🔼The name Mary: Summary
- Originally: Beloved
- Obstinacy, Myrrh
- From an Egyptian verb that means to love.
- From the verb מרה (mara), to be rebellious, or the verb מרר (marar), to be bitter or strong.
🔼The name Mary in the Bible
At first glance there appear to be quite a few women named Mary in the Bible. We'll have a look at these separate characters below (and discover that they might not be all that separate). But before we get going, note that the English name Mary is a transliteration of the Latin and Greek name Maria, which in turn is a transliteration of the Hebrew name Miriam. The first and archetypal Miriam of the Bible is the sister of Aaron (Israel's priestly tradition) and Moses (Israel's legal tradition).
Here are the women named Mary in the Bible — we'll have a closer look at these characters further below:
- Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus (Matthew 1:16). She actually appears to have been called Miriam (Matthew 1:20, Luke 1:27).
- Mary Magdalene (Matthew 27:56).
- Mary "of-James-and-of-Joses-the-mother" (Matthew 27:56).
- Mary of Clopas (John 19:25).
- Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 11:1).
- The mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12), who may have been a sister of Barnabas (see Colossians 4:10).
- A disciple in Rome (Romans 16:6). Some Greek manuscripts call this lady Mary, but the Textus Receptus speaks of Miriam.
Altogether, the name Mary occurs 40 times in the New Testament; see full concordance of Mary. The name Miriam occurs an additional 14 times in the New Testament: see New Testament concordance of Miriam.
🔼Etymology of the name Mary
Like other typical Levite names, the name Miriam is probably Egyptian of origin, derived from a word that means Beloved. But a Hebrew audience, particularly one that didn't speak ancient Egyptian, the name Miriam/Mary would have seemed obviously akin the verb מרה (mara) meaning to be rebellious or disobedient, or the related verb מרר (marar), meaning to be bitter or strong:
The verb מרר (marar) means to be strong or bitter and can be used to describe tastes and smells, and hard or difficult situations.
Adjectives מר (mar) and מרירי (meriri) mean bitter. Nouns מרור (maror) and מרורה (merora) refer to any bitter thing, the former specifically to a certain bitter herb, and the latter to gall or poison.
Noun מררה (merera) also means gal. Nouns מרה (morra), מרה (mora), מרירות (merirut), ממר (memer), ממרור (mamror) and תמרור (tamrur) mean bitterness. The latter noun is spelled identical to the noun תמרור (tamrur), meaning marker or sign post, from the root תמר (tamar), meaning to be stiff or erect.
And speaking of such, the nouns מר (mor) and מור (mor) mean myrrh, a bitter and fragrant spice that was originally used to mark the tabernacle, but which came to be used to proclaim, olfactorily, the consummation of marriage. Hence, despite its links to words that mostly describe hardship, myrrh oil was known as the "oil of joy."
Verb מרה (mara) means to be contentious or rebellious, particularly against God. Noun מרי (meri) means rebellion.
The verb מור (mor) means to change. Perhaps the connection between the previous is coincidental but perhaps these words are indeed linked, as change is often reaction to bitterness or opposition. The noun תמורה (temura) means exchange.
For a meaning of the name Mary, NOBSE Study Bible Name List has "same as Miriam," and for Miriam it proposes Obstinacy (Stubbornness). Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names explains the "-am" ending of Miriam to be the third person masculine plural pronominal suffix and reads Their Rebellion.
Here at Abarim Publications, however, we're pretty sure that these names have to do with the noun מר (mor), meaning myrrh, and that they celebrate the connubial merger of mankind and the Creator (Jeremiah 31:32, Isaiah 54:5, Ezekiel 16:8, Hosea 2:19, Mark 2:19, John 3:29, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Revelation 21:9, 22:17). We surmise that the name Miriam/Mary is a proper plural form, and thus means Myrrhs or rather Occasions That Call For Myrrh. Since the words for mother (אם, 'am) and tribe or people (אמה, 'umma) are closely related (both come from the root אמם, 'mm), the name Miriam/Mary would perfectly fit a community of which every individual is anointed with the myrrh oil. A similar construction is presented in the definition of Eve, who was said to be the "mother of all life". As mother, Eve is not simply the "ancestor" of all the living; she is the "people" of all the living, in modern parlance known as the "biosphere".
The words Christ (that's Greek) and Messiah (that's Hebrew) are not names reserved for one individual but rather common titles. They mean "Anointed" and were bestowed upon all prophets, (high-)priests and kings. The idea is that those officials had no earthly superior, and were thus wholly autonomous and therefore wholly responsible for their actions and the effects thereof. Despite the admirable ardor of many today, a "follower" of Jesus does not become a Christian, which is someone who pertains to the anointing, but a Christ, which is someone who partakes in the anointing (2 Corinthians 1:21, 1 John 2:20 and 2:27). The difference is not subtle. Someone who pertains to the anointing is not an anointed, is not in Christ and is a servant. Someone who partakes in the anointing is an anointed, is in Christ and is free.
🔼The reality of Christ
The significance of Jesus Christ (his example, deeds, teachings, etc) should not be confused with the personal historicity of Christ. In fact, the only Christ we can observe in any scientific sense is the literary Christ; the character in the Bible. But this one and only "scientifically real" Christ in turn is obviously also based on something. All literary characters have to have links to reality or else the audience can't relate and the story fails (which explains why there are no novels about stones or slugs and such), and the quest for the "historical Jesus" tries to answer what, exactly, inspired the literary Christ; which historic stamp caused Jesus the literary imprint, what historic reality is represented in the literary Christ.
The most popular answer has always been that the gospels are literary snapshots or observations caught in precise verbal realism. Nowadays we know that this clumsy literary technique didn't exist back then, and you might as well say that the evangelists recorded it all on an iPhone. The gospels aren't journalistic realism. They are also not a rock opera, excursions in dadaism or manuals for the internal combustion engine. They are, however, part of the most sophisticated literary tradition the world has ever seen. They operate on a level of complexity that has never been paralleled since. The gospels as literary works are right up there with the pyramids of Giza, Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and our very own space shuttle.
The Hebrews realized that neither the world nor the people in it are governed by the erratic whims of warring deities but by a sort of law. This law, they observed, always worked, always worked the same, and always worked the same for everybody (Romans 2:11). It was one with the universe but also ran the universe, and thus outranked the universe and thus must have also governed the creation of it. This natural law they called the Word of God, and they additionally realized that knowing this law would ease living and give power. The Bible is full of references to folks who purported to capture and harness this natural law (Genesis 3:6, Luke 20:10), or who tried to make others believe that they had indeed mastered it and were its emissaries, even its divine representatives on earth (Exodus 32:1, 1 Kings 18:26).
But others saw that man had been equipped to merge with this natural law, to become one with it in heart and soul (Deuteronomy 6:5). Man, they realized, is not only an integral element of the creation that this law brought about and continually upheld, but was given the capacity to embody it consciously. If man embodied the whole of natural law, he would subsequently embody the whole of the universe, from its inception to it finest working principles (1 Kings 10:3-5). He would be like God and with God. He would be entirely free (John 8:32).
The literary character of Jesus, we are told in the story, personifies truth, which in turn encompasses everything that can be known about everything that can be known, or that which the Bible calls the Word of God. This Word is what reality is based on, and what Jesus embodies (Isaiah 45:7, John 1:3, Romans 11:36, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15-17, Hebrews 1:3). The literary Jesus is the truth (John 14:6), which is why the sum of God's word is truth (Psalm 119:160) and in Jesus are all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom (Colossians 2:3).
🔼The reality of Mary
Truth is not a statement but a realm, a theatre of operation. Truth can't be represented or captured in math (or any formal system; John 1:5) but only expressed in love (and "love" is not a feeling but a modus operandi). Said with Einstein's theories of relativity at the tip of our tongues: minds relate to truth the way stars relate to space (and for fans of Einstein: gravity is self-similar to curiosity; mass to knowledge and space to consciousness; rational conscience is that which happens within a mental Schwartzschild radius).
Truth means freedom; freedom leads to diversity, and diversity leads to collectivity. Bio-diversity is what makes the difference between a successful and a failing ecosystem. Psycho-diversity is what makes the difference between a successful economy and a stagnant one. Minds that exist freely within a network of truth are like a fishing net that catches everything (Jeremiah 16:16, Matthew 4:19). Truth is that which allows a mind the freedom to roam wherever it wants and to investigate and learn whatever it wants (1 Corinthians 2:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
And that, very simply, means that Mary represents a social stance; a community in which everything is in place for a massive understanding of the whole truth about everything. Mary was not a little country girl from Bethlehem, for the very simple fact that no ancient wisdom tradition told stories about little country girls from anywhere.
The familiar statement of Genesis 1:2 reflects the same mechanism as Luke 1:35. The observation that "the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters" explains why Gabriel could tells Mary: "the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (and also have a look at our article on the adjective αγιος, hagios, meaning "holy").
🔼The Great Human Inn
Until the Bronze Age collapse, which occurred just prior to the age of David and Solomon, the world was a natural empire (Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25) that stretched from India to Nubia and from Spain to Norway and in which every tribe and nation freely conversed with all the others. Mankind had existed as hunter gatherers for hundreds of thousands of years but from 40,000 years ago people began to produce paintings in caves all over the world that are so advanced and shockingly similar that they could have come from one and the same local art school down the street. Much later but within the span of a few centuries mankind settled globally into agricultural societies. Nearly simultaneously and pretty much everywhere man began to erect similar stone monuments; monuments that demonstrated cooperation between great groups of people, and a shared sense of purpose and symbolism. Long before metallurgy became prominent, societies all over the world had advanced knowledge of mathematics, cosmology, the biosphere and themselves.
The art of metallurgy swept over the whole world in a geological instant (apparently from modern Serbia radially outward). The bronze of the middle eastern world consisted of tin from Afghanistan and copper from Cyprus, and was traded as far north as Scandinavia. The Chinese traveled the earth or were at least known about (possibly as the Sinim of Isaiah 49:12). Bronze Age houses in Britain have been found to contain glass beads from the Balkans. Neolithic lapis lazuli from Afghanistan has been found on the far west coast of Africa.
The going got tough but even after the Bronze Age collapse, trade routes remained open and science and technologies remained shared. We know that in the age of Jesus, Buddhists from India toured China and also frequented the courts in Rome. Special steel from India was processed in smitheries from Sri Lanka to anywhere in the Roman Empire and China. The famous yin-yang symbol appears in Roman records hundreds of years before it does in China. Taoism's "Way" describes "the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists," and is suspiciously similar to the "Way" which Jesus embodied ("he is before all things, and in him all things hold together" — Colossians 1:17). Unlike most modern rulers, Cleopatra spoke nine languages including Greek, Arabic, Aramaic and Hebrew. Unlike public signage today, the Rosetta Stone demonstrates that back then public signage routinely appeared in multiple languages.
🔼Fractals, fractals everywhere
The difference between the age of the natural empire and the political ones — a federation of nations governed by a centralized government and a legal code — is the same difference between prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Its inevitable evolution follows natural law and can not be stopped.
Anybody who realizes that everything that occurs naturally is an expression of natural law (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and that natural law works the same on all levels of complexity, is able to derive the most intimate natural principles from what is observable. By just looking at their visible world and understanding the relative positions of all its elements, the folks who wrote the Bible knew about what we now call electricity, DNA and the mammalian reproductive cycle, relativity theory, physical cosmology, nuclear physics and the standard model of elementary particles. Not all of it resulted in technology — although some may have; read our article on the Menorah — but after Rome's destruction of the ancient world, it took mankind nearly fifteen centuries to restore some of its former levels of understanding, and a few more to actually construct the electrical power grid. The ancients never had that kind of time. But they had the knowledge.
Unlike later leanings, the Bible writers held foreign traditions in the highest regard (Isaiah 28:11, 1 Corinthians 14:21, Luke 4:26-28; also read our article on Homer). The literature they had access to came literally from all the ends of the earth and the literature they in turn produced remains beyond compare of anything mankind has achieved since. It was their version of the Internet, and contained all the verified wisdom of the world in data-compressed format (John 21:25). Its chronology is fractalic, non-linear and has multiple axes of symmetry. Its narrative progresses along an anti-intuitive axis of complexity rather than a common temporal one. Its network of gestalts discusses all imaginable real-time events, its cultural memory goes back into deep prehistory and its scope is boundless, having always covered the whole of humanity in the entire known world.
The literary Jesus is so at home in the environment provided by the natural evolution of the wisdom tradition that the demand for a human individual to validate the literary character demonstrates a brutish ignorance of the nature of either. The actual historical entity that the literary character of Jesus represents is man's understanding of natural law. The story of Jesus is a story of people.
🔼The hands that rock the manger
For ancient civilizations as much as modern ones, sound information was a matter of life or death (Proverbs 12:11, 28:19). People who peddled lies were killed (Deuteronomy 18:20-22, 1 Kings 18:40), and whatever was preserved organically — that is: not by central decree but by standing the tests of time and human convention — had been tirelessly tried and weighed. Doubtlessly much was rejected, and certainly much was amended. What was handed over to the modern age was a Scripture truly refined like silver in the furnace of the earth (Psalm 12:6).
The historical significance of both Mary and Jesus is the same as that of any Biblical hero and lies solely in large-scale social dynamic. The topic of discussion in the Bible is not political power (how tribes compete over resources and territory, and nations emerge) but that of the wisdom tradition (how schools of thought compete over skills and theory, and conventions emerge).
The historical significance of Biblical characters is to give faces to milestones in global science and technology. All Bible books are edits from older sources that have since long perished, but by the time the Bible was written in its final form, the wisdom tradition wasn't yet fractured into independent disciplines. Any wizard (a wise-ard) knew everything about everything, and the folks who ultimately penned down the Bible were the most intensely and diversely skilled people on the planet. These were the torch bearers of the same world-wide tradition that had invented writing, art, music, animal husbandry, agriculture, metallurgy, psychology, cosmology, meteorology, and statesmanship. They had built monuments and temples of an unmistakably global style. They had bred edible corn, apples and olives from poisonous ancestors. They had pried wooly sheep, pigs and even dogs from their disagreeable feral families, and told of their exploits in their oral and later written traditions.
Hence "King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart" (1 Kings 10:24). The subsequent "temple in Jerusalem," which was brought about on the merits of Phoenician skill (1 Kings 5), employed 24,000 overseers (1 Chronicles 23:4), which obviously does not denote some local cult but rather a world-wide effort.
The Phoenicians had been more than instrumental in bringing about the celebrated temple of Solomon, and not long after their architectural generosity they were still supremely praised for their earlier wisdom tradition (Ezekiel 28:12). They had of course invented the consonantal alphabet, which had lifted the art of reading and writing out of the hands of esoteric priests and opened the world of wisdom to the common man — a story of which all traditions breathlessly told: the Hebrews anticipated a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6); the Greeks told of Prometheus who stole fire from the gods, and the Vedas related of Matarisvan ("he who grows in the mother") whose eponymous mother was the fire called Agni.
The global wisdom tradition that left us the Hebrew Bible expanded the already miraculous Phoenician consonantal alphabet with vowel notation (not to be mistaken for medieval Masoretic vowel pointing). The ancient Hebrews selected three symbols that already represented consonants and gave them double agency by additionally employing them to represent vowels. The י (yod) represented the consonantal Y but was made to also represent vowels in the range from I to E. The ה (he) was like our H but also assumed the vowels in the E to A range. And the ו (waw), which governed the W and V consonants also took on vowels in the U to O range.
Vowel notation was an unimaginable godsend. It allowed sounds to be represented (which in itself was an unprecedented miracle) but also syllables, syntax and sentence structure. It made reading vastly simpler, and script so accurate that data could be transferred or preserved with very little chance of corruption — hence the Psalmist jubilant outcry: "You will not let your Holy One [the Word] see decay!" (Psalm 16:10, 49:9, Acts 2:27). Vowel notation had given both eternal life to the wisdom tradition, and prosperity and peace to all people.
The God of the vowel-people consequently became known by an inexplicable name that consisted only of those majestic vowels: יהוה, or YHWH. The Hebrew vowels breathed life into the Phoenician consonantal alphabet, as YHWH came to dwell in Solomon and Hiram's magnificent temple (1 Kings 8:10-11).
🔼The Virgin will be with Child
The Virgin cult which managed to attach itself to Mary was not originally Marian because it stems from deep antiquity. In Biblical times it had its most recent installment in Pallas Athena. The noun παλλας (pallas) means youth or the childlike conditions just prior to the adolescent journey to adulthood, and the verb παλλω (pallo) means to exist in the stationary conditions just prior to a setting off (of a missile being launched, of lots to be tossed).
It's not wholly clear where the name Athena technically comes from but various stories suggest that it represents a plural (Athenai) which in turn refers to a cluster of divine daughters of Zeus, which were personifications of city states, or more precise: the societies that could crystallize by merit of specific social theories and their enforcement. Here at Abarim Publications we privately surmise that whatever the true origin of the name Athena might be, the A of Athena would match the collecting α (a); the same prefix that forms the noun αδελφος (adelphos), meaning brother from the noun δελφυς (delphus), meaning womb. The second part of the name Athena — we agree with Plato (Crat.407b) — could be construed to be an expression of the same root from which stems the words θετης (thetes), meaning "one who sets/places" and of course the familiar word θεος (theos), meaning God. Greek's enclitic particle θεν (then), is of a similar meaning as the Hebrew word אמן ('amen), which makes Athena a roguish Greek counterpart of Isaiah's famous "God of Amen" (Isaiah 65:16).
Pallas Athena became the patron of the city of Athens after she beat Poseidon by creating the olive tree — from whence tellingly came oil for healing and illumination, and in the obviously similar Jewish tradition also for installing people in high office; hence our words Messiah and Christ. Ogled by all the surrounding societies, the city of Athens slowly evolved from kingdom (until the 9th century BC) to democracy (from the 5th century BC) and became antiquity's great democratic experiment in which not some royal ruler (that's male) but a collective senate (that's female) held sway. The Athenian senate was even so democratic that Athena remained a virgin (the senate had no president) and the grateful citizens built her a fancy temple: the Parthenon, which was named after one of Athena's epithets, namely the word παρθενος (parthenos), meaning virgin or maiden. Athena was known as The Virgin and when Isaiah foretold that "the virgin would be with child" (7:14) nobody in the classical world would have thought of anything other than the radical social theory expressed as Athens' republic, particularly after the reforms of Solon.
The Hebrew authors discussed the transition from kingdom to republic in their story of the Return, in which Jews from Babylon returned to Jerusalem and restored the temple according to the decrees and design of the Persian emperor, and funded by the same (Ezra 6:3). To make sure that nobody missed the central theme, the emphasis of the story lay heavily on the "guided but not-presided" senatorial representatives of larger groups of people (Ezra 2, Nehemiah 7 and 10), and written constitutions, ratified by these representatives (Nehemiah 9:38). The name Ezra means Helper and is the same feminine word as used in God's famous assertion that "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a Helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18). That Helper became Eve, of course; the mother of all living.
As Athens' social theory developed, Athena's divine character grew increasingly pronounced. While her brother Ares (or Mars) came to represent the brute force of war, Athena assumed the craft and art of it, along with various other skills and wisdoms. She particularly came to patron the art of weaving and see the Hebrew commentary on this in the obvious parallel of Samson and Delilah (Judges 16:14). The ancient art of weaving is expressed by the proto-Indo-European root teks-, from which we get our word "textile". In the Greek language this same ancient root gave rise to the verb τικτω (tikto), from which comes our word "technology". It's also the root of the noun τεκτον (tekton), which describes the profession of Joseph and Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3). The verb τικτω (tikto) means to beget or rather to physically bring forth a child (both by father and mother) as wonderfully expressed by David in his famous "you wove me in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139:13). The noun τεκνον (teknon) is the common Greek word for child.
🔼Nothing except one little ewe lamb
The child that the Virgin was hoped to produce was a citizen of a perfect democracy, in which every person was an "anointed", that is: utterly free and thus both self-governing and forming the collective government — hence Isaiah's further vision that the government would be upon his shoulders (9:6).
Athens became a world power when the Athenians defeated the Persian army at the battle of Marathon. The name Marathon probably stems from the same root as our name Mary, but the Jews may actually have been rooting for the Persians. The Persian emperor, after all, had released them from captivity and had ordered and funded the restoration of Jerusalem and the temple (Ezra 6:3). Instead of returning in a physical sense, a large collective of Jews remained in Persia but "returned" to their veneration of righteousness by establishing the thriving Jewish community that ultimately produced the still revered Talmud. The Magi who so famously came to visit baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1) were Persian Jews.
Impressed by Athens' achievements, neighboring principalities quickly followed Athens' social model and a few hundred of them federated into the Athens chaired, anti-Persian Delian League. It heralded the most splendid and productive period of the western world, and most of the signature elements of our modern society stem from post-Marathon Athens: from architecture to literary models, from mathematics to philosophy, from natural science to social theory.
The beginning of the end of Athens was set in motion by less prominent members of the Delian League who objected to Athens' selfish appropriation of collective resources (most notably its fleet). This resulted in the Peloponnesian War (around the time of Nehemiah and Malachi), which relived the horrors of the Bronze Age collapse but on a smaller scale. The war bankrupted the economy. Glorious Athens was demoted and Sparta took control of Greece (Matthew 11:12). Democracy and diplomacy made way for Sparta's oligarchy and slug fests. Local and civil wars became common, and one in particular gave Phillip II of Macedon control over what was left of Athens and environs. Phillip's son Alexander famously expanded the Macedonian realm until it encompassed the known world. After his death his empire too destabilized and formed four lesser successors that continued to battle each other. In the chaos that ensued, the Jews led by Judas Maccabee created their own state and monarchy, namely that of the Hasmoneans, but in 63 BC the Roman general Pompey annexed it and its neighbors to Rome (Daniel 8).
🔼A Tale of Two Sisters
Biblical Israel was never a gene pool but always a school of thought. It was never a local effort but always a global one. Grafted on the Canaanite schools of Salem (Genesis 14:18) and Mamre (13:18), and having absorbed all the wealth and women of Shechem (34:29) it was formed from tributaries ranging from Babylon (Abraham, Sarah), Assyria (Haran) to Egypt (Moses; also see Exodus 12:35-36) and from Midian in Arabia (Jethro) to Jericho (Rahab), Moab (Ruth), the Hittites (Uriah and Bathsheba) and a further influx of people from all over: 32,000 Midianite virgins (Numbers 31:18 and 31:35), a certain "mixed multitude" (Exodus 12:38) and countless others (Deuteronomy 20:14, Exodus 20:10). Hence the Lord could say of Israel: "Your origin and your birth are from the land of the Canaanite, your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite" (Ezekiel 16:3). Even Judah's international character lasted well until Roman times (Acts 2:9-11, 8:27).
Israel's primary topic of inquiry, into which all other inquiries fed, was statesmanship: the study of how a society would function at its most optimum. It was understood that the Virgin had sought to conceive since the Spirit first hovered over the waters (Genesis 1:2), but although there were all kinds of benefits to getting into bed with the political powers that be, stories from Homer's Helen of Troy to David's Bathsheba and Persia's Esther discussed its ultimate limitation: the marriage of king and Virgin did somehow not suffice. Fortunately the Virgin-queen came with a little sister, who herself was of course a Virgin too.
The story of the Two Sisters is one of the Bible's most dominant archetypes. It tells the story of how two sisters (or close associates; Romans 16:1, 1 Timothy 5:2) engage an alpha male (a king) in order to deal with their closely related male, who is sometimes a brother but usually a son. The son is that in which the Two Sisters find their own perpetuation. He usually dies but is revived or somehow changes hands, and the Two Sisters continue, either in the rightful mother of the son (while the other one is heard from no more) or as some purified and revitalized version of the Two Sisters.
The story of the Two Sisters is never simply about good guys versus bad guys or forwards a singular morale but forms a web of iterations and bears countless interpretations. It iterates from Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29:16) to the Song of Solomon (see 8:8) and the breach between Israel and Judah. It returns in Ezekiel's parable of Oholah and Oholibah (Ezekiel 23), Solomon's wise decree (1 Kings 3:16-28) and ultimately in the enigmatic Johannine report of "his mother and his mother's sister" who stood at the cross of Jesus (John 19:25).
The archetype of the Two Sisters is so fundamental that it's established as the core event of the second creation day — where one body of water becomes two, and of these two only one produces dry land (Genesis 1:6-8) — and even forms the quintessential Golgotha image of Christ between the two murderers; one accepted and the other rejected.
🔼The whore on seven hills
Since its much lamented fall from natural glory at the end of the Bronze Age, in the century of Christ the world's government had slumped the lowest. The non-centralized but highly advanced worlds of the Celts and the Phoenicians had been destroyed, millions or its people slaughtered and its territories turned to waste lands. The democratic experiment of Athens and even Rome's ancient senate (or curia) had failed. Rome's Republic too had become unstable and greedy generals such as Pompey and Julius Caesar had turned it into a tyranny. A milestone in primitivity was reached when Octavian became Emperor Augustus and the suffocated Republic was resurrected as Empire: a governmental zombie without a soul and a true horror; the world's first fascist state.
The Roman Empire was a death machine in which only one man was always right and everybody else a slave. Men were constricted into uniforms and poised into legions, where they were made to obey remote masters (Ephesians 6:12) and serve the currencies of terror and coercion. The world became a vortex that directed mankind's proceeds to Rome where it was converted into concrete and madness by millions of slaves, many of whom died of abuse or suicide. The city of Rome became the greatest altar of human sacrifice the world had ever seen and the death toll among civilians was so high that a continuous stream of fresh citizens was required just to keep its squalor going. The individual counted for nothing and the masses were entertained with death and ignorance. The higher up the social ladder, the more in line with the structure of tyranny one had to be, the more noble one was deemed, and the more one could count on the system's protective machine: the police and judicial courts.
Ordinary people had very little claim to such protection, unless their discomfort bore directly upon someone higher up. Rich people could literally get away with murder and rarely suffered a punishment worse than forced relocation. Rome's signature mode of torture — namely crucifixion, which after a day or three led to death by exhaustion — was reserved for uppity slaves and foreigners and specifically designed as a public deterrent. That so many still ended up on crosses shows that a very large segment of Rome's population valued resistance more than their own lives. Ultimately, only very few people really benefitted from Rome and a great many felt imprisoned by it and fought to get out.
Even from before its inception, people from all walks of life, both foreigners and Romans alike, battled this atrocious beast with all their might. The empire's architect Julius Caesar found himself murdered by a large group of senators who called themselves Liberators (namely mankind from tyranny), the last of whom were defeated at the battle of Philippi but whose purpose lived on in anti-Roman zealots as unlikely as Pilate and the Stoic philosophers. In a final bid for life, the Germanians and Illyrians nearly toppled Rome in 9 AD, but Rome prevailed and the world descended further into darkness. An orgy of death ensued.
🔼They came up on the broad plain of the earth
Roman violence was of a barbarism beyond all proportions, and to put that into perspective: The Roman Empire was home to about 60 million people and the total army consisted of between 250,000 to 450,000 men. That doesn't sound like many, but the Roman legion was a trained killing machine that made little distinction between enemy soldiers and enemy civilians. Modern historians (Ben Kiernan) accredit the late Roman Republic with the invention of the genocide. The siege of Carthage (from 149 to 146 BC) ended in the extermination of hundreds of thousands of people, and the ten percent of the population that survived the carnage was sold into slavery. Early Roman historians estimated that on his northern campaigns (50s BC), Julius Caesar had killed 1,000,000 Celts and had enslaved 1,000,000 more (Plutarch: Caes.XV.5, Pomp.LXVII.10; Pliny VII.91), and it was those campaigns that ultimately funded the chain of events that brought about the Empire.
The number of Jews alone who were murdered during the Jewish Wars (from 67 to 136 AD) was a staggering 2,000,000. As in 70 AD the fall of Jerusalem became imminent, Romans would crucify 500 Jewish refugees per day; mostly civilians with their wives and children. Bored legionnaires would catch them when they tried to flee the siege and for sport would whip and torture them and then nail them upside down or sideways to racks and crosses to slowly die. This went on until they ran out of wood for crosses and space to place them, so they resorted to merely chopping off people's hands (JW.5.446 and on).
Imagine the rage, the cries and the mad mass hysteria. Imagine the laughing and the fields of bloody mud. Imagine the industrial scale of this never-ending and inescapable sadistic horror that these devils devised for their victims. No hell was ever imagined more gruesome than this.
Where once the Word of God was expected to come from the lips of foreigners, the Romans tagged anything non-Roman for acute annihilation. The wisdom that had been tried and accumulated since time immemorial, as a joint venture of the whole of humanity to benefit all of mankind, went up in thin smoke. Stupidity rolled in on fatty billows and the world turned into a smoldering hole. The ancient pathways of discourse became intersected by military highways and iron curtains. The wealth of nations was no longer its freely shared wisdom but the material surplus this wisdom generated. Wisdom can be copied and perpetually dispensed — like water from an eternal well or oil from a jar that never depletes — but gold is finite, and if it can't be earned by lack of wisdom, it would simply have to be taken by force.
They did it to everybody: the Carthaginians, the British, the Germanians, the Celts, the Iberians, the Illyrians, the Dacians. They targeted the intellectual elite, the scholars, druids and priests and killed them all, and burned whatever libraries there were. What was left they annexed and taxed. They reverted entire sophisticated societies to pre-Pleistocene levels of collective comprehension, and dazzled the survivors with luxury and entertainment, which was then as much as now just "part of their enslavement" (in the words of Tacitus; Agricola.1.21). In order to not having to fight them, they made them believe, and for this the wizards who pursued natural law had to die. They destroyed ancient cities beyond recognition and nullified entire cultures as if they had never existed. They were, in the words of a Caledonian commander named Galgacus, "robbers of the world, exhausting the earth with their world-wide plunder. Robbery, slaughter and plunder they lyingly call empire. They create a wasteland, and call it peace" (Tacitus, Agricola.1.30)
Roman spin doctors did a great job in glorifying the Roman effort and discrediting the vanquished, and although they were believed for centuries, in modern times a critical examination of texts and treasures left in the ground reveals that life in the Roman world was a bloody nightmare from which humanity is only recently trying to awake. Whatever nobility the Romans are remembered for they pillaged from cultures they raped and burned. Their true legacy lives on as any government's most enticing refuge and was last most clearly visited by Adolf Hitler. His Intelligenzaktion again targeted the intellectuals. His Ahnenerbe again placed the abomination in the sanctuary. The only real difference between Hitler and Augustus is that Augustus had won. Mankind suffered his darkness until the Renaissance.
🔼Setting the captives free
Rome is a dead end in more ways than one, and this primarily because its core passions are not supported by natural evolution. Nature does not support an evolution from natural, non-centralized empire (prokaryote) to political empire (eukaryote) to an even bigger and more rigid empire, with a bigger and more rigid nucleus and ever expanding constitutional code. Nature is rigged to produce diversity and to level out concentrations of energy by means of the second law of thermodynamics. That's why, sooner or later, every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain be made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain (Isaiah 40:4). Rome must end for the same reason why your coffee gets cold, and the Hebrews knew this.
The fate of Rome (or any large federation or fortune) is to fall apart into non-centralized clusters of much smaller states that are all founded on the same principles. These principles have to be natural or else they will produce a society as unstable as that of Rome. And the joined identities of these nations will form a collective identity that none of the separate states could have designed but in which all states feel perfectly received and expressed. We're talking about, of course, the social equivalent of a multi-cellular organism.
Pax Romana was the pinnacle of nations being in uproar and the devisement of a vain thing against the Creator and his anointed (Psalm 2:1-2). But his prophets saw that the real desire of the nations would come (Haggai 2:7). It's not a matter of human intent or even sapience but a natural effect that has been ordained since the beginning of the world, which the universe is designed to produce. John the Revelator saw the river of life and the tree of life whose leaves were for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2). Abraham's blessing was to be for all the nations (Genesis 22:18), and Jesus instructed his people to turn entire nations into his disciples (Matthew 28:19, also see 25:32).
The Hebrews seem to have concluded that humanity is designed to function as nations (which are essentially large family groups), which in turn are based on natural law, which in turn make the members feel as if there is no law at all. The effect of being able to follow natural law is freedom, and it's for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1).
Mary is the society that understands that every person is equally valuable, and no single human person is able to foretell what the whole of us is capable of (Isaiah 64:4, 1 Corinthians 2:9). In a Marian society, people are occupied with the compass of their own talents, and the search to bind themselves onto others into human molecules, to form production companies, art houses and schools of scientific inquiry, which are the "nations" the Bible speaks of. These "nations" form naturally when human atoms are free.
Rome is xenophobic and will narrow the range of the acceptable until only one person remains. Mary is xenophilic and will incorporate all persons into a new world that no single person can comprehend. Rome promotes competition that leads to one winner and countless losers. Mary promotes cooperation that leads to maximum entropy. In Rome we do as we're told. In Mary we do what we want.
🔼What Helena went to look for
With all that talk of natural liberation going on, Rome needed a critical mass of people willing to uphold the nonsense of its pantheon. Its key ingredient, of course, was that Roman gods were essentially capricious, and ruled mankind on their merry whims, and that the emperor was their earthly representative, and thus endowed with the equally capricious right of kings. Jews (including Marian Jews) didn't think so and neither felt like giving into Rome's demands, which is why Rome and its copycat regimes, such as that of Nazi Germany, hated them with such passion. Regimes that are based on grids hate people who won't stand in line.
Their crime was officially called "atheism," which became "a charge on which many others who drifted into Jewish ways were condemned," wrote Cassius Dio around 200 AD (Hist.67.14). It's not often emphasized but the original Jesus movement did not simply demand that there was only one God, but rather that the only law was natural law. Unfortunately for Rome, nature is stronger than the emperor, and the Marian sect grew increasingly strong and, along with the Stoic ideas of humanism and decency, threatened to destabilize the Roman way of life. Fortunately for Rome, young Constantine had a cunning plan.
Emperor Constantine the Great was a life-long devotee of the cult of Sol Invictus (the Invincible Sun), and he cleverly deflated the natural liberation movement by applying its signature names and phrases to the core elements of the Roman Imperial cult. So doing he diverted its painstakingly wrought social energies into a revived version of the time honored paganism of Rome. The pantheon of demigods now became called saints (deified humans), the divine and elite political hierarchy was dubbed clergy, amulets became icons, magic chants became prayers, spells became blessings and invocations curses, and of course the divine representative of the Pantokrator was the holy emperor himself! The world of the Lord of Life is based on natural economy and thus diversity (Galatians 2:11) but Constantine turned it into a graven image that grew ever more rigid; Christianity's library of immutable doctrines took the place of Rome' rows of marble idols.
Thanks to Constantine and his councils, creeds and exclusive canon (which blatantly opposed Paul's inclusive assertion that all writing is θεοπνευστος, theopneustos; 2 Timothy 3:16), the detrimental atheism of the liberation movement became the wholly dependable monotheistic religion of imperial Christianity. And although the deception worked like a miracle, it needed some nifty folklore to get really going.
The search for the "historical Jesus" pretty much started with Constantine's mother Helena, who lived two and a half centuries after Mary and Jesus of Nazareth but still managed to unearth the one and only true cross of Christ. This is remarkable since hundreds of thousands of people had been crucified in the century of Jesus and crosses were recycled until they fell apart. Even more remarkable, the one and only true cross of Christ still had the Titulus Crucis — the plaque that declared Jesus' regality in Hebrew, Greek and Latin — attached to it, which Helena duly purloined and carried home in lucrative triumph.
Though Helena is still widely venerated for her efforts, the story is really rather absurd and shows very little sensitivity to both the nature of the original Jesus movement and the wholesale destruction of the Jewish world in the years following 70 AD. But then, neither Constantine nor Helena cared much about the actual gospel and were mostly interested in extending the emperor cult some badly needed divine swagger. Both Jesus and Constantine came from humble origins, and both Mary and Helena had been abandoned by their husbands (which conveniently explained why there's no Joseph at Golgotha). The whole Jesus-son-of-Mary thing matched the Constantine-son-of-Helena thing like a glove and demonstrated beyond the need for further investigation that Constantine was destined to be the vestige of whichever god on earth.
Much of our intuitive and folkloristic understanding of the Bible comes from the traditional church, which is a post-Constantinian Roman institution and has nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ and everything with Roman Imperialism. Subsequently, the traditional church has had very little reason to preserve or even reflect the concerns of the Bible authors, and has always been nearly wholly invested in forwarding the pagan models that keeps flocks conveniently fearful and compliant. In political Rome family ties were hugely important and the early formal church built its mythology on the assumption that the mother and (half-) brothers of Jesus must have been at least half as holy as he, and certainly automatically part of Jesus' missionary apparatus, since he, just like any Roman Caesar, would surely surround himself with siblings and cousins.
In the Bible, of course, things work quite the opposite and nobody gets any glory on account of a famous brother (or else we would have heard more from the brothers of David). Jesus even literally explained that whoever did the will of his Father was his brother and sister and mother (Matthew 12:50), and the Biblical Marian character reflects precisely that.
🔼The Titulus Crucis
When Jesus was crucified, Pilate had a sign fixed to the cross that said: JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS. All gospels mention this sign (Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38) but only John mentions that this sign came in three languages, namely Hebrew, Latin and Greek (John 19:19-20). Some minor Greek manuscripts of Luke also contain the reference to the three languages, but most modern scholars are certain this is a gloss copied from John, and most modern English translations of Luke omit it.
Tradition explains that Pilate put this sign up to mock Jesus, but that's really quite dubious. Pilate may actually have been a good guy (read our article on that name) and the Titulus Crucis may actually reflect Pilate's understanding of Jesus' core essence (John 19:22).
The first people to acknowledge the existence of this "King of the Jews" were the Magi from the east (Matthew 2:1-2). Instead of Magi, Luke tells of shepherds abiding in the field while keeping watch over their flocks (Luke 2:8), and despite tradition and folklore, these shepherds and the Magi are of course the same people: those Rabbis who ran the Jewish wisdom schools in Persian Babylon. After the averted holocaust described in the Book of Esther, many stayed and created the hugely important Jewish tradition that has sustained Judaism until the present age.
Suffering far less opposition than the Jews in Palestine, the Babylonian Jews were the first to figure out what the deal was. These Babylonian Rabbis where the first true evangelists, who traveled to Palestine to explain their intellectually impoverished brethren how humanity could survive the Roman imperial onslaught. That event was broadcast across the region in the poetry of the nativity story.
Those with Hebrew eyes saw honorable wise men from an intimately related eastern tradition. Those with Latin eyes saw some local leaders from a barbaric land just over the far eastern border of the civilized Empire. And folks with Greek eyes got a nicely tailored Greek tragedy, no talk of kings but a people's ritual (in Mark, Jesus simply came from Nazareth, meaning the Diaspora; Mark 1:9).
The youngest of the gospels, that of John, placed itself on the shoulders of the synoptic giants. John wrote in a world in which the Pauline mission had led to a by now well established gospel tradition, which was told in the union of the world's three great perspectives. And there it is: John's respectful salute to the three cultural languages in which Jesus was first proclaimed King of the Jews — the Titulus Crucis formed by the Synoptic Gospels standing over the Word, and the Marian societies standing beneath the Word.
🔼Fish for fish and eggs for eggs
As should be clear by now, the gospels are not amateur biographies of a local hero but highly sophisticated commentaries on the age, with an emphasis on the evolution of the wisdom tradition in an imperial world — a journey that will go on until every man is anointed and the empire is no more; or in the words of Paul: "then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when he has abolished all rule and all authority and power" (1 Corinthians 15:24).
The synoptic evangelists were writing during the first decades of the Jewish Wars and had to word their disapproval of Rome very carefully, if possible even more careful than Paul had in the decades prior (read our article on the name Onesimus).
The hope on deliverance by natural, God-ordained means, which fueled the social movement after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD by Titus (whose father Vespasian was nicknamed mulio or Muleteer), became the triumphant entree of Jesus on the foal of a mule (Matthew 21:5). The Idumean king Herod's scandalous termination of the rightful Hasmonean royal bloodline by executing his own Hasmonean wife and their sons, was told of as the massacre of the innocents of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16). When Jesus spoke of moving mountains (Matthew 17:20), nobody in his audience would have failed to recall the colossal manmade mountain that housed Herod's palace called the Herodion. When he told of throwing mountains into the sea (Matthew 21:21), his audience doubtlessly remembered how Herod had built the harbor complex of Caesarea Maritima from imported cement made from volcanic ash. And when the foolish man built on shifting sand (Matthew 7:26), few would not have snickered at that very complex sinking rapidly beneath the waves.
When in 9 AD Emperor Tiberius asked chief Bato of the Illyrian insurrectionists the reason for the revolt, he answered: "You Romans are to blame for this, for you send as guardians of your flocks neither dogs nor shepherds but wolves." When Jesus said: "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves" (Matthew 10:16) nobody in first century Palestine would not have understood these words to relate to the great revolt that had nearly stopped Rome.
In Luke's account of the risen Christ who met Cleopas on the road to Emmaus (24:13-18), the author supplied sensitive commentaries on the battles of Emmaus and Actium (hence Nicopolis). Luke's story of Lazarus (16:20) offered in no uncertain terms a commentary on the templar enterprise installed by Rome, built by Herod and ran by Annas and his cartel. John's version of Lazarus (11:1) incorporated the story of the sisters Mary and Martha, and very few from John's original audience would have not realized that the names Martha and Mary are essentially identical and that this story too visited the tried archetype of the Two Sisters.
There was, of course, only one Mary. But she existed in many locations and only one produced the actual Son: the non-violent resistance movement that originated in the Diaspora, was first recognized in Persian Babylon and ultimately materialized in Roman Judea. She was somehow imagined to comprise sub-movements dubbed James, Joses, Judas and Simon and an untold number of informal ones (his sisters), but how that translates to historical social movements is not clear at this remove (or even to someone as informed as Paul, see 1 Corinthians 1:12). Within first century Judaism there were many highly unique schools — we know of Sadducees (= sons of Zadok), Pharisees (= sons of Persia?), Sons Of Light, Sons of Zebedee, the Essenes, Therapeutae, Zealots, the Fourth Sect, pre-Jesus Christians (those rooting for a Jewish king after the collapse of the Hasmonean dynasty in 63 BC; see John 6:15), Hodosites, Nazarenes (Acts 24:5) and Baptists (John was probably not the only one and had disciples who were thus Baptists), but there were doubtlessly many more schools of advanced though operative in the Empire.
Mark uniquely dubs one of the Mary's he places under the cross Mary "of-James-Mikron-and-of-Joses-the-mother," and while tradition often calls this James the Less in a vain attempt to forge a distinction from the other Jameses, this epithet seems to correspond mostly with the nickname of Saul of Tarsus, better known as Paul, which means Little.
(For more of these correspondences, see our article on the name Dalmanutha.)
🔼Three women under the cross
The story of Jesus versus Rome is the perennial story of personal autonomy versus fascism. It's never simply a story of the "good guys" versus the "bad guys" because in physical reality natural law reigns rather than some cosmic battle. Hence "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28), and the huffin' and puffin' of the big bad wolf only makes the brick house stronger (same story). Whatever proverbial antagonist is mentioned in the gospels, it's always for the positive effect that this person's negative actions had on Jesus' ultimate resurrection as consciously acknowledged Lord.
The crucifixion of Jesus centers on the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and according to Josephus, when the army had "no more people to slay or plunder", Titus ordered the city razed to the ground with the exception of three massive royal towers, "in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which Roman valor had subdued" (JW.7.1).
These towers had been built by Herod the Great, were named Phasaelus, after Herod's brother, Hippicus, after a fallen general and friend, and Mariamne, after Herod's wife. Herod's wife Mariamne and her sons were the last of the Hasmoneans and Herod had hoped that his marriage to the last Jewish princess would abate the hatred that the Jewish elite bore for him. He was also deeply in love with her, but she hated him more than he loved her and she and her sons and in effect the Hasmonean dynasty ended up terminated because of it.
When the authors of the New Testament came up with a personage Mary Magdalene — that is: Mary of the Tower, from מגדל (migdal), meaning tower — and placed her unanimously under the cross, nobody in the original audience would have missed the pun:
- Among whom were Mary Magdalene, and "Mary of-James-Mikron-and-of-Joses-the-mother", and Salome (Mark 15:40).
- Among them were Mary Magdalene, and "Mary of James and of Joseph the mother", and the mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matthew 27:56).
- They were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary of James (Luke 24:10).
- Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister; Mary of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25).
Over the centuries, many of the best and brightest have tried to figure out which women exactly were present at the crucifixion, because like the "pages and pages of data" in Carl Sagan's Contact, the pointers simply don't line up — that is to say: to an observer who expects a linear narrative. To those who expect "efficiency functioning on multiple levels" the story opens up like a fractal, hinging on the mysteriously multi-facetted character of James.
🔼The Bethanian Triad
instead of a broken symmetry, the evolving gospel shows lines of congruency that run down the flanks of the narrative like stripes on a zebra. The primer is the notion that the English name James is actually the Greek name Jacobos, which is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Jacob, which was the original name of Israel. Jacob had a brother named Esau, from whom came the Edomites or Idumeans and from whom came the family of Herod the Great, the Roman client king of Judea.
This king Herod died in 4 BC and the rule over Judea passed over to the Romans in 6 AD, which is precisely the time span in which Jesus was born. It's not often emphasized but Jesus wasn't born in a year but in the twelve years between at least two years before the death of Herod in 4 BC (Matthew 2:16) and the census of Quirinius in 6 AD (Luke 2:2). Modern readers might find this somewhat confusing but nobody in the first century AD would have missed or misunderstood this.
Mark wrote after Paul but before the nativity cycle had been developed (by Matthew and Luke). Mark's coming of the Christ was partly out of Nazareth (1:9) and partly a natural continuation of the ministry of John the Baptist, who himself simply "appeared in the wilderness" (1:4) and after whom simply "the One would come" (1:7). Mark's Bethany was not yet the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus but the place from whence the disciples retrieved the foal upon which Jesus would enter Jerusalem (11:1) and to which he retreated afterward (11:11), where Simon the Leper lived and a still unnamed woman anointed Jesus' feet (14:3; see Romans 10:15-16).
What later was elaborated in the familiar triad of Mary, Martha and Lazarus of Bethany describes the focal point of the three main impetuses that drove society:
- Housekeeping Martha of Bethany was elaborated in demon possession-prone Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9, Luke 8:2), who in turn stood for the steadfast wisdom tradition that had been passed on since deep antiquity and which was formally continued by priests and wizards of all nationalities in all countries of the world. Although the Magdalene has no known living offspring, up to the present age she indeed lives in the fanciest houses. The city which centers upon the Magdalene is the tabernacle in which the Word will dwell among mankind (Revelation 21:3), which is also known as the Bride (21:2), which explains that later legend of the Magdalene being Jesus' wife.
- Apt Mary of Bethany became young Mary of Nazareth or Mary of the Scattering, for whom there was no room in the inn and who gave birth to her son in the field. She is of whom Paul wrote, "There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus" (Romans 2:9-16).
- Lazarus of Bethany, who died but was resurrected, relates to the templar enterprise, which by the time of Jesus was mostly the country's tax and revenue department (Mark 11:15). This department posed a heavy financial burden on the people, but since tax is simply the price to pay for a central government, being taxed is not so bad (irritations arise when the government uses collective money for something the collective doesn't want). But this department also made sure the taxes to the Romans were paid, which in turn meant that the Romans wouldn't attack and destroy the people. The great revolt of 67-70 AD was in large part triggered by tax issues.
Lazarus therefore ties into the local governments of Pilate and the Herodian kings and although tradition and folklore has always made boogie men out of these characters, the authors of the gospels made sure their readers knew otherwise. Pilate was most probably a Liberator (see our article on that name) and is the New Testament's primary character to connect the term "King of the Jews" to Jesus (Pilate himself: Mark 15:2, 15:9, 15:12; his soldiers: Mark 15:18; the Titulus Crucis: Mark 15:26). Pilate's unnamed wife even warns her husband to "have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him" (Matthew 27:19), which in turn connects her to Romans 2:9-16.
🔼The mysterious third lady under the cross
When Herod Agrippa II interrogated Paul, the latter praised the king for his knowledge of the Scriptures (Acts 26:26) and the former quipped that he might become a Christian (26:28 — the joke is that back then the word Christian still denoted someone rooting for a Jewish king on a Jewish throne; Agrippa was the great-grandson of the legendary Idumean-and-thus-not-Jewish Herod the Great who sat on a Roman throne). But ultimately, Agrippa and his court ruled that Paul hadn't done "anything worthy of death or imprisonment" (26:31), while according to Roman law he had in fact committed multiple acts of high treason. High treason, or treason against the state, was one of a very few crimes for which Roman citizens could be executed, and this by beheading; hence the later legend.
Long before Luke wrote this, Paul had made his own references to this curious pervasion by righteousness of the circle directly surrounding the regent (Philippians 1:13). Luke elaborated this phenomenon in the character of Joanna — the wife of Chuza, who was king Agrippa's visionary chief of staff (8:3) — whom he places amidst the Mary's under the cross (24:10).
The succession of John by Jesus would in Matthew's composition find manifestation in the request of the daughter of Agrippa I for John's head (where it in turn also reflects back on David's slaying of Goliath). We know from Josephus that this lady was in fact from Jewish high priestly descent and adopted by Herod (Ant.XVIII.5.4), and that her name was Salome. The only Salome who occurs in the gospels stands among the Mary's at the crucifixion (Mark 15:40) and later cares for Christ's body (Mark 16:1), and although folklore insists that this can hardly be the same Salome, very few in Mark's original audience would have figured otherwise.
This does not mean that "Salome of Herod" was always understood to denote a lady of flesh and blood; she may very well have denoted the Jews' famous preference for a peaceful strike rather than an armed revolt (as commander Petronius nervously discovered in 40 AD). The "three women under the cross" reflect rather obviously also the three main aspects of social cohesion, known in Greek mythology as the three Graces (see the paragraph on the noun χαρις, charis, meaning social joy, in our article on the verb χαιρω, chairo, meaning to rejoice socially).
Agrippa I also executed James the brother of John (Acts 12:2). Tradition insists that this John was not the Baptist but rather one of the "sons of Zebedee," whose mother stood by the Mary's in Matthew's version (27:56). John the Baptist had been a Levite (Luke 1:5), and so was Barnabas of Cyprus, who was really named Joses or Joseph (Acts 4:36), which is also the name of the brother of James, whose mother is one the Mary's beneath the cross in all four gospels.
James and Joses/Joseph were of course also brothers of Jesus (Matthew 13:55), and although Mary of Clopas (whom John places beneath the cross) has no known sons, the name Clopas is the same as the name Alphaeus (same name, different dialect), who was not only the father of James (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13) but also the father of someone named Levi by Mark (2:14) and Matthew by Matthew (9:9). What everyone agrees on is that Matthew-Levi was a tax collector and thus worked for the temple and was thus a Levite.
🔼The psychology of Mary
The authors of the New Testament appear to have maintained that in a perfect, Marian society, all citizens are self-similar versions of the whole, which is why every member of the larger Body of Christ is himself a Christ (John 14:20, 1 John 2:20). But this means that the Bethanian triad is not only applicable to society at large, it's also applicable to a single human mind.
In this model, the Magdalene may be quickly identified as a person's accumulated knowledge. Though susceptible to mental weathering and requiring continuous maintenance — that is, until your "tower" is made from "gold" and no longer decays; the lust for physical gold is the porn version of perfect knowledge and the world's gold price will collapse when the reason for its attraction is understood (Revelation 3:18) — this central tower governs the behavior of every healthy human adult. The Lazarite component corresponds to one's actual behavior; the mental activities that use the rest of the physical body as instrument of execution and which come down to a willful acquisition of knowledge, skills, food, wealth, security and physical procreation.
The Magdalene and Lazarite components are of course wonderfully useful, but according to the authors, only the Nazarene truly has offspring. This offspring does not come from efforts of the Lazarite component (Luke 17:20) but by direct inspiration of the Divine. Both Luke and Matthew explain that the Creator inspires humanity via the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:35) but Matthew additionally emphasizes Joseph's ability to interpret dreams — which obviously goes back to the core structure of Israel in Jacob's penultimate son Joseph (and see our article on the verb חלם, halam, meaning to dream).
"Inspiration has received little theoretical or empirical attention with psychology," lamented Trash and Elliot in their seminal paper Inspiration as a Psychological Construct (2003, American Psychological Association), but although the mechanisms of this phenomenon remain elusive, the effects are widely respected. From scientists like Stephen Hawking, Alan Guth and Ramanujan to countless artists and writers, pretty much anybody who has ever produced something highly unique claims to have been inspired by something beyond one's readily available internal knowledge or direct external environment.
Many cultures have entertained the question whether the deepest recesses of man's mind are perhaps logged on to vast reservoirs of raw data, an Akashic library if you will, from which information trickles into one's conscious Magdalene mind, but although at first glance the Bible seems to support this, it's really not that simple.
Consciousness is very closely related to the ability to connect symbols to things (Genesis 2:19-20), and the difference between the Magdalene and Nazarene Marian components may simply be one of convention. If there is a word for something, then there must be a whole lot of people aware of that same something and discuss it at length on the great market place of human trade. And if there's not a word for that something, then that something either does not exists or has yet to be cultivated. The Magdalene denotes the cultivated city of humanity but the Nazarene denotes the wilderness — which is where most Biblical epiphanies occur: Exodus 3:2-3, 1 Kings 19:4-13, Matthew 3:1, 4:1, Revelation 12:6.
In their massive meta-study of 2007, Milligan, Astington and Dack investigated the correlation between language development and that of theory of mind, and discovered that, indeed, a strong positive correlation exists between consensual symbolic data retention and the ability to understand that other people may have different beliefs, whether based on the same or other information. Quite literally, prior to the emergence of language it was virtually impossible to tell whether someone had a different opinion, and this in turn means that since all opinions are based in language, prior to complex languages there simply were no different opinions. Add to that the obvious observation that cultures commonly correspond to language areas, and you see the world as envisioned by the Bible writers.
But even though modern humans are comfortable opinionated in each their own ivory tower (which adds up to clouds of them; Hebrews 12:1, Acts 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, 1 Kings 18:44), it seems reasonable to propose that the conscious mind — the private collection of labels of collectively recognized things — is a mere island in a much larger ocean of cerebral activity. This uncultivated cerebral activity in turn could be reasonably expected to be governed by the same laws of physics that make the rest of the universe tick. And since these laws are the same for everyone, there is no difference between having one's subconscious mind somehow wired into an internet of other subconscious minds, or having a subconscious mind that is essentially identical to the universe and thus all the minds therein.
The Bible insists that the Word is not external, to be located, pursued and assimilated, but rather readily available within every human mind (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). The dry land of conscious understanding may be surrounded by an ocean of not formalized information (Matthew 14:30) but the Revelator predicts a future in which this ocean no longer exists and everything inside our heads in recognized and named (Revelation 21:1). Not everything that comes out of the sea and tries to clamber onto the shore of consciousness is good news (Revelation 13:1) but this mechanism does explain why the pre-Constantine tradition associated Jesus with fish — the familiar Greek word Ιχθυς, ichtus became considered an acronym for "Jesus Christ, son of God, Savior." Items that come out of the sea that surrounds the island of convention are to be retrieved by interpreters, who are thus fishermen (Jeremiah 16:6, 1 Corinthians 14:27-28).
Even God in his almight can not make a creature hear something if that creature doesn't have the ears for it. The brain is probably not somehow connected to a vast external library, but runs on the very same software that writes that library. People don't concur because they are somehow telepathically connected; they concur because when an item is named, its name becomes an identical brick in every one's personal tower.
Psychologists increasingly propose that inspiration, and thus creative productivity, and thus a more effective community, go hand in hand with an ability to reduce one's self-consciousness and thus focus on others or something greater (Haidt, Seder, Kesebir, Hive Psychology, Happiness, and Public Policy, 2008, University of Chicago), and John the Revelator envisioned a Holy City to which the kings of the earth would come to bring their glory (21:24). What a wonderful world that would be.