James Tabor, a professor of religious studies, in his 2006 book “The Jesus Dynasty,” takes surprisingly seriously the old Jewish idea that Jesus was known as the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Pantera—as well attested a tradition as any [emphasis mine — RD], occurring in Jewish texts of the second century, in which a Jesus ben Pantera makes several appearances, and the name is merely descriptive, not derogatory.
The whole problem with two centuries worth of historical Jesus scholarship is summed up in those seven words: “As well attested a tradition as any.” Because obviously if you don’t mind a little supernaturalism with your history, a story about Jesus being a Roman soldier’s bastard that dates from the second century — and late in the second century, at that — is dramatically less “well attested” than the well-known tradition (perhaps you’ve heard of it) that Jesus was born of a virgin married to Joseph the carpenter, which dates from the 70s or 80s A.D. at the latest, when the Gospels of Luke and Matthew were composed. Bracket the question of miracles, and there’s really no comparison: Giving the Roman soldier story equal weight with the accounts in Matthew and Luke is like saying that a tale about Abraham Lincoln that first surfaced in the 1970s has just as much credibility as a story that dates to the 1890s (and is associated with eyewitnesses to Lincoln’s life).
April 2, 1968 A.D. the Blessed Virgin Mary began appearing on top of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the Zeitoun District of Cairo, Egypt. An estimated one million people were able to witness the numerous Marian apparitions that occurred during a two year stretch ending in 1971 A.D.
Both Christians and Muslims witnessed Our Lady of the Light appear on top of the domed church. Even then President Nasser of Egypt witnessed it himself and ordered a complete investigation, intimidating and pilfering the church. They came up with no evidence of any hoax. In the end even he, a Muslim, admitted to this reality.
From my limited understanding, this is the only instance I can recall where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in front of largely non-Catholics. In my humble opinion is that the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria was founded by Saint Mark the Evangelist, the one and only of the same gospel, and that many, many saints were buried beneath that church in Zeitoun, Egypt.
Hence the special importance of why the Blessed Virgin Mary chose that particular church, the Virgin Mary Church in Zeitoun. Having an unbroken apostolic tradition with the blood of many martyrs sanctifying the beautiful church where these apparitions occurred.
(Biretta Tip: Canterbury Tales)
To learn more about the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Zeitoun, Egypt, click here.