15 January 2014

The First Holy Union (Part One)

JOHN 7: 24
(Jesus Christ said) "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment."

Sprinkled throughout the New Testament Gospels are little bits of wisdom from the Savior. At first glance, they don't appear pertinent to a discussion of Gay identity, but with closer examination, you discover otherwise. The one referenced above is perhaps more pertinent than any other!

In my essay titled "The Book Of Punishment," I explained why Levitican laws from the Old Testament don't apply to modern society. In summary, I used Scripture itself to prove that those restrictions only applied to the ancient Israelites. Regardless of time frame, a prohibition from God against "males lying with males as with females" could never have been addressed to homosexual men; if there's one thing I'm absolutely convinced of, it's that the Lord sees Lesbians and Gay men differently than the world sees us! In this new essay, I'll explain why I feel that way, and I'll also fulfill a promise I made a long time ago to change the way you think about so-called Gay marriage.

I'm going to talk here about the mystery of the Beloved Disciple. Most mainstream Christian theologians accept the Biblical assertion that one of Jesus Christ's followers became especially dear to Him. Actually, Scripture indicates that there were several He had special regard for. Simon Peter and the brothers James and John formed an inner circle that the Savior often counseled privately with. Clearly, Simon Peter was particularly close to Him; this is obvious from their frequent exchanges. Peter wasn't the Beloved Disciple, though.

Based on my reading of Scripture, I believe there were two people who deserved that title. One of them was female, and the other, male. The woman was undoubtedly Mary of Magdala, whom the Savior loved as a daughter and a protegée. The man is widely believed to have been the Apostle John. Only in the Gospel of John does Scripture speak explicitly of a beloved male disciple. That book's author and narrator claims that he himself is the disciple in question, and as its title indicates, ancient theologians attributed its authorship to John.

However, modern scholars tend not to agree. They believe this Gospel was written by an acolyte of the Apostle John. Who might it have been? Some scholars point to Lazarus, the young man Jesus Christ raised from the dead. Consider this passage from the eleventh chapter of John:

JOHN 11: 1 - 3

Now a certain man was ill: (It was) Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped His feet with her hair. Her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus: "Lord, He whom you love is ill."

Others point to the rich man spoken of in several New Testament Gospels whose great wealth threatened to become a stumbling block to his Divine salvation:

MARK 10: 17 - 22

As (Jesus Christ) was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" . . . Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing. Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow me." When he heard this, (the man) was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Still others point to the mysterious young man who was present in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus Christ was arrested by Roman soldiers:

MARK 14: 51, 52

A certain young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They (the soldiers) caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

There are even scholars who assign the Beloved Disciple's identity to Judas Iscariot! This dubious conclusion is based on their study of a recently-unearthed version of the Gnostic Gospel of Judas. I concur with the majority of theologians who have denounced this Judas narrative as bogus; I've read the text, and its portrayal of Jesus Christ and His apostles rings completely false!

What's more, there's nary a hint of a romantic connection between the Savior and Judas Iscariot; I find no justification for claiming their relationship was an intimate one. On the other hand, such hints can be found in the Gospel of John. Here's the one that's probably been cited most often down through the centuries; it comes from passages dealing with the Last Supper:

JOHN 13: 21-25

After saying this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and declared: "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me!" The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom He was speaking. One of His disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Him. Simon therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom He was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked Him: "Lord, who is it?"

Earlier translations of this segment substituted the phrase lying in the bosom of for reclining next to. The implication was unmistakably one of physical intimacy. These verses are primarily responsible for the controversial yet persistent belief among some Bible scholars that the Christ's regard for His beloved male disciple was romantic in nature. It's an "underground" doctrine that dates at least as far back as the Middle Ages: There exists a wooden statuette dating from the 14th century which depicts Jesus Christ and the Apostle John holding hands like sweethearts (although, disturbingly, the sculptor erroneously rendered the Apostle as a young boy, implying that the Messiah indulged in pederasty)!

It's interesting to note that the Secret Book of John states that the Apostle was not a member of the "Unshakeable Generation", a designation used in some Gnostic scripture that I believe refers to LGBT folk. This would seem to support the view of those who doubt that John was the male beloved. However, I don't feel the disciple's sexual orientation is relevant to this discussion. I don't believe that Jesus Christ slept with with either one of His beloved disciples, so I have no trouble imagining the Savior in a platonic, romantic friendship with a heterosexual man.

Nowadays, an alarmingly large number of people believe that the Christ was married to Mary of Magdala. I'm not one of them! I've read numerous Gnostic Gospels (including the voluminous Pistis Sophia, in which Mary of Magdala plays a prominent role) in addition to those in the New Testament, and none of them supports this idea. In the Gospel of Philip, she is called the Savior's companion, and it's implied that she won this status because of her great wisdom. Granted, the word "companion" can sometimes have romantic connotations, but to my knowledge, it's never been synonymous with "wife"!

If Mary Magdalene had been the Savior's spouse, there's no reason why recorded history wouldn't say so! After all, it was, and still is the custom for Jewish Rabbis to wed, and heterosexual wedlock has never been regarded as shameful. I believe that the Christ was homosexual and celibate in His human form, but I'm not locked into that belief; if it could be proven that He had loved and wed a woman, I could accept it! I'm not hostile to the concept of a married Messiah.

Yet my reading of the Gospels indicates that the Savior couldn't possibly have married Mary Magdalene or anyone else, for that matter. Why? Because from the time He arrived on Earth, Jesus Christ was already betrothed! In the Gospel of Mark, He acknowledges this fact:

MARK 2: 18-20

Now (John the Baptist's) disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, and people came and said to Him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot fast while the Bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the Bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the Bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day."

Speaking to his own disciples, John the Baptist also spoke of the Christ as one betrothed:

JOHN 3: 28, 29

"You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, 'I am not the Messiah', but I have been sent ahead of Him. He who has the Bride is the Bridegroom. The friend of the Bridegroom, who stands and hears Him, rejoices greatly at the Bridegroom's voice."

These passages may have led some people to speculate that Mary Magdalene was the Bride of the Messiah, but I assure you, she wasn't. In the book of Revelations, the identity of Jesus Christ's Bride is revealed:

REVELATIONS 21: 9, 10

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the Wife of the Lamb (Jesus Christ)." And in the spirit, he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the Holy City of Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven from God.

"The First Holy Union" continues with Part Two.