– Jean-François Lavère –
— INTRODUCTORY NOTE —
In his Bollettino Valtortiano [Valtorta Bulletin] No. 77 (January--June, 2009), Valtorta's editor, Dr. Emilio Pisani, has published an Italian translation of “The Maria Valtorta Enigma", an original French article by Jean-François Lavère, and a sample of a possible future volume of his on Valtorta. Lavère, an engineer and afficionado of Valtorta's writings, has done meticulous research into some of the personages and physical data provided by Valtorta in her masterwork, The Poem of the Man-God (called The Gospel as it was revealed to me, in its latest edition).
Translated in English for this web site from Pisani's Italian translation, the purpose of Lavère's article is basically to provide further evidence of the Divine Source of Valtorta's Work through some often overlooked details recorded by her in The Poem..., and of which Valtorta could not have had the human knowledge or resources, other than from the Divine revelations she claims for the Work. Pisani has also provided a brief introductory preface preceding this article in his Bulletin, which is also translated in the Frame below .
THE MARIA VALTORTA ENIGMA
than sixty years ago, Maria Valtorta, immobilized in her bed by a chronic
infirmity, wrote with her own hand, in just four years, thousands of
handwritten pages which have already been distributed in more than twenty
As a “Life of Jesus”, this Work does not leave one indifferent, and always arouses passionate reactions. The Work is so exceptional that it deserves to be numbered among the masterpieces of universal literature. It offers material for an inexhaustible encyclopedia of the life of Jesus. In fact, this Work not only integrates the totality of the four Gospels, but reconstructs their whole socio-cultural context.
Those who know the classical work, Jesus in His Time, are surprised in reading Maria Valtorta, to discover that the realization of Henri Daniel-Rops’ plan is exceeded by far. Maria Valtorta shows such a capacity to make personages and events live again, that some scholars have compared her to the genius of a Shakespeare. This is noted above all in the psychological realism regarding innumerable characters: each acting, throughout the whole Work, according to their age, sex, profession, family and social situation, their formation and their attitudes.
The greatest authors strive to reach this goal, but at most they reach it only by means of a character who represents themselves or someone near to them. So it is that the hero of the novel David Copperfield in fact represents the author Charles Dickens, just as Tom Sawyer completely restores for us the infancy of Mark Twain.
Further, the succession of events reported by Maria Valtorta finds its place quite naturally in the historical picture of the first century. The historian, Elian Cuvillier, realizing that twenty centuries of endless research on the chronology of the life of Jesus seemed to have had little fruit, wrote: “The historian knows now that it is impossible to reconstruct with precision the life of Jesus in detail… As to placing this or that word into the picture of His earthly existence—that is definitely impossible.” Whoever reads the life of Jesus in Valtorta’s Work, has the striking impression of a coherent chronology, complete and unequaled: the puzzle is completed! Is it a mirage?
As for the sacred texts [of Scripture], Maria Valtorta manifests so profound a knowledge of them that the eminent biblical scholar Gabriel Allegra, OFM (author of the first complete translation of the Bible in Chinese), said he was dumbfounded by “the surprising scriptural culture” of [Valtorta] who “made use of a simple popular version of the Bible” (from a report written in Macao in June 1970).
As regards geography, in order to settle upon maps of Palestine at the time of Jesus, scholars (and especially Hebrew researchers) have had to consult a pile of documents,
among which are the Talmud, Flavius Josephus, inscriptions, traditions, archeological sources, etc. Maria Valtorta names hundreds of places and describes exactly and forcefully details of panoramas, roads, water courses, reliefs, monuments, while having practically no specialized documentation at her disposal.
The most surprising thing is that Maria Valtorta, even while having a lively intelligence and an excellent memory, did not even finish her secondary studies.
The Work overflows with exact dates from the viewpoint of historical, topographical, architectonic, geographical, ethnological, chronological, etc. [data]. Further, Maria Valtorta often furnishes precise details known only by some scholar, and in certain cases even totally unknown at the moment [she] recorded them, and which archeology, history or science have later confirmed.
The study of thousands of data scattered as if by chance in this Work, has allowed us down the years to construct an imposing documentary base. This systematic research brings to light the extraordinary precision and unsuspected level of coherence and credibility of this Life of Jesus4 by Maria Valtorta.
Let us take, for example, the case of Caecilius
Maximus, a non-com of the Roman army
simply named by Valtorta [329.6]5 in a
brief dialog between two Roman soldiers at the beginning of the year 29.
In the Work,1
he is not invested with any role. His name, unknown to historians when the
Work was published, seems pure invention. And yet, the historical
existence of this personage is today verified by the discovery of a little
silver tablet near Pompey in 1959, mentioning the presence of
Maximus in Pozzuoli (Puteoli) in
July of the year 29. Coincidence?
Surprising also is what Valtorta calls "the cyclopic ruin of ancient Hatzor" [160.4]6. Certainly the discovery of the place goes back to 1870, but it was necessary to await the excavation digs started in 1955 (still going on in 2008), to have an idea of its extent. No one (before Valtorta in 1945) had evoked its greatness. The excavations cover today a surface of over 80 hectares [= 198 acres], and constitute the largest archeological site of Israel!
Elsewhere, Valtorta describes at length the place in which the apostles' election occurs: "... a gorge between the foothills... Between one and another rock-strewn, rough foothill, which opens up vertically like a fiord..." [164.3]; and in the following chapter she writes that Jesus "...descends, because His cave is the highest, entering from time to time into the smaller caves [of the apostles]..." [165.3]. The description is so detailed that the researcher can localize these caves long before knowing—about a thousand pages later [360.6]—that the description is of the caves of Arbela.
It is the same for the mountain of the Sermon on the Mount: "Then the mountain has another steep rise and ascends with a rather pronounced rise up to a peak, which then falls down to rise up again with a similar peak in the bizarre form of a saddle" [169.1]. The summit of the foothill is in the form of a yoke, or rather—it's clearer now—
in the form of a camel's hump..." [174.11]. The description unequivocally designates the place called the Horn of Hattin7.
When further on Valtorta mentions a mountain which "behind Ephraim is really a green giant that dominates over the others" [552.3], it can only be the present Tel Asour which, with its 1011 meters [=3,317 ft], is the culminating point of Judea-Samaria.
There are hundreds of examples which are gathered throughout the whole Work, although this science passes unobserved at first reading. Nonetheless, this extreme precision is not at all the only "Valtorta enigma".
The Flight into Egypt
When Maria Valtorta describes the sojourn of the Holy Family in Egypt, it seems at first that she is ignorant of its exact location. She writes: "The place is in Egypt. I have no doubt, because I see the desert and a pyramid" [36.1]; and a little further: "...the sun falls toward the naked sand, and a true fire invades the whole sky behind the distant pyramid" [36.3]. "The pyramid seems darker" [36.4]. It is necessary to go to the next volume to learn that the flight ended at Matarea: "...not Him Who had fled over to Matarea" [119.1]; "And it will be sadder than your first birthday in Materea" [133.4]; and then in volume 4: "However the goodness of the Lord made our exile in Materea less harsh in a thousand ways" [247.8].
Materea (today, El Matariya) is a district of the ancient city of Heliopolis, located 20 kms. [12.5 miles] to the north/northeast of the three pyramids of Giza. It was a hospitable land for the persecuted Jews, and in Jesus' times, an important Jewish colony dwelt there.
The most ancient mention of Matarea as a refuge of the Holy Family originates from the gnostic gospel "of Thomas" of the 2nd century. From this epoch and up till today, there is venerated in this place "the fountain of the Virgin" and "the tree of Maria", recalled as well in Valtorta's text. Henry de Beauvau, in the Voyage au Levant (1615), names this place: "Matarea, the place where the Virgin was saved with her dear Son, while escaping the persecution of Herod...". Cornelius de Bruyn passes through Matarea in 1685 and explains: "It is here, it is believed, that Joseph and Mary chose their dwelling when they withdrew into Egypt...".
Why does Valtorta see in this place only one of the three pyramids? It is necessary to note that the pyramids of Giza were oriented on a south-west/north-east [axis]. Matarea is found exactly on their axis and therefore, only in this narrow sector does the pyramid of Cheops8 effectively hide those of Khafre and Menkaure, situated just behind it! The use of a simple article in the singular—"la" ["the"] pyramid—strongly authenticates the vision of this scene on Valtorta's part.
The Petrified Forest
In Volume 4 [248.13/14], Jesus recalls His first infancy in Egypt: "...petrified forests that seemed to be strewn throughout the Nile valley and in the Egyptian desert. They were [once] forests upon forests of living trees... Eventually, from an unknown cause, like things accursed, they not only became dried up like plants do..., but they became stone. Stone. The flint of the ground seems to have risen up by sorcery from the roots to the trunk, to the branches, to the leaves...".
These fossil forests still subsist in our day, especially the [forest] located at 17 km [10.5 miles] to the southeast of Matarea. It is a question Al-Ghaba Al-Motahagguera (the petrified forest) near El Maadi. This forest was rediscovered toward 1840, but has remained little known in Europe until our day. It is now very threatened by urbanization, and the remaining district (7 sq. kms.) [=2.8 sq. miles] had been classified as a protected place in 1989, and was inscribed in the patrimony of Unesco in 2003. And the theory called "substitution of flint" is one of the only two theories held today to explain the formation of this forest!
New elements of the dossier of the "Valtorta enigma"!
Investigation in Phoenicia
Maria Valtorta in her Work, several times mentions Alexandroscene, an ancient city very little known in our day. She gives precise and detailed descriptions of its position.
"And the marsh continues through the plain, which is more and more hemmed in by the hills advancing toward the shore, so much so that after another stream with its indispensable Roman bridge, the road in the plain becomes a road in the mountains, forking at the bridge with another one less steep which stretches toward the northeast through a valley, while this other [road], chosen by Jesus, according to the indication of the Roman road sign: Alexandroscene-m. V°, is a true and proper stairs in the rocky and steep mountain that plunges its sharp snout into the Mediterranean which spreads out into view little by little as the mountain rises. Only pedestrians and donkeys pass through that way, or that "stairway", to call it better..." (one can read what follows in 328.1/3 and other details in 330.98 and in 474.8).
All these descriptions are perfectly exact and verifiable today.
Here is how this region was described in 2007 by a tourist guide of Tyre: "Between two promontories of the Phoenician coast—Ras el Bayada and Ras en Naqurah—are found the ruins of a substantial city without a history, except that Alexander the Great dwelt there after the capture of Tyre. In his honor, a city was constructed and was called Alexandroscene." A perfect coincidence with Maria Valtorta!
This city existed at the time of Jesus, since the Pilgrim of Bordeaux, in 333, mentions that he made a stop there. But in the 19th century nothing remained but some stone.
A simple photograph of roch
Hanikra justifies this other description
[by Valtorta]: "The village is reached. A little cluster of
houses of fishermen set behind a spur of a mountain which goes toward the
sea" [3l8.5]; and: "Jesus, looking as
He does in different directions,
thus sees an undulating chain of mountains which, at the extreme northwest
and southwest, plunges its last layer into the sea: to the
southwest with Carmel...to the northwest with a cape sharp as the spur of
a ship, very similar to our Apuane Alps with
their rocky veins whitening in the sun" [325.1].
Valtorta has described perfectly, in 1945, the Israeli-Lebanese coast, just like an ancient forgotten city, showing up only on some rare ancient document and known at present to a few specialists! The Valtorta enigma continues...
Crocodiles in Judea?
In her Work Maria Valtorta on many occasions names, with much accuracy and coherence, the fauna and flora of Palestine. But the reader could be surprised when the group of the apostles, coming from Sicaminon [near today's Haifa] and approaching Caesarea, sees some small lizards. Space here does not permit us to report fragments of that savory dialog stirred up by the presence of those little but voracious crocodiles, compared to "large lizards". We refer the reader back to chapter 254 of the Work.
The presence of crocodiles in the plain of Saron is certainly amazing and could seem anachronistic. But Pliny, in his Natural History, recalls in this place the Crocodile river, and the geographer Stradone speaks of the ruins of a city called Krokodeilon polis (which the archeologist R. Stieglitz brought to light in 1999).
The existence of these little crocodiles was confirmed by many pilgrims in the course of the centuries. We point out Jacques de Vitry (1230), R. Pockocke (1760), or Joseph Fr. Michaud who confirms in 1831: "these crocodiles are of the smallest kind." Later Victor Guérin in 1883 specifies: "there are some little crocodiles in this modest river, and one should bathe [there] with precaution...they were small, about 5 or 6 feet long; ...some crocodiles might have been transported at one time from Egypt to Palestine."
The shore and the bridge described by Valtorta [254.2] also exist. The shore is called the Nahr ez Zerqa, and in Lands of the Bible 1881, McGarvey notes the remains of an ancient bridge l.5 kms. [.95 miles] from the mouth of this river....
With her writings, Valtorta, in revealing a little known historic curiosity, reinforces her credibility.... Is it a simple and clever inspiration of the author?
Other "Forgotten" Places
The citation or description of numerous places of Palestine, known in 1944 only by some rare scholar, was one of the surprises of the eminent specialist, Father Francis Paul Dreyfus. Here are some data:
Jotopata [315.1], present day Tel Yodefat, is perfectly located and described by Valtorta, while the place has been rediscovered by archeologists only in the years 1992-1994.
Magdalgad, a little village on a small hill [220.1], is mentioned only one time in the Bible (Josh. 15:37). In Valtorta's time its location was still controversial. Identified now with the modern Al-Majdal, at about 4.8 kms. [3 miles] to the northeast of Ascalona (in perfect conformity with Valtorta's description), the place is today enclosed in the suburb of Ascalona.
Lesendam. Laishem Dan, the city of Laish, appears under this name only one time in the Bible (Josh. 19:47). Valtorta recalls Jesus' passing in its vicinity [330.5 and 331.8]. Yet the rediscovery of the ancient city of Tel Dan (Tell el-Qadi), the present name of the ancient Laish, did not take place until 1966, thanks to the Israeli excavations.
Rohob [Bethrehob]. Ancient capital of the Aramaic kingdom, the city was hostile to David. The Bible (Judg. 18:28) locates it in the region of Laish, but the exact position remains unknown still today. Some conjecture that it would be the present Hunin at about 10 kms. [6.25 miles] to the west of Banias, which corrresponds well to Valtorta's mention through the mouth of a shepherd [330.5]: "I pasture between Rohob and Lesemdan, just on the road which is by the border between here and Naphtali."
Doco. Here is a city totally vanished and forgotten today. And yet Valtorta mentions it 15 times in her Work as a passage or meeting-place for whoever passes along the Jordan from north to south, through Judea from Bethel to Jericho, or goes toward the Decapolis coming from Jerusalem. Without doubt it is Aïm Duk, situated at the northeast foot of Jebel Karantal. In the time of Jesus, there was a fortress there called Docus by the Romans. It was there that Simon Maccabeus was invited to a banquet by Ptolemy, the High Priest's son-in-law, and was slain there in 135 B.C. (1 Macc 16:11-17).
Ramot. Ramoth in Gilead or Ramoth Gileat was, with Betser and Golan, one of three cities of refuge of Transjordania given to the Levites. Mentioned numerous times in the Bible, the exact location of this city has always been debated. Three principal sites have been proposed: Tell er-Rumeith which was excavated in 1960 and includes traces of the Iron Age. Nonetheless, some think that the site was too small to correspond to the biblical description. Tell el-Husn is another possibility, but a Muslim cemetery placed above it hinders any excavation. The third candidate is Ar-Ramtha, but there too, the modern city that has risen above it renders excavations impossible. In Valtorta's Work, Jesus, coming with his [companions] from Jericho and approaching Gerasa, stops at Ramoth. A merchant who accompanies them says to Mary: "See that village, O Woman? It is Ramoth. We will stop there..." [286.2]. With her description and manuscript sketch [287.1], Valtorta locates Ramoth in the place of the present Es Salt, exactly half-way between Jericho and Gerasa, cutting this distance into two long stops of 33 kms. [21 miles] each. And it is still more remarkable when one discovers that Es Salt is recognized today by archeologists as the most probable place of Ramoth!
It would certainly be possible to multiply such examples, but the "surprising" subjects in this Work are still so many that we need to stop. We note only that Maria Valtorta mentions, with their names, more than 300 localities, mountains, rivers, regions and other geographical data, and places them exactly, which is already remarkable. A complete analysis will require a voluminous work.
I only want to call attention again to a still more unexpected fact. A more profound study of the text of Valtorta's Work permits us to identify numerous other places without a history and of which Valtorta does not even know the name. These places, unknown in biblical encyclopedias through the simple fact of their anonymity, cannot appear therefore in research based on a simple indexing of the text. Now the descriptions of these anonymous places absolutely reveal themselves exactly every time our present knowledge permits us to identify them, whether it is a question of water courses, or Roman roads, or mountains, or more humble foothills, or more modest villages. Often, when Valtorta experiences these difficulties in finding the words to describe what she "sees," she adds a sketch in her manuscript. Such drawings, although technically very clumsy, are still precious for perfecting certain descriptions.
Maria Valtorta even reached a degree of precision and exactness such as I have personally never found in the numerous authors recounting their travels in the Holy Land, and consulted by me during this study. I could furnish many examples of these, but due to space limitations, I can give only one of them.
In the Spring of His second year [of public life], Jesus goes with His own on a pilgrimage to the Temple for the examination of Marziam's9 majority,10 and for the feast of the Pasch. They approach Bethel, coming from Sichem, "...a new, very steep climb ... On reaching the top, there in the distance shines, already clearly, a bright sea suspended above a white mass...perhaps houses... " [194.2]. Jesus then says to Marziam: "You see that golden point? It is the House of the Lord. There you will swear to obey the Law." Knowing that they are 25 km. [15.5 miles] from Jerusalem, this observation of Jesus could surprise us.
Now, according to accounts of pilgrims of passed centuries, Jerusalem (and therefore the Temple) was visible from a great distance for whoever came from the north. But the testimony of Léonie de Bazelaire (Chevauchée en Palestine, 1899, p.93), leaves no room for doubt. In fact, coming from Nablus, he says Jerusalem rises up like "a whitish mass in the distance" from a little hill which precedes Bethel, in exact conformity with the indication given us by Valtorta.
The examples, which could be multiplied, permit us to understand what Jesus said to Maria Valtorta: "Some days ago you said that you die with your desire unsatisfied of seeing the Holy Places. You do see them, and as they were when I sanctified them with My Presence. Now, after twenty centuries of profanation resulting from hatred or from love, they are no longer as they were. Therefore think that you do see them, and whoever goes to Palestine does not see them (I quaderni del 1944, 3 March).
The attentive reader will have noticed that the descriptions are very minute in the first volumes and more restrained in the last volumes, in conformity with the words of Jesus to the writer [297.5]: "I authorize you to omit the descriptions of places. We have given so much for curious researchers. And there will always be 'curious researchers'. Nothing more. Enough now. Your strength escapes you. Conserve it for the word. With the same mind with which I verified the uselessness of so many of My toils, I verify the uselessness of so many of your toils, [Maria]. Therefore I say to you: keep yourself only for the word."
There is no doubt that the Work of Maria Valtorta can even be the source of new archeological discoveries, when specialists in this sphere have become more fully aware of the relevance and riches of her descriptions.
— NOTES —
1- The Work...—When captalized, "Work" in this article refers primarily to Valtorta's masterwork of her recorded revelations: The Poem of the Man-God [newer editions are now entitled: L'Evangelo come mi è stato rivelato: (The Gospel as it was revealed to me)]. But probably also her other recorded revelations, e.g., in her Notebooks...[1943-1950].
2- Someone... This is doubtless the scripture scholar, Gabriel Allegra, OFM. [See: http://www.bardstown.com/~brchrys/Gablegra/Allegra1.htm]
3- Jean-François Lavère, an engineer by profession, is a French reader of Valtorta, as Pisani states above. Endowed with a vast culture, he has meticulously studied Valtorta's Work for 25 years.
4- ...this Life of Jesus...—an alternate title the author uses to characterize Valtorta's The Poem of the Man-God.
5- The numbers within brackets refer to paragraph numbers in the latest Italian edition (2007) of The Poem..., now entitled L'Evangelo come mi è stato rivelato (The Gospel as it was revealed to me).
6- ...Hatzor —(Or Hazor)-See Josh. 11.
7- "...Horn of Hattin"—One of the places traditionally believed to be the site of the Sermon on the Mountain.
8- Cheops (also called Khufu ) was a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom. He reigned from around 2589 to 2566 B.C. Khufu (Cheops) was the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty. He is generally accepted as being the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
9- Marziam —formerly named "Jabe", was a young boy who lived a very difficult and hidden life with his grandfather. Marziam was entrusted by His grandfather to Jesus and the Apostles for his care and formation. Jesus later changed his name to Marzial. Peter desired to adopt the young lad, but Jesus would not allow him to do so. In Butler's Lives of the Saints [June 30], there is a St. Martial, bishop of Limoges (ca 260+), who could feasibly be this Marizal/Marziam, and who legend says accompanied Peter in some of his Apostolic journeys.
Majority—Or "Bar Mitzvah": the "coming of age" around 12 or
13, of any young Jewish boy when, after an examination by the Temple
doctors, he is declared responsible as an adult for the observance and
infractions of the Law [Torah]. Bar Mitzvah literally,
"son of commandment." The word "bar" means "son" in Aramaic, which
was the commonly spoken vernacular language of the Jewish people in Jesus'
time. The word "mitzvah" is Hebrew for "commandment." The term "Bar
Mitzvah" refers to two things: