Mary Magdalene (Lk 8:2-8:2)

“Some women

Who had been cured

Of evil spirits

And infirmities

Were with him also.

Mary,

Called Magdalene,

From whom

Seven demons

Had gone out,

Was with him also.”

 

καὶ γυναῖκές τινες αἳ ἦσαν τεθεραπευμέναι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων πονηρῶν καὶ ἀσθενειῶν, Μαρία ἡ καλουμένη Μαγδαληνή, ἀφ’ ἧς δαιμόνια ἑπτὰ ἐξεληλύθει,

 

Luke uniquely said that some women (καὶ γυναῖκές), who had been cured of evil spirits (τινες αἳ ἦσαν τεθεραπευμέναι ἀπὸ πνευμάτων πονηρῶν) and other infirmities (καὶ ἀσθενειῶν), were with him also.  Mary (Μαρία), called Magdalene (ἡ καλουμένη Μαγδαληνή), from whom 7 demons had departed (ἀφ’ ἧς δαιμόνια ἑπτὰ ἐξεληλύθει) was with him also.  This Mary Magdalene, who traveled with Jesus as one of his followers, probably came from the town of Magdala, a fishing town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  She was explicitly mentioned by name 12 times in the canonical gospels, more than most of the other apostles, indicating her importance.  She certainly was a key figure in the gospel stories about the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus apparently healed her in some way that is not indicated, since Luke said that 7 demons had been driven out of her, a statement that Mark, chapter 16:9, also said.  She helped support Jesus’ ministry, indicating that she was probably relatively wealthy.  This Mary was a central figure in later apocryphal Gnostic Christian writings.  She had a very popular following in the Middle Ages as the repentant woman.  In the late 20th century, she became more popular with her role in the play of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Jesus Christ Super Star” (1971) and Dan Brown’s novel and movie “Da Vinci Code” (2003 and 2006).  What do you think about Mary Magdalene?

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The exclamation prayer of Elizabeth (Lk 1:42-1:42)

“Elizabeth exclaimed

With a loud cry.

‘Blessed are you

Among women!

Blessed is the fruit

Of your womb!’”

 

καὶ ἀνεφώνησεν κραυγῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εἶπεν Εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν, καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου.

 

Luke then had Elizabeth shout out, as if speaking for the baby in her womb.  Elizabeth exclaimed with a loud cry (καὶ ἀνεφώνησεν κραυγῇ μεγάλῃ).  She said that Mary was blessed among all women (καὶ εἶπεν Εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν).  Blessed would be the fruit of her womb (καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου)!  Thus, Elizabeth, without a word spoken, knew that Mary was pregnant with an important child.  These words of Elizabeth then became the second part of the “Ave Maria,” prayer.  “Hail Mary!  Full of Grace!  The Lord is with you!  Blessed are you among women!  Blessed is the fruit of your womb!  Jesus!”  Thus, Elizabeth, via Luke, is the biblical originator of this Marian prayer that became popular in the middle ages down to the present time.

The use of parables (Mk 4:2-4:2)

“Jesus began

To teach them

Many things

In parables.

This is what

He said to them

In his teaching,”

 

καὶ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς ἐν παραβολαῖς πολλά, καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ

 

A similar statement can be found in Matthew, chapter 13:3, and Luke 8:4.  This is the beginning of the parable section in Mark.  Jesus taught them many things in parables (καὶ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς ἐν παραβολαῖς πολλά).  This is how Jesus delivered most of his teachings (καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ).  Parables were one of the many literary forms in the biblical literature.  These parables of Jesus can be found in all the synoptic gospels, since they represent about 1/3 of Jesus’ teachings.  These simple and memorable stories conveyed important messages, central to the teachings of Jesus.  Many of Jesus’s parables refer to simple everyday events.  The word “parable” can also refer to a riddle, as it was used in the Old Testament.  The use of parables was a natural teaching method that fit into the tradition of the time of Jesus.  Matthew has 23 parables of which 11 are unique.  There are 2 unique parables in Mark and 18 unique parables in LukeMatthew and Luke share 4 parables, while Matthew, Mark and Luke share 6 parables.  Many of these parables have been subjects of art and literature, especially during the Middle Ages.

The parables (Mt 13:3-13:3)

“Jesus told them

Many things

In parable sayings.”

 

αὶ ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς πολλὰ ἐν παραβολαῖς λέγων.

 

A similar statement can be found in Mark, chapter 4:2.  This is the beginning of the parable section in Matthew.  Jesus told them many things in parables (αὶ ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς πολλὰ ἐν παραβολαῖς λέγων).  Parables were one of the many literary forms in the biblical literature.  These parables of Jesus can be found in all the synoptic gospels since they represent about 1/3 of Jesus’ teachings.  These simple and memorable stories conveyed important messages, central to the teachings of Jesus.  Many of Jesus’s parables refer to simple everyday events.  The word “parable” can also refer to a riddle, as it was used in the Old Testament.  The use of parables was a natural teaching method that fit into the tradition of the time of Jesus.  Matthew has 23 parables of which 11 are unique.  There are 2 unique parables in Mark and 18 unique parables in LukeMatthew and Luke share 4 parables, while Matthew, Mark and Luke share 6 parables.  Many of these parables have been subjects of art and literature, especially during the Middle Ages.

The Epiphany (Mt 2:11-2:11)

“The Magi

Knelt down.

They paid homage

To the child.

They worshiped him.

Then,

Opening their treasures,

They offered him gifts

Of gold,

Of frankincense,

Of myrrh.”

 

καὶ πεσόντες προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ, καὶ ἀνοίξαντες τοὺς θησαυροὺς αὐτῶν προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δῶρα, χρυσὸν καὶ λίβανον καὶ σμύρναν

 

This is the classic scene of the Epiphany of Jesus, with the magi, the 3 kings, the wise men adoring and worshiping the new born infant Jesus.  The magi entered the house.  They knelt down and worshipped the new child (πεσόντες προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ).  Then they opened their treasures (ἀνοίξαντες τοὺς θησαυροὺς αὐτῶν).  They offered him gifts (προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δῶρα) of gold (χρυσὸν), frankincense (λίβανον), and myrrh (σμύρναν).  These were the same traditional gifts mentioned in Isaiah, chapter 60:6, gold and frankincense, an expensive spice.  Myrrh was a perfume.  So too, Epiphany, ἐπιφάνεια, means manifestation or appearance.  In classical Greek, it was a manifestation of a deity to a worshiper.  Thus, Jesus manifests himself to these worshipping magi.  The earliest references to the Christian feast of Epiphany come from the 4th century CE.  In the Latin-speaking Western Christianity, this holiday emphasized the visit of the magi, who represented the non-Jewish people of the world.  Thus, this child Jesus was considered a revelation to the gentiles.  In the middle ages, these biblical magi or magicians became the 3 kings, as a whole story developed around them.  Balthasar was the youngest one, bearing frankincense that symbolized the divinity of Jesus, representing Africa.  Caspar was middle-aged one bearing gold that symbolized the royalty of Jesus, representing Asia.  Melchior the oldest one, bearing myrrh symbolized the passion of Jesus, representing Europe.  For many years, and still in some non-English speaking countries today, Epiphany was and is a bigger feast day than Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus and his revelation to the world.

Different printed Bibles

The early bibles had to be copied by hand in manuscript form, since there was no printing press until the 15th century.  The classic Bible of the middle ages was the 4th century Latin Vulgate translation of St. Jerome.  The first book ever printed in the 15th century was the Latin Bible.  In the 16th century, the various translations began to appear, the most famous being the German New Testament translation of Martin Luther.  The English, under King James I (1603-1625) decided to set up a committee to translate the Bible into Elizabethan English.  They finished their task in 1611.  The King James Bible became the only authorized Bible in the English language and has dominated the American religious scene, because of its use among the American Puritans.  The Roman Catholics produced an English Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible in France about the same, in 1609-1610.

 

Medieval approach to the Bible

The Vulgate Bible (382-384 CE) was the inspired true word of God in an incomprehensible Latin, the language of the educated people.  The biblical texts appeared in scarce manuscript form in the Middle Ages.  Few people had access to read the Bible, because most were illiterate.  Most people were content to glean the Bible stories from paintings, stain glass windows, passion plays, and preaching.  There was never any question as to its interpretation since the educated Church leaders, who had studied the Bible, pronounced what the correct traditional understanding of the Bible was.