order to answer their allegations. Mithraism seems to be based on the worship of a god that was part of the Persian Zoroastrian religion. We really don't know a whole lot about them because it was a mystery religion. The religious beliefs were only told to people who had been initiated into the religion. (Gnosticism used the same initiation system and kept many of its beliefs secret.) Most mystery religions left no writings. All we really have to go on is their sanctuaries which usually contain a statue of Mithras sacrificing a bull. These "Messianics" authoritatively state they have all this information that scholars who have studied Mithraism for decades and have excavated Mithrareums can't say with certainty. We do know that the symbolism of a man killing a bull in Mithraism has no connection with Christianity. Also, we know that women were totally excluded from the worship of Mithra. Women have never been totally excluded from Christian worship- ever! Women have always been given baptism and have always shared in the Lord's Supper. In Christianity, women have always been allowed to attend worship services with men. (In eastern churches sometimes women gather on one side of the church and men on the other.) In Mithraism there was a ceremonial washing very similar to Christian baptism and also a communal meal also similar to the Lord's Supper. So, are these Messianics suggesting that baptism did not come from Jewish ceremonial washing ceremonies or from the Jewish prophet John the Baptist, but in reality came from the worship of the pagan god Mithras? Baptismal pools connected to Jewish communities have been found all over the Holy Land and dated to the time of Christ. Are we to ignore the archeological record and claim that Christian baptism is actually the worship of Mithras? This is historical untrue and also blasphemous. The New Testament shows that the Lord's Supper was connected to the Jewish Passover feast. Just because the followers of Mithras had a communal meal does not mean that the Lord's Supper is derived from paganism. The Dead Sea Scrolls also describe how that community also had communal meals. It has nothing to do with the worship of Mithras. To claim that the Lord's Supper and Baptism are derived from paganism and were introduced by Constantine is a false statement and it is also blasphemy.

It should be noted that Dan Brown's main character Robert Langdon is a professor of "symbology." There is no such a thing as symbology. It isn't a scientific discipline. On of the reasons is that such as field is susceptible to fraud. Take for example, a hammer. In Norse mythology a hammer is the symbol of the god of thunder, Thor. A hammer is a pagan symbol. But is it really? A hammer is not necessarily a pagan symbol, it's a tool! Judas Maccabee, the hero of Hanukah, was called "the Hammer." He wasn't called "the Hammer" for any pagan reasons. Charles Martel, called Charles the Hammer, was the man used by God to crush the Islamic advance into central Europe in 732 A.D. He is one of the greatest Christian heroes who ever lived. His title "the Hammer of God" has nothing to do with the worship of Thor or any other pagan deity. Symbols need to be viewed in their proper context. Their meaning is the meaning that is assigned to them by the culture. Many view eggs as pagan. God created eggs, how can they be pagan? Is it true that modern American society assigns the egg a pagan meaning? What is "pagan" anyway? The Jewish alphabet and calendar and even the Hebrew language itself are of pagan origins. "Hebrew" is the same language as Canaanite. Some of the names of months used in the Hebrew calendar, that are used in the Bible itself, are the names of pagan gods. Pagan religions used the same religious symbolism that the Jews did. Cherubim, the angelic creatures that decorated the Ark of the Covenant, are found in pagan art and in pagan temples. Egyptian religious Arks, very similar to the Ark of the Covenant, have been found in Egypt. This includes an Ark of Anubus that was found in King Tutankhamen's tomb. Ancient temples discovered in Syria have the same design as the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Of course, especially in sexual morality and monotheism, there is a clear distinction between paganism and the worship of Yahweh. But pagans also worshipped Yahweh; in false ways. What I am saying is that those who try to portray Christianity as pagan should realize that ancient Judaism came also be viewed as being derived from paganism, if you desire to view it that way. Doing this, in my view, involves twisting facts. Those who are trying to make such connections are misinterpreting data and I believe they are demented and have demonic inspiration for doing so. With paganism and early Judaism, at times God condescends to mankind and used cultural concepts they were familiar with in order that they could understand Him. Also, sometimes false religions contained some truth and some wisdom. The ancient Israelites saw this and actually re-worked certain Egyptian proverbs and psalms and included them among the Psalms and Proverbs in the Bible. (I have heard people object to taking secular music and adapting it for praise and worship services. However, the ancient Israelites took pagan hymns and made them hymns of worship of the Lord. This includes the "Hymn to Aten" found in the Book of Psalms.)


 

Fourth, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi Codices contain lost and more authentic Gospels.


 

Scholars have determined that Gnosticism did not exist until the second century. How then could Gnosticism accurately reflect Christ's teachings when he was crucified around 30 A.D.? These Gnostic Gospels are not concerned with this historical Jesus. The saying of Jesus, not his life, are what is stressed in these writings. It is the resurrected or glorified Jesus that is found in the Gnostic writings. Jesus is a mouthpiece for the authors Gnostic views. The Gnostics wanted to appropriate, actually misappropriate, the name of Jesus and to use his name to espouse their beliefs.

The Gnostic gospels are rubbish. Darrell Brock noted that the "widely recognized Roman Catholic New Testament scholar, Raymond Brown, reviewed [Elaine Pagels] book The Gnostic Gospels for the New York Times in November 1979. He commented that what [the] second-and third-century Christians did in moving to recognize these books and in rejecting others was to reject "only the rubbish of the second century," and he added, "It is still rubbish."" If you, the reader, don't believe me or Raymond Brown, try to read them yourself and you will see what utter non-sense the Gnostic texts are. There are good scholarly books on Gnosticism which include, Kurt Rudolph Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism (Translated by Robert Maclachlan Wilson, Harper, San Francisco 1987) and Hans-Joachim Klimkeit Gnosis on the Silk Road: Gnostic Texts from Central Asia (Harper, San Francisco 1993). The Chenoboskion Gnostic library is available in English translation in James M. Robinson's The Nag Hammadi Library In English (Harper & Row, San Francisco 1988) and Willis Barnstone's The Gnostic Gospels.

The "lost" gospels are blatant forgeries written centuries after the time of Christ, ascribing to him and his apostles, beliefs that they could not possibly have held. Let us look at a typical statement from a Gnostic gospel and contrast it with the traditional sayings of Jesus.


 

The Gospel of Thomas:

"Blessings on the lion that the human will eat, so that lion becomes human. And cursed is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion will become human" (Thomas 7)


 

Wow! How profound! I think Dan Brown is right! Let's scrap the Four Gospels for the Gospel of Thomas! Of course I am being sarcastic. This however, is a typical example of the types of sayings that are found in the Gnostic writings.


 

The Gospel of Matthew:

"I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, and do good to those you hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. That you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:44-48).


 

Dan Brown and his followers want us to abandon the four canonical gospels for Gnostic non-sense! They are not true gospels at all. In the Gnostic gospels most of Christ's moral teachings and his parables are absent. What we have is an extreme case of misquoting Jesus. These Gnostics used the name of Jesus and the Apostles to give credibility to their bizarre ideas. Words are put into Jesus' mouth. The Gnostics deliberately removed Jesus from the historical account. These Gnostic gospels are always the "secret teachings" or what he taught Thomas, Judas, Mary Magdalene or some other disciples in "private." Addressing the issue of secret teachings Jesus said, "Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light' and whatever you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops" (Matthew 10:27). Some of these supposed revelations found in Gnostic writings are said to have been given five hundred days after the resurrection deliberately removing it from the earthly ministry. Also, in the Gnostic gospels the miraculous cures and miracles Jesus performed and minimized. The reason for this is that in Gnostic thought, flesh is evil and needs to perish in order that the soul may escape his prison. Miracles of healing, which enable people to live happy and healthy lives are counter-productive in the Gnostic view. The goal for the Gnostics is to escape this life, and not to enjoy it.


 

Fifth, Jesus must have been married because all Jewish men married during the first century.


 

The state of Israel was very eager to gain possession over the Dead Sea Scrolls because of their view that they represent an important legacy of the Jewish people. It also provided the state of Israel with a claim to the land. Now, many Jewish people view the Dead Sea Scroll and the community that produced them as a very important part of their heritage. In a way this is ironic. One of the criticisms leveled against Christianity by certain Jews is the supposed asceticism and 'other-worldliness' encouraged by Christians. Jews claimed they embrace life in this world. The Dead Sea Community does seem to be a monastery, so now it seems that Jews are embracing their heritage of asceticism after all! There were Jewish sects, such as the Essenes, who practiced celibacy. Jeremiah did so in the Old Testament. In certain places the New Testament commends the decision to completely abstain from sex, but this is no where commanded and not even for pastors. Paul the Apostle chose to remain celibate. He said it was his choice and stated that he could marry if he wanted to. Saying that Jesus was Jewish therefore he had to be married is a fallacious argument. Paul was not married. Neither was John the Baptist. The Jewish community in Qumran, which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, was a monastery. The Da Vinci Code represents an old discredited theory, which few took seriously and which has been exposed as a fraud in court. It has been presented as credible (which it is not) and popularized in the form of a suspense novel. The Merovingians were a tribe of pagan origin. They claimed diabolical origins in their claim that they were descended from a sea monster that raped a human woman! They were not related to Jesus Christ or Mary Magdalene. Jesus spoke of those who had the gift of celibacy when he spoke of eunuchs for the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:11). Paul spoke of the happiness he found in being single in 1 Corinthians 7: 7-9. Paul was a rabbi and had received training from on of the most famous rabbis of his day, Rabban Gamaliel. Paul said the chose to be single, but as a minister of the Gospel, he claimed the he had the right to be married. Now, the Roman Catholic Church denies it's priests the right to be married. This right is given to them by the Bible and by the tradition and practice of the apostles, including Peter himself! Phillip's daughters who were prophetesses were also virgins (Acts 21:9). John mentions that a man born of God does not sin, for his seed remains in him (1 John 3:9). Either John is referring to this man practicing abstinence or this is another scripture dealing with God making up his spiritual kingdom by begetting us anew. However, John notes that the 144,000 prophets who prophesy during the end of days are all virgin men (Revelations 14:4). Revelations is actually a very Jewish book. The genre of the apocalypse was very popular in Jewish circles and the Book of Revelation is a rare example of a Jewish-Christian apocalyptic text. Jesus complained about the "wicked and adulterous generation" in which he lived (Matthew 16:4). This generation in which we now live is obsessed with sex. Virginity should be highly valued. Young people should be able to grow up as children with innocence and purity. Sex is something that life can be enjoyed without. In fact, there would be greater happiness if people would abstain from sex until marriage. The early Church of course honored the family and the home, but it also respected those who chose to live a life devoted to God free from any sexual relationships.)


 

Sixth, Mary Magdalene, rather than Peter, was chosen by Jesus to lead the church in his place.


 

In reality it was neither Peter nor Mary who was left in authority over the church founded by Jesus, it was his brother, James the Just. It took centuries for the Bishop of Rome to evolve into the papacy and there has always been opposition by devout Roman Catholics to the popes taking more and more powers unto themselves. The audacious attempts of the Bishops of Rome to usurp authority over all of the Christian world led to a split in the church in the year 1054. This was the year that the Roman Catholic church broke off from the Eastern Orthodox Church. Papal corruption was also the direct cause of the Protestant reformation that began in 1517. Justo L. Gonzalez notes in The Story of Christianity: Volume Two: The Reformation to the Present Day, "The decline and corruption of the papacy was well known. After its residence in Avignon, where it had served as a tool of French interests, the papacy had been further weakened by the Great Schism, which divided western Europe it its allegiance to two-and even three-popes. At times, the various claimants to the papal see seemed equally unworthy. Then, almost as soon as the schism was healed, the papacy fell into the hands of men who were more moved by the glories of the Renaissance than by the message of the cross. Through war, intrigue, bribery, and licentiousness, these popes sought to restore and even outdo the glories of ancient Rome. As a result, while most people still believed in the supreme authority of the Roman see, many found it difficult to reconcile their faith in the papacy with their distrust of its actual occupants." The Pope claims his office "the pastoral government of the Roman Pontiff, the divine appointed successor of Saint Peter in primacy over the Universal Church." Originally there were five Patriarchal Sees. They were seen as equal in authority. The first was Jerusalem. The apostles intended for Jerusalem to be the headquarters of the universal church. Jesus noted that worship didn't have to be connected with any earthly city. He said, "believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father…the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24). Jesus and the Holy Spirit founded the church in Jerusalem (see Luke and Acts) but Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God isn't connected to one place. It is a spiritual Kingdom. The second Patriarchal See is Antioch in Syria. This is where the gentile church began and where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians (Acts 11: 19-26). After Jerusalem, the church of Antioch is the most ancient and venerable. The third city was the city of Alexandria in Egypt, where Mark the Apostle started the church of Egypt among the Jews of that city. The fourth city was that of Rome. Later, Constantine removed all the civil and spiritual power from Rome and began the New Rome, the city he called Constantinople. This city is now called Istanbul. There is still the Patriarch of Constantinople. He is called the Ecumenical Patriarch. Rather than claiming primacy, the Ecumenical Patriarch humbly calls himself "the first among equals." While certain Catholic popes were holy men and good leaders, many others were evil. Some of the popes were sexually immoral men who were very wicked. Certain popes had several bastard sons who they tried to raise to position of power and influence through their actions. If the Catholic Church wants true Christian unity it should begin by reforming the papacy. Also, if being Bishop of Rome makes one lord over all Christians, what authority did the popes have when they were not in Rome, but instead were in Avignon? The Aramaic Churches were also founded by Saint Peter. We know from the Bible that Peter was in Antioch. Since Peter then was Bishop of Antioch that means that the Aramaic Syrian Orthodox Church who is the Archbishop of Antioch is as much a successor to Saint Peter as the pope is. Tertullian of Carthage actually solved this problem over a thousand years ago. The Scriptures that speak of Peter being the Rock upon which Christ would build the church, that are only found in the Gospel of Matthew, specifically referred to Peter himself and not to any supposed successor. In Galatians Paul speaks of there being three "pillars" of the Church, Saint James the Just and then under him Simon Cephas, called "Peter" in Greek, and alsio John. James was first and Peter was under James's authority. Peter did not have unquestioned authority. Paul himself rebuked Peter when Peter was at fault. Also, when Paul went to Jerusalem he went to report to and to submit to James the Just, not Peter. James was the true head of the church. This is a matter of historical fact. Far from being apostolic, much of the papacy is an innovation, and one relatively modern at that. It was Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) who introduced the Catholic dogma of the infallibility of the pope. This was a rather strange doctrine seeing that certain popes, such as Pope Honorius, are considered heretics. The whole concept of the pope is a fallacy. In the Bible, Peter is portrayed as being a married man (Mark 1:29-31). In the Act of Peter, Peter is depicted as a family man who takes care of his daughter. The Act of Peter was found among the Chenoboskion Codices but it isn't Gnostic and may record an ancient tradition. The Catholic papacy is at variance with what we know of Peter, what the Bible teaches, what Jesus taught and what we know from history. Jesus, foreseeing the development of the papacy, spoke against it. Jesus said, "Do not call anyone on earth your Father [abba, papa, or 'pope'], for one is your Father, He who is in heaven" (Matthew 23: 9). The papacy violates the clear instruction of the teachings of Jesus to his disciples. Jesus said, "The kings of the gentiles exercise lordship over them. And those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.' But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table or he who serves? It is not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves" (Luke 22: 24-30). Jesus taught his disciples to be servant leaders and to serve with humility instead of ruling as kings from a great palace. Let Jesus and the cross be lifted up and all men fall down before him in humility. The one true church founded by Jesus Christ is the Aramaic Church. The Aramaic church is of the east, the land in which Jesus lived, not of Rome. Jesus was Aramaic. He was not a Roman and he never went to Rome, nor did he found the church of Rome. Jesus founded the Aramaic Church of the Middle East. This is the church of his land and culture.


 

Seventh, the family of Jesus was made up of his children by Mary Magdalene.


 

The family of Jesus, as we know from reliable historical information, consisted of his brothers and cousins. No ancient text, Gnostic or otherwise, states that Mary Magdalene and Jesus of Nazareth had sex or were married. None. See the chapter on the Desposyni for the true story of the family of Jesus from reliable historical sources.


 

Eighth, Christianity was originally goddess worship.


 

Jesus, in his teaching advocated the worship of God as Father. The Kingdom Community, God's Assembly, was the "Bride of the Messiah". There is no indication that Jesus was involved in goddess worship. Jesus in fact, rather than teaching that God was a divided force of masculine and feminine energies instead taught, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, The Lord is one!" Jesus taught in the unity and the Fatherhood of God. Jesus was crucified from claiming to be the Messiah and not for practicing the worship of a goddess.

Dan Brown seems obsessed with sex and seems to be sexually perverse. The Da Vinci Code actually advocates having ritualistic sex in public. This is sick stuff! He really expects us to believe that this is what Christianity is all about. Not about loving your neighbor, and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. No, Brown says, the church has got it all wrong-it's about having sex in public! Androgyny and the merging of sexual characteristics is twisted and sick. Its disgusting! People who have such genetic defects are abnormal and often require surgery so they can lead normal lives, if they can. This idea of God being a hermaphrodite is also warped. In the Kaballah Adam was a hermaphrodite until God removed the female, Eve, from out of Adam. This is not what the Bible teaches. When asked for a simple statement of his belief Jesus said, "Shmo Yis-ray-el! Adonai, eloheynu, Adonai, Echad!-Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your ming, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. The second, like it, is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31. Note that Jesus elevated these two commandments above the Ten Commandments of Moses. The Commandment to love God or to love your neighbor are not included in the Ten Commandments.) Jesus taught that God is one Lord, not a union between two sexual powers. The kaballah contains many errors. Some Jewish traditions are wrong. An earlier legend said that God originally created Adam and Lillith and that Lilith abandoned Adam because she didn't want to submit to him, so then God created Eve. Lilith transformed into a demon that kills babies and that also bore demon children. Jesus was not advocating sexual perversion. Dan Brown in his sexual perversity even makes the blasphemous assertion that in Solomon temples the priests of the Lord engaged in ritualistic sex in the most holy place of the temple. (Actually, there was a period under King Manasseh in which he brought the worship of idols into the temple. He had both male and female temple prostitutes working in the temple. Of course all the prostitutes worked for the pleasure of men. The godly King Josiah later restored proper worship of Yahweh and introduced a reform in which the temple was purified. Yahweh is a holy God and using prostitutes in worship of his holiness was viewed as a profanation by his prophets. See 2 Kings 21-23 and 2 Kings 23:7.) When I was reading through The Da Vinci Code I saw how that sex seems to always be on Dan Brown's mind. I have been to France. I went to the Louvre and to the Notre Dame Cathedral. According to Dan Brown, Cathedrals were designed to look like gigantic vaginas! When I was in the Notre Dame I felt the presence of holiness, not profanity. I was experiencing the presence of the divine. Sex was not on my mind at all. Dan Brown reminds me of a soldier I served with in Iraq. Everything to him was about sex. That was all this soldier ever thought about. At first I was offended by him but then later I found it a little funny. I pity this man that he cannot see the richness and beauty in life. I like to sit and watch the sunset and feel the gentle evening breeze blow on my face. I have lived many happy years without having sexual intercourse. The Robert Langdon character reminds me of this pathetic soldier. To him everything brings to mind sex. Paul wrote to Titus about these sad characters saying, "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in their works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified from every good work" (Titus 1:15-16, New King James Version).

Dan Brown's whole idea of the "Sacred Feminine" is based on a theory that has been totally discredited by archeological and anthropological findings. Amy Welborn exposes the facts in De-coding Da Vinci: The Facts behind the Fiction of The Da Vinci Code.

First, he's appealing to a school of thought that emerged in the nineteenth century, which posited that ancient people's worship of goddesses had sprung from a more elemental worship of a great "Mother Goddess," explained in part by the great reverence ancient people had for the mystery and power of childbirth. Archeological finds of pregnant female figures, among other artifacts, were used to support this theory, which evolved in the late 20th century to declare, as writer Charlotte Allen puts it, that:

"This nature-attuned, woman-respecting, peaceful, and egalitarian culture prevailed in what is now Western Europe for thousand of years…until Indo-European invaders swept across the region, introducing warrior gods, weapons designed for killing human beings, and patriarchal civilization" (The Atlantic, January 2001).

In recent years, however, the ideology driving these conclusion, the ambiguous nature of these purported artifacts and clear evidence of traditional gender-based division of labor in many of these sites, has driven a stake into the myth of the Mother Goddess. There is no evidence to suggest that such an era ever existed.


 

Sharon Newman in The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code also shows that Dan Brown's theory of the Sacred Feminine simply isn't true. She mentions that in Greek and Roman societies from earliest times were patriarchal. By Greek and Roman law women were relegated to the home and were given the legal status of children all of their lives. Referencing Gerda Lerner's The Creation of Patriarchy, Newman states, "Patriarchy is older than history. Lerner believes that it began about the time human beings stopped being hunter-gatherers and began to cultivate crops. Patriarchy is a social creation that both men and women agreed to at some time in the distant past for reasons of mutual benefit. However, when the reasons no longer existed, the structure remained. Christianity didn't invent patriarchy; it simply accepted it as part of the world in which it was struggling to survive. Despite this, the new religion gave women a chance for independence, albeit within a structure that became more confining over the years." Steven Goldberg, chairman of the Department of Sociology, City University of New York in Why Men Rule: A Theory of Male Dominance wrote, "finding of the past 50 years failed to include a single shred of evidence that such matriarchies had ever existed and demonstrated the inability of all such theories to deal with reality." I believe that human beings have patriarchal structures because it is part of human nature and it is what God intended when he made Man. Gender roles came from biological reality and matters of necessity and survival. Our technological advances have created a life of leisure and luxury. In the past, men and women had to work together and struggle to survive. Dan Brown also fails to mention that many fertility goddesses were also goddesses of war and death and many of them were depicted as being quite bloodthirsty in mythology. It should also be noted that the worship of a goddess or goddesses is not evidence of a matriarchal civilization only that a goddess is seen as being over a maternal aspect of life, such as childbearing. God is the Creator of the Universe. It is her prerogative to reveal himself to mankind in whatever manner he chooses to. God has chosen to reveal himself in the inclusive identity of Abba, Father. God's Fatherhood doesn't exclude anyone, despite Marianne Meye Thompson's insulting attack on Christianity. Everyone has a father. Sex worship does exclude people. Not everyone can have sex, or wants to. Sex was not ever intended by God to be a form of public worship. God created sex to be an intimate and private act of love and the mode of reproduction. Dan Brown's ideas of sex and androgyny are also harmful to individuals. I know of a little girl who was forced to be androgynous by her liberal parents. They didn't want to force "traditional gender roles" upon their little girl. She had a unisex haircut and had to wear unisex clothes. She wasn't allowed to play with girl's toys. This social experimentation was very harmful for this little gird. She cried a lot and hated her parents, who were unintentionally being emotionally and psychologically abusive and she was left with deep psychological scars and a resentment of her parents.


 

Ninth, Gnosticism represents true and a pro-woman form of Christianity.


 

Many Gnostics held women in low regard. This is seen in the Gospel of Thomas, "Simon Peter said to them, "Mary should leave us, for females are not worthy of life." Jesus said, "Look, I shall guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter Heaven's Kingdom" (Thomas 114). In the Nag Hammadi The Dialogue of the Savior it says, "Judas says, "You have told us this from the mind of truth. When we pray, how should we pray?" The Master said, "Pray in the place where there is no woman."" In this Gnostic "gospel" Jesus also states, "I am come to destroy the works of the female" and "The works of the female shall perish." I don't see how Elaine Pagels and Dan Brown interpret these texts are feminist, woman empowering teachings. It seems obvious to me in reading the texts that they are deceiving people. The works of the female refers to reproduction, the bearing of children and motherhood. One reason Gnosticism died out is they didn't believe in reproducing. The one Gnostic sect that went against Gnostic convention and did allow marriage and reproduction is the Mandaeans. Thus they are still with us. To understand Gnosticism, it isn't necessary to understand Marcionism, Docetism and Mandaeanism.


 

Marcionism: The great Bible scholar Frederick Fyvie Bruce in The Books and the Parchments: Some Chapters on the Transmission of the Bible described the problem the church had with the heretic Marcion. Marcion's beliefs are closely related to Gnosticism.


 

From time to time, however, men have risen in the Church to argue that the Old Testament is so thoroughly superseded by the New that it should no longer be ranked among the canonical writings of the church. One of the earliest of these was Marcion, who flourished in the second century A.D. Marcion, a native on Sinope in Asia Minor, came to Rome about A.D. 140, and there founded a sect which persisted for many years. His distinctive doctrine was that the Old Testament was inferior to the New and had been rendered obsolete by Christ. Marcion stressed the contrast between the two Testaments so far as to say that the God revealed in the one was quite a different being from the God revealed in the other. The righteous god, the creator, Israel's Jehovah, revealed in the Old Testament, was a different and inferior deity to the good God revealed by Jesus under the name 'Father'. This, Marcion thought, was rendered sufficiently obvious by the fact that it was the worshipers of the righteous god of the Old Testament who sent the Revealer of the good God to His death. Marcion, therefore, repudiated the authority of the Old Testament. And defined the Christian canon as consisting of one Gospel [his reworked version of Luke] and a collection of ten Pauline epistles…Paul, to Marcion's way of thinking, was the only real apostle of Christ, who remained true to His mind and revelation. The Church, as a whole, he maintained, had followed in the error of the Judaizers, among whom the original apostles of Christ were to be reckoned-Peter, John and the rest…


 

Marcion omitted what he viewed as positive statements toward the God of Israel or the Jewish people from his versions of Paul's epistles. I have heard Evangelical leaders accuse the early Church Fathers of being rabidly anti-Semitic. The church fathers totally rejected Marcion's teaching and his new "Bible" and his anti-Semitism. The Old Testament was accepted as the Bible. However, Marcion's teachings forced orthodox Christians to create of list of true scriptures. (I believe that Protestants have a tendency to unfairly demonize the Church Fathers. Far from corrupting Christianity, they defended the Scriptures from heresies such as that of the Gnostics.) The list of writings that comprise the New Testament that emerged is called the Canon of Scripture. Canon means measuring stick or standard. Over a period an authoritative list emerged but not as a result of the vote of a church counsel but rather universal consensus.


 

Gnosticism:


 

Gnosticism is very similar to the view of Marcion. It must be noted that there was a wide variety of groups in the Gnostic movement. Some held more extreme views than others. All Gnostics held beliefs contrary to the teachings of Jesus as found in the New Testament and views that would seem very bizarre to most people today. In Gnosticism all physical matter is evil. Only "spirit" is good. In Gnosticism any solid object is evil, whether it be a tree, a mountain, or a human or animal body. In Gnosticism anything with physical solid substance is evil and originated from evil. Therefore our physical bodies are evil. Since matter is evil, the creation of the physical Universe must have been the work of an evil God. This evil god is called the demiurge, and is often described as being Jehovah, the God of the Jewish people. The Demiurge may think he is the eternal creator and high god, but he is not. The good god is from which the spirit came. This god is the heavenly Father preached by Jesus. In Gnosticism any solid object is evil, a tree-whatever it is-anything with physical substance is evil. These ideas came from Greek and Roman philosophy and not from the teachings of the Jewish people at the time of Christ.

To the Gnostics, Man is a spirit trapped in an evil body. The soul wants to escape this evil world and return to its source, the world of spirit. This requires special illumination, Gnosis or knowledge, that brings salvation to the privileged few. Gnosticism had a very negative view of sex and reproduction, since they led to further imprisonment of souls to an evil world and a continued attachment to the evil realm of this earth.

In Gnosticism Jesus isn't the Redeemer, he is a figure that brings revelation. His earthy life and his death are not really important to the Gnostics, all that matters to them is his identity as a figure that brings revelation. We know that Jesus was Jewish. He worshiped in the synagogue and the temple. He observed Jewish holidays. The anti-Semitic Gnostic Jesus is not the Jesus of history.


 

Docetism:


 

Contrary to what Dan Brown says, the Jesus of Gnosticism was not a normal human being-he wasn't human at all. He was a phantasm. According to Gnostic thought Jesus wasn't a human being, he was a spirit creature that only gave the illusion of being a man. In their way of thinking, matter is evil. If Jesus was totally good and pure, he couldn't have a physical body, since a physical body is evil. In The Secret Book of John Jesus takes on different forms as the disciples look upon him. Also, in The Gospel of Judas, Jesus metamorphosizes, as his apostles look upon him. In these texts it is also noted that Jesus didn't leave footprints. Also they stress that Jesus didn't really die on the cross, it was all an illusion.

Mohammed seems to be influenced by Docetism in the Koran. Mohammed seems to be saying that Jesus didn't die on the cross but only appeared to. Mohammed had more contact with Judaism than Christianity and seems to have only been exposed to heretical fringe Christian groups. It seems that Mohammed didn't really understand Christian doctrine. He may not have been arguing for Docetism. It is possible that Mohammed was only trying to minimize the importance of Jesus and his crucifixion. The Koran states, "They denied the truth and uttered a monstrous falsehood against Mary. They declared; "We have put to death the Messiah, Jesus the Son of Mary, the Apostle of Allah." They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did." The translator put a footnote in that said, "or, literally, he was made to resemble another for them." (This is from the Koran as translated by N. J. Dawood. In recent editions of this Koran there has been a printing error I want to correct. Originally in the "Chronological Table in the Life of Mohammed" it read "627: The Jewish tribe of Qurayza raided by Mohammed. Some 800 men beheaded (only one Jew abjuring his religion to save his life) and all women and children sold as slaves" and "629: The Jews of Khaybar put to the sword.")


 

Mandaeanism:


 

Now there are Neo-Gnostics, however the only true surviving Gnostics are the Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran. In the early centuries of the common era there were different Christian groups and different Baptists groups. Many Christians sects survived, but only one Baptist sect survived, a Gnostic offshoot of the John the Baptist movement. They have preserved certain Judeo-Christian practices and traditions, and certain practices that came from John the Baptist, but they adopted Gnostic theology. A main focus in Gnosticism, especially in the Mandaean form, is the migration of the soul back to its source in the spirit world after death.


 

Gnostics were concerned with secret knowledge. The false Jesus of Gnosticism gives secret teachings. Jesus at his trial said that he spoke openly. John 18:20 Jesus says at his trial, "I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in the synagogue and in the temple, where the Jews met, and in secret I have said nothing." John was there and he knew Jesus. He commanded his disciples to openly share all that he taught them. When Jesus gave his teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, he preached it so that any one could listen who really wanted to. Mary Magdalene openly proclaimed her revelation before all, at the Resurrection and also at the day of Pentecost. When John received a Revelation he wrote it up as a letter and had it distributed to churches all across Asia Minor. (The Jesus of Gnostic writings is a false Jesus and an Anti-Christ.)

Readers need to be aware of the fact that the main popularizers of Gnostic texts Elaine Pagels and Karen King are misrepresenting the so-called Gnostic Gospels. David Brock deals with this issue in Breaking the Da Vinci Code. Pagels argues that Christianity was originally diverse and embraced both orthodoxy and Gnosticism. Brock notes that Pagels has a clear agenda. He states this is "the rejection of the Christian faith as a historically unified set of core beliefs held over centuries starting from the earliest period. Pagels's appeal ignores early traditional Christianity and how in the church's emerging Scriptures there was a core belief expressed in the ancient creeds that themselves reflected the most major and central points of the New Testament. This core is orthodoxy in the best sense of that term. It is Christianity with very distinct emphases that differ from the Gnostic texts or the collection of "secret" gospels…Pagels's claims and appeals reflect an agenda whose goal is to revise that orthodox faith. That effort is rooted in these ancient so-called secret documents that historically operated on the fringe of Christianity." Concerning her and King's claims Brock states, "Even if we take these texts and their teaching at face value, they do not support what the "new" school supporting the value of the Gnostic gospels claims for them. These texts, on each side of the debate, force a choice. Either the Gnostic texts reflect what Jesus was and is, or the four Gospels are the best witnesses to the movement that Jesus generated. One cannot have it both ways." The Gnostics were not concerned with the Jesus of history. Their "Jesus" was only a mouthpiece for their private revelations. The Gnostic texts have no real value in discovering the Jesus of history. Many of the books popularizing Gnosticism are highly suspect. The new genre of Da Vinci Code related books are based on a lie. Readers must beware. Scholars have determined that Gnostic beliefs were not formulated until long after that time of Jesus. A book on the Gospel of Judas Iscariot entitled The Lost Gospel dates 100-130 as the rise of Christian Gnosticism. Another book on Gnosticism, Forbidden Faith: The Gnostic Legacy by Richard Smoley, dates 50 A.D. to 400 A.D. as the era of Gnosticism. Jesus was crucified in 36 A.D. at the very latest. (The date of the crucifixion was probably 29-33 A.D.) Gnosticism did not exist until about 20 years after the ministry of Jesus. Also, it is obvious through studying Gnosticism and its texts, that Gnosticism didn't originate from the Jewish and Aramaic culture of Jesus, but rather from the Greek though of Plate.

    Tertullian noted that Plato and Aristotle, not Jesus, were the root of Valentinian Gnosticism. Tertullian stated, "What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What has the Academy to do with the Church? What have heretics to do with Christians? Our instruction comes from the porch of Solomon, who had himself taught that the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart. Away with all attempts to produce a Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic Christianity!" Blaise Pascal, the great innovative scientist and Christian theologian, cried out to God saying, "Fire! God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers, and the scholars, I will not forget thy word!". Tertullian and Pascal are right, efforts of the Gnostics and others to make complicated the simplicity of the message of Jesus must be rejected. Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code states, "the early Church literally stole Jesus from his original followers, hijacking his human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power." To make this outright lie a true statement we must reword it in the following manner: "The Gnostics literally stole Jesus from his original followers, hijacking his human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable clock of divinity, and using it to expand their own power." (While Gnosticism didn't develop until around the year 100 there seems to be a type of "proto-Gnosticism" that the apostles wrote against. See John 4:2-3, the Epistle to the Colossians, and 1 Timothy 6:20, "avoid profane and vain babblings and oppositions of Gnosis, falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith." Concerning Tertullian of Carthage, he was an early African church father. He was a very wise and great man. He clearly defined and defended the trinity and rejected infant baptism. He also joined a movement in which women were allowed to prophesy.)


 

Tenth, Leonardo Da Vinci was a member of a secret society and put hidden codes in his art.


 

These claims about Leonardo are simply not true. (By the way, his name is not "Da Vinci," its Leonardo. Calling him Da Vinci is another way in which Dan Brown demonstrates his profound ignorance. "Da Vinci" means "from the city of Vinci." Calling Leonardo "Da Vinci" is like referring to Jesus as "of Nazareth.") Leonardo decided to go against tradition and instead of depicting the institution of the Lord's Supper, he would show the apostles startled reactions at the dramatic moment when Christ spoke the words, "Most assuredly, I say unto you, one of you will betray me" (John 13:21). Then, as depicted in the painting "the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom he spoke" (John 13:22). The person to the right of Jesus is indeed John the Disciple. He outlived all the apostles so it is assumed he was the youngest among them. For this reason he is portrayed as a beardless youth. Leonardo paints the scriptural account of Peter whispering to John a question, "Ask him who it is that will betray him" (John 13:24). In the painting, John is leaning over to Peter while Peter asks this question. There is no disembodied hand holding a knife in the picture, contrary to Dan Brown's claims. Peter has his hand on his hip. It his hand is a knife that he will later use that evening to cut of the servant of the high priest's ear when he attempts to prevent Jesus' arrest. In the Biblical account Jesus healed the servant's ear and rebuked Peter saying, "He who lives by the sword will die by the sword" (Luke 22: 35-38, Matthew 26: 51-54, John 18:10). Thomas holds up his finger, because later he will demand to insert that finger into the nail holes in Christ's hands (John 20:25). Judas Iscariot has his hand on the money bag because he was the treasurer and because he sold Jesus for money (John 12:6, Matthew 26:15). Judas is reaching because he is going to take a piece of bread that Jesus is going to hand him (John 13:26). There is no secret symbolism in the painting. Dan Brown is creating "symbolism" that isn't there and does not all convey what Leonardo was trying to express. Leonardo did not put hidden codes or messages in his paintings, Dan Brown is making it all up. We have Leonardo's sketches for the painting and the man to the left of Jesus is clearly identified as John. Also, if John is actually Mary Magdalene, then where is John? Why is there a missing disciple? It is also noted that the apostle Phillip in the painting also looks very feminine. Are we to believe that, Phillip is also actually a woman as well? This doesn't stand up to reason and clear observation. The "code" is in reality a pernicious lie.

Another point to ponder: what does Leonardo's Renaissance era paintings have to do with early Christianity? Absolutely nothing! If he had accurate historical information then why didn't he depict the apostles reclining on the floor as they actually did, instead of sitting, illogically, all on one side of a long high table? I was carefully looking at the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci and I saw additional codes that somehow Dan Brown missed. The disembodied hand holding a knife is actually pointing at "St. Andrew's" right hand. If you look at the hand you can see that it is clearly giving Mr. Spock's "Live Long and Prosper" Vulcan hand salute from Star Trek. This explains why Leonardo was a man ahead of his time. Obviously, Scotty from the Starship "Enterprise" (NCC-1701) "beamed him up" and took him in a voyage into the future. No wonder why we find drawing of helicopters, airplanes, submarines and machine guns in Leonardo's sketch-books. He saw those things when he journeyed with Captain James Tiberius Kirk on the Enterprise. Leonardo put the Vulcan hand symbol in the painting to show us that he had indeed traveled into the future with Mr. Spock. He only drew in his sketchbooks what he seen when he went time traveling on the Starship Enterprise. Also, note that on "Saint Andrew's" soldier there is a disembodied hand. Clearly, this is "Thing" from the television series, "The Adams Family." Leonardo put this code in the painting so we would know to watch 1960s television shows such as "The Adams Family" and "Star Trek." Doesn't "St. Andrew" have an uncanny resemblance to Leonardo himself? Yes, it is a self-portrait of Leonardo giving a secret signal to let all viewers that he was indeed a Trekkie. Of course this is ridiculous. I am trying to illustrate a point. My "Star Trek Code" is as credible and believable as Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. It is absurd. I hate to say it, but I bet there are people out there who would believe the "Star Trek Code." People who believed the Da Vinci Code are victims of a scam.


 

In the prequel to "The Da Vinci Code" Angels and Demons Dan Brown explores the Illuminati, a secret society which actually existed. Its purpose was to destroy Christianity. J.R. Church argued that the notorious forgery Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion, may be authentic but not evidence of a clandestine Jewish plot, but a plot of the Priory of Sion, the secret society promoting the Merovingian Heresy.

In 1989 prophecy teacher J.R. Church debunked the Da Vinci Code in Guardians of the Grail …and the men who plan to rule the world! He believes that the Anti-Christ will claim to be the rightful king and heir to the throne of the Merovingians. The popularizing of the Merovingian heresy may be setting the stage for the end times. In 2 Timothy 3:13 Paul warns us about deceivers, people like Dan Brown, "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." Jesus himself warned us of this in Mark 13:21, "And then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or Lo, he is there, believe him not. For false Christs and false prophets shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: Behold, I have foretold you all things." Paul warns about people producing genealogies like the adherents of the Merovingian Heresy in 1 Timothy 1:4 and Titus 3:9.


 

Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is faith.

But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions…for they are vain and unprofitable.


 

Notice what Paul says about endless genealogies. I have seen certain people in the Messianic Jewish-Christian movements, gentiles who want to be 'Jewish' for some strange reason, scouring their genealogies, trying to find a Jew, so that they can establish a claim that they are Jewish! If that fails then they claim to be one of the "Lost Tribes" or come to subscribe to the "Two Houses Theory", in which the claim is made that gentiles are really lost tribes of Jews. We live in a time of fervent interest in the Jewish roots of Christianity. This can be a very good thing. Aramaic is a rich and rewarding field of study. Such a deeper understanding of Jesus and his gospel is found in studying the words of Jesus as he originally spoke them in Aramaic against their Jewish cultural background. This was done by the great Aramaic scholar Joachim Jeremias. (I discovered Joachim Jeremias when I studied at Oxford. There is great value in getting a formal education and traveling. I had studied Aramaic roots for years and hadn't read Jeremias. I learned of Jeremias from reading a book I totally disagree with, Thompson's attack on Christ's Aramaic doctrine of the Fatherhood of God. This was an assigned reading. There can be great value in having a wide range of knowledge and familiarizing yourself with points of view with which one totally disagrees.) There is also a danger lurking in the Messianic Movement. Eddie Chumney wrote a useful book entitled The Seven Festivals of the Messiah. This book about the Biblical feasts is very useful. Unfortunately, he also wrote a book of very poor and unbiblical theology entitled Restoring the Two Houses of Israel. The premise of this book is that salvation is not found outside of the nation-race of Israel. Going back to the time of Moses, although there were twelve tribes, two tribes were dominate. One was the tribe to which Caleb belonged. This was the tribe of Judah, from which we get the word, Jew. The other was the tribe to which Joshua belonged. This was the tribe of Ephraim. Ephraim and Judah are the two houses of Israel. The Assyrians defeated the Israelite tribes affiliated with Ephraim and these tribes were taken into exile and subsequently have disappeared from history. Most scholars believe they were assimilated into the Assyrians. However, the Israelite Samarians claim to be the remnant of the tribe of Ephraim. (See Benyamim Tsedaka's "Who are the Israelite Samaritans?" www.mystae.com.) Chumey argues that the "church" must become the Israelite tribe of Ephraim to be acceptable to God. Many Messianics firmly believe that only Israelites can be saved. Since salvation depends upon your blood-line, all Christians must establish some connection with being Israelite by blood. This is not what the New Testament teaches. Your bloodline have nothing to do with salvation. In Revelations, John states that God will save 144,000 Israelites who will become prophets of Jesus the Messiah in the last days. These prophets are mentioned as belonging to both the house of Judah and Ephraim specifically. In addition to the Israelites being saved, John notes that many were saved of "all nations, tribes, people and tongues." These people are clearly not of either house of Israel and yet they are also included by John among God's people. In Revelation 7:5 John mentions those of the tribe of Judah who are Christians and in verse 8 he mentions Ephraim, which is also known as Joseph. Joseph fathered the tribes of Manasseh (verse 6) and Ephraim (verse 7). The Christians from "all nations" are not attached to the house of Ephraim (verse 9). Paul says that he is the apostle to the gentiles, meaning non-Jews, and not the apostle to the House of Ephraim or the apostle to the Lost Tribes. Paul says this in Galatians 2:7-8. Paul was by race a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin. Of his unimpeachable Hebrew bloodline Paul says, "But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Messiah Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:2-11, 2 Corinthians 11:23-30). Do Christians need to become Jews in order to be saved? This question was resolved by the Counsel of Jerusalem. James the Just, the Brother of Jesus, and a strict Torah observant Jew decided that gentiles did not have to become full converts to Judaism in order to come to saving faith in Jesus as Messiah (See Acts Chapter 15). James did not state that "the gentiles, who are trusting in God" were Israelites or were of the House of Ephraim. Jesus said, "Many will come from the east and the west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:11-12). Those from the "east and the west" are clearly gentiles, not Ephraimites. The "sons of the kingdom" are those of Israelite descent who do not know Messiah. The Messianic movement is diverse. I see three branches. First, are the Judaizers. This group tries to accept everything in Rabbinic Judaism. I know of a Messianic congregation where several large groups broke of, renounced Jesus as Messiah and became full converts to Orthodox Judaism. The second group is the centrists. They maintain basic Christian orthodoxy but begin observing Biblical Feast days and try to understand Jesus within the context of his Semitic culture. This is altogether good and proper. The third group is the cultists. Those of the third group often reject parts of the New Testament or the authority of the New Testament. They also begin denying basic doctrines such as that of the Holy Trinity. In this faction there are those who begin arguing on what to call God. They argue among themselves and anathamize one another for calling the Lord, "God," Adonai, or Elohiem or Yahweh. The cultists have strong Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventist influences. These people have no understanding of linguistics and although they elevate Hebrew as a mystical language few of them really know Hebrew. Once you study Hebrew, as I have, you see that it is a human language and is not magical. The Good News preached by Yeshua (Jesus) isn't about your family tree, or how to properly pronounce words, it isn't about keeping a particular diet or observing a series of holidays. It is about having a relationship with the Creator of the Universe. Our Lord did not become incarnate as a human in order to be a Jew and to observe Jewish rituals and surround himself with the trappings of Judaism. Instead, he came to redeem mankind. Tracing this dubious genealogy of the Merovingians to Jesus and Mary Magdalene is the same similar to the actions of certain "Messianics" trying to prove that they are really Jewish somehow. (The Mainstream Messianic movement is a positive development but fringe groups are endangering the movement and a forming into a new cult. Moishe Rosen warned of the dangers of these developments in his introduction to Stan Telchins's Messianic Judaism is Not Christianity. Moishe Rosen was the founder of Jews for Jesus.) We must reject the attempts of certain "Messianics" and Dan Brown to say that Christianity is about a bloodline. So what if it was true? What if someone was related to Jesus? What are Christians supposed to do then, worship these people? Are these people supposed to be, some kind of master race? I don't really care where someone comes from, if they are black, white, Jew or Arab, it doesn't matter. As I was working as a substitute teacher I had to on one day take care of profoundly and severely retarded children. These boys and girls were about seven to nine years old. One was a little boy who was eight years old. He weighed only twenty pounds and was the size of a two year old None of them could speak all of them had no bowel or bladder control and all had to be fed some with tubes to their belly, others would eat from the spoon if you held it to their mouth. I felt compassion for these children. Other substitute teachers when they saw how bad these children were walked off the job. I am not a coward. I am not afraid of war, nor am I afraid of helping people in great suffering, if I can. C. Everett Koop and Francis Schaeffer dealt with the problem of people de-valuing human life in their book Whatever Happened to the Human Race? All human life is precious. I learn a more profound theology than the Da Vinci Code and the Two House Theory when I was in Sunday school. It went like this: "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world." Valuing one human being, a race or a sex above another is sinful, all human life is sacred. (In America, some women chose to abort their babies when they discover they will be born with mental retardation or dwarfism. All human life is precious and it is wrong to practice such eugenics. In India, baby girls are aborted because women are not valued in many Indian cultures. Now there are provinces in India where they are scarcely any young women. What has happened in dealing with this problem is that now woman are abducted and sold and have been reduced to state of sexual slavery.) Many times in the New Testament it states that "GOD IS NOT A RESPECTOR OF PERSONS!" Peter, the person Dan Brown accuses of being a male chauvinist, is the first to use this phrase in the Bible and he uses it on more than one occasion (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25, James 2:1,9, 1 Peter 1:17). God doesn't care if you are white, black, Hispanic, Jewish or Arab, male or female. Jesus is going to judge every man and every woman according to their works (Revelations 20:12). In 1906 a man named Charles Fox Parham had a vision to lead a Holy Ghost revival. He came to Houston, Texas and began teaching Bible classes. A humble man by the name of William Joseph Seymour had a heart for God and a desire to know the word of God better. Because he was a black man he wasn't allowed to attend the classes in the classroom but had to sit out in the hall. Later, Seymour went to California and started having church meetings in the home of a Baptist couple. They began a church in an abandoned dilapidated warehouse on Azusa Street. Here the Pentecostal revival fell. God used a humble despised man to bring about revival. Parham was indignant that God chose to use a simple black man instead of himself to bring about revival. Parham actually unsuccessfully attempted to stop the revival. God uses those whose hearts are filled with love and are like clay in the hands of the Lord. Race, ethnicity and sex are totally irrelevant. The Lord said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). In ancient Christian literature Paul is described as being bald, short, bow-legged, with a large nose and a uni-brow. God has chosen to use the weak things of this world to confound the wise and mighty. What is real religion about? According to Dan Brown religion is about sex and having ritualistic sex and also worshiping Mary Magdalene as the "Sacred Feminine." Well, let's see what Jesus' brother, James the Just says religion is all about. He says, "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). According to Jesus, when he judges the world what does he base his judgment upon? He condemns the evil saying, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, and in prison and you did not visit me…Assuredly, I say unto you , inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me" (Matthew 25: 31-46). According to Jesus and James the Just, Christianity is at its heart about showing love and kindness to the suffering. I grew up in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church and as a child I learned basic Bible truths in the Presbyterian Sunday School from my Children's Catechism. I think it is crucial to instill the Bible stories into our children. However, I totally reject Calvinism. Calvinists teach that God created man with a nature to do evil and no ability to do good and that God hates the greater part of mankind and his desire is for many people to be damned to hell. Like the Jews of Christ's day, Calvinists hold that repentance and God's mercy is not available to the lost who are pre-destined to hell. I reject any system that values one human being above another. True Christianity is about God's love and compassion for all men, especially those who believe and repent, and not just the predestined elect. In as much as it is possible, I want to love all men and women and show compassion and mercy to every one. Of course, there are evil people in the world and sometimes we must fight them. I went to Iraq as a soldier proudly and willingly, ready to destroy evil people if necessary. What matters is the quality of character an individual has and not their lineage. There are no descendants of Jesus and Magdalene. She was his disciple and not his lover. I refuse to allow the message of Jesus to be about a race or a lineage of any sort. The apostles themselves took Christianity to black Africa and to Asia as well as to Europe (Acts 8:26-40). Jesus shed his precious blood for all men and all women. When John the Baptist began preaching he told them that it doesn't matter that they are "children of Abraham." He told them that God could turn a rock into a child of Abraham (Matthew 9:3). They must repent. Jesus told certain Jews who refused to repent that they would see the gentiles they hated, who had repented, enter into heaven with Abraham Isaac and Jacob while they would instead be cast into hell. In the end it doesn't matter who your family is. What matters is being begotten from above into the fatherhood of Abba by the power of the Holy Spirit. About "sacred bloodlines" John says, "He came unto His own, and His own did not receive him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will, of man, but of God" (John 1:11-13). One night I read almost the entire New Testament in one sitting. A major theme of the New Testament is the danger of legalism. Paul was an observant Jew, but he would not allow his Judaism to complicate the simple message of the Cross of Christ. (Judaism is not the answer. Christ is the Answer.) Unlike other Jewish texts, such as the Talmud, the New Testament is not full of minutiae and tedium on how to properly observe the Sabbath, or dress, or keep Kosher or other rules and regulations governing every aspect of life. Instead it deals with having a relationship with God. Jesus was concerned with the spirit of the Law not the letter of the Law. Paul clearly teaches that if you don't have love, and don't operate in God's love, no matter what you have or think you have, it is worthless (1 Corinthians 13). Christians are not justified by their actions but rather by the actions of Jesus and his grace that is made effective by faith. Jesus told a parable that has remained relevant:


 

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men-extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all I posses." And the tax collector, standing a far off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat himself on the breast, saying, 'God be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other, for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 18:9-14).


 

For sake of illustration instead of Pharisee let's substitute "a Messianic." Two men went to pray, one a Messianic and the other a Baptist. And the Messianic prayed, "Heavenly Father, I thank you that I am not like other men. I keep the Sabbath and the Feasts of the Lord. I eat only kosher food. I use your sacred name and I don't keep pagan holidays such as Christmas and Easter..." Just so the non-Messianics don't escape this also could be substituted. "One an Evangelical Christian and he prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like other men. I go to church every Sunday. I pay my tithes and offerings. I sing in the choir and give to support the television ministry of so-and-so and orphans in India…" We must be very careful about any attempts to justify ourselves before God or against another person.


 


 

Aramaic Christianity

Isaiah 19:24-25

In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the Lord of Hosts shall bless, saying "Blessed is Egypt my people. And Assyria, the work of My hands, and Israel mine inheritance.    


 


 

In the Bible when Mary of Magdala is quoted speaking in her native language we discover it is the Aramaic language that she is speaking. Her name, Magdala, is an Aramaic name as well. There are still Aramaic speakers today. They live in certain villages in Iraq, Syria and Iran. For many of the Aramaic people, called Assyrians, life has changed very little from the time of Jesus. Their language, customs and traditions are much the same as that of Jesus and his followers. For Western Christians the message of Jesus had to go through several different cultures before it reached them. Before Christianity reached Western Europe, the original Aramaic had to be filtered through the Greek, Latin, and then other pagan languages and cultures before it reached the people. In contrast, the Aramaic people received it directly from its original source. The Aramaic people, the people of Mary Magdalene, speak the same language as Jesus, share in his culture and live in the same world region as he did. Today the Aramaic people face terrible hardships. Iraq's Christian population, which was founded by St. Thomas and St. Thaddeus, is now being systematically annilated while the international community and American forces stand by unable or unwilling to help. On 1 August 2004 dozens of Aramaic Christians were blown to pieces wile worshiping in church when Moslem terrorists coordinated bombing attacks against Aramaic followers of Jesus Christ. The attacks continued on September 10, 2004. Islamic terrorists have been targeting and relentlessly attacking the Christians of Iraq since the beginning of hostilities there. The sad fact is that Christians were more secure and safe under Saddam Hussein than they are now with the presence of American forces. Iraqi Christians are called Assyrians, Chaldaens, and Babylonians. They are the last speakers of Aramaic, the language that was spoken by Jesus Christ. American Christians seem indifferent to the suffering of their brothers and sisters in Christ in Iraq. Hopefully, it is only because they are uninformed. Please pray for the Christians of Iraq.

Eusebius Pamphylus, the father of church history, wrote of the Conversion of Abgar the king of the Aramaic peoples. According to Eusebius, Abgar, who was ailing, heard of the miraculous power of Jesus and sent a letter to him requesting that he visit and heal him. Jesus responded that after his glorification he would send a disciple to minister unto him. After Pentecost, Saint Thomas sent Thaddeus and the disciple Mari to preach to King Abgar. Thaddeus prayed for Abgar and Abgar was immediately miraculously healed. Thaddeus baptized King Abgar into the church. After seeing the miracles and listening to the gentle wisdom of a kind and caring man that Thaddeus was, many of the Aramaic speakers and the Assyrians also were converted. Eusebius, called the "Father of Church History", writing in 325 AD, says he found the records of the Apostolic ministry to the Assyrians, written in Aramaic, among the official records of the city of Edessa. Eusebius translated these documents in the archives from the original Aramaic. This letter reads as follows:


 

Abgarus, King of Edessa, to Jesus the good Savior, who appears at Jerusalem, greeting. I have been informed concerning you and your cures, which are performed without the use of medicines and herbs. For it is reported, that you cause the blind to see, the lame to walk, do both cleanse lepers, and cast out unclean spirits and devils and restore to health who have been long diseased, and raiseth up the dead; all which I heard, I was persuaded one of these two: wither that you are God himself descended form heaven, who do these things, or the son of God. On this account therefore I have wrote unto you, earnestly to desire that you would take the trouble of a journey hither, and cure a disease which I am under. For I hear the Judeans ridicule you, and intend you mischief. My city is indeed small, but neat, and large enough for us both.


 

Jesus verbally responded,


 

Abgarus, you are happy, for as much as you have believed on me, whom ye have not seen. For it is written concerning me, that those who have seen me should not believe on me, that they who have not seen might believe and live. As to that part of your letter, which relates to my giving you a visit, I must inform you, that I must fulfill all the ends of my mission in this country, and after that be received up again to him who sent me. But after my ascension I will send one of my disciples, who will cure your disease, and give life to you, and all that are with you.


 

The Doctrine of Addai is an Aramaic work describing the ministry of Thaddeus and other of the apostles to the Aramaic peoples. The Acts of Thomas, also written in Aramaic, describes the ministry of Thomas in India. The Doctrine of Addai not only tells the amazing and fascinating story of Thaddeus and the founding of the Assyrian Church it also introduces the core principles of Christianity. This book is one of the best books written introducing Christian doctrine in a way that is easy to understand for the layman. Thaddeus loved people and he wanted them to understand the Good News of Jesus in a simple way. This important theological work of Thaddeus has been preserved for us in the original Aramaic by the Assyrian nation. The Diving liturgy used by Assyrian Christians, called "The Hallowing of the Holy Apostles Mar Mari and Mar Addai," is also believed to have been composed by Thaddeus. It has been determined to be the oldest liturgy still in use in the world. This liturgy is still recited in the ancient Aramaic language of Jesus. Ian Wilson believes that St. Thomas, Thaddeus and Mari brought the shroud of Jesus and gave it as a gift to Abgar. This shroud, Ian Wilson has determined, was stolen from the Assyrians by western Christians, and eventually found its way to Turin, Italy. (Jesus spoke highly of Aramaic people and of Assyrians in his preaching. In one of his first sermons he mentions the Aramaic general Namaan who was healed of leprosy by being baptized at the behest of the prophet Elisha (Luke 4:4:27). In Matthew 12:41 Jesus spoke highly of the repentance of the Assyrians at the preaching of Jonah. Today, all Assyrians or different religious allegiances are united in the celebration of the Rogation of the Ninevites, when they remember when their ancient ancestors converted to the worship of the one true God at the preaching of Jonah.) We know from archeological evidence that the Aramaic people of Edessa in Osrhoene were among the earliest people to convert to Christianity. Josephus, the early historian, mentions the Aramaic people of the city of Arbela in Adiabene converting to Judaism. Queen Helena of Adiabene did so around the time of Jesus Christ. Her son, Izates, also converted to Judaism. Josephus describes her tomb that was erected in the holy city of Jerusalem. This tomb has been excavated and its Aramaic inscriptions can still be viewed and read. These relics are in the Louvre, in Paris, France.

Aramaic missionaries, mainly of the 'Nestorian' Church of the East, were some of the most dynamic and successful missionaries in Christian history.     By the end of the 500's A.D. Turkic and Mongol tribes were converted and a strong church was founded in India and the island of Socotra. Several Arab tribes had been converted as well. In 636 the Tang Emperor of China received Al-lo-pan, an Assyrian Christian who preached the Gospel to him. The Emperors bestowed their favor upon Christianity and commanded it to be preached throughout the Emperor. In 781 the Nestorian Stone was erected in China. It was inscribed in Chinese and Aramaic and proclaimed the Christian Gospel. This monument is three feet wide, nine feet tall and one foot thick. Several Christian scrolls, text, inscriptions, art and ruins of churches have been found across China and central Asia. In 1000 A.D. important Mongol tribes were converted. For a while Christianity was on the verge of becoming the dominant Mongol religion. The Church of the East thrived until 1400. It declined due to plague and persecution at the hands of Islam.     Marco Polo wrote of finding Nestorian Christians throughout his journeys to the Far East. Rabban Bar Sama, a priest of the Church of the East, was a type of reverse Marco Polo. He was born in Beijing and traveled to Europe and wrote of this strange and exotic land he visited. The Syrian Orthodox Church evangelized Arabian tribes, the region of Yemen and Ethiopia.

At about 1400 the Nestorian Church entered a period of decline. The Church of the East declined but survived in its original homeland of Iraq and Iran. The only mission it established that survived is the Aramaic Churches of Southern India. There are millions of Aramaic Christians in India. In the state of Kerela they make up over 1/5 of the population. The Nestorian Church has lost its missionary fervor. There have been rumors of isolated Nestorian tribes discovered in Mongolia. Some Catholics in Chinese families may go back centuries since the Roman Catholic Church took over some Nestorian Churches in China.

There are several churches in the Syriac Christian Tradition. The most important is The Assyrian Church of the East also known as the Nestorian church and the Persian church and the East Syrian Church. This church adopted the views of Nestorius, a patriarch of Constantinople in 430, who believed in the Holy Trinity, the true divinity and humanity of Christ, but made a clear distinction between his human nature and divine nature, which were according to Nestorius, not to be confused. Contrary to the accusations of their opponents, especially those of the West Syriac faction, the Nestorian Church is theologically orthodox. They believe in the Nicene Creed and in the Divinity and humanity of Christ. The Church of the East never taught that Jesus was just a man or that he was a man who achieved divinity through his virtue. These accusations are vindictive lies. The Church of the East was founded by St. Thomas, St. Thaddeus and St. Mari. Syrian Orthodox Church also known as the Jacobite Church and as the West Syrian Church. This Church is often accused of being Monophysite, that is of saying that Jesus Christ had only a divine nature and not a real human nature. This Church counts St. James the Just, called the Brother of Our Lord in the Scripture, as its founder. The West Syrian church uses its own distinctive Aramaic script, which is linear and less attractive when compared to the old 'Estrangelo' Script and the Nestorian script, this script is called Serto. The Chaldean Church the Chaldean Church originated from the Church of the East. This Church has united with the Roman Catholic Church. The Maronite Church and Syrian Catholic Church are Aramaic churches that joined with the Catholic Church. Syriac Catholic Churches originated from the Syrian Orthodox Church. Maronites are centered in Lebanon. The Maronites use Aramaic in church but no longer speak it. Mar Thoma Church Indian churches of St. Thomas with Church of the East origins. This includes Church of the East, the Syrian Orthodox Church, Syriac Catholic Rite Churches as well as independent St. Thomas Churches including Pentecostal churches. St. Thomas founded the Church of India. The St. Thomas Christians use Syriac for liturgical purposes but speak Malayalam, a Dravidian language. The Syriac churches are now liturgical, formal and traditional. There are also Assyrian Protestant churches.

Recently, the Christians of Iraq have been the victims of a vicious campaign of terror orchestrated by Islamic extremists. Christian women have been slaughtered. Young Assyrian men have had their heads slowly sawed off with dull blades. Churches have been bombed and rockets have been fired into Christian homes. In fear thousands have fled Iraq seeking refuge in neighboring countries. This is happening as I write this book. What is required is an international Christian effort to assist the Assyrians. There is power in prayer. Christians must intercede in prayer for their brothers and sisters in Christ who endure such terrible persecution because they bear the name of Christ. The purpose of the ministry of Rev. Stephen A. Missick, is to promote the Aramaic understanding of the teachings of Jesus the Messiah. A secondary purpose is the increase knowledge of the Assyrian Christian Heritage and to make efforts to preserve Aramaic as a spoken language. Studying the words of Jesus in Aramaic gives a fuller and deeper understanding of the Sacred Message he taught. It is a great mine of spiritual gems that ought to be mined by those who are students of Jesus.

What can people do to help the Assyrians? First, they can be informed. Second, they can pray. There is great power in prayer. Thirdly, give. Give of yourself, give of your time and also give financial gifts. Christians need to support an advertising campaign to increase awareness of the Assyrian crisis and to encourage prayer for the suffering believers in Iraq. Advertisements should be placed on Christian Television and Radio and in Newspapers and Christian Magazines. Christians need to pray about and give aid to the following efforts: The establishment of an Assyrian Safe Haven in Northern Iraq, the resettlement Assyrian villages, encouragement of democracy, freedom and tolerance in Iraq, and the establishment of schools for the study of the Aramaic language where students from around the world can come and learn the language of Jesus in an Aramaic speaking village and also explore biblical archeology in Iraq. There is also a great need for humanitarian assistance of poverty stricken Assyrian and provision of education and school supplies for Assyrian youth. There needs to be an effort made to preserve an Aramaic speaking Assyrian community in their homeland of Mesopotamia. Emigration is actually one of the greatest dangers facing not only the Aramaic people but also all the Christians of the Middle East. They are going to soon face extinction as a people due to immigration. Once an Assyrian family settles in America or Australia, it isn't long before they abandon the use of Aramaic and lose their since of ethnic identity as Assyrians. A climate of tolerance for the indigenous people of the Middle East needs to be created. The international community ought to establish a safe haven, or Assyrian autonomous region, in Iraq where Assyrians and Mandaeans can worship and speak their Aramaic language without fear and free from persecution.

Christianity came to the world through the Aramaic people. Christianity wasn't brought to or introduced to the Middle East, it originated, grew and developed there. It spread out to the rest of the world from the Middle East. Christianity began among the Aramaic people and it is their gift to the world. Since the Aramaic people gave us such a great blessing we, as followers of Jesus, should bless them in return. Paul reminds us of this in Romans 15:27. He says that since they have blessed us in spiritual things it is our duty to minister to them in material things. We are in debt to the Aramaic people for the gift of Christianity. If we have partaken of this spiritual blessing it is our duty to minister unto the needs of our Aramaic brothers and sisters in Christ, especially at this time of great suffering. Christianity wasn't brought to the Middle East. It originated from there. Here it grew, developed and spread out. Christianity began among the Aramaic people and it is their gift to the world. It would be sad to see Christianity die out in the land from which it came. This generation may see the end of the Aramaic people.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

The Regeneration of Mary Magdalene: Good News for Modern Man


 

In his article Magdala, Home of Mary Magdalene Jim Gerrish mentions that Magdala is a place of pilgrimage and spiritual retreats.


 

Situated on the crest of Migdal's hill and overlooking the Sea of Galilee is the Galilee Study Center, presently operated by the evangelical Christian ministry, Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation. At this center, Christians from all over the world come to spend a few days. They rest, pray, study and tour near the place where Mary Magdalene once lived and where Jesus once ministered. With Bibles in hand they, like the disciples of old, like over the hills, sit under the fig and olive trees and learn more about the land of Israel, the land of their heritage. As they experience this "disciple country" first hand they also lean much more about the Master whom they serve.


 

Jesus offered Mary of Magdala a wonderful gift that she couldn't find anywhere else, peace with God. When Jesus first met Mary of Magdala she was in bondage. Mary was totally controlled by sin and the forces of evil. Jesus didn't see her for what she was, but rather, who she could be in him. He saw a Daughter of Sarah bound up by Satan. Jesus set her free. Jesus looked at Mary and didn't see a loser and a failure in life. He saw leadership potential. Mary obviously was a great leader. If she wasn't her name wouldn't head the lists of disciples as it often does in the Bible and we wouldn't be talking about her so much almost two-thousand years later.

Mary was rejected and despised. She was looked upon with contempt. She was alone, broken and hurting. She was mistreated and misunderstood. She was sad, unloved and unaccepted. All she could do was to call out to the Lord for help. She knew her need and her desperate plight. There was nothing she could do to change or reform her life. What she did do was accept the mercy of God offered by Jesus. The reason Mary loved Jesus so much because he loved her, unconditionally, first. His love set her free and changed her life. When Jesus looked at Mary, he saw a woman with potential. He looked past the dirt and filth, he looked past her emotional and mental state. He looked at her and saw someone of value-a daughter of Sarah. He saw someone worthy of the grace of God, a person God loved. Mary Magdalene was transformed by the Compassion of the Christ.

Mary was unwanted. Many scholars have surmised that due to be demonic possession she was either rejected for marriage or perhaps even divorced. She may have been older. Liz Curtis Higgs thinks that Mary may have been in her late forties or early fifties. If she was in her late twenties or early thirties, in that era most people would have viewed her as too old for marriage. She may have been plain looking and not particularly beautiful. But she had a great heart. This woman who was looked upon as a failure is called by the eastern Christians "Holy Myrrh-bearer and Equal to the Apostles, Mary the Magdalene". Eastern Christians credit her with the evangelization of Ephesus. Greek Orthodox Icons show Mary Magdalene kneeling as an equal with the Apostles and the Mother of Jesus receiving the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. There are also Aramaic icons of Mary Magdalene at the cross and at the resurrection. Mary of Magdala, who was seen as a nobody, with James the Just and Peter, founded the Christian religion. Bart Ehrman goes as far as to say in Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code, "it is hard to underestimate the importance of…the women at the tomb. Without these women there may well have been no proclamation of the resurrection-and thus no Christianity."

Despite everything that happened to Jesus, the shame, the humiliation, Mary Magdalene was there for him so that he wouldn't die alone. She, along with his mother, stayed with him until he died. She was also determined that no matter what, she would ensure that Jesus would receive a proper burial and that his corpse would receive full dignity and respect. Her actions showed that she was the most loyal and committed disciple of Jesus Christ. She put the twelve apostles to shame. We all need to have the same transformation that was experienced by Mary of Magdala. John's Gospel declares that although Jesus pre-existed and came to the Jewish people, he was rejected by them. John says, "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as man as received him, to them he gave the power to become the children of god, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God"-John 1:10-13. What is important here is not your ancestry. But rather being born again into God's family by a spiritual transformation. Not everyone is a child of God. There is a modern teaching that is going about these days that is based on a misunderstanding of the teaching of Jesus. This false teaching is the teaching of the universal Fatherhood of God and universal brotherhood of man. In the previous scripture is stated "But as many as received him [meaning Jesus], to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in this name." The word here is understood to also mean "children," because here "sons" is inclusive and it refers to both men and women. Remember that Jesus taught "unless you converted and become as little children you cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." Jesus also taught Nicodemus the Pharisee, "Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." We are not automatically Children of God. We have to have experience a spiritual renewal in order to gain the right to call upon God as our Father. Jesus spoke to his adversaries in John 8:44 and said to them, "you are of your father, the devil." So there are plainly two groups in the word: those who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior, and thus God is their Father by regeneration; and those who have never done anything about the matter of salvation and are lost. Can we know that we are saved? The Bible teaches we can have such an assurance. John writes in his epistle, "these things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). Paul said, "For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Timothy 1:12). Even in the Old Testament we have Job saying, "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my sin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God!" The following are steps anyone can take to follow Jesus as the Master.


 

Realize God loves you and wants you to be a part of his eternal family. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him may not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).


 

Understand that you are a sinner and that your sins separate you from God. The Bible teaches that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We have all made mistakes and chosen to do things we knew were wrong. We have all sinned and we are all sinners. This is a fact. Romans 6:23 explains that " the wages of sin is death." As a physical death is the separation from the body of the soul, spiritual death is separation of the person from God. Isaiah 59:2 tells us that "your iniquities have separated you from God. All human beings are sinners, separated from God now, and if we die in that condition we will be separated from God forever in a place called hell. Jesus warned people to escape the fires of hell, which he called Gehenna in his Aramaic language, often in his preaching.


 

Be aware of the fact that you cannot save yourself from sin's eternal consequences. The Bible clearly explains that cannot save ourselves through our own efforts but rather only my trusting in God's mercy. The Bible says, "You are saved by grace through faith, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).


 

Accept the fact that Jesus and Jesus alone can save you from sin and separation from God. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6). The Bible also tells us that "God demonstrated his love for us in what while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Jesus was the sinless eternal Son of God. He paid the penalty for sins for us, since we couldn't do it ourselves. Thus, we are saved from the eternal consequences of our sins if we trust in him. Jesus , who was innocent of our sin, took the punishment that we deserved for us, when he died on the cross. This way all who are guilty of sins can be saved and have eternal life can be saved by believing in his sacrifice. It says in 1 Timothy 5:2, "There is one God and one advocate between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all."


 

You must repent of your sins to God and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. The Bible teaches that to be saved you must turn to God in repentance and have faith in Lord Jesus as Messiah (Acts 20:21). This means that you must admit you are a sinner and then ask God to forgive your sins and then by faith accept Jesus as your Savior and Redeemer. In doing this you are trusting him for salvation and making him the lord of you Life.


 

The Decision is yours to make. If you believe, then pray a prayer like this, "Dear God, I've ruined my life. Please forgive me. I believe you washed my sins away on the cross. Be my Master and take me to heaven. Thank you, Lord." The Bible says, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Romans 10:9).


 

Being a Christian means living the life of a Disciple of God's Messiah. Publicly confess your faith in Christ (Matthew 10:32-33). Jesus founded an institution called the "church." Participate in Christian fellowship where people honor the Bible and reverence the teachings of Jesus. Be baptized the way Jesus commanded us to be in accordance with the ancient custom of baptism (Matthew 28:19-20). This means be baptized by being submerged in water after confessing yourself to be a Christian. Pray, read the scriptures and meditate everyday. Also, share the love of Jesus by what you do and say. Transform your mode of thinking by meditating on the scriptures. Realize, that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13). We ought to pattern our lives after those of the apostles, such as Mary Magdalene. It is valid to create a Mary Magdalene spirituality. Paul stated, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). Concerning Mary of Magdala and the other apostles Jesus said, "he who receives whomever I send receives me; and he was receives me receives him who sent me" (John 13:20).


 

Holiness


 

After her experience with Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene lived a life characterized by holiness. Jesus in his life lived for others. Jesus, in his death, died for others. So many people today lived lives of selfish indulgence. Jesus teaches us to live for others. Jesus gives the Holy Spirit. He is the Holy Spirit, not the Loving Spirit, the Happy Spirit, or the excited, sensual or Emotional Spirit. The Holy Spirit does bring love and joy but "holiness," which means "Separate to God" or "Consecrated to the Lord," which is what He is. In some Christian art Mary of Magdala is portrayed as oozing sexuality, and going about scantly clad or even naked as an exhibitionist. (One painting in particular that does this is Mary Magdalene in the Grotto by Jules Joseph Lefebvre painted in 1876.)As a conservative Jewish woman, Magdalene lived in modesty, decency and propriety. There is nothing wrong with being a beautiful woman or having a shapely body. It is good to appreciate beauty as well. Many women find happiness in beautifying themselves. There is nothing wrong with taking pride in ones appearance and this existence can be so hard and difficult that I think what ever chance we have to find happiness, as long as in isn't sinful or harming to others, we should take that opportunity to enjoy life. But dressing immodestly and behaving in a provocative manner is enticing men to lust and is wrong. Demeaning oneself in such a manner and indulging in feeding men's lust and illicit desires is unladylike. Some men desire to do right and it is wrong for women to try to appeal to men's sexual desires in such a manner in an effort to get a man to think or do wrong. Both men and women ought to practice self control. We are warned in the Bible of the danger of falling away. Christianity is about self denial. Christians carry the cross, follow in his footsteps and endure until the end. We know that Mary of Magdala was a lady and behaved ladylike. Art that portrays her, after her conversion, as dressed immodestly and posing in a sensual manner does not capture her true spirit. Can we achieve complete moral perfection in this life? Perhaps not. I do believe that it is possible to live a life characterized by goodness and kindness. Many women and girls are harmed by popular cultures valuing of women on the basis of their physical appearance. What passes for "beauty" in American society is, in my opinion, warped. Instead of women with shapely features, the ideal woman seemed to currently be an emaciated woman with disproportionately huge breasts. This sickness perpetuates the sicknesses of anorexia and bulimia. It is sad how that many women have no concept of a woman's worth. Jesus valued Mary as a human being and a woman of worth. Every human life is precious to the Lord and we all have value as his children. The Lord spoke to the Prophet Samuel and said, "The Lord does not see as a man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). Books that deal with the Biblical view of a woman's worth, in contrast to our culture's sex-saturated, thin obsessed harmful standards include His Princess by Sheri Rose Shepherd, The Wounded Woman by Dr. Steve Stephens and Pam Vredevelt, and The King's Daughter by Diana Hagee. Mary of Magdala shows us that while we can't change the past we can remain faithful at present and we can remain in a state of repentance.


 

Christianity: A Force for Good in the World


 

Dan Brown tries to make Christianity seem like an evil plague against mankind. People with agendas similar to Dan Brown try to deceive people and to manipulate the facts. The goal is to put Christianity to shame. These people often speak of the Salem Witch Trials, the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades. When I study history I see how the church started hospitals and the university system. I think about how the church enriched culture with literature, art and music. I think of Leonardo's art and that also of Michelangelo and Rembrandt. I think of music of Bach and Handel. Anti-Christian forces are trying to take over our educational system and create a distorted picture of Christianity through historical revisionism. The problem is that Christian are buying into this anti-Christian propaganda. For example, 1999 was the 1,000 year anniversary of the "First Crusade" (rather of what is called the "First Crusade"). A group of evangelical Christians began what they called a "Reconciliation Walk." What these Protestants did was retrace the path of the crusaders going through Turkey and other Islamic nations and began groveling before Moslem fanatics, and groups that supported Al-Qaida, and apologized to them for the supposed abuses of the crusades of one thousand years earlier while ignoring the human rights abuses that were currently being carried out by these Islamic nations, especially against Turkey's small Christian minority. While this reconciliation walk was underway Turkish police were storming Assyrians Churches during Sunday worship services and carrying out mass arrests of the parishioners. These Aramaic Christians had committed no crimes. I think Christians in America, especially those who participated in the reconciliation walk, have their priorities messed up and are not thinking in a logical or coherent manner. This behavior by the reconciliation walk is scandalous and in my view, sinful. How dare these professing Christians ignore the sufferings of their fellow Christians in such a matter? While this reconciliation walk was de-legitimizing Christianity by affirming historical revisionism, Aramaic Christians were being tortured for Christ. I am going to resist efforts by those who try to discredit Christianity in attempting to put Christianity on the defensive by making it assume guilt for imagined crimes of the past. Failures of people to live up to Christ's righteous standard do not reflect on Christ or upon His church. Every country and institution on earth has committed crimes or atrocities in the past. When atrocities are committed in the name of Jesus, this is in violation of the teachings of Jesus Christ. In the public schools I had to study about the Salem Witch Trials in every single grade. I never learned about the slave revolt in Iraq in the 800s. (There was a "large and protracted revolt of black slaves in the sugar plantations of southern Iraq. The Revolt of the Zanj, 868-883." See Albert Hourani A History of the Arab Peoples.) I never learned that Arab slave traders enslaved over one million Europeans in North Africa during the Middle Ages. (See Allan Wellard "European Slaves in Africa" Lost Worlds of Africa pages 143-179.) In every grade I had to study the Holocaust. I think that it is appropriate that we remember the millions of Jews that were systematically murdered by the Nazis. But I never learned about the one million Armenians and the hundreds of thousands of Assyrian Christians who were killed only a few short decades earlier. I believe that our public education system has developed an anti-Christian agenda. This, and also the fact that these campuses are no longer safe, have led many Christians to decide to home school their children or send them to private schools. Efforts by liberals to indoctrinate our children against Christianity that are currently underway should be opposed by Christians.

Dan Brown and others give overblown figures of those who were put to death by Christians. How many were killed by the forces of secular humanist liberals, such as in the killing fields of the Khmer rouge or the millions killed in the humanist wars of World War I and II? What of the multitudes killed by communism and the millions killed by the neo-pagan Adolph Hitler? Ann Coulter noted that, "Nazis killed a mere 12 million people, while the Soviet regime slaughtered almost 62 million. Chairman Mao…murdered 35 million people in the "Great Leap Forward" alone." There is blood on the hands of secular humanists. The Liberals accusations against the church are without merit. What this really represents is an attempt to discredit Christianity by misrepresenting its past, and de-legitimizing it by trying to cause it to assume culpability for supposed crimes of the distant past. The church is being put on the defensive for its supposed blame for the witch trials and crusades. This is a tactic to put shame upon the Christian church and to put the church on the defensive and to get Christians to admit or accept guilt for wrongs from the distant past and is connected to the "cult of victimization." Messianic Jewish conferences often blame American evangelical Christians for being anti-Semitic. It is untrue and unfair and is an attempt to give credence to the false accusation that by its nature Christianity and its New Testament scriptures are anti-Semitic. I have never read of any pogroms in America. There may have been prejudice, but that is true wherever you go. The United States of America invited Jews to come here to escape persecution and begin a new life. America has a legacy of tolerance. Since the 1800s, and even earlier, American Evangelicals have supported the Jewish people mainly due to a theology called pre-millenial dispensationalism. Anti-Semitism should be denounced but it isn't right to accuse people of being anti-Semitic when they are not and haven't been. Christians need to be informed and recognize a distortion of history for what it is and resist the smear campaign against Christianity by anti-Christian Liberal forces. From my experience the great majority of Evangelical Christians is pro-Israel and respects and loves the Jewish people.

The anti-Christian forces, in order to stifle debate, falsely accuse the Church of being against science and progress and offer historical revisionism to prove this. Not surprisingly this is also a theme of Dan Brown's successful anti-Christian novels. Edward Sri and Mark Shea refute this in their book The Da Vinci Deception:


 

The Da Vinci Code also claims that Leonardo was a "man of reason in an age when science was synonymous with heresy.' Was the Church really opposed to science and reason? Actually the Church was a generous patron of the sciences and of reason, as is evidenced by the huge number of philosophical giants it produced, e.g., Thomas Aquinas, Anselm, Augustine, and many others. Copernicus, for instance-who Brown claims, in an earlier novel, was murdered by the Church-was a Catholic priest who received no censure whatsoever for his work and died of natural causes. Indeed, as sociologist Rodney Stark has noted, the reason the sciences arose in Europe and gained such ascendancy in ways unparalleled anywhere else in the world is precisely because Christianity, in distinction from virtually every other religious tradition, took reason seriously, "But, if one digs deeper, it become clear that the truly fundamental basis not only for capitalism, but for the rise of the West, was an extraordinary faith in reason. A series of developments, in which reason won the day, gave unique shape to Western culture and institutions. And the most important of these victories occurred within Christianity. While the other world religions emphasized mystery and intuition, Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guides to religious truth…from early days, the church fathers taught that reason was the supreme gift from God and the means to progressively increase understanding of Scripture and revelation. Consequently Christianity was oriented to the future, while the other major religions asserted the superiority of the past. Encouraged by the scholastics and embodied in the great medieval universities founded by the church, faith in the power of reason infused Western culture, stimulating the pursuit of science and the evolution of democratic theory and practice. During the past century Western intellectuals have been more than willing to trace European imperialism to Christian origins, but they have been entirely unwilling to recognize that Christianity made any contribution (other than intolerance) to the Western capacity to dominate other societies. Rather, the West is said to have surged ahead precisely as it overcame religious barriers to progress, especially those impeding science. Nonsense. The success of the West, including the rise of science, rested entirely on religious foundations, and the people who brought it about were devout Christians…" Brown, however, finds historical facts inconvenient to his project of portraying the Renaissance Church as a despotic power terrified of knowledge.


 

Randy Stark powerfully argues this point in his The Victory of Reason: How Christianity led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (Random House, 2005). Despite how the liberal establishment presents Christianity as a bastion of evil and oppression apparently the best places to live in the world are those places that have been shaped by Christian culture. It seems that everyone in the world wants to live in countries that are majority professing Christians or have a legacy of being a part of Christendom.


 

Orthodoxy


 

Orthodoxy means remaining faithful to the teaching of Jesus and accurately maintaining the apostolic teachings as they are expressed in the New Testament of the Holy Bible. It does not mean being intolerant or oppressive. The Bible says that Jesus the Messiah is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Truth is absolute. It is not relative and does not change. The Aramaic church tradition has not changed its core doctrines in almost 2,000 years. The Nicene Creed is a statement that brings unity in Christian belief and stability in the Christian faith. The Essential Doctrines of the Kingdom of God are best simplified in an expansion of the ancient Apostles Creed called the Nicean-Constantinoplian Creed. This is the Creed in English and a small portion in Aramaic. These are universal New Testament Truths that all Christians who believe on the authority of scripture adhere to. The New Testament itself contains some creedal statements (1 Timothy 3:16, Acts 2:22-24).


 

Kim-haim-nukh bkha alaha baba Ahdeedh kol. Baraya dculma dikpayish khizya W-bekha Marya Eashua Meshika Berd alaha eehhee-dhaya bukhra Dkallay beryatha. Awa dmin babeh pishleh ewheedah. Alaha shareera dmin alaha sharera…


 

We believe in one God, the Father the Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and Earth and all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God. Begotten not make, one in being with the Father. Through Him were all things made.

For us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven, by    power of the Holy Spirit. He was born of the Virgin Mary and he became man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, died and was buried. On The third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and it seated at the right hand of Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy and universal and apostolic church. We acknowledge one baptism of the remission of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the Life of the world to come. Amen.


 

(A biblical study on the Nicean Creed entitled "Words of the Nicean Creed from the Holy Bible" by the Aramaic Bishop Mar Meelis Zaia and is available from the Ancient Assyrian Aramaic Church of the East in Australia. See www.assyrianchurch.com.au.) Dan Brown would have us believe that early Christians believed that Jesus was just a human being-a normal human prophet. According to Dan Brown, Emperor Constantine had Jesus deified by forcing the Counsel of Nicea to grant Jesus the status of godhood. There are two problems with this accusation. First, many of the elders at the Counsel of Nicea were what are called confessors. Many of the church fathers who predated Constantine by centuries considered Jesus Christ divine. This includes Ignatius (105 A.D.), Justin Martyr (160 A.D.), Irenaeus (180 A.D.), Tertulllian (200 A.D.), and Origin (225 A.D.). This creed, a statement of faith, is recited by the Aramaic Christians and it is completely biblical. At the counsel of Nicea the world's greatest theologians (excluding the Bishop of Rome, the so-called "pope," who didn't come) after carefully consulting scripture released this statement of faith. Only two of those present voted against it. It was a landslide election not a "close vote" as Dan Brown falsely alleges. Every Sunday Aramaic Christians recite the Nicene Creed in their religious services. Dan Brown suggests that these elders were coerced into deifying Jesus by Constantine. Many of these elders were what was called "confessors." A martyr is someone who died for their faith. A confessor is someone who was tortured for their faith but managed to survive. Many of these elders at the Counsel of Nicea were scared and mutilated. They had been tortured for Christ. Many had missing limbs, eyes and were mutilated and scarred. These men would have more readily suffered more persecution and oppression than to deny their Lord. I don't see the logic in Dan Brown's allegations. He states that men who faced death for their faith in Jesus decided to give into Constantine's designs out of fear of persecution from him. At this time many Christians desired martyrdom. These people were no strangers to torture and threats of death. These elders would have more readily suffered more oppression and persecution than to deny their Lord or what they understood to be orthodoxy. It also should be noted that there was a long struggle for Orthodoxy after the Nicene Creed was composed. The opposing view of the Arians continued to gain strength. Athanasius endured great persecution for decades for his championing of the doctrines enunciated in the Nicene Creed. Orthodoxy didn't attain ascendancy until after the reign of Julian the Apostate.


 


 


 


 


 

After Word:

"A Call for Unity"


 


 

When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Satan told Jesus to change stones into bread in order to feed his hunger. Jesus refused to use his divine power to benefit himself (Matthew 4:1-4). The supernatural power that he had was not for self-gratification, but rather to help others. As Jesus taught, "the Son of Man has not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life up as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). The movie The Last Temptation of Christ stirred up a lot of controversy when it was released in theatres. (The film was directed by Martin Scorsese and based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis.) In this film, while on the cross, Satan tempts Jesus by offering him the opportunity to, instead of living for others, to live for himself and enjoy the pleasures of life and of women. At the end of the film, Jesus totally rejects such a life and chooses instead to sacrifice himself on the cross to benefit all of humanity. Many were offended by this movie, and rightly so, because it showed Jesus fantasizing about having a sexual life. The Da Vinci Code is far worse than The Last Temptation of Christ because it has Jesus giving in to the temptation that The Last Temptation of Christ showed him rejecting. In the movie Jesus said no to a normal earthly life, it was a satanic deception, and he said yes to the cross.

Dan Brown has an agenda to destroy Christianity. According to Dan Brown, Jesus is not God and Christianity is a lie. According to Dan Brown, Jesus did not die on the cross as the redeemer of all mankind. He was just a human "prophet." According to Dan Brown, the Bible is not the true word of God, but is a forgery. He wants us to totally reject the Bible, including the moral teachings of Jesus Christ, which according to Brown, are false. According to Dan Brown, the Christian Church is an evil murderous organization that hates and desires to harm women. (In actuality the sexual immorality, or "liberation," that Brown advocates harms women, families and civilization.) According to Dan Brown, Christianity derives from paganism. According to Dan Brown, what Christianity is really about is Mary Magdalene and her descendants. According to Dan Brown, true Christian worship does not include showing compassion to others but instead involves engaging in ritualistic sex acts in public. According to Dan Brown, Christianity is about worshiping the goddess, who is personified in Mary Magdalene. According to Dan Brown, the historical record cannot be trusted, but conspiracy theories can be. According to Dan Brown, there is not a holy God who is the Father.

To Dan Brown sex is God. Brown says God is known through Hieros Gamos, the sex act. Is sex God? Sex can be a violent coercive act. It can be violating. Sex includes rape, deceit, betrayal, sexual manipulation, child sexual molestation, incest, brutalization, sexually transmitted diseases, shame, guilt, scandal, and ruined lives. In reality sex isn't a private matter between two consenting adults. Sexual behavior effects others and society as a whole. As James L. Garlow and Peter Jones have noted, "Sexual immorality has widespread results, affecting many in its wake." (These two authors deal with the sexual aspect of The Da Vinci Code in their book Cracking Da Vinci's Code.) God intended sexual intercourse to be an act of deep and passionate love. It is the most intimate way in which two people can be joined. It is meant to create new life. The church provides positive moral guidance when she says do not fornicate or commit adultery. God's law was given to benefit us. Traditional Christian morality works and has great benefit. Millions of people have deep emotional scars that will never heal that came from sexual sin. (God can heal any pain through his grace.) This is not God. Often, sex isn't even love. For many it's just a fix. Sex isn't worship. If not through sex, how does one find God? David points out a way, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man, that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than angels and have crowned him with glory and honor" (Psalm 8:4). Paul agrees, saying, "For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead" (Romans 1:20). Like Paul and David, I commune with God when I go out alone into nature. (There is a reason why the demonic forces of corporate America pollute the sky so you can't see the stars at night and desire to ravish the earth. Nature proclaims there is a God, and Corporate America wants to supplant the worship of God with the worship of Mammon.) The Good News preached by Yeshua (Jesus) isn't about how to properly pronounce words. It isn't about keeping a diet, or observing certain holidays. It is about having a relationship with the Creator of the Universe. The good news is that God has condescended to man. He chose to relate to us in human flesh and to speak to us in a human language, Aramaic. He chose to relate to us in the water of baptism and in the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper. The ineffable, infinite, infallible God entered into our finite world. In the work of Christ divisions between men and women, different races, tongues and nationalities are all done away with. They are washed away in the blood of Jesus. The blood of Jesus cleanses the believer from sin when in repentance we humbly come to him and trust him. Through faith we cling to him in our earthly limited ways, until the Kingdom fully come. It is not enough for Jesus to be the Lord, Savior, and redeemer. It must be personalized. Jesus called upon his Heavenly Father in Aramaic as Alawi, "My God!" and Abba, "My Daddy!" Mary called upon Jesus as Rabboni, "My Rabbi!" Jesus needs to become your personal Lord and Savior. What is Christianity about? According to the Bible it is about Jesus being Messiah and finding the way to have peace with God. Now Dan Brown comes along and says we have it all wrong. The Gospel according to Dan Brown is that we must worship those of a family that has descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene and that we should have ritualistic sex in order to commune with God. In Dan Brown's gospel sex is God. Christ's purpose was to bring Israel, and also the gentiles, into a relationship with God as Abba, Father, and not to introduce the practice of bizarre sexual rituals. John the Apostle in his old age simplified the gospel message. There is evidence that the Gospel of John was originally written in Aramaic. The Revelation is written in a Greek with a heavy Semitic influence. John may never have had a full command over the Greek language. As he became old and feeble, it became more difficult for him to speak. John decided to explain the gospel in a simple and concise way. To emphasis what Jesus and his Gospel was all about he selected one statement of Jesus and repeated it over and over again. With this one phrase John thought, perhaps people would remember what the most important aspect of Christ's teaching really was. He chose the words of Jesus that are found in John 13:34-35. John the Evangelist lived to a great age; and when he was very old, tradition says, and unable any longer to preach to the people, he used to be carried into the church and repeat over and over again the words: "Little children, love one another." When he was asked why he so often repeated these words, he replied, "If this one thing were attained, it would be enough." With the Da Vinci Code this simple message of love is under assault. Dan Brown has unleashed a blasphemous attack on the Christian faith and seeks to destroy the very heart of the Church. Of course this isn't the first time this has happened. There have been many anti-Christian movies such as Stigmata and Disney's Priest and Dogma. In my opinion Hollywood doesn't have the moral authority or the right to cast aspersions and false judgments at the church. Usually these films attack Roman Catholicism. But in reality this is not an attack on Roman Catholicism, it is attack on all of Christianity and upon the Lord Jesus himself. Certain people look upon Roman Catholicism as representing all Christians. In reality, the Catholic church is only part of the body of Christ. This is a time for all Christians to unite to stand up for Christ's honor. Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox and Aramaic need to come together in unity and love to testify to the truth-Jesus. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6). Jude the Brother of Jesus told us that he "found it necessary to…exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. For certain men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 3-4, Holman Christian Standard Bible). Dan Brown is an ungodly man, whom Jude warned us of, who is turning the Faith of Jesus into sexual promiscuity. Sexual promiscuity is harmful to men and to women. God doesn't will for people to behave in such a manner. God loves us and he wants us to love and be loved and not harm people through sexual promiscuity. Sex must be love, sacrifice and commitment. If it isn't, it is sin. Also, as Jude tells us, Dan Brown is also denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. We have only one Master and Lord. When Dan Brown and others elevate Mary of Magdala as an equal of Jesus they are denying Jesus as our "only Master and Lord." Jesus was the Magdalene's only Master and Lord. She called him her "Rabboni," which means "Master and Lord" in Aramaic. Mary of Magdala is to be highly honored and she was a great woman. But she is not the "Master and Lord" and she didn't claim to be. Jude the Brother of Jesus gives us clear orders: we must fight against these lies. In conclusion, let us consider what Paul says of such matters, "walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor. But fornication, and all uncleanliness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the Kingdom of Messiah and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye partakers with them. For ye were sometimes in darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light; (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness and truth;) And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of these things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest. And arise from the dead, and Messiah shall give thee light" (Ephesians 5:2-14).


 


 

Mary of Magdala Resources


 

There is a Mary Magdalene web-site: www.magdalene.org. While I cannot endorse everything in this website it is worth taking a look at. This site has links to everything you can imagine about Mary Magdalene, from art to movies and literature. This site was put together by Leslie Bellevie, who is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Mary Magdalene. The frequently asked questions section is particularly helpful. I have excerpted a section here and interspersed it with my commentary, which is in brackets. The complete FAQs can be seen on-line and will be included in Dan Burnstein's book Secret's of Mary Magdalene: The Unfolding Story of History's Most Misunderstood Woman. (I am wary of Burnstein's book because he has in the past presented bogus information as if it were credible. It troubles me to see disingenuous claims, totally discredited phony science and phony history passed on as if it were reliable information. I don't like to see cult groups being given such a forum.)


 

"Did Mary Magdalene travel to France?

Probably not. There are some very old legends that say that she did travel to France, but they are from the 11th century. That's about a thousand years after it would have happened. (If you consider the fact that we're separated from the First Crusade by almost a thousand years you can get some idea of how much distance they would have had from the original events.)

These legends appear to have been manufactured at least in part by the abbey at Vezelay, France, whose abbot wished to validate the relics in his posession as belonging to Mary Magdalene. There is a very clear progression of these legends indicating the evolution of the French myth, culminating with a competition between Vezelay and another basilica further south that claimed her relics in the 13th century.
[Note that the French legends confuse Mary of Bethany with Mary of Magdala. In these myths, Lazarus and Martha came to France with Mary of Bethany/Magdala.]

Did Mary Magdalene have long, red hair?

Probably not, but the truth is, we really have no idea what she looked like. She was Jewish, so the odds are overwhelmingly strong that she looked like other Jewish women from Palestine, which means she probably was not a fair-skinned European with red or blonde hair, as she appears in most paintings.

Mary Magdalene probably became associated with long hair through the assumption that she was the woman who performed the anointing on Jesus in the Gospels. That woman was said to have washed Jesus' feet with her tears and to have wiped them dry with her long hair. Wearing her hair loose would have been considered scandalous at the time, so this particular characteristic was to follow Mary Magdalene throughout time. Even today Mary Magdalene is portrayed with long, uncovered hair in the movies (see Monica Bellucci's Mary Magdalene in The Passion of the Christ compared to the Virgin Mary, who kept her hair covered at all times).

The color red is another issue entirely. Red has long been associated with desire, the flesh, and sin, so perhaps it's only natural that Mary Magdalene would have been associated with that color given her shady reputation.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. [Isaiah 1:18]

[Having lived among Aramaic people I can say that the vast majority of Aramaic people closely resemble Jews and Arabs. They have dark complexions and straight black hair. Many, especially in Iraq, do have blue eyes. Some have blond or brown hair. I have even seen Assyrians I mistook for foreign travelers due to their fair skin and light brown hair.]


 

What does the name "Magdalene" mean?

The root of the name "Magdalene" is the Hebrew word "migdal," which means "tower," "fortress," or "stronghold." [Magdala is the Aramaic equivalent for the Hebrew word Migdal. Actually "Magdala" is the Aramaic word for "Tower."] St. Jerome suggested that there was something about Mary Magdalene that was strong and "tower"-like that earned her the nickname.

The more common interpretation of "Magdalene" is "woman from Magdala," which is entirely possible. It has been suggested that since we have no records dating back to the first century that a place called Magdala even existed that it couldn't possibly refer to her place of origin, but most scholars, almost without exception, accept this as the most likely origin of the name. [There are many records of Magdala that use the Greek name of the city, Tarichae. The city is mentioned often in the writings of Flavius Josephus, who was a contemporary of James the Just, Paul of Tarsus, and Mary of Magdala. The Talmuds also mention Magdala. Even though they were written centuries after the time of Jesus, the Talmuds contain traditions that do go back to his time.]

Why is Mary Magdalene pictured in caves?

In the French legends of Mary Magdalene, she was said to have retired to a grotto in the St. Baume mountain range for thirty years, where she lived a life of solitary contemplation. Here she was visited by angels who carried her into the air and fed her spiritual sustenance to keep her alive. The French legends were well accepted for several hundred years and many paintings of Mary Magdalene are set in her grotto.


 

Why is Mary Magdalene pictured with a jar/book/skull?

Mary Magdalene's primary emblem in art is a jar. This jar is meant to remind the viewer of Mary Magdalene's role as the woman who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus after the Sabbath, only to find him resurrected. To the extent that Mary Magdalene was believed to have been the woman who performed the anointing before the crucifixion, the jar was related to that scene as well.

A book and a skull often appear in the paintings of Mary Magdalene in her grotto. Typically these are seen as symbols of the contemplative life of reflection and penitence. The skull may also be related to her role as a witness of the crucifixion, which took place on Golgotha, the "place of the skull."

Are The Magdalene Diaries real?

In The Da Vinci Code, one of Dan Brown's characters mentions something called "the Magdalene Diaries" as a surviving text that provides illumination on Mary Magdalene's role in early Christianity. In fact, no such document or set of documents is known to exist.

Are Mary Magdalene's bones really in the Louvre?

That would probably come as a surprise to the curators of the Louvre. And depending on how you define "bones," it could be said that at least one of Mary Magdalene's bones is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York city, where one of her teeth is believed to be encased in a reliquary.

Two places are the primary sites believed to claim Mary Magdalene's relics: the basilicas at Vezelay, France and at St.-Maximin-la-Ste.-Baume, France. These two sites competed for tourism dollars in the Middle Ages by laying claim to Mary Magdalene's bones, each of them boasting a full skeleton. During the various periods of political unrest, particularly during the French Revolution, many of the bones were lost. Today an arm remains at Vezelay and a skull at St.-Maximin-la-Ste.-Baume. No one knows if they really belonged to Mary Magdalene.


 


 

Do we know who Mary Magdalene's parents were?

No. Some of the French legends purport to record the names of her parents, but there is no indication that these legends were based on anything historical. [There is no evidence that Mary was of the tribe of Benjamin. Paul the Apostle was of the Tribe of Benjamin and may have been of royal descent. Actually, the Mandaean Book of John the Baptist may mention the name of Mary Magdalene's father.]

Do we know when/where Mary Magdalene was born and died?

We don't know when she was born, and really, we don't know when she died. The earliest recorded legend of the end of her life says that she spent her last days in Ephesus, where she was buried near the tomb of the Seven Sleepers. French legends that came much later suggest that she died in Southern France, at least one even going so far as to pin the location down to St. Maximin's oratory, where she was believed to have received last rites." [Bruce Chilton surmises that Mary Magdalene died in Magdala when her city was destroyed by the Romans in 67 A.D. I doubt she returned to Magdala after working as a missionary in Ephesus and Rome.]


 

Joanna the Apostle


 

Anyone who is serious about women's studies and the Bible must read Richard Bauckham's Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels ( William B. Eerdmans Publishing Comp., Cambridge, 2002). In this book Bauckham critically reconstructs the life of Mary Magdalene's associate, Joanna the wife of Chuza, steward of King Herod. (Nabatea was an Aramaic-speaking Arab Kingdom. This kingdom left the spectacular ruins of the city of Petra in the modern nation of Jordan.)


 

Joanna was born into one of the prominent and wealthy Jewish families of Galilee and grew up in one of the small castles that dotted the Galilean hills. Her parents arranged her marriage for her at an early age, and like most Jewish girls, she was married when she reached puberty. The marriage was made for political advantage, to promote her family's alliance with Herod Antipas's rule of Galilee. Her husband was the Nabatean nobleman Chuza, who had recently come to Herod's court in the entourage of the young Nabatean princess who became Herod's wife. Herod had soon promoted him to finance minister of his realm. To marry Joanna he adopted Jewish religion, though this was to his advantage in any case if he was to make his career in Herod's administration.

As Chuza's wife Joanna lived in a magnificent house in the new city of Tiberias, with estates elsewhere in Galilee…

It was as a healer and exorcist that Jesus of Nazareth first became known among the courtiers and officials of Tiberias. His activities in the area immediately north of Tiberias could not be ignored…

Joanna knew that Jesus was no mere charismatic healer, but that his healings were integral to a vision of the coming kingdom of God. Her own healing brought her into growing participation in this vision, which included and uncompromising call to repentance, a corresponding enactment of God's transformative forgiveness, and the inclusion of all kings of marginal and excluded people in the Jewish people of God as Jesus was beginning to reconstitute it. Jesus' practice of the coming kingdom drew together a community of disciples among whom the life of the kingdom was taking form in the renunciation of all status and wealth…

As a devout Jewish woman, Joanna had always made a practice of charitable giving to the poor, but joining the disciples of Jesus required a more radical step. She sold some of her property and gave the proceeds to the poor…

There followed two years or so in which Joanna was in the constant company of Jesus and his many disciples. Sometimes as many as a hundred were traveling with him, but Joanna, with other women and the twelve men, belonged to the inner circle of those in constant attendance. Following Jesus took them to most parts of Jewish Palestine. For disciples like Joanna it was an extraordinary learning experience, witnessing Jesus' miraculous deeds, by which he manifested the coming kingdom as God's grace fro the needy, and the turning around of the lives of those who encountered him, imbibing Jesus' teaching and deliberately remembering the aphorisms in which he encapsulated his teaching in memorable form…


 

The bulk of this book is about Joanna. He continues and speaks of Joanna's involvement in the events of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. He also speaks of her work as a traveling missionary and evangelist and her working relationship with Paul the Apostle.


 

Besides the historical account by Baukman there is a novel about Joanna and Mary the Mother of Jesus, entitled Two Women from Galilee, written by Mary Rourke (Mira, 2006).


 

Mary of Magdala Books


 

Liz Curtis Higgs Mad Mary: A Bad Girl from Magdala, Transformed at His Appearing (Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, Colorado 2001). This book has been re-titled Unveiling Mary Magdalene


 

Shelly Wachsmann The Sea of Galilee Boat: A 2,000 Year Old Discovery from the Sea of Legends (Plenum Press, April 1995) This book is about the "Jesus" boat that was discovered at Magdala. This is an important and amazing archeological discovery that expands our knowledge of Jesus and of Mary of Magdala.


 

Mary R. Thompson Mary of Magdala: What the Da Vinci Code Misses (Paulist Press, 2005)


 

Amy Welborn De-coding Mary Magdalene: Truth, Legends and Lies (Our Sunday Visitor, March 2006)


 

Martin Meyer The Gospels of Mary: The Secret Tradition of Mary Magdalene, the Companion of Jesus (Harper Collins, San Francisco 2004). This is a collection of ancient source texts. Medieval legends about Mary Magdalene do not appear in this short volume. This is a useful tool for serious students of Mary of Magdala. However, a collection of such texts with annotations from the traditional Christian perspective has not been published but is greatly needed.


 

Leslie Bellevie The Complete Idiots Guide to Mary Magdalene (Alpha, April 2005)


 

Jane Schaberg The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene: Legends, Apocrypha, and the Christian Testament (Continuum, New York, 2004)


 

Bruce Chilton Mary Magdalene: A Biography (Doubleday, New York 2005)


 

Alexander Moody Stuart The Three Marys: Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth (Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh 1984) This book was written by Alexander Moody Scott (1809-1898) and was initially published in 1862. I found this book when I was in England when I studied at Oxford with my Seminary. I found it in a famous little town in Wales dedicated to the sale of old used books. This is an excellent, historically, biblically and theologically accurate book that ought to be reprinted.


 

Bart Ehrman Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene: Followers of Jesus in History and Legend (Oxford University Press, 2006) Ehrman is a liberal and is not a Christian. Thus, some people may feel they should avoid reading his books. I, of course, do not agree with all of his views or conclusions but find some useful information in his works.


 

Meera Lester The Everything Mary Magdalene Book: The Life and Legacy of Jesus' Most Misunderstood Disciple (Adams Media Corporation, March 2006) and Mary Magdalene: A Modern Guide to the Bible's Most Mysterious and Misunderstood Woman (Adams Media Corporation, October 2005).


 

Anne Graham Brock Mary Magdalene, the First Apostle: The Struggle for Authority (Harvard Theological Studies 51. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003)


 

Kathy McReynolds Women as Christ's Disciples: Modeling the New Testament Church for Contemporary Women's Ministry


 

Jane Lahr Searching for Mary Magdalene: A Journey through Literature & Art (Welcome Books, 2006)


 

Two important historical novels based on the life of Mary Magdalene are Margaret George Mary Called Magdalene (Viking, New York, 2002) and Angela Elwell Hunt Magdalene (Living Books, Carol Stream Illinois 2005).


 

Mary Ellen Ashcroft The Magdalene Gospel: Meeting the Women who Followed Jesus

Anne C. Williman Mary of Magdala

Donna Jo Napoli Song of the Magdalene

Susan Haskins Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor

Diane Apostolos-Cappadona In Search of Mary Magdalene: Images and Traditions


 

Mary Magdalene Movies


 

The Miracle Maker This is the most accurate portrayal in film, in my opinion of Mary Magdalene. This film features Ralph Fiennes as the voice of Jesus.


 

Mad Mary this is a video of Liz Curtis Higgs giving her oral presentation of material from her book on Mary Magdalene. Her speech is particularly geared towards women.


 

Mary Magdalene Movie from PAX TV. This is included in the Close To Jesus DVD collection. Mary of Magdala is played by Maria Grazia Cucinotta. This is a fictionalized account of the life of Mary Magdalene. It isn't bad. It mostly deals with the ministry of John the Baptist. It also shows the harsh reality and effects of divorce upon women in the time of Christ. It also shows Christ teaching against divorce. Mary's demonic influence is mentioned in the movie. It does incorporate history about John the Baptist and King Herod that we know from extra-biblical sources including his conflict with the Nabatean Kingdom of Arabia. Magdala was a city and not the family farm as it is portrayed in the film. Mary of Magdala also appears in the film on St. Thomas in this series. The problem is the Mary Magdalene film spends too little time with Mary and Jesus and the movie ends almost immediately after Mary joins Jesus' company as a disciple. The movie does bring in much of the historical context but no on how it directly relates to Jesus and his relationship with the Magdalene.


 

The Gospel of John featuring Christopher Plummer and Henry Ian Cusick depicts Mary of Magdala as a disciple of Jesus from the miraculous feeding of the multitudes until the resurrection.


 

Among the documentaries there is Sigourney Weaver's The Two Marys: The Madonna and the Magdalene. Other titles I have been able to locate include, One Who Was There, Mary Magdalene: An Intimate Portrait (1995), A&E's Biography: Mary Magdalene (2000), and Re-discovering Mary Magdalene: The Making of a Mythic Drama.


 


 

Debunking "the Da Vinci Code"


 

The Da Vinci Code attacks our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Dan Brown attacks the identity of Jesus as Messiah and Lord, his deity, his atoning death and his resurrection. Brown also impugns the holiness of Jesus Christ and states that Jesus participated in perverted ritualistic sex practices. The Da Vinci Code is filled with many egregious historical errors. For instance, he often refers to the Catholic Church as "the Vatican" anachronistically. (This means he refers to the Vatican as existing before it actually did.) The Vatican was not the seat of the Catholic Church until the twelfth century. Before that papal power was often centered in the Lateran in Rome. This is one of many examples of Dan Brown demonstrating his profound ignorance of history in The Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown also uses seriously flawed sources. Holy Blood, Holy Grail and the claims of Pierre Plantard have been exposed as frauds many times. Pierre Plantard admitted under oath in court that it was a hoax back in 1993. The judge thought that Plantard was a harmless old crackpot and decided to release him. This was obviously a mistake. Plantard should have been put in prison for this Da Vinci Code Hoax. This is a list of good tools for those who have been brainwashed by The Da Vinci Code and need to be deprogrammed. As Epiphanius offered a Panarion-the medicine chest for heresies-I do the same thing here with this list of valuable resources. I strongly advise people not to read The Da Vinci Code because it is poison for the mind.


 

The two best works written against The Da Vinci Code are by Roman Catholics. I do not advocate the Catholic practices of venerating the Virgin Mary, the Saints and the papacy. It should be remembered that while it is an entirely anti-Christian work, Brown particularly directs his venom against the Roman Catholic Church. Mark Shea and Edward Sri are the authors of The Da Vinci Deception: 100 Questions about the Facts and Fiction of The Da Vinci Code (Ascension Press, West Chester, PA 2006). This book is part of the Da Vinci Outreach. Much useful information is available, including free study guides are available from this source and can be referenced at www.DavinciOutreach.com and www.DavinciAntidote.com. The second best and most useful debunking of the Da Vinci Code is Amy Welborn's De-coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of "The Da Vinci Code (Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Huntington, IN 2004). I strongly recommend these two Roman Catholic rebuttals of the Da Vinci Code.


 

Richard Abanes The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code: A Challenging Response to the Bestselling Novel (Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 2004)


 

Erwin W. Lutzer The Da Vinci Deception: Credible Answers to the Questions Millions are asking about Jesus, the Bible and the Da Vinci Code (Living Books, Carol Stream, Illinois 2006)


 

James L. Garlow and Peter Jones Cracking Da Vinci's Code: You've Read the Fiction, Now Read the Facts (Victor, Colorado Springs Colorado, 2004) and James L. Garlow The Da Vinci Codebreaker: An Easy-to-use fact Checker (Bethany Houst, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2006)


 

Dr. Darrell Bock Breaking the Da Vinci Code: Answers to the Questions Everyone's Asking (Nelson Books, Nashville, Tennessee, 2004) This is a fairly good book. I disagree with his statements that Jesus wasn't really a Jewish Rabbi and that God's identification with the masculine gender isn't important or true. In making such a statement he calls into question Christ's revelation of the Fatherhood of God, and attacks the understanding of God that Jesus held and taught his disciples.


 

Hank Hanegraaff and Paul L. Maier The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction? (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, 2004)


 

Bruce Witherington III The Gospel Code: Novel Claims About Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Da Vinci (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois 2004)


 

Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code (Ignatius Press, 2005)


 

Bart D. Ehrman Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know About Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine (Oxford University Press, 2004) In this book Ehrman clearly demonstrates how that our four gospels, and not the Gnostic gospels, are the earliest and most reliable accounts we have of the life of Jesus. But then he demonstrates why he doesn't believe they are reliable.


 

Robert M. Price The Da Vinci Fraud. Robert Price is a member of the radical group called the "Jesus Seminar." Although he is associated with an extreme left-wing ideology, he states that Dan Brown's book is a "fraud."


 

Sharon Newman The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code (Berkley Books, New York, 2005) Newman is an expert on Medieval Europe and this book is a very useful tool serving as a good catharsis for those infected with the vile contagion of The Da Vinci Code. However, Newman apparently doesn't know her Bible very well and makes a few mistakes saying that it was Paul who advocated men making Eunuchs of themselves (actually it was Jesus) and saying that John deleted Mary from his account. Actually the longest account we have of Mary Magdalene is from John's Gospel. This is a good book with a few minor faults.

    

Josh McDowell The Da Vinci Code: A Quest for Answers and "The Da Vinci Code: A Companion Guide to the Movie"


 

Challenging the Da Vinci Code Video from the American Bible Society www.thecodeisfiction.com


 

Westminster Theological Seminary www.TheTruthAboutDaVinci.com


 

Lee Strobel and Gary Poole have written Exploring the Da Vinci Code:Investigating the Issues Raised by the Book & the Movie (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2006 there is an accompanying DVD for the book that is entitled, Discussing the Da Vinci Code). In this book they make use of many of the books that have been written against The Da Vinci Code. They divine their teaching into four questions:


 

Question Number One: "What Can History Really Tell Us?" Dan Brown makes many asinine allegations and inane remarks in The Da Vinci Code but two stand out. "Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is False" and "History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe." Unlike Dan Brown, I am a trained historian. When I attended Sam Houston State University I studied under Dr. Terry Bilhartz. I took a class called historiography where I learned how scholars study history. History is the study of written accounts of the past. A historian wants to study what we call "primary sources." This means accounts of historic events written by participants. Josephus was a participant in the events of the Jewish War. His writings of the Jewish War would then be considered a primary source. A later account writing by a later historian, such as Tactius or Eusebius, would be considered a secondary source. Sometimes secondary sources contain reliable and accurate information. A history book would be a "secondary source." I am a skeptical person. Now I am a devout Christian and have faith, but one of the reasons I am comfortable with Christianity is because it stands up to historic scrutiny. I have looked at ancient manuscripts and artifacts and have lived in the lands where the events of the Bible transpired. When someone tells me about some dazzling or sensational historical fact, my first reaction is always to doubt it. I like to verify facts for my self. If there is a new discovery, say of some lost documents, questions must be asked. What is its provenance? (This means where was in found.) Is this new document substantiated from what we know from other ancient sources? What does the document itself say? What does it tell us about the culture in which it was produced? Are the contents of the document logical, coherent and credible? What is scholarly consensus? (This means, how does the majority of scholars interpret this information. I don't always agree with scholarly consensus, but it is important. The majority opinion of most of the recognized experts in the field ought to be considered. Scholarly consensus is that The Da Vinci Code is a scam.) Ancient inscriptions which contain the boasting of a Pharaoh of Egypt of a Mesopotamian king are not necessarily taken at face value. When examining records of the past, or reputed facts from the past, we consider if there are any reasons why this information may not be credible. Historians examine what ancient documents say and compare it with other sources. All ancient inscriptions will give us a wealth of information on what the ancient thought and believed. When someone makes allegations, naturally I am going to doubt the allegations, unless they can provide evidence. If such a one cannot produce convincing evidence, I will dismiss their theories as of no substance. Dan Brown's allegations cannot withstand a critical examination. Also, is it true that the winners write history? As I stated, history is the study of the written records of the past. "Losers" also leave written records of the past. John Romer in Testament: The Bible and History presented his belief that a large section of the Old Testament took shape when the Jews were in exile in Babylon. The Kingdom of Judah was defeated by the Babylonians who then carried the entire nation into exile. They were soundly defeated and it seemed that they soon would become an extinct people. Romer believes that they took the ancient writings of their past that they had brought into exile with them. He believes that they organized these writings to tell the story of their people, the rise of their nation and its fall. If he is correct then the Bible itself is an example of history being written by the losers. Josephus fought against the Roman Empire and was forced to surrender to them. He wrote an account of the Jewish War from the perspective of a Jew who participated in the revolt. This is another example of the loser writing history. The ancient Greek historian Thucydides wrote an account of the Peloponnesian war. He was an Athenian and in the war Athens was defeated by Sparta. It is an objective and balanced treatment of the war. The Nazis were defeated, as we all know, in World War II. (Maybe, in a few decades another novelist like Dan Brown will right a book revising history in the same manner of The Da Vinci Code and allege that the Nazis actually won!) Field Marshall Rommel was considered a great general by friend and foe alike. He was defeated and later executed for his involvement in an effort to save his country from Hitler. I have a book entitled With Rommel in the Desert that was written by his lieutenant, Heinz Wermer Schmidt, who served with him in the Africa Korps. This is a primary source written by the "loser." Also, as history is concerned with primary sources, letters of Confederate soldiers sent home during the American Civil War are considered primary source materials, as would be the memoirs of Confederate Civil War generals or diaries kept by soldiers on the battlefield. (Sometimes, new discoveries can help us re-examine events of the past. For a long time the life of Nestorius was seen only through accounts left by his adversaries. Then his autobiography was discovered in an Aramaic book entitled "The Bazaar of Heraclides." This gives us the opportunity to see historical events through the point of view of the loser, Nestorius. Also, we also can morally re-appraise events of the past. "Saint" Cyril of Alexandria was Nestorius's adversary. What sort of person was he? We know that Cyril had the pagan philosopher Hypatia murdered in 415 A.D. Cyril sent some men to attack her, drag her from off her horse and skin her alive. Cyril also illegally had all the Jews expulsed from the city of Alexandria. I personally don't consider this type of behavior saintly nor do I consider it saintly how Cyril treated Nestorius. I think the Roman Catholic Church is wrong to have a murderer like Cyril canonized as a saint. Cyril was also involved in the persecution of Saint John Chrysostom. Besides Nestorius there are many others "losers" who left historical accounts that give their version of history. Also, Socrates was a "loser," whose history was written in a sympathetic manner by his disciple, Plato. (Other contemporary Greek writers give us a less flattering view of Socrates than what we find in Plato.) Also, early Christian martyrs, such as Polycarp, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr, were "losers" whose primary source material has come down towards us. There are two reasons why Dan Brown makes such absurd comments. The first is he is not a trained historian. I am, and it wasn't hard to learn the basic scientific and rationalistic techniques for studying history. It is simple and involves using common sense, which perhaps he is lacking. The second reason Dan Brown makes such ridiculous remarks such as "winners write history" and his other novel claims, is that he engages in conspiratorial thinking. We know from history that the Illuminati existed and it is possible that it still exists and is active. But from my historical research and observations, I cannot believe that the world is controlled by secret societies. History progresses from the interaction of diverse cultures, not from decisions made by secret societies. Events happen that cannot be predicted or controlled by secret societies. Ideas and inventions have changed the way we all live, as have men of daring vision such as Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther, Galileo and Henry Ford. There have been many decisive battles were the course of history was determined by the soldiers on the ground. Sometimes, the wrong side wins, such as what happened in Constantinople in 1453. In a sense, in his humiliating death by crucifixion, Jesus was considered a "loser." And the gospels, as they were written and in the early period in which they were distributed were of people who were "losers," being destroyed and fed to lions. In the end, we can know historical facts. Christianity has always been concerned with history. Luke did research and presented his gospel and the Acts as an orderly historical account. Christianity is rooted in history. The church teaches that salvation depends on accepting the truth of certain historical facts. These facts are that Jesus lived within history, that he preached, worked cures and died upon the cross. These are indisputable historical facts, despite Dan Brown's ridiculing the science of history. I developed the idea that history is more than researching written records of the past but also encompasses archeological findings and art from the past. I decided to minor in Art History and studied under a Doctor Patrick. A major theme of his was that art always tells us about the culture in which it was produced. This shows the glaring error of trying to gain secrets from the early Church era from a Renaissance painting. This is also why I couldn't take Holy Blood, Holy Grail seriously. The authors presented no ancient evidence, only implausible "clues" from the medieval period and from misrepresenting folklore. The greatest clue that someone is presenting a hoax is the inability or unwillingness to provide evidence to be examined by the scholarly community to substantiate the claims. Dan Brown discussed the "Les Dossiers Secrets," but this has been proved to be forgeries. Then Dan Brown discusses "four huge chests of ancient documents." I say, "Put up or shut up." I would like to see these supposed documents. They don't exist. If they did, how would these "documents" prove anything? Archeological and manuscript evidence prove the reliability of the New Testament. I have seen no evidence to convince me otherwise. The Da Vinci Code is clearly a hoax. The only "evidence" for it is hypothetical "secret documents" and paranoid conspiratorial thinking.

Conspiratorial thinking is actually extremely dangerous, even deadly. It is illogical and paranoid. It places innocent people in great danger. I love the Middle East and the Arab people but their cultures currently have a very serious problem. Arabs, by their nature, are a very kind, loyal and hospitable people but there is a problem. This problem is especially acute in Syria. Even educated Arabs seriously believe that there is an evil secret society of Jews that controls all of the events of the world. Arabs often speak of the "hidden hand." I have heard it from many Arabs in my travels and these beliefs are very widespread among them. Anything that happens that is bad is believed to be the Jews doing. I have heard Arabs say that the September 11 attacks was the doing of the Jews and even that Osama Ben Laden is an agent of the Mossad, the Israeli secret service. Most Arabs, even educated Arabs, actually believe that Jewish people feast on human flesh and drink blood during their Passover services. Most Arabs sincerely belief this is true. Why shouldn't they? It is reported as fact in Arabic newspapers and on Arab "news" broadcasts. Why does the Arab media broadcast such nonsense? This is done because despite the prestigious pasts these countries once had, they are now beset by many problems. The governments which oppress their people want to direct the anger and frustration away from themselves, the true culprits of the peoples sufferings, and towards a convenient enemy, the Jew. Jewish people are human beings, just like the rest of us. Actually, they are the closest relatives the Arabs have. Because of conspiratorial thinking, the Arabs engage in "escapism." Instead of assuming responsibility for their problems and working to change them, they blame the "hidden hand." Everything bad that happens in the fault of the Zionist Conspiracy! (In contrast, the Japanese during the Meiji Restoration, instead of blaming outsiders for their problems, sent out delegations to learn from other countries. The government of Japan applied the recommendations of the delegations and as a result, Japan is now one of the most powerful countries on earth.) Many people have died because of this Dan Brown type of thinking, and this is the primary reason peace in the Middle East has eluded us. Hitler also believed in conspiracy and as a result millions of Jewish people died. Dan Brown's paranoid delusional way of thinking is actually very dangerous and has led to millions of innocent people dying horrible deaths. It must be stopped. I must note that I am not anti-Arab. I consider the Arabs a noble people and they have been very kind to me in my wanderings around the world. I do see certain modes of thinking that certain Arabs have adopted as dangerous. The Islamist mentality, in my view, is a psychosis. There are historical periods in which Moslems have shown great tolerance of Christians, Mandaeans and Jews. It is my sincere hope that the Islamic world returns to this legacy. Regimes in the Middle East that foster conspiratorial thinking cause the people to adapt a pessimistic manner of thinking. This type of thinking causes feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and despair. Since everything is decided by secret sinister forces, liberty and democracy is seen as a sham. Conspiratorial thinking produces conspiratorial behavior. It is seen as the only way to bring about change. And so we have many young men in the Middle East, in desperation, joining conspiratorial terrorist organizations such as Al Qaida. Conspiratorial thinking is extremely dangerous and has led to much death, suffering and bloodshed. This dimension of The Da Vinci Code must be opposed.

Question Number Two: Can We Trust the Four Gospels? Lee Strobel wrote a book entitled The Case for Christ in which he presented evidence for the historical reliability of the Four Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the oldest and most reliable accounts we have of the life of Christ. Thomas, in the form in which we have it, while it is of great historical importance, even for the historical Jesus, is not as old or as reliable as the accounts we have in the New Testament.

Question Number Three: What's the Role of Women in Christianity? This issue is explored in this book.

Questions Number Four: Is Jesus the Son of God? The answer is, yes! Jesus is the eternal Son of God and is eternally God the Son, the second person of the Divine Trinity.


 


 

J. R. Church Guardians of the Grail …and the men who plan to rule the world! (Prophecy Publications, Oklahoma City, OK 1989)


 

For those interested in the ultimate conspiracy theory The Protocols of Zion is exposed in

Steven L. Jacobs Dismantling the Big Lie: the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.


 

Women of the Bible

Orson Scott Card "Women of Genesis Series" including Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel & Leah. Marek Halter's "The Canaan Trilogy" which includes Sarah and Zipporah. See also Anita Diaman's The Red Tent and Tommy Tenny and Mark Andrew Olson, Hadassah: One Night With the King.

Archeological Evidence for the Bible


 

Dan Brown clearly states in his books that he believes the Bible to be a collection of fraudulent documents. There is a great amount of historical evidence of the historic reliability of the Bible. It is possible to tour the British Museum and see a collection of several archeological relics that date to the land and time of the Bible and mention upon them events and personalities from the scriptures. The Black Obelisk actually has a bas relief of the Israelite King Jehu and depictions of other Israelites upon it (2 Kings 9). Many amazing archeological discoveries have been made that substantiate the Biblical account. It must be noted that the New Testament is the best attested document we have from antiquity. We have far more manuscript evidence for the New Testament than we have of any other ancient writing, including those by Homer, Plato, Aristotle and Julius Caesar. Textual critics say that we have 99.5% certainty that the New Testament as we have it now is the same as it was when it was penned by the apostles. The scribes who copied the Bible were very careful in their work because they had great fear and reverence for the text as they considered it to be the very words of God. Their work was checked and re-checked. There is such an abundance of manuscript evidence that the manuscripts can be checked against each other and we can see that there are very few discrepancies. The text of the New Testament is very reliable and it has not been changed or tampered with.


 

Allan Millard Treasures From Bible Times (Chariot Victor Pub., Jan 1991) Discoveries from the Time of Jesus (Lion Publishing, May 1990) Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus (New York University Press, July 2000)


 

Randall Price The Stones Cry Out (House Publishers, December 1997)


 

Lee Stroebel The Case for Chris: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence of Jesus (Zondervan, September 1, 1998)


 

Josh McDowell More Than a Carpenter and Evidence That Demands A Verdict


 

Phillip Comfort has written a number of books on ancient manuscripts and the manuscript evidence for the Bible.


 

For general Christian apologetics see C. S. Lewis Mere Christianity and the collected works of Francis Schaeffer.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

Aramaic Resources


 

Joachim Jeremias


 

The best authority on Aramaic as the language of Jesus was Joachim Jeremias. Joachim (pronounced in German as "yo-ah-KEEM") Jeremias, theologian, born 9/20/1900 in Dresden, died 9/6/1979 in Tübingen.

Jeremias spent large parts of his youth (1910-1915) in Jerusalem, where his father served as Provost of the Protestant Lutheran congregation at the Savior Church. An exten-sive knowledge of Palestine is strongly throughout his later scientific work.  He pursued further study of theology and the Oriental languages in Tübingen and Leipzig in the years of 1922 and 1923, with attainment of the Ph.D. and Th. D. degrees.  In 1922 he became a private tutor at the theological seminar in Herrnhut, and in 1924 he became an instructor at the Herder Institute in Riga. 

He qualified to teach at the university level in 1925 in Leipzig for the academic field of New Testament, and in 1928 became a presiding (senior) professor and director of the Institutum Judaicum in Berlin.  In 1929 he became professor at Greifswald, and finally he taught at Göttingen from 1935 until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1968.

He was a member of the confessing church.  After the Second World War, he received numerous distinctions:  He was made an honorary doctor at the University of Leipzig, at St. Andrews (Scotland), at Uppsala, and at Oxford; he received the Burkitt Medal of the British Academy of London for biblical studies; became was admitted as a member of the Academy of the Sciences at Göttingen, where from 1956 on he was a member of the Septuaginta Commission, as well as a member of the Royal Dutch Academy of the sciences and of the British Academy of London.

His scientific work touches almost all areas of the New Testament research, including those of archaeology and historic geographies.  His particular and concerted emphasis, however, was on the reconstruction of the announcement and appearance of Jesus against the background of the contemporary Judaism, which he implicitly trusted like few scientists of his time, and whose language he handled very competently.

His chief works -- "Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus", "The Allegories of Jesus", "The Holy Communion Words of Jesus", "New Testament Theology, First Part, The Announcement of Jesus" -- were translated into numerous European languages (and also into Japanese, Korean, and Chinese), and attained ecumenical importance and recognition.

The Aramaic word studies written by Joachim Jeremias that are in English include New Testament Theology, The Central Message of the New Testament, and The Prayers of Jesus.

Anne Rice

Anne Rice is directing her considerable literary talent to a series of novels on the life of Christ. Her first volume in the series is "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt". In this novel, Jesus tells the story of his childhood in the first person. Anne Rice has returned to the Roman Catholic Church a few years ago. All of her writing, from this point on she says, will be for the Lord. She has done an impressive amount of research into the history of the Holy Land at the time of Christ and the era of the New Testament. She has read ancient texts, accounts by ancient historians and the archeological evidence. She has consulted the works of the most respected Bible scholars and theologians. She has, wisely in my view, rejected the more extravagant claims and extreme theories that are championed by certain liberal scholars. She has been convinced by her research of the historical reliability of the New Testament. Her novel contains an appendix with an explanation of her spiritual pilgrimage and also of her research she did to prepare herself for the writing of this novel. Her novel is not a "historical revisionist" version of Jesus. She presents the story of the Messiah in a reverential manner. This is in no way a controversial or offensive re-telling of the Gospel story as we have seen in "The Last Temptation of Christ" or in "King Jesus" by Robert Graves. (Both of these books have their merits but are offensive to many Christians.) In "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt" Jesus is the Son of God, but Anne Rice explores his human nature, in a realistic way that is in conformity to how the Son of Man is depicted in the Gospels. Anne Rice is one of the most imaginative and influential authors of recent times and is famous for her vampire novels. However, this is a traditional Roman Catholic presentation of the Gospel story. Of course, it is a fictional recreation of the life of Christ. She has had to fill in some of the blanks with her imagination, but she does so informed by ancient sources. (In the Fourth Gospel, John admits that the Gospels do not contain the full story of Jesus. He states that if every thing Jesus did was written down all the books in the world, he supposes could not contain it. What Rice has done is put together, what we know that Christ did and supplements it with information from Philo of Alexandria, Josephus and other ancient sources. So, Anne Rice is retelling the story of Jesus in a way that is faithful to the Gospels and also to what we know from history. She has to rely on her imagination at times as well. But this is good in that through this we can explore people's emotions and also the human nature of Jesus. Jesus is the eternal Son of God in Anne Rice's novel.) Anne Rice also refers to the language Jesus spoke, Aramaic, often in her novel. I believe making reference to the Aramaic is important in understanding what Jesus did and said. Anne has consulted the works of Joachim Jeremias, who was one of the greatest authorities on Aramaic and on the culture of the Jewish people at the time of Christ. This book shows what life was like for the common Jew of the first century. Anne does an excellent job in conveying the instability, the conflict and upheaval that the common Jewish family, such as that of our Savior, had to survive through. As a protestant, I hold to the Virgin Birth of Jesus, as Anne does in this novel. Rice holds to the Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary and so James the Brother of Jesus, in Rice's novel is the son of Joseph through a previous marriage, and not his younger brother as most Protestants believe. We cannot agree on everything and we don't have to. She does stress the importance of James and explores the relationship between Jesus and James. Also, she shows the reality of an expanded family at the time of Jesus. The family functioned in a different way than today and Anne accurately shows this.

I thought the book was excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt blessed by reading it. Anne has put her heart and pure devotion into this book. The novel is a product of Anne's faith. She has written it for all Christians, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestants, to enjoy and to be edified by. I hope that Christians will support this endeavor of hers and eagerly anticipate the forthcoming novels.

I believe that Anne Rice has had a real experience with the Lord and I am convinced that she is a true Christian. Her son is an activist for homosexual rights. Rice loves her son. Her statement regarding the issue is that as a Catholic she defers to the teachings of her church, but she believes the church will change its position on homosexuality some day. As an evangelical Christian I believe we ought to preach biblical morality but we should remember that everything we do should be in love and that we should support every effort that is made to share the good news of Jesus. I believe that includes this book by Anne.

Anne Rice's novel on Jesus is well written, informed by history and Biblically accurate. I wish Anne success in this endeavor and I hope that all Christians will support Anne in this work that she is sincerely doing for the Lord. Anne has also dealt with a lot of opposition for taking this bold new direction. God bless her.

The novel tells the story of the family of Jesus leaving Egypt and resettling in Nazareth. What we call the "Christmas" story is told in the course of the novel.

This novel stresses Jesus in the context of his Jewish identity. Another novel that stresses Jesus in Jewish culture is "Mary, the Mother of Jesus" by Sholem Asch.

I have been to Egypt and lived with Egypt's Coptic Christians. The Coptic people are very kind and very devout Christians. They have an elaborate tradition of the visitation of the Christ child to Egypt. Anne Rice's version of the experience of the Holy Family in Egypt seems very realistic to me. I believe that Jesus and his family lived in Alexandria. The Coptic version is told in "Jesus in Egypt" by Paul Perry.


 


 


 


 


 


 

Aramaic Books

Samuel Hugh Moffett A History of Christianity in Asia Volume I: Beginnings to 1500 (Harper San Francisco 1992)

Hans-Joachim Klimkeit and Ian Gillman Christians in Asia Before 1500 (University of Michigan Press 1999)

Sebastian P. Brock and Davis G. K. Taylor The Hidden Pearl: The Syrian Orthodox Church and Its Ancient Aramaic Heritage: Volume I The Ancient Aramaic Heritage Volume II the Heirs of the Ancient Aramaic Heritage Volume III At the Turn of the Third Millennium, the Syrian Orthodox Witness (Transworld Films, Italy 2001) with accompanying videotapes.

The Assyrian American Reverend John Booko has written The Assyrian Revelation and Assyria: The Forgotten Nation in Biblical Prophecy.

Maurice Casey Aramaic Sources of Mark's Gospel (Cambridge University Press, Jan. 1999) An Aramaic Approach to Q (Cambridge University Press, August 2005)

Gustav Dalman The Words of Jesus: Considered in the Light of Post-Biblical Jewish Writings and the Aramaic Language.

Rev. C.F. Burney The Poetry of Our Lord: An Examination of the Formal Elements of Hebrew Poetry in the Discourses of Jesus Christ is very useful. It was published in 1925. Burney also wrote a book on the Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel.

The Passion of the Christ Directed by Mel Gibson. Starring Jim Caviezel and Maia Morgenstern. Icon Films. Distributed by 20th Century Fox. www.passionofthechrist.com. This film shows the trial and execution of Jesus and is in the Aramaic language with some Latin and Hebrew.

The Jesus Movie is available in an Aramaic version. www.jesusfilm.org PO Box 72007, San Clemente CA 92674-2007.

The Untold Holocaust is a documentary about genocidal attacks against Aramaic Christians by Islamists and massacres of Aramaic Christians by Islamists that features interviews with some of the survivors, by Australian Assyrian Academic Society

The Interlinear Aramaic New Testament www.peshitta.org

Aramaic Bible Translation www.aramaicbible.org

Beth Mardutho: The Syriac Institute: "About the Syriac Language." This site includes a brief history of all of the churches of the Aramaic tradition. www.bethmardutho.org

Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East www.cired.org. Other websites about the Aramaic Assyrian Church of the East include www.nestorian.org and Mark Dicken's www.oxuscom.com.

Teach Yourself Aramaic "Learn Assyrian Aramaic On-line." This is Classical Syriac Aramaic and is very similar to the form Christ spoke. www.assyrianlanguage.com

The Catholic Near East Welfare Association www.cnewa.org. This is a Roman Catholic organization that exists to provide humanitarian assistance to Eastern Christians. They supposedly do not proselytize. Their website has information on all the different Eastern Churches.

Assyrian news and information sources include the Assyrian Zinda On-line News Magazine www.zindamagazine.com and the Assyrian International News Agency www.aina.org.

Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon http://cal.cn.huc.edu This site is put together by the Hebrew Union College and the Jewish Institute of Religion. Aramaic is important to the Jewish people because it is the language of the Targums, the Kabbalah, and many of their prayers. For Christians it is important as the language of Jesus and as the language of the Syriac church fathers.


 


 


 


 

About the Author


 

Stephen Andrew Missick is the author of The Words of Jesus in the Original Aramaic: Discovering the Semitic Roots of Christianity. Reverend Missick graduated from Sam Houston State University. He attended seminary at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has traveled widely throughout the Middle East visiting the indigenous Christians, and especially the Aramaic speaking Christians of Syria and Iraq. He has written articles on the history of the Assyrian Church of the East for the Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies. He served with the United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is currently translating the Gospel of Mark from the ancient Aramaic version.


 

Contact Stephen Missick

Email: stephenamissick@hotmail.com

Blogs: www.aramaicinsight.blogspot.com and www.aramaicbible.blogspot.com

PO Box 882

Shepherd TX 77371


 

No comments: