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How Can We Know?
The following email exchange is discussing claims about the Bible and Jesus often heard in the New Age Movement. The e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.
>Subject: How can we know?
I read a book called The Hidden Gospel, by Neil Douglas-Klotz. In his view the meaning extrapolated from the Aramaic, SP, was far more mystical than the KJV. I read a post by another one of your subscribers and your subsequent answer. It seems the translation upon translation diminishes the original intended message. Can we say, safely, that we may never really know what language Jesus used? It seems to me that he used Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin, or so scholars would have you believe.
Secondly, can we ever truly get to the bottom of what Jesus was saying? If these different translations render different meanings then how can we be sure of what he really said and meant?
Is it just that, as with all philosophies, that there will always be a winnowing effect? Dependent on the moral climate of the time and who is in control of the information?
I encountered the same thing when I studied the Qu'ran. I was brought up as a Catholic, but have felt uneasy about the "missing holes". Why was the mysticism left out?
Sorry to ask so many questions in one email, the answers to which could quite possibly fill a book in their own right.
The New Testament was originally written in Greek. It is to those texts that Christians base their doctrines and beliefs on. The Gospels were written by apostles, who knew Jesus personally (Matthew and John), or by those who attained their information from the apostles and other eye-witnesses (Mark and Luke). And these apostles spent much time with Jesus. So even if He was speaking a different language than Greek, they had spent enough time with Him to know what His intended meanings were and to translate that correctly into English. Christians also believe that God was "inspiring" their writings, so that insured an accurate record as well. It's when we again translate their Greek into another language that discrepancies can enter in.
But that is why I translated my Analytical-Literal Translation to give as literal of a translation as possible of the Greek text so there is as little chance as possible of not correctly rendering the original intended meaning. I do give paraphrases of difficult phrases and other helps in the text, but these are clearly bracketed so as to be offset from what is a literal translation of the Greek text. And there are other literal translations available as well. And ultimately, learning Greek would enable one to bypass all translations.
So the problem of finding the original intended meaning is not insurmountable.
Is it written in ancient Greek? Or if I learn modern Greek is it still accessible?
I've ordered your book Gary, to learn more. I am learning so much right now. Just in the middle of a book by John O'Donohue, called Anam Cara. It means soul friend in the Irish language. I spoke to a priest recently and he told me that friendship was the true face of God. He draws on the mystical and the Celtic relationship with God and nature. I find myself needing to read more and more.
What do you think about the research that's been done to suggest that Jesus spent time in India? Or that he studied Buddhism? Yogis in the 60's said that a lot of what he did occurs in Yoga. Either way, I am amazed by what I read about Jesus. I thought for many years that I wanted to be a priest, after a religious experience when I was 13. This feeling was like an echo keeps coming back in dreams. I'm now a musician and I realize that I can help people through this medium. The heart vibration, speaking to another heart.
I look forward to reading your book, to get deeper inside the word. I feel that there is so much more to what Jesus was saying, that I think most people don't get. The mystical side of his nature and his message. Have you read Thomas Merton or Meister Ekhardt? What do you think about the gospels that were omitted, like Thomas'?
Thank you for your email,
Thank you for your email. The NT was written in Hellenistic Greek. There are considerable differences between it and modern-day Greek. There are also considerable differences between Hellenistic Greek and Classical Greek. So to be able to read the Greek NT, you need to study Hellenistic (NT) Greek. Generally, the only place to do so would be in a seminary.
Merton and Ekhardt were mystics. I have not read very much of their writings, but I do know that mystics in general discount the intellect and the importance of doctrine. As such, I am not too thrilled with such writings. See my article on Madam Guyon for further details in this regard.
In regards to Jesus visiting India, this is a theory that has been put forth from time to time, but there really is no evidence for it. Most of the so-called evidence that has been put forth, when investigated, has been proven to have been fabricated. The following are two books I have in my library that address these issues.
Rhodes, Ron. The Counterfeit Christ of the New Age Movement.
Groothius, Douglas. Revealing the New Age Jesus.
These books are both old (copyright 1990), but the same and other Christian authors have written more recent books that also address this topic.
As for The Gospel of Thomas and other such "Gospels," they were not included in the canon of Scripture because they did not meet the requirements that were set forth, such as having been written by an Apostle or an associate of an Apostle. The Gospel of Thomas comes from the second century. As such, it could not have been written by the Apostle Thomas. Books like the above also address such Gnostic Gospels.
Moreover, if you actually read these “gospels” you will find many outrageous statements, like the last verse of The Gospel of Thomas where "Jesus" says that a woman must become a man in order to be saved!
The text reads:
Simon Peter said to them, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life." Jesus said, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven" (Robinson, James M., editor, The Nag Hammadi Library. Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1988).
Note: During the time I was working on this newsletter, I “just happened” to watch an episode of the TV show Ancient Secrets of the Bible titled, “Jesus’ Travels: Did Jesus Journey Beyond the Holy Land?” (TBN, 7/28/08).
The show addressed the theory about Jesus traveling to India. The whole story comes from the early 1900s when a Russian reporter supposedly visited a monastery in Tibet. It contained a scroll describing the visit of “the holy man Issa” (the Tibetan name for Jesus). The Russian then published a book about this supposed scroll.
But the book was soundly criticized by the western media. And when American reporters visited that monetary, the “Great Llama” of it knew nothing about any such scroll. And when he was read portions of the book, he cried, “Lies, Lies, all Lies!” But despite this, the book was republished in 1929, and so this tale continues to be told to this day, despite the complete lack of verifiable evidence.
The show discussed other such theories about what Jesus was doing between the ages of 12 and 30 (the so called “silent” or “lost” years of Jesus). But the one that made the most sense to me was concerning a building project of Herod Antipas IV that was occurring in Sesoria (or possibly Sepphoris, also known as Zippori) during this time period. Herod employed 10,000 craftsmen from the surrounding areas.
Sesoria was only a 45 minute walk from Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. So it is possible that Jesus and His father Joseph were employed in this endeavor. This would fit with Jesus being called “the Son of the craftsman” (or carpenter; Matt 13:55) and “the craftsman” (Mark 6:3).
It would also fit with Luke telling us, “And Jesus kept advancing in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and people” (2:52). Being involved in such a renowned building project, and assuming He was skilled at His trade, would give Jesus “favor with people.” And Sesoria was a very “cosmopolitan” city, with many inhabitants and travelers from different areas and religions. So Jesus would have acquired “wisdom” from being exposed to such a diverse group of people.
Of course, this is all just conjecture. But it fits with the Scriptural and historical details better than any myths about Jesus traveling to India.
Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light
The above email exchange was first published in the
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It was posted on this site August 1, 2008.
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