Sunday 4 March 2018

Jesus, Marriage and Family - an interpretation of the second part of the Fourth Gospel

There may be more of the subject of marriage and the family that is intentionally-implied by the Fourth Gospel than is obvious to most readers.

What the Gospel seems to be telling me, and I am not arguing this but stating it; concerns Jesus’s increasing involvement with the family from Bethany with Lazarus and Mary as siblings.

My understanding that: 1. the raised-Lazarus is the author of the Fourth Gospel – renamed the Beloved Disciple; 2. that the episode of Mary of Bethany anointing the feet of Jesus with spikenard was a mystical marriage ceremony; and that 3. Mary Magdalene is the same person as Mary of Bethany – renamed after her marriage to Jesus.

While there seems no way I could prove these Three Assumptions, and what I believe follows-from them; for me they cohere wonderfully with the subsequent events of the Fourth Gospel. Indeed, they raise it even higher to a supreme importance in all Scripture.

The following are not intended as argument or 'proof', but as illustrations of how the three assumptions cohere with the events of the Fourth Gospel; when I read it in what I regard as my best frame of mind.

1. Jesus is emphatically described as loving both Lazarus and the Beloved Disciple; but we do not hear of Lazarus’s fate, by that name.

2. The Beloved Disciple does not abandon Jesus after the arrest as do the other disciple (Jesus being now Lazarus’s brother-by-marriage).

3. The Beloved Disciple and Magdalene are present at the foot of the cross, where Jesus requests that his mother be cared for by the Beloved Disciples family (of whom Jesus is now a part).

4. Mary Magdalene first finds the empty tomb, and she is the first person to speak with the risen Christ. She immediately touches him.

5. The last episodes of the Fourth Gospel include the implication that the Beloved Disciple will live until the Second Coming – which is possible since he has been raised from the dead – I believe he was probably literally resurrected. (This chimes with the Pharisee's desire to kill Lazarus, but apparently not being able to.)

If my Three Assumptions are accepted, then Chapters 11-21 of the Fourth Gospel take-on a marvellous extra dimension of which the above are only a part.

I suppose that these facts were not mentioned explicitly because they were known to the intended readers, at the time of writing - and (more important) that the Forth Gospel throughout (and necessarily) is written in a style in which the most important things are implied rather than stated.

To unlock the Fourth Gospel entails the reader attaining an empathic identification with the intent of the Gospel... but then this applies to all Scriptures, if they are to be understood as divinely-inspired.

That is; God must help us to understand Scripture - each, individually, here-and-now. Nothing else will suffice; and one person's understanding cannot replace nor stand-in-for another person's.

But what became of Mary Magdalene? If she is as important as I have said, then why is her fate not mentioned? The answer is that her fate must be mentioned; but that the 'message' is not being recognised. My best idea concerning an implicit reference to Mary's fate is the exchange of words with Mary at the tomb. This may imply that she would join the risen Jesus after he had ascended. “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” means, therefore: stop touching me just-now – we will be able to touch one another when I am ascended (after all, it wasn't forbidden to touch Jesus - Doubting-Thomas was invited-to. My inference is that Mary touched Jesus in some fashion as a wife would touch him - but this was not correct or appropriate until after the ascension: until after their ascension.). Then Jesus describes his ascension “unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and to your God.” Such a very specific form of address (the reiterated symmetry of my-your) is appropriate to the wife of Jesus; in the sense that God has become (by mystical marriage) Mary's Father ‘in Law’, and 'her' God – in the same kind of direct and personal way as for Jesus. So, we are being-told (by her brother) that Mary Magdalene ascended to God to be with her divine husband - and Lazarus perhaps did not know exactly when or how this happened, but certainly that it did happen.  


John Fitzgerald said...

I like that. It feels intuitively true. Mary Magdalene is also strongly associated with Provence, where she is said to have preached with great passion and fire to the Gauls. According to the legend I know, she left the Holy Land with Joseph of Arimathea but stated in Marsilia (modern day Marseille) while Joseph carried on to Britain with the Grail. She's a compelling figure without doubt, trvialislised by Dan Brown and others who simply use her as a stick to beat orthodox Christianity with. Your take is much more interesting - quite Chestertonian, I would say - Christ-centred and imaginative at the same time. It's this sort of thnkng that's the future for the faith, I think.

David Smith said...

Ancient tradition, the John->Polycarp->Irenaeus->"John, the disciple of the Lord, who leaned on his breast, also published the gospel while living at Ephesus in Asia” is compelling, as is the apparent lack of ancient identification of Lazarus with St. Peter or mention of Lazarus in Acts. But to each his own.