Some tips and background information for those interested in taking up the amateur “decoding” of esoteric Biblical texts (Part 2 of 2)

There are several points I’d like to discuss with regard to the kind of comparison and analysis of Bible passages that I did in the last post, based on my own experiences with trying to get a handle on material of that sort.  Hopefully this information will be useful to those persons who would like to engage in the interpreting or “decoding” or “deciphering” of the Bible for anti-esotericist purposes, but have never yet made the attempt to do so.

The first point is that you’ll notice from the comparison that the authors of the Bible do not necessarily use their symbols in a consistent manner.  This is one of the things that I find most exasperating about the Bible, and about esoteric religion in general.  In Hebrews 4:12, the “Word of God” is described as being a “sword.”  However, in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul implies—I believe—that Jesus (i.e., the “Word of God”) would use the “sword of Spirit” to “kill” the “Lawless One.”  Similarly, in Revelation 19:11-16, the “sword” is described as coming out of the “Word of God” (i.e., Jesus).  So the metaphor has been changed somewhat.  And I get the sense that esotericists are generally pretty okay with that sort of thing.  (I, on the other hand, being a non-esotericist and indeed an anti-esotericist, am not at all okay with it, because it causes confusion, and makes it more difficult to figure out what an author’s point is.)  This fact needs to be recognized from the outset, since defenders of esoteric religion will likely criticize you for inconsistencies in and among your various theories and hypotheses, even though that very inconsistency may well be due entirely to the inconsistencies in thinking indulged in by the authors of the Bible whose meaning you’re trying to determine.  So always remember:  It’s not your fault.  As long as you make sure that you’re no more inconsistent than the authors were themselves being in their own minds, that will be sufficient.

Something else to be aware of in a passage are any possible parallelisms.  For example, notice how in Hebrews 4:12 there are possible parallels between the words “soul” and “joints,” and between the words “spirit” and “marrow”—which perhaps suggests that “spirit” was deemed to be more “interior” and “secret” and “hidden” than “soul.”  However, it seems to me that in that case “soul” would correspond to “bone,” not “joints.”  Either I am misunderstanding what the author was getting at, or he was mixing two different metaphors, figuring their resemblance was close enough—which is not unlikely, especially given the fact that a “joint” is an area involving two or more bones.  (But there would nonetheless be a mixing of metaphors—which is probably somewhat undesirable even in non-esoteric writings, but when it occurs in an esoteric writing it can cause significant mischief.)  And even if no parallelism was intended in this particular case, a person should always consider the possibility that one of them might be present whenever he or she sees a verbal structure along the lines of the one found in Hebrews 4:12.  Parallelisms are a very good source of hints regarding what the authors of the New Testament may have understood a particular symbol to signify.  If a reader feels that he has some idea of what a particular symbol was understood to signify, his hypothesis can then be tested in other contexts; if it receives tentative support from that testing, the knowledge can then be leveraged in the effort to better understand the meanings of other symbols that are found interacting with the first one.

Next, when quoting or trying to make sense of a Bible passage, I always find out the original Greek or Hebrew word, and look up its possible meanings in a lexicon.  I do this even though I am unable to read Greek or Hebrew.  (That is why I make the claim that I am “translating” the passages that I quote, even though I would be completely unable to do so apart from other translations and from lexicons.)  If the Greek or Hebrew word strikes me as being at all interesting or noteworthy (for whatever reason), I will include in brackets what I consider to be some of the more likely alternative meanings (not necessarily in any particular order; and it should also not necessarily be assumed that I consider the non-bracketed word to be preferable to the others).  Note that in many cases I will provide possible alternative meanings not because I am necessarily trying to “get at” anything (although in many other cases I am indeed trying to “get at” something), but simply on the off chance that someone else might see an association between that word and other words or symbolic images or figures that I didn’t see.  I generally give the standard form of each word (that is, the form by which a word would be listed in most lexicons and in Strong’s Concordance)—partly because it helps me to make use of my own writings since I am not at all proficient in the languages; partly to make it easier to notice possible cross-references between various passages; and partly because giving the standard form makes it easier for other people to look up the words for themselves.  At no time do I expect anyone to trust my interpretations or translations of the text; on the contrary, I want them to be very suspicious of them (or, at least start out being very suspicious of them, and then perhaps become only moderately suspicious), and I try to make readily available to readers the means by which they might correct or question any incorrect or questionable readings that I have given.

There are a number of good websites online that provide an interlinear, word-for-word translation of the Bible as well as access to Greek and Hebrew lexicons.  The one I use most is Biblehub, but I also sometimes use Blue Letter Bible.  The lexicons on those sites ought to be approached with caution, since, in the case of the ones for Greek, they generally do not go outside the context of the New Testament (which makes it easier for a translator’s prejudiced interpretations to go unchallenged by counter-examples found outside that context).  If I am at all suspicious of the meanings given by the lexicon—and, sometimes, even if I’m not already suspicious—I will go to the more authoritative and comprehensive Liddell-Scott-Jones (LSJ) online lexicon.  However, one should not expect that even the LSJ lexicon will necessarily be exhaustive; I have personally seen instances of words that, in view of the context in which I found it, I thought probably should, or at least could, have been given some meaning not found among the ones listed under the word in the LSJ lexicon.  Also, I would recommend being wary of any meaning/definition given by the LSJ lexicon for which the only citation it provides is from the New Testament or the Greek Septuagint (i.e., “LXX”) translation of the Old Testament, since in that case there exists the same danger that I just mentioned:  that the reasoning that produced that meaning/definition might be circular and tainted by traditional Christian exegetical and theological presuppositions.

The LSJ lexicon is quite valuable in a person’s attempts to make sense of the Bible, because it is very important that one be aware of all of the possible meanings that an author might potentially have assigned to the words he was using, since it is quite likely that he was aware of their having been used in all of those ways simply by living in that language culture—even if he would not have consciously intended to give a particular meaning to a particular word in his own communications.  That means that if a word—like “acorn” (Greek phégos), say—could also have been used as a sexual slang word,[1] it is important to be aware of that fact, since even if such a meaning would not necessarily have received “approval” from the writer at a conscious level of awareness, it was probably present somewhere in his subconscious or unconscious mind, perhaps seeking out associations with other unconsciously entertained or understood meanings.[2]  Because of the fact that esoteric writing is so “unconscious” in nature, the question of whether or not an author was consciously aware of a certain meaning, or would have given it his “approval” if it had been brought to his attention, is largely beside the point.  Puns, wordplay, and double meanings play an important role in esoteric writing (and it is not an accident, I believe, that they also play a disproportionately large role in schizophrenic communication); but to recognize their existence requires being aware of all of the possible meanings for a word.[3]

Something else for amateur anti-esotericist interpreters to consider is that I have found that the etymologies and derivations of the words being used are very important in getting a handle on what an author’s meaning may have been (and this is reflected by the fact that word etymologies seem to be of great interest to esotericists).  One can sometimes use etymologies and derivations to reveal possible instances of the sort of wordplay and punning often engaged in by esotericists that otherwise would have been completely lost on a reader (especially someone reading the material in translation).  More generally, they help us to understand what may have been going on in the minds of the authors at a deeper and more structural level of understanding, by helping us to better recognize the point of interface between the conceptual dimension of things and the more tangible, physical dimension out of which it sprang in the mind of an author.  This is worth doing as a general matter, not only out of a lack of familiarity with ancient Greek, but also in the case of one’s own language.  It helps to direct a person’s conscious attention to certain understandings that he may have already had, but did not realize that he had.  This is also the reason why it is useful to reflect on the figures of speech that we all use even though we usually don’t give much thought to why we use them.  In the same way, an awareness of Greek etymology can help direct our attention to certain understandings that the authors of the Bible may have had, but might not themselves have fully consciously realized that they had.

Next, and related to the point about parallelisms, it is absolutely essential that one actively cross-reference the Greek and Hebrew words that one finds used in the Bible.  As a practical matter, given the online resources that are now available, combined with most people’s lack of familiarity or proficiency with the Greek language, most of that cross-referencing for Greek words will be restricted to the confines of the New Testament and the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament.  And, in any event, that is where most (but not all) of a decoder’s attention ought to be devoted regardless of what kinds of online resources he or she found available.  But in theory it would be desirable to do it with all of ancient Greek literature, since the authors of the Bible were co-participants in the same general language culture as the authors of those other works.[4]  The fact that many of the other works were written by so-called “pagans” is beside the point—partly due, again, to the fact that esoteric writing is so “unconscious” in nature.  The only relevant question in determining whether or not the meanings found in those writings ought to be of any interest to us is whether the authors of the New Testament were familiar with the meanings that could be conveyed by the words and expressions as they are found in those other works.  So long as they were familiar with them, the possibility is created that those meanings may have been playing a role in their unconscious thinking.

Because of the fact that the Bible is so heavily symbolic, it is often not immediately clear what the intended meanings of the authors (and the Septuagint translators) of the Bible were when they used certain words and figures in their writing (or translating); and because of that, it often cannot be confidently maintained that the meanings of the authors of the New Testament were not the same as those meanings that we can more safely establish were assigned to the same words and to the same or similar figures by other, “pagan” authors—whether because the contexts in which they were found in non-Biblical, “pagan” ancient Greek esoteric writings made the intended meaning (or meanings) relatively clearer in the instance of a particular word or figure; or because certain meanings were clearly expounded in non-esoteric ancient Greek writings, or otherwise made clear by the contexts in which they appeared in non-esoteric writings.  The fact that those meanings might differ from the meanings assigned by later, Christian authors and interpreters to the same words and figures as they are found in the Bible, does not necessarily mean that the “orthodox Christian” meanings are more accurate than the “pagan” ones.  Nor does the fact that what we hypothetically determined to be the “pagan” meanings might shock the sensibilities of modern-day Christians or challenge their theological doctrines necessarily mean that they were not the meanings intended—consciously or unconsciously—by the authors of the New Testament.  But at the same time, that does not mean that such earlier or contemporaneous hypothetical “pagan” meanings might not be contradicted by our interpretation of the New Testament or Old Testament (whether Greek Septuagint or Hebrew Masoretic), or even by later Christian writings, if we found the evidence to be sufficiently persuasive.

It seems pretty certain, based on evidence from the New Testament, that the authors of the New Testament must have been influenced by the Septuagint and/or similar Greek translations of the Old Testament.  The Septuagint is an especially valuable document because it enables one to demonstrate the occurrence of certain Greek words or groups of Greek words from the New Testament in patterns and contexts indicating the likelihood that the authors of the New Testament were making particular associations in their minds, whether consciously or unconsciously.  What exactly I mean by this should become more apparent when you read some of the analyses that I offer in my writings in which an Old Testament passage is being used to elucidate a New Testament passage.[5]

Related to this, I wish to emphasize that, given the fact that my primary focus in doing this kind of work has been to find ways to weaken and subvert esoteric religion by way of Christianity (largely because I consider it to be what comes closest to being esoteric religion’s “Achilles’ heel,” or offering the “weakest links” in its “chain mail armor,” and not because of feeling special animus toward Christianity in particular), my goal has generally been to try to arrive at the intended meanings of the authors of the New Testament, and not of the entire Bible.  I am interested in the Old Testament not so much for its own sake (by which I mean, in terms of studying it primarily with regard to discerning the intended meanings of the authors of the Old Testament) as because of the fact that studying it helps to give one a better idea of what the authors of the New Testament thought that it meant.  (And of course, that is not at all unrelated to the question of what the intended meanings of the authors of the Old Testament actually were; my point is that I am interested in those intended meanings only on an indirect basis.)  That is why the Greek Septuagint is such an important source of evidence in this kind of work—regardless of whether or not one thinks that, in any particular case, it is as reliable or accurate as the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Old Testament in terms of conveying the meanings of the authors of the original ancient Hebrew text:  It is important because it was one of the means by which the authors of the New Testament made sense of the Old Testament in their own minds.[6]  The Greek words that they encountered in the Septuagint would have been “bouncing around in their heads,” so to speak, and in the course of doing so would have gotten “loaded up” with all sorts of meaning for them; so that must be kept in mind whenever we see that one of those authors made a choice to use one of those same words in their writing of what became the New Testament.



[1] However, the Liddell-Scott-Jones lexicon does not state that the particular word phégos is capable of having sexual connotations.  This is something that I learned from a translator’s footnote commenting on something that Plato wrote in his dialogue The Republic (372C), where it appears the word was being used in a double-entendre.  (The word phégos does not appear in the New Testament as far as I know.)  And that demonstrates why, even if the LSJ lexicon may be regarded as authoritative, it should not be regarded as definitive.

[2] And when this unconscious “seeking out of mental associations” occurs on an interpersonal basis, it gives rise to the “unconsciously organized conspiracies” that I mention in my About the Lie essay.

[3] The so-called “beta code” is what allows one to use ordinary Latin letters to enter Greek words on the LSJ lexicon’s website (as well as on other websites).  It is worth taking the time to learn the Greek alphabet (and the beta code) in order to make use of this valuable resource, and it is not difficult to do.

[4] There are some good online resources that make ancient Greek writings available.  One example is Tufts University’s Perseus Digital Library.  It’s not as user-friendly as the Bible websites for persons who can’t read Greek, because the Greek text is not transliterated and it does not provide interlinear translations—even though for many of the works it does provide translations, and the individual words in each Greek text are also linked to the Liddell-Scott-Jones lexicon.  Because of that, in my own case I have found that if I am determined to create my own “custom” interlinear translation for a particular passage, it is possible to do so by carefully comparing the Greek text with the English translation, at the same time as frequently consulting the lexicon; but it is painstaking work compared to my efforts to create “custom” interlinear translations for Biblical passages.  (Those who know more Greek than I do would no doubt find it easier to make use of this resource for purposes of cross-referencing.)  For obvious reasons, there’s just a lot more user-friendly (though not always accurate) information and resources available pertaining to the Bible than other ancient Greek writings.  One important reason why they are more user-friendly for the particular purpose of cross-referencing is that the Greek words found in the New Testament and Septuagint are keyed according to Strong’s Concordance, which helps to create a single, simple, standardized system for learning about individual words and locating them in a text.

[5] At Biblehub, the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament can be found for any Old Testament chapter or verse by going to the “language” menu in the upper right corner of the screen, and then selecting “Apostolic Bible Polyglot.”  I’ve found that another good website for accessing the Greek Septuagint text is Kata Biblon.  (In fact, this site is often better for consulting the Greek Septuagint text because it usually provides the parsing information for each Greek word, which Biblehub does not.)

[6] But that is not to say that the Hebrew version did not also play a very important role in that process, given that the authors of the Bible were also fluent in Hebrew and Aramaic—in fact, I do not think that the New Testament can be adequately explained apart from a good understanding of the Hebrew and Aramaic languages (which I unfortunately do not have).