Historical setting: 589 C.E. Châlons
“So, Laz, right there in the middle of the Gospel of John was that personal telling of your death and all the grief. With those details given of the funeral arrangements and all the people keening, it was surely a first-hand story by the ‘beloved disciple’ of Jesus. So were you the writer of the Gospel who called himself the ‘beloved disciple’?” [John 21:24]
“Me? The writer? Of course not. I was dead for most of that story about me.”
“So you must know who that mysterious writer was. Why didn’t he just say this was written by John, son of Zebedee, or sign the last page with his name instead of a mystery?”
“Well, it wasn’t written by John the disciple. Knowing what I know of the title, “John” wasn’t the author but the dedication to the spirit of John the Baptist, by a follower.”
“Do you know who I really think wrote it, Laz?”
“No, who do you think?”
“I think it was written by a woman. It has the hand of a woman all through it! It’s obvious. I think it was written by your wife.”
“It must have been a woman who loved you and Jesus both, maybe a follower of John the Baptist, but surely it was someone you cared about also because you allowed her to keep her secret all these years.”
What can I say? “Ana, I won’t tell anyone who it was. Not even you, my own beloved wife. Knowing who inked the first writing of it would only make it about an old woman’s memory of her own little teen-aged infatuations – a childish fantasy. It would impair the mystique of the gospel. It wouldn’t fix the flawed edits made to please Gentiles by making the evil of the Sadducees seem it was the full nature of all Judaens. It wouldn’t give those who read it a gift of mysticism unless the readers were already mystics. Telling would only make it seem human where now it holds revelations. So I see no reason for me to expose what is indeed beloved just to make it mundane.” [This blogger’s notes ]
“Yes, I think I understand what you mean Laz; it would be like knowing it was a pet goose whose feathers fill this pillow.”
“In all this softness, Ana, these chores of love seem bliss.”
It is a warm and gentle drifting off. Thank you God, for this beloved Ana who sleeps here in my arms this night.
[This blogger’s notes ] Bible study is like a stream of fresh water always flowing new, though it has been known to be dammed for holding onto one a piece of river, capturing corners of the waters into stagnant pools of dependable sameness. But in these times we are fortunate that the kind of understanding that rides the current, and drinks always from new waters is recognized as scholarship, so that what Diana Butler Bass calls “new eyes” on the ancient texts is not discarded as wrong but allowed to change the readings for all of us going forward. Bass gave a speech that went viral, if bible study ever could do that, https://dianabutlerbass.substack.com/p/mary-the-tower
Her talk was based on a new find in reading an ancient Greek text and a beginning scholar named Elizabeth Schrader noticed something different from later versions which changed one Mary, sister to Lazarus into a Mary and Martha. This rewrites John so that Lazarus has one sister who might also have been called Mary “The Tower” (or Magdala), in the same way Peter had the nickname “The Rock.” This welcomes the idea of Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany being one in the same .
This blogger’s favorite “go-to” scholar on John, John Shelby Spong, writing, The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic published by Harper One in 2013 reveals some of these finds that Bass speaks of: the nickname, “The Tower” and the geographical detail of Mary Magdalene for example. Before Schrader found the proof of it in the ancient document Spong wrote his own mystical prophecy. On page 176 of this book Spong says of the two Mary’s being one person, it is ”an idea that opens up some possibilities that, while interesting, are beyond the scope of this book.” And he also notes his own earlier book Born of a Woman.