Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Bible Series" on History: Part 4 Jesus and the 12...uh..(13?) at the Border of Heresy

I understand the difficulties of undertaking to film "The Bible". No matter how large the filmmaker's ego, the Bible is larger. Even just the first few books of the New Testament are overwhelming in depth and scope. How do you encapsulate the life of Christ into a few hours, made even shorter by an enormous number of commercials taking up precious minutes?

Well, let's just forget historic fact, Scriptural truth and meaning. Let's try to squeeze in as many popularly known characters and miracles and utterances of Jesus as possible, never mind accuracy of timeline.

One interesting development in Part 4 borders on heresy. This was in increasing Jesus' Apostles from 12 to 13, the thirteenth being Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is also portrayed as being one of the leaders of the group, just below Christ and equal with Peter.

Lets just walk through the March 24 showing of The Bible and take notice of her constance presence.

This presentation was called, "Mission". It opens with a long shot of Jesus and his Disciples
walking across the landscape. The Narrator intones, "With a growing number of Disciples, Jesus walks about performing miracles."

It is difficult to count the number in these shots or distinguish individuals, but the small figure in maroon next to Jesus is Mary Magdalene.

Here is a closer shot of the troop walking along on their mission "to change the

I tried counting heads and came up with 13. A few are hard to see behind the others, but 13 would be the correct number, except the figure second from the right is Mary Magdalene. There were four members of this group (besides Jesus) that are actually identified by name in the series so far: Peter (who I have not heard yet referred to as Simon), Matthew the Tax Collector, Judas the Traitor and Mary Magdalene. I think there was one scene when somebody yelled, "Thomas, don't doubt", but aren't certain.

Soon this group is gathered in the courtyard of a house and Jesus is speaking. We get a glimpse of
people carrying something in the background. The people gathered about Jesus begin glancing up
toward the roof and suddenly a man drops through. Another person is lowered and caught by the first, this second one paralyzed. Jesus forgives the paralyzed man his sins and a Pharisee, one who is with Jesus almost as much as his Disciples thorough out this episode, calls it blasphemy. Jesus then tells the man to stand and pulls him forcefully to his feet. The man stands as Jesus lets go, then takes first a few hesitant steps before shouting, "I can walk!". This represents an event that occurred in Capernaum during the first year of Jesus' ministry. In Luke 5 of Scripture Jesus is in the house and there are some Pharisees there.These men are thinking "this is blasphemy, but do not speak it outloud. Jesus senses their thoughts. This is the passage:

Luke 5:20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked,“Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 

And look what happened with that paralyzed man:

25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

Jesus did not pull the man to his feet, struggling to lift him as it appears in the film. The man got up immediately, picked up his mat and went out.

As they leave the house, a leper makes his way through the crowded street to Jesus. Jesus cures the leper. (The leper bore a striking resemblance to the paralyzed man.)

Now, in Scripture Jesus cures a leper PROIR to the paralyzed man dropping through the roof of a crowded house. In fact, it is the curing of this leper that really begins drawing the people and results in a house too crowded for the friends to bring the paralyzed man in through the door.  But Jesus cured a lot of lepers, so this may have been just an incidental curing.

Actually, after leaving the crowded house with the paralyzed man he didn't run into a leper. He left the house and saw Matthew the Tax Collector in his booth and called him to follow.  [Go read Luke 5,  Matthew 9 and Mark 2.)

Back to the movie -- Not long after curing the paralyzed man and leper in Galilee, Jesus is approached by a group of men shouting "whore" and shoving a woman along until she falls on her knees and
prepares herself to be stoned. This is the familiar story of the adulterous woman, but that didn't occur until much later than the other two cures and happened at the Temple Courts in Jerusalem [Read John 7]. If I remember correctly Jesus bend down to write something on the ground with his finger, then stood and said, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be first to throw a stone at her."

No bending to write here. Jesus picks up a stone and approaches the woman as if to strike. She covers her head with her hands to ward off his toss, but Jesus turns and says, "I will give this stone to the first man that tells me he never sinned."  The last man to drop his own stone is that pesky Pharisee who pops up everywhere. Okay, sure, small quibble, I suppose, but why the change? What was wrong with the original?

We now jump to the Sermon on the Mount, which was a mount back in Galilee and occurred well before the Adulterous Woman stoning. We don't have the whole sermon. (Is this The Bible or an episode of Dr. Who? The time travel is amazing.) We get a few of the "Blessed are" quotes, and a drib and drab from the rest of it.  Near the end Mary Magdalene sitting on a nearby rock, looks up and asks, "How should we pray?" (Pictured left)

Jesus smiles sweetly and says, "like this," and they all bow their heads, close their eyes and tent their hands before their faces as he begins, "Our Father..."

We now watch Jesus and the Disciples traipsing along their way as Jesus continues speaking the prayer, except for the "Power and Glory" part. [Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are Roman Catholic.)

We jump to the dark inner halls of the Temple. Nicodemus comes hurriedly up to Caiaphas and others of the Sanhedrin.

 Nicodemus tells Caiaphas that Jesus of Galilee is coming to Jerusalem. (Nicodemus is the tall dude in the dark cap, Caiaphas is in the white cap.) That same pesky Pharisee that has appeared everywhere Jesus went is also here, so he really gets around, perhaps he is Dr. Who.  Caiaphas tells Nicodemus to relax, "Nothing good ever came from Galilee."

Gee, that phrase sounded familiar. Oh wait, yeah, way back after Jesus left the wilderness encounter with Satan. That was when he first met Andrew, Simon Peter and John, way before The Bible Series has Jesus bump into Peter there on his boat trying to catch fish. It was on their trip back to Galilee where Philip was found and went and told Nathanael and Nathanael said, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Then they all went to that wedding in Cana where Jesus changed water to wine. You didn't see any of that or how Jesus really met his first Disciples. The Bible Series didn't think that important enough to include. [Read John 1 & 2.]

Anyway The Bible Series put a paraphrase in the mouth of Caiaphas as all of Galilee, not just Nazareth, but that's okay I guess. Then Caiaphas and the men all walk away laughing at Nicodemus.

As the Council members walk down the hall chuckling, Jesus, Mary Magdalene and his Disciples crest a hill. They all look with expressions of surprise and amazement, including Jesus, at people spread shoulder to shoulder down the other side. Jesus asks for the few fish and bread the Disciples have, holds the basket up in the air and brings it down full of food. Now a Disciple does the same with an empty basket (I think Peter, but the Disciples aren't well defined in this film) and brings it down full of bread and fish. The Disciple says, "He said ask," as he raises the basket and "it shall be given" as he lowers it and then laughs with glee (pictured left). Mary Magdalene and the others begin lifting baskets and passing the results to the crowd.

We now return to the Temple Halls where Nicodemus hurries to tell Caiaphas that 5,000 people showed up to see Jesus.

Jesus goes to Nazareth and a lady tells Mary he is back. Jesus goes into the Synagogue and reads
from Isaiah the prophesy, "The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor...etc." (Isaiah 61:1-2) After reading it Jesus says, "Today this has been fulfilled."

Well, guess who is there and hears him say this? That same pesky Pharisee, who immediately follows Jesus out side yelling about blasphemy. Now in the real Bible, this happens very early on in Jesus career. He goes to his home town, Nazareth, reads Isaiah 61 and says the prophesy is fulfilled that day, but it is not a Pharisee who gets upset. The Pharisees don't care about Jesus enough yet, he is still a rather unknown. It is the people of his town, Nazareth, that get angry and try to throw him off a cliff. He didn't tell his mother or anyone else, "It has begun" (pictured left). Instead Jesus moved to Capernaum and made that his home base to begin his ministry, subsequently having that big fishing day with Peter.

Time really gets distorted in this movie, because the next scene takes us to a street in Bethany, a few miles from Jerusalem. Jesus and Mary Magdalene are met on the street by Martha, who says Jesus is too late, her brother is dead. Jesus asks to be taken to the tomb, which is opened and he goes in. He kneels behind the corpse and after a moment Lazarus' eyes pop open, (Jesus looks a bit surprised.) Lazarus gets up and they exit the tomb.

Outside an anxious Martha waits comforted by Mary Magdalene. A little behind is another woman. We aren't really introduced to this lady, but I am guessing it might be Martha's sister Mary. This whole Martha and Mary of Bethany relationship is a very important story in the Bible. It touches on more than just the mere raising of a dead man (Lazarus). It is a great lesson for the Disciples. It also teaches about faith verses works. It teaches many things, not the least the coming death and resurrection of Christ.  Mary of Bethany is an important figure, but she doesn't even get a mention here.  Click here to read a study of Mary and Martha, "One Needful Thing"  And why is Mary Magdalene so front and center all the time?  In the photo that is Martha in the blue headpiece being held by Mary Magdalene.

Once more back to the Halls of the Temple where Nicodemus hurriedly tells Caiaphas that it is rumored Jesus raised a man from the dead. Nicodemus then says Jesus is coming to Jerusalem. Caiaphas says
they can't have this fraud showing up at Passover.

The Narrator tells us that Passover is the biggest event of the year. We have some scenes in here somewhere that include Pilate, who is threatening to close the Temple and cancel Passover if there is any trouble.

We now see Jesus riding a donkey among a swarm of people waving palms. He waves at the cheering
crowd with Mary Magdalene right there by his side. See her smiling just off his right arm. She and he and the Disciples enter Jerusalem .


We are shown an arial shot of Herod's Temple and are told by the narrator that the temple "is the holiest place in the Bible."

Jesus then proceeds into the Temple. He looks about. We see people exchanging money, buying lambs and birds and squabbling. Jesus begins turning over the moneychangers' tables as Mary Magdalene looks about. (Pictured left)

Nicodemus now shows up to confront Jesus on what authority he has to do this. Jesus stands nose to nose with Nicodemus and tells him, "You say your lofty prayers and laud your piety in the Temple, hypocrite, you can't serve both God and money."

Jesus then turns to the crowd and tells them it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.

Nicodemus holds up a coin and demands Jesus say whether it is right to pay taxes to Caesar. (Note Mary Magdalene looking on a bit apprehensive between Nicodemus and Jesus.)  Jesus, of course, asks whose face is on the coin. Nicodemus flips the coin to him remarking, "Caesar." Jesus says, "Then give Caesar what is Caesar's and God what is God's," and flips the coin to a nearby Roman centurion.

During all this we see Barabas talking to people (bald fellow in the scene pictured left) and beginning to rouse up the crowd. Barabas confronts Jesus calling for a revolt against Rome. At this point Barabas is moving closer to Jesus with people shouting all about him, railing at Jesus and Christ raises a hand and Barabas is apparently struck dumb and backs up.

A completely fabricated scene.

Jesus and Mary Magdalene and his disciples begin moving out of the Temple. Jesus stops by a little girl and asks her if she sees the beautiful building. Kneeling down, and smiling, he tells her not one of these stones will be left standing.

Ut oh!

We are quickly back in those dark corridors of the Temple, but not before Nicodemus is upbraided for letting Jesus make a fool of him.

Now Nicodemus and Caiaphas stand speaking to Malkis, the leader of the Temple Guards. (pictured left) "He said what?" asks Caiaphas. "That he would tear down the Temple in three days," Malkis reports. Caiaphas tells Malkis to get this Judas fellow he had told about and bring him there.

Jesus washes his hands, has a vision of being nailed to the cross and picks up some bread. He tells the disciples around the table this will be their last meal together. He breaks the bread and shares the wine, then says someone will betray him and sends Judas on his way with a pat on the cheek.

Jesus and MARY MAGDALENE and his disciples exit the building.

Back in the Garden of Gethsemane Mary Magdalene and the Disciples are sitting or standing about when who shows up, but Nicodemus.  Nicodemus and Jesus go over to the side and we have the Born Again speech that should have happened back in John 3. You know, the night meeting between these two after the first cleansing of the Temple, before John the Baptist was arrested, before Jesus had all his Disciples, before Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, before just about everything in this episode happened. Well, at least they put it in somewhere.

Back at the Temple Judas accepts his money for promising to show where Jesus is going to be.

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus tells Mary Magdalene he is going to pray. She watches him walk off to a private place, where he asks God if this must be done. When Jesus finishes his prayer, Malkis and Judas, Guards and Disciples and Mary Magdalene come through the bushes (pictured right). Judas kisses Jesus, Peter cuts off Malkis ear, Jesus restores the ear and is arrested. Everyone else flees with Mary Magdalene sort of directing traffic.

We end this episode with Jesus surrounded by the Council in the Temple. Caiaphas asks if he is the Son of God. Jesus replies, "I am and you will see me coming with the clouds and sitting on the right hand of God." Everyone steps back from Jesus. Caiaphas rips his clothes and declares Jesus guilty of blasphemy. "The penalty," he says, "is death," to be continued next week.

In film it is often a practice to combine or invent characters to represent several characters rather than hire more actors and run up expenses. Thus The Constant Pharisee is understandable. Pharisees, Scribes and Saduccees were constantly popping in on Jesus to question, harass and challenge him. It is a cost saving to have one representative of these many, thus The Constant Pharisee (pictured left).

This is sort of the same thing done with Nicodemus. Nicodemus is always entering the scene to report on Jesus' activities. However, Nicodemus is only referenced in Scripture three times. The first time is in John 3, which is early on in Jesus' ministry. Nicodemus comes to Jesus in Secret at night and Jesus talks about how a person is born again.

Nicodemus is spoke of again in John 19, after Jesus has been crucified.  In verse 19 we are told Nicodemus, brought myrrh and aloes to help Joseph of Arimathea prepare the body for burial. In this
passage it describes Nicodemus as "who earlier had come to Jesus by night." This refers to Nicodemus' visit in John 3. We can know this because John uses a similar introduction of Nicodemus in the only other mention.

The other reference to Nicodemus occurs in John 7:50, where it says "who had gone to [Jesus] before."“Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” The Bible Series does contain Nicodemus saying this, but in a different context. The Chief Priests reply to him, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
This reference comes about the middle of the ministry and Jesus was spending a good deal of time preaching during the Festival of Booths. The Chief Priests and Pharisees have been attempting to have Jesus arrested with little success. Nicodemus is present when the officers report their latest failure to arrest Jesus and he says,

I suppose this is sort of when Caiaphas says in the film, "Nothing good ever came from Galilee."

And then along came Mary, Mary Magdalene that is, seen in the left photo comforting a child as Jesus speaks with the adulterous woman just saved from a stoning.

Mary Magdalene appears in only eight chapters among the four Gospels, all except one taking place during the death and resurrection of Christ. She is pictured watching the crucifixion from a distance with many other women, "among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother (Salome) of the sons of Zebedee (James & John)."

She is also noted as standing below the cross with John, Jesus' mother and Mary the wife of Clopas.

Later Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome go and buy spices to anoint Jesus' body.

On Sunday morning these women go to the tomb. Mary Magdalene gets there ahead of the other two women. Jesus appears to her and she hurries to tell John and Peter. The other two women are met by an Angel, see the empty tomb and run back in fear. They are also met by Jesus and told to go tell the Disciples.

The only other place Mary Magdalene is mentioned outside of the Passion Week at the cross and tomb
is in Luke 8. We are told Jesus and the twelve Disciples go traveling from village to village preaching the Good news. Also with them are several woman that Jesus had healed. These women now follow Jesus helping to provide for him and the Disciples from their means. Only three are listed by name: Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, Susanna and Mary Magdalene from whom seven demons had been driven out.  So there were many women traveling with Jesus, just as there were several witnessing his death and some going to the tomb.

This is about the extent we know about Mary Magdalene from Scripture. The only other information about Mary comes from Apocryphal manuscripts that were rejected as part of the canon. It is from these non-Scriptural writings that any picture of Mary Magdalene being the closest person to Jesus and a leader among the Disciples can come. These are the sources that led to such heretical books and films as The DaVinci Code and Last Temptation of Christ. These writings also the source for the cults who claim Jesus and Mary Magdalene were lovers and had children.

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