Post #11.6, Thursday, August 13, 2020

Historical setting: 563 C.E., on a beach in La Coruña

         We walk the horses back to curry them and bed them down for the night.  We’re told that Nic’s horse is named “The Rose” because the dapple looks like dew on rose petals, and mine is “Umber” because it is brown.

         Nic is as excited as a child with a new horse of his own. He really doesn’t want to leave the stable so here we are spreading our cloaks in the straw. Now the horses must think humans have strange murmurs into the night.

         Nic starts the chatter, “So what is the heresy that threatens the lands of Iberia and called you here to rescue them by delivering the Gospel of John?”

           “Don’t worry Nic. I was just yammering on. Goodnight.”

         “How can I sleep when you started talking about a deadly heresy and you don’t give me a clue how to stay safe from it? What is the mortal hazard of mysticism?”

          “It’s not mysticism that makes the Gnosticism of the Manichean heresies like Priscillianism dangerous; it’s the problem of denying the goodness of Creation.  Beyond believing in the spiritual nature of God they were taught that the whole Creation is not Holy. They spread a lie that the things of earth are not the work of God, but are of an evil power. This heresy longs for the Spirit yet denies the sacred nature of earth and sky and trees and all the creatures of the earth, ignoring all the signs of beauty that draw me and you into our thanksgivings so easily.”

         Again the wisdom is in Nic’s simple logic. “If the Gnostic is attuned to the Holy Spirit would she not hear the Creator God speaking ‘it is good’ at the end of each day of Creation in Genesis?”

         “This particular cult didn’t even acknowledge Genesis as a part of the bible. They simply denied the goodness.” [Footnote]

         “Whatever would draw someone to that?”

         “You know, Nic, there are two Creation stories in Genesis. The second one has Eve and Adam eating from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

         “I know. They erred by disobeying and eating forbidden fruit.”

         “But Nic, what if the error were not so much the disobedience but was in the fruit itself? What if things went wrong when humankind started making judgments based on this stolen gnosis of good and evil which they took from God when they stole the fruit?”

         Nic is already snoring.  “Goodnight Nic.”

(Continues Tuesday, August 18)

[Footnote]

These doctrines [Priscillianism] could be harmonized with the teaching of Scripture only by a complex system of exegesis, rejecting conventional interpretations and relying on personal inspiration. The Priscillians respected most of the Old Testament but rejected the Creation story. They believed that several of the apocryphal Scriptures were genuine and inspired. Because the Priscillians believe that matter and nature were evil, they became ascetics and fasted on Sundays and Christmas Day. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priscillianism#Writings_and_rediscovery 

Retrieved September 20, 2019.

Post #11.5, Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Historical setting: 563 C.E., maybe, a beach in La Coruña

Just now there is a rhythm of hoofs, galloping, pounding as though it were coming up from under the sand! There in the distance on the edge of the water are four horses at full gallop. Nic and I step back as they go right by us. Two of the horses have riders and the other two are led but seem to be fighting lead-lines made for tamer footings and a slower pace. They slow to trot after they pass, then turn back to this place. A young woman slides off the dapple gelding in the lead and her great and glowing smile assures us that with the appropriate exchange of coins we, too, may gallop this seashore.

         I suggest we walk the horses a bit to cool them as we talk this over. The boy who rode away on the sag-backed mare slides down from one of the bays, and it is clear we were not delivered the gentle ox Nic requested. The boy hands the lead of one of the horses to Nic, and he doesn’t seem the least bit skittish – neither Nic nor the horse seems skittish. But the huge dapple-gray senses Nic’s apprehensions and arches his neck and rolls his eyes, stepping sideways to get a good look at this man who is so kind and yet awkward in his horsey greetings. The young woman tightens her hold on the gray’s lead, and he pulls back clearly disproving of her defiant hold. She offers me the choice of another fine bay or this feisty gray for our cooling down walk around. I choose the gray. Maybe I’m just strutting my feathers for the girl – it’s an instinct or a bad habit. But I went straight for the challenge.

         It’s a beautiful horse, and Nic is very aware of this and believes that I’m choosing this one for the purchase. But Nic is the one who is buying the horses. It’s his money. He should have the finest of the two horses we choose; so for safety sake I suggest we stick with two of the brown ones. He invites me, then, to pick the brown one I want and I choose one of a good spirit, but a bit less stately than the more elder and gentle bay Nic is walking. I thought Nic would make the safest choice and take the most gentle bay for himself; but the deal made, we had the brown horse I chose for me, and the feisty dapple gray for him.

(Continues Tomorrow)

Post #11.4, Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Historical setting: 563 C.E., maybe, a beach in La Coruña

We‘ve found a stick to mark the sandy beach with a timeline of history while we are waiting here at La Coruña to look at horses. 

         “Laz, obviously a single timeline fails us. You’ve added all these branches for so many philosophies. But what if history comes at us not aligned like an army of ants moving evenly in a single direction, but more like waves of sea? What if events and understandings rise and sink in importance like swells on the ocean? One appears essential, then another even greater rises in another place, only to sink back into the churning current; or maybe it all dissolves into the great smooth calm.”

         “Yes, that does seem the more likely pattern. I’ll just scratch out our useless timeline with all these specific years.” 

          “Well, I thought it might help us clarify your strange memory problem. But now Laz, I’m more curious about this budding heresy starting when all varieties of mysticisms were rising to the surface one on the next like waves on the sea.” He interrupts my breath to answer. “Wait don’t tell me, Laz; let me guess. This heresy of mysticism started when people began noticing the invisible nature of Spirit so the old idea of believing only in tangible things and things seen becomes the anathema. I mean, what would be more heretical than not noticing the invisible nature of God? I guessed right, didn’t I Brother Lazarus? Once people learned to be mystical, denying the invisible became everyone else’s heresy!”

          “Oh that you were right, my friend.” Dear God, thank you for the company of this strange old soldier of simple perspective. Amen. “But if believing only in the material nature could be considered heresy everyone would be a heretic at some time in every life.  We all so easily believe that the only reality is visible and tangible. It’s a normal human perception.”

         Nic’s imagination keeps turning. “It would be so fine if you and I were the bishops declaring the heresies. Then all Creation, even Jesus would be the physical sign for the spiritual reality. And anyone who doesn’t think the Heavens and the Earth and all Creation and every creature living is actually Holy Spirit is anathema!”        

         “Sure Nic. Write your ideas in the sands that change; just don’t carve it in stone, or write a creed of it because all life ever grows new. Ideas come and go, and flatten and rise like dunes in the desert.”

         “… or waves on the sea.”

(Continues tomorrow)

Post #11.3, Thursday, August 6, 2020

Historical setting: 563 C.E., Remembering 452 C.E. Hispania

“Nic, I should tell you about this land where we are. This dot on our map of sand is the location for the Bishop’s see of Bracara Augusta. I was called to bring the Gospel of John by the Suebi Christians, who were in need because there was a deep and relentless root of heresy gnawing and sickening the Christian faith here.”

          “I’ll bet it was the heresy that says Jesus was a human person of flesh and blood and pain and joy.” Nic assumes it was our own heresy named after Arius.

          “No, I’m not talking about a heresy against substance of Trinity. Here it was called Priscillianism. It is a mindset that separates people from the love of life itself; those stricken are lost from noticing the love of the Creator who yearns for us to live and to love one another. This was an ancient and deadly heresy of extreme sacrifice. And like a plague it keeps returning.”

         “Was it grounded in a Gospel teaching?” Nic asks.

         “Not in the orthodox list of gospels we use. It was in some of the early gospels that were hidden away after someone with wisdom enough argued against it.”

         Now Nic takes the stick and draws a long line across the sand. He says, “This is the line of your lifetime; at one end you were born, and the other end is now.”

          This is the test that will surely expose my scrambled mind, not to mention the strange circumstance of my life that he already considers is only the product of a scrambled mind. So I choose to avoid the problem. 

         “For our purposes, Nic, let us rename this the timeline of Christian History.”

         I start by measuring it off into its, what is it, four or is it five centuries? Then I add ancient emperors hoping that either my memory is immediately returned or that Nic jumps in to mark the ‘now’ of it all and saves revealing my loss of memory of recent years. I go down to “day 1” the birth of Jesus (and of me) and I start adding branch-lines, above and below the line: one to show the rise of mysticism among Jews; and there are other branches for mysticism among pagan worshipers like the Greeks and the Persians. Nic seems not particularly interested in this detail but it shows an amazing synchronicity in the rise of mysticism. All these added branches converge as mysticism.

(Continues Tuesday, August 11)

Post #11.2, Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Historical setting: A Dark Age in La Coruña

The public stable is just where I supposed it. Nic assumed my memory had not failed.

         “We will need two sturdy mounts.”

         The dark-eyed child caring for the horse seems vacant. Perhaps he’s not used to the vernacular. I know this part of Hispania was recently overtaken by Suebi people from far north of Gaul. Of course, when I was here before those who didn’t use the vernacular were using the Suebi language. My memory does serve. I remember enough of that barbaric tongue to ask for horses. But still the youth seems vague. Nic steps forward and speaks to him in the language of the Goths – Nic’s own tribe. The boy understands and explains they have one horse, and it is only let for a day at a time. Two coins to take it, and one coin is returned when the horse is back. Gentle, she is, though she seems old, and probably a bit too worn for hauling the weight of the two of us.

         Nic asks me why we need a horse at all.  We are both fit for distances walking, and besides Nic says he isn’t accustomed to horses. He’s been at the oars all these years, and before that oxen were more common in his childhood village.

         “Nic, this is a land of villas. We won’t find churches and monasteries spread by a day’s walk for travelers. But stables are available everywhere. Horses are most common here.”

         “Then,” Nic uses his edge in language to tease, “I will ask the boy for the biggest, wildest horse for you and something closer to the earth for me, maybe wide and brown resembling an ox.”

         “Sure, Nic. There is this one gentle horse here, though she may be a bit frail for all of you and your iron shirt too. Ask him how we will find the one who raises horses.”

         Nic speaks to the boy again. The boy affirms, then mounts this elder mare and rides away.

         Nic explains, “He told us to wait; he will fetch the horses for us to choose and will meet us on the beach before sunset.”

         The beach is like huge blank tablet waiting to be marked with sturdy stick. This square is Hispania. I mark it with a dot for Bracara Augusta to gather perspective on the opened ends of our wandering.

         (Continues tomorrow)

Post #11.1, Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Historical setting: Maybe 6th century, off the coast of Galleacia

Maybe Nic has the same worry. What if we land here in La Coruña and I still have no memory of place or time. And all I know is I’m looking for a wife with yellow hair who might be waiting for me somewhere.

Watching the coastline, preparing for the landing I ponder this worry and harbor this fear. Relieved now, I know I’ve seen this Roman lighthouse before. I know I have a memory at least of this. Maybe I’m only missing the year. What if I’ve lost my sense of century? Nic has no idea of this possibility of vagueness. He’s testing me to see if my mind is still scrambled and he asks me if I know what day it is.

“It is August 4.” He accepts the easy answer. But I still wonder which August 4? 

My worry goes unspoken.  All he is asking me is to recite a numbered day and month named after a Caesar. He has no thought that it’s always been human imagination that numbers the sun’s risings and settings and measures them into distributions of sevens to make weeks. Weeks are an odd commodity of mysterious completeness — odd because weeks are contrived by ten-fingered, ten-toed humankinds, with no sevens at all in our digits to guide the count. Seven is the Godly number of completion – the perfect. You can’t count to seven on fingers, toes or even on a cube with six sides of dots for tossing, so we expect our numbering of days into weeks must be mystical, beyond human ability to understand. We place our Sabbath aside for God on the uncountable rest from work. I guess once it was noticed that the moon patterns were chaotic and the cycles of life sporadic, counting weeks into months is best kept mysteriously unpredictable on charts drawn up by ancient emperors who declare the “is” of knowledge without even a fact.

Now Nic tests me on the current of time. We both hope I have clarity. Yet I know if I can answer his quiz it will only be because I’ve been paying attention to recent things, and still I’ve noticed time has gone by me in the rotting of the boats, the wearing of the roads. Is the emperor still Justinian, who is newly failed at restoring Rome?

We are both hoping I have some idea of where to go and what to do when we land.

(Come again tomorrow)

Post #10.14, Thursday, July 30, 2020

Historical setting: 563 CE, in sight of Iberia

         Nic asks, “So which version of God assigned me to be a patron to a scrambled minded Jew? I wonder. Am I stuck with you because God teaches us by using fierce and horrific punishments for all my innocent years of listening to a heretic priest, or are you supposed to be some kind of gift of a loving God?”

         “What do you think Nic?”

         Again, he answers only with his intense stare. In his mind he still searches my tattered head for horns, and what we both see of the other now are the scars. Healing as we both are, our scars will always speak of our vulnerabilities but maybe it won’t always be a loss that is measured in absent horns or traded helmet.

         Now he answers with his words, “I know what I wish it were, but if we are wrong, this hot, calm sea is only the gateway to Hell.”

         Nic already knows it. I don’t need to speak it in words.  The old priest planted it deep in his heart. If I were to say it, it would only be so we both know it was spoken.

         “Nic, we both know it already don’t we?”

         “You know, Brother Lazarus, it is so much easier to jump in the soldier line and be the best of the best in the win, or die. But the Jesus unto life rules are so hard: love God, love the stranger, love the neighbor, love yourself, love your enemy … Its nearly impossible, and at the same time it’s also annoyingly insignificant in the eyes of other humankinds. There’s not even a plume of glory to hold onto, just that one ravely strand of love, the frayed thread, the remnant that is connecting me to … to what, Lazarus? To a needy Jew?”

         “Yea, that and the whole universe and all the people in it, and to God and to the love of God… I would suppose, though I myself have only seen a few hundred years of healing and the love.”

         The rising west wind filled the sails and brings relief from the infernal stillness but it riles the sea. We cut sharp and fast through the wave crests here with relentless rises and falls pitching our craft long and hard, until even the most seasoned of sailors are heaving and retching over the sides.

         “No one lands in Hispania with a full belly.”  Yes, I do have memory of coming this way before.

(Story continues Tuesday, August 4, 2020)

Post #10.13, Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Historical setting: 563 CE, on the Bay of Contabria (Biscay)

         Nic asks me, “Did you ever hear the poem about God, like the good shepherd who leads us beside the still waters and restores thirsty souls?”

         “Yes, of course!  That’s a Psalm! And you know that also?”

         “Yes, Brother Lazarus, I learned it as a child.  There is a very strange verse in that poem that makes no sense unless you are in the middle of a war, and also, if you happen to be loosing that war. It goes, ‘A table is set before me in the presence of my enemies’. I was thinking it is about the wolves and the lambs eating grass together.”

         Dear God thank you. Amen. I’m so glad he has found us a tiny piece of common ground, “Nic, I too know that poem! But how is it that you learned it in your childhood, amid so much illiterate encouragement to forget the ancient epic and even the metaphor?”

         “Lazarus, it was the elder priest of our tribe who taught me so many things.

         “In the war where our tribe lost to the Franks my father was killed, but also our chieftain was killed so the rule of the tribe fell to our Christian priest.  I was the infant son of the last war hero – you know, the one last hope for our tribe — the remnant. For all the years of my childhood which were the rest of years of the life of that old priest, I was taught to read and to practice with the inks. He taught me things he recalled of the bible, though our tribe owned no book except for the pages he himself remembered and then wrote down.  When that old man passed away our tribe was assigned a right and proper orthodox priest who promptly discarded ‘heresy’ and the ‘scribbles of our heathen priest.’ And I was told all those things I had once learned as bible stories of the Old Testament were only there to foretell of the Christ; they were not to be taken as worthy teachings in their own right. But I couldn’t forget some things.”

         Thank you God, for holding tight to our thread, for giving us a remnant of your truth. Amen.

         I don’t want to taunt Nic with my centuries of observations. It could only speak to him of my scrambled mind. But I too have seen divergent Christianities colliding in these Roman lands.

(Continued Tomorrow)

Post #10.12, Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Historical setting: 563 CE, on the Bay of Contabria (Biscay)

         After a gaping silence after explaining who I really am and that I actually saw the execution of Jesus, Nic offers his thoughts.

         “If you wanted me to believe all that stuff about the bible story you could have said it better. You could have said ‘some who were there saw,’ not ‘I saw.’ You have such a scrambled mind that is obvious when you say you were actually there and you knew Jesus.”

         It’s hot and still. All clothing, even Nic’s iron shirt and leather gambeson yield under the sweltering calm of summer’s east wind, and are tidily packed away. The calming breeze strokes backwards across the westerly driven swells of the open sea. The crew, the captain, all are bared to our births by the calm — me, browning umber under the sun, and Nic pinking to redness. We are the full variety of shades of human.

         Unlike the ancient times when birth-shades marked our tribes and tribes marked war-won rankings among humankinds, these hundreds of years after Jesus are becoming a holy swirl of tribe-less tan. The stark blackness of St. Maurice that once spoke of a people of great intellect, trade and wealth from the deep coast of Africa seems in these times, a blend into Alexandria’s tans, particularly when wed with the pallid Goths of northern lands. I would venture to guess in another century there will be no distinguishing of races.[Note from the future: He was wrong.] We will all be one people, as God sees us. But here I am, the olive Jew set against the pale Goth.  What is there to say to find our oneness?  

           Nic is trying to listen to my feeble attempt to use reason to change his deep experience. He hears me argue scripture, I John 4:18 and then he hears my desperate prayer. I speak aloud:  “Dear God, please release us from old fears and patterns of hate that our bond may be as brothers shared in your love. Amen.”

         Yea, that prayer fell on his ears like a thud of blah. God, Nic and I all know we need this thing to work. But there is no reasoning to make imagined horns and armor void of human life simply vanish. Neither of us can say that these old hates don’t matter so the best we can do is curb our own rages.

         Nic means to do that. He offers the common ground of his personal childhood experience with the teachings.

(Nic’s story is told Wednesday, July 29, 2020)

Post #10.11, Thursday, July 23, 2020

Historical setting: 563 CE, on the Bay of Contabria (Biscay)

         “Please hear me out Nic. The Sadducees were once the sect of the priests of the Temple. Caiaphas was the High Priest that year. Caiaphas was a Sadducee.”

         “They were The Jews.”

         “Yes, Nic, that’s what the Roman’s called the Sadducees: ‘The Jews.’ But then, while the Temple was standing we were all Jews — me and my sisters, Jesus and the disciples, the Pharisees, the Herodians, the Scribes, the Levites, even Nicodemus – all Jews.

         The Romans sacked and burned the Temple in 70 AD. Jews and Jewish Christians alike were dispersed in groups, many leaving Jerusalem, seeking refuge from the Roman persecutions and wars. Everything changed for Jews and Christian Jews after the Temple was gone.        

         John’s gospel was edited after 70 AD after the Temple was gone and the Sadducees were gone with it. There were still Pharisees but no more Sadducees. My younger sister and some others of us who remembered all those forty years since Jesus’ rising from death were retelling our own experiences with Jesus. My little sister Mary thought calling them Sadducees would seem out of date and maybe even too Jewish when we Jewish Christians, Ebionites, were already being called heretics among other Christians. So in telling the story it was soon after edited with a Roman gloss. The Sadducees were changed to the Roman catch phrase, ‘The Jews’ and all the other references to the Jewish community were left the way they were originally and always were told in John. [Footnote] So the gospel says,  ‘The Jews killed Jesus.’ But there are two different things. One was ‘The Jews’ who were really the Sadducees who did send Jesus on to be sentenced by Pilate, and the other was everybody else — all of us in the Jewish community.

         I know my little sister and others of our group really wanted the blame for the execution on the betrayers of our own tribe – the High Priest and all those of that traitor sect of Sadducees. But I myself heard the declaration of the death sentence from the Roman lips of Pilate. And I saw the Roman soldiers pound the nails into his hands. Our anger at the High Priest’s sect is long forgotten now. But in these times the Romans are calling themselves Christian and little-by-little shaping the pacifism and the lessons of reconciliation taught by Jesus into nothing but more wars. And apparently the Romans have made the ancestry of Jesus into the horned effigy of an enemy. No Jews, not even the Sadducees ever had horns.”

         (Continued tomorrow)

[Footnote] Time and again for two millennia Christians have used the Gospel of John to excuse and even condone anti-Semitism with horrific results. It is apparently a propaganda gloss leftover from an early century in Christianity when other Gentile propaganda also promoted anti-Semitism and washed Roman hands of the killing of Jesus. But the scrutiny of methodology of scholarly study can only assume it is a gloss and has yet to decode the ancient original documents of John to prove it.

            So, this blogger seeks out the obvious answer using only the lesser resources of scholarship — all available in English: the concordance listing bible words in alphabetical order, and a basic Dictionary of the Bible, defining terms.  (Here is used the Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible Vol. R-Z published 1962 by Abingdon Press referring to an article on “Sadducees” by A.C. Sundberg pages 160-163.)

            First find — Sadducees in the concordance listing Sadducees aplenty in Matthew, Mark and Luke but none in John. Why is that?

            Sundberg offers a documented perspective of Sadducees using an array of sources, including the accounts of ancient Jewish historian Josephus. Briefly, the Sadducees were the sect of Jews in the period of the Second Temple from whom the High Priest was appointed. They oversaw the function of the Temple. The Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. and that ended the Sadducees. That is one reason they are missing from the Fourth Gospel that was compiled into a single work after the destruction of the Temple.

            In the Gospel of John are eighteen references to “the Jews” used to describe the community of Jewish people as a group of worshippers, followers and basically the community of Jesus and the people that the story in this gospel was about. Ref. John 2:13, 3:01, 4:09, 4:22, 5:01, 6:04,11:36, 11:45, 11:54, 11:55, 12:09,  (Here the Chief Priests and the Pharisees were separated out.) 18:20, 19:03, 19:19, 19:20, 19:21 (two times in this verse), 19:03, 19:40.  “Jew” singular is also used to describe individuals in this Gospel, even including Jesus and particular members of his following.

            But in John (and not in the synoptic gospels) there is another usage for the words “The Jews” and this is to replace “the Sadducees” as a party in power who oversaw the priestly order of the temple.

             “The Jews” contextually meaning the temple authorities who would have been the Sadducees at the time are ref: John 1:19, 2:18, 2:20, 5:15, 5:16, 5:18, 6:41, 6:52, 7:01, 7:11, 7:13, 7:15, 7:35, 8:22, 8:31, 8:48, 8:52, 8:57, 9:18, 9:22, (twice in this verse) 10:19, 10:24, 10:31, 10:33, 11:08, (Throughout Chapter 11, the story of the raising of Lazarus “the Jews seem to be the community who gather with Martha and Mary.  When there is a reference to Pharisees and other Temple authorities in 11:47 it is Pharisees and Chief Priests (which would be the Sadducees by a name other than “the Jews.”) 13:33, 18:12 (officers of the Jews), 18:14, 18:39, 19:07, 19:12, 19:14, 19:31, 19:38, 20:19.

            The obvious “find and replace edit” using “The Jews” to replace “Sadducees” has the hallmarks of some of this gospel’s contemporary apocryphal writings, which clearly exonerate Romans as Jesus killers, and implicate “The Jews” as Christianity is becoming less Jewish and also struggling with the universality of God’s love.