I was born and raised in an Irish Catholic neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago where nobody read the Bible. We didn’t have to read it; our parish priest told us everything God wanted us to know. (I wonder if it’s still that way.)
But I read the Bible now, every day, in Hebrew, Greek and English, and I enjoy it. Well, that’s not completely honest; I don’t enjoy all of it. I don’t enjoy the Genesis story of Adam and Eve where women get the blame for everything that’s wrong with this world. I don’t enjoy the rampant slaughter of men, women, and children throughout the books of Exodus and Joshua. But I love the Psalms and the Proverbs, and of course, that sexy book: the Song of Songs.
But I can tell by the comments I get about my articles that, evidently, I read the Bible in a slightly different way than some of my Protestant friends. One of them asked me if I understand what Biblical Inspiration means. To help me, he quoted 2Tim.3:16 where Paul says: “All scripture is given by the inspiration of God,” etc.
But what does “inspiration” mean? Does that mean God whispered these words into the ear of the writers and they wrote like robots? I don’t think so. And what is “all scripture”? If Paul wrote those words they must apply only to the Old Testament, because he died before our first Gospel was written.
How do you read your Bible?
Come on, now, be honest.
I know that many fundamental Evangelicals read the Bible “literally.” So when they read in Mt. 1:23 that the virgin birth of Jesus took place to fulfill what was said in Isaiah 7:14, they think Matthew must mean that 720 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah was not talking about the wife of King Ahaz who was pregnant and about to have a baby; he was talking about Mary! I guess the Fundamentalists have never heard of the Hebrew literary form called: Midrash, a rabbinic system of applying Old Testament texts to the present day.
I don’t read the Bible like it’s the Wall St. Journal. I think the Bible is a collection of stories that are myths and metaphors and Midrash, all written thousands of years ago by men who felt inspired to move the people around them to higher levels of life. They use the common language of their day, and the writing styles they know will be understood by their neighbors. I really don’t think they’re writing for us in the 21st century; in fact, sometimes I feel I’m peeking into their lives (especially Paul’s) without permission.
When I read the Bible, I am, at times, blown away by its beauty. For example, Paul’s description of love in 1Cor.13 is a poem more beautiful than anything Keats or Shelly ever wrote. On the other hand, I am completely turned off by the book of Revelation, which was mistakenly written to scare people “because the time is near!” It’s been over 2000 years!
I encourage all of you to read the Bible, but to read it like adults with curiosity and common sense, not like children under some kind of blind obedience.
I can’t help it; she’s hot! I mean she’s the most fascinating woman in the Bible. The four Evangelists thought so too; they mention her 12 times, more than most of the Apostles. And look what Dan Brown does in his best-selling novel, the DaVinci code: he has Jesus and Mary getting married and raising a daughter in France!
Where did all this notoriety start? How did Mary Magdalene capture the hearts and imaginations of so many men –including me? Well, there are two “so-called Gospels” that talk a great deal about her. One is called the Gospel of Mary and it was written around the same time as the Gospel of John, (I’ll talk about that in just a minute.) The Gospel of Mary has Jesus confiding in Mary more than in his Apostles and this creates a little tension with the good ole boys. The second book is called the Gospel of Phillip and this was written a hundred years later, but this one has Jesus and Mary as lovers.
Obviously, the early Church thought a lot about Mary Magdalene. These two Gospels, however, were not included in the Canon of Scripture in 325 when Emperor Constantine ordered the Bishops to hole up in the Greek town of Nicaea and come up with a Creed, (and perhaps a Bible too) but these stories remained in the memories of many.
However, my fascination with her stems from the Gospel of John, not from the other two Gospels which are not included in our current Bibles. And I must make a confession at the very start: none of my Scripture Scholar buddies have ever made the connection that I’m about to make here. Crossan and Spong and Ehrman and Borg skip over it. Karen Armstrong and Father Haight don’t even mention it. Not even Hans Kung or N.T. Wright seem inclined to comment. So I’m all alone on this one.
My thesis rests on that one Greek verb in Jn.20:17. The verb is Aptow. John has Jesus saying to Mary: “Quit Aptowing me.” You have seen it translated: “Quit clinging to me.” But it’s a bit more than clinging; Aptow is really a whole lot of hugging. Here’s the story that John has created:
Mary Magdalene runs to the tomb after the death of Jesus to find “two men or two angels or one angel or one young man” depending on which of the four Gospels you’re reading. But let’s stay with John; here it’s two angels, and suddenly, Jesus himself is standing behind her and whispers: “Mary.” She turns around and screams: “My Rabbi.”
Now John does not describe what Mary does at that moment; he simply jumps ahead to the statement of Jesus: “Quit hugging me.” But something had to happen in between! I think Mary had to grab him around the neck and smother him with kisses. The Greek word: Aptow implies this.
Well, that’s my opinion. I think John’s Gospel, which is written a little after the year 100, already contains the seeds of a sincere love affair. I don’t know if the writer of John’s Gospel wanted to say this deep love was mutual or just one-sided. Even though it’s obvious from chapter one that the writer believed Jesus was divine (the Eternal Word of God) he also believed that Jesus was very human; he says in 11:5 that Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. I guess he could love Mary Magdalene too; I guess he could love her a lot. Mary obviously loved him a lot; I feel certain she didn’t go around “aptowing” everybody.
Regardless, this fascinating woman has intrigued the imaginations of men since the 1st century. In the sixth century, Pope Gregory in his 33rd Homily took individual parts from several stories in the gospels and made a composite out of Mary Magdalene, and portrayed her as a repentant prostitute.
Prostitute, Sinner, Lover, Saint—what’s next? The stories of Mary from Magdala will never stop. As I said before: