Historical setting: 590 C.E. Cottage between Annegray and Luxeuil
Remembering something from a very ancient time, I tell Ana, “It was after the execution of Jesus most followers believed we had come to the farthest edge of time – the end times. We waited for a sign expecting a physical Jesus to return and God to rule as a human sort of king. There were stories and hints at this. As the years passed, it didn’t happen, at least in a physical sense, as we first expected.
“Instead there was an escalation of violence between the Romans and the Jews. Human brutality fulfilled rumors of prophecies and all varieties of the persecuted fled Roman rule. Some fled into wilderness places or east into gentile cities.
“We, who first followed John the Baptist then Jesus, including my sister and I, gathered together in our grief. We fled to Ephesus. Other groups were there also, I know, but each group of Christians stayed with our own people, like a “club.” [Footnote]
“In Ephesus, in the Greek way, all around us were images of the goddess of Ephesus – she was that many breasted version of Artemis. But the difference between the Greek and Roman statuary of Diana spoke of the Roman way with only a single righteousness, not a synchronicity. So today, when I was thinking of many breasts and I remembered when Christians came with many kinds of spiritual thirst, that statue of someone else’s goddess spoke of God’s love for all Creation even including humankind.”
Ana considers, “It seems it would be confusing to see a goddess with thirty breasts.”
“When God is invisible and all encompassing is it any wonder these little works by human hands, all answering the breath of awe, can appear confusing? But here was a way to imagine the vast wideness of God’s love.
“While we were close family in one group in Ephesus, other groups were less Jewish than we, some even Romanish. I feared that the Roman executioners were calling themselves Christian and tromping glosses of exclusions across our simple Jesus memories. What I heard from Jesus of a narrow gate, the Roman gloss spoke of an exclusive way.[Luke 13:24] What I saw of a Roman execution, the Roman gloss revised it to say the executioners were the Jews themselves. But if I pictured God with thirty breasts our little club of Jewish, John followers, were twin siblings of those Roman Christians, all of us nourished together by one God’s love. Knowing Romans as our twins it becomes harder to love these enemies, and yet, more possible.”
[Footnote] Westar Christianity Seminar – Erin K. Vearncombe, Bernard Brandon Scott, Hal Taussig – After Jesus Before Christianity: A historical Exploration of the First Two Centuries of Jesus Movements Harper One, 2021. Chapter 11.