Monthly Archives: January 2016

Mary Magdalene, Jesus and Mark, Part 2

I posited in the last blog post that Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus, and set forth scriptural authority for such a theory. And I also stated that Mark was connected to Mary. But how does Mary and thus Jesus connect to Mark?

We need to look to chapter 12 of Acts, the fifth book of the New Testament, for more hints. Acts 12 tells the story of how an angel rescued Peter from jail. It’s an intense story . . . but it’s what happens once Peter is freed that’s relevant to the issue at hand. For when Peter gets out, he goes where? According to Acts 12:12:

When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked on the door and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, ‘Peter is at the door!’

A few comments here. First, Peter could have gone anywhere. But he went to Mary’s house, and it appears as if Mary’s house was thus the center of the growing movement in Israel, because a lot of people were gathered there and were praying. Also, the servant girl knew Peter very well; in other words, he was a frequent visitor to that house.

But wait! There’s more! We also know that Mary lived at the house with Jesus’ brothers. We get this from Acts 12:17:

Tell James and the brothers about this, he said, and then he left for another place.

We know that the James mentioned here is not James the Apostle, because he was already killed . . . we also know that Jesus’ brother was named James. So what we have is a picture of a large, extended family, all living in a big house—which would have been a reasonable thing for a married Savior to do—he would have lived with close family while he ministered, because of course he received no pay for his work. His brothers (most likely) continued in the family carpentry business.first lost gospel mark_ebook

We also know that Jesus’ best and most insanely difficult miracle (aside from coming back to life himself) was the one he performed on Lazarus—the husband of Martha, Mary’s sister. John 11: 1-2. (The Bible characterizes Lazarus as Martha’s brother, but I believe they were married; all the same, the Bible confirms that Martha, Lazarus, and Mary were related and were close family). And remember that scene? Remember when Mary cried out, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died” and Jesus in response wept! John 11:32-35. Once again, for emphasis: Jesus wept. Does he weep at any other time during his ministry? I think not—but he weeps when his wife’s brother passes away. And then he heals him.

Coming back to the issue of Mark . . . we know Mark was Mary’s son. We also know this incredibly important fact about Mark: he wrote the first and most cited of all the gospels in the New Testament. We also see Mark traveling all around with Paul, and when this relationship fractures, Mark travels with Peter . . . and then Mark does two things: he writes the authoritative account of Jesus AND he founds the eastern wing of the church in Alexandria, or in Egypt, which at the time was a hotbed, an intellectual powerhouse in Northern Africa. Which begs the question: why would Mark be trusted with these fundamental and huge undertakings if he were not close family? After all, he was not the charismatic speaker Paul, nor was he the outspoken and excellent leader Peter—and yet all the other disciples trusted his writings and his leadership enough to rely on his first gospel.

Was Mark simply a friend of the family? Or was he, like Mary, so much more? And why else would Mark part from Paul, who himself departed the most from the Savior’s basic teachings, unless Mark knew and truly grasped the Word as well as or perhaps better than any other of the Apostles? What makes most sense is that Mark was Jesus’ young son, not old enough to lead when Jesus died, but old enough to take his rightful place as a leader and disciple in the years after Jesus died.

Many people ask me why all of this isn’t laid out more clearly in the gospels. For one thing, it was not proper to call attention to yourself directly—that’s what we see in the Gospel of John. When John describes himself, he never uses his actual name. For example, in the Crucifixion scene, where Mary Magdalene, John, and Mary, Jesus’s mother stand beside the Savior, John writes:

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” John 19:26-27.

Like John, Mark was reticent to call attention to himself in his formal writings. But there’s another, more sinister, and yet practical reason why the early gospels don’t connect the dots more clearly between Mark, Mary and Jesus: the family was at risk. After all, they’d just killed Jesus. They killed Stephen. They arrested Peter . . . and the persecution of the early Christians continued right up until Mark himself was dragged by the neck through the streets of Alexandria many years later.

It was dangerous enough to be a disciple. It was much more risky to be the Savior’s wife and children. And that, coupled with gender discrimination as well as the later notion that a holy man should be a chaste man . . . has led to the burying of the truth regarding the wife and son of Jesus. But the truth lies within the scriptures itself, simply awaiting discovery and a fresh examination by open minds.


Mary Magdalene, Jesus and Mark: Part 1

A significant piece of the lost gospels series I’m working is controversial. I argue in favor of  the theory that Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus. In addition, I posit that Mark, the writer of the earliest gospel that appears in the New Testament, was their son. It’s not as outlandish an argument as you might think. There is sufficient evidence in the scriptures to connect Mary to Jesus as well as Mary to Mark and Mark to Jesus.

Mary appears often in the first four gospels. Perhaps her most dramatic appearance is the one attested to in John 12:3 (and also mentioned in Mark 14:1-9 and Matthew 26:6-13). According to these accounts, while Jesus was reclining or laying back in either a chair or perhaps even a sofa beside a table, Mary anointed Jesus by pouring expensive oil on his head . . . but also according to the account in John 12:3, she went even further. She anointed his feet . . . and wiped the nard off his feet with his hair.

The significance of this may not be readily apparent until you unpack the scenario and think about it. Aside from one sick woman who sneaks up and grasps Jesus’ cloak (and is healed in the process) no other woman touches Jesus except for the sinful woman in the Pharisee’s house, who also washes Jesus feet with oil. See Luke 7:36-50. Jesus of course uses the sinful woman’s act of love as an opportunity to teach of forgiveness as well as the ignobility of judging others, and then he tells the sinful woman to go in peace. In the very next chapter, we hear of Mary Magdalene, as well as several other women who walk and talk with the Savior–which again indicates that at a very minimum, Mary was some sort of female disciple or close follower and friend of the Savior. See Luke 8:1-4.

The anointing scene involving Mary is nonetheless unique and beautiful. In the New Testament, Jesus only touches other women to heal them . . . but here we have this woman who approaches him while he’s reclining at a table, and she does something that really only an intimate friend or family member would do (or a woman incredibly desperate for redemption and forgiveness would do)—and she also does a holy or sacred act (which for certain is what anointing is). And she does all of this in a society where women simply don’t do such things . . . and note that none of the disciples object to how she touches him (whereas the owner of the house where the sinful woman touches Jesus does object, and is schooled on the real meaning of love and forgiveness). The only objection uttered by the disciples to Mary’s anointing goes to the issue of her wasting money by pouring out the whole expensive jar of nard.

The other thing to note is Jesus’ strong reaction to the indignation of those present (again, they object to the wasting of money, not to her laying hands on his head and feet). Jesus tells them to leave Mary alone and goes on to say:

She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. Mark 14:6-9.

Think about it: why was this woman the one who anointed Jesus before he died? Why does he speak of her so forcefully and fondly? If there was someone closer to him than Mary, then why didn’t they do the anointing?

These questions really haven’t been asked! The fact is this: it simply wouldn’t have been appropriate for anyone other than the wife of the Savior to do this very intimate act. If Mary wasn’t his wife, then his brother James or his mother (the other Mary) or perhaps his Uncle Joseph of Arithmea or even the beloved apostle John or even the outspoken apostle Peter would have been more obvious choices . . . unless of course the theory that Mary was his beloved is correct.

Speaking of beloved, who else but a wife would lay before the tomb of the beautiful soul who was the Savior and sit vigil with him after he died? Perhaps a mother or a sister or a brother . . . but that’s it. After all, Mary was not a single woman (as we will discuss later)—she had a son for certain (as well as a daughter named Sarah). So it would have been totally inappropriate, unusual, unlikely, and incomprehensible for Mary to touch the Savior or sit by his grave if she were simply a single mother of two. Moreover, none of the other disciples either touched Jeuss or came to watch over the dead Savior’s tomb—which is an obvious clue as to the true nature of Mary.

And here’s another thing that gets passed over, and that’s in part because the gospels are incomplete (we know this because of the Nag Hammadi dig): when Jesus does rise, he talks to Mary. He has a long discussion with her, the woman some commentators have called the Thirteenth Apostle . . . and once he speaks with her, he urges her to share his message with the other apostles. In other words, Jesus trusts his last words with a woman . . . how can the Savior trust this message with a woman who is not trustworthy? The answer is blindingly obvious, but most biblical commentators have been limited by their gender and by their prejudice, as well as by their mistaken expectation that a holy man cannot take a wife.

Jesus never said a man cannot marry or be in love while also serving God. Indeed, he speaks against adultery, but never against love . . . and while he says that a disciple must be willing to leave his family, he never dismisses Mary—indeed, he allows her to anoint him for death, he allows her to stand by his side at his Crucifixion, and he gives her an important message to deliver to the other disciples once he rises from the grave. Is this radical? Was this radical at the time the Savior lived?

The answer is NO! And at the time, rabbis could in fact marry. The Essene monks who taught Jesus often married . . . so did the Sadducee and Pharisee rabbis at the time. And so too did Jesus.

We do know more about Mary from the gospels found in Nag Hammadi. We know from the Gospel of Phillip that Mary and Jesus often kissed. And we know from the fragments of Mary’s lost gospel that she received and then disseminated a very complex piece of teaching, full of symbolism and mystical elements, and replete with deep musings on the nature of sin, the process of dying, and the afterworld, that Jesus trusted Mary with gnostic or real and deep teachings. Mary, in other words, was close to Jesus—close enough to receive some of his final words (before he returned to speak to the other disciples). We also know, from the gospel of Mary, that several apostles, including Peter, discounted Mary’s authority. So it should be no surprise that her influence and role has been steadily attacked over the years since the Savior left the earth for good.

Please tune in later this week for the second part in the discussion that explores the link between Mary and Mark and Jesus and Mark.

Called to be Like Christ, not like Christians

Some may think I’m somehow radical because I embrace all faiths but in truth I embrace my Savior and follow his teachings in my own practice. In other words, as this poster from Zion House of Prayer states:

What does it mean to be like Christ? It means we should embrace his deepest teachings as well as his most simple of edicts: love God; and love your neighbor as you love yourself. When Jesus came as the Savior, he brought an entirely new set of teachings with him. A simpler and yet in many ways deeper way of living–one that encouraged his followers to look inward for guidance, and one that deemphasized the centrality and power of institutions. Jesus may have been here to fulfill the promises set forth by earlier prophets, but he did not abide by the dictates of close-minded and hypocritical spouters of orthodox doctrine. Jesus claimed only to obey the authority of He whom sent him–the Father, or the Lord God almighty. To this God and to this God alone was Jesus faithful, and to the Father alone did Jesus pledge his allegiance.

So where does that leave teachers like me, ones who want to reach everyone with a message of radical love, tolerance and acceptance? It leaves me in good stead on theological and philosophical grounds when I assert that I am obeying God and God alone. After all, Jesus never told his followers to obey other humans. He told them to watch the miracles and teachings he gave in his Father’s name, and he taught his disciples that they must die to the world here on earth in order to find eternal life. He told them that the kingdom of Heaven laid within each human heart or soul, and he directed us to look within for the map or compass Home.

Jesus brought new teachings. He was radical. He was revolutionary. And he was absolutely beautiful. I hold his teachings close to my heart at all times. I embrace the truth that he was the son of God, living in a human shell as the Savior for humans of his time period. I believe he was the Messiah . . . but I do not believe, as standard Christian doctrine teaches, that Jesus was actually God. Indeed, while Jesus spoke of unity and said that the Father was in him just as he was in the Father, he also said that he was in all of us, just as we were in him–in other words, he was speaking metaphorically. Whenever Jesus spoke plainly, he stated simply that he was God’s son. No more–and no less.

Speaking of doctrines like the trinity, I was asked a question by a friend today that pointed out to me the importance of abandoning sometimes corrosive, confusing or misleading dogmas. The friend wrote:

All well and good and morally uplifting. But I would ask all who seek to be like Christ one question, “Do you hate your mother and father?” If you answer “No” to this, then you cannot be a true follower of Christ, For He specifically says (Luke 14.26) you cannot be a disciple of His, unless you hate your parents.

How do Christians explain this, or reconcile it with the Commandment directing you to honour your parents?

I’m puzzled by these inconsistencies, and don’t think they should be glossed over.

This friend of mine is a good soul, just trying to make sense of what he’s been taught. I wrote back the following note:

When you read the scriptures, you need to read it with your soul directing you. Intuit what the words mean with the Holy Spirit or the light within you helping you understand this: when Jesus said you should hate your mother and father, Jesus was exaggerating. He was making a point that the true family you should hold close to you is the one that you choose to recognize as best resembling the kingdom of heaven. And to his close disciples, he was basically saying that allegiance to one’s heavenly family comes before allegiance to birth family. Any servant of the Lord would probably agree that serving God comes before serving one’s family.

Jesus was exaggerating when he said one must hate one’s parents. Jesus exaggerated or spoke in metaphors very often. Furthermore, Jesus was acting, as he often did, in the tradition of other Jewish prophets when he delivered hard teachings to his followers. For example, when Elijah is ready to hand the Robe that Elijah as the leading prophet wore to Elisha, Elijah yelled at Elisha. In 1 Kings 19:19-21, appears the following:

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

In other words, Elijah tells Elisha to follow him into service to the Lord with single minded devotion. In effect, Elijah was telling Elisha to treat his parents in a way that almost seems horrible . . . until you realize that Elijah was teaching Elisha how a true prophet must act: with extreme and complete devotion to God. Jesus says the same thing to his disciples. They need to make a hard choice–serving, or remaining family men–but this is a choice offered to contemporaneous followers of Jesus, rather than a choice we are really faced with 2,000 years after the death of the Savior. We can love Jesus and adore his Father . . . and also be good husbands and wives while on earth.

If Elijah were alive today, I imagine he would be unwilling or unable to obey the edicts passed by popes, priests, and other earthly servants of the Lord. I also imagine that if Jesus walked and talked among us, he would be more likely to be building a new church than worshiping blindly at a preexisting Catholic or Protestant church. Jesus was not looking to other humans for answers. He was looking to his Father alone for instructions.

Like other teachers who look inward and try to find spiritual answers by going directly to God, I simply cannot embrace all the dogma of institutions built in the name of the Savior. I want to be like Jesus–not like other Christians.

If this makes me a radical then I’ll just go sit beside the most radical of all prior teachers and with the Savior at my side, I’ll wait for the world of materiality to end. I’ll sit with Jesus and I’ll listen to the Father and with both of them at my side, I’ll work on building the kingdom of heaven within me. Someday, after I go Home, hopefully I’ll sit with the Father too and we will be radicals in love. I hope this is true for all of you as well.

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