“Imprisonment” or “bondage” in the Bible understood as a metaphor signifying the inability to clearly communicate one’s meaning

(The following is modified version of a section found in Chapter 4 of Part I of my “Against the Lie” essay.  In order to appreciate its full significance, I recommend that all of the material—including the notes and the Bible passages that I link to—be read carefully.)

In his epistles, the apostle Paul repeatedly makes reference to “bonds,” or “chains,” or “fetters,” or “imprisonment.”  I believe he likely intended words such as these to be understood by the reader as metaphors, used for the purpose of reminding the reader that what he was writing should not be taken completely at face value.  Furthermore, there are striking similarities between the way of thinking that I believe is being expressed by Paul through the use of these metaphors in his writings (and that I believe is also expressed by other authors of the Bible when they use these same kinds of metaphors), and certain ways of thinking that have sometimes been observed in schizophrenic persons.

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A new interpretive approach: Viewing the Bible as an esoteric critique of esoteric religion

“For Plato ideas are archetypes of the things themselves, and not, in the manner of the categories, merely keys to possible experiences.  In his view they have issued from highest reason, and from that source have come to be shared in by human reason, which, however, is now no longer in its original state, but is constrained laboriously to recall, by a process of reminiscence (which is named philosophy), the old ideas, now very much obscured.  I shall not engage here in any literary enquiry into the meaning which this illustrious philosopher attached to the expression.  I need only remark that it is by no means unusual, upon comparing the thoughts which an author has expressed in regard to his subject, whether in ordinary conversation or in writing, to find that we understand him better than he has understood himself.  As he has not sufficiently determined his concept, he has sometimes spoken, or even thought, in opposition to his own intention.”

—Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (1787), B370 (Norman Kemp Smith, trans.; the emphasis is mine)

I’m going to suggest a very big paradox—one that may at first be difficult to get one’s mind around.  I believe there is actually reason to think that the authors of the Bible may have been using an “esoteric” (i.e., “cryptic”) mode of discourse in their writings with the partially unconscious intention of criticizing the esoteric form of religion (a category in which I would include orthodox Christianity, Judaism, and Gnosticism, among many other world religions).

By “esoteric religion,” I basically have in mind any religion whose core, authoritative writings are capable of having and were intended by its authors to have “double meanings”; so that any religion whose authoritative writings are overtly and indisputably allegorical, or parabolic, or obscurely metaphorical, symbolic, or figurative, would qualify as an “esoteric” religion.  And any “mythical” religion would necessarily also be an “esoteric” religion, since “myth” obviously involves obscurely metaphorical, symbolic, or figurative communication.

My personal belief is that the so-called “mythicist” position regarding the life narrative of Jesus, which views that life narrative as myth or allegory, is the correct one; and that means, based on what I just wrote, that I believe Christianity qualifies as an “esoteric religion.”  Even if it were assumed for the sake of argument that the character of “Jesus” was originally based on a single historical individual, so long as it can be shown that there was substantial embellishment, “legend-making,” “myth-making,” and allegorizing occurring in the telling of his life-story, then at some point that just blends into the mythicist position anyway.  So the essential question to be asked is whether or not significant allegorical or mythical elements can be discerned in the Gospel narratives of Jesus’s life story; if they can, the figure of “Jesus” becomes a “mythical” figure—and thus an “esoteric” figure, located at the center of an “esoteric” religion.  Mythicist authors have already made an argument for the position that these allegorical or mythical elements do in fact exist in the supposedly “historical” accounts found in the Gospels and elsewhere in the Bible; so that, in terms of what I am personally trying to do, I do not feel the need to revisit that particular argument except to refer people to the writings of those authors if they still have doubts about the allegorical or mythical nature of the Gospels.

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The connection between the idea of “measuring” or “weighing” and the idea of “meaning”—and what that may imply for the interpretation of Biblical symbolism

I suggested in a previous post that there might be an etymological relation between the English word “meaning” and the English word “moon.”  The reason why there would be a relation between these words might not seem immediately clear; but I think a nexus between the two can be found in the idea of “measuring,” since for ancient peoples the cycles of the moon were the primary means of measuring time.[1]  And the connection between the ideas of “measuring” and “meaning” will, I hope, be made more clear in what follows.

It is thought by scholars that in the ancient Sumerian language, the word ma-na means “a unit of weight measure,” apparently being related to the later Akkadian word manum, meaning “to count.”  And both of these words appear to be related to the Aramaic noun mene, which means “a weighing, a measurement, an accounting, a numbering, a reckoning,” as well as to the Aramaic verb menah, which means “to weigh, to measure, to number, to reckon, to count, to enumerate, to appoint, to assign” (both of which Aramaic words are found used in the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament).

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The figures of “the King of Babylon/Babel,” “Satan,” and “Lucifer”

Luke 10:1 says,

And with these things, the Lord (Jesus) appointed seventy-two [or seventy, according to some manuscripts] others,[1] and sent them out [or sent them away: Greek apo-stellō, from which is derived the Greek word apostolos, meaning “apostle”] in twos [ana dyo] before [or prior to: pro] his face [or his appearance: prosōpon], into every city and place where he himself was going to come [erchomai; this may have been meant to allude to what is now popularly known as “the Second Coming”].

When the seventy-two “return” (or “turn back”; more literally, “turn under” or “turn beneath”: hypo-strephō),[2] the very first thing that Jesus says to them, in Luke 10:18, is,

I was beholding Satan falling [pesonta, a form of piptō] like lightning [astrapé] out of the heaven.

But it is important to recognize that this verse can also be translated,

I was beholding Satan falling [pesonta, a form of piptō] like (the flash of) a falling star [or shooting star, or meteor, or fallen star (or any other kind of bright flash of light in the sky): astrapé, related to the Greek word astér, meaning “star”] out of the heaven.[3]

Presumably the author meant this to be understood in reference to the work that Jesus’s “apostles” had been doing while they were “away” (apo)—or, perhaps, in reference to the very “returning” of the apostles from their period of being “away” (or “distant,” or “off [above?]”)—or, perhaps, both.

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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.

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