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CrossingCurrents 

 

Crosswinds Foundation Newsletter
 

"Crossing Cultures - Connecting People"

Vol. 7:1 & 2

December 4, 2014

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bob sitting

In our year-end issue of Crossing

Currents last year, I wrote:

 

"During the Christmas season there is a heightened awareness of and focus upon Jesus. For Christians, it is a reflection upon his birth - God coming to dwell among men. It is the hope that comes from a savior given. However, this is not the Jesus recognized by all.

 

And, as we move farther and farther from his birth, it seems the views about him become increasingly skewed toward a Jesus that is unrecognizable when compared to the biblical accounts...One such view is that Jesus was just a man, who set about to establish an earthly kingdom but [the task proved too big] and he became just another failed-messiah crucified by the Romans.

 

This is the view of Reza Aslan in his recently published bestseller, Zealot, the Life and Times of Jesus Christ...Some of his claims may surprise you and leave you wondering how anyone could find them credible." (Read our review of The Zealot)

 

I include this quote from last year as it is just as appropriate this year - other than needing to change the author's name and the title of the book - with the release of The Lost Gospel, Decoding the Ancient Text That Reveals Jesus, Marriage to Mary Magdalene. Naturally, this book has been released in time to take advantage of the attention the Christmas season brings to Jesus. And, once again the authors set out to "repackage" Jesus and the gospel.

 

In this double-issue of CrossingCurrents we review this book and consider just how seriously it should be taken, not only by Christians but non-Christians, as well. For, as long as there is an interest in books like The Zealot and The Lost Gospel, those who can turn a profit off of them will keep writing and publishing. As such, it is important for us to be aware of the issues they discuss. We must also recognize their popularity affords us an opportunity to participate in the cultural discussions about Jesus.

 

Since many of the ideas presented in The Lost Gospel are the same as those found in The Da Vinci Code, we are including an article I wrote about the claims made in The Da Vinci Code as "investigated" in 2003 by ABC's PrimetimeBe sure to also check out this issue's Culture Tracks regarding how Americans' view the Bible. The data may very well reflect why there is an increasing interest in books like The Lost Gospel.

 

As I wrote regarding The Zealot, I wouldn't be surprised if a copy of The Lost Gospel ends up being given as a Christmas gift to you or someone you know. Keep our article handy so you can pass it along.

 

As you may know, this year we have given out thousands of DVDs to help our soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress. In engaging some of these men and women in conversation, I have become increasingly aware of the toll that war takes on these young heroes. Don't forget to pray for them and to speak a word of gratitude and encouragement to those you may encounter.

In closing, my guess is you are probably being overwhelmed by organizations that need your help. So many are doing so much good with so little and could use your help.

 

Without question, God has been faithful to provide for our needs and enable us to increase our areas of service. That could not be done without folks like you.

 

As you consider your year-end support, I would be grateful if you would keep Crosswinds in mind and help us accomplish even more in 2015.

 

Thank you in advance for helping our cause. Should you have any questions or if we might be of assistance to you in some way you can connect with us by email at: info@crosswindsfoundation.org

 

Blessings,

Bob Signature

Bob Waldrep

 

PS. Want our staff to speak to your Church, Bible Study group, or organization and share more about The Lost Gospel and how to respond or address some other topic of interest? We would love to connect with you. To schedule or get more information about this, or other programs we offer, contact us at 205-327-8317, or by email at:

bob@crosswindsfoundation.org

 

 

 

LostLost Gospel or Lost in Gnosticism?

by Bob Waldrep

 

On November 12 Pegasus Books released The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text That Reveals Jesus' Marriage to Mary Magdalene by Simcha Jacobovic and Barrie Wilson (Jacobovic also made a companion film documentary as part of his Bible Conspiracies television series which began airing December 2014 on the Science Channel). As the title indicates, the reader can expect to read some startling assertions about Jesus, but are they new or simply old claims in a new package?

 

Considering the authors previous work, it is safe to say this isn't the first time they have wandered down this trail. In fact, Wilson, a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion, teaching religious studies at York University, is probably best known for his book, How Jesus Became Christian. In it he argues Jesus was simply a Messiah want-to-be rather than God - a theology he maintains was fabricated by Paul, along with the resurrection story - a view shared by The Lost Gospel coauthor, Jacobovic.

 

Though Jacobovic has a degree in philosophy and politics, based on his previous works, one might think him a trained archaeologist or expert in the study of antiquities. However, he is probably best classified as an investigative journalist, producer, and director. The Lost Gospel is not his first attempt to prove Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.

 

In a previous work, The Jesus Family Tomb, Jacobovic claimed a tomb discovered in Jerusalem in 1980 contained the bones of Jesus and his family. Concerning these, he wrote, "...in the Talpiot tomb they found ten ossuaries [boxes for bones], six with inscriptions. The inscribed ones include a 'Matthew,' a 'Joseph,' two 'Marys,' and a 'Jesus, son of Joseph'" (The Jesus Family Tomb p. 61). Of course, if Jesus were buried here the resurrection is not true.

 

Despite the fact that the archaeologists who originally cataloged the find had considered and dismissed any possibility this was the tomb of the biblical Jesus (a fact included in his book), Jacobovic resolved it would have to be the biblical Jesus due to, what he considered, the unlikely odds that another Jesus could have been born with a father named Joseph and placed in a tomb with two women named Mary - a fact he believes strengthens his conclusion since Jesus' mother was named Mary. However, even he acknowledges the ossuary identified as Mary does not include "mother of Jesus" or "wife of Joseph" as part of its inscription.

 

The other Mary is identified on the ossuary inscription as "Mariamne," and despite the fact the inscription does not include "Magdalene," he jumps to the conclusion she is not a blood relation to the Jesus bones and must be Mary Magdalene. Rather than letting the evidence speak for itself, this is an obvious twisting of the evidence to match one's previously held position. Otherwise, why would he have the Jesus and Mariamne bones DNA tested and, based on there being no familial relation, conclude this proves Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married (Interestingly, the tomb also included the bones of a child identified as Judah, son of Jesus, who Jacobovic says is the child of Jesus and Mary Magdalene - yet he isn't mentioned in The Lost Gospel)?

 

Just Google It

 

Given the same facts with no preconceived ideas about Jesus, would one draw the same conclusion? Of course not! So, how did he really connect Mariamne with Mary Magdalene? What evidence did he rely upon? Try Google.

 

According to Jacobovic, in 2003, he visited a friend and asked him to see if there was a connection between Mary Magdalene and Mariamne? Describing that conversation, he wrote that his friend replied, "...today we have the Internet. Why don't we look into it right now?" He googled "Mariamne" and then turned slightly pale. "Look, Simcha...According to modern scholarship," he read out loud, "Mary Magdalene's real name was Mariamne" (The Jesus Family Tomb p. 45).

 

This is not a finding rooted in the historical record. In fact, a google search of Mariamne will turn up others with this name before connecting it with Mary Magdalene. And, when the name is associated with Mary Magdalene, guess who pops up first? You guessed it - Simcha Jacobovic.

 

Ignoring the other Mariamnes, Jacobovic and his friend gravitated to the one that fit their own ideas about Mary Magdalene - the Mary Magdalene of the Gnostics. And, as we will see, it is the so-called Gnostic Gospels - not the canonical Gospels of the Bible that play a central role in Jacobovic's works.

 

Concerning this he and Wilson write, "Gnosis is the Greek word for 'knowledge' or 'insight.' The Gnostics were those Christians who did not follow what became known as 'orthodox' or 'catholic' Christianity...Put differently, in the early phases of Christianity Jesus' followers had at least two brands of Christianity to choose from - Gnosticism and Paulism" (The Lost Gospel p. 157).  In describing these two they write, "While for Paul's followers Jesus was a god, for the Gnostics he was a guide and a teacher sent from the one true God to enlighten humanity and to act as a catalyst for spiritual growth, maturity, and redemption." (The Lost Gospel p.  160).

 

As the record reflects, long before this latest effort, it is clear both Wilson and Jacobovic were committed to the idea that Jesus was just a man - not God. Furthermore, Jacobovic was well acquainted with gnostic literature and the belief that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married and had children. In reading their book one is hard-pressed not to think they are interpreting their evidence in light of preconceived conclusions about Jesus' life. To put it another way, if one simply considered the documents presented by these men, it would be difficult not to say their conclusions seem farfetched, at best.

 

While at times Jacobovic appeals to the "evidence" he claims to have found in the lost tomb of Jesus, this time he bases his conclusions on a document, Joseph and Aseneth, which he and Wilson describe as "a centuries old manuscript [found] in a long-forgotten corner of a library." This intriguing description might cause one to think they have discovered some long lost document; however, immediately before this assertion they write, "...we don't claim to have excavated a long lost text" (The Lost Gospel pp. X-XI). So, despite this apparent attempt to make their document different from all other copies, it turns out the difference is primarily in how they interpret it.

 

Who Are Joseph and Aseneth

 

Despite the authors' claims otherwise, Joseph and Aseneth is not new to scholars and many translations and copies of it exist. To use the authors own investigative tool, a quick Google search reveals much has been written about this document long before The Lost Gospel. There is even a scholarly website dedicated to it, created in 1999 (http://www.markgoodacre.org/aseneth/). The majority opinion overwhelmingly interprets this story as being about the Joseph in Genesis, something that will come as no surprise to anyone reading Joseph and Aseneth who is even remotely aware of the Genesis account. Consider the following summation of Joseph and Aseneth:

 

Joseph, a high ranking official in Pharaoh's court, who worships the God of Israel, is offered Aseneth in marriage. Her father, Pentephres, is the priest of the Egyptian deity Heliopolis. Initially, Joseph refuses to marry her due to her worship of false gods; however, after being rejected by Joseph she casts her idols out, repents, and turns to the God of Israel. An angel then visits her in her bedchamber and affirms her actions. Afterwards, she and Joseph marry and have two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. The story also includes a failed attempt by Pharaoh's son to have Joseph assassinated so he could marry Aseneth.

 

In the story Joseph is described as one who came to Egypt as a captive - a shepherd's son from the land of Canaan - sold into slavery by his brothers. He is alleged to have been thrown into prison for having intercourse with his master's wife and subsequently rescued by Pharaoh for interpreting Pharaoh's dream. His father was named Jacob/Israel and during a famine he joined Joseph in Egypt along with his other sons who are named in the story: Simeon, Levi, Gad, Dan, Naphtali, Asher, Rueben, Issachar, Zebulon, Judah, and Benjamin.

 

Almost all of these details correspond with the Genesis account of Joseph, including his marriage to Aseneth. However, Joseph and Aseneth offers much greater detail about Aseneth than the Genesis account, which is extremely brief. Nevertheless, the two accounts agree on these points: she married Joseph and bore two sons - Manasseh and Ephraim and was the daughter of a priest (Genesis 41:45-51; 46:20). It is the added information that leads to many of the assumptions made in The Lost Gospel that are outside mainstream scholarship regarding this story.

 

While no one knows who wrote Joseph and Aseneth, from a cursory reading it seems obvious the writer was attempting to clarify an obvious issue some might have with Joseph having married a Gentile. As Dr. Robert Cargill, Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa, has stated:

 

"As prohibiting intermarriage became a bigger and bigger deal in the Second Temple period, many Jews began to see the problem with Joseph's marriage to Aseneth, as Joseph was said to have not only married an Egyptian, but the daughter of an Egyptian priest!...The popular ancient love story of Joseph and Aseneth serves as an apology explaining why a righteous Israelite patriarch like Joseph would marry the daughter of a pagan priest...The biblical account says Joseph married an Egyptian woman, so Joseph and Aseneth explains that Aseneth first converted, and therefore was eligible to be married to Joseph" (Review of the Lost Gospel, Robert Cragill).

 

Jacobovic and Wilson put an entirely different spin on the story - one that can only be found through reinterpreting the Bible, history, and a heavy reliance on the Gnostics. The story they unravel begins at the feet of a statue of the Greek goddess Artemis and will cause one's head to spin at their dizzying conjectures of what might have been. For, according to The Lost Gospel, the Joseph and Aseneth story is actually a story written in code and that code must be broken in order to rightly understand it.

 

Can You Say Conspiracy

 

This is based on what amounts to be a conspiracy theory held by those like Jacobovic and Wilson who believe the true teachings of Jesus and his disciples and the history of the Church were perverted by the Apostle Paul and others in history who hijacked the "real" gospel by making Jesus God and adding a resurrection story. According to this view, as Paul's influence grew the truth about Jesus would diminish until the Emperor Constantine "officially" had Jesus declared God at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.

 

These conspirators believe the Church then banned and destroyed writings such as the Gnostic Gospels, which taught a different view of Jesus, in order to cover up the "true story" of Jesus. In line with this belief, Jacobovic and Wilson claim the author of Joseph and Aseneth was one of these Gnostics and, fearing the Church would destroy it, wrote in code - preserving the truth in a story in which the main characters are to be understood as types of Jess and Mary Magdalene.

 

To support their view, conspirators will ignore the historical record, maintaining it is untrustworthy. They commonly express it as, "history is written by the winners." In other words trust me - not history. As Jacobovic and Wilson explain it, "There are really two Christian worlds: the world of the winners (Paul's followers, which includes all the official Christian groups today) and the world of the losers (those who were banned, burned, ostracized, and driven underground). It's from the world of the losers that Joseph and Aseneth emerges" (The Lost Gospel p. 283).

 

In addressing these same claims as made in relation to The Da Vinci Code, I wrote, "Though these documents were destroyed, that they existed certainly had not been swept under the rug. Irenaeus, an early Christian theologian and a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John, wrote Against Heresies to address some of the heresies of these Gnostic teachings." (The Da Vinci Code: The Facts Behind the Fiction, Bob Waldrep).

 

New Code or Da Vinci Code

 

Fortunately for the reader, the authors claim to have decoded the story and determined the following:

  • Aseneth is actually code for Mary Magdalene/Artemis
  • Joseph is actually Jesus/Helios
  • Pharaoh's Son is code for Germanicus, the adopted son of the Roman Emperor Tiberias
  • The wedding of Joseph/Jesus/Helios to Aseneth/Mary Magdalene/Artemis in part establishes ritualistic sex as the means to worship God

 

Sound familiar? If so, it is possibly because you read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown or perhaps saw the film adaptation. For much of what this book puts forward is just a regurgitation of Brown's book and others like it, upon which he drew information. In fact the authors state, "What the Vatican feared - and Dan Brown only suspected - has come true. There is now written evidence that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that they had children together" (The Lost Gospel, p. IX).

 

A major distinction between what Brown wrote and The Lost Gospel is that Brown claimed his book was a fictional account based on facts; The Lost Gospel is a book claiming to be fact but based in fiction. As Dr. Cargill notes:

 

"...as an archaeologist and a tenure-track professor at a major research university, I must recommend against this book. Just don't bother. Were it a Dan Brown-esque novel, positing a speculative interpretation about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene utilizing a fanciful allegorical interpretation of a document written six centuries after Jesus came and went, I'd say buy it and have fun...But the problem with this book is that Mr. Jacobovic believes what he's writing. He believes his interpretation is true. He wants it to be true. And that hovers somewhere between comical and scary" (Review of The Lost Gospel, Robert Cargill).

 

As an example of Cargill's conclusion, after acknowledging their awareness of Joseph and Aseneth, the two authors write, "As Biblical historical researchers, we knew that the few scholars who had examined the text had expressed bewilderment over its meaning" (The Lost Gospel p. XI). Apparently, Jacobovic did not use his "Google-skills" to research this; otherwise, he and Wilson would have known the commonly held view by researchers is the story is about Joseph and Aseneth of Genesis. Then how did Jacobovic and Wilson come to their interpretation? They write, "Oddly enough, the discovery of the manuscripts meaning came through an epiphany, a sudden blast of insight" (Ibid).

Artemis Statue Viewed
by the Authors

 

It gets even stranger when one considers where this so-called epiphany took place. It came as they stood before a statue of the Greek goddess Artemis while in Ephesus working on another project in 2008. Here is their account from the book:

 

"In Ephesus, Turkish authorities allowed us to get within an inch of the imposing statue of the goddess Artemis...we were able to notice details that visitors could not see from fifteen or twenty feet away. For example, we observed that her garment was covered with-bees. More than this, multiple protrusions cling to her chest. Some [scholars] identified them as breasts. They argued that since Artemis was a nourishing goddess, she must have had dozens of breasts...Standing before Artemis, it all came together for us. Suddenly the meaning of the protrusions became apparent - they were bee cocoons or, more accurately, queen bee cells. Our eyes now tracked to the top of the statue. There crowning her head was a tall tower" (The Lost Gospel p.XII-XIII).

 

Can You See Bees

 

Why are these bees and tower so important to the authors? In the Joseph and Aseneth story, Aseneth lived in a tower and there is a scene, during the angel's visit, in which "a thousand thousands of bees" with gold crowns "circled around and seized and clung to her from her feet to her head" (The Lost Gospel p. 353).

 

This, Jacobovic and Wilson say caused their epiphany. "We looked at each other at the same time and immediately blurted out with the excitement of children: 'Could these be the bees and tower we have been puzzling over in our Joseph and Aseneth text?' Suddenly our text came into sharp focus. It began to make sense and the light began to dawn" (The Lost Gospel p. XII).

 

And, what was that "light"? They continue, "Put simply, in order to convey the stature of - perhaps Mary the Magdalene - to his audience, the unknown author of our manuscript selected a dominant image of his culture, one that he could be sure his readers would readily understand" (Ibid).

 

Their description of the statue leads the reader to imagine a garment covered in thousands of bees as in the story, which clearly states she was covered from "feet to head." However, one does not need to be inches away from the statue they viewed to realize their comparison is incorrect. For, although the Artemis statue is girded with a belt of alternating bees and flowers, it is not "covered with bees." In fact there are very few bees on the garments.

Close Up of Statue Showing More Animals Than "Bees"

 

Furthermore, it is interesting that, while they include photographs in the book, they do not have any depicting the bee-covered garment that created their epiphany. This is likely due to there being many more animals on the garment than bees (search for images of Artemis and you will find the bees on her garment are greatly outnumbered by animals, such as goats, deer, lions and bears), which would mean - based on their method of interpretation - Aseneth should have been covered in animals. Also, keep in mind that none of the bees on the statue are wearing golden crowns.

 

Considering the actual appearance of this statue, it is difficult to believe this is what caused their belief the story was "code" for Jesus and Mary Magdalene being married or that Mary was the dominant person, not Jesus. Rather, it appears they already had that notion in mind and were looking for a new way, something fresh and intriguing to present their belief. In other words, surely no one would come to such a conclusion unless trying to bend the evidence to support a previously held supposition.

 

For example, let's say it is a widely accepted fact that wine was readily available in the days of Jesus. Let's add that I have the wild idea that wine was actually "code" for carbonated beverage. Now assume that I am pondering this while walking the back roads of Judea and I trip over an old rusty can. Picking the can up for closer examination, I see that while the words on it are barely discernable I can faintly make out the Pepsi logo. "Aha," I yell. "Here is proof they were drinking soft drinks in the days of Jesus."

 

My assumption is they drank wine in Jesus day and wine is code for carbonated beverages. Jesus lived in and walked about Judea. I found an old rusty Pepsi can in Judea; therefore, Jesus drank soft drinks. Sounds silly, doesn't it? Does it sound any more silly or "comical," as Dr. Cargill puts it, than the "eureka" moment described by Jacobovic and Wilson?

 

They say Aseneth was covered with bees in the story and the garments on the statue of Artemis are covered with bees. They further say, Artemis was a "dominant image" of the culture of the author of Joseph and Aseneth (even though they readily admit no one knows who wrote the story or when it first appeared). Mary Magdalene was also a dominant figure in the culture of the Church; therefore, they conclude Aseneth is code for Artemis/Mary Magdalene.

 

The jump from bees to Artemis to Mary Magdalene seems quite a leap indeed. However, it is a necessary leap in order to get them over their next hurdle and real purpose for the book - rewriting the story of Jesus. For, in their mind, if Mary Magdalene is represented by Artemis, what does that communicate about Jesus and his standing compared to that of Mary Magdalene?

 

Different Jesus, Different Gospel

 

Concerning Jesus, the writers speculate he may have been the son of a Jewish woman who was either in love with or raped by a Roman soldier. (The Lost Gospel pp. 202-203). He became a Messianic figure who declared war on the high priest Caiaphas with the backing and protection of the Roman commander Sejanus. (The Lost Gospel pp. 261-275). However, upon the death of Sejanus, Jesus no longer had the protection of Rome and was arrested and crucified. His disciples removed the body from the tomb in which Joseph of Arimathaea had placed it and secreted it away to a different burial site.

 

In their rewrite of the biblical narrative, Jesus comes across as little more than a minor player who failed in his task. As they affirm, "...as in Joseph and Aseneth, and in contrast with the canonical Gospels, it's the bride, not Jesus, who is front and center" (The Lost Gospel p. 287).

Is this a
"Tower"?


This brings us back to Aseneth's tower. Keeping in mind that Artemis was  the Greek goddess of fertility, the authors make much ado about observing a tower on the head of the statue. Little wonder this is so important to them as they have determined Aseneth's tower is "triple code" - as if "code" is not sufficient. It is reminiscent of young children on the playground trying to make a simple "dare" have even greater meaning by making it a "double-dog dare" or a "triple dog-dare." Don't worry; they explain the triple code, as follows:

 

"On the one hand, Aseneth's dwelling on top of the tower is a clear metaphor for the temple. On another hand, there is clear sexual imagery here with her bedchamber representing the Holy of Holies inside the temple, There is a third level, however, that would not have been lost on [the story's] 1st or 2nd century readers...In halakhic [rabbinic law] terminology, heder [chamber] signifies the innermost part of the female genitals... Aseneth's body is the temple containing the Holy of Holies. It is within that sacred space that redemption occurs, spiritually and physically...So Mary is truly the Magdalene: she is Tower, Temple, and Holy of Holies" (The Lost Gospel p. 172).

 

In the author's version of Christianity Mary Magdalene is the redeemer; she is the leader of the Church. As they clearly write, "Make no mistake about it: this is not simply about sexual liberation. It's a different model of redemption. In this scenario, salvation is not brought about through Jesus' death but through his life giving marriage, sexual relations, and offspring" (The Lost Gospel p. 181). "According to this view, death is not conquered by Jesus resurrection, but by the new Eve's sex life with the new Adam" (The Lost Gospel p. 191).

 

Clearly, theirs is a different Jesus and a different gospel than presented in the Scriptures. Yet, incredibly and very tellingly, they write, "But our gospel survived and, though it tells a very different story from the canonical Gospels, it is not incompatible with them" (The Lost Gospel p. 291). It is telling, in that they rightly refer to it as "our" gospel, for it is not the gospel of the first century Church. And, it is incredible in that they could write so many pages disputing the historical beliefs of the Church and then say it is compatible.

 

What they are really saying is the canonical Gospels are compatible if interpreted their way. Or as they put it, "Joseph and Aseneth forces us to reassess enigmatic passages in the Gospel and understand them in a new way" (The Lost Gospel p. 292). Such is the basis for all that has been deemed heresy.

 

Since the Church first began to proclaim the gospel, there have been those who offered a "new way" to understand the gospel - a "new way" to see Jesus. Invariably such offers also include a "substitute" for Jesus. This stands in stark contrast to the words of Jesus who said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me" (John 14:6).

 

While one certainly has the right to reject these words there is no way they can be reinterpreted to Jesus referring to Mary Magdalene or sacred sex. No, the message would have to be changed or removed altogether to come to such a conclusion. Jacobovic and Wilson stand in a long line of those who have previously attempted to make such a change.

 

Christians Masquerade as Scholars

 

But as Dr. Cargill points out, "Absolutely no scholar will take this book seriously. It will not change Christianity. It will not change biblical scholarship" (Review of the Lost Gospel, Robert Cargill).

 

"Anticipating such a reaction, the authors try to address this in The Lost Gospel: "Of course there is room for legitimate debate concerning our research and conclusions. But we know what happened in the past when scholars and journalists presented facts that did not support Pauline Christian dogma. Immediately those individuals who masquerade as disinterested scholars, while taking oaths to defend their churches and their theologies, [tried] to discredit the findings and the people who brought them to the world"  (The Lost Gospel p. 304).

 

The authors try to paint all opposition as being from Christians who are attempting to protect their own boundaries. That is why Dr. Cargill was chosen as the only opposing scholar quoted in this review. For, he certainly has no "Christian" agenda as he is a self-described agnostic and humanist, a believer in human evolution. Here is what he has to say on this point:

 

"Scholars won't reject Mr. Jacobovic's findings because of some "theological trauma" or a confessional, apologetic desire to preserve the Jesus described in the Bible. I'm an agnostic. I have no dog in the fight of whether Jesus was married or not. He could be married and have 4 kids like me and I wouldn't care. The problem is not a theological one; it is one of scholarship, methodology, and the (mis)use of evidence. Scholars won't reject Mr. Jacobovic's claims because they want to defend Christianity, scholars will reject Mr. Jacobovic's speculations because he engages in circular reasoning, lacks evidence, breaks any number of rules of textual criticism, and engages in what I've described in the past as 'speculation wrapped in hearsay couched in conspiracy masquerading as science ensconced in sensationalism slathered with misinformation' - all of which is designed to sell books and get viewers to watch the accompanying documentary in the weeks leading up to Christmas" (Review of the Lost Gospel, Robert Cargill).

 

It is little wonder that there is no shortage of such books as The Lost Gospel that are released every Christmas and Easter season when people are most likely to be thinking about and interested in Jesus and his message. And, like so many of their ilk, the authors realize there is money to be made off the person of Jesus during these seasons. As Christians we can begrudge their doing this, or we can recognize that the popularity of such books and documentaries provide us a wonderful opportunity to engage those in culture, who are drawn to such, with the story of the real Jesus - Immanuel - God with us!

 

Jesus loves you this I know, for the Bible tells me so!

 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that 

whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

_________________________________________________________________

 

Bob Waldrep is the President and Founder of Crosswinds Foundation. Bob has written numerous articles related to cultural apologetics, coauthored The Truth Behind the Secret, and is a contributing author to: The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics and The Complete Evangelism Guidebook, and produced and scripted the film documentary, The Da Vinci Code Revealedbob@crosswindsfoundation.org

 

 

 

CultureCulture Tracks 

 footprints 

 

 

Could Americans' View of the Bible Be a Reason

for the Interest in Different Views of Jesus?

 

Data compiled by the Barna Group

 

19% - View the Bible as "just another book of teachings written by men" and "contains stories of advice" (this was 10% in 2011).

 

19% - Believe the Bible is the "actual or inspired Word of God" and read it "at least four times a week. This is the same as those who are skeptical of it.

 

79% - Believe the Bible is sacred (this was 86% in 2011).

 

40% of those who say their reading the Bible has decreased gave the reason as being "too busy with life's responsibilities" (this was 33% in 2011)

 

26% of those who say their Bible reading has increased said it was due to "having downloaded the Bible onto their smartphone or tablet." Interestingly, another 11% said it was due to having watched The Bible miniseries that aired on History channel during the Easter season.

 

56% - Say they come to the Bible to "connect with God" (this was 64% in 2011)

 

80% Believe values and morals are declining but only 26% believe it is due to a lack of Bible reading (a 6% decrease from 2013). 33% believe the decline is due to "movies, music, and TV" (a 4% increase from 2013).

 

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DaVinciThe Da Vinci Code: The Facts Behind the Fiction by Bob Waldrep

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is a best seller on the fiction list; however, the author clearly states that the story takes place in the context of factual events, places, organizations and rituals. To enhance the credibility of this claim, Brown includes not only fictional characters in his plot, but real people (both past and present) who will be readily recognized by the book's audience.

 

On November 3, ABC News devoted an hour of programming in a special Primetime with Elizabeth Vargas to investigate the "factual" claims of the book. The conclusion of investigative reporter Vargas, "What we found is that some of the claims the book makes are simply not credible and some of the claims have been made before. But there are some surprising truths behind the story of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Leonardo Da Vinci." (Primetime, airdate 11/03/03)

 

So, should the reader take it as fact or fiction?

 

It is apparent from the author's viewpoint, he is hopeful it will be taken as mostly fact. This becomes quite clear from the opening segment of the Primetime special when the author states: "I began as a skeptic. As I started researching The Da Vinci Code I really thought I would disprove a lot of this theory about Mary Magdalene and holy blood and all of that. I became a believer."

 

What is it he came to believe? Following are some of the claims made (without any rebuttal, I might add) by the characters in his book (bear in mind that the author is, admittedly, a true believer):

 

"More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion...The Bible as we know it today was collated by the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine the Great." (p.231)

 

"Nothing in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian God Mithras - called the Son of God and the Light of the World - was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days. By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus. The newborn Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even Christianity's holy day was stolen from the pagans." (p.232)

 

"At this gathering [Council of Nicea in 325 AD] many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon - the date of Easter, the role of the bishops, the administration of sacraments, and, of course, the divinity of Jesus...until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet...Jesus establishment as the 'Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicea...A relatively close vote at that." (p. 233)

 

"From this sprang the most profound moment in Christian history. Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ's human traits and embellished those gospels that made him godlike. The other gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned." (p.234)

 

"...almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false. As are the stories about the Holy Grail." (p. 235)

 

"...legend tells us the Holy Grail is a chalice - a cup. But the Grail's description as a chalice is actually an allegory to protect the true nature of the Holy Grail...The Grail is literally the ancient symbol for womanhood and the Holy Grail represents the sacred feminine and the goddess, which of course has now been lost, virtually eliminated by the Church." (p.238)

 

"The Church needed to defame Mary Magdalene [making her out to be a prostitute] in order to cover up her dangerous secret - her role as the Holy Grail." (p.244)

"At this point in the gospels, Jesus suspects He will soon be captured and crucified. So he gives Mary Magdalene instructions on how to carry on His Church after He is gone...Jesus was the original feminist. He intended for the future of His Church to be in the hands of Mary Magdalene." (pp 247-248)

 

"Behold, the greatest cover-up in human history. Not only was Jesus Christ married, but He was a father. My dear, Mary Magdalene was the Holy Vessel. She was the chalice that bore the royal bloodline of Jesus Christ. She was the womb that bore the lineage, and the vine from which the sacred fruit sprang forth." (p 249)

 

"Mary Magdalene was pregnant at the time of the crucifixion...With the help of Jesus' trusted uncle, Joseph of Arimathea [she] secretly traveled to France, then known as Gaul. There she found safe refuge in the Jewish community. It was here in France that she gave birth to a daughter. Her name was Sarah." (p 255)

"The quest for the Holy Grail is literally the quest to kneel before the bones of Mary Magdalene. A journey to pray at the feet of the outcast one, the sacred feminine." (p.257)

 

The Grail story is everywhere, but it is hidden. When the Church outlawed speaking of the shunned Mary Magdalene, her story and importance had to be passed on through more discreet channels...channels that supported metaphor and symbolism...The arts...Once you open your eyes to the Holy Grail you see her everywhere. Paintings. Music. Books. Even in cartoons, theme parks, and popular movies." (p. 261)

 

These are but a few of the passages that indicate what it is the author purports to have set out to disprove by his research but ended up believing. But how do his "facts" stand up to the historical evidence?

 

What the Primetime report uncovered

 

Concerning whether Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, they come to no solid conclusions. Those interviewed who believe as Brown, tried to find Biblical evidence by pointing to the Gospel account of Mary trying to touch Jesus after his resurrection and His telling her to "Stop clinging to me. (John 20:17) Some believe this to be an indication of intimacy indicating the two were married.

 

According to Dr. Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary this ..."was just her single act of devotion given to him without concern about what people are thinking about what she is doing."

 

To this Vargas states: "Most other Biblical scholars we spoke with agree with Darrell Bock's assessment. But we did find one who thinks the scene in the garden might point to an intimate relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus."

Note "most" disagree with this position while they found but "one" who agreed with it.

 

This one was Father Richard McBrien, PhD of the University of Notre Dame who interestingly on several occasions in the interview had stated he did not believe Jesus had been married, even relying upon the Scripture to support his conclusion. On the point in question, however, he concedes that, "If (emphasis added) he [Jesus] was married it was obviously to Mary Magdalene." Not quite the overwhelming evidence that Brown and ABC might have hoped for.

 

Having failed to find proof from within the Biblical record, Vargas now examines the assertion that the works of Leonardo Da Vinci support this belief. In his book, Brown's characters put great stock in the works of Da Vinci as evidence that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene who bore his child and was intended to be the foundation of the Church and lead it into goddess worship. Brown is convinced that Da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper particularly proves this point.

 

His reasoning, in part, is that Da Vinci includes Mary Magdalene in the portrait at the right hand of Jesus. While art historians have long recognized that individual as the youthful Apostle John, Brown is convinced otherwise. In speaking with Vargas for the Primetime interview he reveals he was first exposed to this idea some fifteen years ago while attending a class in which the Professor pointed out that missing from Da Vinci's painting of the Last Supper was a common cup used for the wine. Brown said he had never noticed this before. Then the professor told them the cup was in the painting but it wasn't a drinking cup, it was a person. That person he was told was Mary Magdalene who was seated in the painting beside Jesus.

 

Brown doesn't stop there. Not only does he believe the painting supports the view that Jesus was married but also that he was a feminist due to the way Da Vinci postures the subjects in the painting forming a "V" between Jesus and the figure to his right (Brown tells us the "V" is an ancient symbol for woman). He believes the painting also gives credence to his belief that Da Vinci was part of a secret society of goddess worshippers, the Priory of Sion, who were tasked with preserving and protecting the Holy Grail.

 

What seems to have escaped Brown and others who buy into this theory is that Da Vinci was neither present at the Last Supper nor did Jesus and the disciples sit for this painting. Even if he, in fact, intentionally placed Mary Magdalene into his painting that does not make it a historical fact. Nor does it explain why John was left out.

 

Here is how an eyewitness to the event describes who participated. "Now when evening had come, 

He was reclining at the table with his twelve disciples." (Matthew 26:20) The author of this Gospel had earlier identified these twelve disciples as: Simon Peter, Andrew, James the son of Zebedee, John, Phillip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot. (Matthew 10:3-4) Obviously, were Matthew to have painted this scene it would not have included Mary Magdalene and John would definitely have been part of it.

 

But what did Primetime's investigation turn up on this point? There is a telling scene where Vargas and noted Princeton Professor of Art History, Dr. Jack Wasserman, stand before Da Vinci's painting and the following conversation ensues:

 

Vargas: "Isn't it possible that is a woman next to Jesus?"

Wasserman: "No, of course not."

Vargas: "It looks like a woman."

Wasserman: "No it doesn't."

Vargas: "Why don't you think so?"

Wasserman: "Because it looks like a young male. I see no breasts. The fact that he has long hair, so does Christ have long hair, so does James the figure with his arms stretched out, have long hair, so does that figure second from the left have long hair."

Vargas: "But all the other figures, their faces look distinctly masculine, while John's looks quite feminine."

Wasserman: "Yes, the matter of the fact in most representations of the Lord's Supper in Florence he looks like a, he's a very, very young man."

 

Not being able to get Dr. Wasserman to agree it is a woman, the scene immediately cuts to author, Dan Brown, who declares: "If you look at that painting that is clearly a woman."

 

Just as Vargas could not find Biblical scholars to support Brown's belief Jesus was married, neither could she find support among art experts that Dr. Wasserman was incorrect, stating: "We were only able to find one prominent art historian who said he'd long believed the figure might be a woman and not a man."

 

Vargas now turns to what those who embrace this theory believe to be their strongest support - legends, conspiracy theories, and the Gnostic gospels. No historical evidence to support this belief is offered, only theory and conjecture from those who hold to it.

 

As part of this segment, Primetime follows the "story" to France to investigate the legends of the Knights Templars, the Priory of Sion, and other "facts" upon which Brown states his book is based. But when Vargas spoke with scholars who specialize in the study of the Grail and the so-called "Secret Societies" and legends that surround it, she found the same response as she had with Biblical scholars and art historians.

 

Vargas states: "We interviewed a number of scholars who specialize in medieval history and Grail mythology. The vast majority told us the Knights Templar had no particular connection to Mary Magdalene and there was no proof any Priory of Sion ever existed."

 

She is told by one of these, Umberto Eco, "The Holy Grail is born as a literary invention. The historical reality of the Holy Grail is the same as the reality of Pinnochio and Little Red Riding Hood."

 

Vargas' conclusion: "Our attempt to unravel the legends and stories in the south of France have been a strange detour. We found that there was no evidence of a child of Jesus and Mary Magdalene."

 

Some might think this entire program was a strange detour. However, the detour includes one final segment - a discussion of the Gnostic gospels or the Nag Hammadi texts as they are sometimes referred to after the location in Egypt where they were discovered.

 

The author of The Da Vinci Code tells Vargas these books, "essentially tell an alternative history to the time of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The Church made a very concerted effort to take these documents and destroy them throughout time. The question historians ask themselves is, if the Church is making such a concerted effort to destroy this information you have to assume that it was fairly explosive."

 

Why is it so important to Brown, and those who believe like him, that these Gnostic gospels be viewed as credible sources? Because they are the only documents that can be produced that will even remotely support any of the other theories they hold surrounding the Grail and Mary Magdalene. However, before accepting these as a reliable source, one must first completely dismiss or reinterpret the Biblical record.

 

It is for this reason that Brown uses the characters in The Da Vinci Code to alter the facts about how the Bible came into being, asserting it is a fabrication of a male dominated Church that sought to deify the man Jesus rather than follow his intent to place a woman in charge of the Church and worship the goddess.

 

Are these so-called Gnostic gospels credible? Vargas doesn't bother to address that question, perhaps because at this point they are desperate to find anything that will lend credibility to the author's assertion his book is rooted in exhaustive and painstaking research and will thus justify having allocated an hour of network programming to this venture.

 

Vargas' opening statement for this segment makes it clear she is working from the framework that these "gospels" are, in fact, valid:

 

"If you look at the Christian Bible it's clear there are large holes in the stories we have about the life of Jesus. The Church chose (her emphasis) the four gospels that tell His story in the New Testament. But, there were other stories written about Jesus - other gospels - so controversial that the Church ordered them destroyed. And they were, except for one set of copies and it remained hidden in Egypt until about fifty years ago."

 

It seems she has bought into Brown's version, previously stated, "...if the Church is making such a concerted effort to destroy this information you have to assume that it was fairly explosive." The inference being that they must be true because the church tried to destroy them. This argument is widely appealed to by those who believe in the veracity of the Nag Hammadi texts.

 

On this point Christian scholar Douglas Groothuis has accurately noted, "Many sympathetic with Gnosticism make much of the notion that the Gnostic writings were suppressed by the early Christian church. But this assertion does not, in itself, provide support one way or the other for the truth or falsity of Gnostic doctrine. If truth is not a matter of majority vote, neither is it a matter of minority dissent." (Christian Research Journal, Winter 1991)

 

Though these documents were destroyed, that they existed certainly had not been swept under the rug. Irenaeus, an early Christian theologian and a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John, wrote Against Heresies to address some of the heresies of these Gnostic teachings.

 

As Groothuis points out, "Irenaeus went to great lengths to present the theologies of the various Gnostic schools in order to refute them biblically and logically. If suppression had been his concern, the book never would have been written as it was. Further, to argue cogently against the Gnostics, Irenaeus and the other anti-Gnostic apologists would presumably have had to be diligent to correctly represent their foes in order to avoid ridicule for misunderstanding them." (Ibid)

 

The existence of these documents is not in question. Even Christian scholars readily admit they are real documents that were found in Egypt and date back to the fourth or fifth century. What needs to be addressed is: Were they in circulation shortly after the time of Christ's death? Did those close to Jesus really write them? And most importantly, is the information they contain accurate?

 

Rather than address these questions, Vargas focuses on whether these Gnostic gospels affirm that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. Again, one must bear in mind that even if they do teach this, the issue of their credibility must be addressed.

 

However, laying that issue aside and simply addressing their teaching concerning Jesus and Mary Magdalene, here are the statements given Vargas by Dr. Elaine Pagels, Princeton University and Dr. Karen King, Harvard Divinity School, both of whom have written in support of the Gnostic gospels and trust their reliability:

 

"And whether Jesus loves Mary in some kind of sexual way, is a possible implication of the story." (emphasis added)

 

King: "There is this, these tantalizing hints, but they are not definitive." (emphasis added)

Vargas tells the viewer that Pagels confirms the Gnostic gospels do, "tell us how Mary Magdalene was remembered and regarded by some early Christians."

 

Pagels then states on camera: "If I were guessing, and we are guessing, I would guess that there was a special relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. I would also guess that it did not take a sexual form." (emphasis added)

 

It is "possible", "hints" at, is "not definitive", a "guess". This is hardly the shocking evidence we were led to expect.

 

Seemingly unable to prove Jesus and Mary were married, Vargas moves on to another point telling the viewer that Pagels thinks, "there is evidence that Mary Magdalene was remembered as a powerful figure in the movement."

 

Vargas thinks she is now on to something stating that, "Even outside the Gnostic gospels there is evidence that in the first centuries after Jesus, Mary Magdalene was treated with great respect by several of the early church leaders who were men."

 

So after almost an hour of programming and no telling how many man hours of research and production, Primetime has concluded that while there may not be evidence that she was married to Jesus there is certainly evidence that she was a powerful or prominent figure in the movement.

 

This is hardly new and sensational information. In fact, most Christians would agree, it is supported by, both the Biblical record, and the writings of the early Church fathers. As Dr. Jeffrey Bingham of Dallas Theological Seminary states in his interview with Vargas, "You don't need to go to the Gnostic gospels in order to find a high view of Mary and a praise of her for her faith."

 

What conclusions does Vargas draw after so extensive an investigation?

 

"We didn't find any proof that Jesus ever had a wife or that he left behind a child when he died. Nor did we unlock the mysteries behind the Holy Grail. But we did learn a lot more about a man who changed history and the woman who was very important to him. Whether or not they were husband and wife, this is a love story because we discovered that Mary Magdalene was closer to Jesus than we ever imagined."

 

Actually, the viewer learned nothing new about Jesus. Other than being exposed to numerous theories and conjectures that were repeatedly admitted as having no basis in fact. Even their proponents failed to come up with any supporting evidence that can be substantiated. Had that not been the case, Vargas' closing statement would have been much different than the above.

 

Watching this journalistic effort reminded me of Geraldo Rivera's television special, The Mystery of Al Capone's Vault, which aired in April of 1986. That show would achieve the highest ratings for a syndicated special in television history as viewers watched with anxious anticipation for Rivera to fulfill his promise that he would open Al Capone's vault on live television and reveal the treasure that Capone had been secreted there decades before. The show was mostly build up and teasers to fill airtime until the vault was reached.

 

Finally the cameras approach the vault; the "Grail" you might say has been found. Geraldo pours everything he has into making this a moment of suspense and high energy as he slowly opens the door to reveal...dirt. It was empty. No treasure. No story. Nothing.

 

That is exactly what one finds when opening the evidentiary vault for factual support of Brown's claims in The Da Vinci Code. Nothing. The search certainly was enough to fill an hour of television programming, but Elizabeth Vargas and Primetime failed to make finding this "nothing" nearly as exciting as Rivera did with Capone's vault.

 

Are you listening Geraldo? Perhaps it is time for you to do another special and "open" the Da Vinci vault. At least you know how to make "nothing" seem riveting.

 

 

 

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