Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I have begun reading “The Hidden Gospel,” by Neil Douglas-Klotz. Klotz is a scholar of religious studies and psychology and a spiritual practitioner. One of his interests is probing into the Aramaic Jesus. Jesus was a first century Aramaic speaking Jew from the Middle East, specifically that part that has come to be known as the Holy Land.

Jesus had the mind set and mental processing formed by his Jewish heritage, shaped by the Aramaic language he spoke. Each person’s perspective of the world and the way he sees it is greatly affected by the language he speaks: its vocabulary; its grammar; perhaps, even the sounds themselves. A native Greek speaker in the period in which Jesus lived would perceive reality and formulate it differently than a person born an Aramaic speaker. (Jesus probably knew enough Hebrew to read the scriptures although there is some doubt he was able to read.)

When the words and thoughts of Jesus conceived in Aramaic were translated into Greek---this transposition was a radical one from the intuitional, earth based Aramaic to the intellectual, conceptualizing Greek.

The subtitle of this book is “Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus”.

Klotz uses the Peshita, the Bible of the Eastern Christians which is written in Western Aramaic sometimes known as the Syriac. Even this Bible probably in most cases does not contain the actual Aramaic words of Jesus -- but if there is a more or less unbroken line between the time of Jesus and the Peshita -- the Peshita should have a closer content and feeling to the original words of Jesus than the Greek Bible.

Moving the gospels from the Aramaic world of the first century to the Greek world was about as radical a move as would be possible.

During the first two centuries after Jesus’ death there were many more groups in the Jesus movement than Christian churches and denominations today. Call them Christian Jews or Jewish Christians but there was not a single group among the many that could be labeled “orthodox”. And for the first three centuries there hundreds of “gospels” used by these numerous and varied gatherings of believers.

At first there was just the oral tradition --- the memory of what Jesus said and did. Earlier people seemed to be quite good at preserving their traditions through memory.
However, there were many “Christian” groups each with their traditions. Eventually, some of them began to be put their traditions in writing. This transmission involves selection of materials and the words to be transcribed. The end result is a loss of variety with no assurance that the most faithful or accurate memories were the ones ending up in written form.

Constantine a Roman Emperor converted to some variety of Christianity in the 4th
Century. He “...realized that a stable empire could not be built upon hundred of conflicting interpretations of who Jesus was. In 325 CE he ordered a council of bishops and theologians to gather at Nicaea (in what is now Turkey) to settle once and for all who Jesus was and what he said and did.”

Pressure was upon the various church leaders to come to an agreement acceptable to Constantine. If they did not, he might even rescind his decision to make Christianity the State Religion.

The prelates also drew up the Nicene Creed which uses the methodology and words of the Greeks and their philosophy to encapsulate what these clerics felt needed to be believed and assented to by all persons who wanted to be considered Christians. The Creed makes use of obscure language and concepts from the Greek to express its dogmas ---
for example, that Jesus was “...begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

The doctrine of The Trinity was announced despite many present, perhaps the majority, believing that God was One, a Unity -- a key belief in the Jewish tradition from which Christianity rose.

The author in this book is attempting to re-discover some of the spirit, world view and teachings of the original Jesus -- before he was dwarfed and submerged in the institutionalization of Christianity.