Tag Archives: Questions of Bartholomew

Fire-breathing Mary

21 Dec

In the Questions of Bartholomew, Bartholomew and his fellow apostles ask Jesus profound questions, like “how many souls leave the world every day?” “what’s the worst sin?” and “can we see the abyss?” Although they often tremble while asking, they still want answers. Vacillating between encouragement and admonishment (oh, Christ: always a tease), the resurrected Jesus offers terrifying responses to their inquiries. He shows them the blinding abyss, makes Bartholomew stand on Satan’s neck, and shares with them many secrets of the cosmos. Throughout all of this, the apostles frequently fall to the ground in terror, covering their faces.

One of the most striking incidents in this text comes not from Jesus, however, but from his mother. At the apostles’ repeated request, Mary begins to speak of how “he who is hardly contained by the seven heavens was pleased to be contained” in her womb (II.12). She explains that three years before her pregnancy, she spoke with God, who fed her reappearing (!) bread and wine while disguised as an angel.

More astonishing than the story itself, however, is the circumstance of its telling. She assigns four apostles each a part of her body, so they can all hold her down while she speaks.

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