A NEW INTERPRETATION OF CANONICAL TEXTS, WITH A NOTE ON LAZARUS RESURRECTION
Emilio Spedicato, University of Bergamo,
Release 1 in English, following release 5 in Italian
This paper dedicated first to shamans male and women performing between Earth and Sky. Secondly to the forgotten sister of peasant stock in Valtellina, where Turkish shamans went, a woman who could speak ancient languages. Thirdly to Betilka Kainč, first sister companion of Mother Theresa; she took for herself the name Mary Magdalene.
In the canonical Gospels we find women interacting with Jesus in a special way. We assume, in this paper, that two of them, Mary from Magdala and Mary from Bethany, are the same woman. We suggest that this woman anointed Jesus as a Melchisedek priest. Thus a statement by Paul, absent in the canonical Gospels, is explained; moreover we argue that Jesus became Christ or Messiah by that action. Finally we give a new interpretation of Lazarus resurrection, not in contrast with the Gospel text.
In the course of my life, having recently retired from the University, I have read the canonical Gospels some twenty times. Most Christians have probably never read them entirely, an upsetting fact, if we believe that they deal about a person who said: I and my Father are one thing. Only after many readings certain passages became meaningful, for me. Not only as a deeper message, but as more meaningful one on the historic level. Different interpretations from those usually considered seem also to be possible.
In this article some women appear having a significant interaction with Jesus, not considering his mother Mary, his cousin Elizabeth and the prophetess Ann. Not included also women appearing in occasional situations, as the Samaritan, the wpman losing blood, Jairus’ daughter, Peter’s mother-in-law, the Syrian-Phoenician out of whose child Jesus drives the daemons, Nain’s poor widow, possessed by a spirit and whose body was bent for eighteen years, the adulteress saved from being stoned….
This article deals with Mary from Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus, and Mary from Magdala, from whom seven demons were driven out by Jesus, and who anointed Jesus’ feet and hair. I propose that such two women are actually a unique woman, here called MBM, endowed with a special qualification, about which canonical Gospels are silent. I propose that MBM consecrates Jesus as Melchisedek priest. The consecration is quoted by Paul, without reference to how it takes place, but does not appear in the Gospels. Mary Magdalene’s special and important role, she being present by the cross at Jesus’ death and being the first witness of his resurrection, has nothing to do, in our approach, with stories in recent books and pictures, about her romantic relation with Jesus, producing even a son. In the last section we consider Lazarus story. We propose a new interpretation, that agrees with the Gospels, but at a different level of understanding than the usual one.
The Gospel’s passages are in the Italian version from Fulvio Nardoni’s translation, Edizioni Paoline, 1948, here from The Holy Bible, printed by G. Eyre and W. Spottiswoode, 1838, by His Majesty’s Special Command (in very small font!). I do not deal with philological questions, that are beyond my skills and interests. I only recall that there is no certainty whether the Gospels were initially written in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek, except for John’s where original Greek is accepted.
SOME WOMEN IN THE CANONICAL GOSPELS
The following passages come from the cited edition of the Gospels.
Matthew 26, 6-13: Now when Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the Leper there came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of a very precious ointment and poured it on his head as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it they had indignation , saying : To what purpose is this waste? For the ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it he said unto them: Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you, but me have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you wheresoever’s this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
The above passage is almost the same as in Mark 14, 3-9, where the ointment is specified as nard, worth 300 denarii, ten times the price paid to Judas for the delivery of Christ. Nard comes from the Ganges region, India, see Periplus maris Erythraei, a work by unknown author, maybe living in Jesus’ times. It appears in the Vedic literature, for instance in Kalidasa, as a much used perfume. For trade between India and the Roman empire, including at Jesus time, see Warmington (1928), where nard, also called spikenard, is quoted in 29 pages.
The described episode is set after the Sanhedrin plot, before Judas’ treason and the Last Supper. It appears to be the last ointment.
In Mark we find additionally that the alabaster vessel was broken into pieces. Now, alabaster is a very hard stone; thus, to break the vessel, if intact, would be easy only for a very thin-walled vase. It is known that vessels made from several types of stones were used in Egypt; they included vessels of alabaster, with very thin walls, produced with an unknown technology (and also by Cretans and Etruscans). Maybe the broken vase came from Egypt, and was very expensive. Perhaps it was a vase recently imported; but possibly a family property, an object for sacred ceremonies, handed down from antiquity and preserved with the greatest attention. Alabaster vases for funeral ointments are documented already from about 1900 AC, in the Nubian Kerma’s graveyard: see Campbell (1991), who refers to the excavations by George Reisner, Peabody Museum, about 1920.
Matthew 18, 1-9: At the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher. And behold there was a great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord descended heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat upon it. His countenance was like the lightening and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women: Fear not ye, for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead. And behold he goeth before you into Galilee there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy, and did run to bring his disciples word… and behold Jesus met them saying: All hail. And they came and held him by the feet and worshipped him.
We note, leaving to a following section considerations about the two women here named Mary, that they discover Jesus’ resurrection before anybody else. They arrive to the sepulcher when Jesus was no more present, being already “raised from the dead”. They enter into the sepulchral chamber where he had been laid down. They may have seen saw the folded, empty linen cloth, in which Jesus’ body had been enveloped, now widely believed to be the Holy Shroud of Turin, see for instance Baima Bollone (2015). Maybe they also saw the fine byssus scarf, showing a face with open eyes, possibly the Volto Santo image now in the Capuchin Friars’ church at Manoppello, see Badde (2007). The open eyes may indicate that the image was impressed just after resurrection. The face in the Shroud has closed eyes.
Mark 15, 40-41: There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses and Salome. Who also when he was in Galilee followed him and ministered unto him. And many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.
Mark 16, 1-2: And when the Sabbath was passed Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun.
Mark 16, 9-11: Now when Jesus was risen, early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven demons. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when had heard that he was alive and had been with her, believed not.
Luke 7, 36-50: And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house and sat down to meat. And behold a woman in the city, who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment. And stood at his feet behind him weeping and began to wash his feet with tears and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had invited him saw it, he spake within himself saying: This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him, for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him: Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he said: Master, say on… Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet, but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss, but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint, but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore, I say unto thee: Her sins, which are many are forgiven: for she loved much…. And said unto her: Thy sins are forgiven… And said unto the woman: Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace.
Luke 8, 1-3: And it came to pass afterward that he went throughout every city and village preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him. And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven demons, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.
Luke 10, 38-41: Now it came to pass, as they went that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him in her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus feet and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving and came to him and said: Lord, thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her there for that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Luke 23, 55-56: And the women also which came to him from Galilee followed after and beheld the sepulcher and how his body was laid. And they returned and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day, according to the commandment.
Luke 24, 1-11: Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning they came unto the sepulcher bringing the spices which they had prepared and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher. And they entered in and found not the body of the Lord Jesus… And returned from the sepulcher and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
John 11, 1-43, passim: Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick… Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying: Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. When he had learned therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that said to his disciples: Let us go into Judea again (where was Bethany). His disciples say unto him: aster, the Jews of late sought to stone and goest thou thither again… our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep…then said Jesus plainly: Lazarus is dead… Then when Jesus came he found that he had lain in the grace four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem about fifteen furlongs off: and many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and meet him; but Mary sat still in the house… Martha called Mary her sister secretly, saying: The Master is come and calleth for thee. As soon as she heard that she arose quickly and came unto him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him… Then, when Mary was come where Jesus was and saw him she fell down at his feet saying unto him: Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died… Jesus cried with a loud voice ; Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot, with grave-clothes. And his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them: Loose him and let him go. Then many of the Jews that came to Mary and had seen the things which Jesus had did, believed on him.
The distance from Bethany to Jerusalem is about three km, in the text as quasi stadiis quindecim; one stadium being worth about 180 meters in Greek: από σταδίων δεκαπέντε.
John 12, 1-8, passim….: Then six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence [ denariis, in Latin] and given to the poor?… Then said Jesus: Let her alone; against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you, but me ye have not always. Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there and they came not for Jesus’ sake only but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away and believed on Jesus.
The text goes on speaking of the arrival of Jesus to Jerusalem, on the following day, then five days before Passover.
John 19, 25-27: Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas [the Greek and Latin text do not have “the wife”] and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother: Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple: Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
John 20, 1-18: The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. Then she runneth and cometh to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them: They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth and that other disciple and came to the sepulcher… Then the disciples went away unto their own home. But Mary stood out at the sepulcher weeping: and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the sepulcher. And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her: Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them: Because they have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said she turned herself back and saw Jesus standing and she knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her: Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing he to be the gardener, saith unto him: Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her: Mary. She turned herself and saith unto him (in Hebrew): Rabboni, which is to say Master. Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say unto them I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had spoken these things unto her.
Let us note that the phrase: Do not go on hugging (my feet like this), in the translation edited by Zappella (2014) appears as: Do not detain me. In the Vulgate reads: Noli me tangere, in the Greek text: μή μου άπτου. The verb άπτω has many meanings, according to the Rocci dictionary (1989), which has words from the Old and the New Testament, in addition to the classic words. My high school friend, the Hellenist Luigi Lehnus, told me, on the phone, that the best meaning is: Do not touch me.
GEOGRAPHIC AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
We now list the places in the above passages, with some geographic or historic considerations:
- At Simon’s the Leper home….
- He precedes them in Galilee….
- A village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him at home….
- The women arrived from Galilee….
- Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and Martha….
- Six days before Passover he went to Bethany….
The principal reference is to the village Bethany, located at about three km from Jerusalem. Bethany is now included in that town, but was still separated at the my first and only visit to Jerusalem in 1975. The etymology of Latin Betania, Greek Βηθανία is uncertain. Bet, Beth, Bayt mean home in Hebrew; as to anya, interpretations are quite various, as poorness, grief, even of the figs.
Here an etymology is proposed referred to the greatest god of the Sumerians: An, Anu, Anum in the Akkadian language. To this god the seven god of destiny are submitted, including Enlil, their leader, his brother Enki, his sister Ninlil; they all participate in the creation of seven human couples in Kharsag, the Sumerian Eden, the biblical Gan or Garden, by us located in Hunza valley, Pakistan, see Spedicato (2004). The word an, anu is found in various languages, including Indo-European languages; as a suffix –an, it is usually related to sky, to deity, to sacredness; it is common in many place-names, for instance Mediol-an-um, Latin for Milan…. Thus, if such reference is right, Bethania-Bethany might be a hybrid word, partly Semitic and partly not Semitic part, indicating a sacred place, associated with the Divine.
Hybrid words are common in Asia, see e.g. the original Indian name of the highest world mountain, Gorishanta. Gori means White Lady in Sanskrit (and in related languages as Urdu). Shan-ta means great mountain in Chinese. Hence we may give to Gorishanta the meaning The white lady of the great mountains, or The white lady that is a great mountain… a very beautiful and expressive name; it is a shame that it is still named Everest, to honor the chief of the English topographic office in India. A name possibly preserved for 99 years by secret agreements when Britain left India, that was divided into two states, at the cost of millions dead….
Then Bethany (or Bethania) appears to be a very suitable name for a place associated to a woman active in sacred ceremonies, and to Jesus visit. As a sacred place name, it may have originated within the Job’s and Melchisedek’s scenario presented in Spedicato (2016), of which we give following synopsis:
- In 2033 AC, a date obtained from the chronology of the Patriarchs, in Genesis, Septuaginta version, and from our date 3161 AC, for the Noachian Deluge, see Spedicato (2017d), a celestial object exploded over the Egyptian Delta, by us identified as the Typhon of Geek mythology. It was an explosion of the super-Tunguska kind, followed by the Ogyges deluge of the Greek tradition; and by other events. The object was probably part of a fragmented larger object, with parts also exploding over Sicily, Lebanon, Penjab… Ogyges flood is classically dated to 600 years before Deukalion flood, dated by Herodotus at 25 generations before the first Olympiad, by us and other researchers at 1447 AC, see Spedicato (2017b).
- The explosion causes the end of the Egyptian Ancient Kingdom, of the Indus civilization to which also contributed the Arian invasion, of Sumerian civilization by Cassite invasion. It causes the migration of Terach with her sons, Abraham and Nachor (a third son dies, during the event, possibly while saving his father) from Ur towards Haran. We claim in Spedicato (2016) that Ur and Haran are two important towns, not in Middle East, but in Kashmir, a statement that can be reinforced by the Mandaean traditions, see Spedicato (2017).
- The explosion effects in Palestine incinerate Job’s sheep, kill his sons within the collapsed house, and cause Job’s painful disease. The exploded object is interpreted by us as the Behemot of Job’s Book. The front wave of the Ogyges deluge, on reaching the Palestinian coast, looks as a giant snake, the Leviathan of Job’s book.
- Job has a dramatic talk with God, for us a shamanic vision. See Giussani (2016) for visions of the Divine by shamans, particularly the Chinese Wu shamans.
- After the catastrophe, Job lives for another 140 years, becoming again a rich man of great authority. Maybe he dwelled in the Palestinian coastal town of Joppa, now called Jaffa, active in trade with Egypt.
- Job, owing to his special experience, and thanks to his shamanic powers and his right behavior, becomes known as Melchisedek, that is Lord of Justice. A title possibly already in possession of someone else, whether by inheritance or by anointment is an open question. From Ethiopian sources Melchisedek was a title of Methuselah, who anointed, also as Melchisedek, his grandchild, Noah, aged ten years. Two Melchisedek then lived at the same time. Two popes live at the moment of writing this paper, two lived as Liberio and Felice in the fourth century, one beheaded finally by the other. According to the Metsehafe Djan Shewa, a Ghe’ez manuscript, the Genesis Melchisedek sent his son Ethel, who afterwards was known as Ethiop, near the Lake of Tana, in Ethiopia; from him the Amharic and Oromo tribes descended. For other Ethiopian traditions about Melchisedek, see Fikre Tolossa (2011). Solomon was a Melchisedek priest, according to apocryphal Solomon’s Songs, see Pierre (1994). According to three documents cited by Sabatier (2009), St Francis consecrated to the Melchisedek order a friar who arrived from Germany, by putting his hands over his head. If this fact is true, then the question arises: had St Francis himself been ordained to Melchisedek order? Perhaps during his trip to Egypt, or to France, places where a connection with MBM can be considered?
- The cult practiced by Job-Melchisedek took place perhaps on the mountain top where Jerusalem was later built. Mountain tops were privileged for ancient cults; the presence of an old tree, or of a special stone, a bethel, were usually enough to indicate its holiness, a chapel or a priest house were not required.
- In such a place Abraham was blessed by Job-Melchisedek when, after 14 years at Haran, he left Kashmir and went to Canaan, stopping on the way in Damascus. Abraham had quarreled with his father Terah. Genesis offers no reason for the fight, while Talmud claims that Abraham destroyed idols belonging to his father. Ginza, the holy text of Mandaeans, states that Abraham left after he was rejected to priesthood of the Mandaic religion of his family due to some physical defect, see Aldihisi (2013). Abraham had destroyed his father’s idols, but when Rebecca left her father Nachor, Abraham’s brother, to become wife to Isaac, she departed hiding at least one idol, possibly on request by Abraham. Nachor searched the caravan departing with Rebecca to Canaan to find the idol, obviously important for him; but Rebecca hid it below her body while on camel and could not be searched since she claimed to be in her menses. Nachor was also father of Laban, Rebecca’s brother. Laban was Leah’s and Rachel’s father, who became Jacob’s wives. Jacob, son of Isaac and grandchild of Abraham, served Laban for twenty years in order to take get them as wives (he actually stayed longer to get additional pretty maidens). So he was absent from Canaan when his father Isaac delivered that land to Sesostris III the Great, 430 years before Exodus, in 1877 BC, without fighting. That was the beginning of the Hebrews submission to the Egyptians, a beginning well hidden in the biblical text, since considered as a shameful event.
- Abraham, after leaving Haran, lived in Damascus for 12 years, then left to Canaan. According to Salibi (1996), Canaan is not Palestine, but a part of Arabia Felix. On the way to Canaan he defeated some enemies, and then met Melchisedek, say in our interpretation the old Job, about 2005 BC. He was blessed by him and paid a tithe. Possibly he had met Job already before the 2033 BC catastrophe, maybe for commercial reasons when living with his father at Ur or Haran. Job, who was probably of Turkish stock, might have traded with Turan and Kashmir. Who exactly was Terah, a man of special importance? Was he a Mandaean priest, as claimed in Ginza? A question needing further research, not only on Hebrew extra-biblical sources but also on Indian or Iranian sources. In Septuaginta Terah is called Thara. This name may relate to word tharasa, meaning gold in the language of Kanthy, a tribe of the Altai, the Mountain of Gold, associated with many people of central-northern Asia, even to Etruscans, alias Thursenoi, very skilled in working granular gold; see Spedicato (2016b).
The above considerations suggest that Melchisedek, Job’s name when an old man, lived near the present Jerusalem, possibly in the Bethany area. A suitable place, a few minutes from the top of the sacred hill of Jerusalem, well visible from Bethany. A place, whose sacredness lasted the two millennia from Job or Abraham to Jesus time. A span of time, two millennia, not so long, acceptable for cult places, whose sacred and topographic stability may last for several millennia, though the local religions may change. An example of stability is the Kabah. Even though Mecca, according to the Koran, was built by Abraham, so for us about 2000 AC, see Boubakeur (2002), the Kabah temple, with 360 statues of gods before their elimination by Mohammed perhaps was older. Notice that 360 statues existed also in a white stone dual temple in Asir, respected by Mohammed, destroyed by Ibn Saud. Maybe it was built by Shivaitic colonists from India before 2000 BC, hence before the Arian invasion. We observe in Arabia several places whose names suggest Shiva, Rama and Mount Meru, nowadays Kailas, names related to pre Arian times.
We notice that some rich men – so appear to be Simon the Leper and Lazarus, with his two sisters – lived outside Jerusalem, in a village without walls, exposed to Bedouin raids and Roman drunken soldiers. A settlement possibly of few houses, some fortified; the main protection was its sacredness and the presence of persons with a religious charisma. We remember the taboo in ancient times against attacking certain persons or certain specialists, as traders. That taboo was still extant at the end of 19th century, in the forests of Equatorial Africa. Tradesmen could enter without injury even the territory of cannibal tribes, see Kingsley (1897).
Our hypothesis is that Bethany, often visited by Jesus, was a special place, with some sacred features, different and independent from those of the Hebrew Orthodoxy; such features of antiquity and authority protected the people living there.
As for Jerusalem, the town was founded by some 200.000 Hyksos, see Manetho in Joseph Flavius, on the hill where in our approach Melchisedek used to pray. The Hyksos, besieged for a long time at Avaris in the Egyptian delta, a very strongly fortified town, saved their life by surrendering and leaving Egypt, being allowed to settle where Jerusalem is now. Such choice – given their Turanian or Turkish origin, see Spedicato (2014), and the probable Turkish origin of Job as well – was possibly by recalling that Job-Melchisedek, of Turkish stock, once lived there. According to Velikovsky (1953) the Hyksos were defeated by Saul, ally of Ahmose, Pharaoh of south Egypt, first king of the great 18th dynasty. Velikovsky’s chronology differs from the standard one by some centuries, but is in agreement with Newton’s chronology, given in the book that he considered his master-piece: The chronology of ancient people amended. According to Bible, Saul was made king after the 410 years period of the Judges, starting from the conquest of Canaan (about 1407 AC), so in 997 AC. The building of Solomon’s temple began in 967 AC. Here we cannot discuss why archaeologists have not found traces of such temple in Jerusalem; they found only trace of the later temple built after the exile and put in final shape by Herod the Great; an explanation is found in Salibi (1996). In the quoted texts the name Galilee appears, regarding the part of Palestine north of Judea, with capital Sepphoris at Jesus days. Here we find also Nazareth. In addition to the Palestinian Galilee (Jalil in Arabic) there exists also a Valley of Galilee (Wadi Jalil) in Hejaz, Arabia, about a hundred km from Mecca. According to Salibi (2007) Jesus family came from this part of Arabia, moving to Egypt, just before the slaughter of the innocents, that took place in this valley; see Spedicato (2015). The family settled in Hermopolis, according to Jacopo di Varagine (1952), for some seven years. Then it moved to the Palestinian Nazareth, probably a village where Hebrews from Wadi Jalil worked in the building of Sepphoris.
We don’t know whether the women who followed Jesus were related to Wadi Jalil. But we note that Johanna was Chuza’s wife, Herod’s proxy; Herod’s family was related to the royal families of Arabia, Herod’s wife was Arabian. The women who went with Jesus must have known that he came from Wadi Jalil, the place that Paul possibly visited in his three years in Arabia, for obscure reasons; some of these women could have visited the original place of Jesus family.
We conclude this section with another hypothesis about Bethany. We observed that such place was very near to Jerusalem, and that persons lived there, who were important either for their wealth (Simon the Leper) or also for religious authority (Lazarus and his sisters). There are no archaeological traces that Bethany had walls. But the houses of rich people – and a Mary that brings the costly nard, worthy 300 denarii, certainly was rich – were possible object of bandits from the nearby Jude desert (Bedouins or Idumeans, always hostile to the Hebrews, Jude’s descendants); or at the risk of raids by drunken Roman soldiers, who detested the local religion. We remember the episode, in Josephus Flavius, of the Roman soldier on duty at the Temple, who in contempt for the circumcised Hebrews lifted up his garment showing to be uncircumcised. There was an uproar and three thousand men were crushed. So it is likely that the houses of Bethany, at least those of the rich men, were fortified. They were probably provided with a tower, as we see in many ancient farms in Salento peninsula. Such farms often were built at the times when Turkish incursions were feared, after the fall of Constantinople. Some go back to the Middle Ages, and keep the structure of the rustic Roman villa. About half those farms possess a tower, see Costantini (2006). The towers have usually two floors, sometimes three; in such a case the second floor is used by the owners, the third one is for the protection of goods. The tower walls may be two meters thick, with stairs and store-rooms on their inside. The farm had surrounding walls, premises for servants and animals, a cistern and a well, if there was water in the subsoil. Sometimes, bee-hives and smaller cylindrical towers for pigeons, usually homing pigeons. Homing pigeons were used in sanctuaries and in other important places. Killing them was punished with death, in the Greek world. They were domesticated and could carry information over thousands km, doing over 600 km a day. Similar use of pigeons is known for Iran, Egypt, China (maybe even America, where billions of pigeons existed till their extinction at end of 19th century). See Adravanti (2016).
From the Tamil author Ilango Adigal, see Daniélou (1965), we know that traders’ houses of the great harbor town of Puhar, – a town placed between Madras and the Comorin Cape ( kumara means virgin, in the Tamil language), quoted in the Ramayana and in Periplus of the Red Sea – were provided of high towers. The Comorin Cape is the southern point of India, facing Sri Lanka. Such houses, in the center of the town, had great walls and their towers were used as warehouses for prized goods.
Also sacred buildings were fortified, see many monasteries of Athos Mount and, e.g., the little monastery, with a Basilian church, of Madonna del Casale, at Ugento (Salento). Such structures reflect buildings of more ancient times. Augustine in his Confessions talks about three friends who were building a monastery at Trier, beginning from the tower. We note in the Gospel the following odd passage:
Luke 14, 28-30: For which of you, intending to build a tower sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him…
An odd passage the above because certainly not everybody can build a tower, or a house with a tower. Therefore this passage refers to special people, furnished of economic means; or it refers to some recent episode. Maybe it refers to a well known tower of private citizens; thought runs to the tower that possibly existed at Bethany, well in sight of the nearby Jerusalem, where Jesus had been a guest.
Such a tower could be a high tower, a three-floor one, like the highest towers of the Salento farms. In this case the supper with Jesus might have taken place at the second floor. At the third floor, may be in some cavity in the walls, precious goods kept, the family of Lazarus dealing in perfumes – not only nard, probably also musk from Tibet via Kashmir – byssus (may be that of the Manoppello image), valued wool from Kashmir, silk (silken carpets are still made in Kashmir), precious stones, like lapislazuli, medical herbs from Tibetan, the most important center for such plants, imported via Kashmir. Also in ancient times goods traveled for thousand km.
The word magdala, migdol in Hebrew means tower. Such word is found also in Egyptian, see Ferrero (2010, page 142). We remember that migdol appears as a geographic place in Exodus. When Moses saw the Egyptian army arriving, on ships, see Spedicato (2014), he was between Migdol, in the north, and Baal Seefon in the south, that’s to say between the present day Eilat and Ras Muhammad, in our interpretation. Other identifications of places named Magdala can be found in the literature. In the Leggenda aurea, see also Vitale Brovarone (1995), it is stated that Magdalene was of royal origin, her father having been governor in Syria. She had possessions with her brothers at Bethany, Jerusalem and Magdala, placed on the western shore of the Lake Tiberias, or Lake Genesaret.
MARY OF BETHANY AND MARY OF MAGDALA: THE SAME PERSON?
In this section we propose our first hypothesis, namely that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany are the same person. Our hypothesis is not new. Eisenman (2007) states that it was common in the first two centuries of the Christian era, see also Lupieri, in Stefani (2011). Later it was opposed by Tertullian, Origen, Ilarius of Poitiers, saints John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome. It was supported again by pope Gregory I, known as Gregory the Great, in the sixth century, see Leggenda Aurea (1952) or Augias and Vannini (2013). It is claimed as true in the memoirs of Maria Valtorta, a clairvoyant and a mystic, who died in 1961; her memoirs approved by Pius XII. This author learnt about Valtorta by chance, while speaking with the sopranos Mariella Angioletti and Margherita Guglielmi, to appear in his second book on 108 encounters in opera world. Both artists knew that the two women were the same, from book 10 of Maria Valtorta memoirs.
Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene are the same person. Here she will be called MBM.
Why such Mary is called in the Gospels with different terms as from Bethany or as Magdalene may have various explanations. It might be consequence of the wish of the Evangelists to be vague about her, unwilling to disclose completely her role in Jesus’ life. A silence not due to morality reasons, or as a cover-up of a romantic liaison, as proposed by some recently. But for the relation she had, within our scenario, with a religiosity different from the Hebrew orthodox one. She was a woman, and the Gospels, written after Paul’s teaching, tended to downplay women and to hide any their important role at religious level. Thus references to her were incomplete and ambiguous.
Before considering the second hypothesis, we consider the time sequence of events concerning MBM. Their analysis will bring to the second hypothesis. The driving away of the seven demons plays a crucial role, an episode that Gospels describe only briefly, here quoted as first.
Luke 7, 36: And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house brought an alabaster box of ointment. And stood at his feet behind him weeping and began to wash his feet with tears and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself saying: This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
Mark 16, Luke 8: To Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
Luke 10: Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his word.
John 11, 1: Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair.
Luke 8, 1: And it came to pass afterward that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s Steward, and Susanna and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.
John 12, 1: Then six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper: and Martha served; but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
Below an event between the Sanhedrin conspiracy and the Last Supper, presumably after the dinner where Mary anoints Jesus’ feet and dries them with her hair.
Matthew 2: Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the Leper, there came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. But when his disciples saw it they had indignation, saying: To what purpose is this waste? Or this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them: Why trouble ye the woman? For she hath wrought a good work upon me, for ye have the poor always with you, but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily say unto you wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
John 19, 25: Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas , and Mary Magdalene.
Mark 15, 40: There were also women looking on a far off among whom was Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James the less, and of Joses, and Salome. Who, also when he was in Galilee, followed him and ministered unto him, and many other women, which came up with him unto Jerusalem.
Luke 23: And the women also which came with him from Galilee, followed after and beheld the sepulcher and how his body was laid. And they returned and prepared spices; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.
Matthew 28, 1: In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn, toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.
Mark 16, 1, passim: And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun. .. Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that been with him, as they mourned and wept.
Luke 24: 1 e passim: Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the spices that they had prepared and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away… And returned from the sepulcher and told all these things unto the eleven and unto all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things to the apostles. …
John 20: The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. Then she runneth and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them: They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth and that other disciple, and came to the sepulcher… But Mary stood without at the sepulcher, weeping; and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the sepulcher, and seeth two angels in white… And when she had thus said, she turned herself back and saw Jesus standing and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her: Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She supposing him to be the gardener saith unto him: Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her: Mary. She turned herself and saith unto him: Rabboni; which it to say Master. Jesus saith unto her: Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father, but go to the my brethren and say unto them that I ascend into my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God. Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had spoken these things to her.
In the light of First Hypothesis, that Mary from Bethany and Mary from Magdala are the same person, active in rites of possibly oriental origin, endowed with shamanic powers, let us now consider the above episodes:
-…. to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. Such event, typical of an exorcist, might be linked to curing a disease, say a psychic problem, or to driving away demons, an action still made by catholic exorcists, see Milingo and Padre Amorth. But it is possible – if Mary was a practitioner of oriental rites – that the event that Jesus interrupted was a trance. It is well known that a person going into trance enters into a terrifying state: convulsive movements, high jumps, an apparently enormous weight, cannot be displaced, utters strong sounds and strange voices. In Adigal’s Shilappadikaram (Daniélou 1965), a work dated at third century AC, there is a description of a young woman trance: contracted lips, red eyes, abundant sweat, threatening postures of the arms, an unrecognizable change of voice and emission of inspired words.
– Trance may come all at once. It can be very disagreeable for the person who experiences it, and who often would like to get rid of. See Balzer (1998) for an extensive survey of trances in the recent Siberian world. In our case, MBM might have produced seven types of voices, or might have spoken seven languages, whence the idea of the seven demons, albeit seven is a sacred number often used by default. On the rituality of such a number see Meri Lao (2013), or Spedicato (2017c). That certain persons can speak various languages, in special conditions, is known. My teacher of religion at Manzoni high school in Milan, don Giovanni Barbareschi, who was don Gnocchi’s assistant and rescued several Hebrews in the war time, while working on his dissertation met a woman in Valtellina. She was a nun, bereft of any education, who in trance could speak in ancient languages. Also Teresa Neumann, a Bavarian country-woman living in the first half of 20th century, was known for speaking Greek, beyond her dialect. She was known also for stigmata, and for losing on Friday liters of blood, regained on Sunday, by feeding on one Host. For phenomena of such kind see Guitton and Antier (1994), but especially the great work on shamanism by Mircea Eliade (1999).
– Trances characterize shamans generally; they are better known for Siberian and Tibetan shamans. They involve both men and women. While in trance, prophecies are often uttered; in Tibet, before the Chinese arrival, there was a State Oracle, called Nechung, consulted, while in trance, on state problems. He fled with the Dalai Lama after Chinese arrival. From Balzer (1998) we know that trances use much energy of the shaman, who often – as said – is happy to be freed. Often, not always, shamanic gifts are inherited from parents or grandfathers and can appear in various family members. Moreover, see Eliade (1999), the shaman, after the initiation, is usually helped by seven spirits. Thus the Gospel passage on casting out seven demons from Magdalene may be seen as the removal of the seven spirits assisting the shaman. Demon is a word that in the classic world has not generally a negative meaning, as evident in Plato.
Thus we may conjecture that MBM was endowed with shamanic capacities, and that she suffered by them. She was cured by Jesus. Where and when Jesus action took place we don’t know, but probably at the beginning of their relationship.
After having been freed from her trances, MGM followed Jesus with some persons of her circle, who had been previously her followers. We find in history women even of great political power and with great religious influence. One is the Chinese empress Wu Zetian, who lived between 624 and 705, founder of the Zhou dynasty. During her reign Buddhism developed at the expense of Taoism and Confucianism, following also the journey to India of the monk Xuan Zang. The monk returned after 17 years, bringing many books and celebrating the great statue of Buddha in Balkh, Afghanistan, 90 meters high, recently destroyed by Talibans. Wu built similar Buddhas in China, still existing, some seventy meters tall. Women even today are chiefs of communities. See the aboriginal Munda in central India, where Daniélou (2004) noted a very ancient woman as the leader of the village; a fact observed also in the matriarchal societies in southern India. Also among the Lovara, originating as all gypsies from India, the chief is usually the oldest woman, see Yoors (1990).
In Luke 7, 37 we read: And behold a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now, when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake in within himself saying. This man, if he were a prophet would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
We observe that the woman, to be identified in MBM from another reference in John 11, is defined a sinner in the Pharisee mind. Such definition is usually considered as referring to MBM as a whore, or anyway a woman of easy virtue. Even in the recent Guide to the Jubilee of Mercy, edited by Natale Benazzi, Piemme, 2015, Pope Francesco calls her a public sinner; similar judgement in the Catalogue of the exhibition on Magdalene, Loreto, 2016, by Vittorio Sgarbi.
In our scenario the sin has no sexual nature, but it relates, being thus much worse for Hebrews, to her religious activity involving demon powers, service of other gods, not orthodox rites. Additionally note, from Eisenman (2007), whose claim uses recent documents from Qumram, that fornication consists of only three objective facts, say: marriage between brother and sister, marriage between uncle and niece; intercourse with a menstruating woman. Sins applying to both man and woman, generally uncommon and unlikely to be attributed to Mary Magdalene. Also note that Solomon, defined in the Bible as the man with the greatest degree of wisdom, a gift incompatible with a sinner, and moreover extremely gifted of science and glory – as Jesus remembers many times – is nevertheless criticized and considered a sinner, particularly in extra-biblical texts. His sin was to allow the cult of the foreign gods of his foreign wives. About the destiny of such wives after Solomon died, and of his likely children from them, the Bible is strangely silent. See Spedicato (2016a) for a never considered possible solution to the enigma.
Two ointments of Jesus feet by a woman appear in the quoted Gospels:
– Luke 7, when Jesus has supper with a Pharisee, named Simon.
– John 12, in Bethany, six days before Passover .
Ointment of feet appears in several countries of the world, with different symbolic values, among them submission. To bend down and to kiss the feet is an act often made in the east towards kings or chiefs; also done by the wife towards her husband; in Rome by slaves, whose task was to wash the feet of their masters. It was performed by Santa Chiara, abbess, to her sisters, see Frugoni (2011). Such act was still in use in India, in the past century, see Daniélou (2004): One day the queen mother of a great family of maharajahs had come to have a cup of tea. Gulab brought the trays… but before serving he bowed down before the queen, touching her feet. She appeared much surprised, blessed him, embraced him: Gulab, you here! I am very much happy!
The anointment by MBM is accompanied by weeping and drying of Jesus feet with her hair. This action may be seen, in our scenario, as a way of recognizing in Jesus, she being a shaman woman, a higher level. Maybe she recognized somebody she was waiting for, as was the case with the pious Simon and the prophetess Ann. These two persons, see Luke 2, see Mary and Joseph arriving in the temple with the boy, and proclaim his role of light and salvation. Moreover Simon foretells to Mary that a sword will pierce her soul.
MBM’s weeping might come from the emotion for having been set free from the trance; but also from knowing, by some prophetic reason, that the person she was waiting for and whom she kissed, would die soon. I doubt the usual claim that she cried for her sins… Is there anybody crying for a carnal sin ?
Third anointing by MBM is in our scenario that of Jesus head in Bethany, at Simon’s the Leper house, probably after the anointing of his feet, still in Bethany, but in Mary’s house. The name of the woman anointing the head is not given, possibly to hide the special meaning of this anointing, stronger than anointing feet. Physically anointing the head often marks in antiquity the act of giving to someone the role of king. See – in Hebrew history – the first king, who ascends the throne after the 410 years of the Judges. He is Saul, anointed by the prophet Samuel, as we read in Samuel 10, 1: Then Samuel took the oil ampulla and poured it on his head, then embraced him saying…. In the Bible, anointing concerned also the Supreme Priests, a procedure later extended to other priests; in Christianity it is extended to everyone in the confirmation sacrament, although with a lesser meaning
In Exodus 29,7 Aaron, Moses’ elder brother, is anointed by Moses according to God’s orders: … You must take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him. Thus anointing in the Hebrew world was a tradition extant from at least 1500 years, Exodus dated at about 1450 BC, see Spedicato (2014). But it may be a more ancient rite, considering the variant that substitutes oil with water. In fact, sprinkling the head with water is not only a feature of John’s baptism, and later of Christian baptism; it can be found in rites of other peoples and with other beliefs, especially the Mandaeans. We also remember an event in Juvenal. A sorceress in winter used to break the ice of Tiber, that in winter froze at that time; then she immersed herself in the water stark naked and sprinkled water on her head. The origin of such rite may be derived, see Spedicato (2016d), from the arrival on earth, in 6910 BC, of the so-called cosmic waters. These waters came from Jupiter after the impact that the giant planet suffered with an object of planetary dimension, the Metis in the Greek mythology, Nibiru in the Sumerian, Tiamat in the Babilonian, Vritra in the Vedic, Ahriman in Iranian… waters arriving in splashes, on all our planet, not associated with clouds. They were considered sacred by their association with Jupiter, which loomed very great in the sky, as a Cosmic Egg, or Nut’s womb…
Also note that Mary Magdalene anointed using a very precious nard ointment. A sign of her being rich and having that precious stuff easily available, maybe at home for sale to rich people; an ointment imported from India. The ointment used in biblical rites was cheaper. In Exodus 30,23 the perfumed oil for sacred ointment consists of 500 shekels of myrrh, 250 of aromatic cinnamon, 250 of aromatic cane, 500 of cassia; one hin, about one gallon, of olive oil, see Zoppi (2016).
The woman that in Simon’s the Leper house anoints Jesus on the head performs then a sacred, very ancient, rite, typical of a performer with special powers. Those present in the room knew who she was, maybe they understood the meaning of her action, about which the Gospels are silent, as in other instances. What MBM does is defined by Jesus a good work. Words that may be not only an appreciation of the honor received, but the recognition of its sacred meaning. And Jesus’ words – done for my burial – may recognize MBM prophetic skills.
MBM stands near the cross, usually a privilege only for relatives but given to her, either for her known sacred role, which the Romans respected or feared, or for possible bonds with Herod’s family. We note that Johanna, wife of Chuza, a high officer of Herod, before becoming one of the women following Jesus, was probably among the followers of Magdalene.
MBM is between those who carry Jesus body to the grave, with perfumes and ointments for the body. She had to be well informed about that stuff, probably in possession of her family for trade reasons.
MBM was the first to run to the grave and the first to see Jesus. A very special role, related to her spiritual attraction for Jesus and to her anointing. May be also related to what Jesus said to her during their talk in her house in Bethany; she was so engrossed to be reproached by Martha. MBM probably understood Jesus better than his relatives, or disciples, according to various apocryphal, as Mary’s Gospel, found at Nag Hammadi, see Lupieri, in Stefani (2011).
From the above we detail the following scenario:
– Mary Magdalene and Mary from Bethany, our MBM acronym, are the same person, as already said by other scholars, from the first Christian centuries.
– After Jesus liberated her from the seven demons, say from a painful trance, MBM thanks him and honors his superiority by anointing his feet.
– In the visit by Jesus to the fortified Mary’s home in Bethany, MBM’s knowledge of Jesus deepens.
– She becomes a disciple and follows him to Galilee, with other women; many of them probably already followed her as a holy woman, a shaman and a prophetess.
– She anoints Jesus a second time on his feet in Bethany, probably six days before Passover, foreseeing and crying his near death.
– She anoints him the third time on the head, at Simon’s the Leper home, for a special purpose, say doing a good thing, as Jesus says. Note that such good thing happens in the house of a leper, probably a rich Pharisee, who according to Mosaic Law could not live inside the sacred town. It was a meaningful act, within the logic of Jesus teaching. An anointment that, taking place in a home well frequented, became immediately known to many people.
On the meaning of good thing see the hypothesis in the next section.
JESUS ANOINTED TO THE ORDER OF MELCHISEDEK?
For a deeper understanding on MBM’s actions, particularly the ointment of Jesus head, which took place a little time before Passover and the Passion, we must leave the Gospels and consider a letter of saint Paul. Then we arrive at out next conjecture, namely that MBM, with her third anointment, consecrates Jesus to the order of Melchisedek. A very special fact, performed by a woman, outside of Hebraic rites and moreover performed in the house of a Leper.
In the Gospels, Melchisedek is never explicitly quoted, but an implicit reference exists. In Matthew 22, 43, David’s psalm 109 is cited: The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool… Then the psalm adds, not repeated in Matthew: The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek. We note that the use of an enemy as a footstool is not symbolic. The Persian emperor Shapur I compelled the captive Roman emperor Valerian to bend acting as a footstool when he was mounting a horse.
In Mark, 14, 22 blessing and breaking bread, and blessing and giving wine, have been tied by commentators to Genesis 14, 18-20, see Pentateuch by Sacchi (2012): And Melchisedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God and he blessed him [Abraham] and said…
An explicit relation of Jesus to Melchisedek priesthood appears in a Paul’s letter, rich in information for many fields, say the Letter to the Hebrews. This letter is not considered authentic by many commentators, but is part of the catholic canon. Paul, besides being a man of great activity (first against Jesus followers, afterward supporting a Christianity amply defined by his ideas), was a person with important relations and a great culture. He had been disciple of the great rabbi Gamaliel, himself probably a disciple of the other great rabbi Hillel.
Now we give the passages of the Letter to the Hebrews related to Jesus and Melchisedek. We use Paul’s Letters in the same book used for the above Gospel passages, omitting words of a theological character and the reference to Abraham, of historical character.
Letter to the Hebrews , 5, 1-6: For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God … No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but he that said unto him thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place: thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedek.
Letter to the Hebrews, 5, 6-20: Jesus made a high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek.
Letter to the Hebrews, 7, 11-17: … If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedek and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he for whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedek there ariseth another priest, who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek.
From the above, we derive the following considerations:
– The Melchisedek cited by Paul is the one who meets Abraham. As recalled before, in Spedicato (2016c) it is claimed that he was Job, elevated to the Melchisedek priesthood. We ignore if Paul knew that to such priesthood were elevated, according to Ethiopic texts, also Methuselah and Noah; according to Gnostic texts also Seth, third son of Abraham; maybe also Solomon, see Pierre (1994).
– Paul speaks of a priestly order one after Aaron and one after Melchisedek. So a religious order appears to be extant after some 3000 years, whose rituals of transmission had to be appropriately handed down. The Ethiopic text refers to anointing. Jesus goes through three anointing. The one on the head should be the important one. In fact Jesus calls it a good deed, opus enim bonum operata est in me: έργον γάρ καλόν ηργάσατο είς εμέ. Modern translation does not render well what appears, in Latin and in Greek, to be a good, a special thing, that happens to him. On the meaning of such anointing, more in a next section.
– Moreover Jesus becomes such priest not thanks to human law, but for the power of an indestructible life: a phrase whose meaning is still unclear to this author.
Using also what discussed in previous pages, we formulate the second hypothesis:
MBM, say Mary of Bethany alias Mary Magdalene, in the home of Simon the Leper, by anointing Jesus him on the head, consecrates him unto the priesthood of Melchisedek, on the basis of a special power somehow transmitted to her, as a priestess and a prophetess.
If such assumption is correct, we get some extraordinary conclusions:
– Consecration takes place through a woman, who is a sinner according to the Hebrews and standard exegesis; but we have claimed that she was not guilty of the carnal sins usually assumed within a limited vision. It is an anointing that gives to Jesus a special qualification, and a one of hoary antiquity. Its transmission along the centuries is a question unresolved presently. MBM is a woman that complements the role of John the Baptist’s, who only used water. As a woman, MBM was perhaps superior to John, albeit the Baptist is for Mandaeans the greatest of their prophets. It is unfortunate that the sacred book of John, still extant in the original manuscript with lead pages, owned some year ago by a great priest in Ahwaz, see Buckley (2002), is still not available in English. The recent translation into Arabic by Sabah Aldihisi (2013) is unpublished. There exists an old translation into German by Lidzbarski (1915).
– The anointing takes place in the house of a leper, an impure man… Magdalene, did you reincarnate in Mother Theresa? whose sanctification I followed, a sunny day in Saint Peter square… pondering on Saint Peter’s route after his arrival in Italy … a dedication of this book is to Mother Theresa assistant, sister Mary Magdalene…
– After the anointing, it appears that two Melchisedek priests, Mary and Jesus, exist. Similar duality existed after Methuselah anointed Noah, his ten-years old grandchild; they both were Melchisedek for nearly 600 years, if we accept Genesis chronology, Methuselah dying just before the deluge. After Jesus died, as only Melchisedek remained MBM, whose life since then presents interesting problems…
– Again a problem is what happened to Melchisedek order after MBM died; notice our previous reference from Sabatier (2009) to St Francis and the German monk that he ordained to Melchisedek order. Was St Francis ordained himself as Melchisedek? Where, by whom?
JESUS AS CHRIST AND MESSIAH
Jesus is also called Christ or Messiah. These two names have the same meaning, in two different languages, say:
– Christ from the Greek Christòs, χριστός means anointed.
– Messiah, from Hebrew Mashìah, see also Arabian al–Masih, means anointed.
A crucial question is why Jesus is named the anointed. From the following passage of the Gospel we see that a special event took place, in his time and in his life:
Luke 4, 16-20; and partially also Matthew and Mark. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and as his custom was he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias: And when he had opened the book he found the place (61, 1-2) where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor… And he closed the book and he gave it again to the minister and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them: This day, in this scripture, fulfilled in your ears…
The above text in Italian by Robaldo has a note affirming that anointed , appearing in the translation, means consecrated. In Zappella’s translation into Italian there is no anointed, but consecrated. The Latin text says: Spiritus Domini super me, propter quod unxit me… Here unxit indicates the actual action of anointing; the Greek text has έχρισέν με, that’s to say anointed with ointment, from the verb χρίω. The original text and the Vulgata present a concrete action, that modern translators shade off into an indefinite gesture. Only the final outcome is considered, of theological value, following the modern trend, with depreciates historical information, looking only at symbolic values, an approach by which almost everything can be stated.
Jesus is anointed and consecrated as CHRIST or MESSIAH by a woman, Mary Magdalene, alias Mary of Bethany.
A gesture, that of MBM, which makes her an extraordinary partner of God’s Son, at least at the level of John the Baptist. A troubling truth for theologians or doctors of the law (they shall enter the reign of the skies after the prostitutes, someone said) for whom the analysis of the sacred is the duty of men, about which women must hold their tongues; men to whom women must obey, as wives or daughters; better moreover if they remain in the most perfect state, that of a virgin. Sic legitur in Paulo ac in Hyeronimo.
A FAMILY OF SHAMANS AND THE CASE OF LAZARUS
Lazarus appears in the Gospels as the brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany; he is called Jesus friend, but no words of him are related. John, 11, 1-46 describes one of the most important episodes in the Gospels. It is the so-called resurrection of Lazarus, dead since four days. Interpretations of the episode are very different, here we give the one by Salibi’s (2007), in full spirit of theological analyses of these days:
– Lazarus is not a person, but a statue of a god of fertility.
– The statue becomes inactive, hence the god is considered “dead” and Jesus is called to give it again life.
– Lazarus resurrects, becoming again an active fertility statue.
Now we give passages from John’s Gospel, 11, 1 et al, and then our new interpretation.
Now a certain man was sick named Lazarus of Bethany… Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying: Lord behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that he said: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God. That the Son of God might be glorified thereby… He (Jesus) abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples: let us go into Judaea again… Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples: Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly: Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sake that I was not there, to the intent you may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him… Then when Jesus came he found that he had lain in the grave four days already… Then when Mary was come where Jesus was and saw him she fell down at his feet, saying unto him: Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died… (Jesus) cometh to the grave. It was a cave and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said: Take away the stone… he cried with a loud voice: Lazarus, come forth. And he that dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said to them: Loose him and let him go.
Now some observations and hypotheses.
– We noted that MBM shows shamanic features, the release from the seven demons suggesting the release from a painful trance. We also know that shamanic features are generally transmitted from parents or ancestors, albeit they may show up in only one single son or daughter.
– Thus it is possible that Lazarus, Mary’s brother, had he too shamanic features.
– In addition to trance, a rarer phenomenon, and a more spectacular one, is the shamanic sleep, where the body loses all life signs, especially heartbeat and breathing. Nevertheless the body shows no signs of decomposition. The body returns to life suddenly. The persons who have made such experience generally describe it as affecting the soul, the spirit, that apparently abandons the body, moves to other space-dimensions, or out of space, for a special journey, often named an astral journey.
– An example of shamanic journey appears in Black Elk, chief of the Sioux. After the defeat of his people, he worked in Buffalo Bill’s circus, the Barnum circus that visited Europe for a long period; in Milan, it was seen by my grandmother. Black Elk was having dinner in a Paris restaurant with a woman-friend and a medical doctor. He collapsed on the table with no signs of life. He was brought to the hospital, gave no signs of life during three days, but also no symptoms of a dead person. When it was decided to bury him, he returned to life. He said that he had flown beyond the Atlantic, to the land of his tribe.
– A similar shamanic travel appears in the Dalai Lama autobiography, referring to his teacher; it lasted thirteen days.
– Another example seems to appear in the last book of Plato’s Republic, quoted by Eliade (1999). A man from Pamphylia, named Er, twelve days dead after being killed in battle, awoke on the funeral pile. He told that his soul had journeyed to a place where certain judges were judging the souls of the dead.
So Lazarus may have experienced a shamanic sleep, well known to Jesus. Jesus ended the sleep thanks to his powers, superior to those of shamans. We indeed observe:
– Lazarus is declared sick, without information on the type of sickness; Jesus declares that it is a sickness that does not cause death. If the reference is to physical death, and not to a symbolic death, as intended by some exegetes, then Jesus is right in declaring that Lazarus shall not die, since he knows that Lazarus is a special state, not of true death, not of standard life. An intermediate state, which has no name, being a very rare state.
– The sickness of Lazarus might have been characterized by some unusual ophenomenon, preceding the shamanic sleep, that he was possibly experiencing for the first time. See Eliade (1999), on the fact that a sickness called initiatory sickness often precedes the activation of the shamanic sleep and journey.
– Jesus declares that Lazarus is sleeping, but I go to awake him… is dead… using words compatible with a shamanic sleep, whose nature intermediate between sleep and death could not to be explained to the disciples.
– The Lazarus story appears to this writer to be a careful description of a real event, that is a rare human experience, with Jesus powers acting not upon a dead man, but also not upon a normal living man. Lazarus is in a state, maybe never scientifically studied, intermediate between life and death. Natural processes are stopped, soul-spirit-conscience is disconnected from normal interaction with the body (an interaction still mysterious to science and theology), features characterizing the shamanic sleep.
An interesting related question may be considered about the death of Jesus. Acts of the Apostles (by tradition written by Luke, medical doctor, friend of Paul of Tarsus), 2, 31-32, Vulgate, state: David locutus est de Resurrectione Christi, quia neque derelictus est in inferno neque caro eius vidit corruptionem. Hunc Jesum resuscitavit Deus, cuius omnes nos testes sumus.
The above passage claims the absence of corpse-like effects on Jesus. Jesus remained in the grave nominally for three days, actually for about 48 hours, 6 in the first and 6 in the third day. This is a short period, but enough to activate some corpse-like symptoms, apart from the curious reference to him not being abandoned εις άδην, in inferno… The Acts may point to a special shamanic-like journey of Jesus to meet the souls of the dead, and release them from inferno. See similar statements in many Church Fathers, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus…Also in Thomas Aquinas, who equally use inferno or inferi, see for instance Ildefonso from Bressanvido (1801), or Vence (1841). The trip to inferi is part of the Catholic Credo.
A final observation about Lazarus put in the grave. He is enveloped by grave-clothes and has a napkin put on his face. We can relate the grave-clothes to the long tissue used on Jesus body, now identified, as many believe, with the Turin Syndon; the napkin on the face may correspond to the napkin on the face of Jesus, now kept in Manoppello, called Volto Santo. Both napkins were probably put by MBM.
FINAL OBSERVATIONS AND CONCLUSION.
The ideas presented in this paper are mainly based on the canonical Gospels, on Paul’s letter to the Hebrews and Genesis statements about Melchisedek, with our interpretation that Job, when old, was known as Melchisedek. This study could be further developed, using, albeit of generally less value, information in the Apocryphals, see D’Agostini (2008) for all references there to Magdalene, in the Church Fathers or Doctors (especially Gregory the Great), in medieval authors (we have made some use of Jacopo de Varagine), and in modern scholars. The total number of texts that could be considered is certainly of several thousands, beyond the possibility of study by this author.
An interesting problem is if the Three Wise Men (Magi), probably of Turkish origin from the Altai Mountains, see Spedicato (2016b), had some connection with Magdalene family. They arrived in Jerusalem for Jesus birth, following a Zoroaster’s prophecy, according to apocryphal sources. They could have left to someone in Jerusalem a prophecy on Jesus Passion of which MBM was aware, the true motive of her emotion in meeting Jesus and of her crying by knowing of his soon forthcoming Passion.
Also information should be looked not only in written documents, but in art documents, especially in paintings, which in the past were not only documents of phantasy, but expressed on oral or written, possibly now lost, information. See for instance Poma Swank (2015), who has a detailed analysis of Magdalene paintings, she too considering Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany as the same person.
If our thesis is correct, then the greatness of Mary Magdalene alias Mary of Bethany takes an extraordinary significance. Also extraordinary is the role that Jesus attributes to a woman, a spiritual role, not a biological one; and all this against the silence in the Evangelists and Paul.
Special thanks to Annamaria Poma Swank, author of Maria detta la Maddalena, la donna senza nome, for information and constructive criticism. And to Ali Faraj, philologist and archaeologist at Baghdad University, now at Biblioteca Ambrosiana, for providing books and documents on Mandaeans and for preparing the translation of this paper into Arabic.
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In the following some images relative to MBM, from Internet.
First image: Giotto, Noli me tangere; below a detail of the same.
Second image: Magdalene’s face: in Duccio of Boninsegna, with a probable spike container.
Third image: Magdalene, by Luca Signorelli, with a container, perfume or oil.