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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.

REVELATION 1:7

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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Monday
Oct222018

Raising 'The Hammer'

(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 out of 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 50,000 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. 

* * * 

A BENCHMARK (Chapter Three)

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 “misty” phenomenon first presented itself to Eli in September of 2006, when he was working at his computer in the dark. And then the “mist” had swirled around his head in the light of the computer, so that it had been unmistakeable. The waves of “mist” were not an actual mist, per se; if Eli trained his eye on one part of the “mist,” it rose and became a translucent angelic figure, usually sliding horizontally from side to side, or forming a “U,” or rotating in a circle, before turning rapidly to Eli’s right and leaving, apparently, a small cloud the size of a man’s hand in its place. The angels, with wings and long robes, and obscured faces, appeared to be comprised of displaced air, like the heat waves one sees in summer at the end of a black strip of asphalt running toward the horizon.

Eli believed the “mist” was God’s way of keeping him alive, inspired and positive (with fewer suicidal ideations) until Eli completed his writing and speaking tasks, which were a tall order for a grieving man with military-related PTSD and a heart condition. And crippling sciatica.

Eli became aware of the “misty” phenomenon two months after July 16, 2006, a true watershed date featuring a theophany that would shape Eli and his self awareness for the rest of his life. And there were other theophanies and signs, some dating back to his childhood in Little Creek, Virginia, a suburb of Norfolk. Eli had nearly drowned in an inlet bay near his Virginia home at the age of 7. But two balls of light had emerged from the light of the noonday sun and came down to where Eli was fighting the water. He couldn’t swim. And his older brother Jeff had known that. A light went under each arm and lifted Eli to the shore. Eli remembers kicking with his feet barely under the surface of the deep-aqua-colored bay. The splashed water, in the special light, appeared to be so many diamonds cast into the air.

On the date of July 16, 2006, Eli had stepped outside of his Signal Mountain, Tennessee home around 2 a.m. in the morning and looked up to see a puffy, cumulous cloud hovering inches above the roof of his house on a cloudless night, glowing with the light of the full moon in the southeastern sky. In the upper left-hand portion of the cloud was a perfectly defined wingtip. Eli had expected an angel to walk out of the glowing cloud at any moment. 

Eli had walked around to the back of his house, so he could get a better look at the impressive display comprised only of water vapor, which appeared to glow with a light all its own. “Is that you, Lord?” Eli had said. The cloud remained motionless.

When Eli had decided to go inside, suddenly feeling an overpowering sleepiness, the cloud had begun to rise. Eli was sure that the cloud would be broken up by a stand of trees located on the southernmost portion of his property, but the cloud had missed the trees by inches as it moved, in a pinkish sky, toward the south. When Eli became aware again of the wingtip, it had broken away from the rest of the unchanged cloud and dissipated. 

On the night of November, 30th 2001, in the aftermath of the events of September 11 and a “rude intervention,” a rare blue moon had occurred, the first since 1963. A blue moon in November had also occurred previously in 1906. A visible full moon illuminated the droplets of water in an actual mist that raced over the mountain where Eli lived. The world around Eli was all aglow -- and he took this as a sign from God as he strolled down the street in front of his house, making the sign of the cross, blessing all the homes already decorated for Christmas as he passed. 

Eli later learned about the rarity of a blue moon in November -- and that that night had also been special. Neither before nor since that night has Eli witnessed such a weather event on Signal Mountain. Eli had no one to tell about the theophanies and the night (early morning) of the blue moon. When Eli had once brought up the subject of the cloud, as he spoke with a neighbor, she had given him the look of incredulity that he was all too familiar with. Such was the stultifying nature of Eli’s mystical life. 

Eli realized that God had pulled together the molecules and atoms to create the cumulous cloud consisting of water vapor ... out of nothing. Eli believed God indwelled each atom in existence. He based this on the fact that the rotation of protons, neutrons and electrons around a nucleus in an atom mirrored the rotation of planets around the sun in the solar system. The splitting of an atom was like splitting the face of God.

After doing some research on cumulous clouds, Eli discovered that the lowest cumulous clouds ever come to earth was 6,000 feet. When a cloud settled upon the mountain at approximately 1,800 feet, it existed as mist. Eli figured that if God could make something from nothing, even when conditions were not right, He could have produced the seed that made the Virgin Mary pregnant and created from nothing whole clans of Africans. The supernatural, Eli believed, was real, a notion that supported all the talk of angels, heaven and hell ... and the promise of eternal life. 

The experience of that night in July 2006 was always with Eli. But the nocturnal experience in the month of November, which has only 30 days, had caused Eli to stay up all night, which helped to facilitate his psychotic episode on December 1, which had landed him in the area’s psychiatric hospital for a week.

Eli pondered the appearance of the cloud, noting the anniversary of the cloud’s appearance as the years rolled past. Eli assumed that it surely was a harbinger of some sort. Eli would come to believe the theophany was God’s way of saying He was present, and, that crushing health-related events awaited Sarah and Eli in exactly seven years. The dissipating wingtip had represented the death of his angel, Sarah, Eli came to believe. Eli’s wife of 36 years succumbed to her aggressive cancer and radiation poisoning in 2015 at the age of 61. Seven years to the day since the appearance of the cloud, on July 16, 2013, Eli had suffered a heart attack and underwent a quadruple bypass a month later. In that same month of July 2013, Sarah was diagnosed with renal cancer. It had all taken place exactly seven years since Eli’s “cloud sighting” in the midsummer of 2006. 

The number seven had always played prominently in Eli’s life, where the passage of years was concerned. For example, it was exactly seven years from Christmas Eve of 1972, when Eli and Sarah broke up, to Christmas Eve of 1979, when they became engaged. 

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. 

On top of all of this, Eli believed he could see peripherally, out of the corners of both eyes, into an apparent other world, with black and gray shapes of presumed people moving around behind him, leaning over his shoulders as he worked so that they might see and read Eli’s research and writings. 

Perhaps the translucent angels were a “cloud of witnesses;” perhaps they were deceased loved ones. Perhaps the onlookers were “the Watchers” featured in the Book of Enoch. Eli believed this other world or dimension overlapped this world. 

Eli thought the other world might be purgatory, as he sensed hostility and profound woe from the people, who were always coming and going -- causing the bright light of this other dimension to be dimmed and temporarily blocked out, with shadows and light being flashed onto planes in this present world. Presumably these were shadows cast by people, humans. But, what Eli was seeing might be the product of demonic, time-traveling, dimension-bending ET’s.

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 white 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. 

“Yeah.” 

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.”

“What?” 

“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.” 

“Bingo.”

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.

“Mist?”

“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.”

“Precisely.”

“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 tanata.squarespace.com. 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.

“Yee-haw!” 

Saturday
Sep292018

Two Men From Cyrene

Simon and John Mark both from Cyrene.

What was it the Roman soldiers seen

When they seized poor Simon to help the Lord

Carry His cross under the sword?

Sunday
Jul222018

When Jesus Turns 2,000

Have you thought much about the idea or fact that Jesus, with the turning of the new millennium, will soon be 2,000 years old, crucified at at the age of 33, more or less a few years? We don't have an exact idea of when Jesus was born, but 4 A.D. or B.C are roughly what many scholars think is the possible swing of dates. Others say he was born at 1 A.D. Period. At any rate, we are obviously reasonable to say that the whole plan of the earth's civilization and its salvation is intriguing if you believe the year of Jesus' return is nigh -- which I believe it is.

But who can say that Jesus will come back on this date or the other? Still it is interesting to think about. It's amazing how much has happened to the world, how civilizations have been built. And we as a society have turned away from the faith. As for my faith, it's the same as it was in my childhood.

to be continued ...

Monday
Apr022018

Questions For The Ages

DID JESUS, BELOVED DISCIPLE SHARE A RACIAL BOND?

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, Tenn., April 15, 2018 — Questions: 1) Why did the angel tell Mary and Joseph to take Jesus into Africa to hide Jesus from King Herod? 2) Why was an African man (Simon of Cyrene) heading in the opposite direction, singled out and seized by the Roman soldiers so Simon might share the burden of Jesus‘ cross? 3) What is the African link Jesus shares with “the other disciple, whom Jesus loved”? 4)  Were Jesus and an African Adam effectively half-brothers, sharing the same biological Father? 

Now, 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 (John 18:15), who leaned on Jesus like a kid brother would at the Last Supper (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 writer of John’s Gospel for nearly two millennia, according to Randall Gray, a religion writer and editor, who served as a Naval intelligence specialist in Ethiopia during the early 70’s.

“The Beloved Disciple, an African refugee (Cyrene/Libya) and Jewish Levitical priest, came to call himself the Hammer, an unusual Roman surname meaning Mark,” Gray revealed. “His given Jewish name was John. 

“St. John Mark was the only professional writer in Jesus’ inner circle,” Gray said. “John Mark knew the high priests, because John Mark worked with them. John Mark was the Beloved Disciple.”

“We can imagine that St John Mark, since he was the only male disciple at Jesus’ crucifixion, would have seen the manner in which hammers were used on Jesus — and adopted the name Mark or Hammer, almost as a war cry or a throwing down of the gauntlet,” Gray said. 

Gray said John Mark and his wealthy mother were Jesus’ benefactors.

Gray’s African experience living and working among black descendants of ancient Judah would lay the groundwork for his theories about the Beloved Disciple and his African ties to a black Jesus. 

“The people in Ethiopia who effectively called themselves people of Judah was a clue regarding Jesus as the Lion of Judah (Rev.5:5),” Gray said.  

Gray credited his primary source as the late Coptic Pope Shenouda’s 1968 biography of John Mark, The Beholder of God.

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Monday
Oct022017

John Mark, Beloved Disciple

AN AFRICAN PRIEST WROTE THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, Tenn., April. 1, 2018 — 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 like a kid brother would at the Last Supper (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, according to Randall Gray, a religion writer and editor, who served in Ethiopia (or “New Judah) as a Naval intelligence specialist during the early 70’s.

“‘The other disciple, the one Jesus loved,’ also eventally would call himself the Hammer, an unusual Roman surname that is translated Mark,” Gray revealed about the Beloved Disciple. “His given Jewish name was John.”

A black African refugee (from Cyrene, what today is known as Libya) and a Jewish Levitical priest, St. John Mark “was the only professional writer and priest in Jesus’ inner circle,” Gray said. “He knew the high priests on the night Jesus was arrested, because John Mark worked with them as a scribe,” Gray added.

“We can imagine that St John Mark, since he was the only male disciple at Jesus’ crucifixion, would have seen the manner in which hammers were used on Jesus — and adopted the name Mark or Hammer, almost as a war cry or a throwing down of the gauntlet,” Gray said. His greatest battles would be fought with the Greek-influenced Gnostics, which the Gospel of John reveals. The Gnostics arose in Alexandria, Egypt, which John Mark heavily evangelized.”

The wealthy African refugees John Mark and his mother Mary were Jesus’ benefactors, Gray revealed. “John Mark was the cousin or nephew of Barnabas. John Mark founded the Coptic church and opened a school of theology,” Gray said. John Mark is venerated by the Copts in Egypt and around the world, Gray added, especially in Venice. “But we know — suspicially — very little about this important figure, he said. Gray said he has relied on the Scriptures, a 1960 article “John and John Mark” by Pierson Parker and a 1968 Coptic biography written by the late Coptic Pope Shenouda III. The biography, The Beholder of God, has only been  translated and available in English since 1997.

“I only hope I can reach a broad audience with this information, because a writer should be credited with the work he has done. John Mark, a priest, may have written the very priestly book of Hebrews in the New Testament.

“John Mark and Mary probably bought Jesus’ one-piece fine linen cloak or sindon and gave it to Him as a gift,” Gray said. “Mary and John Mark hosted the Last Supper in their relatively expensive two-floor home in Jerusalem. And, as Acts 1:13-14 spells out, during their time in Jerusalem, many disciples lived in John Mark’s apparently spacious home, including John and James, the sons of Zebedee, and Mary. the mother of Jesus, and some of Mary’s other children, half brothers and half sisters of Jesus.

“This fact powerfully refutes the theory that Zebedee’s John was the Beloved Disciple who took Mary to Galilee “in that very hour” (John 19:26-17) Jesus requested the Beloved Disciple to take care of his mother (John 19:26-27),” Gray explained. “John Mark and Mary had the fiscal means to keep Mary, Jesus’ mother. And because John Mark and his mother lived in Jerusalem, they could house Mary within the hour as John 19:26-27 indicates.”

Gray said there are additional verses in scripture which eliminate Zebedee’s John as a candidate for the Beloved Disciple, notably Matthew 28:16.

“Zebedee’s John does not leave for Galilee until after Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 28:16), and then he goes to a mountain to meet Jesus with the 10 other surviving disciples, later returning to Jerusalem to be put up by John Mark and Mary. The African house is generally known as the first church. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was not taken anywhere by Zebedee’s John — and yet near Ephesus someone has built Mary’s “home” of stone, a forgery, no doubt, so she might be near this son of thunder.”

Reportedly, Gray said, John Mark’s home in Cyrene was under siege by robbers, prompting mother and son to go up to Jerusalem, permitting John Mark, a Levite, to fulfill his dream of becoming a priest working at the Temple in Jerusalem. Gray said there is a tradition that the name Mark is pejorative. This church tradition stated John Mark mutilated his hands to avoid serving in the priesthood,” Gray explained.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Gray said.

 Gray said there were other critics of John Mark’s efforts to write scripture as an amanuensis of Peter. We know that the apostle Paul also used John Mark as a scribe. When John Mark said he was headed back to Jerusalem, John Mark, his cousin Barnabas, and Paul had a blow-up regarding the trip. Paul was furious with John Mark

“These traditions are evidence perhaps that some ancient forces have sought to discredit and hide the person of John Mark — and all people of African descent — throughout history, perhaps because of what John Mark’s African race might say about the racial identity of a black Jesus. I can imagine there are beings who do not want Jesus’ race known — as we come down the home stretch to the the Day of the Lord.”

Gray, an ex-Naval intelligence specialist serving for a year in Ethioipia and Eritrea in the early 70’s, took note when he was overseas in ancient Ethiopia (or “New Judah”) that the people there were descendants of the ancient Tribe of Judah. “They called Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie their Lion of Judah, as he was a direct descendant of King Solomon, and satisfied other criteria to validate the 14th century Ethiopic prophecies. Selassie was a man of color, and so we can surmise that King Solomon was a black man too. Solomon, a king who enjoyed relative peace after his warmongering father David died, is a forerunner of another Prince of Peace, who one day will rule as Messiah.”

“I determined that Jesus must be black, as he is to be the true Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5). Selassie rebuked those who believed he was the black messiah or the Lion of Judah. He disavowed the title in a national radio address before he was deposed in 1974. He was later imprisoned and murdered. In 2000, they found his body stuffed beneath a toilet in the imperial palace in Addis Ababa.

Gray said that the missing piece of the mystery associated with Jesus’ race can be found in Hebrews 7:14, “from a priestly book written by an obvious priest. John Mark has got to be considered the writer of Hebrews,” Gray said. “The verse reads thusly, ‘For it is evident that out Lord arose from the Tribe of Judah …’ What about a person would say that he or she was of a particular tribe? It would have to be physical, racial trait, right I lived and worked with these wonderful descendants of ancient Judah, and there was not a white face among them.”

Gray, a former religion writer and editor for two dailies in Chattanooga, said, “St. John Mark was the only professional writer in Jesus’ inner circle. And yet,” Gray asserted, “the Beloved Disciple has been grossly overlooked, and not without tampering in the Gospel of Mark, I believe. On the night Jesus was arrested, in the Gospel of John, the Beloved Disciple follows Jesus after His arrest. In Mark 14:50-51, we have a “certain youth,” believed to be John Mark himself, who was disrobed in the Garden of Gethsemane and ran away naked into the night. That doesn’t jibe with the events in the more authoritative Gospel of John.”

Gray has relied on a 1968 Coptic biography of St. John Mark, The Beholder of God, to help him in his research, prompted initially by the dubious clues, puzzles and heretical Gnostic material in The Da Vinci Code. The biography was written by the late Coptic Pope Shenouda III, and only made available in English in 1997. After St. John Mark founded the Coptic church, Gray said, John Mark went on to serve as its first bishop.

“And then we have the involvement of Simon, a native of Cyrene, like John Mark!” Gray exclaimed. “Simon of Cyrene was walking in the opposite direction from Jesus’ procession when he was singled out and seized by Roman soldiers to assist Jesus in carrying His cross. Simon, a man of color, was intended to share in another black man’s sufferings

John Mark would have observed all of this. Since John Mark was also a native of Cyrene, we can presume from Simon’s story that John Mark is black by association.”

Jesus had a black priest as “another disciple.” Their bond, perhaps, was due to the fact that Jesus too, like the first Jews and the first humans … was black, which makes His crucifixion seem to have been more like a lynching. If St. John Mark, an African, has been hidden from us, we can perhaps say it’s because of what a black Beloved Disciple would say about racial identity of Jesus.

“After all, Jesus and Adam, rising from Africa, had the same biological Father. Eden was not in Sumer or anywhere else in the Fertile Crescent,” Gray continued. “So let the Ancient Alien theorists be duly informed. The first homo sapiens arose in East Africa — and with their all-encompassing, universal DNA, they eventually gave rise to all the other races on earth as they populated it. Jesus had the same universal DNA, permitting Him to shed His blood for all races of people.

“The Messiah will not be white, pale or gray … but black. And who’s being fooled by the crop circles? ET’s make the circles, but God made the crops. Jesus Himself said there would be false messiah’s, deception, signs and wonders relevant to the identity of the True Messiah in the End Times.

“Who can say whether there has been tampering in the 14th chapter of Mark,” Gray said. “But any scholar worth his salt knows that the last 12 final verses in the last chapter (16) of Mark’s gospel do not appear in the most reliable New Testament manuscripts.

“Wikipedia won’t give my research and thesis so much as a mention in their Beloved Disciple page,” Gray revealed. “I know how it feels to have one’s writing go unappreciated and unattributed. For some reason the contributions of St. John Mark and other blacks in history has been purposely, it would seem, covered up.

“Why has the Beloved disciple apparently been hidden from us?” Gray asked rhetorically. “We can learn a lot from Hebrews 7:14, for starters,” Gray said. “It is the only place in the Bible that tells us, especially me, that Jesus was black. I lived in Ethiopia, whose prophecies have called for a Lion of Judah to lead them. However, long-time Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was called by his people the Lion of Judah. Selassie disavowed the title, saying so in a national radio address.

“He was deposed while I was in Ethiopia in 1974,” Gray said. “He was imprisioned and then murdered. They found his body stuffed beneath a toilet in the imperial palace in Addis Ababa. So much for that Lion of Judah. May he rest in peace. But New Judah can still have hope.

“Revelation 5:5 says the title Lion of Judah is reserved for Jesus,” Gray pointed out. 

Gray explained he lived and worked among the descendants of the people of Judah, and “there wasn’t a white face among them. I loved these people of Ethiopia, especially in Asmara, which is part of what I call New Judah. These intelligent and kind people there are deserving of a King, a Lion of Judah.

“That last point is at the heart of my thesis, that Zebedee’s John did not take Mary, the mother of Jesus, anywhere on the day Jesus died. John Mark was the disciple at the cross of Jesus. James and John, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, tucked tail and ran.

“How can we know that Jesus was black?” Gray posited. “Why don’t we know? Why have the contributions of blacks to civilization has been excluded? We can know by reading Hebrews 7:14: “For it is evident that our Lord arose from the Tribe of Judah …” What about a person would make it evident that he or she belonged to a particular tribe? Their physical appearance, the color of their skin. Right?

“There is another thing I’d like to cover,” Gray said. “It has to do with where the first humans emerged, according to contemporary genetic research. And I’d like to assert the validity of the Genesis creation story, that Ancient Alien theorists say exists in other ancient forms. Eden was not in ancient Sumer or any other site in Mesopotamia, but rather in East Africa,” contemporary genetic research shows.

“These first black humans, bearing universal DNA to give rise to all other races, migrated out of Africa 50,000 years ago and populated the world. I’d like for all the Ancient Alien theorists to take mind of this genetically proven fact. These “theorists” actually want the world to believe ancient beings are our creators. Many will fall for an ET derivative, a hybrid. The world needs to know that the Messiah is black. Jesus Himself said there would be deception, false messiahs in the End Times, who will fool even some of the elect. If an ET claims to be our creator, or if they all do, we can’t fall for it. “

Gray, a religion writer and editor, is a resident of Signal Mountain, Tennessee. He served as a Naval intelligence specialist in Ethiopia (or “New Judah,” as Gray terms it) during the early 70’s. He has relied on his personal African experience in Ethiopia and a Coptic (Egyptian) biography of John Mark, The Beholder of God, written in 1968 by the late Coptic Pope Shenouda III and released in English in 1997.

“And John Mark would have plenty of trouble with the heresies of the Gnostics and other false teachers, who arose in Alexandria, Egypt, one of the cities John Mark evangelized despite the intense opposition of the Greek-leaning Gnostics.”

Gray said there is one church tradition that states the name Mark is pejorative. It was stated that the name Mark meant that John Mark had mutilated his hands to avoid service in the priesthood. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Gray said. “John Mark was a pillar of the early church. He founded the Coptic church in Alexandria, serving as its first bishop. He founded a school of theology. He spoke and wrote in four languages. He was ‘the other disciple,’ apart from the twelve. And yet he has been disrespected, disregarded and disavowed. Probably because of what the black John Mark would say about the racial identity of Jesus. The contributions of blacks and how they have been hidden or disregarded is an absolute hurtful reality for African-Americans, many of whom yearn to know their ancient history and be proud.”

Gray said he has spent a lot of time looking for and finding two instances of forgery in the Gospel of Mark. “Most Bible scholars agree with the hypothesis of tampering or forgery in the last 12 verses of the final chapter, chapter 16 of the gospel Mark,” Gray said. These last 12 verses do not appear in the most realiable early manuscripts of the New Testament, he pointed out.

“So Mark 14:50-51 is suspect. It seems this verse is intended to embarrass or discredit the “certain youth found in this passage, whom we suspect was John Mark,” Gray said. “Indeed, there is evidence that the person of John Mark and his African roots have been hidden from us. And who can say what the race of the Messiah will be? Why don’t we know that Jesus was black? 

o discredit the ‘certain youth,’ whom we suspect was John Mark himself. But the passage in Mark that suggests he was disrobed and ran away naked into the night (Mark 14:50-51), which does not jibe with the Gospel of John’s account of “the other disciple, whom Jesus loved” and how he accompanied Jesus on the night Jesus was arrested.

 

 

“It is John Mark’s home that Peter immediately runs to after being miraculously released from prison,” Gray continued. “The home is effectively the first church, as it was a meeting place for Christians in Jerusalem, including Mary, the mother of Jesus and Jesus’ brothers (Acts 1:14; 12:12). John Mark’s mother Mary was a wealthy benefactor of Jesus, who was among the women in Jerusalem who cared for him.”

Acknowledging the description of John’s Gospel as a “Gnostic gospel,” Gray said, “John Mark wrote the fourth gospel with Gnostic elements, arguing that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine, because he confronted the Gnostics in Alexandria, where the heretical group arose. I’m very surprised that people trying to solve this mystery have been so far off and disregarded the Coptic perspective. Wikipedia doesn’t even mention John Mark’s name in its page on ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ Everyone from Lazarus to Mary Magdalene is posited as a candidate. But neither knew the high priests. John Mark did.

“I can imagine John Mark in the high priest’s courtyard (John 18:15-17) arguing on Jesus’ behalf after Jesus’ arrest, perhaps risking his career and even his life, even as Peter was denying he even knew Jesus. I can imagine Jesus especially loving John Mark, because the youth was a refugee, and perhaps a man of color, and a sensitive thinker and writer.” Jesus foreknew how important John Mark would be to the church and the New Testament, Gray said. “He foreknew that ‘this man’ (John 21:21-23) would not taste death as the writer of Revelation (Gray does not believe John Mark was martyred, though that has traditionally been asserted).

Returning to John’s Gospel, Gray said, “It was often disregarded or condemned by some of the early Christians. John’s Gospel was actually banned for a time. But today, the Gospel of John may be the most-preferred gospel among Christians, notably evangelicals.”

As for John, the son of Zebedee, Gray said, “He has been the safe, but impossible choice for the Beloved Disciple for decades. Early church father Irenaeus wrote that ‘the apostle John’ was the person who wrote the fourth gospel, as it had somehow been told to him. But there were two apostles named John,” Gray said.

“We can’t assume anything about Zebedee’s John as a writer, because we know that he was uneducated, as Peter was” (Acts 4:3), and he appears nowhere in John’s Gospel except as an afterthought in the final chapter. Given the biography’s claim that John Mark was a priest and scribe, Gray said it is “fascinating to focus on one particular use of the name ‘John’ in Acts 4:6, which may demonstrate to us that John Mark was a member of the Sanhedrin.

“Alexander is also mentioned here along with John,” Gray said. “That is significant, I think, because one of Simon of Cyrene’s sons was named Alexander, with the other being Rufus. I believe there is much ethnic significance in the fact that John Mark, Simon, Alexander and Rufus were all from North Africa” (Mark 15:21). Simon of Cyrene was seized by Roman soldiers to assist Jesus in carrying his cross — which Gray believes may show that Jesus, perhaps like Simon, was “a man of color.”

Gray said the shortened name “John” is used twice further on in Acts (13:34; 15:36-40) to describe John Mark. Sometimes, the young priest’s Gentile/Roman name “Mark” or “Marcus” — which means, interestingly, “hammer” — is used; “so,” Gray said, “we can’t be absolutely sure that the name of John in Acts 4:6 refers to John Mark, but in that very book, Luke, who wrote Acts and the gospel bearing his name, calls John Mark only by his first, Jewish name, John, just as he does when he’s describing the rulers, elders, priests and scribes assembled to hear Peter and Zebedee’s John.”

Gray explained that students of the Bible “all come rather jaded to the subject of the Beloved Disciple, because we have accepted some things that we think are unknowable. But I believe Jesus was right when he said there would come a time when all hidden mysteries will be revealed (Mark 4:22). It is time for John Mark to get his just due.”

Gray, a retired newspaper reporter and editor, who served in Egypt and Ethiopia (Eritrea) as a Naval intelligence specialist, said that he is raising funds and making contacts in the effort to produce a documentary on John Mark as the Beloved Disciple, the working title of which is Beloved Disciple/African Priest. He’s seeking interested parties to be interviewed and help with production. He can be reached by email at rcartergray@yahoo.com or by phone (423) 619-9034.

Gray said in his search for the identity of the Beloved Disciple he has tried to put himself in “Jesus’ sandals” to surmise what kind of person Jesus would be most likely to love. “I can envision Jesus loving a North African refugee, who apparently suffered at the hands of robbers in his native Cyrene, precipitating his flight to Jerusalem with his mother Mary,” Gray said. “I can see Jesus having had special affection for a man who may have been the object of racial bias, if John Mark was a man of color, which we can only assume he was.”

Much additional material pertaining to John Mark appears on Gray’s website: TANATA: Things (often) Are Not As They Appear: https://tanata.squarespace.com.

 

NOTES

The discrediting of John Mark, not helped by the apostle Paul’s one-time rift with the younger evangelist. Why was he discredited? Gray thinks it’s because of what John Mark, an African, would say about a black Jesus. “As a writer myself, I feel like every writer or artist should be recognized for their work. Nothing of note has ever been said about John Mark until now.

How does Gray know that Jesus was and is black? He responds by sayhinng Hebrews 7:14 has given him all the evidence he needed: “For it is evident that our Lord arose from the Tribe of Judah ..” Gray says the emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie was called the Lion of Judah by many Ethiopians and the Rastafarians, a title Selassie disavowed in a national radio address. Gray lived among descendants of the people of Judah who fled Judah, and, he says, there wasn’t a white face in the people.

What about a person would indicate that a person belonged to a particular tribe?

Asking Gray why this matter is so important to him, a white man, Gray said he was making peace with his military career in Africa, and seeks to honor Jesus’ wishes to be on the look for a deceiver or false messiah. Also, Gray said, as a writer himself, he would hate to be completely overlooked for his writings.

The “ex-spy” says that there are a handful of verses in the Christian scriptures that prove his hypothesis that John Mark was the Beloved Disciple and writer of the Gospel of John, and, that Jesus, John Mark and Simon of Cyrene were all black.

“First, compare John 19:26-27 with Acts 1:13-14. In the John verse it states that the Beloved Disciple took Mary, the mother of Jesus, to his home “in that hour Jesus made his request.”