If you were to journey to her haven, far from the city gates, what questions would you ask of her? And if she were to look deep into your eyes with her piercing dark ones and respond with that enigmatic smile, how could you be satisfied with her words, “It was long ago. It no longer matters.” Instead, I believe you would persuade her with other questions, until she would finally relent and tell her tale:
I was born in a fishing town where my father held a prominent position. Being the only child, he encouraged me to study as though I were a boy. I learned the languages of those who sailed to our shores and heard their stories about far off lands.
It was how I met him. His party of followers landed the small boat. He led them to the hillside. Then the strangest occurrence took place. Masses of people from other boats and from the town made their way to be near him. I saw him from afar in his long cloak, arms outstretched and welcoming, face glowing not from the sun but what seemed like – from within. I meandered through the seating multitudes and found a place close by. His words were simple but powerful. I was touched by his sincerity.
My father later sent me to his brother’s home in the city, to further my education about the real world. My Uncle Joseph was learned, honourable and also well off. When I asked him about the man on the hillside, he was aware of him. “A Teacher“, he told me. My uncle feared for him. The times were difficult with the occupation of the army. Rebellion and chaos were imminent.
One day, I heard that the man whom I had seen on the hillside had also traveled to Jerusalem. My uncle knew I wanted to hear him once more; he went with me to the city square where again a crowd surrounded him. His words of meek wisdom still cling in my heart. After the others dispersed, Uncle introduced me. In our private talks I learned from the Teacher about his joys and his struggles.
He had spent several years in the desert, living among the Essenes. He revered their humble, pure and spiritual life. They were well versed about Hebrew Scriptures. They taught that there was virtue in poverty, honouring the Almighty above worldly riches. They did not worship in the temple, considering the priests to be negligent in spiritual discipline. He respected many of their doctrine including that they would help usher in a new era. One aspect of their teaching which he rejected was celibacy.
We were wed in Canaan. I too became his follower. He encouraged me to understand the authentic meaning of his teachings. His male supporters either ignored me or were jealous of me. He knew them to be unaware folk who nevertheless championed him until his final hour.
He died. A horrible death! Mistaken identity or martyrdom? His devotees all scattered to distant parts. Fearing my life to be in danger, my Uncle Joseph of Arimathea sailed me to this place where I have now lived for over thirty years. I teach his words to all who will listen. Our child chose to return to the land of her father – where she lives in anonymity.
I hear that his disciples, including new ones, relate their stories ˗ keeping him alive. Many of these accounts will become retold and eventually some versions will be written down, including perhaps by me.
It has also come to my attention that references about me are varied: that he performed a miracle by releasing seven demons from within me; that I was a sinful woman; that I was saved from stoning having been ‘taken in adultery’; that I was a harlot ˗ and that I was a witness of his crucifixion and his burial. No mention ever ˗ that I ˗ Miriam of Magdala was his beloved wife. Where else would I have been, but by his side?
As time goes on, there will continue to be many speculations. Keeping him alive may become the ongoing mission of some who come after me.
And so my friend, to answer your very first question, “Is the story a myth or is it the truth?” my answer is still the same. “It was long ago. It no longer matters”. You must be the judge.