Thoughts on ancient gospels and the like

2 October 2007

Salome: goddess, saint, disciple, herodian

Filed under: Desposynoi,Female characters,Herodians,hypostasis,Mark — markandmore @ 19:05
  1. There are two Salomes in Josephus: Salome, the sister of Herod, called the Great; and Salome daughter of Herod son of Herod “the Great” and Mariamne daughter of Boethus. On her mother’s side, this second Salome was daughter of Herodias, daughter of Aristobulus who was son of Herod “the Great” and his other wife also called Mariamne who was one of the last survivors of the Maccabean dynasty. Also note that the second Salome was first cousin to Berenice, wife to two kings, to the Alabarch of Alexandria, and lover of the Roman emperor Titus.salome1.jpg
  2. In Mark 6.22 or Matthew 14:6-8, an unnamed daughter of Herodias dances for the brother of her father, her step-father, King Herod (not be confused with Herod “the Great” although neither Mark nor Matthew make this clear) in exchange for the head of John the Baptist. Given that the second Salome in Josephus is the daughter of Herodias and Herod, it is not unreasonable that the dancer is widely assumed to be Salome.
  3. The execution of John the Baptist as described by Josephus in Jewish Antiquities, 18, 5,2 mentions neither Herodias, nor Salome nor any other daughter.
  4. If there is a historical basis to the Mark/Matthew story perhaps it is found in Cassius Dio, Roman History, 66.15.3-5: “[Berenice] dwelt in the palace, cohabiting with Titus. She expected to marry him and was already behaving in every respect as if she were his wife.; but when he perceived that the Romans were displeased with the situation, he sent her away. For, in addition to all the other talk that there was, certain sophists of the Cynic school managed somehow to slip into the city at this time, too; and first Diogenes, entering the theatre when it was full, denounced the pair in along abusive speech; for which he was flogged; and after him Heras, expecting no harsher punishment, gave vent to to many senseless yelpings in true Cynic fashion, and for this was beheaded”.
  5. The dance that Salome performed is often taken – again with no Biblical basis – to be the dance of the Seven Veils. While in modern striptease and belly-dancing the concept of the Seven Veils has become a cliché, it is associated with the ancient sacred dance by Ishtar as she descended into the underworld.salome2.jpg
  6. The Seven Veils of Ishtar concept is promoted by Barbara Walker in The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 1983 and Wendy Buonaventura in her book Serpent of the Nile, 1989. However two belly dancers, DeAnna Putman (here) and Shira (here) make a persuasive argument that a) the daughter is described as a korasion which is a small girl, and the word for dance is orkheomai which means jumping as well as dance, and therefore we should assume that Salome was pre-pubic at the time; the earliest translation of the myth of Ishtar into a modern European language was in 1872; the number 7 is not even mentioned in Mark or Matthew with relation to the death of John; the first association of Salome and the Dance of the Seven Veils is probably Oscar Wilde’s play Salome, 1891; the things that Ishtar surrendered were not veils but symbols of kingship, such as crown, measuring rod, breastplate and robe.
  7. In Mark (15:40, 16:1), and only in Mark, Salome is is one of three women, the other two both being called Maria, who were present at the Crucifixion of Jesus and visited his tomb the next day. Nothing else is said about this woman, and nothing is said which would justify assuming that she is the dancing daughter of Herodias. If the Salome at the death of John is a little girl, then she could not be an adult woman at the death of Jesus – not if she is mortal
  8. In the parallel passage of Matthew (27:56), the third woman is described as “the mother of the sons of Zebedee” and by a logic that some Bible readers adopt, Salome is therefore taken to be the mother of James and John Zebedee.
  9. Salome is venerated as Saint Mary Salome, also known as Irene. Feast day 22 October. After the crucifixion of Jesus she is said to have gone to Veroli, Italy and stayed there as an apostle.
  10. The English of Mark 15:40 in the King James translation is “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”. Robert Eisenman in his James, The Brother of Jesus, p 772 and 845 reads this to say that Salome is ‘explicitly identified as the sister of James the Less and Joses’. He also reads Mark 16:1 “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices” in the same way. The problem with the English of 15:40 is that ‘of’ is not repeated before the name Salome. Let us look at the Greek: In 15:40 Salome is written Σαλωμη which is nominative not genitive. Where English uses a preposition to mean possession, Greek uses a different word ending. In the Latin: “Maria Magdalene et Maria Iacobi minoris et Ioseph mater et Salome”, the word mater (=mother) follows Iacobi and Ioseph but precedes Salome, meaning that Maria is the mother of the two men, but not of Salome.
  11. In the Gospel of the Egyptians, Salome is again a disciple of Jesus. She asks him how long death would hold sway, and he says to her, “So long as women bring forth, for I come to end the works of the female.” To this Salome replies, “Then I have done well in not bringing forth.”
  12. In the Gospel of Thomas, Salome and Mary Magdelene are listed among the disciples of Jesus. Jesus shares Salome’s couch at the meal. ‘Who are you sir,’ she asks him, ‘that you have taken your place on my couch and eaten from my table?’ And Jesus says, “I am he who is from the One, and the things that belong to the Father have been given to me.” Salome replies, “But I am your disciple”, and Jesus answers, “When the disciple is united he will be filled with light, but if he is divided he will be filled with darkness.”
  13. In the Protevengelion of James, 14, we find:
    “14 And the midwife went out from the cave, and Salome met her. 15 And the midwife said to her, “Salome, Salome, I will tell you a most surprising thing, which I saw. 16 A virgin has brought forth, which is a thing contrary to nature.” 17 To which Salome replied, “As the Lord my God lives, unless I receive particular proof of this matter, I will not believe that a virgin has brought forth.”
    18 Then Salome went in, and the midwife said, “Mary, show yourself, for a great controversy has arisen about you.” 19 And Salome tested her with her finger. 20 But her hand was withered, and she groaned bitterly, 21 and said, “Woe to me, because of my iniquity! For I have tempted the living God, and my hand is ready to drop off.”horae8930.jpg
  14. Salome = ‘peace’ (Hebrew Shalom). Greek for peace is Eirene. Eirene is one of the second generation of Horae(=hours), goddesses who controlled orderly life. Eirene is third as Salome is third in Mark 15:40. The Horae had the task of closing and opening the gates of heaven. Such goddesses would be present at the sacrificial deaths of divine kings, as they had been at the birth of Aphrodite. Eirene had been the nurse of Demeter.
  15. In Robert Graves’ The White Goddess, he analyses the riddle poem Hanes Taliesin. Line 26 is, in the English translation, “I have been in the firmament with Mary Magdelene’. Graves proposed ‘Salome’ as the answer to that line.
  16. In his same book, p 372-3, Graves discusses the ancient goddess, Salma-ona, a name associated with easterlyness in contrast to the goddess Tar-Annis who had a name associated with westerlyness. Solomon, Salmon, Absalon and Salome are derived form the theonym Salma. Salma was the deity to whom the hill of Jerusalem was originally dedicated as Uru-Salim.
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14 July 2007

Mark: some of the candidates

Filed under: authors,Flavian,Herodians,Julio-Claudians,Mark — markandmore @ 22:39

So, who did write the Gospel of Mark?

Here are some of the persons who have been suggested:

1) The John Mark who appears several times in the New Testament, Peter’s secretary, and the first bishop of Alexandria. The founder of Coptic Christianity and whose body lies in the Cathedral San Marco in Venice. The orthodox version which we looked at in detail in the previous post.

2) Ptolemaeus Chennus (Ptolemy the Quail). This nomination relies on the fact that Dennis MacDonald in The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark analyzes the Gospel as a transvalued emulation of mainly the Odyssey, but also parts of the Iliad. Ptolemaeus Chennus wrote an ‘anti-Homer poem’ which we no longer have – unless it is the Gospel of Mark. Ptolemaeus Chennus – like John Mark – was an Alexandrian who came to Rome. He wrote versions of old mythologies that rewrote the past.

3) Marcus Mettius Epaphroditus (+23 – 96?). Sometimes known as Tiberius Claudius Epaphroditus. The name ‘Epaphroditus’ means ‘of Aphrodite’, which may mean that he was raised as a sex slave, but not necessarily. Other New Testament characters e.g. Titus, Saulus have names with sexual connotations. Other NT characters have names dedicated to Greek gods: Apollos, Artemas (from Artemis), Zenas (=Zenodorus=gift of Zeus), Tychius (from Tyche). He was born in Chaeronea in Greece, a slave in the house of Archias, a grammaticus, who educated him. He was later sold to a Roman eques (of the lessor nobility), Marcus Mettius Modestus, who was prefect of Egypt in the +50s ruling from Alexandria (so like John Mark, Marcus Epaphroditus also came from Alexandria). Modestus freed Epaphroditus, and as per custom Epahroditus took the name of his ex-master. He moved to Rome, founded a school, founded a lepaphroditus_s.jpgibrary of over 30,000 scrolls, owned two houses and published several books: a grammatical Commentary on Homer (see Dennis MacDonald above), Lexeis (literary styles), Peri Stoicheion (first principles of language), a commentary on the Aitia by Callimachus of Cyrene, a commentary on the Shield of Heracles attributed to Hesiod. He also sponsored three of the books by Flavius Josephus. He rose at the court of Nero, first apparitor Caesarus, then viator tribunicius and finally libellis, which means that he drafted Nero’s replies to petitions. (As John Mark was secretary to Peter, Marcus Epaphroditus was secretary to Nero). In +65 he learned of the Piso conspiracy and shopped it to Nero. In exchange he received military honours and great wealth. When Nero was declared a public enemy by the Senate in +68, Epaphroditus and a few other freedmen helped him escape from Rome, and finally helped him to suicide (or maybe just killed him). He returned to the imperial court under Domitian, again as secretary. He also protected his now-freed slave philosopher, Epictetus, when Domitian was persecuting the philosophers (as John Mark had protected a slave devoted to himself). Finally Domitian had Epaphroditus executed. He also appears in Philippeans 2:25, 4:18, 4:23 as Paul’s emissary to the court of Nero. He is recognized as a saint by the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches.

See Robert Eisenman. James the Brother of Jesus.

4) Marcus Julius Agrippa (28 – 100?). The last king of the Herodian dynasty. He was raised in Alexandria. He was the only male Herodian of his generation descended from the Hasmodians (via Herod’s wife Miriam). He was known to the Samaritans as Marqeh bar Titus (he, like Josephus, had been adopted into the Flavian family) who wrote texts and hymns that became part of the Samaritan tradition, and is regarded by them as the second Moses. He was recognized as the messiah of Daniel 9:24-7. He ruled as king an area in Syria for at least 30 years after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in +70. At the end of his life when he had fallen out with the Romans and was in their prison, he wrote another gospel, The Gospel of Me, explaining that the male child who reappears in the Gospel of Mark was himself.

See the various websites by Stephan Huller here, here and here

1 July 2007

The Life of Mark

Filed under: biography,Mark,walkons — markandmore @ 23:43

stmarkcoptic.jpg

For someone who is basically a postulation because a text must have an author, Mark has a remarkably detailed biography.

Walk-ons in the New Testament

In his own gospel, it has been proposed that Mark is the young man who runs off naked (14:51-2), and the servant who carried water to the house of the last supper (14:13).

In John’s gospel, it has been proposed that Mark was one of the servants at the wedding celebrations in Cana who poured out the water now turned to wine (2:1-11), and the one who hosted the disciples after the death of Jesus and to whose house the resurrected Jesus came (20:19).

In Luke’s gospel, it has been proposed that Mark was one of 70 apostles sent by Jesus (10:1); in his sequel, it is proposed that Mark is ‘John Mark’ the son a Mary(Acts 12:12,25, 15:37,39), John (13:5, 13:13), and Mark (15:39); In Luke’s epistles, Mark is mentioned at 2 Tim 4:11.

In Paul’s epistles, Mark appears at Col 4;10 as a cousin of Barnabas, and Philemon 1:24.

In Peter’s epistles he appears at 1 Peter 5:13, described as the son of the author, presumably Peter.

Outside the New Testament

Eusebius quotes Papias that Mark had been Peter’s secretary and that the gospel is based on Peter’s reminiscences.

While preaching on the shores of the Adriatic his ship took shelter from a storm in the lagoon to be later called San Francesco della Vigna, and an angel appeared and told him of the future city of Venice. Mark also founded a church at Aquileia in the lagoon.

There is a strong tradition that Mark was the first bishop of Alexandria, that he performed many miracles, including healing a cobbler with an injured hand who became his successor, Bishop Anianus. Jesus appeared to Mark in his cell before he was executed in 67 or 68 (which raises the problem of his apparent knowledge of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 which is hinted at in his gospel). Several ancient Christian writers, Dorotheus, Eutychius and the Chronicon Paschale, state that Mark’s body was burnt. However the Acts of St Mark, 4th century, claims that a miraculous storm permitted his followers to steal away the body and bury it in a church.pdvd_002.jpgKing of Kings, 1927

Cecil B. Demille’s King of Kings, 1927

Posthumous

Venice has a tradition that Mark came down from Heaven to rescue a slave who was devoted to his shrine, and was about to be executed. Another legend relates how during a storm, a stranger (Mark) persuades a fisherman to pick up two other saints, and then go out to sea where they encounter a ship filled with demons intending to destroy Venice. The three saints destroy the demons instead. Mark pays the fisherman with a ring from his sanctuary to be taken to the Doge.

In either 815 or 828 Venetian sailors stole most of Mark’s body and smuggled it to Venice by hiding it under pork meat which the muslim guards avoided. Venice deposed its existing patron saint, Theodore, and built the cathedral San Marco in Mark’s honour.

Copts maintain that Mark’s head is still in St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria, and every year on the 30th day of the month of Babah, they commemorate its appearance.

In 1063, during the construction of a new basilica in Venice, St. Mark’s relics could not be found. However, according to tradition, in 1094 the saint himself revealed the location of his remains by extending an arm from a pillar.

In 1968 a delegation from the Coptic Pope to the Catholic Pope was given a piece of bone that had been given to the Catholic Pope by Cardinal Urbani, patriarch of Venice, and said that the rest of Mark remains in Venice.

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Did they get the wrong body?

The Tomb of Alexander the Great was in Alexandria, and its location was well known in Roman times. The tomb disappeared in the dark ages. Andrew Chugg argues that the Venetian sailors in 815 or 828 stole the wrong corpse. They stole that of Alexander himself, and that it is Alexander who lies in the cathedral San Marco in Venice. !!!

JCJ Metford Dictionary of Christian Lore and Legend Thames and Hudson 1983 under ‘Mark, St’

Wikipedia entry on Mark the Evangelist

Andrew Chugg Alexander’s Tomb

30 March 2007

666 the mark of Mark

Filed under: Gemetria,Mark,structure — markandmore @ 16:13

There is a slight whiff of sulphur in the idea that Mark – the gospel wherein only the demons know who Jesus is, where we are told that the teachings are in parables otherwise they might be understood, where the only witnesses to the resurrection do not tell anyone, and so we cannot know, the gospel of unreliable narration – that Mark, alone in the Bible, has 666 verses.

There is an interesting structural appropriateness.The first six chapters of Mark have been described as “the little gospel”.These six chapters have 248 verses.Now 247 (apparently in Gemetria one is allowed ±1) is the value of θηριον (therion=beast, as per Revelation 13:11), while 666, the full gospel, is the value of τομεγαθηριον(to mega therion = the great beast).

Is this true?Well, like many other things biblical, it depends on which translation you are using.The classic King James Bible has 678 verses, but of course the KJB has Mark as including 16:9-20, which are not in the best early Greek manuscripts, and scholarly consensus says that these twelve verses should not be included.

678 – 12 = 666, so the answer is yes.

Except!If we look at a modern scholarly translation such as that of The Complete Gospels by Scholars Press, the end of Mark is at 16:8, but the verse-count is still not 666.By the same process of textual criticism that removed 16:9-20, some other verses have also been removed: 9:44 and 9:46 (both identical to 9:48); 11:26; 11:28 – which gives a verse-count of 662.

The 248-666 structure is tempting, and leads one to want it to be true that the original version of Mark (which of course we do not have) had 248 verses in the first six chapters, and 666 verses in total.However, this would require that we retroject the versification back into the first century, when it was certainly not in use.

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