Monday, June 30, 2008

Return To Magdala: New Intro

I spent last evening trying to explain my hypothesis to two of my colleagues, and I think I failed miserably. With them, George Mankin and Xavier French, two bona fide Bible scholars, even if one should manage to convince them of something, it is rare that they will let on that you have given them anything useful and correct in the form of information, at least for several days. Once they have had time to ponder new material -- and this is new and groundbreaking material, revolutionary, actually -- they will add their spin to it, owning that part of my hypothesis, and return the serve, sometimes effectively and helpfully. Sometimes not. I began by proposing the idea that good and evil have been involved in a media war since the the fourth to second century B.C.E., when the Bible that we have today began to take shape. But the real kicker was when I suggested that the King Solomon and Queen of Sheba affair never, in fact, occurred. That, of course, brought howls of laughter, although I don't frankly see why.

It will be a hard thing to convince people that the Bible is still a mystical and unequalled book of power and truth that contains the inspired words of God, while it has nevertheless been tampered with, evidently; and this evidence is prevalent in both the Hebrew scriptures (Tanakh) as well as the New Testament. The kicker, indeed. I nearly had to throw them out of my log cabin for being so rude. I live in the cabin, now, so that my wife and children can have a rest from me. They are staying with Suzanne's father in north Chattanooga, while I remain on the mountain, which is actually just an isolated, finger-shaped ridge, with an elevation of 1,800 feet, that juts out from the end of the Cumberland Plateau in southeast Tennessee. The name of the mountain varies, and I would answer to Walden, Tennessee, as my locale, but for practical purposes I am a resident of Signal Mountain, formerly a Confederate stronghold and supply point, which was once known as Furtop Mountain and which is still haunted, in my opinion. As all of this area is, which, though beautiful, has its share of haints, translucent specters, the souls of fallen brothers in the War Between the States, and the Cherokee and Creek tribes who were packed up for the Trail of Tears, those who were not butchered by Europeans.

I am ... I forget the fraction ... but my great great great great grandmother, I believe, if I have the number of greats right, was a full-blooded Iroquois/Cherokee Indian named Juda, who married a man named John Carter before moving South into Virginia and North Carolina in the early 18th century. Beyond that, I have to go to England and the English records, which are also, in my opinion, to my great chagrin to have to say so, haunted. Of course, everyone would say that it is I who is most haunted, and I suppose that is because I might have brought back some evil spirits with me from the Land of the Gods. Or gods. There is only one God, of course, of which I'm quite sure; it is illogical and disingenuous, in my strongly held view, to say otherwise. Oh, by the way, I am Andrew Whitman, born in North Carolina, and these are my memoirs, as much of them as I can get written before someone, friend or foe, mortal or specter, comes to take me away.

I am frightfully inadequate, if frightfully is the right modifier -- woefully might be a better word -- inadequate, at any rate, where it comes to previous studies on the topic which has chosen me, which requires some explanation; but I do struggle with terms and prior scholarship, as I have read virtually nothing of scholarly value on my topic, excepting two articles, the best of these was written by Pierson Parker and published in a biblical journal in 1960, the name of which escapes me. "John and John Mark" is the title of his essay, and he makes the rather bold statement -- and correctly, I'll happily defend -- that there is greater proof that John Mark wrote the Gospel of John than there is evidence that John Mark wrote the second gospel, the Gospel of Mark.

It was a Eureka experience for me when I finally found an article which agreed with my hypothesis, sort of. I'm reluctant to say so, because Parker does not come right out and state definitively this, being unwilling, as he would have been in those days, to make a call and name John Mark to be the writer of John's Gospel, as well as the second gospel (though it is nevertheless a great mess), as well as the Apocalypse of John, also known as the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, which, I will hasten to add, also makes John Mark the holder of the title "the disciple whom Jesus loved." And on this point, I must assert, I cannot be outargued, for John, the son of Zebedee, shows no indication that he and his brother James were liked by the disciples let alone Jesus. While Zebedee's John makes no sense as Jesus' best friend, because he and James are already Jesus' cousins, I'm prepared to go out on a limb and say.

But how can I be so bold as to say such a thing, which has been kicked around by scholars for decades, centuries, all the way back to the times of Martin Luther and all the way back to the first century, when the early church fathers wrestled with John versus John Mark, albeit not very aggressively? It is not good play, not honourable scholarship, to state definitively that this or that point or thesis is correct, and there is no need any further to discuss the issue.

Indeed, Papias, one of the first writers of patristic material in the early second century, rather oddly but obviously effectively, finally comes down on the side of the writer of the fourth gospel and the writer at Ephesus and Patmos as Zebedee's John, having been a disciple of the apostle, which, to my mind, is preposterous. Papias may have entertained someone whom he thought to be the apostle John, the son of thunder, one of two, the other of course being James; but it is not reasonable to put much weight on the suggestion that Papias entertained Zebedee's John, but someone who merely said that they were the apostle John (the two being the same man, of course), and Papias believed them. However, ultimately I come down poorly, negatively, on the notion that Papias is himself shooting straight with us in his writings, only fragments of which fell into the hands of Eusebius and Iranaeus, who commented most extensively on the work of Papias as regards the identity of "the disciple whom Jesus loved," but they make no call either.

Papias' writings were either edited, or, he intentionally meant to mislead his subsequent readers by saying that he was in fact a disciple of Zebedee's John, who, among other things, informed Papias that Mark, or John Mark, was a dutiful "interpreter" of Peter. And these is only partly true, which I believe I can prove, as I do suggesting that "interpreter" is suspiciously vague. What John Mark was, whether he was with Paul and Barnabas or Peter, was a scribe, a keeper of the documents, a job which I believe he previously held in Jerusalem and walked away from when Jesus was crucified, all points that we will come to.

The closest any of the patristic writers comes to supporting John Mark as the writer of the Gospel of John is Dionysius of Alexandria, the papal authority who ultimately rules out John Mark as the fourth gospel's writer ... because John's Gospel is written so well and John Mark's is written in such poor Greek, comparatively speaking. Granted, because, as I said, the second gospel, the Gospel of Mark, is an absolute mess, and it is a notorious mess, if that is the right modifer, nefarious, obviously corrupted, particularly the book's final chapter, notably the added verses nine through sixteen which have been tacked on in some manuscripts after verse eight in the sixteenth and final chapter. It is in Mark's Gospel that we find the greatest distortion of the person of Jesus, the largest gaps, the most ludicrous of statements attributed to Jesus that it would be a good idea to handle snakes and drink poison in obedience to the God who created them. And so, Dionysius alas remnains convinced and refuses to acknowledge John Mark as anything but some kid.

On the famous snake passage in Mark's Gospel, to suggest that any disciple or apostle actually wrote such a thing or that Jesus ever said such a thing is outrageous, to say the least, and the remarks of a poorly read scholar of the teachings of Jesus. Jesus reminded his disciples not to put God to the test -- if Jesus didn't, then someone did -- and tempting fate or providence by fooling around with poisonous snakes -- for what purpose? -- big rattlers, in many cases, is not only testing God ... but is making a mockery of the substance of Jesus' teachings. And I believe this is the effect that the writer of the snake handling verses in Mark's Gospel is after, frankly; and, at least in the South, where I was born and raised, if one can call Virginia, the South, which it only somewhat is, where snake handling used to be a page one feature and photo which ran in the local papers in haunted Chattanooga, Tennessee where I make my hope at present. Christians, real ones, have always cringed at seeing such nonsense written about and displayed, particularly since some of these people often if not usually died if the rattler or copperhead got good penetration with their fangs.

Although the time for me to leave may be soon and rapidly approaching, as my "psychoses" have gotten worse, and, as a result, I'm afraid I have put a strain on several important relationships within my family. And, of course, the squabble came with regard to my work and my speaking of it, when I should not have.

What happened in a nutshell ... is my son's new wife looked at me like I was a crackpot, or so I thought, when I expressed my feelings that I would soon be published. I have laid out before, and since that first time, my views in little snippets, hoping that small bites would be easy for someone to take, couching my remarks within the context of indiputable history. For example, while I have a tendency to overwhelm people, with talk of my material, I have learned to say as little as possible, offering only one liners like the patron who comissioned Leonardo Da Vinci to paint "The Last Supper" had the nickname "the Moor." And then, as best I can, in a way that I think would win the applause of Socrates, I ask questions. The problem is ... no one wishes to answer them. This is where I get into trouble, but I believe that defining John Mark, of Cyrene, in these times, is frankly a very crucial, critical matter. However, I find few to agree with me, though I have done my best on my less than trusty, always about to crash, PC, which I've come to believe stands for "prepare to crash."

Of course, I have attracted the attention of Europeans with my writing on line, and they're just getting into the swing of being the new America, which is ludicrous, and, which is prophetic.

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