Restoration of the Original Teaching?
Continuing discoveries this century are shedding ever greater light onto one of the most opaque and mysterious periods in history, illuminating the man and message and 1st century cultural impact of Jesus. Given the recent discoveries of the "Dead Sea Scrolls", the "Gnostic Gospels" of Nag Hammadi, and now, apparently, even the long-sought "Gospel of the Nazirenes", far more has been discovered about the earliest days of Christianity in this century than in all the years previous. And what is becoming more and more clear from these discoveries is that the original message of Christ differed sharply from the official doctrines later adopted by the church.
Recently an Aramaic manuscript entitled "The Gospel of the Nazirenes" was translated and published. Said to be an ancient scripture forgotten for centuries in a Tibetan monastery, this work seems, in virtually every respect, identical to a work by the same title that was known and widely quoted from in the first centuries of the church. Many of the most revered early church fathers, as well as a surprising number of scholars today, have boldly declared that the legendary "Gospel of the Nazirenes" was nothing less than the long-lost ORIGINAL Gospel which, legend holds, was collectively written by the actual 12 apostles in the period immediately after Christ's death, and upon which all three of the Biblical synoptic Gospels were based.
If this recently published work indeed IS that original lost scripture, it would be a magnificent treasure of unequaled value, possessing incomparable relevance for the whole of Christianity. The manuscript claims in no uncertain terms to be that same ancient work composed by the 12 apostles, and, in fact, it makes an intriguing and compelling case for being just that.
And it supports DivisionTheory, the scientific Life-After-Death theology found in the Gnostic Gospels of Nag Hammadi in the 1940's.
For nearly 2,000 years, all we objectively knew of Jesus came to us primarily through the four Biblical Gospels. But for all that time, a great and enduring pall has hung over those lofty works. In the fourth century, the authorities of Rome decided just which of the countless books on Jesus in circulation at that time would make up the present-day Bible, deciding once and for all, in effect, which works were to be judged as genuine and authoritative and which were not. This decision, unfortunately, carried the undeniable taint of politics - and possible political compromise - the Bishops making these decisions were doing so at the direct command of the Roman Emperor, and their future financial and social well-being was, everyone agrees, entirely under his control. It has been whispered ever since the fourth century that much of the true message of Jesus was edited out at that time, due to the oppressive and theologically-obtuse influence of Constantine.
Many Christian scriptures that failed to be admitted into the Bible were then outlawed, collected, and destroyed.
Prior to 325 AD, however, many of the early Church fathers had included in their writings mention of an earlier Gospel, upon which, they claimed in near-perfect unison, the synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke had ALL been based. Mentioned or quoted from by such well-known church fathers as Papias, Hegesippus, Iranaeas, Clement, Origen, Basil, Epiphanius, Eusebius, and St. Jerome, this document had gone variously by the title "Gospel of the Nazirenes" (The word "Nazirene" comes from a "Nazirite-Essene" sect, or a Nazirite sect of the Essene branch of Judaism), "Gospel of the Hebrews", "Gospel of the Ebionites", and "The Aramaic Gospel of Matthew".
For nearly 2,000 years, historians considered this work to have been irrevocably lost, but in 1870 a forgotten copy was said to have been discovered hidden away in a Tibetan monastery, and was quickly translated from the original Aramaic, published this time as "The Gospel of the Holy Twelve". This work was, however, translated quite clumsily into very dusty old-style King James English, and at the time the work was not widely noticed or read. But now a new translation has arrived, published in 1997, edited and restored by Alan Wauters and Rick Van Wyhe.
This document certainly seems to be the same gospel referred to by so many ancient commentators. Although that ancient original scripture had indeed been lost, a number of its passages are still known, having been preserved when various church fathers quoted them in their own writings. Virtually all those quoted passages are found again here in "Nazirenes" in their entirety (as are also virtually the entire contents of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Numerous historical references thus seem to confirm the authenticity of the 1870 manuscript, and many modern scholars since 1870 have concluded as well that this work is, in all likelihood, the original source of much of the material that eventually found its way into the Biblical Gospels. If so, the Biblical Gospels would then be mere edited versions of this earlier, and therefore more authoritative work, just as many have argued over the centuries.
Far more than the Biblical Gospels, this work has the feel of having been written by actual witnesses to the events it describes. The detail is often both more natural and more explicit, and a great many theological, social, and political issues come out making a great deal more sense.
Often during the reading of this work, one feels that one is simply reading the Bible, for many passages are, indeed, virtually identical to that found in the canon. The familiar old stories are told again, and either the working is identical, or, when expanded upon or alternate wording is used, the stories come out making rather more sense than before, clearing up many questions left hanging in the authorized version. Never does it seem that the unfamiliar material is actually out- of-place, as if it had been pasted-in by editors after the fact. Rather, in virtually every instance the fresh material seems an integral component of the narrative, and, as one reflects anew upon the more familiar wording of the authorized Bible, the absence of this unfamiliar material seems now to stand out as a lacking:
And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends, for before they were at enmity between themselves." - Nazirenes 81:17
Nice detail. Its inclusion in the narrative doesn't seem necessary for any theological content or other long-term significance, but it is nonetheless precisely the sort of detail a group of 12 friends might see fit to include in their narrative. Similar details occur throughout the text. In the authorized Bible, for example, at Jesus' death it merely reports that the "veil of the Temple was ripped" by a powerful earthquake. But in what is seemingly the more original, and detail-rich work, "Nazirenes" elaborates convincingly:
Seemingly minor yet colorful and narratively enriching details like this run throughout this text, giving the compelling impression that this is indeed an original eyewitness narrative, not a bland, confused, or glossed-over retelling of a dusty tradition repeatedly handed down orally for 30 years of more before finally being committed to writing. Traditional scriptural teachings maintain that the mighty works recorded in the New Testament went unwritten for some 30 years or more before being put down in writing, but this seems to make no sense. At least some of the apostles were, reportedly, quite literate and learned men, and it seems likely, even prior to encountering a text such as this, that an already close-knit group of 12 learned friends would have quickly pooled and compared their memories in an effort to compose a definitive version of their recollections of the man, teachings, and works of Jesus, before anything of import could be forgotten.
And this text, now available for all to read, constitutes evidence that such a collective testimony not only WAS composed (just as reason suggests it would have been), but successfully survived the centuries after all, even in spite of whatever political forces that might at one time have been aligned against it.
It seems very much as if the authorized Gospels in the present-day Bible were all various edited versions of this "Gospel of the Nazirenes". Some material originating in "Nazirenes", it seems, even found its way into the Biblical books of Acts and Revelations.
In many ways, while reading it, the familiar age-old message of the Bible comes through as always; but then one is suddenly jolted upright, finding oneself reading startling passages that directly defend the very NON-Western tradition of reincarnation (along with equally unfamiliar tales of Jesus' studying various mysteries and wisdom traditions in India and Persia and Egypt, tales of His marriage and the subsequent death of His wife, and much more).
In many places, then, what is written in "Nazirenes" contrasts sharply with the familiar story and message in the authorized Bible. It teaches strict and uncompromising vegetarianism, describing how Jesus' anger at the Temple was not merely directed at the financial business going on there, but was specifically over the selling and slaughtering of sacrificial animals in the Temple, which was supposed to be a House of Prayer, but had been changed, he cried, into a slaughterhouse. The idea that Jesus might have felt outrage at seeing the cruel carnage of innocent creatures in the Holy Temple seems fully consistent with his character as we have collectively come to imagine Him, and this interesting variation of the "moneychangers" story in "Nazirenes" comes across as fully believable. In a word, it has the ring of truth to it.
"Nazirenes" claims that one of the biggest reasons Jesus was so adamantly condemned by the religious authorities of Israel was because he advocated an end to blood sacrifices at the Temple. To bring an end to these sacrifices, of course, would have completely undermined the financial livelihood of much of the Temple priesthood , and so they would have seen Jesus as embodying a personal threat of no little consequence. In effect, he went right for their wallets; an act more certain to elicit intense opposition from the Judaic priesthood could scarcely be imagined.
"Nazirenes" also claims, not that Jesus was the "Only Begotten Son", but, phrasing it quite differently, that he was the "First Begotten Son" of God. The small change in terminology entirely undermines the traditional church's position that Jesus was a Divine being who simply chose to become human; instead, this text now suggests, he was at least also, in some respects, a human who, through persistent effort and faithfulness to "The Law" (perhaps over many lifetimes), had become a Divine being, suggesting the very gnostic notion that anyone else might also attain the same accomplishment, which in turn reminds us all of some of His Biblical comments:
"He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do...." - John 14:12
In a most modern slant, "Nazirenes" directly advocates euthanasia, but only in cases of extreme suffering. Always and everywhere throughout the book, the image of Jesus is one utterly dedicated to gentleness and loving care for others. Many scenes involved Jesus rebuking someone for cruelly inflicting pain on others, whether people or animals.
I am delighted to report that this restored Gospel seems fully consistent with, and in many respects powerfully supports my own work, DivisionTheory, which maintains that the soul and spirit of ancient scripture are the unconscious and conscious of today's science, which split apart after death, each going on to an entirely separate afterlife experience. The unconscious soul, carrying one's memories and emotion, becomes trapped in a self-created heavenly or hellish dreamlike unconscious netherworld of its own creation, while the conscious spirit, carrying the intellect and free will, goes on to a new incarnation utterly oblivious to the fact that it had lived before.
My long-standing fear was that some early Christian text of this degree of apparent authenticity would eventually arise which would decisively EXCLUDE DivisionTheory from the teachings of Christ (in which case I would be forced to chuck the conclusions of 10 years of work, to which, I admit, I have more than a little ego attachment); but instead, such a work has now come to light which stands as even more powerful SUPPORT for concluding that DivisionTheory is indeed an accurate portrayal of those original teachings.
Like DivisionTheory, "Nazirenes" specifically teaches that man is a triune being, composed of body, soul, and spirit (54:14), but also teaches that this triune nature can be violated, that it is, in fact, possible for one to lose one's soul at death (25:10). "Salvation", or "eternal life", was specifically described as "saving one's soul"; but this was contrasted with those who do not "fulfill the Law", and therefore would "lose" their soul at death. Losing their soul, however, did apparently not mean that one's whole being would become permanently trapped in some netherworld, nor did it mean ceasing to exist; on the contrary, even if the person "lost" his soul, HE WOULD STILL REINCARNATE, the text insists. "Losing the soul", then, meant something very different to the writers of this Gospel than that meaning currently assumed in Christian circles. Just as the only difference between reincarnation and eternal life would seem to be in the issue of saving or losing one's memories of one's past, the only difference between saving or losing one's soul would seem to be the difference between reincarnating as usual or acquiring "eternal life". In that the concept of reincarnation already incorporates the idea that death does not end one's existence, the "Nazirenes" concept of "eternal life" apparently means more than simply continuing to exist after one's physical death. It means, rather, that one's memories are retained, one's sense of self-identity is retained. And as modern science has taught us that memory is stored in the unconscious, this would require that the unconscious soul not be "lost", but rather be "saved".
"Nazirenes" teaches the doctrine of reincarnation as a certainty (69:2, many others), but also teaches that acquiring "eternal life" is only an OPTION. This "eternal life" is thus NOT merely the eternal life of reincarnating, but was thought to be something merely potentially possible for human beings to achieve, a possibility that should be sought, but by no means was this ‘eternal life" a guaranteed certainty. Reincarnation was a guaranteed certainty, but "eternal life" was not. Thus there existed, according to this teaching, some OTHER form of "eternal life" superior to merely reincarnating and forgetting one's past lives, some OTHER form of continual existence in which one's past efforts and hard-earned knowledge and wisdom and skills and loves and accomplishments would never be lost again, as is normally the case when reincarnating:
And sounding very much like DivisionTheory indeed, this eternal life, this "perfection", could only be attained by a particular integrative interaction of the unconscious soul and the conscious spirit:
In order to achieve this eternal life, "The Gospel of the Nazirenes" declares, "The Law" must be fully obeyed. In this respect this book shows us a very "Jewish" Jesus indeed, with His unequivocal focus on ‘The Law that must be obeyed'. But "The Law", to THIS Jesus, was not altogether that same Law written in the Hebrew Old Testament, but rather a universal Law pre- written into the inner being of Man. The true Law given by Moses, THIS Jesus claimed, had been altered and betrayed and adulterated by the priests of Persia during the Jewish people's captivity there. The true Law given by Moses was, this scripture maintains, the same ancient Law is always pre-written in the hearts of men - the "Law of Love and the unity of all life in the One-Family of the All-Parent" (24:4).
This work teaches that living according to that inner Law is the key to salvation, Eternal Life, the Kingdom of Heaven. It teaches that if one experiences hell after death, it is not because one was condemned by God or anyone else, but by being "Self"-condemned (18:1, 46:3). Whatever hellfires the evil dead suffer after death would be those very same fires they themselves created in their own unconscious souls prior to their deaths....
.. by betraying the Law, the sense of right and wrong, that was pre-written into their inner beings. Those who did NOT follow and obey the true "Law" would not receive this ‘eternal life". They WOULD, however, still continue to reincarnate.
"The Gospel of the Nazirenes" teaches the Eastern doctrine of reincarnation right alongside the traditional Western doctrine of an eternal heaven and hell; just as in DivisionTheory, these two traditions are shown united in a single integral vision of Life After Death. And also like DivisionTheory, "Nazirenes" ALSO combines the Eastern doctrine of reincarnation with the Western doctrine of a coming Universal resurrection, in which all the world's dead would simultaneously rise to conscious life. But including, within the context of reincarnation, this idea of a coming "universal resurrection" at the end of time is a tricky proposition. How can all the world's dead rise at the same time into physical bodies when each person shares identities with his own other selves, his numerous past incarnations? Clearly, such an event would have to be, as DivisionTheory claims, a time when the memories of past lives and past selves would suddenly flood back into the conscious world, when the dead awaken within us all, within already-living bodies, as opposed to the spontaneously and miraculously reconstituted bodies expected by traditional Western theology:
Sadly, "Nazirenes" does not clearly spell out how these two co-existing doctrines were successfully integrated in the minds of Jesus and the 12 apostles, but, outside of the DivisionTheory scenario of spontaneous past-life memory restoration, the Bible's prophecies of a coming Universal resurrection into physical bodies seem incompatible with the doctrine of reincarnation. Thus, it seems, only DivisionTheory resolves the doctrinal conflict that "Nazirenes" presents.
"The Gospel of the Nazirenes" also teaches that, even at Judgment Day, the evil souls of the world will, even then, still have one last chance to repent and turn and be saved (40:7, 46:23, 67:15), a conclusion which DivisionTheory also arrived at, but a teaching which does not seem to appear in the traditional Bible.
"Nazirenes" is in full agreement with both DivisionTheory and the Biblical Gospels on at least one point: "Nazirenes" entirely supports the doctrine of the existence of the devil.
As with DivisionTheory, "Nazirenes" Last Day vision describes a time in which all humanity will end up sharing possession and experience of a common conscious component, the same conscious and autonomous spirit ultimately dwelling in the psyches of each of us, looking out through the eyes of each of us, riding right alongside each of us in our own minds, simultaneously dwelling in the psyche of each living person on earth:
Metaphysics: Making the Two One
As with DivisionTheory, and the gnostic "Gospel of Thomas", "Gospel of Philip", and "Gospel of Truth" found at Nag Hammadi, reconciling and integrating the dual nature of all being is a main focus of "Nazirenes". God is repeatedly called not "Father", but the Father-Mother, or the All- Parent. His attributes are repeatedly described with equal-but-opposite word pairings such as "Love and Wisdom", head and heart", "soul and spirit", "within and without", "right and left", and "male and female", and the "Oneness" of this divine pair, by whatever name, is constantly being mentioned, advocated, and described.
These things being done, Jesus spoke these words ...:Thou has glorified me, Thou has filled my heart with fire. Thou has set lamps on my right hand and my left, so that no part of my being should be without light. Thy Love shines on my right hand, and Thy Wisdom on my left." - Nazirenes 76:11-12
"No one knows thee, save a Son, who also has the Daughter within; or a Daughter, who also has the Son within. No one know the Daughter or the Son save those to whom the Holy Spirit is revealed, who is the Two-in-One." - Nazirenes 44:14
"Far and near, the All-Parent knows His own. Yes, in each of you, the Fatherhood and the Motherhood may be seen; for the Father and the Mother are One in the All-Parent". - Nazirenes 50:8
As with the great so with the small. As with the male, so with the female. When these things shall be seen, then you shall see the Kingdom of the Most High. For in me there is neither male not female, yet both are One. The woman is not without the man, nor is the man without the woman. isdom is not without Love, nor is Love without Wisdom. The head is not without the heart, nor is the heart without the head, in the Holy Spirit which atones all things." - Nazirenes 52:9-11
And one of them said, "Teacher, it is written of old, "The Elohim made man in their own image, male and female created they them." How can you say then that the Lord is one?" And Jesus said to them, "Verily I say to you, in the Lord there is neither male nor female and yet both are one, and the Lord is the Two in One.
He is She and She is He. The Lord is Perfect, Infinite, and One. ...the Elohim created man in the Divine Image male and female, therefore is the Lord both male and female, not divided, but the Two in One, Undivided and Eternal." - Nazirenes 64:2, 6
And one said to him, "Teacher, when shall the Kingdom come?" And he answered and said, "When that which is without shall be as that which is within, and that which is within shall be as that which is without, and, the male with the female, neither male nor female, but the Two in One. They who have ears to hear, let them hear." - Nazirenes 66:12
The book on DivisionTheory," The Division of Consciousness", is also available there, and also at http://www.geocities.com/~divisiontheory - Peter Novak
Taken from http://www.karenlyster.com/arch.html