The Good Man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ

Some time ago, I was asked to draw up guidance for a filmed version of Philip Pullmann’s book. I found some of my notes today and thought they looked entertaining-

The Director/Producer had a background in tv comedy and Philip Pullmann pulled out.

Essential problem lies in the history of Christ on film:

The life of Brian dominates any effort to film the Christ story, and the Monty Python analysis is classic- that everyone speaks sententiously…

3 options:

Either Avoid entirely or fully embrace humour

The passion of the Christ ducks this choice by doing really nasty violence, which is another solution!

Is there humour in Pullman? Certainly, but much of it is the narrative voice which does not translate naturally into film.

Historical issues: can film help? Yes:

1) fill out the multicultural environment of Nazareth

a) Geography: Nazareth is Very close to Sepphoris/zippori (5 km away)

It was considered the capital of Galilee and as such, the absence of any ref in the bible is telling. (Herod the Great makes Sepphoris the capital in 47BC, tho the ROMANS already called it the effective capital from conquest in 55BC). It was recaptured by Jewish zealots in 46 and then taken by Rome again under Verrus, burnt and all inhabitants enslaved. Herod Antipas rebuilt and fortified the city. It was then called Autokratoris (autonomous city)

A direct road connects Sepporis(Saffuriyya) to Legio (Meggido) the military Headquarters in Galilee and also to the sea to Tiberias.

Now, although it was Legio that was the major garrison, the Talmud records on a number of occasions that Sepphoris was the major garrison of the area (b Shabbat 121a: this is about a non-Jew who helps extinguish a fire on the Sabbath. “it once happened that a fire broke out in the courtyard of Yosef ben Shimai in Shihin. The Roman garrison (Gastra) of Sepphoris came to extinguish it because Yosef was the guardian of the kind, but he did not allow them to because of honour for the Sabbath. A miracle took place and rain fell and extinguished the fire….”

In AD 67, there was a garrison of 6000 soldiers in Sepphora mentioned by Josephus under the leadership of Placidus. Otheres followed so that in the end, when Titus arrived the garrison numbered some 60,000 men. This may have influenced Talmudic accounts…

b) Mary’s story:

Silence may suggest that the story of Mary’s rape/ seduction by a man the Talmud calls “Ben Pandera” (son of a Panther) or Pantheus, a Roman legionary, may be true. (this is the section from the Talmud Shabbath 104b tractate:

Rabbi Hisda said: ‘The husband [of his mother] was Stada, the biological father, Pandera…The mother [yet another rabbi says] was Miriam, the women’s hairdresser…It’s like they say in [the Babylonian yeshiva town of] Pumbedita: She cheated on her husband.’

The Aramaic word M’gadla is “hairdresser” so there is confusion in this story between Miriam/mary the mother of Jesus and Mary magdalen.

Pantera may be a joke about “parthenos”, virgin. The greek work Parthenos was apparently very difficult for an Aramaic speaker to pronounce and “Panther” became a mangled corruption.

There is also a reference in ORIGEN that the Jews claim Jesus was the son of a married Jewish woman and her Roman lover

The Talmudic story is set in the 2nd Century but the writing seems to go back only to the 6th Century

2) Other sects:

Essenes: meaning expectant. Was Jesus an essene? Was John? (certainly this is implicit in Kazanzakis)

dead sea scrolls hidden around 70 AD

Nag hammadi library hidden around 200AD to keep away from Irenaeus’ heresy hunt

Archaeology: ossiaries have been found in Talpiot with names of Miriam, Joseph, Joshua and James

Gnostics. A great scene in the book (Christ and the prostitute) suggests Paulician, Waldensian or cathar beliefs about degradation of the body to hasten the judgement,

  • the devil made the world and corrupted the teachings of Christ by making the system of the church
  • -you cannot eat eggs because they are a result of sex
  • all sex is the bad but masturbation is particularly bad, and worse than rape, but gay sex was better than heterosexual sex because it could never lead to progeny. There was a belief that only the mind can sin, so any activity below the waist was not permanently sinful. The lower orders of the Cathars were in slavery to the devil so anything they did was ok because it was not their responsibility! They were saved through the efforts of the elect who had taken a special baptism to free them from slavery to the devil and the world.
  • belief in reincarnation
  • the Heresy of the Free spirit: a corruption of Sufi thought in France – if God created everything then he also created evil: blind obedience to a master and total freedom of action: the individual is above the law, there is no afterlife. Heyday between 1250- 1330

(in the East, there was a similar heresy called the EUCHITES)

Mary’s annunciation:

Rasputin’s sect were called :”the men of God” or Khlysty and they had naked parties, singing, drinking and dancing onto a trance-like state followed by orgies which led to pregnancies. The resulting children were said to be “begotten by the Holy spirit”!!

GREEK! establish Christ as a Greek name, why would Mary opt for a Greek (ie: Roman) name.

(remember the lingua Latina of Ancient Rome was Greek…)

Maybe the Magi speak to Mary in Greek…

Jesus is sometimes referred to in Yiddish as Yoyzl (Hebrew name would be Yeshu, a shortened version of Joshua) Yoske Pandre, little Jo (yoysif) Today, rabbis will say that the word Yeshu is an acronym for “y’mach sh’mo ve-zichrono”, may his name be forever forgotten.

Again, links to Sepphoris would allow for greater use of Greek.

Sepphoris represents the urban elite: Jesus is described as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners and there was a rich young man in the audience (Mk 10:17-22) and a tax collector among the apostles (Mark 2: 13-17); there is even a steward of the royal household among the followers( Chuza, steward to Herod Antipas who is rebuilding Sepphoris…luke 8:3)… does that imply he dined in Sepphoris?? Grin…(maybe he visited John in prison there: Matt 11:2)

Capernaum: needs to be brought into the story. This is where Jesus “settled down”

Fisherman (Matt 4:12-22)

Toll house (mark 2:13-14)

Centurion garrisoned there (John 4:46-54)

Ambiguity : need to preserve ambiguity of the angel/ stranger. Maybe link to soldier Ben Pantera.

Pullman explains the temptation story but not the prayer in Gethsemane. Could the angel be linked to this prayer as a dialogue?

The gethsemane monologue is very important in turning Jesus into a wholly likeable figure.

What should have been, improving the narrative – think of the trinity addition to end of Matthew 28. 19..(vs Acts 2.38 baptism in Jesus’ name only…) no texts contain chapter 28 before 4th century tho the trinitarian formula linked to this text to baptize existed by the time of Ignatius of Antioch, letter to the Philippians (107-112), Irenaeus Against Heresies (130-200) and Tertullian (He commanded the eleven others, on His departure to the Father, to “go and teach all nations, who were to be baptized into the Father, and into the Son, and into the Holy Ghost“) the Prescription Against Heretics 160-220.

  1. History and truth- stupendous
  2. Stolen body from the tomb (the legion of angels/ satanic horde “my name is legion”)

Albert Schweitzer (1906) thinks Jesus was deluded, thought the kingdom would come soon and thought he would usher it in as a triumphant messiah. He expected to be saved from the cross. I think this is the source of much of the Pullman book. What Schweitzer wrote still has relevance today and anyone writing about Christology or the “life of Jesus” is frankly writing footnotes to Schweitzer.

scweitzer by Tim

It is Schweitzer who inspires kazanzakis.

Christ is Judas. Christ is a nickname. A fairly routine idea actually and also routine would be the idea thatJesus is the twin of Thomas- hence the name didymus, “Twin”

Ideas about God

There are some odd ideas floating around about the Binding of Isaac or the “Akedah” in Genesis.

The most interesting proposal is that Abraham actually goes through with the sacrifice of his son, Isaac and the current Biblical text has done its level-best to hide this fact. The evidence is presented by a man called Dr Tzemah Yoreh, who is also interested in innovative prayer and liturgy, who notes two important details in the Biblical narrative.

The first is that, on the way up Mount Moriah, Abraham and his son are accompanied by two servants who are left at a half-way point. Here is the relevant text: “He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

This is the Ehohist source and in Gen. 22:22, after the event on the mountain-top, records, “After this, Abraham returned to his servants and they set out together for Beer-sheba, where Abraham settled.” Not a mention of Isaac at all.

Yoreh is not alone in identifying that this stray-verse suggests that Abraham was indeed alone. He cites Rashi who certainly considers the possibility that Isaac is dead- saying that the ashes of the dead Isaac would be like the ashes of an animal sacrifice. He follows this up with a reference to verse 12, “…Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” 

Of course, the reality is that Abraham did actually withhold his son Isaac from God. He sacrificed a ram instead. the text, says Yoreh, however, does not say “you were quite prepared not to withhold your son,” but actually says “you did not withhold your son.” This is not about theory but instead is about practice. It actually happened.

the second detail in the narrative is that, at the point when Isaac is saved from death, the narrative style changes abruptly, and the source switches from the E to the Y-source. It is Elohim who condemns the boy and YHWH who offers salvation. Moreover, Isaac’s later life, says Yoreh, is one long yawn of imitation: he passes his wife off as his sister, exactly as Abraham had done, and he makes a treaty with Abimelek, exactly as his father had done. In other words, the further details of the adult Isaac’s life are simply a midrash on the story of his father. Why? Because, says Yoreh, Isaac never got to be an adult at all. He was murdered on mount Moriah!

I rather like Dr Yoreh who sacrifices the documentary patchwork theories of Biblical exegesis which have dominated scholarship since the 19th century and instead suggests that just one single source alone exists (the E-source) and everything else supplements it, embellishing, correcting and otherwise commenting on what the Elohist started.

Yoreh by Tim.jpg

Tintern Abbey

tintern abbeyFive years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur. – Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
‘Mid groves and copses. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
With some uncertain notice, as might seem
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some Hermit’s cave, where by his fire
The Hermit sits alone.

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration: – feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened: – that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on, –
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

If this
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft –
In darkness and amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart –
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro’ the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!

And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope,
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led: more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all in all. – I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, nor any interest
Unborrowed from the eye. – That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompense. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing often-times
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear, – both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

Nor perchance,
If I were not thus taught, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
For thou art with me here upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; ’tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain-winds be free
To blow against thee: and, in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance –
If I should be where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence – wilt thou, then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love – oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!

abraham and the angels

Roland Emett

One of the great masters of drawing, and made famous through the wacky inventions featured in the film of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Like Thelwell, Papas, Searle and Tenniel, Emett got exposure through the pages of Punch. Today, he is as much one of the fathers of Steam Punk as he is the natural successor to Heath Robinson.

Here is my take on his idea about Economics:

housing market

The girl on the swing

I have been drawing the opening sequence for my documentary about Edward Lear, “Following Lear”. Here is the latest version with some detail:

It is a complex scene featuring a swing in a music hall.

PAGE1

One of my early memories of watching black and white tv was of a girl on a swing in “the Good Old Days”. I think that swing was brought out on a number of occasions actually, and at least once, in the 25th Anniversay season, Les Dawson was strapped to it in drag. It was generally there for the song “Swing me just a little bit higher, Obadiah do”. It made a lyric loaded with innuendo seem homely and very jolly.

good-644731

The music hall was full of daring routines and “the Good Old days” captured some of that spirit throwing acrobats and trapeze artistes directly into the auditorium. In the mid 19th Century, there was a craze for tightrope walking over the heads of the audience. Brilliant! I wonder how often there were accidents?

One of the early films made by Dame Joan Collins in 1955 was about Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, tied up in a messy muder trial and called “the Girl in the red velvet swing”. Of course, at a time when she was dazzling in BA and Cinzano adverts, she went on to make a slightly more scandalous film featuring an aquatic swing that arguably re-ignited her career, was based on a book by her sister Jackie, and somewhat incongruously, propelled her as staple fodder for family viewing in nearly a decade of “Dynasty”. What seemed very daring in the “Stud” and the “Bitch”, however, would today seem tame, and the thought of an A- grade star like Joan Collins getting involved in such stuff would no longer raise an eyebrow, particularly after Gielgud, Helen Mirren and O’Toole romped through “Caligula” at the end of the 80s.

I like the “Girl in the Red Velvet swing” though; it treats the subjects rather better than the subsequent film “Ragtime” which is both pedestrian and laboured. The publicity photos for La Collins, moreoever, are a treat. They are even better than the movie! Doesn’t she look radiant!

Annex - Collins, Joan (Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, The)_02

twiggyThere is also a swing scene, though fairly modest in “the Boyfriend”, designed by Tony Walton and a great scene in an early Angela Lansbury film,”Till the Clouds roll by” .

angela lansbury

I think I have now looked at almost all the swings in the movies!

Till_The_Clouds_Roll_By

The problem with swings is that every single frame represents a change in perspective- a nighmare for 2d drawing and I have had a few attempts so far. I am quietly pleased with the lastest effortwhich I will work on over the next month.

The music is by David Watson and the song is sung by Thomasin Tresize. If the spirit of the animation is a bit racy, I suppose that is to do with Joan Collins as much as with the hint of naughtiness that Tom suggests as she sings it!

I think it is meditative of course…. I tried to time the swing to the bars of music and it looks too premeditated- a bit like an early Mickey Mouse film. The idea of timing animation to hit the beat gave the whole screen animation/ music industry a very bad name, and it is bizarre that this was taking place at exactly the same time that Astaire was developing his technique of dancing OFF the beat. It’s when the dancer hits the beat at a specific moment that the magic happens. So the swinging motion is now independent of the beat (just).

how pleasant to know Mr lear6

Here’s the sequence partly storyboarded:

and here is an early sketch:

 

Well done Miron!

http://hiphopdx.com/news/id.44401/title.russian-rap-battle-racks-up-15m-views-in-3-days#

Russian Rap Battle Racks Up 15M Views In 3 Days
August 16, 2017 | 7:20 PM
by Somhairle Cinnsealach
Russian Rap Battle Racks Up 15M Views In 3 Days
YouTube/versusbattleru

170816-Oxxxymiron-vs-Slava-KPSS-800x600

“War and Peace.” “Crime and Punishment.” Oxxxymiron vs. Slava KPSS.

All triumphs of Russian penmanship.

While even America’s most popular rap battlers generally max out at a few million YouTube views (a milestone that can sometimes take years to reach), Russian league Versus is sprinting past its competition — already racking up almost 15 million views on an hour-long video that came out on August 13.

The battle, which went down in St. Petersburg earlier in August, went crazy-viral in Russia, a country famous for its prowess with the written word.

We can’t understand any of it, of course, but if you’re confident in your Russian-speaking abilities then check out the battle below.

One of the competitors, Oxxxymiron, had been undefeated until he came up against his opponent, who took the W after a unanimous decision from the five judges.

As one of Russia’s biggest Hip Hop figures, Oxxxymiron’s battle rap showings have always generated huge interest, but nothing on this scale before.

According to a detailed piece by The Calvert Journal, “Even RIA Novosti, one of the biggest Russian news agencies, has published four news stories and a large feature on the battle in the last two days.”

After his defeat, Oxxxymiron shared an in-depth Instagram post following the battle.

 

 

168.1k likes
4,755 comments
Пара слов о баттле (спойлеры) 1. После драки кулаками не машут (объясните это СТ, который до сих пор доказывает, что выиграл). Поэтому судейское решение я, разумеется, принимаю. 2. На мероприятии были судьи, потому что я поставил такое условие. Вариант “мы час срем друг друга просто так, для взаимного промо” был для меня исключен, т.к. это не дружеский матч. Поражений, в отличие от забытого текста, я никогда не боялся, поэтому настоял на том, чтобы баттл судили – и считаю, что это было верное решение. 3. Почему я проиграл? Потому что, как и на прежних баттлах, ушел в лирические отступления, которые мне реально интересно писать, в отличие от бесконечного “сетап-панч, сетап-панч”. Возможно, я по жизни слишком зациклился на том, что в свое время повлиял на баттлрэп – а вместо этого мне самому стоит поучиться у баттловиков, чей мир с тех пор перерос в нечто иное и самостоятельное. Хотя гонка за количеством панчей все еще кажется мне довольно унылым подходом к баттлам. Но и мой подход “проповедник а-ля Loaded Lux” явно требует корректировки на будущее. Не будь проигрыша – я бы, наверное, так и не осознал, что нужен апгрейд. Апгрейд будет, Нарния пока подождет. 4. От всего мероприятия получил дикий кайф. Единственный облом – “поддержка” Версуса. С таким же успехом мы могли сразу пойти на Слово с 10 корешами – именно столько человек активно топило за нас, остальные версус-резиденты были типа слишком крутыми, чтобы высказывать саппорт рэперам своей лиги, как это делала толпа от Слово (по видео все очевидно, я думаю). Ну и сливщики инфы – конченые. 5. Make Battle Rap Great Again: сказано – сделано, это был исторический баттл. Оппонент молодец. Может теперь кто-нибудь поймет, что я не забронзовевшая статуя, не все всегда просчитываю, и готов рискнуть всем чисто по фану, из спортивного интереса. И вскоре сделаю это снова)
5 DAYS AGO

 

Google Chrome’s translation of Oxxxymiron’s Instagram post goes on to explain why he felt he lost the clash, and why there are no hard feelings.

“Why did I lose? Because, like on the previous battles, I went into lyrical digressions, which I really enjoy writing, unlike the endless “setup-punch, setup-punch.” Maybe I’m too focused on life, That at one time influenced the Battleplay – and instead I myself should learn from the Battlists, whose world has since grown into something different and independent. Although the race for the amount of panche still seems to me a rather dull approach to the battles. But my approach “preacher a la Loaded Lux” clearly requires adjustments for the future. Without losing – I probably would not have realized that I needed an upgrade. Upgrade will be, Narnia will wait.”

“Make Battle Rap Great Again: said – done, it was a historical battle. Opponent well done. Maybe now someone will understand that I’m not a moribund statue, I do not always calculate everything, and I’m ready to risk everything purely for fans, out of sports interest. And I’ll do it again soon).”

oxxxymiron-by-tim

from Hiphopdx.com

 

Teaching: St Theodora

After writing about St Theodore, I was sent a copy of an icon of St Theodora, whose feast is on 11th September, a very different saint, though, to the Empress found in mosaics around the Church of Agia Sophia in Istanbul. There are very few images of this Theodora. This is my version here-

St Theodora of alexandria

 

A few years ago I was in Northern Albania searching for the women who dressed as men in local villages. Maybe they no longer exist, but that tradition goes back some way and seems, from this story, to have Christian precedence. (in contradiction of Deut 22.5 and maybe of 1 Tim 2.9) I think St Theodora is a model for the Twenty-first Century!

St Theodora was an early ascetic from the Fifth Century, during the reign of the Emperor Zeno. She was among 10 women who lived and dressed as men in Oktodeka, one of the many monasteries surrounding Alexandria. The abbot simply assumed she was a eunuch.

At some point, she was accused and presented with a child that she was supposed to have fathered with some serving wench. Together they were expelled from the Monastery. Now, the hagiography makes a great point of telling us that the child was not hers and that the tales were fabricated; it is also not at all clear at thispoint that any of the other monks actually realised she was a woman. However, there is also a story of an adulterous affair that she had while she was still married to her god-fearing husband, Paphnutios. She seemed to have been told by a fortune-teller that if a sin was committed during the dark and that if no one else could see, then God would not see it either. She was distraught and sought the advice of an abbess who heard her confession, and reminded her that Mary had washed Christ’s feet with her tears. It was repentance for this affair that drove her into the monastery in the first place.

A period of repentence passed while she and the child wandered around the desert and they were then readmitted to the monastery. She had brought the child up as her own and while he seems unnamed, he is recorded to have been a godly and good boy in all respects. When she died, the abbot was astonished to find that Theodora was a woman and not a man after all.

What happened to Paphnutios? After his wife’s death, he seems to have been inspired to become a monk as well. Oh! And her “son” ultimately became abbot.

While the story is riddled with holes, it nevertheless makes very good reading and St Theodora emerges rather well as an early Christian version of Victor/Victoria or Mulan. Whether she had illicit sex once or twice does not seem to matter much- she took responsibility for the child who had been given to her (think of the teacher in “the Corn is Green” by Emlyn Williams- do you remember Toyah Wilcox as the naughty girl who leads Morgan Evans astray?) and seems to have kept herself to herself so much that even her supposed gender remained unknown.

st sergius and bacchus rome.jpg

It is tempting to see in St Theodora some sort Patron of the modern age, perhaps more clearly than the highly colourful and embellished story of the soldiers St Sergius and St Bacchus (or of Juventinus and Maximus martyred about 50 years’ later). Their story is  improbable and the actual text (the passion) is full of anachronisms. Their humiliation when they refused to sacrifice to Jupiter was to be paraded in women’s clothing and beaten to death – that happened to others too. A “John Boswell” from Yale fairly recently suggested that Sergius and Bacchus were in fact lovers, described in a martyrology as erastai. He argues that before their execution, they were married in a rite called adelphopoieis and had received some form of Church blessing. All this is a bit spurious. John Boswell’s claims, nevertheless, make fantastic reading, but that, I am afraid is where it ends. He describes a civil ceremony for the emperor Basil I and a mass gay wedding taking place in the Lateran. Even if his claims were about a Wagnerian-style “BlutBrüderschaft“, I find it odd that it should ever have taken place in the Lateran. But as the present incumbent of the Lateran might now say, “Who are we to judge?” Indeed!