Jesus’ Goal: To Enable One to Become Wise
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The word, “gospel” means “good-news.” In the Gospel of Mark (1:14), we read: “Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel (good-news) of God. Matthew in his Gospel (4:23) explains that Jesus “went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel (good-news) of the kingdom. Luke in his Gospel (20:1) states that “he (Jesus) was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel (good-news).”
Mark tells us that Jesus preached the “good-news of God.” Matthew calls Jesus’ message and mission, “the good-news of the kingdom.” So, the good news involves establishing a “kingdom” that is God’s way of living. How does one follow that “way?”
Matthew, Mark and Luke never concisely answer those questions. Strangely, no one else, to my knowledge, knows the answers.
Some say that Jesus’ good-news can be found in Jesus’ statements such as, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3). However, there is no consensus about what the phrase “poor in spirit” means and how that could be connected to a “kingdom.”
Some say the Jesus intended to found a physical “kingdom,” others that he was teaching people to live an inner kind of “kingdom” life; however, no one seems to know exactly how to live it.
Some say that Jesus’ good-news was that we are saved when we believe:
- That Adam and Eve committed an “original sin” and that it is passed down to all of humankind spiritually,
- That Jesus was the son of God in a way that we are not,
- That Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross to free us from original sin,
- That he rose from the dead, and
- That he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
However, Jesus never said those things; the Apostle Paul was inspired to preach that interpretation of Jesus’ good-news 10 years after Jesus died.
Some say that we find Jesus’ good-news in the Nicene Creed that people recite at Christian services as the foundation of their faith. However, it can be argued that Jesus did not utter a single statement in that creed. In fact, Jesus never articulated a creed or preached that one is better in any way by believing in one.
Thus, billions of people in the past 20 centuries have thought that they understood Jesus and his mission to bring us into good-news. Further, most if not all Christians have endured hardship for their understanding of Jesus’ good-news. Yet, Christians have not only disagreed on the nature of Jesus’ message or for what they were suffering, most never questioned the difference between Paul’s and Jesus’ gospels.
The Apostle Paul’s Mission
Questions: Why did the Apostle Paul choose to never quote Jesus? How could he preach Jesus’ good-news without explaining his words? Why did Paul invent his own version of the “good-news” to substitute for that of Jesus? Why have Christian leaders including the great theologians St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, the Popes, Patriarchs and Presidents of Christian sects chosen to adopt Paul’s message rather than Jesus’? Indeed, we all might ask, “Would Jesus be a follower of Paul?”
After you finish this book, you will have information that will suggest why.
The Messiah’s Mission
The word “Christ” means “Messiah.” If Jesus were the Christ, his mission would be to:
- Bring oneness (fulfillment and joy) to each individual in any situation, and
- Bring oneness (peace) to the world.
Conclusion: Internal and external division is the “bad-news” that Jesus needed to address. (Various forms of the word “division” and “oneness” are frequently used throughout the Gospel of Thomas; thus, they are key to understanding the main theme).
Therefore, either Jesus was not the promised Messiah that would preach unifying “good-news,” or no one ever understood him, or people were so threatened by his solution that they altered it.
The often ignored Gospel of Thomas contains untapped insights
The Good-news as a Paradigm-shift
If Jesus articulated and lived good-news, it would be a paradigm-shift in how people divided within themselves and from others generally view and treat themselves and each other. Thus, his unifying “kingdom” would cross all boarders, psychologically, culturally, and geographically.
A paradigm-shift system of ideas constitutes a radical rethinking, and sometimes a radical reliving of the prevailing world-view. When someone presents a paradigm-shift notion, often he is greeted with mockery and his idea ridiculed. Those living the old world-view consider the new one as going against soundly established truths, and sometimes, common sense.
For example, Aristarchus of Samos (310 BCE – 230 BCE) was the first to advance a theory that the earth orbited the sun. That was a paradigm-shift notion that countered what people considered common sense—that the sun rotated around the earth.
For the next 2000 years, this radically different heliocentric system of ideas was discussed and rejected by many prominent philosophers, foremost among them were Aristotle and Ptolemy. In his treatise, Almagest, composed circa 150 CE; the latter argued philosophically and mathematically that the earth was the stationary center of the universe. Stars were embedded in a large outer sphere which rotated rapidly, approximately daily, while each of the planets, the sun, and the moon were embedded in their own, smaller spheres.
By the Middle Ages, such ideas took on a new power as the philosophy of Aristotle and Ptolemy and others was wedded to Medieval theology in the great synthesis of Christianity and reason undertaken by philosopher-theologians such as Thomas Aquinas. The Prime Mover of Aristotle's universe became the God of Christian theology. The outer sphere containing the sun and the stars became identified with the Christian Heaven with God controlling it.
Thus, the ideas largely originating with pagan Greek philosophers were baptized into the Christian church and eventually assumed the power of religious dogma: to challenge this view of the universe was not merely a scientific issue; it became a theological one as well, and subjected dissenters to the considerable and not always benevolent power of the Church.
Gradually, great minds such as Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo risked their reputation and lives to promote the paradigm-shift sun-at the center (heliocentric) world-view. It was not until after Isaac Newton formulated the universal law of gravitation and the laws of mechanics in his 1687 Principia was the heliocentric view generally accepted—2000 years after Aristarchus introduced it!
We resist paradigm-shift notions, because to accept them we need to give up what we know and embrace new assumptions and logic. That presents almost insurmountable obstacles for us, because the old world-view gives us meaning. It tells us how to view ourselves, others, God, good and evil, and how to overcome hardship and face death.
Therefore, in order to maintain the old world-view, we ignore and distort contrary evidence and make up blind beliefs that we call “evidence.” In short, in order to protect ourselves, we will choose to live in a dream.
Did Jesus introduce into the world a paradigm-shift system of ideas that would bring oneness both to each individual and to conflicting groups in the world? If he did, his followers did not embrace it. If not, he was not the Christ.
If Jesus offered a paradigm-shift system of ideas to bring oneness to individuals and to humankind, we would expect that he would have had few, if any followers. People would have tried to distort what he said to make it compatible with their Jewish/Roman/Greek culture, they would have ridiculed him, and they would have punished and even, killed him.
After he died, a charismatic leader who honored Jesus as the Messiah but who disagreed with Jesus’ good news might even have founded another religion that was called “Christianity.” That leader, of course, would never quote Jesus, because doing so would have revealed the good-news that would upset the order that gave him meaning. Instead, he would preach an alternative gospel. After 2000 years, we would expect that people belonging to that religion would be so accepting of its version of Jesus’ good news that they would not question whether he would endorse it.
Let us suppose that Jesus knew that that would happen; so before he died, he composed a book that would present fully his paradigm-shift world-view. We can expect that after he was murdered, that book would have been misunderstood, hidden, dismissed for many years, and certainly not included in the Bible when the leaders of Christianity compiled the New Testament about 300 years after Jesus died.
The Gospel of Thomas
In 1945, an ancient book was discovered buried in a huge jar in the upper Nile of Egypt. The first sentence states that Jesus was the author. The second one, that he dictated it to his disciple Thomas. On the last page, a scribe scribbled, “The Gospel of Thomas.” The book has since been dated to the first or second century. (Was that the original title given to it? Probably not. Early religious documents were usually not given titles).
The Gospel of Thomas is now, perhaps, the most intensively studied ancient Christian document. (A Chapter in this Book will describe in detail the discovery).
The Organization of Semitic Books
I have been studying the Gospel of Thomas full-time for over 15 years. Other researchers have been using traditional Biblical scholarship tools. Few seemed to have approached it as I have. Permit me to explain that.
Many think that the Books of the Bible were organized into Chapters and verses by their authors. That was not the case. That artificial organization was imposed on the Books for printing purposes in the 13th and 14th century's.
One needs to know the author’s true organization to interpret his meaning. Scholars have known for a long time that the Biblical Books contain organizational clues that we have not been able to fully decode. Some have called the rules that the ancient Semitic authors used, “Semitic Parallelism.” 1, 2
I was introduced to Semitic Parallelism by William Mountain, S. J. 40 years ago. At that time, scholars were only beginning to discover the ancient ways of composing and reading the text (actually, the Semitic audience primarily did not read the work, they listened to it orally; thus, the rules are for the ear primarily, not for our reading eyes).3 I became almost obsessed with learning how to decode the books of the Bible.
Over the years, I discovered that much of what Bill Mountain and others taught me was inadequate and sometimes, dead wrong; however, I kept up the search for the secrets to decoding the text. Over 40 years I discovered most of them.
For example, when most read the Bible, they read down columns of text, one after another. They try to understand a word or sentence by studying what came before and after it. Doing it that way tells one practically nothing and misleads.
Many Books of the Bible consist of poems, not straight text. Imagine that Poem One consists of 5 stanzas. Imagine that Poem Two through Five consists of 5 stanzas. So you are looking at a 5 X 5 matrix. Now, instead of reading down one column after another, imagine reading horizontally as you read vertically. What you will find is that the first stanzas in each poem are parallel, that is, that they explain each other. A metaphor in Poem One, Stanza One will not be explained by what came before or after it. It will be defined in the 4 parallel stanzas. In other words, we find the author’s internal dictionary by reading horizontally.
To read the Books of the Bible and the Gospel of Thomas that way, one needs to know where the poems and their stanzas break, what words go on each line within a stanza, where the chapters begin and end, and how to organize all of that into a meaningful whole Work. The Semitic Parallelism rules that I discovered tell us that.
This Author’s Journey
When I was introduced to the Gospel of Thomas in 1999, I read it differently than most. Over time, I discovered that it consisted of 133 poems, not 114 “sayings.” Further, I found that it was a coherently organized document, not a “collection” of sayings as others thought. Upon further investigation, I found that the book contains such an intricate organization that I concluded that only a single person could have composed it.
However, finding the organization was only half the problem. I also needed to use the organization to determine the meaning of each poem, each stanza, and each metaphor. Fortunately, I had the training to do that.
I was once a Jesuit and in that Catholic Order I received a marvelous Humanistic education. Because of that, I saw that many Books of the Bible, including the four New Testament Gospels are allegories, not historical or semi-historical documents. They consist of a type of Semitic poetry, which one cannot understand without following the Semitic Parallelism rules.
Also, as a Jesuit, I spent two years in intensive philosophical study. We did not use the “objective” philosophical approach, but the experiential, or more technically, a method called, “phenomenology.” I later discovered that that is the method employed by most of the Biblical authors, even the authors of Genesis.
After leaving the Order, I studied at the University of Florida under two brilliant phenomenological psychologists: Arthur Combs and Sidney Jourard. That training was perfect for understanding the Bible. Most of the Biblical authors including the author of the Gospel of Thomas were experiential therapists primarily, not theologians or historians. They did not separate personal growth from spiritual development.
The Gospel of Thomas, for example, contains a coherent method for understanding and addressing mental health. In it is a theory of personality, of motivation, and of how to become a whole, fulfilled person without living the roller coaster life of frustrations, anxiety, worries and regrets alternating with joyful highs that we call “normal.” However, to read it, one needs to be able to read poetry and allegories, understand the Semitic Parallelism rules that lead to decoding the meaning of the metaphors, and have a background in personal development. (I earned Ph.D. in Counseling from the University of Florida and I have taught therapists).
Volume One: This Book is the first of in Series explaining Jesus’ good-news. In it you will discover:
- In the Introduction, Jesus’ unknown, core insight that explains his understanding of the difference between “bad-news” and “good-news,”
- The hidden meaning of 53 of Jesus’ wisdom poems from the Gospel of Thomas,
- How and why the Apostle Paul probably replaced Jesus’ good-news with his own,
- How to evolve as fulfilled person, both spiritually and personally (Again, Jesus did not separate the two), and
- How Jesus’ good-news will save the world.
Volume Two: In it you will:
- Learn the Semitic Parallelism rules that I discovered for properly organizing and understanding Biblical Works,
- See how those rules apply to sections of Genesis and the Gospels of Mark, Luke and Thomas,
- Understand how Mark understood and presented Jesus’ good-news in an allegorical Gospel,
- Understand how Luke in his allegorical Gospel presented Paul’s and not Jesus’ good-news,
- See the overall coherent organization of the Gospel of Thomas, and
- Examine the evidence that Jesus composed the Gospel of Thomas.
I have drafted more books that will be published soon. In them I:
- Explore in detail the organization of each of Jesus’ Poems and apply that information to understanding their meaning,
- Present the true organization and meaning of the Garden of Eden Allegory, and
- Provide a guide to living Jesus’ Way of Wisdom, that is, how to leave “bad-news” and find a fulfilled life by living his “good-news.”
1 William Reuben Farmer, The Synoptic Problem: A Critical Analysis,
Mercer University Press, 1976, p. 253.