Sacred Paths – Be Proud and Love
The world’s first “novel” explores the meaning of immortality with the god-man Gilgamesh and his beloved Enkidu. The Buddha is sometimes represented in erotic relation to his disciple, Ananda. The first humans in the Inuit culture were two men (Adam and Steve, if you will). Even that stereotypical Greek womanizer god Zeus could not resist the charms of Ganymede and made him his cup-bearer, a permanent position, not just a passing fancy. The Hindu god Shiva is still worshiped as a penis, and Agni, the fire god, swallows Shiva’s semen.
But what about Jesus, the figure considered divine by many in our culture? If The Da Vinci Code, which claims that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, can receive so much attention when there is so little to support that claim, imagine the furor if folks actually looked at the evidence that Jesus liked guys!
This idea is not new. John is known as “the beloved disciple.” Throughout the ages, stories about Jesus’s love of men continued. Ironic for the Bible-thumpers is King James I, for whom the famous English translation is named. James, whose beloved was George Villiers, Earl of Buckingham, is recorded as saying, “Christ had His John, and I have my George.”
But in 1958 an ancient text was discovered that supports the tradition that Jesus loved men.
Of course, the formation of the gospels is a difficult and technical field, and for details I suggest consulting the Wikipedia entry and the notes in the Jesus Seminar edition of The Complete Gospels. These concerns are part of a larger question, explored most notably by Albert Schweitzer in his classic book, The Quest for the Historical Jesus, which asks whether, regardless of our relation to the Jesus of faith, we can ever have a reliable historical account, since even the four canonical gospels present very different images of Jesus.
Nonetheless, it does appear that in Alexandria at least by the first century, there were two versions of Mark in use, one for the public and the “Secret Gospel of Mark,” intended for the advanced. Some have insisted that the Secret Gospel must be a hoax, but the fact that the text solves the gap between the two parts of Mark 10:46 is a strong argument for its authenticity. Authenticity does not mean it is factual; it does mean that this was the belief of the ancient writer.
What does the text say?
The first fragment, placed after Mark 10:34, tells of Jesus raising a young man from the dead. The text continues, “The young man looked at Jesus, loved him, and began to beg to be with him. Then they left the tomb and went into the young man’s house. (Incidentally he was very rich.) Six days later Jesus gave him an order; and when evening had come, the young man went to him, dressed only in a linen cloth. He spent that night with him, because Jesus taught him the mystery of God’s domain.”
The second fragment follows the first part of Mark 10:46, “Then they came to Jericho.” The newly discovered text simply reports, “The sister of the young man whom Jesus loved was there, along with his mother and Salome, but Jesus refused to see them.”
Remember that, according to tradition, Jesus was never married, an unusual situation for a Jewish leader of his time. Also recall that Jesus, without any reported qualms, healed the centurion’s servant, a euphemism in those days for sexual partner.
Whatever your faith, in every religion with which I am acquainted, sometimes in corners darkened by today’s persistent prejudice, there is evidence of same-sex love as a spiritual path of wonder, power and majesty.
What can anyone be more proud of than love?
The Rev Vern Barnet, DMn., does consulting, teaching, and writing for religious and educational organizations here. His Kansas City Star column appears each Wednesday. Vern can be reached at email@example.com