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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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Wednesday
Sep062017

If You Can Reach It

There’s something you might imagine

It’s a tale of redemption and love

And how the African refugee John Mark

Communed with Jesus, our God.

And wrote much of scripture

From John, to Hebrews, to Revelation

With John Mark being given the gifit

To exalt a foundering nation.

 

John wrote Mark and John,

Striving to reveal the truth

Don’t give up on the puzzles in the Bible.

The mysteries are there for you.

The Lord will wait for you;

Answers appear from secrets

And all the Bible codes are true.

Wednesday
Sep062017

The Watchers and the Beloved Disciple

In the dark sky, two big red balls are burning

And the wheels in my sleeping head are turning

How will this narrative finally begin?

If a new Day of the Lord begins again? 

 

The punishment God meted out

Was done for those gripped with doubt

It’s hard to pay tribute to a God we don’t know;

God just asks your life, and how knowing things go

 

Those who hide — the Watchers — are visible to me

I can only see the activity peripherally;

At either side behind me, they appear

At night it’s apparent that they are near.

 

The Day of the Lord will be a disruptive time

Throw a rope and grab a line

Just like it was in Jeremiah’s day

The tribe’s black sins must be repaid

 

God won’t ask for music from  your music

Instead he wants to have your life if if can be useful

The final peace will be yours if you follow the disciples

Who made Jesus their chief immortal


…to be continued ….

Wednesday
Aug302017

Another Take On Our John Mark Thesis

From THE JESUS MEMOIRS

A key proponent of the suggestion that John Mark was the beloved disciple is Pierson Parker, “John and John Mark” JBL 79 (1960): 97-110. He makes the following points:

  1. John Mark lived in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) where the Fourth Gospel concentrates most of the activity of Jesus and the beloved disciple (97).
  2. John Mark was related to a Levite named Barnabas (Colossians 4:10; Acts 4:36) and may have mutilated his fingers to get out of his priestly duties (Mark’s Latin prologue in codex Toletanus). The Fourth Gospel is interested in the temple cult, the beloved disciple knows the high priest in John 18:15, and there is the tradition of Polycrates that “John” wore the priestly vestment (98).
  3. John Mark was a figure of means, befitting a Gospel that does not take as much interest in the poor and the elite circles of the beloved disciple (98).
  4. John Mark could be host of the last supper (98).
  5. John Mark was a companion of Paul and there is Pauline influence in the Fourth Gospel, though in the author’s distinct terminology (98-99).
  6. John Mark was a co-worker of Luke. The distinct agreements between the Gospels of John and Luke, as well as their differing wording and literary contexts, are due to two authors sharing oral traditions when they worked together (99-100).
  7. Just as Paul reconciled with Barnabas and John Mark after their dispute over Gentile “Judaizing” (cf. Acts 15:37-39; Gal 2:7; Col 4:10), the Fourth Gospel sides with the Gentile view of the controversy (100).
  8. John Mark ministered among the diaspora and the Fourth Gospel is the sole one to mention Greek-speaking Jews in the diaspora (John 7:35; cf. 12:20) (101).
  9. John Mark was a companion of Peter (Acts 12:12). The Fourth Gospel goes into the most detail about Peter and the beloved disciple is his constant companion (101).
  10. There is no reason to suppose (John) Mark waited to be Peter’s “interpreter” until late in Peter’s life (cf. Papias) and the Fourth Gospel aligns with Peter’s preaching in Acts (102).
  11. The discrepancy over whether (John) Mark wrote a Gospel after Peter’s death (cf. Irenaeus) or during Peter’s lifetime (cf. Clement of Alexandria) is due to the evangelist adding an addendum (John 21) after Peter died (102-3).
  12. The tradition that John Mark went to Alexandria accords with the Alexandrian theology of the Fourth Gospel (103).
  13. John Mark visited Ephesus, explaining the tradition of the evangelist John in Ephesus (103).

Parker turns to Papias where he points out that (John) Mark’s substandard order may reflect the Fourth Gospel’s departures from the Synoptic tradition based on his personal recollections (104). Against Papias’s statement that (John) Mark was not a witness of Jesus, Parker cites a line from the Muratorian Canon that “he was present at some events” and argues that Papias defended the Fourth Gospel against its detractors (105). Since Papias ascribes the observation about (John) Mark’s lack of order to the Elder John of Ephesus (note: Parker leans towards seeing the tradition that the Apostle John was in Ephesus as mistaken), John Mark and the Elder John must be separate individuals (110). He closes with one more list about the evangelist:

  1. He had a home near Jerusalem in John 19:27 (106).
  2. He was a young man cared for or “loved” by Jesus (106).
  3. His date for Easter was supported by Christians in Ephesus (106).
  4. He stresses eyewitness testimony and could be one of the eyewitness “ministers” of the word (cf. Luke 1:2; Acts 13:5) (106).
  5. He did not rely on written sources besides his memory (106).
  6. The Fourth Gospel took shape after Peter’s death when John Mark was old (106).
  7. The Fourth Gospel has a good grasp of Jewish and Pagan though (106-7).
  8. The Fourth Gospel is similar to Colossians in combating Gnostic ideas.

It could also explain the unanimous tradition that the author of the Gospel was John, even as the various figures named John became confused in the early church (107-8).

This theory coheres with the beloved disciple being an elite Jerusalem follower, but major flaws remain. There is no evidence in the New Testament that John Mark knew Jesus during his lifetime or that the house in Acts 12 was the locale of the last supper and it seems problematic to discern the identity of a character in one text from an entirely separate book (Acts). Papias clearly states that (John) Mark was not a witness like the beloved disciple but a second-hand reporter of Peter, which is why he was not able to get the “order” correct, while the fragmentary line in the Muratorian canon could refer to Peter as the subject. The early church followed Papias in linking Mark or Peter with the second canonical Gospel: Parker is not persuasive in dismissing Justin Martyr (Dialogue 106:3) and, while he notes that Jerome hesitatingly related John Mark of Acts to the second canonical Gospel (Commentary in Philemon 24) (109n.36), 1 Peter 5:13 was the more common proof-text in defending that Gospel’s authorship.

Tuesday
Aug292017

A News Release That Has Apparently Gone Unread

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, Tenn., Oct. 5, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — 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 as 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.

Now, Tennessee Bible scholar Randall Carter Gray says he has solved the mystery, relying, in part, on a 1968 Coptic (Egyptian) biography of St. John Mark, The Beholder of God, which was only translated into English in 1997. Gray said the biography, written by the late Coptic Pope Shenouda III, reveals John Mark and his mother Mary were African refugees, leaving Cyrene due to the threat of thievery. John Mark’s father Artistopolis remained in Cyrene. John Mark and his mother traveled to Jerusalem so that John Mark might accomplish his goal of becoming a priest. John Mark and his mother Mary are largely overlooked, even though they were Jesus’ rich African benefactors. And what of the race of Jesus? The writer of Hebrews (John Mark) 7:14 asserts it is “evident” that our Lord arose from the Tribe of Judah. What could be evident about a person so as to designate that person to be from a particular tribe? Skin pigment? I was stationed at Kagnew Station in Asmara, Ethiopia in the ’70’s as an intelligence specialist. All the people, who lived in Asmara, were descendants of the tribespeople of Judah — and they were all black. And delightful, kind, intelligent and ambitious. The Ethiopians even called Emperor Haile Selassie their Lion of Judah, which Selassie denounced in a national radio address.The idea stemmed from ancient 14th century Ethiopic writings, devoted largely to the Queen of Sheba, King Solomon, and their offspring, Menelik, who is alleged to have taken the Ark to Axum, Ethiopia for safe keeping. 

“North African refugee John Mark, of Cyrene (Libya),” Gray said, “is the Beloved Disciple, who wrote all the works in the New Testament ascribed to people named John and Mark and much more as a literary assistant. He knew the high priests, because he worked with them as a priest and scribe. He was the only professionally trained writer in Jesus’ inner circle.” In time John Mark became the founder of a school of theology and the Coptic (Egyptian Christian) church.

In the biography, Shenouda claims that John Mark was 1) a native of Cyrene, 2) a North African refugee with a well-appointed home in Jerusalem, 3) a Jewish Levite priest and scribe, 4) the founder of the Coptic church and a theology school in Alexandria, Egypt, 5) one of the 70 apostles (evangelists) chosen by Jesus, 6) a cousin of Barnabas, 7) a secretary for the apostles Paul and Peter, and 8) John Mark was the host, along with his mother Mary, of the Last Supper. Gray said John Mark, a youth during Jesus’ ministry, leaned on Jesus like a kid brother would” (John 13:23-25).

“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.

 

Tuesday
Aug222017

Water and the Apocalypse

In 2002, just about the time my nervous breakdown was spreading out after 9/11, which forced me to try to make sense of my broken life and harrowing military service, I noticed in an Israeli-generated piece that the ancient Western (or Wailing) Wall had acquired a water stain about the size of a loaf of bread, up about 10 feet on the wall. That was rare in Jerusalem. There were reports of Arabs scrambling to get the water mopped up in the Dome of the Rock.

There are reservoirs of millions of gallons of water flowing directly beneath the Temple Mount. These waters feed apparently the Gihon or Virgin’s Spring, which ebbs and flows like clockwork.

Many holy men agreed that the water at the holy wall might be a sign of the redemption. I envisioned a pool at the base of the Western Wall, with a kind of moat around the ancient temple. Knowing that water was causing these problems heartened me. I predicted the bulge and the water problems that lock in with the forerunners who have said water will flow at Ezekiel’s third temple. More is going to happen to the Western Wall and the Al Aqsa mosque, and no Arab will be able to stop it. As the sight for the third tample takes shape, reward yourself and stay tuned. Yeah, baby. Watch it happen. Water will run through the Jordan Valley as never before. Israel will become lush — and all the elect get to enjoy it — as Israel once more becomes God’s virgin bride.