The Son of Mary
History and Religion
Lester Allyson Knibbs
Who Was the Son of Mary?
Four billion people – two thirds of the world’s population – claim to follow a man for whom there is no reliable historical evidence. Two and a half billion Christians worship him as God incarnate. One and a half billion Muslims revere him as a prophet.
Some historians claim that he did not exist.
In the interest of brevity, I will assume that the son of Mary existed. I will also confess that I have difficulty accepting as literal much that is said in the Bible and the Qur’an about such people as Noah, Moses, Jonah, and the son of Mary.
To me, the story of Noah is about people drowning in a flood of blame and guilt instead of riding in the prophet’s ark of divine mercy and forgiveness. Arguing about the physical reality of an ancient flood is pointless.
The story of Moses and the opening of the sea is about the followers of the prophets walking through a sea of violent nations – the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans – solidly grounded, while the arrogant Pharoah drowns in that same sea. History records that almighty Egypt was conquered successively by all those nations, while the followers of the prophets survived and thrived to the present day, often with no nation of their own.
The story of Jonah is about an angry man who did not want the Assyrians who had conquered his Hebrew people to repent and be forgiven, so when called to deliver the message of mercy to them he went the other way. Whatever it was that swallowed Jonah, it is best represented by a fish, not a whale. (Is it reasonable to believe that man can live in the belly of a whale, but not in the belly of a large fish?) A whale is a warm-blooded mammal that must come up for air, giving Jonah some hope of escape. A fish is a cold-blooded creature that never needs to surface for air. Jonah was trapped in an cold, alien and eternal prison, until he repented and accepted his mission. I see a lesson for African Americans living in "Amerikkka" in this story.
The son of Mary represents legitimate government – the anointed one. If we speak Hebrew, we say "messiah". If we speak Greek, we say "christ". In the Qur’an, the Arabic word (related to Hebrew) is "maseeh". The anointed one.
"Thou anointest my head with oil." (Psalms 23:5)
"Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,
"There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, while he sat at meat." (Matthew 26:6-7)
Anointment is an acknowledgment of a legitimate ruler. The woman with the ointment was anointing the son of Mary, acknowledging that this compassionate man, who dared to eat at the house of an outcast, represented legitimate government.
According to both the Bible and the Qur’an, the son of Mary did not have a human father. According to the Qur’an, he had no father. According to the Bible, God was his father. These are contrasting ideas of how legitimate government comes about in the absence of a legitimate legacy (no human father).
Christian theologians emphasize the virginal purity of Mary. Christian thinking has so much to do with sex. Of course, Mary was chaste. Mary represents the society of god-fearing people. This society would not produce new leadership on the pattern of the Greeks or the Romans. But Mary was accused of bearing an illegitimate child. During the Civil Rights struggle of the 1960’s, "outside agitators" were blamed. Same thing.
The birth of Mary’s baby is a parable for the rise of legitimate leadership from a fatherless people – such as African Americans today. So, must that leadership be divine, super-human, a shining charismatic star? Or can that leadership be just ordinary folks. According to both the Gospels and the Qur’an, the son of Mary claimed to be just ordinary folks. He said, according to the Gospels, that he was "the son of man" – or, as I would prefer to translate it, "the son of Adam." ("Adam" means "human being" in Hebrew.) Each of us, male and female, is a "son of Adam."
(Of course, the Gospels do say other things about the son of Mary. But Christian scholars know that the Bible is a broth that has seen too many cooks. How can it be trusted? I use it as a reference, not as the final word.)
So, who was the son of Mary? He was the embodiment of legitimate government arising out of a people who had no legitimate government.
Who Is Jesus Christ?
The son of Mary is usually referred to as Jesus Christ. I am convinced, however, that the Jesus Christ that Christians revere and worship today is not the son of Mary, but the false Christ referred to in the Gospels.
First, the expression "Jesus Christ" is Greek. Neither the son of Mary nor his mother were Greek.
Second, "christ" does not mean "son of God" but the Christian leadership continues to allow its followers to be ignorant of its actual meaning.
Third, according to Acts 11:26, the disciples of the son of Mary were first called Christians in the city of Antioch. There is no mention of Christians in the Gospels, no mention of Christians following the son of Mary. The first mention of Christians is after the son of Mary is gone. The first mention of Christians is in the pagan, idol-worshipping Greek city of Antioch. What did they know? Why are billions of people calling themselves Christians today? What do they know?
Fourth, Barnabas (one of the disciples) had sought out Saul of Tarsus (also known as Paul) and brought him to Antioch. Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee and an early persecutor of those who followed the son of Mary. He claimed to have converted. He claimed that the son of Mary was sending him messages from heaven. I believe that Saul of Tarsus – called St. Paul by Christians – was an unrepentant opponent of the son of Mary who adopted a clever strategy to derail the son of Mary’s movement. He threw ideas into the teachings of the son of Mary that he knew most Jews would never accept, then he directed his missionary efforts at non-Jews – starting at Antioch. Our notion of who Jesus Christ is was mostly an invention of Saul of Tarsus (also known as Paul).
Fifth, in this Age of European Domination, the Europeans (so-called "white people") have gone all over the world giving people a picture of a European man and saying, "This is the only-begotten son of God and God himself in the flesh." When the name "Jesus Christ" is mentioned, we have been conditioned to envision a European, a white man. This is not the son of Mary. The son of Mary was not Greek, not European, not white. The color of the son of Mary would not be important if the Europeans had not lied about it.
I was riding the subway in New York City one morning. It was rush hour and the train was crowded. A little boy, maybe five years old, was swinging around the pole and talking to himself. His nose was running. He seemed to be alone. I took out some tissue and held it to his nose. I had to tell him to close his mouth and blow. He then looked up at a young man standing by the door and said, "Wha’ happen, Daddy?" As they were getting off the train I asked the young man, "Is that your boy?" He said yes. Indignant, I said, "Then why don’t you wipe his nose?"
What happened to the son of Mary?
According to the Bible, he was crucified, died on the cross, was buried, rose from the dead, appeared to his disciples and a few others, then rose bodily into the air and left. This last event is called the Ascension.
According to the Qur’an, he was neither crucified nor killed. He is said to have been "raised up," but such expressions as "raised up" and "sent down" are usually not meant in a literal physical sense in the Qur’an.
I am not particularly concerned with what happened to the son of Mary at the end. I do believe there is a higher reality, but I do not believe that it is reached by ascending into outer space. I do believe that the Creator may cause us to perceive things according to the level of our understanding: If we think heaven is up, then we see a body rising up to get there.
When I ask, "What happened to the son of Mary?" I mean, "How did we get from that humble and compassionate son of Adam to the proud and powerful movement called Christianity today?"
First, we have his followers being called Christians, which he never did. This was unfortunate, because no prophet comes with his own religion.
Second, we have Saul of Tarsus (also known as Paul) claiming to hear from him (which I am sure he didn’t). This was unfortunate, because people came to believe many things that the son of Mary never said – many of which turned up in the Gospels, which were written after Saul of Tarsus had completed his mission.
Third, we have the conversion of Emperor Constantine some three centuries later and his decree that Christianity be the official religion of the Roman Empire. At that point, Christians constituted about 20% of the Empire’s population. Had the Empire actually followed the son of Mary’s example and his teachings, it would not have remained a ruthless and oppressive empire. Instead, Christians began slaughtering each other. Constantine’s edict was one of the worst things that ever happened to the son of Mary’s mission.
Fourth, we have the European conquest of the world. From the first, and down to this day, the European powers (which includes the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and formerly South Africa under apartheid) have carried the cross to the lands that they conquered and claimed conquest and domination to be done in the name of Christ. This is a great opportunity to expose the false Christ for the proud, conceited, arrogant and compassionless beast that it is, and restore the mission of the son of Mary to its original purpose.
You might say to me, "You’re a Muslim. What business is this of yours?" I say, "First of all, "muslim" is Arabic and derives its meaning and usage from the Qur’an, and you don’t know Arabic and haven’t read the Qur’an. So what do you mean when you say I am a Muslim? Most people who call themselves Muslims know no more about what they mean than most people who call themselves Christians. This is my business because I am a servant of the Creator of the heavens and the earth who sent the son of Mary."
I am the stranger on the train. Yes, I feel strange wiping the boy’s nose when his Daddy is standing right there. You’re a Christian? This is your baby? Why don’t you wipe his nose?
August 5, 2003