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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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Sunday
Jun232019

Raising The Hammer 1.2

THE ABYSS

Largely shrouded by the foggy, predawn gloom, a solitary figure moves stealthily but quickly across a leaf-strewn side lawn of an expansive and exclusive mountaintop property in southeast Tennessee. Knowing that the night-vision cameras were constantly recording at night, and knowing where they precisely were affixed to trees, posts and the plantation mansion itself, the figure performed a series of leaps to remain in the dead zones.

With three days to Halloween, the deciduous trees in the region still possessed roughly two-thirds of their leaves, an autumnal oddity caused by an unusually wet and mild summer. The large oak trees on the property provided shade in the dim light of a waning quarter moon.

... to be continued

Tuesday
Apr162019

Happy Easter

Jesus was lynched.

Thursday
Mar212019

Black Jesus Matters

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why did the Roman soldiers go out of their way to seize an African (Simon of Cyrene), who was going into Jerusalem, in the opposite direction of Jesus' procession to Golgotha, so that Simon could share the burden of Jesus' cross? In short, why was an African from Cyrene (John Mark's former home) compelled, forced to help Jesus carry His cross?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This blatant form of heresy, which became a worldwide media sensation, still infuriates me. I will have a presentation soon that will help me re-interpret Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, called "The Moor's Code." It is fascinating what we have been able to uncover about the black Duke of Milan who commissioned the fresco to be painted on the refectory wall ("in your face") in a former convent, facing the clerics where they took their meals. What would you imagine a black duke would want depicted in the painting ... before it was repainted?

In John Mark's case, he and Jesus shared a racial bond; moreover, John Mark and his mother Mary were Jesus' wealthy benefactors, not to mention the hosts of The Last Supper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Personal Regards,

Randall Carter Gray 

Sunday
Mar172019

Three Men Named John

Which two were martyred?

I don't have to tell some (or maybe all) of you that the contributions of Black people to civilization have been discredited, disregarded, disallowed, misrepresented, ignored, obscured and even intentionally hidden. The authors of the book The Return To Glory: The Powerful Stirring of the Black Race state that this disparity and unfairness represent, in so many words, "the greatest rip-off of all time" -- to put it another way, Black people have been robbed of their heritage.

Why? Why has this happened throughout the course of history? And how, in all its forms, has this disparity been manifest? To what ultimate purpose? Has there been an effort since very ancient times to hide the Blacks who appear in the Bible -- so that racism might divide peoples and nations all over the world?

* * *

There are three men named John in the New Testament.

One -- John the Baptist, who was Jesus' second cousin -- was beheaded. But as for the other two, we don't adequately know what became of them. In fact, there is a great deal of confusion about who, of these two men, died and who lived on to write the Gospel of John and Revelation at the end of the 1st century.

Separate traditions suggest that 1) John Mark, allegedly, died a martyr's death in Alexandria, Egypt in 68 A.D., and, 2) that the apostle and disciple John, the son of Zebedee, was "killed by the Jews," according to early church patriarch Papias, who wrote in the 2nd century.

Zebedee's John makes an inauspicious appearance with Peter in Acts (chapters 3 and 4), with Peter doing all the talking as they stand before the chief priests, scribes and Sadducees; but after that we never see or hear of this John again.

Zebedee's James died at the hands of Herod; Peter also would have been killed had an angel not helped him escape from Herod's prison. Peter ran straight to John Mark's house after being freed.

Whatever became of Zebedee's John? He and James had been inseparable while they physically followed Jesus. They had fled Gethsemane together, neither one following Jesus after His arrest.

John Mark makes his first appearance in Acts 12, where he is at home welcoming Peter. Thereafter John Mark appears as the literary assistant or amanuensis of Paul and Peter, both of whom are believed to have died as martyrs during Nero's reign, from 54 to 68 A.D.

Who wrote John's gospel? There is much debate on this topic. Can we at least say that whoever wrote the fourth gospel, would almost certainly have to be the "John" who wrote and signed Revelation?

Let's compare the pro's and con's, for and against, the argument that Zebedee's John was and is the Beloved Disciple, who wrote the Gospel of John.

PRO'S

1) Zebedee's John was one of the 12 disciples and the 70  apostles (evangelists);

2) Early church tradition identified the Beloved Disciple as Zebedee's John (the Apostle John), on the testimony of early church patriarch Irenaeus (ca. A.D. 130-200), who was a disciple of Polycarp (ca. A.D. 70-160). Polycarp claimed to be a disciple of Zebedee's John. Irenaeus testified that Zeb's John wrote the Gospel of John during John's residence in Asia Minor, when he was advanced in age. Subsequent to Ireneaus, all the church fathers assumed that Zebedee's John was the writer of the Gospel of John. Clement of Alexandria (ca. A.D. 150-215) wrote that Zebedee's John, "aware of the facts set forth in the other gospels," and moved by the Holy Spirit, wrote a "spiritual gospel."    

CON'S

1) Zebedee's John and James were zealots, too obnoxious for Jesus to have specially loved either one; Jesus called them "sons of thunder" because they were loudmouths;

2) Zeb's John and James, who may very well have been Jesus' cousins, jockeyed for position in the kingdom, which deeply irritated the other disciples; Jesus would not have played favorites, choosing between John and James, if they were family;

3) Peter refers to the Beloved Disciple (writer of the Gospel of John) as "this man" -- when Peter raises with Jesus the rumor that "the disciple whom Jesus loved" will not die as a martyr, but live on to walk into heaven, as did Enoch and Elijah. Peter would not likely identify his fishing partner John as "this man";

4) Zebedee's John was a fisherman, with no formal education;

5) Zebedee's John and James appear nowhere in the Gospel of John, except in the final chapter when the Beloved Disciple refers to John and James, merely, as "the sons of Zebedee";

6) Zebedee's John, in Matthew 28:16, has not left for Gailee with the mother of Jesus (John 19:26-27), but instead accompanies the other 10 surviving disciples to a mountain, designated by Jesus, in Galilee -- after the Resurrection.

7) Zebedee's John and James, along with practically every other disciple of Jesus, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, are staying at John Mark's two-story home in Jerusalem at the time of the Ascension (Acts 1:13-14). The first church, John Mark's home hosted the Last Supper, the Day of Pentecost and Jesus' post resurrection appearance to the disciples;

8) After Zebedee's John and James press Jesus to grant them the privilege of sitting at His right and His left hand in the kingdom, Jesus all but tells them that they, like Him, would each die a martyr's death (Mark 10:38). In Matthew 20:22, we see that Zebedee's wife Salome (the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus) is with her two sons (Jesus' cousins) when all three of them make the request for choice positions in the kingdom. Jesus asks Zebedee's John and James if they are "able to drink from the cup, and of the baptism" that was facing Jesus in Jerusalem. The two men said, "We are able" -- not fully knowing what awaited them;

9) We would have to guess that Zebedee's John and Peter were roughly the same age. The writer of the Gospel of John and Revelation lived into old age toward the end of the 1st century A.D. Only a younger man (i.e. John Mark) at the time of Jesus' death would have lived long enough.

Now, let's look at the pro's and con's of the argument that John Mark, a man of color, an African refugee and Jewish Levitical priest, was Jesus' Beloved Disciple and the writer of the Gospel of John and Revelation (and a lot more). We'll present the con's first in this case:

CON'S

1) John Mark, according to Mark's gospel, did not follow Jesus after His arrest, but was rather disrobed, causing John Mark to go running off into the night with no clothes on;

2) One church tradition has it that the unusual Roman surname "Mark" stipulated that John Mark, a Levite, purposely mutilated and disfigured his hands to avoid having to serve in the priesthood (the name Mark means "Hammer"); 

3) The early church father Papias states that John Mark, on the Apostle John's authority! was "not a follower or a hearer of Jesus," but merely wrote down in the first gospel those things that Peter remembered;

4) John Mark allegedly "abandoned" the apostle Paul on the mission field so that the literary assistant might return home to Jerusalem. Remember, Jesus had asked John Mark to care for His mother, something that John Mark and his mother Mary had the means to do. Surely, John Mark must have felt obligated to return home to look in on the two Marys. This created a rift between Paul, on the one hand, and John Mark and his cousin Barnabas, also a Levite, on the other;

5) John Mark, according to church tradition, was drug through the streets of Alexandria, Egypt until he was dead in the year A.D. 68;

6) A native of Cyrene (Libya) in north Africa, John Mark was Black.

PRO'S

1) John Mark was a priest;

2) John Mark was a professional writer -- the only one in Jesus' inner circle; he wrote fluently in Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic;

3) John Mark and his wealthy mother Mary were Jesus' benefactors and the hosts of the Last Supper;

4) John Mark was the only man named John to be placed near Ephesus (modern Turkey), where the Gospel of John and Revelation were written (2 Timothy 4:11);

5) John Mark was younger than all of the disciples;

6) Like Jesus, John Mark, an African refugee, was Black;

7) John Mark, the founder of the Coptic Church and a school of theology in Alexandria, Egypt, was the first Bishop of Alexandria. It's not likely that a person with such a high position would be executed -- at least not in a way such as this; If such a sensational execution (drug through the streets of Alexandria until dead) had taken place, it most certainly would have been recorded, and we would surely know about it;

8) According to the late Coptic Pope Shenouda III, John Mark was one of the 70 apostles (evangelists) chosen by Jesus; the biography The Beholder of God: Evangelist, Martyr and Saint offers dozens of opinions by Near Eastern authors, dating back to the Middle Ages, who have asserted in print that John Mark was an apostle;

9) Because John Mark was a youth in comparison to Peter, the Beloved Disciple was able to outrun Peter to the empty tomb (John 20:3-6); BUT John Mark did not enter the tomb before Peter, perhaps because of the restrictions on priests in the handling of the dead.

 

Tuesday
Mar122019

The Late H.H. Coptic Pope Shenouda III ...

... was a wri†er and a student of English literature. His biography of St. John Mark is well worth a read.

By Amir Zaky

Displayed on the shelves of every church bookstore in Egypt is a collection of writings by the late Pope Shenouda III. The covers of his books, which number over a hundred, are all illustrated with an image of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Abbasseya and the pope’s name in the top right corner.

Pope Shenouda, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 89 (in March of 2012) after a long struggle with disease, was an avid writer. He studied English literature and history at Cairo University in the forties, and upon his graduation in 1947, taught in a school, in addition to writing for a number of Coptic publications. He was even a member of the Journalists Syndicate before becoming a monk.

His numerous writings, which included articles, poems, short stories and religious texts, seem to have one main purpose: mediating the beliefs of the Coptic Orthodox Church for the masses. And indeed, his books have been widely read, particularly by young Copts who use them to strengthen their orthodox beliefs versus other churches and to become devoted, practicing Copts. Those seeking more in-depth theological studies, though, might be disappointed.

Some of the pope’s books focus on spirituality and how to build one’s relationship with God, like his well-known Life of Repentance and Purification series, which includes a book bearing the same title, as well as Spiritual Awakening, Spiritual Watchfulness, The Fear of God and Spiritual Wars.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The late pope wrote the definitive biography on St. John Mark titled The Beholder of God: Evangelist, Martyr and Saint. In the biography, which is the most detailed work of any New Testament figure excepting Jesus and perhaps the apostle Paul, indicates that John Mark was a native of Cyrene in North Africa [as was Simon] and a Jewish Levitical priest. That John Mark was a priest identifies him as a person who would have known the high priests because he worked with them as a fellow priest and scribe. John Mark, the founder of the Coptic Church and the first bishop of Alexandria, was the only professional writer in Jesus' inner circle. He is the Beloved Disciple of Jesus and the writer of the Gospel of John and Revelation, which flies in the face of claims that John Mark was martyred in 68 A.D. We believe John Mark was not martyred, but lived to the end of the 1st century and walked into heaven as did Enoch and Elijah.)

Other books explain the bases of church service and reflect on Biblical psalms and prayers. Some also deal with theological issues, yet often in highly accessible ways to reach the vast majority of readers.

His approach in mediation seemed strongly influenced by his previous experience as a schoolteacher. He would frequently use subheadings and explanatory notes, emphasize important issues by highlighting them in bold, and support his arguments with biblical references.

The influence of historical studies and poetry on his writing was also strong. The late pope particularly read the poems of Ahmed Shawky and Elia Abu Madi, occasionally quoting from their poems in his writings and weekly sermons. But he also wrote prose and poems of his own. In “Flight of the Soul,” he presented some of his early religious prose contemplating God. And some of his poems were later turned into Christian hymns.

The same book also includes a short story titled What Happened on That Night, which tells the story of a church servant who dreamt that he rose into heaven, but an angel prevented him from entering because he was not as faithful to the Lord as he had thought. This approach to mediation, allegory, has been repeatedly used by poets like Dante Alighieri and Abul Ela al-Maarri, who imagined and wrote about heaven. Still, writing poetry and short stories was a new approach for the Coptic Orthodox Church, and different from his predecessors, ranging from St. Mark, the first Alexandrian pope who wrote one of the four gospels, all the way to Pope Cyril VI.

Another interesting aspect of Pope Shenouda’s writings are ten of his books, devoted completely to answering people’s questions about issues he raised in his Wednesday sermons. In the series, entitled “Years with People’s Questions,” he addressed personal as well as theological curiosities, like whether a married man will be praised by God like the unmarried. In the tenth book in the series, he addressed a question raised by the late author and columnist Tawfik al-Hakim about a verse in the Gospel of Luke, which says: “I came to cast fire upon the earth.” The late pope’s response was that one verse should not be separated from the whole: The Bible’s main message is one of love and peace. Fire is not always a bad thing, and Jesus Christ was aware that his message would be met with hatred from pagans.

Pope Shenouda III left a rich literary legacy that will most likely continue to be reprinted over and over again. But some of his writings, like letters, diaries or early poems which probably did not directly deal with religious or educational topics, have never been published. They might offer an excellent resource for his readers, as well as writers and researchers. But it is still too early to speculate if such writings will be allowed into the public domain or whether conservative religious officials may deem them inappropriate.