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The Bilingual Mary Magdalene
In John 20:16, Mary Magdalene famously speaks a Hebrew word to Yahshua, [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]Ylwbr[/font] (?rabbi?). But is that the only Hebrew here?

Consider the word in John 20:15 [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0nng[/font], commonly translated ?gardener?. The text advised in John 20:12 that Mary was seeing two angels dressed in white inside the tomb, so does it make sense that she presumes them ?gardeners?? The Aramaic word for gardener is [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]Ng[/font] (or [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0ng[/font]), but the word actually used in John 20:15 is [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0nng[/font] -- we presume Mary Magdalene presumes Yahshua to be [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0nngd[/font] (?of the gardeners?). In Hebrew, [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0nng[/font] means ?protector?. In Aramaic, [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0nng[/font] would be gardeners (plural). (Incidentally, another word for ?gardener? in Aramaic is [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0npsydrp[/font] ).

Would Mary call this ?gardener? [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]yrm[/font] (?my lord?)? The assumption of the standard translation ('gardener') is certainly possible in the text, but?

The Hebrew word for ?protector? seems like a possibility here to consider too, and if correct (however unlikely a possibility) then it would mean that Mary reasoned within herself in Hebrew that she was talking to a kind of angelic protector of Yahshua?s body. That would be a big deal because?

Inferences from the Alternate Meaning ?Protector?: Was Mary offering to go to Sheol and back?

Consider the ramifications of Mary speaking Hebrew: if she really thought she was talking to an angel ?protector? rather than a human ?gardener?, then her next statements (in the declarative tense) offering to go retrieve Yahshua?s body from some unknown place (outside this world?) become (1) an awesome display of love, and (2) a sign that Mary Magdalene was educated in otherworldly matters and felt empowered to intervene with regard to her teacher?s body. That?s a staggering thought, and would likely be the most powerful display of love in the gospel from any disciple toward the messiah! Is it unlikely? Sure. Does it sound irrational? A little bit. Is it beyond a grieving woman in love to say such a thing? I wouldn't dare say otherwise.

A second alternative is that the end of John 20:15 can be read in the imperative (as we see [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]Lz0[/font] preceding the verb [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]Yhwylq40[/font]), where Mary is ordering the angel to go retrieve Yahshua. But this interpretation is less likely because of the absence of a conjunctive [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]w[/font] before [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]Lz0[/font]. Although this second alternative interpretation would still be a gesture of love toward Yahshua, it would be exponentially less impressive.

Either way, this alternate possibility of Mary thinking she could retrieve Yahshua from the underworld - it just seems so unlikely. Why do I even bring it up? Because it's possible.

The Meaning of Her Story

Central to Mary Magdalene?s story is that many male disciples rejected her testimony (as did patriarchal religion afterward by relegating her writings, if any, to the Apocrypha).

Who was she? Mary Magdalene was a Jewish woman who is recorded speaking Hebrew and Aramaic. She walked with Yahshua as a loyal follower, so she was likely given a treasure of knowledge. Of course, many writers have speculated about her (and many read like paperback romance novels, so please keep some healthy skepticism).

Mark 16:9-11 says the disciples didn?t believe Mary Magdalene about Yahshua?s return, and the context suggests it was because she had 7 demons previously.

Doubt her?

The key study word here (central to Mary Magdalene?s story that the male disciples rejected her testimony) is [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]rbs[/font] (?think? or ?doubt? or "declare"). In John 20:15 we see this word [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]trbs[/font] (?thought?) when Mary thought Yahshua was just a ?gardener? or a ?protector?, and again we see the word [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]trbs[/font] (?declare?) when Mary declares her testimony to the disciples but they think Mary is not trustworthy as a witness. Mark 16:10.

As John 20:18 suggests in wordplay [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]tt0[/font], this was the sign of Mary Magdalene.

By studying the Aramaic words it helps show the pattern -- Mary?s problem in John 20:15 was that she put her own [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]rbs[/font] (?reason?) first above her trust, and this later had the consequence that the disciples put first their own skepticism of Mary before their trust of her. And this phenomenon continues to ripple to this day in churches, as I think most people first disbelieve Mary Magdalene?s testimony unless coupled to a male?s (i.e., in the [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0trbs[/font] ("gospel")).

For follow-up study, note that the name ?Magdalene? in Aramaic is [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0l0dgm[/font], which means ?tower? in Hebrew, and is probably a reference to the Hebrew location [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0l0dgm[/font]. Were the disciples willing to accept her as a tower above them? Consider the events in Magdala in Matthew 15:39-16:12 (specifically 16:7-8).
Nice post gregglaser, but I don't know if "sheol" means the same thing as "underworld." Sheol means grave or place for the dead. Now the underworld, or Abaddon, could be seen as a type of grave for spirit entities but there is no clear indication it is for men. It's already a complex issue without all the mistranslations muddying things up here -- it would be really helpful if we had a proper translation of the Peshitta OT to compare notes. The underworld, or Abaddon, is where fallen spirits of angels or watchers are imprisoned since the days of Noah. Abaddon and sheol is referred to by Job, however he is speaking of the Rephaim and some "inhabitants" (watchers?) in this context (26.5-6) and does not specify men; is he making parallels or contrasts? Either way Job does not mention men in this context. Isaiah mentions the Rephaim in connection with kings in sheol (14.9), but bear in mind he is weaving together what happens to earthly authorities with spiritual authorities as we see in the famous lines that follow about a Babylonian antichrist figure who sets himself up as glorious Hellel ("Lucifer" in latin) son of the morning reaching for the heights of heaven, but instead falls to the pit with the Rephaim (counterparts to earthly kings, literally "he-goats" in the verse, reminiscent of the Azazel/scape goat ritual* on the Day of Atonement which we see fulfilled in Rev 20.1-3) showing that he is not the true morning star ushering in a new day -- you could say this is Nebuchadnezzar but he is really just a type of the final antichrist, and so this prophecy has cycles of fulfillment like most prophecy. I suppose it's not hard to see why sheol (for men) got conflated with the underworld/Abaddon/bottomless pit for fallen spirits and the whole "hell" myth got rolling. There are many more verses to help out on this line of thought but I don't want it to get too messy with myriad rabbit trails for now.


The English "hell" itself comes from the Anglo-Saxon "hel" referring to a hidden place and is where the English "hole" derives. Probably not the best source for biblical scholarship but to get the idea the Oxford dictionary on my computer has this:

Hell - "ORIGIN Old English hel, hell, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch hel and German H?lle, from an Indo-European root meaning ?to cover or hide.?"

Hole - "ORIGIN Old English hol (noun), holian (verb), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch hol (noun) ?cave,? (adjective) ?hollow,? and German hohl ?hollow,? from an Indo-European root meaning ?cover, conceal.?"

"Hell" was used to translate the Hebrew and Aramaic "sheol" (grave) and the Greek "hades," for lack of a better term. Hades is simply used in the Greek to replace sheol (Acts 2.27 quoting Psalm 16.10) and shouldn't carry over all the pagan baggage it is loaded with, but there is a kernel of truth in it. There's also "Gehenna" translated as hell in the NT, which was the valley of Hinnom (actually located in the valley of the Rephaim, cf Josh 15.8, 18.16) south of Jerusalem where garbage was dumped and continually burned and where worms or maggots would have been in perpetuity because of the continuous supply of waste (where the worm dieth not). Gehenna also had once been a place where apostate Judea sacrificed their children to the fires of Moloch as they started to follow hellish pagan doctrines and were judged for and exiled to Babylon -- as some newly discovered ancient cuneiform tablets show. <!-- sWink --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/wink1.gif" alt="Wink" title="Wink" /><!-- sWink --> Gehenna became an idiom for fires of judgement for apostasy as when Yeshua warned of it before the temple and city were sacked with fire 40 years after the crucifixion. Fire was a symbol of judgement and is used to renew and cleanse, taking away sin.

The first biblical instance of sheol (Deut 32.22-4) uses fire/burning symbolically, ie. "burnt with hunger" speaking of a famine and death kindled by God's anger that will consume the land, God is a consuming fire (Deut 4.24; Heb 12.29) as the sacrificial fire from coals on the altar was to burn forever consuming sins as enacted by priests eating sacrificial offerings. Is it any wonder judgment/suffering (fire) and death (grave/hell) are often mentioned together? By extension sheol is associated with sorrow, pain, suffering and bitterness, "for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave (sheol): the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame" --Song of Songs 8.6

"Hell" is also used to translate the Greek "tartarus" in 2Peter 2.4 -- this is the only "hell" referring to the underworld prison for fallen angelic entities, but it's not anywhere indicated to be for men. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell (tartarus) and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter... --2Peter 2.4-6

Revelation refers to the bottomless pit where Abaddon is released, in Greek "Apollyon." Revelation 9.11: They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon. Sometimes an angel associated with authority over a phenomenon is named after it, such as two of the horsemen of the apocalypse named Death and Sheol (Rev 6.8 ) who are thrown into the lake of the fire (Rev 20.14), the Dead Sea (Salt Sea), which was burning from all the bitumen and pitch it contains, the lowest place on earth's surface, on the Jordan rift valley, where the source of the Jordan river from Mt. Hermon terminate, near Sodom and Gomorrah, burning even in the time of the apostles which Jude like Peter used as an example of fiery eternal judgement: And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. --Jude 6-7. Jude also quotes something we find in a book credited to Enoch which is where we find an account of where, why and for who the underworld exists, and it's not for men. (Portions of the book of Enoch are found in Aramaic and Hebrew among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The complete scroll of Enoch written in Aramaic is in private hands and has not been published.)

The Lake of the Fire itself is healed and made holy (Ezekiel 47) but later a new heaven and earth is made and all former things are passed (Rev 21.1-5; Matt 5.18). Today the Dead Sea is a major attraction for its HEALING properties and its minerals can be found in many medicinal and cosmetic products.

Some may point to the parable of Lazarus and the rich man as an illustration of life in hell (an oxymoron as the wages of sin is death), but it is just that, A PARABLE. When this story is understood as such and biblical symbols are decoded, deep insights can be gleaned from it. Here is an interesting report on this:

It seems the pagan nations all have legends of an underworld of gods. This makes perfect sense if indeed all nations really spoke one language before the splitting of the tongue and are descendents of Noah and his sons and their wives who passed on knowledge from, say, Enoch and Adam. All peoples had universal ancient knowledge of the signs of heaven, a golden era of long lifespans, titans, fallen gods, beings of light, snakes associated with wisdom, a major flood, temples, sacrificial systems, and an underworld. Abraham was called out of the chaos to set the record straight for the nations and to be blessed in him and his promised seed would be a nation of priests through which this knowledge was preserved, and the priest Melchizedek blessed him in this mission. Thank God for that!

By the way, the Hebrew word "repha" (rephaim singular) also means "to heal." <!-- sWink --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/wink1.gif" alt="Wink" title="Wink" /><!-- sWink -->
"All that openeth the matrix is mine" -Exodus 34.19a
I really appreciate your response, and also the willingness to discuss Enoch.

aux Wrote:The complete scroll of Enoch written in Aramaic is in private hands and has not been published.
I think that?s one of the great mysteries of our world!

The book of Enoch has some vivid descriptions of heaven, and heavens of heavens, and resting places, and underworlds, and fire, and dry places?

I?ve read it many times (the Aramaic fragments of Enoch as transcribed by Knibb, M. (1978)). Like the Peshitta gospel and Revelation, in all these texts punishment is finite. Punishment is real, but the idea that ?destruction = everlasting torment? is the myth. And as I?ve written, that myth is propagated by mistranslation. In a nutshell, finite and proportional torment is real, but everlasting torment is just a mistranslation of the word [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]Ml9[/font] (?an age/world?). Mark 10:30 has a wonderful proof about this word conjugation for Aramaic scholars, because it links the definite and indefinite articles.

I?m preparing a word study video on this topic that I hope to release next month, so please do check back at the link above if you?re interested.

Regarding the place where Yahshua went for those three days after crucifixion ? it?s a cool mystery! One passage that suggests the underworld is 1 Peter 3:19:
[font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]Lwy4b Ywh Jdyx0d Nyly0 0t4pnl zrk0w[/font] (?And he preached to the souls held in Sheol.?)

I think [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]Lw04[/font] (?Sheol?, hebrew) is analyzed as a question we [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]L04[/font] (?ask?) ourselves -- it captures well the uncertainty of our perspectives here on earth. So I wonder where Yahshua went, and also what the Jewish woman Mary Magdelene [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]trbs[/font].

Looking at every instance of Sheol in the Hebrew OT, I see a general pattern showing a place with layers or levels inside the earth, where there is some sorrow and some peace for souls. Quite simply, I think it is where souls wait for their day of judgment. Does everyone receive the same court date?

Really appreciate all of the clues in your response that help ask these questions!
Hi Greg,

In Genesis 2:8 I see 'gan eden' (the garden of Eden).

The root word, for Gardener according to the lexincon are exactly the same letters GN.

So I don't quite see how she was speaking Hebrew and implying another meaning.

Yeah, [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0nngd[/font] is Aramaic -- ?of the gardeners?. We can find the conjugation right there in Jastrow, and also for example, Hesychius, by Gershenson, D. (1994) contrasting the Hebrew [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]Jwng[/font] with the Aramaic [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0nwng[/font] and [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0nng[/font].

But in Aramaic and Hebrew, [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]0nng[/font] can be a verb or a noun as it also means ?secret?, ?protect?, or ?cover? (or even ?bridal chamber? in Hebrew tradition). See for example the Gemara in Brachos (16a), [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]rz9l0 rl 0nng hyl Nyr=q 0q wwh ys0 ybrw ym0 ybr[/font] (?Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi were fastening a chupah/bridal-cover for Rabbi Elazer.?). See also the Midrash interpretation, ?I have come to my garden, my sister, [my] bride...?, using the word "garden" metaphorically.

Given the mystery around these verses about the bilingual Mary Magdalene in the fourth gospel, I thought it was interesting to consider the possibilities.

But yeah, I think the main argument in favor of the majority reading (for Aramaic) is that Mary?s words in John 20:15 are not Hebrew conjugations: [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]Yhwylq40 Lz0 Yhytms 0ky0 Yl rm0 Yhytlq4 tn0 J0 Yrm[/font]

With that said, there probably is some secret here to be revealed about this ?gardener/secret? that was one ?turn? away ([font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]tynpt0[/font] in John 20:16) from Yahshua.

So after Mary completes this 'turn' she speaks Hebrew to Yahshua [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]Ylwbr[/font] (?rabbi?). This was suggestive (perhaps) that she perceived he had crossed over into the heavenly realm ? according to Jewish tradition, [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]tyrb9[/font] (?Hebrew?) is the language of the crossing, that angels and men speak.

That is why again, it is particularly telling that her words to the ?secret? in John 20:15 are not Hebrew. Was Mary looking for a soul in Sheol, or was she looking for a dead body outside the cave? When she 'turns' inside the cave she switches languages and finds Yahshua alive. I wonder which way she turned - into the tomb or [font="Estrangelo (V1.1)"]rbl[/font].

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