The “spirit of Jesus” viewed as a substitute for the “unclean spirit”

Let’s compare Mark 1:26 with Mark 15:37 and Luke 23:46.

The first of these passages, describing the exorcism of a demon from a man that was performed by Jesus, says,

And the unclean spirit [to pneuma to akatharton] convulsed (the man) [or “shook him,” or “tore him in pieces,” or “pulled him apart”: sparassō], and, crying out [or calling out: phōneō] with a loud voice [or “great voice,” or “loud speech,” or “loud language”: phōné megalé], came out [ex-erchomai] of him.

The next passage, Mark 15:37, describing Jesus’s death, says,

And Jesus let out [or yielded up: aphiémi] a loud cry [or “loud speech,” or “loud language”: phōné megalé] and expired [or, “breathed out his spirit,” or “expelled his spirit“: ek-pneō].

The same event of Jesus’s death is described in Luke 23:46:

And Jesus, crying out [or calling out, or summoning, or speaking (loudly), or speaking (clearly), or giving utterance: phōneō] with a loud voice [phōné megalé], said, “Father, into your hands I commit [or deposit, or entrust: para-tithémi] my spirit [pneuma]!”  And, having said this, he expired [or, “breathed out his spirit,” or “expelled his spirit“: ek-pneō].

A comparison of the passages suggests that the “spirit” (pneuma) of Jesus may have been understood to correspond to the “unclean spirit” (pneuma akathartos) that had been in the demon-possessed man; and also that the first passage, Mark 1:26, may have been meant to prefigure the Crucifixion passages—so that, perhaps, the “spirit” of Jesus was understood to have temporarily “taken on the role” of the “unclean spirit,” so to speak, or to have been temporarily “working undercover” under the guise of the “unclean spirit”—with the “unclean spirit” understood, at least in one sense, as a spirit of “mixed meanings,” as opposed to one of “pure meanings” or “single meanings.”  (The “hiddenness” or “concealment” of the “spirit of Jesus” or “Holy Spirit” is indicated, for example, by the use in Matthew 13:33 of the Greek word eg-kryptō, meaning “to hide, to conceal,” in reference to “leaven,” which I think was probably meant to signify the “Holy Spirit.”)

In other words, according to such an hypothesis, the “spirit” of Jesus would have been made to serve as a substitute for the “unclean spirit” so that it could eventually displace it with the occurrence of the symbolic “Crucifixion and Resurrection”; and if that is correct, then “the spirit of Jesus” would have been understood to function as something analogous to a “brood parasite” such as the cuckoo bird.  (However, I stress that much of this thinking, if it in fact existed at all, may have been taking place at an unconscious level of thought.)

The same connection between the idea of an “exorcism” of an “unclean spirit” and the “Crucifixion and Resurrection” can be found by comparing Mark 9:25-29 with the passage immediately following, Mark 9:30-32.  Notice that the events spoken of in the first passage seem to be prefiguring the events spoken of in the second, focusing especially on the use of the same Greek word an-istémi, meaning “to rise up, to raise up, to stand up, to resurrect,” in both Mark 9:27 and Mark 9:31.  (Also notice that Mark 9:32 indicates that even Jesus’s “disciples” did not understand what the symbolic “Crucifixion and Resurrection” signified—so we should not assume its true intended significance to be obvious.)

The “Crucifixion” might thus have been understood to have achieved a kind of large-scale “exorcism”—that is, the driving out of the “unclean spirit” or “impure spirit”—and, with that, the bringing into being of the “purity of speech” or “purity of language” associated with the “spirit of Jesus” or “Holy Spirit.”  In other words, the “Crucifixion” would have been symbolizing (consciously or unconsciously) the driving out of that “unclean spirit” which was the motive force behind religious esotericism as a whole and in general, as well as behind schizophrenia and psychosis—i.e., “lunacy” or “demon-possession”—as a whole and in general.

“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.  (As for myself, based partly on the amount of time I have spent trying to make sense of the Bible, I cannot help but consider the matter to be obvious, and so have not felt any pressing need to read those authors’ books myself.)

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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: 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 Jesus that 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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The two “swords”: An example of how I go about looking for “hidden meanings” in Biblical texts (Part 1 of 2)

In this post and the next, I will, by means of an example, explain some of the methods and techniques that I use when trying to analyze a Biblical text to discern any “hidden meanings” or “inner meanings” that it might contain.  In this post, I will focus more on the actual content of a few Bible passages, and in the next post, I will discuss some of the methods that I used in analyzing these passages and that I use generally, and call your attention to some of the aspects of the process of “decoding” that I consider to be especially important.

As an initial point, it is important to note that I do not necessarily make the assumption that it is possible to find these “inner meanings” because of any deliberate design on the part of an author.  I think that in many cases the author’s unconscious thinking was being revealed “in spite of himself,” so to speak.  At the same time, however, one should not rule out the possibility of deliberate design in any particular instance.

Let’s start by looking at Hebrews 4:12, in which the author describes the “Word of God” as a kind of “sword”:[1]

For the Word [or utterance, or message, or meaning: logos] of God is living [zaō] and active [en-ergés], and sharper [tomōteros, a comparative form of tomos] than any two-edged [or “two-mouthed”: di-stomos, derived from stoma, which can mean either “mouth” or “edge” (or “blade”)] sword [machaira], even penetrating [or piercing, or going through: di-ikneomai] so far as the dividing [or partitioning: merismos, related to meros, meaning “part”] of soul [psyché] and spirit [pneuma], of joints [harmos] and marrow [or “the inmost (part)”: myelos, derived from myō, which means “to close, to shut,” and from which is also derived the word mystérion, meaning “secret teaching, mystery”], and (it is) able to discern [or “able to judge of,” or “able to separate,” or “able to interpret”: kritikos, derived from krinō, meaning “to judge, to sift, to separate, to discern, to interpret”] the deliberations [or conceptions: enthymésis] and intentions [or ideas, or notions: ennoia] of (the) heart [kardia].[2]

Two “swords” are being compared in this passage.  One is a “two-edged”—or “two-mouthed” (di-stomos)—sword.[3]  The other is the “Word of God”; and it can be reasonably inferred from the context that this was meant to be thought of as a “one-edged” or “one-mouthed” sword:  that is, a kind of “sword” that would “speak” (or “cut,” or “discern,” or “interpret”) with only a single “voice” or “speech,” as opposed to the kind that would allow a person to “speak out of both sides of his mouth.”[4]

Moreover, it seems that the “one-mouthed sword” was meant to be seen as being more powerful than the “two-mouthed sword,” and as being able to defeat a “two-mouthed sword” in battle or combat, because of the fact that it is “sharper” (perhaps understood to mean that it is “clearer” and “more distinct”).[5]

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