Monday 9 April 2018

Reading the fourth gospel in the way it was meant to be read

As I have mentioned several times, I am engaged on an intense, poetic reading of the fourth Gospel ('John's) in which I read with the assumptions that this is the primary and most valid communication concerning Jesus.

Why? Because the author of this gospel is the beloved disciple who is Lazarus (-raised), who is the brother of Mary of Bethany, who is the same person as Mary Magdalene, who is the wife of Jesus (them having married initially in a normal Jewish way in Cana, and then in some heavenly and eternal fashion in Bethany: the episode of the spikenard ointment).

The author of the Fourth Gospel was therefore Jesus's best friend, an ex-disciple of John the Baptist (who had an essential role in the ministry of Jesus), Jesus's brother-in-law on earth and eternally, and himself an eternal being - the first resurrected Man.

The primary validity of such a 'source' is self-evident. 

My assumption is that at the time of writing of the fourth gospel, its readers will all have known the identity of the author, his nature, and his close and unique relationship with Jesus. This is therefore taken for granted in the text; and the text makes perfect sense in light of such knowledge.

This is certainly not an arcane, secret, occult, or gnostic interpretation of the fourth gospel! Quite the opposite. The fourth gospel was and is perfectly clear, its message was and is on the surface and not hidden between the lines. Its message is available to all and not restricted to the 'initiated'.

The fourth gospel is simply the story of Jesus written by such a man as Lazarus was known to be, as clear as possible given the nature of the material, and in the 'poetic' way that such matters were written - at that time and and in that place.

By 'poetic' reading, I mean that I am reading in a manner that empathises with the consciousness of the author and era, and therefore regards the language as poetry not prose.

Naturally, I am reading and re-reading the 'King James'/ Authorised translation of the gospel; as being the only divinely-inspired English version. And the KJB is poetic - indeed it is one of he greatest works of literature in its language, or any language.

Since poetic language (like all ancient language) is poetic, it cannot be translated word-by-word, nor concept-by-concept. Ancient languages meant many things at once in ways that are now impossible to express, except by more poetry (and poetry is currently extinct, or all-but). The nearest - which is not very near - is a list of semi-synonyms based on etymology; from-which a jump of sympathy, empathy, identification may be helped.

Furthermore, my understanding is that because the fourth gospel is by far the most valid and important part of the Bible - to understand Jesus and his work and message I need initially to understand it from the fourth gospel alone - without the endless-distractions and misleading tendencies of attempting to triangulate other and less valid New and Old Testament sources.

In other words, if I can attain clarity of the correct issues from the fourth gospel, regarded as valid; then this understand may then be applied to the other parts of the Bible (and indeed other sources).

Note: The method of the fourth gospel seems to be in working through great sweeps of text which clarify; by approaching a question or point from many 'angles', and aiming to remove ambiguities or incomprehension. It seems necessary to read, therefore, at sufficient length to notice these convergences.  It is proving to be an astonishingly rich experience, yielding wave after wave of clarification and insight.

Most important is the essence of what Jesus offers - that he variously calls by terms such as the word meaning 'thought', making, creation, life, light... So that Life is the key word/ concept; and everlasting life is the main thing that Jesus brings or offers.

Everlasting life (and light) is everlasting creativity, generation - it is thus more like biology (with  development and growth); than it is like physics. Therefore, what Jesus offers us is something 'in' time; it is active, dynamic, changing as living entities - it is not a blueprint for some final static state.

And he offers this on the basis that we 'believe' him - that is we trust him, have faith and confidence in him, love and esteem him, ally with him - and in doing so we ally with the primary creator who is Jesus's Father, with whom Jesus is in complete accord and whose mission he is fulfilling.

It really does seem that simple (and that complex): Jesus offers everlasting life (which is a situation arrived at via death and by bodily resurrection) by-means-of our attitude to the person of Jesus.

Simple, but...

There are many passages in which, by his attitude and teachings, Jesus is clear that many or most people will-not-want-to-take-up his offer of everlasting life - for various reasons.

It seems that it is a mistake to try and persuade people that they want everlasting life.

Jesus works by trying to make clear the situation, and the nature of what he offers, what he brings; he explains things in several ways - with parables, and sayings, with miracles, and with analogies. Sometimes Jesus answers direct questions - but often there comes a point when he refuses to say any more to people; when he realises that they understand and know but reject his gift.

In effect: You asked me, I told you. You will Not accept my answer, yet you ask me again! I am not going to repeat myself. You ask for evidence, I give you evidence. You will not accept the evidence yet you ask for more evidence!

My distinct impression is that Jesus did not expect his offer to be taken-up by everybody; he anticipated that everlasting life would be rejected by many people.

'Belief' in Jesus is clearly something conceptually simple (albeit that concepts such as belief were then far more complex/ multi-valent/ symbolic than they are now) and potentially instantaneous.

But this was when Jesus was physically present on earth in his mortal, or resurrected, life - and therefore his 'influence' was spatially limited.

Jesus explains to his disciples that this limitation will be overcome after he ascends to his Father, when he will send the Holy Ghost or Comforter - who will be an improvement on the physical presence of Jesus.

We moderns find this hard to believe, but Jesus was quite definite: it is better to have the Holy Ghost than the physical presence of Jesus. Because the Holy Ghost provides what Jesus did - but universally and from within each person.

Jesus makes clear that the Holy Ghost is in fact himself - the Holy Ghost is our direct and personal contact and communication with the ascended Jesus; that, without any other source, potentially provides every person with knowledge and guidance sufficient for eternal life.

Sometimes Jesus is talking to and about the disciples as a specific group - it was clearly of great importance that the disciples be a coherent and loving group after Jesus had ascended; at other times he seems to be to be referring to everybody alive and hereafter...

But, rather than the work of the disciples and their descendants; I think the fourth gospel is telling us that the core 'method' of Christianity is the direct contact with Jesus himself, in his universal form as the Holy Ghost/ Comforter.

Much more can, and I hope will, be said on these matters.


John Fitzgerald said...

Welcome back Bruce. This is excellent.

Bruce Charlton said...

@John - Thank you.

William Wildblood said...

It seems that Jesus was saying as long as I am here physically you will not be able to know me within yourselves. Only when I am gone can the Holy Ghost appear to you and enlighten you from within. I wonder if we can extend this to modern times and say that attachment to any outer church could impede the growth of a true personal spiritual awareness.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - Jesus's explanation seems much more 'literal' than that, and more general than that - about *sending* the Holy Ghost. It seems to me that while Jesus is present on earth, the Holy Ghost *cannot* be present - a reciprocity.

I think this is being emphasised in John 7:39:

37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Chiu ChunLing said...

"He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

"And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

"And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."