Recently I shared with you a project I undertook as the result of a realization I had during the course of my early awakening related to early Christian texts and how it was that I saw a big elephant in the room that had managed not to make its way to the canonical Gospels. 

My first big question as I made this realization was “why?” The answer has pulled in a number of reasons, not just one, which is one reason why I have been moved to undertake this project. It is a fascinating story, and it helps to bring early Christian thought back to where it needs to be, in my estimation, which is a complete system not only for being, but for becoming more than we thought possible. 

The first, and perhaps most important layer or impediment to deeper realization of what Christ was teaching is the barrier of language and culture. The original teachings were conveyed in Aramaic while the Gospels that we now know were written in Greek. To understand how different the languages are, it helps to study both, which I am doing. The problem as it exists is that Aramaic is a language that is highly contextual and it does not have all the same words that Greek has. Greek, on the other hand is less context driven and is more precise in some ways, but it’s precision comes at a cost when translating the Aramaic Jesus spoke. 

To understand what I mean, I will provide you with an example. Greek often will identify concepts in great detail, resulting in a sense, for example, that the heart, mind, soul, higher self, and heaven, are separate things. In Aramaic, the sense of division is not so precise and since that is so, how ideas are conveyed are done so in a different way. Instead of the kingdom being in you, the term also means that it is among you, a delineation that it does not create while the Greek can, or does. Further, the concept of God in Greek is a masculine usage while the Aramaic includes aspects of both male and female. You might wonder how this impacts our understanding of the Greek compared to how we might understand the Aramaic. The answer is “plenty.”

In the Greek we have Jesus saying, “I am one with the father.” However, in early documents such as the Nag Hammadi, he is clearly referring to a masculine AND feminine deity when he says “father and mother.” 
While these are strange ideas to most within Christianity, when tracing the message back before the Greek into Aramaic, the use of the feminine in Aramaic actually is consistent with a deity as described originally.

Maybe you are wondering what difference any of this makes. Regardless of the tradition, anyone, and I mean EVERYONE who seeks to describe something that is part of the “higher” realms in spirit, the way that it is done is never to describe it directly. Take your pick: Jesus, Buddha, or anyone else. It has to be described by way of metaphor or parable because there really is no frame of reference except our experience here in the physical. The problem is that all of these weighty things are not physical, so how do we even explain them?

What I mean is that nothing is completely literal in anyone’s descriptions. When Jesus describes the kingdom, there is one word he always uses which is the key to what I mean here. Do you know what this word is? It’s in every parable. This word is “like.” He says, “The kingdom is like….” He doesn’t say that the kingdom is a mustard seed, or a treasure buried in a field. He does this because there is no way to use physical words to describe a nonphysical and multidimensional experience. The same is true for anyone trying to describe spiritual experience. Why any of this matters is that when you change the meaning of a word, you can change the meaning and thus the understanding of important aspects of the teachings as told originally. In many ways the teaching is already handicapped by virtue of its inability to adequately describe what’s in the next world. All of this goes over people’s heads as they envision angels with trumpets perched on fluffy white clouds in a heaven that must certainly be up in the sky.  The kingdom comes, but it comes within and among you. Now think about how the people of the time were expecting a leader to come that would be the king of the Jews. They thought it was coming as a material thing, but Jesus was describing an inner event. 

To help to explain this issue with language a little more it’s good to know more about the language as used. Did you know that Jesus didn’t use the term “hell” in the Bible? “Preposterous! It plainly says so in the Bible!” my friends have said when we discuss this issue. Actually, it says hell in the Bible, but in the koine Greek, he uses the word Gahena. Gahena was a place just outside the city walls and was home to a trash heap. Instead of a place in the afterlife, he was describing something that exists here and now. This Gahena people find themselves in has important ramifications for the teaching, which is that hell is here and now. This Gahena is spiritual poverty of a sort that is right here and right now. If you took the “hell” of the Bible, I bet you were thinking of a place you go when you die if you were bad enough.

To understand how words, even just a few, can change the meaning of a passage in the Bible,  let’s look at a passage in Luke where Jesus is, we assume, talking to Peter after the crucifixion. In the passage, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. In fact, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. Now most Christians explain the purpose of Jesus repeating himself as a reminder to Peter of how he denied knowing Jesus three times when the Romans came for him. 

Except that isn’t what happened at all.

In the Greek Jesus asks Peter if he loves him using three different words for love, all with very different implications. He asks Peter if he loves him “agape” which is divine love. He also uses the term for familial or brotherly love. Lastly, he uses the word “eros.” In each case, Peter answers in the affirmative. Here Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him erotically, like a lover. The breadth of this love is no small love and this is no ordinary person, this Jesus. Normally, we just shrink back in either shame, denial, or disgust, but this passage demands to be understood if we are ever to know the love that is the Christ. Without that understanding, we don’t get the depth of the man nor his teachings. Without this understanding, we are left unable to reach what the Christ is. We fall instead for “Jesus Light” instead of “Jesus the deep.” As my friends would say, we were handed these books by the early church and surely it is the unerring word of God, so there’s nothing more to learn. The truth is, this isn’t true. Hard as it may be to admit to, recent discoveries have led scholars to a radical rethinking of Christology and what was and wasn’t told.

In 1945 the Nag Hammadi codices were discovered, which once translated, represented a radical rethinking of Christianity. Linguist studies have shown that what Orthodoxy called heresy was in fact the earliest teachings, not the Orthodox ones. This of course is scandalous, but points to orthodoxy as an offshoot or interpretation of the original teachings. It also helps to explain why, upon reading these codices, I found that the words written spoke perfectly of my own experience in my awakening. I am not a scholar of the Bible, but an expert in this area is and he claims the codices are describing awakening, or, as the Hindus call it; kundalini. No slouch these texts; they take you right to the garden gate, pulls out the key, and bids you enter. The difference is the cannon doesn’t do that at all. It’s inspiring, but it doesn’t show you what awakening is, which these books do. 
It was this contrast between the books as translated along with my own discovery of the Nag Hammadi that set me on the journey to understanding why a “heresy” just so happened to be describing my deep mystic union with God-dess  perfectly, and poetically. It wasn’t just a matter of style, it was content too.

For these reasons, words are important if we are to hope to capture the depths of what Jesus was teaching. Perhaps more fundamentally, the language used is incredibly important if we are to hope to capture the range of subtlety that is present in these teachings, which gets lost or mangled once we are presented with the translations into Greek.

There is much more to all of this, and in time I will be getting through it. I will show that the Jesus of the Orthodox tradition was stripped of important teachings that would have given new weight and expanded meaning to the reality in which this man dwelled. Now, more than at any time in history, we have more evidence and many more resources than we have ever had.  The result is that there is more to know, and these will be like keys to a gate that we have all been longingly looking at but not fully understanding the implications of. We were meant to open the lock!
Until then, the work continues.