Tag Archives: virgin Mary

Support for Skeptics in an Ancient Christian Text? Hell Yes!

7 Mar

According to tradition, all of Jesus’ apostles gather together one last time to be with the virgin Mary before her death. But, since they’re scattered to preach around the world, how do they all reach her in time? They’re caught up in clouds and carried to Mary’s doorstep, of course: “All the disciples […] arrived on clouds and greeted her.” (Magical clouds sound like a lazy deus ex machina, although I guess that’s actually an appropriate plot device for these deus-infused tales.)

In one version of the apostles’ sudden cloud travel (from the Narrative by Joseph of Arimathaea), every apostle is present to pray with Mary at the end of her life, and bury her body as well, except Thomas. Thomas isn’t completely absent from the narrative, however. After the other apostles bury Mary’s girted, sweet smelling (!) corpse in a sepulchre, a bright light surrounds the tomb and brings them all to ground “covering their faces.” Then Thomas makes his appearance: one moment he’s in India saying Mass, and the next, he’s “suddenly brought to the Mount of Olives [watching] the holy body being taken up.” He then cries out to Mary, “‘Make your servant glad by your mercy, for now you go to heaven.'” After this intercessory prayer request, Mary tosses her girdle to him like the rock star she is: “And the girdle with which the apostles had girt the body was thrown down to him.”

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Jesus and The Giving Tree

4 Mar

In the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, after the infant Jesus tames a few dragons and befriends a pride of lions–you know, developmentally appropriate activities for his age bracket–Mary, Joseph, and Jesus encounter a palm tree in the desert. New-mother Mary wants to “rest a little in the shade” after three days of travel in the heat. Eager to ease her fatigue, baby Jesus commands their arboreal companion: “‘O tree, bend your branches and refresh my mother with your fruit.'” The tree bows to obey, and “they gathered from it fruit with which they all refreshed themselves.” The palm even stays bowed down until, at Jesus’ request for water, it rises up “immediately, and at its root there began to gush out a spring of water exceedingly clear and cool and sparkling.” There’s a palpable The Giving Tree ambiguity here, somewhere between “how sweet and generous” and “this tree’s being abused!”

Unlike the boy in Silverstein’s book, however, Jesus doesn’t simply abandon his devoted tree once it’s offered up everything it’s got. Just when the family’s ready to move on the next day, Jesus addresses the generous-but-still-thriving tree: “‘This privilege I give you, O palm-tree, that one of your branches be carried away by my angels, and planted in the paradise of my Father.” After an angel flies up “to heaven with the branch in his hand,” we don’t hear of this tree again…

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