Comments and Replies ... and Who We Are

TANATA is devoted to discussing the paradoxes and the mysteries of life, among which is the paradox of the coexistence of good and evil. “God is love,” John tells us. Evil exists, we would suggest, not because God is detached or unconcerned, but because free will exists which is required for true, unforced love to exist. Still, it is painfully hard to reconcile this paradox. We believe that all evil one day will be judged and destroyed, until then we must pray.

DANIEL 7:13-14

13 “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.

14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.


7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

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Was Jesus Black?



SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, Tenn. — At a time when racism and politicians wearing blackface in their younger days dominate the U.S. news, ex-U.S. Navy Top Secret intelligence specialist Randall Carter Gray, who was stationed in Asmera (or Asmara), Ethiopia during the coup d’tat that deposed Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie in September of 1974, said he has a message for “white supremacists in all forms” …

“Based on biblical evidence and drawing from my personal experiences in ancient Ethiopia and Egypt, I'm prepared to say that Jesus was and is black.”

Gray contended that “there has been a concerted effort throughout history to obscure Jesus’ racial identity,” an example of which he said has been in the collection of The British Museum since 1935 — Pontius Pilate’s Letter to Tiberius Caesar, which describes Jesus as a blond.

“In this rather lengthy antisemitic document, beautifully written and presumably translated into English from Greek, Pilate describes Jesus as ‘golden-haired,’ in comparison to the ‘black-bearded’ and ‘tawny complected’ Jewish men surrounding Him. That, as best I can tell, is hogwash.”

Aided by the memory of his 16 months in Asmera (now the capital of Eritrea), Gray reflected on the “two epiphanies” he had while he was stationed at Kagnew Station in the highlands of East Africa. “First,” he said, “I took note that the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, a black descendant of King Solomon and the king's Ethiopian son (by the Queen of Sheba) Menelik I, was called the ‘Lion of Judah’ by his people.

“Being a Christian, I knew that the title of ‘Lion of Judah’ applied to Jesus in Revelation 5:5,” Gray explained.  “I assumed that the black Ethiopian ‘messiah’ strongly suggested that Jesus, as well as the people of the ancient kingdom of Judah, was apparently black. Also, my very devout grandmother told me, one day just out of the blue when I was 7, that she thought Jesus had dark skin.”

As proof of Gray’s claim about Jesus’ black racial identity, he cites a solitary verse in the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, chapter 7, verse 14, which reads: “For it is evident that our Lord arose from the Tribe of Judah …”

"What would have to be evident about Jesus that He should be associated with the Tribe of Judah?" Gray posited. "His manner of speaking? His height? Or His coloring, His racial make-up?" 

Though admittedly “an amateur Bible scholar,” Gray noted that “Judah was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah, whom Jacob called “Young Lion,” as found in Genesis.49:9. “The emblem of Jerusalem, the capital of Judah,” he said, “depicts the Lion of Judah.” A lion bearing a banner was depicted on the Ethiopian flag until 1974.

The second epiphany Gray said he experienced in Asmera had to do with the Antichrist, “oddly enough.” “It occurred to me that if there was going to be a black Jesus returning, that there would very probably be a white false messiah, an interloper, whom Jesus said would deceive even ‘the Elect’ (Mark 13:21-23), meaning people who believed in the concept of Jesus as the Messiah, Him crucified, resurrected and able to provide eternal life for Christians.”

Asked for another example of forgery meant to hide Jesus' racial identity, Gray quickly piped up, "I can give you the most famous example of all, the relic of all relics -- the Shroud of Turin, which depicts a European man with flowing long hair and a prominent beard who has apparently been crucified. Carbon-14 dating, over the years, puts the origin of the burial shroud at some time between the 9th century and the 15th century. 

"What would have been the purpose of the forger in making this particular sort of relic?" the former cryptographer asked rhetorically. "Clearly, the burial shroud is meant to depict a crucified white man, who has been resurrected in such a way that the shroud registered an image of the body. An accurate depiction on the shroud, I believe, would have shown a man with African features."

Gray noted that scientists are still mostly stumped as to how the venerated shroud might have been produced. He said, "I don't doubt that an otherworldly force might have created the Shroud of Turin to throw people off the scent of Jesus' actual ethnicity. I think the ancient aliens, or ET's, as crazy as it sounds to say it, may have a stake in the messianic sweepstakes, perhaps presenting a white human clone as their champion."



Breaking News ...

"Jesus was and is black, and I can prove it with just one verse of scripture."

That's a bold statement for anyone to make, especially so for a white man who considers himself, at best, to be "an amateur Bible scholar." But Randall Carter Gray, of Signal Mountain, Tennessee, has more than Bible scholarship working for him; his military past serving as a U.S. Navy Top Secret intelligence specialist in Asmera (or Asmara), Ethiopia (now Eritrea) from 1973 to 1975 placed him among the "very charming and intelligent" Ethiopian people whom he collectively refers to as "New Judah."

"The Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (or Ras Tafari) was called the 'Lion of Judah' by his people, before he was deposed in a coup d'tat in September of 1974," Gray said. "I knew that title was assigned to Jesus in Revelation 5:5.

"The verse in question is Hebrews 7:14, which states 'For it is evident that our Lord arose from the Tribe of Judah ...' What would have been evident about Jesus that He should be associated with the Tribe of Judah? His height? His manner of speaking? Or His coloring, His racial make-up?

"The conclusion that I came to in Asmera was that the people of the ancient kingdom of Judah must have been people of color," Gray said. Selassie, a black man and a descendant of King Solomon, was the 225th and final emperor in a long line of Ethiopian emperors when he was overthrown, Gray added.

"A rabbi friend of mine, who is a lot smarter than I am, has said that it is 'very probable' that the first Jews of Judah were black," Gray indicated.

Gray, who believes the "priestly" book of Hebrews was written by St. John Mark, an African refugee and a Jewish Levitical priest and amanuensis (scribe and literary assistant who could take dictation), said that John Mark himself, a native of ancient Cyrene in North Africa (what today is Libya), may have also been a man of color, hence the immensely special bond between Jesus and the unnamed "other disciple whom Jesus loved (John 20:2).


(EDITOR'S NOTE: I have contributed money to Wikipedia. I therefore feel I have the right to post their material when it is good -- as it is in the public domain and does not restrict cutting and pasting. This material is too valuable and important not to share it. Of course, the ultmate goal is to learn from this and incorporate it in our final release. I only gave Wikipedia $20, but that should be enough for one person to use the "free" site. If Wikipedia should ever ask us to take this down, we would probably offer them another donation. In all honesty, TANATA is hoping to interest another news outlet in our story. Then, we will pay PRNewswire and its Cision program to promote that story. Brilliant, right? All the research on Eliakim's background [and future, See Isaiah 22:20-23] has already been provided on this site. Now ... which news outlet should we target? Vanity Fair? The New Yorker? How about The Associated Press? How about BET? How about Faithfully? -- rcg)

The Lion of Judah (Hebrewאריה יהודה‬ Aryeh Yehudah) is a Jewish national and cultural symbol, traditionally regarded as the symbol of the Israelite tribe of Judah. According to the Torah, the tribe consists of the descendants of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob. The association between Judah and the lion can first be found in the blessing given by Jacob to his son Judah in the Book of Genesis.[1]

The Lion of Judah is also mentioned in the Book of Revelation, as a term representing Jesus, according to Christian theology.[2] The lion of Judah was also one of the titles of the Solomonic Emperors of Ethiopia. It was depicted on a map of the Upper Nile published in 1683 by the Italian Jobi Ludolfi describing the Lion of Judah symbol as the Royal Insignia of the Ethiopian empire. The Solomonic dynasty of Ethiopia lasted three thousand years according and has its patrilineal origin in the Israelite Royal House of Judah. The Lion of Judah served as the hereditary title of the Solomonic Ethiopian emperors including Menelik and Haile Selassie and was depicted on the flag of Ethiopia from 1897 to 1974. Due to its association with Haile Selassie, it continues to be an important symbol among members of the Rastafari movement.[3]

History and usage[edit]

Emblem of Jerusalem

The biblical Judah (in HebrewYehuda) is the eponymous ancestor of the Tribe of Judah, which is traditionally symbolized by a lion. In Genesis, the patriarch Jacob ("Israel") gave that symbol to this tribe when he refers to his son Judah as a Gur Aryeh גּוּר אַרְיֵה יְהוּדָה, "Young Lion" (Genesis 49:9) when blessing him.[4] In Jewish naming tradition the Hebrew name and the substitute name are often combined as a pair, as in this case. The Lion of Judah was used as a Jewish symbol for many years, and as Jerusalem was the capital of the Kingdom of Judah, in 1950 it was included in the Emblem of Jerusalem.

Ethiopian history[edit]

Ethiopia's history as recorded and elaborated in a 13th-century treatise, the Kebre Negest, asserts descent from a retinue of Israelites who returned with Makeda, the Queen of Sheba from her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem, by whom she had conceived the Solomonic dynasty's founder Menelik I. As Solomon was of the tribe of Judah, his son Menelik I would continue the line, which according to Ethiopian history was passed directly down from king to king until Emperor Haile Selassie I (ostensibly the 225th king from King David) was deposed in 1974.[5][6]

Both Christian and Jewish Ethiopian history have it that there were also immigrants of the Tribes of Dan and Judah that accompanied Makeda back from her visit to Solomon; hence the Ge'ez motto Mo`a 'Anbessa Ze'imnegede Yihuda ("The Lion of Judah has conquered"), included among the titles of the Emperor throughout the Solomonic Dynasty. It is unknown whether John of Patmos was directly aware of this hereditary title when he penned it into the text of the prophecy.[7]

The Lion of Judah motif figured prominently on the old imperial flag, currency, stamps, etc. and may still be seen gracing the terrace of the capital as a national symbol. After the collapse of the Communist Derg in 1990 and the increase of Western-style political freedoms, a minor political party bearing the name Mo'a Anbessa made its appearance.[8]

Rastafari movement[edit]

Imperial Flag Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, with the Lion of Judah, the cross scepter and four stars of David.

The Lion of Judah is a prominent symbol in the Rastafari movement. It represents Emperor Haile Selassie I as well as being a symbol of strength, kingship, pride and African sovereignty.[9]Rastafari consider the mention of "The Lion of Judah" in Genesis 49:9 and Revelation 5:5 of The Bible to refer to Emperor Haile Selassie I. Rastafari hail Haile Selassie I with the titles "KING of Kings, LORD of lords, Conquering Lion of Judah, Elect of God, the Light of the World".[10]


Lion of Judah ("Thesouro de Nobreza", 1675)

The phrase appears in the New Testament in Revelation 5:5: "And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof." This is widely regarded as a reference to Jesus among Christians.

Many Christian organizations and ministries use the lion of Judah as their emblem or even as their name.

Fantasy and fiction[edit]

Inspired by the Lion of Judah, C. S. Lewis used a lion named Aslan to represent Jesus in The Chronicles of Narnia.[11][12][13][14]

Emblem of Ethiopia[edit]


  1. ^ "Genesis 49:9". Biblos. Archived from the original on 17 February 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "Revelation 5:5". Bible Study Tools. Archived from the original on 19 January 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  3. ^ "Rastafarians"flagspot.netArchived from the original on 2015-09-29. 
  4. ^ "Genesis : Chapter 49". Archived from the original on 2011-07-09. Retrieved 2015-03-05.
  5. ^ "Archived copy"Archived from the original on 2017-05-21. Retrieved 2017-01-06.
  6. ^ Adem, Seifudein. "The Lion of Judah in the New World: Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and the shaping of Americans' attitude toward Africa by Vestal T.Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2011. Pp. 231, $44.95 (hbk)"The Journal of Modern African Studies50 (3): 541–542. doi:10.1017/S0022278X12000286Archived from the original on 2017-01-07 – via Cambridge Core.
  7. ^ "KEBRA NAGAST Ethiopic Text & Manuscript - The Lion Of Judah Society"The Lion Of Judah SocietyArchived from the original on 2017-01-07.
  8. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF)Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-11-30. Retrieved 2017-01-06.
  9. ^ Barnett, Michael; Onuora, Adwoa Ntozake (2014). "Rastafari as Afrocentrically Based Discourse and Spiritual Expression". Rastafari in the New Millennium: A Rastafari Reader. Syracuse University Press.
  10. ^ Chislom, Clinton (1998). "The Rasta-Selassie-Ethiopian Connections". In Murrel, Nathaniel Samuel; et al. Chanting Down Babylon: The Rastafari Reader. Temple University Press. p. 171. Archived from the original on 2016-09-18.
  11. ^ "Liam Neeson says Narnia's Aslan could be Muhammed | Christian News on Christian Today". 2010-12-09. Retrieved 2015-03-05.
  12. ^ "C.S. Lewis: A Complete Guide to His Life & Works - Google Books". 1998-06-23. Retrieved 2015-03-05.
  13. ^ "NarniaWeb Community Forums • View topic - Allegorical Aslan - C.S. Lewis Quote". Archivedfrom the original on 2014-05-24. Retrieved 2015-03-05.
  14. ^ "C S Lewis Letter Testifies Narnia's Lion as Christ | Christian News on Christian Today". 2005-12-07. Retrieved 2015-03-05.

External links[edit]



The former newspaper Religion editor and reporter added, "I believe John Mark, who founded the Coptic Church in Alexandria, Egypt, as well as a school of theology, evangelized his native Cyrene in North Africa, which included leading his wealthy father, who remained in Cyrene, to the knowledge of the Lord.

A disabled vet of the Vietnam era, Gray explained that the "diaspora (scattering) of the kingdom of ancient Judah, which was sacked by the Babylonians in 587 B.C., drove the black people of Judah deep into Africa." The resulting years of the "African Diaspora," he said, "have led to the greatest scattering of any people on the planet, owing to the slave trade undertaken by white Americans and Europeans and Arabs." 

Interestingly, and very ironically, Gray was medically and honorably discharged in May of 1975 after sustaining a second severe concussion ("brain trauma") while on active duty during a "race riot." His assailants were black sailors, who had amassed across the street from the enlisted men's club on the Naval base in Norfolk, Virginia. "I was an innocent bystander," the ex-radioman said. "I didn't hold their fury against them; nobody wanted to be in the military in those days."

Gray was drafted in 1972 -- and opted to enlist in the Navy to avoid the Vietnam War, which was winding down, unbeknown to the former sailor. The Navy recruiters had told that Gray he was guaranteed by contract of receiving a duty station onboard a ship on the East Coast, mostly likely Norfolk. 

"I excelled in my intelligence training, and instead of being in Norfolk, a suburb of which I grew up, I got orders to report to Kagnew Station in Asmera (Asmara), Ethiopia" -- about which Gen. Douglas MacArthur, upon concluding a visit to Kagnew once called "the most remote U.S. military installation in the world."

Gray said the duty station in the mile-high highlands in East Africa was very restrictive due to the sensitive nature of the work that Gray was doing. Consequently, he was uanble, or unwilling to contact his one-time fiancee for three years. Believing Gray had lost his unofficial fiancee, he claims he was driven "quite mad." He admits to being "creative and eceentric."  

A pacifist, Gray said he "didn't want to learn how to shoot people" in the Army.

Gray's website, TANATA: Things (often) Are Not As They Appear, can be accessed at 

At a time when racism and politicians wearing blackface in college year books dominate the news, Gray's message could not be more sobering or meaningful.

CONTACT: (423) 619-9034 or


Black Jesus Matters

An Open Letter To The Coptic And African-American Churches In The USA

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus:

People have asked me what is driving me, a 65-year-old white man, to try to determine that Jesus and His Beloved Disciple African Jewish Levitical priest St. John Mark (who evangelized Alexandria, Egypt and founded the Coptic church) were -- and still are -- men of color. 

Firstly, I am still trying to make meaning and purpose out of my year in Asmara (or Asmera), Ethiopia, where I served as a Top Secret U.S. Navy intelligence specialist. That stint, after being drafted in 1972, put me in a position to realize that the people of the ancient kingdom of Judah, the first Jews, were apparently black. I'll explain what I mean.

When I worked and lived in Asmara, I noted that the now deceased Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was called the "Lion of Judah" by his people. I knew that this title was assigned to Jesus (Revelation 5:5). Selassie (or Ras Tafari) was believed to be the long-awaited "black messiah" as indicated by the 14th century Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings). But the 225th king in the line of Ethiopian kings was deposed in a coup d'tat, while I served in Asmara, in September of 1974.

So much for the black messiah of Ethiopia. But there was and still is Jesus.

In Hebrews 7:14 John Mark of Cyrene writes: "For it is evident that our Lord Jesus arose from the Tribe of Judah ..." Did that mean the ancient southern kingdom of Judah, once ruled by King David and his son Solomon, was comprised of black people?

A rabbi friend of mine, who is a lot smarter than me, believes the first Hebrews, from Abraham on down, were black -- as were the first Jews of Judah.

What would have to be evident about Jesus that He should be associated with the Tribe of Judah? His height? The size of His feet? Or His coloring, His racial make-up?

Why did the angel tell Mary and Joseph to take Jesus into Africa to hide him from the murderous King Herod?

Why did the Roman soldiers go out of their way to seize an African (Simon of Cyrene), who was going into Jerusalem, in the opposite direction of Jesus' procession to Golgotha, so that Simon could share the burden of Jesus' cross?

Secondly, as a lifetime journalist, with Religion editing and reporting gigs at both The Chattanooga Times and the Chattanooga Free Press, I have been and am now an unabashed seeker of the truth.

Thirdly, I want to put white supremacy, in all forms, in its place as a completely flawed life philosophy. White supremacists are placing themselves at risk of losing heaven and eternal life. Imagine the horror white supremacists will experience when they discover that their Lord is a black man, not to mention a Jew, rising out of the Tribe of Judah.

If any race is superior, it is the black African race, from which all people of all races are descended.

The book The Return To Glory: The Powerful Stirring Of The Black Race, which I will be mailing out and passing out, with the hope of teaching the material at some black churches, discusses "the greatest ripoff of all time;" that is, the intentional obscuring of the contributions of blacks to civilization. Such obscuring goes back to the very dawn of mankind's origins. I also have a DVD version of The Return To Glory.

The Egypt of the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Valley of Kings was an empire of unbeatable might. Around 800 B.C. men from Kush, a subject kingdom from the south, rose up and conquered Egypt. Kush was a land of great, grand and highly enlightened people. Their civilization was sophisticated, charismatic, powerful and compassionate; these African kings thrived, prospered and ruled for thousands of years B.C.

These black Kushites enthroned their own Pharaohs: These were the mysterious Black Pharaohs of what today is Sudan. The Nubian kings' reign has become legendary among Africans and written off as heresy by early archaeologists who refused to believe that dark-skinned Africans could have risen so high.

Consider the Sphinx, whose features are African. Napoleon's men took target practice at the Negroid face of the Sphinx, obliterating its nose and lips. This sort of vandalism by whites was common. King Tut's death mask reveals that he was a Negro.

Blacks in Egypt, Kush and Ethiopia (ancient Abyssinia) were the first teachers, scientists and artists. 

We all have an East African ancestor, according to The Journey of Man by Stanford geneticist Dr. Spencer Wells. The first humans arose in East Africa -- and migrated into the rest of the world some 60,000 years ago, creating, in effect, a racial evolution around the world.

Jesus, who had universal, comprehensive DNA, like the San Bushmen of East Africa, was able to die for all races of all people on earth. 

In an effort to confirm the thesis of The Return To Glory, I would suggest that the racial identities of Jesus and John Mark have been purposely hidden.

Fourth, as pertains to the identity of the Beloved Disciple (and the writer of the Gospel of John), in 2006, prompted by the film version of The Da Vinci Code, I began pondering what Jesus would have seen in a man that should cause that man to refer to himself as "the other disciple, whom Jesus loved?" The "other disciple" moniker suggests the Beloved Disciple was not one of the twelve. The Da Vinci Code asserted that Mary Magdalene was Jesus' "most beloved disciple" -- but I knew that couldn't be right.

In John Mark's case, he and Jesus shared a racial bond; moreover, John Mark and his mother Mary were Jesus' wealthy benefactors.

Zebedee's John could not have been the Beloved Disciple, because he didn't leave Jerusalem for his home in Galilee until after the Resurrection! And then the apostle and disciple John went to a mountain in Galilee with the other 10 surviving disciples to meet the resurrected Jesus (Matthew 28:16).

The African John Mark lived in Jerusalem, and could rely on his mother to take care of Mary, Jesus' mother, when he was away. John 19:26-27 indicates that the Beloved Disciple left Jesus' cross with the Virgin Mary to go to John Mark's home "that very hour" that Jesus made a request for John Mark to take care of His mother. John Mark lived in Jerusalem (see Acts 1:13-14), and hosted all the disciples, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, after the Ascension.

Jesus would have known that John Mark, as the only professional writer in His inner circle, would go on to write the Gospel of John and all other Johannine literature, including the epistles 1, 2 and 3 John and Revelation. John Mark, whom I believe wrote Hebrews as well as 2 Peter, served both the apostles Peter and Paul as an amanuensis (a literary assistant, who could take dictation).

Jesus would have known that the Cyrenean (North African) priest would have a prominent role in the writing of New Testament scripture. 

Fifth, I would hope to make a difference where the appearance of false messiahs is concerned. Jesus said in Mark 13:21-23, "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ,' or 'Look, He is there!' Do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will rise to show true signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the Elect. But take heed; see I have told you beforehand."

Jesus said that interlopers will strive to take His place as Messiah. Will these pretenders be actual people? Or white ancient alien hybrids or clones? It is not hard to imagine the Antichrist being white and fooling a lot of people. Even the Elect (people who are already saved) will be fooled and caused to follow a white Jesus, perhaps, as they may have always done. 

I would think that black believers will be called upon to help, with love, to set everyone straight on these important matters.

P.S. The Coptic biography of John Mark, The Beholder of God: Evangelist, Martyr and Saint (see above in the pink skybox the "Biography of St. John Mark") permitted me to finally to conclude that John Mark, like Simon of Cyrene, was also an African of Cyrene -- and very likely a man of color. Published in Coptic in 1968, the biography of John Mark was written by the late Coptic Pope Shenouda III. The translated English form of the biography has only been available since 1997. Somewhat incredibly, even the Copts, in Egypt and around the world, still do not know that John Mark is the Beloved Disciple. Hopefully we can change that.

Best Personal Regards,

Randall Carter Gray (Eliakim) See Isaiah 22:20-23


Beloved Disciple, African Priest

The Racial Identities of Jesus and His Beloved Disciple


It is one of Christendom's most enduring and confounding mysteries: Who was the unnamed "other disciple, whom Jesus loved" (John 20:2), who knew the Jewish high priests Annas and Caiaphas (John 18:15), who leaned on Jesus at the Last Supper like a kid brother would (John 13:23-25), and who presumably wrote the Gospel of John, the Johannine epistles and Revelation? Bible scholars, laymen and early church patriarchs have wrestled with the obscured identity of the Beloved Disciple and the writer of John's Gospel for nearly two millennia. What man named John was the Beloved Disciple?

In an article titled "John and John Mark," published in 1960 by the Society of Biblical Literature, theologian Pierson Parker tackles the long-standing conundrum of the unnamed "other disciple whom Jesus loved," and very credibly presents his case that St. John Mark, of Cyrene (today Libya in North Africa), is more likely than not the Beloved Disciple and the writer of the Gospel of John. However, Parker suggests that the Gospel of Mark is not easily assigned to John Mark; indeed, there are numerous curiosities in the Second Gospel that call into question it's validity.

An online Coptic biography titled The Beholder of God: Evangelist, Martyr and Saint reveals tantalizing details regarding John Mark's background and accomplishments as an African refugee living and working in Jerusalem as a Jewish Levitical priest and scribe. The Beholder of God asserts that John Mark would go on to become the founder of the Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt.

A stint in the Navy from 1973-1975 as an intelligence specialist in Asmera, Ethiopia serves well the writer who was confronted with the fact that Haile Selassie (a.k.a. Ras Tafari), a descendant of King Solomon, was believed to be "the Lion of Judah," suggesting the first Jews of ancient Judah were black, as Selassie was. The long-time Ethiopian emperor was the last of the 225 Ethiopian kings following a coup d'tat in September of 1974.



In the spring of 1974, while serving as a U.S. Navy Top Secret intelligence specialist in Asmera (or Asmara), Ethiopia, this writer experienced a series of epiphanies regarding 83-year-old Emperor Haile Selassie (or Ras Tafari) and the unofficial title he bore -- the "Lion of Judah" (a title Selassie disavowed in a national radio address). The writer knew that the title "Lion of Judah" belonged to Jesus (Revelation 5:5).

Selassie was a descendant of Menelik I, the son born to King Solomon and Makeda, or the Queen of Sheba. Two things became apparent: 1) that the Ethiopian "black messiah" Selassie suggested that Jesus was dark-skinned, as the long-time emperor was, and 2) that the Tribe of Judah was perhaps comprised of black Jews.

The epiphanies remained dormant until 2006, the year that the blockbuster film version of The Da Vinci Code was released. The author of the best-selling novel Dan Brown made himself available for interviews as part of the media blitz to boost ticket sales. In one talk-show interview Brown said that Mary Magdalene was the "most loved of all the disciples of Jesus," asserting that his research, leading him to Gnostic gospels in the Nag Hammadi Library, had convinced him that the woman from Magdala (an ancient city in Ethiopia), out of whom Jesus had cast seven demons, was the Beloved Disciple. Of course this is ridiculous, because "the other disciple, whom Jesus loved" (John 20:2) was a man who accompanied Peter and Mary Magdalene at Jesus' empty tomb. A man named John was the Beloved Disciple -- but which John? 

This writer found himself studying Leonardo's "masterpiece" The Last Supper, noting that the Seder meal which was depicted in the fresco was very likely hosted by St. John Mark and his mother Mary, both North African refugees from Cyrene (today known as Libya). The claim in a Coptic biography (titled The Beholder of God: Evangelist, Martyr and Saint) that it was "the upper room" of an African home where the meal was held, prompted this writer to begin to make some assumptions about the racial bond Jesus may have shared with John Mark and his mother. 

The biography, written by the late Coptic Pope Shenouda III and first published in the Coptic language in 1968 (translated in English in 1997), asserted that John Mark and his mother Mary were Jesus' wealthy benefactors; indeed, their wealth was apparent, as their relatively expensive two-floor home possessed a courtyard and a front porch attended by a servant girl. It was John Mark's home to which Peter fled after miraculously being freed from Herod's prison with the help of an angel. The assumptions regarding the possible racial bond Jesus shared with John Mark, a Jewish Levitical priest and scribe, caused this writer to make the leap to say that John Mark was Jesus' Beloved Disciple and the writer of the Gospel of John and all the other Johannine material, including the epistles 1, 2 and 3 John and perhaps Revelation.

The fact that John Mark was a priest and the only professional writer in Jesus' inner circle certainly, and increasingly, made the assumptions about the young African refugee being the Beloved Disciple not so much of a stretch after all. John Mark knew the high priests Annas and Caiaphas because he worked with them.  

Conventional wisdom and the assertions of early church patriarchs have led some Bible scholars to assign the title of Beloved Disciple to the disciple and apostle St. John, the son of Zebedee and brother of James. But the evidence for this claim definitively eliminates Zebedee's John, as this writer will demonstrate. 

California Bible teacher and pastor John MacArthur contends in his commentary accompanying the Fourth Gospel that early church patriarchs, writing in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, possessed the second-hand testimony of curious figures that the Beloved Disciple could be no one but the apostle and disciple John, and that John Mark was merely an amanuensis (literary assistant) of the apostles Paul and Peter, who wrote the Second Gospel, essentially, as the memoirs of Peter, with John Mark having not himself been a hearer or a follower of Jesus. Shenouda's biography reveals that not only was John Mark a hearer and a follower of Jesus, but John Mark and his North African mother Mary were Jesus' wealthy benefactors, in addition to being the host and hostess of the Last Supper held in the upper room of John Mark's relatively spacious and expensive home, which possessed a second floor, a courtyard and a front porch attended by a servant girl. be continued


Does God have a plan for our lives? Why did I have to go to Ethiopia? June of 1973. 

Epiphany in Asmera concerning black Jesus and a white antichrist

Jesus said there would be mysteries revealed in last days

Hebrews 7:14. John Mark wrote Hebrews.

John is an Alexandrian text. We know John Mark was in Alexandria where he took on the Gnostics. For a while John's gospel was rejected by the church, simply because it had arguments to quell Gnosticism. False teachers is a big focus of 2 Peter and the epistles credited to John.

Stint in Navy. Research after 9/11 regarding ancient East Africa as being the site of Eden. Journey of Man. All have an African ancestor. Racial evolution. DNA of Jesus like first humans, so he can shed His blood for all. 

Selassie was black and called the Lion of Judah, therefore it's suggested that the Tribe of Judah was also black. A hint

Simon and John Mark both of Cyrene. North Africa, specifically Cyrene and Alexandria, were places that the Judah Diaspora chose to resettle after the the migration. 

Falashas and Beta Israel are evidences that such a migration from Judah took place.

Why did the angel tell Mary and Joseph to take the baby Jesus into Africa to hide him from King Herod?

Why was Simon of Cyrene compelled to carry the cross of Jesus when he had been walking into Jerusalem from the country, in the opposite direction of Jesus' procession to Golgatha?

It has been said that Simon was the only African at the crucifixion. But we know from Beholder that John Mark was also from Cyrene, as it is revealed in Beholder. He gives apparently the first description of Simon, also appearing in other gospels.

John Mark was also at Golgotha

It was evident that Jesus was from the tribe of Judah

Three verses in John, Matthew and Acts

The Roman surname Mark was unusual. Means hammer, adopted due to crucifixion

Efforts to obscure John Mark as another African follower in Mark. John Mark is obscured like other black contributions to civilization. Bathsheba's name is glaringly missing in Jesus' genealogy. 

But it is said that Mark is unreliable, but Simon appears in Matthew and Luke, following John Mark's lead

Certain youth does not agree with the narrative in John

The other Mary

Bought Jesus' expensive cloak

Why does John Mark use the other disciple? For protection or a literary device showing humility, or a way to suggest that he and Jesus shared a racial bond. He does not come out and say that 

Whay happens to John after he appears with Peter and is called uneducated? We know the fate of Peter and James.

John Mark, along with Alexander, may have been members of the Sanhedrin. Called merely John in Acts by Luke. Alexander is mentioned along with Rufus and Simon

John Mark was a priest, not mutilating his hands. Not being a no hearer or following of Jesus. Other evidences of blacks being obscured Return To Glory

No one will be expecting a black Jesus. Satan is called an angel of light.

Evidences of a black Jesus in Ethiopian art

Mary may have been from ancient Magdala in Ethiopia. A nice was of saying she was black

What about this man? Peter says. He wouldn't say that of Zebedee's John, who was obnoxious and had to be called out by Jesus. 

Zebedee's John only appears as an afterthought in chapter 21

When I realized that Jesus must have been black, as per Hebrews 7:14 and his African DNA, it followed that His Beloved Disicple must also have been black. Cyrene was the missing element. Eureka!

Homoerotic in Wikipedia. Like Secret Gospel of Mark. JM was like a kid brother.


Raising 'The Hammer,' Part One

(a novel based on a true story)


Also Jesus said to them, “Is 

a lamp brought to be put under 

a basket or under a bed? 

Is it not to be set on a lamp stand? 

For there is nothing hidden which

will not be revealed, nor has anything 

been kept secret but that 

it should come to light.” -- Mark 4:21-22


For it is evident that our Lord 

arose from the Tribe of Judah ... 

-- Hebrews 7:14


Then if anyone says to you,

  “Look, here is the Christ” or 

“Look, He is there!” Do not believe it. 

For false Christs and false prophets 

will rise and show true signs and 

wonders to deceive, if possible, 

even The Elect. But take heed;

see I have told you beforehand.

-- Mark 13:21-23


Then they all forsook Him and fled.

Now a certain youth followed Him, having

a linen cloth thrown around his naked body.

And the young men laid hold of him, and 

he left the linen cloth and fled from

them naked.

-- Mark 14:50-53


Look unto Me and be ye saved, 

all the ends of the earth; for I am God, 

and there is none else.

-- Isaiah 45:22


Contemporary genetic science has demonstrated that mankind has not descended from apes or ancient aliens ... but from one man and one woman in East Africa -- who may not have known one another. The first homo sapiens migrated out of East Africa 60,000 years ago, geneticists have concluded. The Out-Of-Africa model of creation, which contends that the first humans were East Africans, scientifically supersedes the Sumer creation myths, like the Enuma Elish, and the theory that something like Panspermia, or ET genetic tinkering, is responsible for the origins of the human race. 

* * * 

GONE MISSING (Chapter One)

Chattanooga Chief Detective Mike Ashton cruised along Amnicola Highway, drinking in the beautiful and unseasonably warm day in May, as he finished his cheeseburger. With lunch over, he was heading back to the Chattanooga Police Department when his cell phone began ringing on the dash contraption he had put together; it was the new dispatcher, Sue Ellen Kline. Ashton tapped the screen of his phone.

"This is Mark Ashton," he said.

"Detective, I have a report of a missing African-American professor," Sue Ellen said. "A Dr. Laird Staunton, the dean of the School of Theology at the University of the South, on Monteagle, called to report that he believed a Dr. Mary Elswoth has been the apparent victim of a kidnapping. Staunton wants you to call him. He says that the man he suspects of kidnapping Professor Elsworth is a mentally ill individual who lives on Signal Mountain."

"Do we have a name?"

"Eli Know-less," Sue Ellen said. 

"No-less?" Ashton repeated.

"Yeah, that's it. He spells it K-N-O-W-L-E-S."

"Okay," Ashton said. "Sue Ellen?"

""Yes, detectove?" Sue Ellen said. "That's how he pronounced it." The new dispatcher's voice was tinged with anxiety. She couldn't afford to get into any more trouble. Arriving early for work, she had made coffee, but had somehow put a crack in the pot, causing the coffee to spill all over the counter and floor. Chief of Police Ted Grassley had let her have it. 

"Why are you calling me on my phone, and not the radio?" Ashton asked, perturbed.

"Um, well," Sue Ellen fumbled. "I don't think I hit the buttons in the right order on the console. When I pressed the microphone button, I just got a loud squeal."

"I'm pulling in," Ashton said. "Thanks."

The detective of 22 years wheeled his new black-cherry-colored Dodge Challenger Hellcat SRT into the parking lot behind the police facility and eased into his parking space. He entered the building through the rear entrance, and headed straight for the dispatcher's cubby. En route to talk to the new dispatcher, he passed the office of his lieutenant Detective Skylar Lattimore, an Africa-American whiz kid who had been on the force for just over two years. He had worked in Mississippi. Oxford and Jackson. He'd moved to Chattanooga with his pregnant wife, LaShea, who deilvered a daughter, and they lived happily in a hone with another child, a 5-year-old son, in East Chattanooga. 

"Skywalker?" Ashton said as he poked in head in Lattimore office, "I need for you to set up the conference room for a call. Clear everyone out."

"Okay, chief," Skylar said. The lieutenant made a bee line for the conference room. It was filled with five officers eating lunch. He headed for the cabinet which held the conference phone. "Ashton needs the conference room," Skylar said.

"We're done," said Hank Mills, an officer for 22 years, as he crumbled the wrapper for his sub and tossed it into the waste can. Mills' words cued the other younger officers, who nearly jumped out of their skin to comply and clear off the mess on the table. Mills made a quick wipe at one end of the long wooden table with a napkin.

"That's good,," Skylar said. "Thenks." The Mississippi native of 37 years withdrew the conference phone from the cabinet, plugged it in, and centered the phone at one end of the table, where he and Detectuve Ashton would sit.

Ashton was still with Sue Ellen. He needed the dean's number, and she was having a hard time reading her logbook. He finally got what he needed from the new employee, who was wearing a uniform one size to small for her. The chief detective entered the conference room, closed the door, and dropped into his chair.

"Man, I haven't slept in two nights," Ashton said, taking hold of the phone to key in the number. "I'm taking this supplement for an enlarged prostate. I can't pee without it, but it makes me wired. Supposed to only include plants, fruits and vegetables."

"Some plants can be bad for you," Skylar said. "There is a such thing as poisonous plants. With bad side effects. You might try ginseng. Although I think that might hop you up, too."

Ashton looked at Sue Ellen's scribble, pulled the phone toward him and punched in the number for the dean of Theology at the University of the South, also known as Sewanee. After two rings, a woman picked up.

"School of Theology," said Peggy Walton, the secretary of Dr. Staunton.

"Yes ma'm," the chief detective said. "This is Detective Mike Ashton in Chattanooga. I'm here with Skylar Lattimore. We'd like to speak with Dr. Laird Staunton."

"Just a moment," Peggy said. Peggy buzzed Staunton, who picked up immediately. "A call for you from a Chattanooga detective."

"Excellent," Staunton said, picking up. "This is Laird Staunton," the dean said. "Do you have any leads?"

"We've only just begun working on the case," Ashton said. "This call is the first we've made."

"Okay, well, a seriously mentally ill man, Eli Knowles, who lives on Signal Mountain, was having dinner with Dr. Elsworth when she was last seen. That was last night at the Bluffview Restaurant on Monteagle." Staunton paused to collect his thoughts. "He's been on campus bothering students, faculty and staff with some silly postcards. He's a brain-damaged vet. One-hundred percent disabled. He said so."

"What kind of postcards?" Ashton asked. "Was he passing them out?"

"Yes," Staunton replied. "Making some ridiculous claim that Jesus and the writer of the Gospel of John are black."

Skylar whispered under his breath, "Right on!" holding up a clenched fist. The lieutenant's words and actions prompted a grin from Ashton.

"The postcards are like a survey, multiple-choice," Staunton said. "You know?"

"Do you have any of the postcards?" 

"No, unfortunately not. A security officer was going to get one of the postcards, but this Mr. Knowles just vanished. I had dinner with this man two nights ago. He's absolutely loopy."

"Who else was with you?" Ashton said, picking his teeth with a toothpick produced from his jacket pocket. "At dinner?"

"My wife," Staunton responded, "and Dr. Elsworth. Mary Elsworth. An African-American, originally from Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Knowles picked her up at her home. He did the same thing last night, and they ate at the same restaurant, the Bluffview. He's the only man who could have and would have a reason to kidnap her."

Ashton poked out his upper lip in thought. "You're saying that Mr. Knowles had dinner with you two nights ago?"


"And then Dr. Elsworth joined Knowles for dinner again, last night, at the same restaurant?"

"That's what Mary informed me she was going to do."

"How do you know this Eli Knowles lives on Signal?" Ashton asked. 

"He said so," Staunton replied. "He's a widower, or so he said. His wife and son have just recently died. I suspect there may be some foul play in those circumstances, too."

"Well," Ashton said, "we will try to locate Mr. Knowles on Signal. That's gonna be our first stop. Where did Dr. Elsworth live?"

"In Tracy City, east of Monteagle," Staunton said. "Near the little bakery that is very famous. It's been around a long time."

"Do you have an address for her?" Ashton wanted to know.

"Yes, we do -- 1816 Marigold Lane."

"Thanks, Dr. Staunton," Ashton said. "We'll be in touch."

"Thank you," Staunton said and hung up.

Ashton turned to Skylar. "My car or yours, Skywalker?"

"Yours, of course," Skylar said with a grin. "That is one bad machine."

On their way out of the conference room, the pair nearly ran into Shirley McGann, a "Jacqueline of all trades," a former dispatcher who was now the office manager for the Chattanooga Police Department. Ashton piped up, "Hey, Shirley?"

"Yes, detective?"

"Would you say something to Sue Ellen about how to operate the radio?"

Ms. McGann grimaced.

"I don't think she's going to make it," she said. 

"Well, in the meantime," Ashton said, "we need someone who can operate the radio. See what you can do. We're off to Signal Mountain." Ashton paused to remember what he needed to say next. "Oh," Ashton recalled "see if you can find any phone records for a Mr. Eli Knowles, of Signal Mountain."

"No-less," the office manager repeated. 

"Yeah," Ashton concurred. "It's spelled K-N-O-W-L-E-S. But it's pronounced 'No-less.' Have you got time to do it.

"I got it," she said. "I'll let you know."


On the road, Skylar wanted Ashton to "open it up."

"Man," Ashton said smiling, "if I open it up, it'll get away from us. This things has over 770 horses. Maybe I'll have occasion to use my lights ... then I'll punch it."

Ashton decided to punch it anyway, getting rubber in third and fourth gear as they entered Signal Mountain Boulevard at the foot of the mountain. "Ha! Ha!" Ashton shouted. "Yeow!"

Skylar grinned broadly. "Now that's what I'm talking about!"

Upon reaching the top of Signal Mountain, Ashton headed for the Signal Mountain Town Hall complex, where the police and fire stations were located. He turned his bumbling rig into the station's parking lot, sticking his head out of the window as he approached two police officers. Ashton spoke up, "Either of you two gentlemen ever heard of a man named Eli Knowles? I'm Detective Ashton ... with the Chattanooga police."

An expression of recognition rippled across the face of one of the officers. "Yeah, I know the Knowles family," the officer said. "They've lived up here for years. I went to middle school with Eli and his older brother Jeremy."

Ashton nodded favorably. "You wouldn't have an address for him would you?"

The officer stepped toward Ashton's car and leaned in. "They live on Druid Drive. In Shepherd's Forest. Just across the highway. The whole family: Eli lives in one house, and down the street his younger brother Sam and his mother Lucea live in another house. She's got to be in her mid-90's. She's Italian. Doesn't speak much English."

"What about Sam?"

"Oh, he speaks English," the officer said. "Is that what you're asking?"

"Yeah. Thanks. Street address?"

"I can look it up," the officer said. "Gimme a minute to get a phone book." In a moment, the officer returned. "Seven seventy-seven, Druid Drive for Eli," he said.

Ashton punched the address into his GPS app. A ragged blue line showed the way. 



A BENCHMARK (Chapter Two)

Three Days Earlier

Mindful of all the grief, psychic and physical pain, anxiety, rejection and isolation, depression, hard work, compassion and grace which have brought him to this point in his life, Eli Knowles (pronounced “no-less”), seated stiffly on the edge of a campus bench, selected, not without difficulty, the first two orange 8-x-5-inch “survey” postcards from a stack of 300 beside him.

Eli awkwardly stood up, bent at the waist. He suffered from chronic sciatica, in both hips and legs. His arms dangled forward in front of him, as if he were an ape, holding an orange postcard in each hand. Two presumed students (one male, one female) at the University of the South, or Sewanee, located on Monteagle mountain in southeast Tennessee, were headed his way. 

Eli, who turned 65 on his last birthday, was a burly man with a salt-and-pepper beard; his long silver hair was pulled back in a ponytail. A longtime resident of Signal Mountain (45 minutes from Monteagle and 15 minutes from Chattanooga), Eli wore black jeans, with a black leather belt with a large western-style silver buckle, a black buttoned-down dress shirt, with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. And he wore sandals. With black woolen socks.

Around his neck he wore a silver Jewish Chai. The pendant, which was a gift from a rabbi friend of his, hung freely from his neck when he was bent over. It signified that “the people of Israel live.”

The ever-present smoke-like “mist” that surrounded Eli, even when he was out of town, was boiling in the shade of a large oak tree situated next to the bench. The “mist” was most visible at night. Eli had been in a taxi at night in Atlanta, headed to a Hawks basketball game, when the “mist” had positively enveloped him.

The former U.S. Navy intelligence specialist, with a Top Secret security clearance, wondered if people around him noticed the smoky waves of “mist” in their own lives. Eli, who lived alone on Signal, hadn’t bothered to try to direct other people to try and see the phenomenon. 

The mountain Eli lived on, which was actually an 1800-foot ridge, was called Signal due to the Civil War signals of fire that emanated from what was now known as Signal Point, located on the mountain’s west side. The mountain ridge, first called “Furtop” by Virginia trappers, stuck out of the Cumberland Plateau and the southern Appalachians like a dislocated finger.

Prominent Lookout Mountain, Signal’s neighbor to the south, across the Tennessee River, was called out as being racially intolerant in the “I Have A Dream” speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963 at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. Interestingly, Eli’s suburban mountain home was located roughly three miles from the former home of the late Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist and Klansman, who in 1994 was convicted of killing Mississippi civil rights activist Medgar Evers in 1963. De La Beckwith died in prison at the age of 81 in January of 2001. 

For years after De La Beckwith’s death, Eli often saw the killer’s widow, dressed in a sheer pink nightgown, out in the middle of an intersecting road near her modest home, trying to flag down cars with a clear-plastic umbrella.

How ironic was that -- that a messenger from the Chattanooga area, from one of the area’s surrounding lily-white mountains, should seek to -- and be able to -- identify Jesus and His Beloved Disciple as men of color?

Eli took three labored steps to the middle of the sidewalk and turned to face the pair. Eli craned his neck, like a turtle peeking out of his shell, so he might make eye contact with the two as he handed them their respective survey postcards. Eli’s new and personal mission to begin to clear away the ancient and still-continuing “subterfuge” obscuring the racial identities of Jesus and His Beloved Disciple, at long last ... had begun. 

The pair of students approached the hunched-over man, and reached down with appreciative smiles and sympathetic eyes to receive their pre-stamped and addressed survey postcards. The female student went about dutifully reading her card. The young man was more nonchalant when he took his postcard, but as he read that expression changed. The male student’s eyebrows were raised; his eyes began to widen. Eli smiled to himself.

The young lady asked, “Is this a student project?”

“No,” Eli said. “It’s just me and my research; I’m a lone voice crying out in the wilderness, trying to make a splash ... to badly mix metaphors.” The female student laughed a bit too uneasily for Eli, but he laughed with her anyway, before shuffling back three steps to retake his spot on the shady bench, to enjoy, as best he could, the beautiful morning in May. Sitting and bending at the waist made Eli’s pain more tolerable. 

The survey card could be marked on the spot, or mailed in to Eli, perhaps after some additional research and consideration.

On one side of the postage-paid survey postcards was Eli’s name and address. The other side bore a question and six multiple-choice answers, all set in 10-point type. Eli couldn’t read the business side of the postcards without his glasses.

The question read: It is one of Christendom's most enduring and confounding mysteries: Who was the unnamed "other disciple, whom Jesus loved" (John 20:2), who knew the Jewish high priests Annas and Caiaphas (John 18:15), who leaned on Jesus at the Last Supper like a kid brother would (John 13:23-25), and who presumably wrote the Gospel of John, the Johannine epistles and Revelation? Bible scholars, laymen and early church patriarchs have wrestled with the obscured identity of the Beloved Disciple and the writer of John's Gospel for nearly two millennia. Based on what we know today, whom do you say was the Beloved Disciple?

The answers listed on the postcards were as follows: A) Lazarus; B) Mary Magdalene; C) the apostle and disciple St. John, the son of Zebedee; D) James, the brother of Jesus; E) Wealthy African refugee, Jewish Levitical priest and scribe St. John Mark, the founder of the Coptic church and a school of theology, and, the only professional writer in Jesus’ inner circle. Like Simon, who helped Jesus carry His cross, John Mark was, notably, a native of Cyrene in North Africa (Libya), who leaned back on Jesus to get an answer to the question of who would betray Jesus; John Mark and his wealthy mother Mary were Jesus’ benefactors and hosted The Last Supper. His unusual Roman surname “Mark” means “Hammer”; F) none of the above.

Eli was prepared to answer questions and produce any verses which might be required to confirm his thesis or theses regarding the identity of the Beloved Disciple and the apparent racial bond Jesus had shared with “the other disciple” St. John Mark. 

Simon of Cyrene, Eli was ready to point out, had been purposely seized by the Roman soldiers to force him to share the burden of Jesus’ cross, when Simon had been walking in the other direction, away from Jesus’ procession, into Jerusalem (Mark 15:21). Eli believed the soldiers had specifically pressed the North African into service because he was a man of color, as Jesus had been. And still was. It had been for this reason that Jesus and Simon had been paired together. Being black, Jesus had in effect been lynched by a mob in the Garden of Gethsemane, arrested by white Roman soldiers, while white authorities looked on. 

Eli had gone to the trouble of printing out index cards bearing a series of relevant verses from the gospels of John, Matthew, Mark, the book of Hebrews and the Acts of the Apostles. Those cards were each a different color. The colored index cards were kept in a tin box, with dividers and colored tabs. 

Eli also had with him a copy of a paper titled “John and John Mark,” written by theologian Pierson Parker in 1960, which supported Eli’s thesis that John Mark was, more likely than not, the Beloved Disciple of Jesus. Eli also had with him on the bench a copy of the Coptic (Egyptian) biography of John Mark called The Beholder of God: Evangelist, Martyr and Saint, which Eli had typed, reformatted and printed out, after being cut and pasted via the Internet. Eli also had on the bench with him a book by Dr. Spencer Wells, a Stanford geneticist, titled The Journey of Man. 

In addition to these other works, Eli had a copy of the Nag Hammadi Library, the weird, clearly forged Gnostic writings that had somehow titillated so many Bible scholars, like Elaine Pagels, and had partly served as the inspiration for The Da Vinci Code. The film version of the best-selling novel, which was released to rave reviews in July of 2006, had stoked Eli’s passion to determine, once and for all, who, excluding Mary Magdalene, had been Jesus’ Beloved Disciple. He was positive it couldn’t be Zebedee’s John.

If he needed to, Eli would read aloud from the NHL to show how strange and bland the material was. None of the NHL’s Coptic writings contained the miracles of Jesus. Neither did the NHL possess the profound awe and love that identifies the biblical gospels as unique and true. Eli knew that people have called the Gospel of John an “Alexandrian text,” in that John Mark squares off against the false Gnostic teachers of his day. Gnosticism, heavily influenced by Greek philosophies, arose in Alexandria, where John Mark is believed by the Copts to have died by being drug through the streets of his adopted home in 68 A.D. But Eli did not believe John Mark died too early to write the Gospel of John, sometime around 90 A.D. Eli believed that particular insight about John Mark dying earlier was due to more subterfuge. Like Enoch, John Mark had stepped into heaven without first tasting death, Eli believed, as had already been stipulated by Jesus in the last chapter of John’s gospel. 

Sadly for Eli, even the Copts in Alexandria today don’t know who their patron saint really is. They hadn’t made the connections. Eli had tried to contact the new Coptic pope, to share his research, but Eli didn’t speak or write Coptic.

National Geographic had spent big money, into the millions, to posses the Coptic Secret Gospel of Judas, which got Jesus‘ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane all wrong. The forged “gospel” was more heresy, in Eli’s opinion. The Secret Gospel of Judas indicated that Judas betrayed Jesus by alerting the Jewish authorities that Jesus was in the temple praying. Forget it. Jesus had been betrayed in Gethsemane, near the home of John Mark, where a Seder meal, the Last Supper, had just been held. Brother. 

Why were all the heretical Christian forgeries written in Coptic? Was it because of the Gnostics’ disdain for the Christian evangelist John Mark? And why had no one, to this point, given Eli the time of day when it came to the Coptic biography of John Mark, written by the late Coptic Pope Shenouda III in 1968 and only printed in English in 1997?

Eli also had with him a small, crumpled brown-paper sack which held three types of silver-dollar-sized black buttons -- one with white text that read “Jesus is Black,” one with pale-green text that read “Black Jesus Matters,” and one with white text that read ”A Black Priest Wrote The Gospel of John.” Eli intended to try to inspire African-Americans in a grassroots effort with his button campaign, beginning with all the black churches in Chattanooga. He would pass out these buttons and his survey postcards to them unapologetically; he would pass the buttons and survey cards out to whites, if and when his button campaign managed to make a splash and put Chattanooga on the map as the birthplace of Eli’s movement. Eli then intended to go to Atlanta and Memphis to distribute his materials, and, if possible, address the black congregations in Chattanooga and elsewhere. Eli had his eyes on Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to serve as pastor, and the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis, Tennessee, which was headed by the soul singer/songwriter (“Tired of Being Alone” and “Let’s Stay Together”) the Rev. Al Green.

Eli had two aces in the hole in Samuel L. Jackson and Usher, both having grown up in Chattanooga before achieving stardom. But efforts to try and contact them about his work had, to this point, been futile.  

Eli also potentially had in his corner, Terrell Owens, the former Chattanooga wide receiver and NFL Hall of Famer, who made his mark with the San Francisco 49’s, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Eli met T.O. when Eli worked at Tennessee-Chattanooga as the director of auxiliary operations. Eli was charged with getting new ID cards printed for the university. He had asked for help, and they had sent T.O.

“What do you want for me to do?” Owens had asked.

“Stand here and talk to me,” Eli had said good-naturedly with a grin.

Owens had not looked like he was doing very well. He was probably working for $7 an hour, as a student-work assistant, most likely to pay for extra food. The food services arrangement only permitted, for example, one chicken breast instead of two or however many the student-athlete might want. 

And T.O., who was a poor native of Alabama, had seemed depressed and anxious. Eli probed the feelings of the giant of a man, and T.O. had said he was nervous about the upcoming draft. 

“I don’t know, man,” Owens had said. “I don’t know how the draft is going to go down for me. I’m supposed to be getting a call.” This was during a time when cell phones weren’t being possessed and used as they are today. Everything for T.O. was hanging on a phone call, and here he was working for $7 an hour. 

In all honesty, Eli had not heard much about T.O., as Chattanooga was such a small market; T.O. hadn’t been on the national radar, and his local press had been adequate. 

Eli smiled to think of how things had worked out for the gregarious and very talented Mr. Owens. If Eli could get in contact with T.O., the NFL superstar could be a spokesman for Eli’s theses, which could go worldwide.

Eli, a former Religion reporter and editor for both of Chattanooga’s two dailies (before they merged), had seen up close the “Belt Buckle of the Bible Belt” in all it’s gracious, glorious and sometimes ill-conceived manifestations. Chattanooga, also known as the Scenic City, possessed more churches per capita than any other state in the union.  

Eli had conducted a letter-writing campaign to share his biblical insights. Eli had also sent out a press release internationally, costing him $2,000. He had mailed and emailed New Testament scholars around the country, contacted the press in town and troubled the clergy, past and present, at his parish. But all to no avail. 

One New Testament scholar had chosen to respond to Eli’s email, and had called the Coptic biography of John Mark “mere hagiography,” meaning that the Coptic work was produced with a disqualifying bias toward its patron saint. Eli didn’t think the Coptic biography was biased enough toward St. John Mark, as evidenced by the fact that the highly persecuted Copts of Egypt, and elsewhere around the world, still did not know that their patron saint was Jesus’ Beloved Disciple.

If Eli would have to win over one person at a time, so be it. He believed his postcard survey would allow him, in a subtle and socratic way, to lead or cause the willing and logical to believe his theses about the ethnicity of Jesus and His Beloved Disciple, and, John Mark’s identification as “the other disciple,” an identifier which stipulated that he was not one of the 12.

“Where did you get all of this about John Mark?” the male student asked. “I’ve never seen any of this. Where did you get it?”

“A Coptic biography online,” Eli stated, holding up his personal copy from where he sat. “Only I don’t think the Beloved Disciple was martyred in 68 A.D. by being drug through the streets of Alexandria, Egypt, as the Copts believe. I believe John Mark lived on in Ephesus and Patmos, near modern-day Turkey, writing The Revelation of Jesus, and walked into heaven, as Enoch had done.”

“Really?” the female student said.

“Yep,” Eli chirped. 

“Why don’t we know any of this about John Mark? I’ve never seen any of this,” the male student said. 

“I submit there is a reason for that,” Eli replied cryptically. 

“What’s the reason?” the male student asked.

“Subterfuge,” Eli said with authority, as he reached over to the tin box holding the index cards that bore scripture verses. He thumbed through his dividers and found a pink and a light-blue index card. But four cards -- white, yellow, beige and lavender-colored ones -- were missing. The missing lavender-colored card bore the important verse Hebrews 7:14. It read:

For it is evident that our Lord 

arose from the Tribe of Judah ... 

-- Hebrews 7:14 

The other three cards contained the verses that best allowed Eli to prove concisely his thesis that John Mark, and not Zebedee’s John, was the Beloved Disciple. The missing white card read:

When Jesus therefore saw His mother,

and “the disciple whom He loved ...” 

standing by, He said to His mother, 

“Woman, behold your son!”

Then He said to the disciple,

“Behold your mother!” And from

that hour that disciple took her 

to his own home. 

-- John 19:26-27


The missing yellow card read:


 Then the eleven disciples went 

away into Galilee, to the mountain

  which Jesus had appointed for them.

-- Matthew 28:16

The missing beige or tan card read:


And when they had entered, they 

went up into the upper room

where they were staying: Peter, 

James, John and Andrew; Philip

and Thomas; Bartholomew and 

Matthew; James, the son of

Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot;

and Judas, the son of James. 

These all continued with one accord

in prayer and supplication, with

the women and Mary, the mother of

Jesus, and with His brothers. 

-- Acts 1:13-14


The pink card, which Eli had with him, bore the passage Mark 14:50-53:

Then they all forsook Him and fled.

Now a certain youth followed Him, having

a linen cloth thrown around his naked body.

And the young men laid hold of him, and 

he left the linen cloth and fled from

them naked.

-- Mark 14:50-53


The light-blue card, which Eli also had also managed to bring, contained the passage John 18:15-17. It read: 

And Simon Peter followed Jesus,

and so did another disciple. 

Now that disciple was known to the high priest, 

and went with Jesus into the courtyard

of the high priest. But Peter stood

  at the door outside. Then the other

disciple, who was known to 

the high priest, went out and spoke

to her who kept the door, 

and also brought Peter in. 

Then the servant girl who kept the 

door, said to Peter, “You are also

one  of this Man’s disciples; are

  you not?” Peter said “I am not.“

-- John 18:15-17


Eli made sure the pair of students read both cards. He rotated his head slightly to look back at his car, parked in front of a two-story brick building across the street. He must have left the other cards in his restored salmon-and-white 1959 Plymouth Belvedere. Blast it! He would head over to his car, as soon as he got a free moment.

“The apostle and disciple John has been the conventional favorite of many scholars and laymen,” Eli suddenly weighed in. “But Zebedee’s John is barely mentioned in the Gospel of John, and when he is identified, the writer of the gospel merely mentions John and his brother James as ‘the sons of Zebedee.‘ Furthermore, Jesus told both of Zebedee’s sons, who might have been his cousins, that they would drink from the same cup of martyrdom as Jesus would drink. Jesus wouldn’t have played favorites by selecting one of the two brothers to be His most Beloved Disciple.” 

Eli cleared his voice as he began to spell out, by way of his personal exegesis, what these passages meant: “In the passage in the Gospel of Mark, on the pink card, we find that ‘They all fled’ the garden when the mob and soldiers appeared in Gethsemane. But in John, we see that all the people in the garden who were disciples of Jesus had not run away; rather, Peter had stayed and followed Jesus from a distance. And there had been ‘another disciple’ who followed Jesus more closely and walked, untouched and unobstructed, into the high priest’s courtyard. By comparing this passage in Mark and this passage in John, we get an entirely different narrative. While John and James, the sons of Zebedee, were hightailing it out of the garden, as was ‘a certain youth,’ Peter and ‘another disciple’ continued following Jesus, the Gospel of John tells us. 

“Most New Testament scholars are willing to say that ‘a certain youth’ is John Mark. But what writer would describe himself in such an embarrassing situation, running into the night naked? Especially when you have the counterpoint made in the Gospel of John? 

“I believe, in this instance,” Eli continued to preach, “that the Gospel of Mark has been tampered with to throw us off the scent of the identity of the Beloved Disciple of Jesus.” The elderly vet went on: “I believe John Mark knew the high priests, because he worked with them as a priest and scribe. I believe John Mark has been hidden from us because of what the North African would say about the racial identity of Jesus ... which will have a bearing on the End of Days.”

Eli rapidly changed the subject, as he was wont to do: “And you also have the forgery of the Shroud of Turin, which also is meant to throw us off the track. A true depiction of Jesus on the shroud would have shown Him to be African.”

“There's been tampering in the Bible?” the male student queried.

“In Mark, yeah,” Eli said. “We already know that the last 12 verses of the Gospel of Mark do not appear in the most reliable, early manuscripts of the New Testament. Without the 12 verses, there are exactly 666 verses in Mark’s gospel. I would have to say the Gospel of Mark is suspect in this case. I also believe that there is no such thing as the “Q document,” another source that the other Synoptic gospels Matthew and Luke are believed to have used. Mark’s gospel has apparently had subtracted from it the sayings of Jesus, perhaps to make the verse count come out to 666, for whatever reason. 

“If Mark’s gospel had never been written,” Eli continued, “we would have relied on the account in the Gospel of John to help us identify ‘the other disciple,’ ‘another disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.’ I believe John Mark had such admiration and affection for Jesus, because He, like John Mark, had been a beleaguered man of color.” 

Eli paused to regain his train of thought. “It is significant that John Mark and his mother Mary were wealthy and served as Jesus‘ benefactors. They paid for Jesus to carry out His ministry. They hosted the Last Supper. They put up the disciples of Jesus from Galilee. They most likely bought Jesus’ expensive, seamless linen cloak or sindon.” 

The two students went back to their postcards, as Eli was studying them. They reread the pink and light-blue index cards. Eli saw smiles being exchanged between the two students. They must be thinking that Eli was crazy.

Although Eli was determined to accomplish his mission, and to take on anyone and “fight it out,” Eli detested war and conflict, being a pacifist since the “Summer of Love” in 1967, when he was 14 and studying poetry and art. He had seen the footage of the Vietnam conflict, along with everybody else who watched the evening news. It had all been madness ... and Eli had gotten caught up in the delirium when he was drafted in 1972. Rather than be a soldier for two years in the Army, Eli opted to enlist in the Navy for four years. He had gone mad when his fiancee told him, after bootcamp, that she didn’t want to be a Navy wife. Eli’s future wife had concluded that, after all, she wanted to continue her studies at college and “be free to date other people.” 

Sarah’s death in 2015 had been followed a year later by the death of their son Ethan. Eli’s late son, who died at 36, had attended a private school for boys in Chattanooga, the tuition for which was paid by Ethan’s maternal grandfather. It had been an arrangement that Eli wanted no part of. He knew private schoolers from his years living in the exclusive, entirely white mountain community. Eli knew that rich kids were often especially wild. Ethan learned to drink alcohol with all of his rich classmates, who had keys to their parent’s liquor cabinets. Ethan began drinking at 16, as Eli’s daughter Melissa had informed him after Ethan’s death in 2016. Melissa, who lived with her husband and two young boys in Seattle, were the only objects of Eli’s familial love, save for Eli’s younger brother Sam and his mother Lucea, both of whom also lived on the mountain.

Ethan had always guzzled the liquids set in front of him. He had apparently drunk most of a fifth of Jack Daniels on his first night of drinking. He was so drunk that his friends put him in a cold shower, with his clothes on, to bring him around.

Ethan was a delightful person, like his father had once been, with the personality that could charm an owl of an oak tree. But two failed relationships led him back to alcohol. Eli and Sarah rarely drank; only when they were at a social event would they consume alcohol, and then Sarah would have a glass of white wine and Eli would have a beer. Eli was understandably crushed by the double whammy.

Eli could have avoided the draft, and never enlisted in the Navy, having a high bilirubin count that caused him to flunk his first two physicals. His doctor had said he could write a letter to keep Eli out of the military. But Eli had entered the service nevertheless to learn a trade and to be able to provide for himself and Sarah. He had been brutally betrayed by the only woman he had ever loved. As a result, Eli was in the Navy for nothing. But, in the Navy, Eli had learned to type, after having eschewed typing classes in high school. Without the ability to type, Eli could not have become a writer out of the gate, after being discharged. Somehow, Eli succeeded as a reporter at the age of 22 and thereafter, possessing a dormant case of PTSD that still affected his ability to communicate with people normally, without anxiety. Consequently, a lot of people in the Chattanooga newspaper business disliked Eli, holding against him, in effect, his mental illness and social anxiety.

Eli had gone to East Africa on his own, when he had been sure Sarah was ready to talk marriage. Because of the sensitive nature of Eli’s work in Asmara, he was unable to call home, except for Christmas Day, and then he had called his parents. An annoying three-second delay made the brief conversation difficult, as Eli kept speaking over his parents’ responses.

Eli has lived on Signal since 1965, save for the three years he served in the U.S. Navy, one year of which was spent in Asmara, where he worked first as a Top Secret radioman and later as an armed (against his wishes) attache to an Italian architect, builder, bar owner and gunrunner, who was a good friend of the commander at Kagnew, a Naval satellite communications base. Gen. Douglas MacArthur had once visited Kagnew in Asmara and called it “the most remote American installation in the world.” 

There was a lot Eli didn’t remember; his long-term memory was mostly shot, due to the brain trauma, suffered while he was on active duty. But he remembered enough of his Navy years spent in Asmara (now the capital of Eritrea) from the summer of 1974 to the fall of 1975. Eli had learned from the experience in East Africa to think like an African and to take note that the people of Ethiopia (or “New Judah,” as Eli termed it) revered their black emperor Haile Selassie, or Ras Tafari, as a direct descendant of King Solomon. Selassie, who gave rise to the Rastafarians of Jamaica, was called, and may still be called by some, the “Lion of Judah.” 

In every bar, residence or business Eli frequented in Asmara, there hung on the wall the obligatory framed color-photograph portrait of the emperor. In less than nine months after Eli’s arrival in Asmara, the longtime Ethiopian Emperor Selassie would be brutally deposed and imprisoned in Addis Ababa by the Derg. The Derg was the short name for the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police and Territorial Armies, which ruled Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987. With Selassie went the hope that many held that the emperor would be the black messiah spoken of in 14th century Ethiopian literature called the Kebra Nagast. The title of the book, translated from the Ge’ez language into English, was The Glory of Kings. Despite the prophecies, the centuries-long line of Ethiopian kings would end with Selassie. 

Eli would not become a soldier, but fate had just the same put a gun in his hand, when he worked as an attache for a Mr. Lorenzo Nicoletti. Eli was chosen for the task because he spoke some Italian, which he had learned from his Italian mother and his aunt on his mother’s side.

The leader of the Ethiopian people for more than forty years, Selassie disavowed the title of “Lion of Judah” in a national radio address before he was overthrown by the Marxists. The Marxists revolutionaries in Ethiopia were aided and armed by the Soviets. Overnight, the U.S. lost its most-favored-nation status in Ethiopia. Selassie was first imprisoned and then murdered. His body was found stuffed beneath a toilet in the imperial palace in Addis Ababa in the year 2000. A proper burial for Selassie’s remains was quickly carried out.

Eli had remembered seeing on TV the diminutive Selassie as part of the foreign delegation at the funeral of President John F. Kennedy. Eli saw the murder of JFK (and RFK to follow) as a bellwether (not to mention that it was apparently a coup d’tat), which sealed the fate of Eli and tens of thousands of other men, perpetuating Vietnam, conscription, civilian casualties, greedy government contractors and madness. 

It does little good now, but Eli knew God punished King David when David gave the order to “number” (draft) the men of Israel who were old enough to fight. God did not let King David build His temple, but gave the task to his son Solomon, because David had needlessly drafted men and had been a man of war. Eli wondered what God thought of President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who had urged continuing the draft in 1972, to refill the 50,000 billets lost in Southeast Asia.

What dominated Eli’s life now, in this sad dance he appeared always to be dancing, was his desire to tell the world about his discoveries in whatever format would work. His life, otherwise, was of no account to him. Maybe Eli would write in all formats. But judging from his past to publish poems and essays on his blog site, with no apparent interest, it was going to be hard for some people to get their head around a black Jesus, especially the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis, whom Eli would personally like to see squirm anyway. It was going to be hard for Eli to break through, having so many things for people to digest. If Eli got published, it would be a long shot. A novel, to compete with The Da Vinci Code, was what Eli most desired to create. His poems, even epic ones, and posts of essays on his website had inspired no one enough to comment. 

Eli had tried to put down his theses in the form of a screenplay, a novel, and in essays, all of which appeared as rough drafts on Eli’s website, which bore the title TANATA. It was an acronym for Things (often) Are Not As They Appear. A formal paper, with an extensive bibliography, was not something Eli could create, not without an editor, though he had a B.A. degree in English and a master’s degree in rhetoric. He had not read a lot of books on the subject of the Beloved Disciple, and there were apparently many.

“I believe that John Mark’s future was hinted at in the last chapter of the Gospel of John,” Eli suddenly spoke up. Eli explained that in John 21, verses 21 through 23, one finds an interesting conversation that Peter is having with a resurrected Jesus. The passage states that there was a rumor among the 11 surviving disciples that the Beloved Disciple will not die, but rather will walk or ride clouds into heaven. 

“I believe,” Eli continued, “that like many black ancestors who made contributions to civilization, John Mark, an African, has been obscured and hidden, and his works have gone unheeded and been wrongly assigned to Zebedee’s John. I believe the Gospel of Mark was tampered with, to the end of causing us to consider Zebedee’s John as the Beloved Disciple, and not John Mark. And I believe that John Mark should get credit for his contributions to the New Testament, as any writer would want and deserve.” Eli stopped to swallow. Eli had cottonmouth, a side effect of the psychotropic drugs he took. He had brought nothing to drink and no gum to chew. “As a writer, I know how that would feel to have my writings wrongly attributed to someone else.”

Eli tried to swallow again, but barreled forward: “Luke in two, perhaps three instances in the book of Acts calls John Mark merely ‘John.’ One such instance (Acts 4:6) may identify John Mark and Alexander, the son of Simon of Cyrene, as members of the Sanhedrin.” Eli was on a roll, though he needed his missing index cards. And something to drink.

Despite their earlier apparent snickering, the students now looked overwhelmed. They had not made their marks yet. 

Eli had re-injured his hips and legs earlier, while he had loaded his Belvedere, which sat in a parking space across the street from where he was sitting. The missing index cards were either on the backseat or in the trunk. Or he had left them at home, mostly likely on the hutch in his den? He didn’t remember which. He had been fortunate that there was a parking space near a bench -- otherwise he might have still been walking painfully from the terraced parking lots, located down two flights of concrete steps. 

Eli winched as he again leaned over and ran through all his materials, assembled with him on the bench, thinking that the missing cards may be hidden somewhere among them. He knew not to turn the wrong way. Turning the wrong way or getting out of bed quickly, without a strategy of rolling out on his left butt cheek, shot the searing, excruciating pain into his hips and lower extremities. Eli was doing everything he could to avoid re-injuring his chronic condition yet again. 

Walking any distance was simply not an exercise for Eli, although he had just lost 51 pounds eating nothing but celery and peanut butter, bananas, cheese and crackers, rice cakes and yogurt, all washed down by diet sweet tea, which he drank by the jug in abundance. His legs went numb if he stood for any period of time. He had let his once rock-solid legs (achieved by running every other day) atrophy, following the disabled Vietnam-era vet’s nervous breakdown two months after 9/11. 

Eli felt that while he had said a lot about his research, as the two students listened on, there were still better ways to restate his conclusions. Eli reckoned that Jesus, in effect, was a half-brother of an African Adam (or Adamic clans). Having the same seed that had created man and impregnated Mary meant, as Eli would come to believe, that Jesus was Himself an African. People, including these two students weighing his survey, needed to know the truth.

Eli believed Jesus was, in effect, the half-brother of “scientific Adam,” the very first man who arose in East Africa. Jesus and a “scientific Adam” had shared the same biological Father.

Contemporary genetic science, driven by the Stanford geneticist Wells, indicated that if there had been an Eden, it had been in East Africa, not in Sumer or anywhere else in Mesopotamia, as deluded “ancient astronaut theorists” proclaimed. Jesus, Eli believed, possessed comprehensive, universal DNA, like the people of the ancient Kingdom of Judah and East Africa, where the first homo sapiens arose and migrated out of the African continent 50,000 years ago. Eli believed the people of the ancient Kingdom of Judah were black, including King David and his son King Solomon, the prince of peace, a forerunner of Jesus, whom we know at least had an Ethiopian mother, Bathsheba. Eli believed that when Babylon sacked Judah in 587 B.C., many of the Jews went south, deep into Africa. That, Eli says, is why there are so many black Jews in Africa. Eli thought Ethiopia and Eritrea should call themselves “New Judah.” 

Dr. Wells explained in his book, The Journey of Man, that all men had an African ancestor, as did all women alive today. Eli believed that God had created whole clans of people out of nothing, not just Adam and Eve. Otherwise, how could the first humans have propagated themselves? Eli felt that way because he couldn’t personally attest to the accuracy of Genesis, which was, of course, largely allegorical. But still true, in his opinion. Jesus’ blood, which was all-encompassing in DNA terms, like that of Africa’s San Bushmen of today, was truly shed for all races of all people. 

The first migration out of Africa resulted in some heading east along the coastline, all the way to Australia, while others went north into Europe and Asia. As their environs changed, the other races of people began to emerge. It had been a racial evolution. Eli eschewed any other explanations for the emergence of the first humans. He didn’t believe in evolution or genetic tinkering by the ET’s as an explanation for mankind’s origins. 

A former Baptist deacon, Eli was now a confirmed Episcopalian, who considered himself to be a Christian mystic; but the clergy at St. Mark’s Episcopal in Chattanooga just happened to think he was nuts. Which Eli admitted that he was, but that was due to his being beaten, twice, while on active duty in Asmara and Norfolk, Virginia. The beatings left him with a fractured skull, severe brain trauma and a damaged prostate from a devastating kick to the groin -- all of which contributing to a nice, fat dose of PTSD. Eli was medically, honorably discharged in May of 1975.

Eli’s PTSD and bipolar/anxiety disorder kept him from seeking out other people, though he desperately wanted friends and allies. He was more or less a recluse, only leaving home to go to the store or to see his GP or his psychiatrist. He stewed and worried about his ability to engage people personally to ask them about these important questions. At least he was doing what he had told himself he must do: conduct research and write, pass out survey postcards, and try to find ways to speak publicly about his theses. Though he feared having to speak publicly. He had nothing else to do with his life, so he would take on the stress, even if it killed him. After all, he had acted in three plays at the Chattanooga Theatre Center, and had suffered panic attacks at least once during those productions, usually on opening night ... and never blew a line.

Eli had a recurring dream in which he was suddenly thrust into a play onstage, having never read the script.

Eli left the Presbyterian church to become an Episcopalian because two Presbyterian assistant pastors, the mayor of Chattanooga and former employers had set him up in a bogus, monthlong job as communications director for the purpose of finding out what made the mentally-ill former sailor tick. The offenders hadn’t known Eli was a 100-percent psychologically disabled Vietnam-era vet. Eli didn’t know it either, in a sense, as he hadn’t dealt with the repressed memories of his military stint. The acting communications director for a “Christian” tax-shelter charity, called the Chattanooga Faith Foundation, was going to be out for a month on maternity leave, so Eli filled her spot under false pretenses. 

The non-profit foundation received contributions from wealthy donors, mostly doctors and lawyers, who, in turn, received a scholarship from the foundation so their son or daughter might attend one of three private schools in Chattanooga. Tax-free. It was apparently a lucrative arrangement. The rich didn’t have to pay taxes on their contributions to the foundation, which turned around and doled out scholarships. 

Despite his excellent work at the non-profit, tax-shelter “Christian” foundation, Eli was fired after a month in August of 2001. When it became apparent that Eli was a true and devout Christian, despite his disability, the foundation director, the pastors and former employers of Eli had all run for the hills, literally, to hide behind their attorneys. They had been convinced that Eli was a sinner because of the anxiety he had shown in their presence. The conspirators believed Eli, who taught youth in Sunday school with his wife Sarah, must either be a homosexual or a child molester. Or both.

To clear his name, Eli had filed a complaint with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, which he would have won, but for the THRC’s general counsel, who had clearly caved as serious strings were being pulled at the state level. Eli suspected the mayor, a former state finance employee and future U.S. senator, had pleaded with the THRC general counsel to let all of the conspirators off the hook. Incredibly, Eli lost. His name had not been cleared.

One of the implicated pastors, who had apparently hatched the conspiracy, had hoped to become the new senior pastor, as the senior pastor Ben Haley, whom Eli served as an editor and a typesetter, was retiring. But the noise Eli made to Ben, another assistant pastor and to several church elders, satisfactorily, if not happily, ruined the young pastor’s chances of succeeding Ben. The offending pastor’s three kids, whom Eli had taught in Sunday school, were all very sullen, unwilling to say very much. It had appeared to Eli that they had a strong disregard for their father, a tall, domineering person. The twin girls had borne frowns on their faces whenever Eli graciously brought up the subject of their father. The pastor now taught freshman English at one of two private boys’ schools in Chattanooga, after having failed as a senior pastor in Jackson, Tennessee.

The most amazing event that transpired in association with the CFF job and Eli’s THRC complaint occurred in slightly less than a year after Eli’s termination. In May of 2002 there had been a compact storm system that began in California and had begun heading exactly due east, in line with Tennessee. Eli happened to have been watching the weather closely, tuning in each night to the NBC affiliate weather broadcast, to see that the storm system had made progress from west to east. It was still days away from Chattanooga. In the meantime, billboards were popping up all over town trumpeting the date, time and place for a church “Pray-In” at Chattanooga’s Finley Stadium. The billboards had been sacrilegiously signed ... “God.” Eli was beside himself. The CFF and their supporters did not possess the right to call the Finley Stadium event something God had sanctioned, especially not when the event was going being used to raise money to pay Eli in a lawsuit settlement. Each participating church in Chattanooga put up $150 to be a part of the event, each with the urging that the CFF wanted to “pack Finley Stadium for God.”

The weather system looked to be on a collision course with the mid-May event. But it was still several days off. The system did not typically run through the upper Midwest, as storms from the west typically did, but rather it was headed straight across the country. When the night of the Finley Stadium event arrived, storm warnings were being put out by the local weathermen. The NBC affiliate weatherman said the storm was going to be a “whopper.” He warned people about venturing out that night. Which put the Finley Stadium do in jeopardy. But they apparently went on with the event, disregarding the precise weather forecast. The “Pray-In” was being hosted by the offending Presbyterian pastor, who had strong ties to CFF. The foundation had funded the private-school educations for the ex-pastor’s three children.

Eli debated whether to go to the stadium for the event. But he feared the storm would envelope him. All he really wanted to do was watch the proceedings from a distance. A friend of Eli’s son had planned to be at Finley Stadium that night. Eli made sure that Ethan’s friend was going to be present for the whole event, which was scheduled to feature fireworks at the conclusion of the “Pray-In.” There would be “fireworks,”

There would be "fireworks" alright, but only on God’s terms. As the manmade fireworks were due to start, the stadium had been rocked by sheets of rain, thunder and lightning. The attendants all ran for cover, probably not realizing the significance of God showing up to put His stamp of disapproval on CFF’s fundraising efforts. Eli had been elated to hear that the event was hastily ended, without any fireworks, as people ran for cover and their cars, trucks and church buses. 

Eli had other pastors and counselors who knew the truth about the former youth Sunday school teacher. Ben, a well-known speaker, had advised Eli over lunch not to go to seminary to become a pastor himself, as it would severely “challenge” his faith. “Don’t do it,” Ben had said. Eli had once been at the Tivoli Theater, attending a ballet, when a wife of one of the offending employers had passed by and glowered at him. What? Eli was the one who should be angry. The employer in question must have gotten stung by the complaint. It may have threatened his position at a Bible college in town.

Eli had told Sarah after he was fired in August of 2001 that “something big,” pertaining to the conspirators, was going to happen before Rosh Hashanah, which fell on September 17th in that year. When 9/11 occurred, forcing all of his detractors to honor his military service, Eli was taken aback. His prediction had come true. But Eli was still, in his opinion, a marked man. The "intervention" led to Eli's nervous breakdown and reawakening.

Eli’s military-related PTSD and his mental health in general eventually disqualified him for the ministry, when he was interviewed at the Southern Baptist offices in Nashville in the spring of 1987. The interviewer had asked Eli and Sarah to map out their lives to that point by drawing a horizontal line on a chalk board, with peaks and dips. Sarah had shown only gradual peaks and dips in the line she drew. When it became Eli’s turn, his African experience, losing Sarah for seven years, prompted him to make a huge dip downward, far enough that he pretended to draw on the wall below the chalk board. The interviewer said Eli and Sarah were going to have to find another way to serve people and their Lord.

Eli’s Vet Center counselor, Elaine Montgomery, whom Eli credits with saving his life, told him to stop running in 2002, as an increased heart rate might cause spikes in Eli’s mania and hyper-vigilance. Eli now wished he had continued to run. 

Eli once saw a TV documentary in which several “scholars” had concluded that God had not supernaturally created manna for the Israelites, but rather ET’s had created “a manna machine” to create the wafers needed to sustain the lives of the Hebrew nomads when there had been no food. If God indwelled all atoms, then He was able to perform miracles, heal the sick, provide for the poor. God was more involved with our lives than people thought. It would all be made clear in the end, but for the time being there were other forces at work who wanted to be seen as the planet earth’s creators.

“I believe,” Eli suddenly spoke up, “that ET’s, in all forms, are demonic. With their crop-circle messages, the ET’s hope to make us honor and worship them. They mean to trick the people of Earth into believing that the ET’s are mankind’s creators, and not the God of Israel.” Eli believed that all this would play out when things really got bad on the planet; then, the ET’s would return, after remaining hidden in the manner of serpents. The ET’s, Eli believed, were not our creators and could never be the source of salvation. 

“The creators of the crop circles,” Eli continued, “have left their creations stamped into crops and cut into rock, in an effort to demonstrate that they created us. But God made the crops and the rocks and all other matter.  

“Perhaps years before or after Jesus crucifixion, the ET’s created the most venerated of all Christian relics -- the Shroud of Turin -- to throw people off the scent,” Eli explained. “The man’s image on the shroud did not depict Jesus, Eli pointed out, but rather a white European man with long hair and a beard. Eli believed that a more accurate shroud would depict Jesus as an African. 

Eli didn’t have a Bible with him -- only the index cards with verses. Damn. He needed to share that verse from Hebrews, a “priestly” book which Eli believed had been written by the priest and scribe John Mark.

“There are all the Coptic forgeries which represent heresy of the worst kind,” Eli preached from where he sat. “The Gnostic Gospel of James in the Nag Hamadi Library, by the way, features, if you can believe it, interactions between humans and superhuman, flying ‘Archons,’ which surely is another way of referring to ET’s. I believe the ET’s tampered with the Gospel of Mark for the purpose of discrediting him and hiding his race from us.

“To build the case for tampering and forgery, one need look no further than the church traditions that claimed that the unusual surname ‘Mark’ was a reference to the African’s mutilating of his fingers and hands, so as to avoid the priesthood. Nothing,” Eli contended, “could be further from the truth.”

Eli found in the Gnostic Coptic gospels none of the awe of Jesus’ divine powers and profound love that are found in the biblical gospels. And what had been the case in the writing of the Gnostic material? Had the Coptic (Egyptian) writer or writers of the Nag Hammadi Library gone to Jerusalem and elsewhere to conduct interviews, or had Mary Magdalene, Thomas, Philip, Peter and others been prompted to go to Egypt to be interviewed? It was all a load of rubbish. The first Christian monasteries had been in Egypt. A monk or monks who wrote the NHL, found in 1949, in clay jars under a pile of manure, had apparently had too much time on his hands.

In the Gnostic Gospel of Philip, the writer is quoted as saying that Jesus often kissed Mary Magdalene somewhere on her person. Part of the sentence is missing, so that no one knows where Jesus kissed her in public; regardless, any such public affection for a woman would have been an offense in any case, for which Jesus would have been stoned. With rocks. Which Jerusalem had in abundance. The Da Vinci Code needed to be called out. Opie and Hanks ought to come clean and say what they were thinking to completely humanize and poke fun at the Savior of the human race and His precious bloody sacrifice, guaranteeing redemption for all who accepted it.

“Why did Mark call himself the Hammer?” the male student asked. 

“Because,” Eli said, “as the only male disciple at Golgotha, John Mark would have seen the way a hammer or hammers were being used on his Lord. He adopted the Roman nickname of sorts as a war cry, I believe, or a throwing down of the gauntlet.”

After a moment, the male student said, “You’ve really loaded up on Mark here. I don’t know any of these things.”

“John Mark,” Eli corrected.

“John Mark,” the student repeated. 

“I submit that there is a reason that we don’t know very much about John Mark,” Eli said directly.

“What’s the reason?” the student asked politely.

“Subterfuge,” Eli said. “Ancient and still-continuing. There are numerous forgeries written in Coptic, along with tampering in the Gospel of Mark, and, perhaps Acts, to promote Zebedee’s John and to hide John Mark, because of what he might say about Jesus’ racial identity. 

“The Coptic forgeries are mostly in the NHL, which contains the Gnostic gospels used by The Da Vinci Code and others to discredit Jesus. The claim that Jesus had faked his own death and married Mary Magdalene was utter nonsense, with all the earmarks of blatant heresy.” Eli, by the way, thought Mary Magdalene might have been black, since there is an ancient town in Ethiopia called Magdala.

“Why would anybody try to hide John Mark?” the female student asked.

“In part, to advance their champion,” Eli said cryptically. 

“Who is who?”

“A white figure, I suspect,” Eli began. “Maybe an ET/human hybrid clone without genitals, which would cause him to have no sexual desire for women, as Daniel 11:37 suggests. Everybody is ready to embrace the blond-haired, blue-eyed image of Jesus. Nobody will be looking for a black Jew to be the Messiah.”

“The white figure ... you’re talking about the antichrist, aren’t you?” the female student asked, handing her marked card back to Eli. She had placed a check mark next to the letter “C,” for Zebedee’s John. Drat! But she had been right on the demonic interloper who would one day come and attempt to steal Jesus’ thunder.

The male student handed Eli his card, also marked for Zebedee’s John. Double drats! Eli thought his remarks may have perhaps been too odd and pressing. He realized that he skipped from subject to subject, at times, with no warning. But he couldn’t tone down his message and staunch the flow of ideas. He had a responsibility of making sure the entire planet knew what Jesus was going to look like when He returned. Whether Eli was scatterbrained or not. 

As Eli received the male student’s card, he saw a cluster of students filing out the door of a presumed classroom building. Eli counted 12, three males and nine females, and took that many cards from his stack. Eli was hurting, so he would sit for as long as he could. When the students got to him, Eli stood up painfully. They also received their orange postcards appreciatively from the disabled vet. Eli shuffled backwards to the bench and sat down.

Eli chose not to say anything, if he could help it, and would instead leave the remarks to the 12 students. 

Suddenly, an attractive presumed African-American woman stepped out of the door that the students had just exited. Eli quickly got a 13th card ready to give to her. If she was an academic, a professor of some kind, Eli was prepared to help her come to a surprising, perhaps life-changing conclusion.

The captivating black woman looked to be in her thirties or forties. Her beautifully coiffed raven-black hair glistened in the morning sun. She carried a leather satchel, with a matching strap, as beautiful as herself. She wore a purple dress, with a black cardigan draped over her shoulders. The woman walked in a pair of black two-inch heels. Eli continued to watch her from his perch in the shade of the large oak tree as she turned in his direction.  

“You can mark your cards here,” Eli said to the gathering of students. “Or you can take them home with you and make your marks perhaps after some research or additional consideration. I have verses of Scripture that prove my thesis or theses. Well, I did have. Some cards are missing. But pass around these two index cards, and I’ll tell you what I think they mean. In the passage from John, we get an entirely different narrative than we get in the passage in Mark, though both accounts are describing the same event.” Eli handed the pink and light-blue cards to the student nearest him.

The woman in purple joined the group and reached out her hand to receive from Eli an orange postcard. Was she a student or a professor? He hoped she was faculty; in truth, he was trolling for faculty members and the clergy because these were the only people who could bless Eli’s work and encourage, with results, its publishing. At the least, any academics Eli won over to his side could spread the word, direct his work or provide editing ... if they were to embrace Eli’s theses.

“Thank you,” the woman with the satchel said as she received her card. “Are you a student here?” she asked. 

“No,” Eli laughed, waddling back to sit down on the edge of the bench. “Not a student, per se. Thought about it though.”

“My name is Mary Elsworth,” she introduced herself, after a casual glance at the text on the orange card handed to her. “I’m a professor here.” Mary withdrew her reading glasses from her satchel, and put them on, looking over them at the disabled vet.

“Eli Knowles,” Eli replied with a grin. “What do you teach?”

“Global Christianity and New Testament studies,” Mary said. “Great.” Eli felt elated. He got the pink and blue cards from the students reading them.

“I want you to read these cards,” Eli said to Mary. He handed them to her. “The passage in John, when compared with the passage in Mark, reveals a stark contrast and a completely different narrative. I think that means the Gospel of Mark has been tampered with to do away with the idea of ‘the other disciple, the one Jesus loved,’ which appears in John.”

Eli knew he was pressing, but he was desperate to get someone to agree with him and make their mark on the letter “E.” Maybe this African-American professor will be wise enough to see that the Beloved Disciple could be no other than John Mark.

“Where did you get this information about John Mark?” a male student inquired.

“A 1968 Coptic biography, written by the late Coptic Pope Shenouda III,” Eli replied. “The material has only existed in English since 1997. It happens to be the most thorough biography that we have of any of the New Testament figures, excluding Jesus. We know more about John Mark, who was probably the nephew of Barnabas, than we know about, say, the apostle Paul.” The explanation seemed to satisfy the male student. Mary looked up from the card after intently reading it. She appeared to be somewhat agape -- at least that’s the impression that Eli got. 

“This is rather amazing,” Mary said.

“Yes, it is, isn’t it,” Eli replied.

“Did the Coptic biography provide the information you have here on the card -- that St. John Mark was an African refugee?” Mary asked, apparently grappling with an apparent paradigm shift. 


Three of the 12 students finished making their marks, and walked over to where Eli was sitting to handoff their cards. 

“Thank you,” Eli said as appreciatively as he could, expecting the worst. He quickly turned the orange postcards over to see the apostle and disciple Zebedee’s John had been marked by all three; a pattern appeared to be manifesting itself. The apostle and disciple John was the apparent hands-down favorite of these students at the Anglican-based school. He suspected that if he were to take his postcard survey to other, more secular schools ... that he would be lucky to get any votes at all. He imagined seeing his orange postcards strewn across another college campus. Eli had loved college, both in Tennessee and Georgia; he literally had to be pushed by a faculty adviser to go ahead and graduate, having met all the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in American and English Language and Literature from the University of Chattanooga. He honed his writing skills while suffering from PTSD, somehow pulling his thoughts together to successfully take exams and write papers. 

“Sometimes,” Eli suddenly blurted out to the remaining students and Mary seated beside him, “your faith may be threatened. Courses like systematic theology only drive you further from the simple truth that Jesus actually lived, died and arose in the manner described in our Bibles.”

Eli, a conservative on social and biblical issues, turned toward Mary, who had just produced a pen. She was looking at him warily now; she didn’t appreciate Eli’s remarks on the effects of systematic theology on a person’s faith.

Seven of 12 students handed back their cards. Two people had apparently kept their cards. Eli suspected that they would either throw the cards away or try to somehow reuse the stamp. 

“Thanks,” Eli said, receiving all of seven of the cards at once. One had been marked for Mary Magdalene, five had marked their cards for the apostle and disciple Zebedee’a John. The remaining card had been marked “F,” for none of the above. 

Eli decided to weigh in again, though his standing audience was departing. “The seed that produced the Adamic clans, or Adam, was the same seed God used to impregnate the Virgin Mary,” Eli called out. “The first homo sapiens migrated out of southeast Africa into the rest of the world 50,000 years ago. You could say that Adam and Jesus were half brothers in that they had African -- ‘first man’ -- features. Jesus and Adam, in effect, shared the same biological Father. The position that the first humans arose thanks to ET’s in Mesopotamia, which The History Channel’s Ancient Aliens programs assert, is utterly indefensible when compared with the Out-of-Africa model, with all the genetic evidence. If there had been an Eden, it would have been in East Africa, maybe near the Great Rift Valley.”

As the cluster of students walked away, looking back at Eli over their shoulders, he was convinced they were talking about him and saying rude things. They were saying he was crazy. 

Eli thumbed through the marked cards that had just been handed in, as Mary, who had not marked her card yet, tried to see what choices the students had made. Eli quickly pulled back the cards.

“No fair peeking,” Eli admonished. Everything seemed to be riding on how this black professor would mark her card. 

A female student had acted like she wanted to say something kind to Eli, but ultimately she held her tongue and walked away. Eli didn’t deny that he was playing on the sympathy of people towards him. It was a gratifying thing -- as opposed to no concern or respect at all for a hobbled mentally ill old vet. Eli watched the female student as she left. She was pretty, as was Mary.

Though he would admit to being crazy, as the students no doubt saw him, he felt surely that the exercise had put into their minds that there could be no other person than John Mark to be Jesus’ Beloved Disciple, who was an African priest and therefore knew the high priests Annas and Caiaphas, both of whom initially received Jesus after His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. They just needed to allow for the paradigm to shift. They were being presented with very important new information about Jesus and His Beloved Disciple. Eli imagined what these students would say, when and if they were ever to read Eli’s novel. Or to see a film, the screenplay of which would be written by Eli. As it was, he was coming up dry. Nobody seemed to be listening. Nobody seemed to care. Everything was riding on Mary, and how she interpreted Eli’s materials.

Eli turned toward Mary, who had begun to uncap the black pen she had dug out of her satchel. 

Three students approached from the left. Eli got three cards ready. He made his awkward rise to his feet, and passed them out. The students received their cards with some degree of disdain, apparently resenting having been bothered with a survey pressed upon them. Eli let them read. Mary was still holding the pink and blue cards.

“You’ve got all this about John Mark,” a female student said. “You’re obviously leaning toward him, is that right?

“Just mark the best answer,” Eli said.

“Was John Mark black?” another female student asked.

“I believe John Mark has been hidden, disparaged, overlooked and disregarded because of what he would say about Jesus’ racial identity.”

“What was Jesus’ racial identity?” Mary asked, taking a seat on the bench. 

“Let me answer your question with a question,” Eli said coyly. “Have you read the book of Hebrews?”

“Yes,” Mary said, “of course I have.” She bristled slightly at Eli’s insinuation that she hadn’t done her homework.

“Well,” Eli replied, “you’ve missed something.”


“Unfortunately I don’t have the right verse with me. Someone will have to produce a Bible.”

“I have one right here,” Mary said, reaching into her satchel to withdraw her Bible and two other paperback books, which Mary set on the bench. One book was titled Evangelism In A Postmodern World; the other book was titled Evolution: A Christian Perspective. 

“What passage are you talking about?” Mary asked, again trying to peek at the other responses given by the three students. 

“Hebrews chapter seven, verse fourteen,” Eli said. “No peeking.”

Mary picked up her Bible and quickly turned to the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. “Shall I read it aloud?”

“Yes,” Eli said, “Please do.”

Mary put her reading glasses back on and began to read, loudly enough for the two females and the one male student to hear: “For it is evident that our Lord arose from the Tribe of Judah ...”

“Stop right there,” Eli said. “What about a person would make it evident that he or she was a member of the Tribe of Judah?”

Mary was stumped momentarily. “Well, I don’t know.”

“Would it be Jesus’ height, or the size of his feet, or something else?” Think, pretty lady. Think.

Mary remained silent as she pondered the verse of scripture. “It was evident to the writer of the book of Hebrews,” she said, “that Jesus had been ... from the Hebrew tribe of Judah ...”

“Yes, keep going,“ Eli said. 

“It would be evident that Jesus was from the Tribe of Judah ... based on His coloring.”

“You go it!” Eli said. He wanted to hug her.

“Jesus is mentioned as being the Lion of Judah in Revelation 5:5,” Eli said. “I believe that the first Jews of Judah ... were mostly or all black. I believe that King David and his son King Solomon were both black, as evidenced by the dark skin of Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian emperor whose lineage connected him with Menelik I, who was the physical product of the sexual union between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. I was in Ethiopia when Selassie was overthrown in 1974.”

“Goodness,” Mary said with a smile. “You’ve got an interesting story.” She glanced at her watch. She had another 45 minutes before she would have to leave.

“I believe that John Mark wrote the book of Hebrews,” Eli said directly. “It has been called a priestly book. John Mark was a priest. I also believe that John Mark wrote 2 Peter; we know that another literary assistant, or amanuensis, wrote 1 Peter. Peter couldn’t write. Nor could his fishing partner John. John Mark could. And yet even the early church father Papias, writing in the second century A.D., who claimed to be a follower of John the Elder (which was a possible reference to the apostle and disciple John), indicated that John Mark had only written down what Peter himself had experienced so as to create the Gospel of Mark. 

“John Mark was a follower of Jesus, not to mention an apostle, as the biography I have points out. John Mark was the only male disciple who had followed Jesus all the way to Golgotha. But Papias has said that John Mark was neither a hearer nor a follower of Jesus. There is intrigue in that this mysterious ‘John the Elder’ figure apparently misled Papias about John Mark and how his gospel was written.”

Mary, to Eli’s great pleasure, was fully tuned into him and the words he was speaking. “And you have all of this information from the biography? May I see it?” 

“Sure,” Eli said slightly rotating himself, winching as he reached over to pick up the thick stack of copy paper bound together with a large black metal clasp. It pained Mary to see this elderly man in black in such extreme discomfort, as Eli handed her the stack of paper.

“I found it online as I was doing a Google search on John Mark,” Eli pointed out, as Mary thumbed through John Mark’s bio. “I also found a paper that supports my thesis. And take a look at these two passages of scripture which have completely different narratives about the night Jesus was arrested, which proves that the passage in Mark must be wrong.”

Mary blinked several times. She recalled the words of Jesus, when He tells His disciples that all mysteries, hidden from mankind for now, would one day be revealed. Who was this funny little man dressed in black? 

“How long have you been working on your thesis?” Mary asked.

“Since 2002,” Eli said, “a year after I crashed and burned. I’m a disabled vet.”

“Yes,” Mary said kindly. “I can see that you are.” Mary was referring to Eli’s sciatica, which was not military related.

The three students turned in their cards. All three were marked for the apostle and disciple John, the son of Zebedee.

“I’m not disabled physically,” Eli said, as he put the three completed cards on the bottom of the stack. “Well I am, at the moment, but the sciatica is not related to my military service.”

“Thank you for your service.” Mary said. “My fiancee was in the military. He was killed last year in Afghanistan.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Eli said with a consoling voice. “That really is tough.”

Eli appreciated people thanking him for his service, but he really didn’t want to think about it. It was too painful. It had led to his development of an obsessive-compulsive anxiety disorder that was linked to his sexual insecurity. The kick to the groin, delivered from behind by a rioting black sailor as Eli lay face down on the sidewalk across from the enlisted men’s club on the Norfolk Naval base, left him with a damaged prostate. He was rendered impotent by the kick for the better part of two years. 

He’d gotten corrective surgery for his damaged prostate, six months before he and Sarah were to marry in May of 1979. 

Despite the beating Eli suffered on the base in Norfolk at the hands of more than 100 black sailors, he didn’t hold their fury against them. Maybe all of them had been drafted like Eli. Nobody wanted to be in the military in the Vietnam era. 

Eli and some other sailors had ventured past the front gate of the base, to catch a bus to go into town to see a concert, when a carful of guys with long hair had pelted them with eggs and empty beer bottles. They had yelled, “Baby killers!” Over and over. Eli wasn’t killing babies in the Navy, instead he was, in effect, performing an intelligence service to protect the U.S. and its allies. And all their babies.

Eli was able to begin receiving checks from the V.A. as a medically, honorably discharged ex-sailor in 2002. Though he was totally psychologically disabled, Eli saw himself in a much better light these days, as he had forced himself to do what he was doing, and he was succeeding at least to this point. He had used his craziness to his advantage, but his condition pained him nonetheless. He was crazy ... as a fox. But Eli was not stupid. He was making a splash. He intended on having his novel finished in six months. His 60-page screenplay was in the can. 

“Where were we?” Eli said, somewhat disoriented. He tried to remember if he had taken his meds for the day. He must not have: his thoughts were racing a million miles an hour. Eli was “cycling,” which is to say his mania was flaring. Eli tried to ignore the anxiety that typically accompanied his mania. But it would reach a point where Eli would have had enough, and would have to go and take his meds as soon as possible.

“We were talking about Hebrews,” Mary said. 

“I want to show you some index cards, some of which I think I left in my car. I think the Gospel of Mark was tampered with. Read these two passages.” He handed Mary the pink and light-blue cards that had been handed in.

“Are you sure you won’t let me see the answers you’ve gotten?” Mary asked. 

“I don’t want you to be wrongly influenced,” Eli responded. “You’re on the right track. Why was Jesus referred to in Revelation 5:5 as the ‘Lion of Judah?’ What was evident about Jesus that links Him with the Tribe of Judah?” 

“You’ve already asked me that,” Mary said.

“Oh. Did I?” 

“Yes,” Mary replied. “And I said that his coloring would have made it evident that he was from the Tribe of Judah.” 


Before she began using her pen to mark the card, she leaned back, from where she sat, and made the mark on the card as she clutched it closer to her breast. There. Done. She put the card in her satchel. Now Eli was the one who wanted to peek.

“Wait,” Eli said urgently. “I want to see your answer.”

“I’ll mail it to you,” Mary replied. “Isn’t that your intent?”

“Yes, but ...”

Mary withdrew the postcard from her satchel, folded it twice and put it in a white envelope that she had produced, sealing it with a lick of her tongue. She placed the envelope on her lap and rested her folded hands upon it.

“You can’t open this until I’m gone, completely out of sight, completely out of earshot. Okay?” Mary looked at her watch. She had twenty minutes before she needed to leave for a meeting with the dean of the School of Theology Dr. Laird Staunton.

Eli gave Mary a mock frown, but nodded his agreement. “Let me ask you a question, actually two,” Eli said abruptly.

“Okay,” Mary complied. “But hurry.”

”Why was an African man, Simon of Cyrene, heading in the opposite direction, specifically seized by the Roman soldiers to force him to help Jesus with His cross?”

“Because Jesus and the African man looked similar,” Mary answered. 

“Exactly,” Eli said beaming. “Why did the angel tell Mary and Joseph to take Jesus into Africa, so that they might escape the murderous King Herod?”

“Because Jesus was black.”

“Yes, and because John Mark, like Simon, is also from Cyrene, John Mark is black by association. That is the important lynchpin in all of this. Once I learned in the biography of John Mark that he had also been from Cyrene, I saw it as a divine clue -- which could only point to one thing. The riddle was solved by knowing that Simon and John Mark both came from North Africa, and were most likely men of color.”

Mary nodded and smiled.

Eli searched his tin box once again and lifted up all of his materials. He was sure he had the three cards that constituted his most convincing pieces of the puzzle, a slam dunk that proved that John Mark, and not Zebedee’s John, was “the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.”

  “I have some missing index cards that I want you to read,” Eli said as he stood up, gripping the edge of the bench to steady himself. “I think I left them in my car. Let me go get them.”

“Would you like for me to get them for you?” Mary asked kindly.

Eli already had the car keys out of his pocket. “No, I can do it. I’m good,” he said as he strode uneasily away, gingerly stepping down off the curb in a way that was less painful. 

Mary picked up The Journey of Man and turned it over to read the synopsis on the back cover. It read:

Around 50,000 years ago, a man -- genetically identical to us -- lived in Africa. Every person alive today is descended from him. How did this real-life Adam wind up as the father of us all? What happened to the descendants of other men who lived at the same time? And why, if modern humans share a single prehistoric ancestor, do we come in so many sizes, shapes and races?

Examining the hidden secrets of human evolution in our genetic code, Spencer Wells reveals how developments in the revolutionary science of population genetics have made it possible to create a family tree for the whole of humanity. Replete with marvelous anecdotes and remarkable information, from the truth about the real Adam and Eve to the way differing racial types emerged, The Journey of Man is an enthralling, epic tour through the history and development of early humankind.

When Eli returned, he saw Mary holding the genetics book.

“Would you like to read it?” he asked.

“I read the synopsis. The work is fascinating,” she said. “A breakthrough, I think.”

“Yeah, I’ve done my homework on Africa, Eli said. The Journey of Man gave me the reason for my Jesus’ blackness was so important. The opponents of Jesus had called him a demon. A demon, because he was a man of color amid all these white people. You can borrow it, if you wish.”

“Okay.” Mary cautiously. She felt she had good reason to be concerned about this white man who was saying Jesus was black, but she trusted the elderly gentleman, though he was obviously mentally ill. He only seemed to be interested in getting out his message.

Eli picked up Mary’s book on evolution.

“What is the writer’s thesis?” he asked.

“He suggests that God used evolution as a means to bring about the human race.”

“Do you believe that?” Eli asked.

“Well, I don’t know,” Mary replied. 

“I don’t,” Eli said. “I believe there has been a racial evolution, though, over the past 50,000 years. I don’t believe in evolution because of the little story I told myself about a mama ape and a papa ape. Would you like to hear it?”

Mary glanced at her watch. Ten minutes til 11. “Sure, but hurry.” 

Eli cleared his throat. “Imagine a family of apes,” he began. “A mama ape and a papa ape, with three baby apes, one of which is a newborn. One day the mama ape goes to the papa ape and says, “You know, this most recent baby is started to look like a different species; he’s more human.” Eli paused to let the words sink in. “Can you imagine such a conservation ever taking place, apart from the fact that apes can’t speak? I can’t, because two apes produce an ape, not a budding other species. There is no reason for one ape and all apes after him to become an altered species, with a brain and a soul. Two apes produce an ape, completely, 100 percent.”

Mary’s face was blank. She blinked as she comprehended Eli’s words. She thought, He must be right.

“You can borrow the book if you want,” Mary said, placing The Journey of Man on the bench. “I think you’re onto something.”

“Good,” Eli nodded. “Great, yeah.” He paused, then spoke up, “Is there anyway that I can address the university, in person, somehow?” Was she thinking about it?  

“There is one outside chance,” Mary said. “I have Chapel Talk tomorrow at 9 a.m. You could take my place at Chapel Talk, if you have a formal presentation you could make. It would give you about forty-five minutes.”

“How many people attend Chapel Talk?” Eli asked breathlessly.

“About ninety or so.”

“Ninety,” Eli repeated. “Comprised of whom?”

Mary inhaled deeply. She was afraid she was promising something that she couldn’t guarantee. She didn’t want to make Eli angry. “Mostly faculty and staff,” Mary said. “Sometimes some students will attend.”

“I have slides,” Eli said eagerly. “And a way to project them.” Eli suddenly became aware of the “mist,” thinking that he should ask Mary if she saw it.

“Do you see the ‘mist’ ... that’s surrounding us, at the moment?” he asked.


“Yeah,” Eli replied. “The smoke-like mist that is currently boiling at the moment. Do you see it? It’s all around us.”

Mary looked warily at Eli. He was bringing up an odd subject, which might suggest that he was hallucinating.

“No, I’m sorry,” Mary said. “I don’t see any mist.”

Eli slumped where he sat. “Oh.” 

At that moment, the air was filled with the blaring sound of a car apparently on its last leg. The mechanically challenged car was nevertheless moving fast. A white, beat-up Honda Civic, probably more than 20 years old, was making the noise. The car came flying by, passing Eli’s car. Suddenly, the driver of the white car slammed on his brakes, stopping roughly two car links from Eli’s prized vehicle. The white car, which bore a crooked Alabama license plate, backed up to come alongside Eli’s car. Three men got out of the double-parked Honda. Each had a shaved head, and all were wearing leather jackets and tattered jeans. Eli could see that each man had a red swastika emblazoned on the left sleeves of their jackets. On the back of their jackets were the words “White Power.” Skinheads, Eli thought to himself. Punks, neo-Nazis, white supremacists. When the trio of troublemakers walked over to Eli’s car to look at the drivable work of art, Eli spoke up.

“May I help you?!” Eli called out to the three men. 

“Is this your car?” the apparent leader of the three said.

“Who wants to know?!” Eli called back.

The leader of the three began walking across the street, and the two followed. They walked right up to where Eli and Mary were sitting.

“I like this car, man,” the leader said. The other two nodded their heads.

“Killer fins, dude,” one of the followers said. 

“Yeah, I might want to buy this car,” the leader piped up. 

“It’s not for sale,” Eli replied sternly. “You’re double parked. Why don’t you just get out of here?”

The leader of the trio looked at Mary. “Who do you think you are?” he said.

“I beg your pardon,” Mary replied anxiously. 

“What is a n***** woman doin’ here?”

“I teach,” Mary said breathlessly. “I’m a professor.”

“A perfesser!” the leader howled mockingly. “Boys, we got us an uppity n***** perfesser.”

“Watch your mouth,” Eli said sternly, straining to stand, to put himself between Mary and the three young hoodlums.

“Whose gonna make me you cripple son of a bitch?”

Eli decided to sit back down on the bench. He was afraid the skinhead was going to punch him. He needed to take a different tack.

“I was just telling her that Jesus was and is a black Jew,” Eli said as calmly as he could.

“Yer fulla shit,” the leader of the trio spit out.

“It’s the truth,” Eli added. “And I can prove it in three verses. Would you like to read the Bible before you leave?”

Mary, who looked like she was about to cry, reached into her satchel and withdrew her cell phone. She turned away from everyone. She tapped her screen three times. “Yes,” Mary said into her mobile, her voice cracking with emotion. “This is Dr. Mary Elsworth. We have a problem at the bench across the street from the administration building. Yes. You need to hurry.”

“Security is coming,” Eli said. “So get lost.”

“I’m gonna get that car,” the leader vowed, before signaling to his minions that it was time to make a hasty retreat. The trio walked quickly away, got into their car, and left. Thankfully. A campus police car pulled up next to the bench, and a large, uniformed security guard got out.

“Y’all having any trouble here?” the officer said.

“Yes,” Mary said. “But they left.”

“They were skinheads, white supremacists,” Eli said. “They were driving a white Honda Civic. Old as the hills. Their license plate indicated they were from Alabama.”

“Did you get the license number?” the officer asked.

“No,” Eli said. “I didn’t. But I should have. I could barely make out that it was an Alabama plate.”

“So everything’s okay?” the officer asked.

“Yes ... well ... I’m very upset,” Mary said, still on the verge of tears.

“Yes ma’m, I can tell that,” the security officer said. “Don’t worry. We’ll keep an eye out for them. They won’t bother you again.” 

“Thanks,” Eli said, extending his hand to the officer.

The officer shook it. “You’re welcome.” 

Eli breathed a sigh of relief as he turned toward Mary. “Well, that was enlightening,” Eli said with a grim look on his face. “Where were we?” Eli was unwilling to let the troublemakers steal his thunder.

“I have to go,” Mary replied tearfully. “I’ve got that meeting with my boss.”

“Please share a postcard with him,” Eli implored. 

“No,” Mary said flatly, setting Eli aback. “My boss is the dean of the School of Theology. He’s a Johannine scholar. Dr. Staunton would wring my neck if I were to suggest that the Gospel of John was written by a black priest, instead of the apostle and disciple John, the son of Zebedee.”

Eli was dying to tear open the envelope. Mary saw Eli looking at the envelope as it lay on her lap.

“I can’t promise anything,” she said. “I will have to head off my boss, so he doesn’t come to Chapel Talk -- which he regularly does. He knows I’m going to speak. If he were to see you and hear your arguments ... I could be fired.”

Eli looked into Mary’s weary face. She was trying to help him, but this caveat she was throwing at him was now a source of worry. Mary withdrew from her satchel a packet of tissues. She took one and used it to dab the moisture from her teary eyes and wipe her nose.

“Why does this material mean so much to you?” Mary asked earnestly. “You’re a white man.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed that,” Eli said with a grin. “And, I’ve been beaten on two separate occasions in the military -- once in Asmara, Ethiopia and once in Norfolk, Virginia -- by two separate groups of black men. I was fired by a black boss who thought my anxiety disorder, that I displayed around him, indicated that I was a racist, in his view. How more ironic can life get? This is my only meaningful contribution. This is the reason for which I was born.”

“You’re a very interesting individual Mr. Knowles. I really don’t know what to think of you.”

Mary was still clutching the tissue in her right hand.

“Do you believe that God has a plan for every person’s life?” Eli asked. 

“Yes, I suppose so. I don’t know.”

“I do,” Eli said. “When I was so convinced that God had abandoned me. As hard as my time was in the service, even then God was preparing me to learn the things I know. I learned to type in the Navy. After my discharge, I went to work at the newspaper, not knowing that I could put thought behind my typed words. But I blossomed as a writer. I learned to think with my fingers going.

“I was prepared to be stationed on a ship on the East Coast, as the Navy recruiters contractually promised, but I went instead to Ethiopia. New Judah. I lost my high-school sweetheart, who was practically my fiancee. While I was in the service, it drove me mad to think of her being with another man.” 

Mary nodded as she stood to leave, clutching the white envelope in her right hand and the envelope in the other. She glanced at her watch; she had five minutes til 11. 

“If the Shroud of Turin is a forgery,” Eli said, speaking rapidly, hoping to get out as many questions as he could before she left. “Which many scientists believe it is ... what would have been the intent of the person or persons forging the shroud, which appears to depict a white man, who has been crucified and resurrected?”

Mary gave Eli a half smile. “I suppose it would be to reveal that a crucified white man was the Son of God.”


“I must be off,” Mary said. “Do you have a business card? I may need to call you about tomorrow morning.” Mary realized she was being abrupt with Eli, but that was how she coped with her emotions.

“No,” Eli said, “but I can write down my phone number and email and website addresses.” Eli took an orange postcard from his stack and wrote down next to his name his phone number, email address and the address of his website TANATA, which was It hurt Eli to lean over to write.

Mary searched her satchel, rummaging through it, before pulling out a business card. She handed it to Eli.

Eli received it appreciably. “Thanks.”

“Au revoir ” Mary said, receiving from Eli another postcard containing his information. She dropped it in her satchel. “I suppose I will see you again.”

“You’d better believe it,” he said smiling. “I just hope I can find a good parking space tomorrow. If I have to park down the hill, I don’t think I can make it. Tomorrow was going to be a stress-filled and painful day, but he had nothing else to live for. If he were to have a heart attack because of the anxiety, at least he would have been doing what God wanted him to do.

Now Mary felt obligated to let Eli have her spot at Chapel Talk. He really was pitiful. She imagined the pain that must be stabbing him with every step he took. She knew that the terraced parking lots, down below them, were a bear to climb. “Remember,” Mary said, waving the envelope, “don’t open this until I am completely gone, out of sight.”

“Okay,” Eli agreed. “So, I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Mary said. “I suppose I’ll have to introduce you. Unless my the dean of the School of Theology plans on attending. Then I’ll have to figure something out. You deserve to be heard, but we’ll have to see. Have a good day, Eli.”
“You, too.”

Mary handed Eli the envelope and left the bench. When Eli called out “goodbye” and “thanks,” Mary had waved a hand over her head, still walking towards a two-story building with double glass doors.

“Oh!” Eli called out. “I don’t know where the Chapel is!”

Mary walked back about halfway. “Go through these double doors I’m about to enter,” Mary called back weakly. “Cross the hall and go through another set of glass doors. This is the administration building. St. John’s Chapel will be on your immediate right as you exit.”

“Got it.”

Eli was anxiously going along with what Mary had requested. He held the envelope, not tearing it open until Mary was completely out of sight. She was gone. He tore into the envelope and pulled out the folded postcard. Turning it over he saw that Mary had circled the letter “E!” He knew it.