Thursday, April 11, 2013

Time Stands Still

Today in my Gospels class we were reading the Proto-Gospel of James, which has a very fascinating depiction of time:
But I, Joseph, was walking, and I was not walking.  I looked up into the air, and I saw that it was greatly disturbed.  I looked up to the vault of the sky, and I saw it standing still; and the birds of the sky were at rest.  I looked back to the earth and saw a bowl laid out for some workers who were reclining to eat.  Their hands were in the bowl, but those who were chewing were not chewing; and those who were taking something from the bowl were not lifting it up; and those who were bringing their hands to their mouths were not bringing them to their mouths.  Everyone was looking up.  And I saw a clock of sheep being herded, but they were standing still.  And the shepherd raised his hand to strike them, but his hand remained in the air.  I looked down at the torrential stream, and I saw some goats whose mouths were over the water, but they were not drinking.  Then suddenly everything returned to its normal course. (pericope 18; translation Bart Ehrman, Lost Scriptures, p. 69)
This is the moment of Jesus' birth.  When Jesus comes into the world, the world stands still.  But at least one person, Joseph, had the consciousness to realize that time had frozen, even for just a moment.  It is, in my opinion, a beautiful passage; the imagery of things happening and not happening at the same time expresses the extraordinariness of the moment.  Jesus' birth affects time.  But whence and why this imagery?

Firstly, I am unaware of other places where Jesus (or someone else) causes time to stop like this.  In Joshua the sun stands still, but just the sun and not the entire temporal stream.  If someone else knows any traditions--Jewish, emergent Christian, Greco-Roman, etc.--I would love to hear about it.

Secondly, why this imagery?  I posed this question to my class.  It was not a rhetorical question, not a question for which I was seeking to elucidate a particular answer or set of several answers that I or other scholars had already thought of, but a question of me genuinely trying to figure this out.  They had some good ideas (and I will release their names if they would like me to do so; otherwise, I will protect their anonymity in the public forum).  But, please note, these ideas came from my brilliant students--not me.  One student suggested that the fact it happens to Joseph--that Joseph is the one cognizant of these events--is significant.  Indeed, the first-person singular of these events is quite striking (how often do we see from Joseph's point of view in the Gospels?).  So why is this significanct?  Because Mary already has reassurance that this child is of God since it is all happening to her; Joseph's experience is more indirect, and, therefore, needs more assurances.  The second idea is thinking more cosmically.  What happens when something beyond nature, beyond the quotidian world, breaks into this world?  What happens when a being who stands outside of time, steps into time?  Perhaps time would stand still because, with Jesus' birth, a residue of that other timeless world that comes into this world.  Or, perhaps, we could say that the otherworldly being coming into this world, creates a tear in the fabric of this reality, expressed here as a temporal disturbance in the flow of time.  What other ideas can we brainstorm for the stopping of the temporal flow when Jesus is born?


ginat said...

On the day of the Lord, the heavens, which mark time and symbolize temporal, sublunar existence, are darkened or destroyed. The birth of the savior prefigures the ultimate change that he will bring.

Joseph perhaps perceives the change because he is of the Davidic lineage, the instrument for achieving Messianic change.

That said, as you say, it would be interesting to know if there are other texts with similarly explicit descriptions of stopped time.

DarinSelby said...

(PART 1)
This passage is not to be taken as a literal history lesson. "And this shall be the SIGN…. You shall see a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger …”

It is only a 'sign' of a vision one will have to signify they have been born from above. Time stands still when this occurs.

God speaks to man through the language of dream, and makes himself known in vision. Time standing still is an experience that EVERYONE will eventually have, as we are called back, one by one, into the body of the risen Lord, our very 'I Am'. And no one can fail.

A thousand years is as a day to the Lord. Therefore, six days would be like 6,000 years to mortal eye. As He promised, you will return on time, not a moment before or after.

William Blake, the poet, describes it: "I behold the Visions of my deadly Sleep of Six thousand Years Dazzling around thy skirts like a Serpent of precious stones and gold. I know it is my Self, O Divine Creator and Redeemer."

But there is another birth - a birth into freedom - which is essential, for unless you are born from above you cannot enter the kingdom of God. And the womb from which that birth takes place is the human skull, called Jerusalem from above.

DarinSelby said...

(PART 2)
There is only this age, and the next age. Even though it APPEARS that we are alive here, we have been laid into the 'tomb' of our skulls.

Golgotha translates as 'cranium'. 'I Am' has been crucified onto these bodies that we wear. Paul states it so clearly to "take up your cross..."

Your body of flesh is your cross of death which you took upon yourself when you who existed before the foundation of the world lost your memory.

Blake identifies in his poem, "Jerusalem", from above with liberty, for after this second birth one is liberated. Having been placed into a world of slavery and death (are we not wearing a garment dipped in blood?), the second birth is our victory over death.

EVERYONE will be victorious ... but everyone! We came into this world of death, have fought the good fight, and will continue to fight it. We are running a race with our enemy, death, [in] which all will be victorious. Everyone will be resurrected. Everyone will be born from above and all will enter the kingdom of God.

The instruction is, "Forgive and ye shall be forgiven." For, we come into this world of death and horrors with TOTAL amnesia to our previous incarnation on this world's stage. We've either played a part, or WILL play a part in our awakening as Jesus. All characters in the Bible are really eternal states that we pass through, and not to be taken as a literal history lesson.

The Bible is your biography. It is all about you.

DarinSelby said...

(PART 3)
For example, not one pottery shard has been found to prove that King David or King Solomon ever existed. Their story is about as true as King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. This proves that the Bible is not a literal history lesson. It is an ALLEGORY. Yet, it is all TRUE! It is your biography, as you awaken as Jesus, yet retain your identity forever and ever.

God is divine Imagination, and he limits himself to the very limit of contraction, called human imagination, and actually 'dies' in the sense that all the power and all the MEMORY of his glorious being had to be completely forgotten.

"Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not consider it something to grasp, but emptied himself, took upon himself the form of a slave and was born in the likeness of men. Being found in human form he humbled himself and took upon himself the cross of death."

Your body of flesh is your cross of death which you took upon yourself when you who existed before the foundation of the world lost your memory.

So the cry on the cross is true: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me." He himself has cried out, because he so completely gave himself to us he suffered total amnesia, complete forgetfulness of his divinity as he became us, and that was divine imagining becoming human imagining.

Then we, building our little world - lovely as it is to many of us - it is so different, and the power we exercise is so fragile, compared with that same power when raised up, when lifted up and the great name which is above all names is conferred upon us. And the day will come, without loss of identity you will bear the name "Jesus."

Yes, everyone is destined to be Christ Jesus - that power, with the name exercising infinite power - without loss of identity.

We will know each other and all glorified, everyone. There is no limitation to the gift. Some will exercise it more than others, but certainly the gift is the same, the gift of Christ Jesus.

DarinSelby said...

(PART 4)
Blake, in his poem, had no idea that he had slept for 6,000 years in his strange dream. One day he was resurrected, and he beheld this redeemer of his as a serpent of precious stones and gold, and knew it was himself.

Yes, Christ comes from WITHIN a man, where he lies dormant. How can Christ "come again" if he has never left us? And how can he even be "near"? For nearness still implies that there's a separation!

The Christ of scripture is our very breath, our very being, and one day, everything said of Jesus will be said of you, of me, of everyone born of woman. And, no one can fail.

Did he not say: 'Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age?" Then why does the church look for him to return? Scripture states that Christ was taken up into the kingdom of heaven (which is within) and that he will come in the same manner as he was taken up.

If Christ (God's creative power) is in you, he cannot come from without. Although he seems to be invisible, Christ has never left you, as you cannot detach yourself from Imagination, which is not just some little essence in our heads. Imagination is that greater being within, and is responsible for everything appearing in our world.

Paul states quite boldly that the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah is an ALLEGORY. And an allegory is a story told as if it were true, leaving the one who hears (or reads) it to discover its symbolic representation and learn its lesson. Hagar and Sarah symbolize two covenants, one bringing in slavery and one freedom.

“Thou art a Man, God is no more, thine own Humanity learn to adore.”