Stephen the Martyr: The Heavenly Marriage
Posted on 11 December 2017, 14:06
Do bear with me, if you have read this story before. I’m not trying to prove anything, I’m thinking about ambiguity and levels of understanding of communications from Spirit.
It was the day that Tom and Olive Ashman got married. Tom was the channel or medium through whom the spirit of St Stephen the Martyr spoke over a period of more than seven years. After the marriage ceremony there was a party. Wine was consumed but not in excess, (so far as I remember) and a little two year old boy was granted a sip.
That evening we continued socialising at home, and then we thought to invite Stephen to join us. He accepted the invitation, but surprised us by talking in an ancient form of Greek. I recognised the language, as I had some knowledge of the basics of the Greek of 2000 years ago. It later turned out to be the version spoken in Thrace, and also in Galatia, a province of Asia Minor, now called Turkey. Both regions were dominated by Celtic tribes.
He didn’t explain, but continued in English. But as everything was being recorded on tape, three of those present were eager to transcribe the sounds very carefully, to see what they might mean. If you want to know what the actual Greek words were , I go into great detail about that in my book, Afterlife Teaching from Stephen the Martyr.
Our first attempt at translation was, “For the Celt, for the two year old, for the greedy, the Dionysian wines should be diluted.” [Stephen’s words referred to the festival of the juice of the newly pressed grape celebrated in the Lenes, a suburb of Athens. Non-alcoholic. ] Grape juice should be diluted. How strange!
Reading up about Celts of that area, we found them often described as drunkards. Dear, dear! Stephen was telling us off! But later, Stephen denied this, say that it had to do with a gathering of friends (not necessarily, I suppose, worse for wear from liquor.) Perhaps one gathering of friends was being compared with another, 2000 years in the past.
Puzzles remained. Whatever did the Athenian festival of Dionysos or Bacchus, the festival of freshly pressed grapes, have to do with the situation? And why was a native Thracian word, (not Greek), being used? And why on earth did the grape-juice have to be diluted?
About the ambiguities: We consulted two senior specialists in ancient Greek from two New Zealand universities, They both agreed that the strange words genuinely belonged to that Thracian dialect, and were strong indications of the authenticity of the speaker. One scholar remarked on the ambiguities found in the words. Ambiguity was the trademark of Delphic oracle. There is the story of King Croesus who consulted Delphi before attacking Persia, and according to Herodotus was advised: “If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed”. Believing the response favourable, Croesus attacked, but it was his own empire that ultimately was destroyed by the Persians.
Accordingly, we may not have been wrong in interpreting Stephen’s words as telling us off for misuse of wine, and for giving it to the two year old. But the words were ambiguous: we could also read “two years having passed” instead of “for two year old”, and read“with this grape juice” instead of “For the greedy.”
Stephen did give a further clue: they were words known to Joseph the father of Jesus. They had been spoken in a totally different context. What that context was we could not guess. He also said that both he and Joseph had been Essenes.
We still had the question: Why on earth should one dilute grape juice? For the answer to that question we had to wait thirty years, It took several synchronistic discoveries, the reading of several documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and research into what historians and theologians had to say about the Essenes and the early church.
Many years were to pass before we came to clarity. We came to the understanding, that Stephen himself had spoken these words in Galilee in the North of Palestine, to Joseph the father of Jesus. Joseph was leader of an Essene sect called the Nazarenes, and it was a group where families lived together. To join this group a person had to serve a two year period of preparation, called a Novitiate. When one was about to be accepted into the group, one had to take part in a Messianic Communion service, where grape juice had to be diluted with water. That was the answer!
Another thing: The word “Messiah” means “anointed with Spirit” “filled with Holy Spirit.” And “Bacchus” (Roman) “Dionysus” (Greek) refers to “inspiration from Spirit” as well as having to do with the consumption of wine. Another ambiguity.
So when Stephen says that the Bacchanalian wines need to be diluted, he is saying that the grape-juice associated with Dionysus the God of inspiration, needs to be diluted, as in the Essenic Messianic Communion service, for Stephen to be admitted as an Essene.
The Greek words that Stephen spoke to us suggested that there had been a problem about Stephen having been born in Celtic territory, rather than being a true Jew of Israel. Local Jews regarded Jews who had been born abroad as second-class Jews. Stephen twice refers to the fact that he had been born in Celtic territory, and his words suggest that even though this had been the case, he might join the Essene Nazarene group of Joseph in Galilee. In this way Stephen became acquainted with the Holy Family, and became a Greek speaking follower of Jesus at a later date.
How much meaning turned out to have been packed into those few words!
(The Essenes had a new wine (unfermented grape juice) festival of their own. So, why did Stephen refer to the Greek Athenian festival of Dionysus instead of the Essene festival of Israel? I think probably because Stephen was a Greek speaker, and he saw the two festivals as having the same meaning.)
It all turns out to be a fascinating glimpse into the beginnings of Christianity.
Yes, Stephen’s Greek words provide powerful evidence that we are truly hearing from the Spirit of Stephen the Martyr. But they also provide the insights that I have just been describing.
We also can reflect on the process by which we heard the words, and by which we came to so many insights about them as the years passed by.
In the first case we have learned that it is possible for a spirit to communicate to us through the personality that was alive 2000 years ago, with clear recall and much wisdom.
But it is much more the case than Stephen using Tom Ashman as a kind of telephone. His Greek words would have been meaningless, without one person present who understood basic Greek. Nothing would have happened if three people in the group had not spent much time making sure that the sounds had been heard correctly. Nothing would have happened if numbers of synchronicities had not occurred to guide us to deeper meaning. Reference books had to be consulted, specialists in ancient dialectical Greek, history books, books on theology.
When Spirit communicates, expect much more than x=a. Expect depth of meaning within depth of meaning.
Another example was a dream that I have described elsewhere:: in the dream there were two aspects of me inside my skull. The physical me stood behind the left eye had an altar before me (I am an Anglican priest.) My bloodied priestly robes fell to the sand on the ground. My spiritual self stood behind the right eye, waiting for music from heaven.. My spiritual self had no robes, but was clothed in liver.
Liver! How strange! For some reason I wondered what the Hebrew word was for liver. I looked it up in the Hebrew lexicon. It was kabod. But the word had another meaning. It meant glory. Not meaning flashiness and high esteem as it does in Greek, It meant rather, the whole weight of the attributes of God.
What did the church lectionary have me to preach about the following Sunday? It was “Christ clothed with glory” So my dream was about my sermon to be? Not entirely. Because that morning I read a news item about a Canadian exhibition where a woman stood clothed not in liver but steaks stitched together.
Spiritual communications are almost never statements like a=b. They are often ambiguous, and can often involve the height and depth, and the length and width of reality. Deeps within deeps.
Michael Cocks edits the journal, The Ground of Faith.
Afterlife Teaching From Stephen the Martyr by Michael Cocks is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and other bookstores.
For more on Stephen go to www.thegroundoffaith.net/issues/2017-02