The overcoming of the “armored self” by the “open self”: The true meaning of the “Crucifixion of Christ”

by Eric Heubeck


I believe the Bible can be generally described as the record of its authors’ attempts, desires, and aspirations to break through and break away from their own strong inclination to remain psychologically “armored” and “closed” and “shielded”—an inclination which, very importantly, sometimes takes the more specific form of communicating esoterically—in favor of a state of greater emotional and communicatory openness.  The authors of neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament ever achieved that goal themselves—for the most part, anyway—since we know that they were unable to surrender their attachment to religious esotericism.  But I believe that in their writings they were indirectly pointing toward that goal, and trying to set forth an ideal vision of a paradisiacal state of complete openness and forthrightness and solidarity among human beings—as well as subtly indicating what would be required in order for us to advance in the direction of an ever-greater realization of that ideal vision.

The cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker, in an essay written in 1967 in which he reviews the movie The Pawnbroker (1964), does an admirable job of helping to elucidate the central message that I believe the authors of the Bible were actually trying to convey in their writings—even though Becker never speaks about the matter in exactly the way I do, in so far as he never speaks explicitly about any need on the part of the authors of the Bible to overcome the specific problem of their own esoteric manner of communication.  I include below some excerpts from that essay; but I do not include most of the essay, especially the parts in which Becker describes the plot of the movie; and for that reason, the portions of the essay that I do include won’t necessarily make complete sense to the reader.  But even without a full knowledge of the plot of the movie, the reader will still be able to understand the essential points that Becker is making in the portions of the essay that I include.  It is enough for the reader to know that the main character of the movie was a Jewish European university professor named Sol Nazerman who was sent to a Nazi concentration camp and lost his family in those camps; and the trauma of what he endured led him, after emigrating to America and becoming a pawnbroker, to make the acquisition and hoarding of money the sole focus of his life.  In other words, he chose to live a more narrow and restricted life in exchange for what he believed would be greater emotional safety.

While reading the excerpts, it should be kept in mind that even though Becker speaks of the Christian religious tradition with great respect and is able to appreciate what is of value in it, he was of Jewish heritage and never converted to Christianity—nor, as far as I know, ever expressed any desire to do so.

The essay is taken from Becker’s book Angel in Armor: A Post-Freudian Perspective on the Nature of Man (George Braziller, 1969).  The italics are mine if they are emboldened; the italics are Becker’s if they are not; all underlining is mine; and all notes are mine:

… Nazerman seems strong to these people, precisely because he is self-contained and self-sufficient; so they suffer without complaint the humiliating rebuffs at his hands, as we would suffer the scorn of a superior, believing that his anger was always due to our blunder, our presumption.

Nazerman with the impenetrable exterior; Nazerman the self-contained; Nazerman the infallible pawnbroker, who justly estimates the value of each item, and drives the proper hard bargain; Nazerman the capable, who earns a good salary in business; Nazerman the ex-professor, who so thoroughly adapts to a new life.  Nazerman, what is the “secret” of your “strength”? … [p. 81.]

What exactly was Nazerman’s “secret,” the source of his apparent strength?  The answer can best be phrased by using those wonderfully apt words made famous by Wilhelm Reich, and by a half-century of psychoanalytic thought: “character armor.”  Character armor, as we know, refers literally to the arming of the personality so that it can maneuver in a threatening world.  It refers to the shoring-up or damming-up of the individual’s fragile sense of self-value, in order to keep that self-value safe from undermining by events and persons.  In other words, character armor really refers to the whole life style that a person assumes, in order to live and act with a certain security. … [p. 83.]

… Some people, of course, have more than others—more self-protecting constraint.  This makes them remarkably stiff, as Reich saw: as though they actually wore armor.  It makes them remarkably unsympathetic to points of view they have decided are not worth entertaining, or are too threatening to entertain.[1]  It shuts them very tightly toward others, who risk invading their world, and perhaps upsetting it, even if they upset it by kindness and love.  Love draws one out, breaks down barriers, places the human relationship on more mutual terms: in a word, takes it somewhat out of the control of the armored person.  It takes strength to love, simply because it takes strength to stand exposed without armor, open to the needs of others.  In characterological terms, the ability to stand open to love is a sort of heroism.

So we can understand Nazerman’s “secret,” the source of his apparent strength.  We can understand, too, that his strength was truly apparent, not real.  And the secret is that he had no secret, but was really a pathetically fragile soul, trying to keep thoughts, things, and persons from destroying his gravely wounded psyche. … [p. 84.]

… [T]he person who is armored, and who is fetishized, will be able to maneuver well only so long as his world is not too threatened.  If he has been able to organize his personality around narrow themes, and adapt to his world, this is partly accomplished by giving up the one really great strength that man needs in a crisis: I mean the ability to adapt to continually new kinds of stimuli, the ability to change, and grow, shed old armor, and broaden away from fetishes.  [p. 87.]

… There is a difference between the disintegration of a shallow and fetishized personality, and the sacrifice of a saint.  The yielding up of innocent life is similar, but not the quality of the lives they lived.  In death every man becomes the instrument of God, but in life each serves differently.  Nazerman served in the worst possible way, by all religious ideals: every life he touched he caused to shrink back upon itself because he himself was so closed off and afraid.  The saint lives openly, with an absolute minimum of character armor, and so each life he touches is enriched by his sympathy, generosity, and true fearlessness.  How can one live openly unless he is fearless, since we put on character armor because of our fears?  And how can one be fearless unless he is willing to let go of life, to make the very meaning of his life the sacrifice of it?  This was the real “secret” of Christ’s strength, a “secret” that Nazerman did not know.  Nazerman’s life was centered wholly on himself, on the need for survival; this was the direction of meaning that he followed after the horrors of Europe.  He organized his personality around the fetish of money, and it was this false god that did him in.  Money is not ultimate, not above the world, but contingent upon it, contaminated by it, as Nazerman was to learn.  By choosing this source of strength, instead of God, Nazerman cut off the only dimension in which he could grow and mellow, the only one that would make ultimate sense out of his continued struggles.

This is the paradox and the final lesson of basic psychology that our story contains.  We see with complete clarity why people lead “repressed” lives, why they arm themselves against the world, why they close their personhood down to a narrow focus of control and meaning: the academicians, the military, the workingmen, the administrators—all men, in fact, except the religious genius.  To open oneself completely means that one invites the world to invade oneself, it means to weaken one’s center, to expose oneself to the threat of absolute meaninglessness.  Furthermore, it invites the scoffing and denigration by one’s fellow men.  People snigger at the open person, shrug their shoulders at him, distrust him, hound him and snap at him, just as Nazerman did to those who crossed his life in the pawnshop.  And how can it be otherwise—isn’t the open person a threat to the closed one?  Doesn’t he oblige the open [closed?] one to let his guard down, to relax and mellow a bit, to practice tentativeness, to see the world in shades of gray instead of harsh contrasts, to exercise sympathy, perhaps even love?  All these things the weak person cannot do, which is why he armored himself in the first place.  Besides, the open person gives no appearance of strength, he seems pathetic in his naïve trust, his childlike confidence.  His tentativeness seems like hesitation, his soft approach seems like timid appeasement.  As he reveals his inmost thoughts, he exposes his “insides,” and there is soon nothing left for us to be interested in.  He seems shallow, dispossessed of “secrets,” of murky depths that fascinate, of subterranean walls that hold back deep and rumbling passions and unknown reserves of strength.  All these things the closed person gives the appearance of, and so we respect him, handle him gently, fear him.  How can one think of changing one identity for the other, in the predatory world of men?  To become open means to become a complete masochist.

And this is the genius of the religious genius: that he becomes a masochist to the world from a position of strength and by choice.  He disperses the center of his personality by shedding his character armor, but this is only an apparent dispersal, not a real one: it is only a dispersal of one’s center in the world.  His secret is that he re-centers himself beyond the world, by making the meaning of life dependent on the ultimate source of meaning, not on the worldly one.  So he has nothing to lose in the world, because he has nothing to gain in it.  He knows that basically he can do nothing here, expect nothing here; so he can become completely humble, passive, as nothing.  This is a passivity that achieves its fulfillment in destruction, which is why so few can understand it, sanction it, or want to imitate it.  Nietzsche was appalled by this ideal of the “Christian slave” and vented his whole fury on it: he understood that it undermines man’s peculiar task on this planet—to make something out of it.  In the world’s terms the religious genius is “crazy,” and perhaps rightly so, since it is more than can be asked of the mass of men: they must live and work and continue on.

Whatever side our personal sentiments may be on, we can see that the problem is no simple one: the ideal of the open self versus the pragmatism of the armored self is a dialectic that points beyond psychology to the questions of evolution and human destiny.  Any dialogue that really has meaning for man must begin here.  It is clear that psychology can only serve its purpose if it leads us to this point, gives us a just understanding of the conditions of human action only so that we can begin to ponder intelligently the wider questions of man’s fate.  The Pawnbroker is a true work of art precisely because it points beyond what it reveals.  [pp. 95-98.]

The argument that I continually make in my writings on this site is that religious esotericism is one very important manifestation of what Becker here calls “character armor.”  The purpose of expressing one’s thoughts in the form of cryptic, heavily symbolic, and obscurely allusive parables and allegories is to find some way to avoid fully revealing the innermost thoughts of the author.  In other words, to write esoterically is precisely to refuse to become the vulnerable “open self” that Becker is discussing.  The esotericist wishes to remain emotionally “armored”; that is the only conceivable reason why any person would wish to write esoterically when there are obviously clearer and more forthright ways in which to express one’s thoughts and ideas.  Becker writes, “[The open person] seems shallow, dispossessed of ‘secrets,’ of murky depths that fascinate, of subterranean walls that hold back deep and rumbling passions and unknown reserves of strength.  All these things the closed person gives the appearance of, and so we respect him, handle him gently, fear him”—and that is precisely what the esotericist refuses to give up:  the “secrets,” the “murky depths that fascinate.”  And he makes this refusal because they seem to give the person the appearance of a degree of strength (or, what serves essentially the same purpose for an esotericist author, a degree of “profundity”) that he does not in fact possess.  It is a kind of fraud—but I think the esotericist authors of the Bible also knew that it was a kind of fraud, and wanted to stop living their lives in a fraudulent way.

That is why I do not consider it unreasonable to believe that the authors of the Bible may have been subtly expressing a desire—in their very own esoteric writings, believe it or not—to become more “open selves.”  I believe they wished to find a way to break out of the enclosing and restrictive “armor” created by their esoteric way of thinking and communicating; which is another way of saying that they wished to live in the kind of world in which they would no longer feel the need to continue to write esoterically in their (largely unsuccessful) attempts to express themselves without ever needing to expose themselves.

Becker’s essay may help one to better understand why I have elsewhere made the argument that the symbolic “Crucifixion of Christ” and the symbolic “fall of Babylon”—thus making way for the replacement of “Babylon” by a “new Jerusalem” characterized by its “transparency” and “clarity”—were actually both meant to signify the same future achievement for humanity:  namely, the ending of the esoteric type of religion (and all that is implied in that and goes along with that).  And that is because the ending of the esoteric type of religion must coincide with the emotional and communicatory “opening up” of individual human beings—both those who are doing the speaking, and those who are doing the listening.  I believe Becker helps to show in his essay (even if that is not his strict intention) how the “Crucifixion of Christ” is actually a parable for the “opening up” that every person would need to do in order to bring a new kind of world into being.  And there are a number of passages in the New Testament that indicate that very idea—albeit subtly.

In various passages, the Gospels indicate that by allowing himself to be “crucified,” Jesus was actually allowing himself to be—literally—“opened up.”  First, consider Luke 22:20:

(Jesus took) the cup (of wine) after they had eaten, saying, “This cup (is) the new covenant in my blood, which is being poured out [or spilled: ek-cheō] for you.”

Similarly, Matthew 26:27-28 says,

And having taken a cup (of wine), and having given thanks, (Jesus) gave (it) to (his disciples), saying, “Drink of it, all of you.  For this is my blood of the covenant, being poured out [or spilled: ek-cheō] for many (leading to) the forgiveness of sins.”

Now compare those two passages to Matthew 9:16-17, in which Jesus says,

And no one puts [epi-ballō, derived from ballō, meaning “cast, throw, put,” and epi, meaning “upon, over”] a piece [more literally, “something put on”: epibléma, derived from epi-ballō] of unshrunk cloth on an old garment.  For its patch tears away [or lifts up, or raises up: airō] from the garment, and a worse [or more severe: cheirōn] split [or division: schisma] comes into being.[2]  Nor do they put new wine into old skins [askos], lest the skins burst [or tear open, or tear apart: rhégnymi], and the wine is poured out [or spilled: ek-cheō] and the skins are destroyed [or made to perish: apollymi].  Rather, they put new wine into new skins, and both are preserved together.

I think it’s pretty clear, based on the comparison made in Luke 22:20 and in Matthew 26:27-29 between “wine” and Jesus’s “blood,” as well as based on the repeated use in all three passages of the Greek verb ek-cheō, meaning “pour out, spill,” that the “Parable of the Wineskins” in Matthew 9:17 was actually meant to refer to Christ’s Crucifixion.  The “skins” were apparently meant to refer to Jesus’s “body,” while the “wine” was apparently meant to refer to his “blood.”

But if that’s true, then in the “Parable of the Wineskins” Jesus is not telling people what shouldn’t be done, as is often supposed; Jesus is only describing what “they”—that is, what Becker in his essay calls “the mass of men”—actually do in practice.  By allowing himself to be “crucified”—that is, “opened up” like a “burst or torn open wineskin,” and allowing his “blood” and “insides” to be freely spilled out for all to see—Jesus is choosing to do the exact opposite of what the ordinarily sensible “everyman” would naturally feel inclined to do.  In other words, Jesus is instead choosing to do what Becker’s exceptional “religious genius” would choose to do.  Jesus’s goal is not to preserve the “old skins”; rather, he wishes “new wine” to be put into “old skins” for the very purpose of “destroying” or “making perish” those “old skins”—which I think was probably meant to signify, in part, the “old covenant”—but also, in more universal terms, every individual’s old, restricted, armored, conventional self.  To use Becker’s language, with the Crucifixion, Jesus is “shedding his old armor.”

If that interpretation can be accepted by the reader, then it would shed light on another parable that appears to relate more specifically to religious esotericism in particular.  In Matthew 7:6 Jesus says,

Do not give that which (is) holy to dogs, nor cast [ballō] your pearls before [emprosthen] pigs, lest they trample upon them with their feet, and, having turned, they tear you apart [rhégnymi].

When reading this parable, bear in mind that from the Greek verb pro-ballō, which means “cast before, throw before, put before,” is derived the Greek noun probléma, which, although it literally means “something cast before,” can more figuratively mean “a riddle.”[3]  And—what is quite significant if one is approaching these matters with a psychological orientation like Becker’s—the word probléma can also figuratively mean “a screen, defense, barrier, obstacle.”  I think this helps to show how the use of cryptic, esoteric riddles, parables, and allegories must have been, at some level of thinking, already generally understood by speakers of the Greek language to be functioning as a type of emotional “armor” or “shield” or “wall” for those persons who felt a need or desire to communicate in terms of them.[4]

For that reason, I suggest that the “pearls” of which the parable in Matthew 7:6 speaks were meant to be understood as signifying the inner meanings of cryptic, esoteric riddles, parables, and allegories—partly because of where “pearls” are found:  namely, inside “shells.”[5]  And if that hypothesis is correct, then if we first remember that according to Matthew 9:17, Jesus is expressing his willingness to allow his “body” (or “skin”) to be “torn open” (or “burst,” or “torn apart,” or “rent asunder”: rhégnymi), and if we then cross-reference that verse’s use of the Greek word rhégnymi with the use of the same Greek word in Matthew 7:6, we can deduce that Jesus may be likewise expressing his willingness to allow the “dogs” and “pigs” to “tear him apart,” as well as to “trample” his “pearls”—representing his vulnerable emotional “insides.”  By allowing the “dogs” and “pigs” to “trample his pearls,” Jesus would be surrendering the emotional security that an esoteric or “prophetic” manner of communication afforded him; so when he allows himself to be “torn apart”—at the same time that he is being “opened up”—Jesus is also choosing to surrender the religious esotericism that had previously been protecting him from threats to his emotional security.  Jesus’s use of the word “lest” in both of these parables indicates that what he is telling his listeners is that a person should not act in the way Jesus is choosing to act unless the person is willing to accept the same consequences that Jesus has chosen to accept for himself:  that is, to be “opened up” so much that the “old self” or “former self” or “closed self” of the person becomes “destroyed” (or “made to perish”: apollymi)—so that a “new self”—a more “open self”—can come into being.

In the context of Matthew 7:6 and its reference to “dogs” and “pigs,” recall what Becker wrote:

To open oneself completely means that one invites the world to invade oneself, it means to weaken one’s center, to expose oneself to the threat of absolute meaninglessness.[6]  Furthermore, it invites the scoffing and denigration by one’s fellow men.  People snigger at the open person, shrug their shoulders at him, distrust him, hound him and snap at him, just as Nazerman did to those who crossed his life in the pawnshop.  And how can it be otherwise—isn’t the open person a threat to the closed one?

I consider Becker’s choice of words unlikely to be coincidental—even though I think we can be virtually certain that Becker was not consciously thinking about the parable found in Matthew 7:6 when he chose his words.  Human beings had the same tendencies at the time of the writing of the Gospels that they have today, so it is reasonable to suppose that the same sorts of metaphors would occur to various human minds at various times in their various attempts to describe those same tendencies.

It is because so few people are willing to “invite the scoffing and denigration by one’s fellow men” that we can begin to understand why the “pre-Crucifixion Jesus” would have been acting in the way in which he is described in Mark 4:33-34:

And with many such parables [parabolé] (Jesus) communicated [or spoke: laleō] (his) meaning [or message: logos] to them, in the degree that they were able [more literally, “had the strength”: dynamai] to hear.  And apart from a parable he would not communicate [or speak: laleō] with them; but in private he explained [or interpreted, or determined, or resolved, or solved; more literally, “loosened,” or “untied,” or “released,” or “opened,” or “set free,” or “unlocked”: epi-lyō][7] everything for his own disciples.[8]

And so Jesus was not entirely irrational to be unwilling to communicate in public “apart from a parable.”  I will repeat this passage of Becker’s:

[T]he open person gives no appearance of strength, he seems pathetic in his naïve trust, his childlike confidence.  His tentativeness seems like hesitation, his soft approach seems like timid appeasement.  As he reveals his inmost thoughts, he exposes his “insides,” and there is soon nothing left for us to be interested in.  He seems shallow, dispossessed of “secrets,” of murky depths that fascinate, of subterranean walls that hold back deep and rumbling passions and unknown reserves of strength.  All these things the closed person gives the appearance of, and so we respect him, handle him gently, fear him.

And I think it is significant that the Gospels describe a Jesus who—by the time he has arrived at his Crucifixion—absolutely no one feared.  This is dramatized by the fact that the common Roman soldiers boldly mocked him and spat in his face;[9] and even the lowly criminals being crucified next to Jesus felt perfectly free to mock him to his face.[10]  It was only after the Crucifixion had been completed that people began to fear him (see, e.g., Matthew 27:54 and Acts 2:43)—only after they had come to realize that even after doing their very best to destroy him, he had not been broken, and they knew that now there was nothing more that they could do to him.  This person had chosen to make himself completely open, completely exposed, completely transparent, completely vulnerable, completely invaded—and yet he still lived, and was not in fact permanently destroyed.  It was only when they finally realized that there was no way left remaining in which they could harm that genuinely “open self” that they began to fear it—and to respect it.

I can point to other passages from the Gospels indicating that the theme of religious esotericism was thought to be relevant to the symbolic events of Jesus’s “Crucifixion and Resurrection.”  In Luke 24:25-27, after Jesus has been resurrected and appears to some of his former followers (though, apparently, not full “disciples”)—who at this point are still unable to “recognize” him for some reason—Jesus says to them,

“O mindless and slow of heart to have trust in [or believe: pisteuō] all that the prophets spoke.  Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  And having begun [or originated, or commenced, or ruled: archomai] from [apo] Moses and all the prophets, (the resurrected Jesus) interpreted [or translated, or fully explained: di-erméneuō] to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

I claim that “the things concerning himself” was a reference to all those intimations found in the Hebrew scriptures pointing toward a future hoped-for transition from the “closed self” (or “armored self”) to an “open self”; that is to say, from a “closed” type of human being to an “open” type of human being.  I believe the Biblical symbol of a “Messiah” or a “Christ” that would be “born” or “incarnated” on this earth was actually serving as a concretized individual personification of this idea of a future transition to, and realization of, the ideal of the “open self.”  With that conception in mind, consider Luke 24:30-35, located in the biblical text shortly after the previously quoted passage:

And it came about in (Jesus’s) sitting down (to eat) with (his followers) (that), having taken the bread, he blessed (it), and having broken (it), he gave [didōmi] (it) to them.  And their eyes were opened wide [or opened fully: di-anoigō],[11] and they recognized [or came to know: epi-ginōskō] him.[12]  And he became hidden from [or invisible to, or blotted out to, or obscure to: a-phantos] them.  And they said to one another, “Was our heart not burning [kaiō; cf. Luke 3:16-17 (paying special attention to the reference to ‘chaff’), Zephaniah 3:8-9, John 2:16-17, and Revelation 18:8] within us as he was speaking with us on the road [or ‘on the Way’; cf. Acts 9:1-2], as he was opening wide [or ‘fully opening,’ or ‘opening up,’ or ‘opening by dividing in two,’ or ‘laying open,’ or ‘revealing,’ or ‘explaining,’ or ‘opening so as to connect’: di-anoigō] the scriptures to us?”  And having risen up [an-istémi; cf. Mark 9:31-32 and Luke 24:46] (in that) same hour [hōra—in other words, I believe, the same symbolic “hour” as that of Christ’s symbolic “Crucifixion and Resurrection”],[13] they returned [hypo-strephō] to Jerusalem, and they found [or discovered: heuriskō] the eleven gathered together and those with them, saying, “Truly, the Lord has been raised [or awoken: egeirō] and was made visible to Simon [derived from the Hebrew name ‘Shimon,’ meaning ‘one who hears’; cf. Job 42:5]!”  Then they related [or explained, or interpreted, or expounded, or unfolded in teaching: ex-égeomai, from which is derived the English word “exegesis,” and which more literally means “to lead out”] the things on the road [or “on the Way”], and how he was made known [ginōskō] to them in the breaking of the bread.[14]

If the “bread” corresponds to the “body” (just as the “wine” corresponds to the “blood”), then the “breaking of the bread” would correspond to the “breaking of the body” or “tearing apart of the body”:  in other words, the “opening up” of Jesus’s “body” so that his “blood” and “insides” could come “pouring out” or “flowing out” (cf. John 19:34 and Acts 2:16-18).  The “breaking of the bread” would thus signify the “revealing” of the “inner meaning” of the scriptures—as well as the “revealing” of the Christ’s “inner self” or “open self.”

A revealing Hebraicism seems to be involved in these two passages from the Gospel of Luke.  Note that Luke 24:25-27 says that Jesus “interpreted [di-erméneuō] the scriptures” to his followers, while in Luke 24:30-35 the followers describe this same event as Jesus having “fully opened [or opened up: di-anoigō] the scriptures” to them.  The Hebrew word pathar literally means “to open up”; but it also has the more figurative meaning of “to interpret.”  This helps to point out the connection that can be made between, on the one hand—in the symbolic events of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, during which Jesus was “pierced” and the veil was “torn in two”—the literal “opening up” of the Christ considered as a concretized, figurative, individual human personification of the idea of the “closed self” being transformed into an “open self”; and, on the other hand—in the interpretation of the scriptures—the “opening up” of the Christ considered as that very idea itself, which is referred to in Luke 24:25-27 as “the things concerning himself in all the scriptures.”  This would explain why Jesus’s former followers were finally able to fully “comprehend” or “understand” the meaning of the scriptures only after his symbolic “Crucifixion and Resurrection”—because it was only as a result of those symbolic events that the concrete, personified figure of Christ had become fully “opened up” in the more literal sense.  Nothing of what is going on in the Gospels will make any sense at all unless it is first understood by the reader that Jesus Christ was meant to serve as the concretized, figurative personification of an idea.

The subsequent verses of Luke 24:44-48 continue this idea of the symbol of the “Crucifixion and Resurrection” being associated with an “opening up” of the inner meaning of scripture:

And (Jesus) said to (his disciples), “These (are) my words [or meanings: logos], which I spoke to you (while) still being with you, that it is necessary that all things concerning me written in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms be fulfilled [or completed, or made full: pléroō].”  [And that “fulfillment” of the Old Testament already occurred with Jesus’s literal Crucifixion and Resurrection, right?  Wrong.  Notice the next word used here: “then.”]  Then [or thereupon: tote] he opened up [or “thoroughly opened,” or “opened by dividing in two,” or “laid open,” or “opened so as to connect”: di-anoigō] their mind [nous] to comprehend [more literally, “put together” or “bring together”: syn-iémi] the scriptures.  And he said to them, “In this manner [or ‘thus,’ or ‘so’: houtōs] has it been written:  the Christ was to suffer and to rise up [an-istémi] from the dead (with) the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, having begun [or originated, or commenced, or ruled: archomai] from [apo] Jerusalem.[15]  You are witnesses [martys] of these things.”[16]

After the symbolic “Resurrection of Christ,” it would no longer be necessary that the cryptic language of scripture concerning the true nature of anyone’s “self” remain “concealed” to anyone.  The truly “open self” or “transparent self” has no need for meanings to be “concealed” or “hidden,” whether within sacred scriptures, or within his or her own communications.  The “resurrected Christ” depicted in the Gospels would thus signify the imagined realization of the fully “open self”; while the “prophecy” that is referred to would have been somewhat obliquely expressing the desire that that “open self” might someday be realized—first in people’s imaginations (the “First Coming”); and then in an actual, concrete social world made up of flesh-and-blood individuals (the “Second Coming”).  It is in that sense—and only in that sense—that the (still symbolic and archetypal) “resurrected Christ” of the “First Coming” represents the “fulfillment of prophecy.”



[1] Contrast this with James 3:17:

But the wisdom from above is first pure [or uncontaminated: hagnos], then peaceable, gentle [or moderate, or equitable, or fair, or mild, or patient, or reasonable, or kindly: epieikés], open to persuasion [or reasonable: eupeithés], full of mercy and good fruits, unambiguous [adiakritos], without hypocrisy.

[2] But as with the “Parable of the Wineskins” in the following sentence of the passage, there’s no reason to assume that the author meant to imply that the creation of any such “split” or “division” was something that ought to be avoided.  Consider Matthew 10:34-36—focusing especially on its use of the Greek words ballō and epi—in which Jesus says,

Do not think that I came to bring [ballō] peace upon [epi] the earth.  I came not to bring [ballō] peace, but a sword.  For I came to divide [dichazō] a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And (the) enemies of (a) man (will be) the members of his household.

I think the author meant for the “patch” in the parable told in Matthew 9:16 to correspond to Jesus or “the Son of Man.”  The “tearing away” (or “lifting up,” or “raising up”: airō) of the “patch” would correspond to Jesus’s “Crucifixion” (which would in turn represent every “disciple’s” own individual “crucifixion”).  This is indicated by passages such as John 3:14-15, in which Jesus says,

And just as Moses lifted up [hypsoō] the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up [hypsoō], so that everyone believing in him might have eternal life.  [Is Jesus comparing himself to a “serpent”?  Oh my, why would he do that?  Might it be because there is a need for Jesus to be “crucified” in order to be rid of his “serpentness”?  Or might it be because Jesus has a “serpent nature” that must be somehow “redeemed”?  Perish the thought!]

The “lifting up” of the “Son of Man” in this passage is presumably referring to Jesus’s Crucifixion and Resurrection.  With that thought in mind, consider John 19:15, in which the Jewish crowd cries out (referring to Jesus),

Take him away [airō]!  Take him away [airō]!  Crucify him!

But that same passage can also be read,

Lift him up [airō]Lift him up [airō]Crucify him!

[3] Although Matthew 7:6 itself never uses the actual Greek words probléma or pro-ballō, consider that the ancient Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament—with which the authors of the New Testament would have been quite familiar—explicitly uses the Greek verb pro-ballō to mean “to propound a riddle,” and the Greek noun probléma to mean “a riddle,” in Judges 14:12.

[4] Related to what I said about the Greek words pro-ballō and probléma, the Greek verb para-ballō literally means “to cast beside, to cast aside”; and from para-ballō is derived the Greek noun parabolé, which literally means “something cast beside, something cast aside”—but more figuratively means “a parable.”

[5] As additional confirmation that this supposition is a reasonable one, consider what is written by the medieval Jewish theologian Moses Maimonides in his Guide of the Perplexed, Introduction to the First Part (trans. Shlomo Pines, University of Chicago Press, 1963):

[T]he internal meaning of the words of the Torah is a pearl, whereas the external meaning of all parables is worth nothing, and … the concealment of a subject by its parable’s external meaning [is to be compared] to a man who let drop a pearl in his house, which was dark and full of furniture.

(p. 11; the emphases are mine; the bracketed material is in the translation.)  We thus once more encounter the theme of “(self)-concealment” or “hiding” or “secrecy” in connection with the use of an esoteric manner of discourse.

[6] Cf. Mark 15:34.

[7] Compare the use in 2 Peter 1:20 of the noun epilysis, which is derived from the verb epi-lyō that is used here in Mark 4:33-34, and which in 2 Peter 1:20 has the meaning “interpretation, explanation.”

[8] Notice how, according to Mark 4:33-34, the “parables” (parabolé) might be thought of as functioning as an “outer body” (or “covering,” or “[outer] garment,” or “sheath,” or “husk,” or “chaff,” or “shell”), inside of which one would find the (inner or true) “meaning” (or “message,” or “account”: logos), corresponding to the idea of the “inner body” (or “kernel,” or “grain of wheat,” or “pearl”).  (Cf. Luke 3:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-37,42-44.)  Jesus—who I am thinking of here as representing the prototypical esotericist—would no sooner “communicate with them apart from a parable” than he would “go into public apart from his clothes.”  In other words, Jesus refuses to go about “naked” or “in his undergarments”; and the cryptic and obscure “parables” are what allow him to avoid displaying his psychic vulnerability or “indecency” in public.  The “loosening” or “untying” (epi-lyō) of his parables—comparable to the “taking off of his clothes”—is something that, at this point in the story, anyway, he will do only “in private.”  (Cf. Genesis 3:8-10.)

Moreover, I think this idea helps to explain the significance of the symbol of the Crucifixion.  Luke 23:45-46 says,

And it was now about (the) sixth hour, and darkness came to be over the whole of the earth until (the) ninth hour, the sun having failed [or having been eclipsed: ek-leipō].  And the veil of the temple [naos] was torn [or split: schizō] (down the) middle [or center: mesos]Then Jesus, shouting [or crying out: phōneō] with a loud voice [phoné megalé], said, “Father, into your hands I commit [or entrust: para-tithémi] my spirit [pneuma]!” And having said this, he expired [or let out his breath, or gave forth his spirit: ek-pneō].

I believe the agony associated with the symbol of the Crucifixion was understood by the authors of the New Testament to be found largely in the notion of a person having had his “outer covering” or “outer body” or “outer self” taken away from him, and being left with no emotional protection from the outside world.  Prior to the Crucifixion, Jesus’s communication would be delivered to “the multitude” only as a joined unit, with the “kernel” of that communication hidden inside its “husk” or “sheath.”  But it is very important to appreciate that with the culmination of the Crucifixion, Jesus finally does communicate with the multitude “apart from a parable—when he “shouts with a loud voice,” instead of speaking “in a whisper” or “in the dark” (cf. Luke 12:3)—which the narrative implicitly associates with Jesus himself (as well as the “inner meanings” and the “outer meanings” of his communications) being “rent asunder” or “torn apart” or “torn in two” (schizō or rhégnymi).  It is this moment of fully revealing himself that is perceived to be a kind of “death”—but also understood to be a necessary death—by the prototypical esotericist striving to become an “open self.”

In John 2:19-21 Jesus identifies his “body” (sōma) with the “temple” (naos) in Jerusalem—which increases the likelihood that it was the symbolic “body” of “Jesus” himself that the author of Luke 23:45-46 meant for the reader to understand as having been “torn” (or “split”: schizō) when the temple’s “veil” was “torn,” thus leaving Jesus’s symbolic “body” torn in two:  divided into an “inner body” and an “outer body,” or, into an “inner self” and an “outer self.”  That would tend to imply that it was only because of the accomplishing of that “tearing in two” or “splitting in two” that it became possible for the “inner meaning” of his communications—that is, the “spirit” (pneuma) of his communications—and of himself—to finally be released openly and publicly (that is, “with a loud voice,” rather than “in a whisper”).

Again, the interpretation of the symbolic episode of the Crucifixion that I am offering here implies that in allowing himself to be crucified, Jesus was allowing himself to be “torn in pieces” (or “torn apart,” or “rent asunder”: rhégnymi), which would mean that the parable told in Matthew 7:6 was meant to convey the idea that with his Crucifixion, Jesus had allowed his “pearls”—that is, his “inner meanings” or his “kernels”—the very things that would make it possible for those “sniggering others” to gain a view of his emotional “insides,” his naked “inner self”—to be “cast before” the “dogs” and “pigs” composing “the multitude.”  And again, these “pearls” would be made available apart from the enclosing and protective “parables” and “riddles” (parabolé or probléma), that is, the outer “husks” or “sheaths” or “shells” of those inner “kernels” or “pearls.”  In other words, the symbol of the “Crucifixion” would be signifying the idea of esotericism”—understood in the fullest sense of the word—being brought to an end, since there would be no longer be any “outer” aspect of a person’s communications—or of his self—being used to keep any “inner” aspect of his communications or his self secret or hidden or concealed from others.  (And it must be emphasized that this passage is not describing any one single achievement that was already completed in the historical past; instead, it is a kind of myth describing an ideal for every human being to aspire to.)

[9] See, e.g., Matthew 27:27-31:

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him.  And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head.  And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

In this context, consider again the passage of Becker’s that I quoted above in the main text:

[I]sn’t the open person a threat to the closed one?  Doesn’t he oblige the open [closed?] one to let his guard down, to relax and mellow a bit, to practice tentativeness, to see the world in shades of gray instead of harsh contrasts, to exercise sympathy, perhaps even love?  All these things the weak person cannot do, which is why he armored himself in the first place.

Why would supposedly tough and brave soldiers treat a helpless person in the way in which the Roman soldiers are described as having treated Jesus?  Shouldn’t we assume that they perceived him as a threat to them precisely because of his openness (and resulting helplessness), in exactly the way indicated by Becker?  Not a physical threat, of course, but a psychological threat.  By hailing Jesus as “King of the Jews,” weren’t the soldiers implicitly acknowledging that he was their moral superior; and moreover, that he was also actually a stronger person than they were?  The soldiers clothe their acknowledgement in mockery in an attempt to conceal it from themselves; but their attempt doesn’t fool the more psychologically sensitive reader.

[10] See Matthew 27:37-44:

And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”  Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.  And those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself!  If you are a son of God, come down from the cross.”  So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.  He trusted in God; let God deliver him now, if He wants him.  For he said, ‘I am a son of God.’”  And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

In a manner similar to the Bible passage quoted in the previous note, all of the persons in this passage who are “deriding” and “reviling” Jesus had convinced themselves that the ability to “save oneself” (or, as we are more likely to call it these days, “get ahead in the world”) shows greater strength and power than the ability to “save others.”  They had managed to convince themselves (and each other) that pure selfishness (sometimes thought of as “being tough”) is a sign of strength rather than what it really is:  a sign of weakness.  They try to avoid noticing the obvious fact that nothing comes more easily to a person than the desire to look out for himself before others; to have the ability to feel that desire in no way represents any kind of achievement.  That is the reason why there is no more naturally selfish person in the world than a (weak) young child.

[11] Compare the use of the same Greek words didōmi, meaning “to give,” and di-anoigō, meaning “to open wide, to open fully,” in the Greek Septuagint translation of Genesis 3:2-7:

And the woman [Eve] said (to the serpent), “From fruit of the tree of the (garden of) paradise we shall eat, but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the (garden of) paradise, God said, ‘Do not eat from it, nor touch it [haptomai, a word which can also mean “to have sexual relations with”; cf. John 20:17], so that you shall not die.’”  And the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die unto death.  For God knows that on whatever day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened wide [or ‘opened fully’: di-anoigō], and you will be as gods, knowing [ginōskō] good and evil.”  And the woman saw that the tree (is) good for food, and that (it is) pleasing to the eyes to behold, and is beautiful for perceiving [or understanding, or contemplating: kata-noeō].  And, having taken its fruit, she ate, and she also gave [didōmi] (some) to her husband with her, and they ate.  And the eyes of the two were opened wide [or ‘opened fully’: di-anoigō], and they knew [ginōskō] that they were naked [gymnos].

I’ll leave it to others to figure out the full significance of this uncanny similarity to Luke 24:30-35, the passage in the main text—but in any event, I find it hard to believe that the similarity is nothing more than coincidental.  It sure does seem that in Luke 24:30-35 Jesus is being subtly compared to—but perhaps also contrasted with—“the serpent” from Genesis 3:2-7.  Should we perhaps infer that when Jesus’s former followers finally recognized him, what they were actually recognizing or acknowledging was their own metaphorical “nakedness”?  Is it unreasonable to suspect that there may have been a connection between “nakedness” and “openness” in the mind of the author of Luke 24:30-35?

The connection between the idea of “being given food to eat” and the idea of receiving some new way of reading an esoteric writing can also be clearly found in Ezekiel 2:8 to 3:3, in which the Lord says to Ezekiel,

“Open your mouth, and eat what I give [LXX didōmi] to you.”  And I looked, and behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, in it the scroll of a book.  And he spread it in my sight [or “before my face,” or “in front of me”: paneh; LXX enōpion], and it was written on the inside [more literally in Hebrew, “on the face”: panim; and more literally in LXX Greek, “on the front”: emprosthen], and on the back [Hebrew achor; LXX opisthen], and written on it were lamentations, and mourning, and woe.  And he said to me, “Son of man, that which you find, eat.  Eat this scroll and go speak to the house of Israel.”  And I opened my mouth wide [LXX di-anoigō] and he fed me this scroll.  And he said to me, “Son of man, your mouth [the Hebrew Masoretic version instead has “belly,” beten] will eat, and your belly will be made full [or fulfilled: male; LXX pimplémi] from this scroll, from the one having been given [LXX didōmi] to you.”  And I ate it; and it became sweet as honey in my mouth.

[12] Compare the use in 1 Corinthians 13:12 of the same Greek word epi-ginōskō, meaning “to recognize, to come to know, to know fully, to know thoroughly, to acknowledge, to understand.”  In that verse, the apostle Paul writes,

For we now look into a mirror [or glass: esoptron] in enigmas [or riddles, or puzzles, or “dark sayings,” or obscurity: ainigma]; but then, face to face.  Now I know in part; but then I will recognize [or fully know: epi-ginōskō], just as I have also been recognized [or fully known: epi-ginōskō].

A comparison of Luke 24:30-35 with 1 Corinthians 13:12 suggests that it may have been the “enigmas” (or “riddles,” or “puzzles,” or “dark sayings,” or “obscurity”: ainigma) that had been preventing Jesus’s followers from “recognizing” his “face”—which, if correct, would indicate beyond any doubt that “Jesus Christ” could not have been understood to be an actual person, but must instead have been understood to be a “concretized personification” of an idea.  But even besides that, the fact that persons who are said to have known Jesus before his Crucifixion weren’t able to “recognize” his face until he had broken a loaf of bread—after which he suddenly “vanished from sight”—ought to indicate that none of this was meant to be read literally—which in turn means that Jesus (at least the “Jesus” that is depicted in the Gospels) could not have been an historical person.

[13] For evidence that this is a plausible hypothesis, see, e.g., Matthew 10:19, Matthew 24:36, Matthew 24:44, Matthew 26:45, Mark 13:11, Mark 13:34, Mark 14:41, Luke 12:11-12, Luke 12:40, Luke 12:46, Luke 22:53, John 2:4, John 4:23, John 5:25, John 5:28, John 7:30, John 8:20, John 12:23, John 12:27, John 13:1, John 16:2, John 17:1.  (It’s not necessarily to check each and every one of these verses, once my point has been made.  In general, however, I do recommend consulting all of the Bible verses that I link to, since I am using those verses to help make my argument—so their specific contents, and the specific words used in them, do matter.)

Yet another indication that the symbolic “Crucifixion and Resurrection” of Christ was in some way understood by the authors of the Gospels to signify the transition to a more “open” and “transparent” way of communicating with and relating to others, partly by means of the abandonment of religious esotericism, can be found in John 16:25, in which Jesus says to his disciples,

I have spoken these things to you in cryptic sayings [or figurative sayings, or parables, or allegories, or dark sayings, or symbolic sayings: paroimia]The hour [hōra] is coming when I will no longer speak to you in cryptic sayings [paroimia], but will speak to you plainly [or openly, or forthrightly, or straightforwardly, or bluntly, or freely: parrésia] about the Father.

I would argue (based on verses such as the ones that I link to at the beginning of this note) that the “hour” (hōra) of which Jesus speaks in this verse was meant to refer to his Crucifixion, and probably also his Resurrection.  But note that the “interpreting” or “translating” (di-erméneuō) of the scriptures that Jesus does in Luke 24:25-27, and the “opening up” or “revealing” (di-anoigō) of the scriptures that Jesus does in Luke 24:30-35, both seem to be equivalent to making a transition from “speaking in cryptic sayings” to “speaking plainly.”  So it seems reasonable to suppose that the “hour” spoken of in Luke 24:30-35, when Jesus’s followers began to “rise up” (an-istémi), may have been meant to be understood as Jesus’s followers undergoing their very own “crucifixions” and “resurrections.”

Also consider how it is is repeatedly emphasized that the “fall of Babylon” would occur “in one hour” or “in a single hour,” in Revelation 18:10, Revelation 18:16, and Revelation 18:18—which seems to support the suggestion I offered above in the main text of a rough equivalence in the minds of the authors of the New Testament between the symbolic significance of the “Crucifixion,” and the symbolic significance of the “fall of Babylon.”

[14] Compare Luke 2:41-50, focusing on the use of the Greek word hypo-strephō (meaning “to return”) in the context of “Jerusalem,” as well as the use of the Greek word heuriskō (meaning “to find, to discover”).  In addition, note the following:  Jesus’s age of “twelve” (as compared to the “eleven” disciples); the similarity between “the breaking of the bread” and “the Feast of the Passover”; the similarity between the “understanding” or “comprehension” (synesis, derived from syn-iémi) that the Jesus of Luke 2:41-50 is said to have exhibited after “three days,” and the “interpreting” or “explaining” that Jesus is said to have done in Luke 24:25-27, Luke 24:30-35, and Luke 24:44-48 (which I quote just below in the main text), leading to the “comprehending” or “putting together” (syn-iémi) of the scriptures by the disciples in Luke 24:44-48; and the fact that Jesus’s parents were only able to “discover” him after spending an obviously symbolic “three days” looking for him—during which time Jesus had been going through a learning process, listening to teachers and asking them questions.

I believe that that last fact—combined with all of the other similarities between the passages—supports the thesis that I touch on in the previous note, and present at greater length in the following note, that the symbolic “Crucifixion and Resurrection” or symbolic “three days” signifies the difficult process of letting go of one’s former understanding of the scriptures (when those writings were taken quite literally, so that a reader’s primary concern was with the “surface meanings” or “outer meanings”), and instead attaining a comprehension of the true “inner meanings” of the scriptures (with those writings now being viewed as the prototypical person’s “inner self” or “open self” trying to find ways to express itself, and thus emerge from its “captivity” within the person’s “armored outer self,” by means of “outer vehicles”—which the “inner self” sees, rightly or wrongly, as the only communicatory “vehicles” available to it).

[15] I infer that Jesus’s “words which he spoke to his disciples while still being with them” was also meant to be understood as referring to what Jesus says just after that in this same passage:  that “the Christ was to suffer and to rise up from the dead with the third day.”  Jesus’s “opening up” of the mind of his disciples to “comprehend” (or “understand,” or “put together,” or “bring together,” or “make sense of,” or “make coherent,” or “reconcile”: syn-iémi) the Old Testament scriptures in some new way or second way—indicated by the phrase “in this manner” (or “thus”: houtōs)—is, I believe, what allowed them to understand the inner significance of the outer symbolism of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, and so to realize that this same inner significance had already been communicated, using somewhat different outer symbolism, in the writings of the Old Testament.

In fact, even though Jesus says, “Thus has it been written: the Christ was to suffer and to rise up from the dead with the third day,” etc., I’m not aware of any passage in the Old Testament that actually makes any such statement—at least not in those terms.  The closest passage that I’m aware of is Hosea 6:1-2, which does speak of a “striking down” and a subsequent “raising up” with the “third day,” but, significantly, speaks of it as applying to a collectivity—which would seem to support the hypothesis that the “Messiah” or the “Christ” would have been understood by the authors of the New Testament to refer to a new type of human being, and not to any one single individual person—not even one who was divine.  So when Jesus says, “Thus has it been written,” etc., I think the author of that passage is essentially “summing up” what he believed to be the “true” (even if only implicit—and even then, still symbolically expressed) message of the scriptures, as a result of the author’s “reading between the lines.”

I suggest this interpretation partly for the reason that by merely saying “the Christ was to suffer and to rise up from the dead with the third day,” Jesus is not saying anything new; this is nothing more than a restatement of what he had already told the disciples prior to the Crucifixion—for example, in Luke 9:43-45, Mark 9:31-32 (quoted just below), and Matthew 17:22-23.  And it cannot be understood to involve Jesus trying to prove that the “Resurrection” actually occurred—that is, according to the literal or “outer” sense of the symbol of the “Resurrection”—since, according to its literal sense, the disciples were supposedly all by that point already literal eyewitnesses of its occurrence, inasmuch as a resurrected Jesus was sitting there talking with them.

Moreover, Mark 9:31-32, taking place prior to the Crucifixion, says,

(Jesus) said to (his disciples), “The Son of Man is delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him.  And (once) he has been killed, with three days he will rise up [an-istémi].”  But they were not understanding the saying [rhéma], and they were afraid [phobeō] to ask him.

But according to the literal terms of what Jesus said, what is there not to understand?  It seems quite plain and straightforward and matter-of-fact—which implies that what he said could not have been meant to be understood literally.

I would also suggest that the fact that the disciples are said in Mark 9:31-32 to have been “afraid to ask (Jesus)” what exactly he meant by his “saying” may have been meant to indicate that what they were really afraid of was surrendering their own “character armor.”  If so, that would give support to the theory I am offering in this note, that to “understand the saying”—that is, to arrive at an understanding of the true “inner meanings” of the cryptic, parabolic, prophetical utterances of the esotericist authors of the Bible (foremost of which, I believe, is the “whispered” message that adopting the practice of religious esotericism actually gives rise to a self-created mental prison, and is not the provider of emotional security [and thus happiness] that it originally held out the promise of being)—would be equivalent to personally undergoing the experience of (metaphorically) “being delivered into the hands of men” and then “being killed.”  The author would have been trying to indicate, in other words, that the disciples were afraid of undergoing the suffering and (seeming) death that necessarily accompanies the transition from being a “closed self” to being an “open self.”

Consider also that the same Greek word used in Mark 9:31-32, phobeō, meaning “to be afraid,” is used in the Septuagint translation of Genesis 3:8-10, which describes what happened just after “doubleness” or “duplicity” was introduced into the world with “the Fall”:

And (Adam and Eve) heard the voice of the Lord God going about in the (garden of) paradise at dusk, and both Adam and his wife hid from the presence of the Lord God in the middle of the (trees) of the (garden of) paradise.  And God called Adam, and said to him, “Adam, where are you?”  And he said to him, “I heard your voice going about in the (garden of) paradise, and I was afraid [phobeō], because I am naked, and I hid.

If we suppose that the “fear of exposure” that was introduced into the world at the time of the mythical “Fall” was the reason for—as well as the product of—the practice of esotericism, and of deception in general, then a comparison of Mark 9:31-32 with Genesis 3:8-10 suggests that if the purpose of the mythical “Crucifixion” was to “undo” the harm created by the mythical “Fall,” then the “Crucifixion” would have to have been understood to be associated with a willingness to begin exposing oneself—especially including by giving up the practice of religious esotericism (or any other kind of esotericism, for that matter).

Returning to Luke 24:44-48 (the passage quoted in the main text), I think the inclusion of the phrase “in this manner” (houtōs) immediately after the sentence “Then (Jesus) opened up their mind to comprehend the scriptures,” may have been meant to indicate that the “opening up” (or “opening up by dividing in two”: di-anoigō) of the minds of the disciples—a process which would have involved “suffering” as they were forced to surrender old, conventional beliefs about how to read the scriptures—may have been considered to be equivalent to the symbolic “crucifying” (or “opening up,” or “piercing”) and the “suffering” of Christ; just as their subsequent “comprehending” (or “putting together,” or “making sense”: syn-iémi) of the scriptures may have been considered to be equivalent to the symbolic “rising up” of Christ.  This would explain why the disciples were able to “understand the saying” only after “Christ”—understood as the concretized personification of an idea or process—had been “crucified” and then “resurrected.”  The “opening up” (or “opening by dividing in two”: di-anoigō) of the minds of the disciples may have been understood to correspond to something like a “taking apart” or “breaking apart” or “analysis” of their minds or ideas or understanding, while the “comprehending” (or “putting together,” or “making sense”: syn-iémi) of the scriptures may have been understood to correspond to a kind of subsequent “synthesis” of their minds or ideas or understanding.  (The equivalence of the symbolic “Crucifixion and Resurrection” to the replacement of a person’s former understanding of the meaning of the scriptures by some new understanding of them, is also suggested by Acts 9:3-19, if one focuses in particular on the reference in verse 9 to the symbolic “three days” between the apostle Paul’s “loss of sight” and “regaining of sight.”)

Furthermore, the text, by its use of the Greek word tote (meaning “then” or “thereupon”) immediately after speaking of the “fulfilling” (or “completing,” or “making full”: pléroō) of the scriptures, might be similarly read to suggest that the “fulfilling” (or “completing,” or “making full”: pléroō) of the scriptures was understood to be equivalent to the “comprehending” (or “putting together,” or “making sense”: syn-iémi) of the scriptures in a “new way,” or “second way,” such that their true “inner meaning” or “inner significance” would finally be fully—or at least more fully—revealed to the reader.

Finally, I suggest that the apostles’ “beginning” (or “originating”: archomai) from “Jerusalem” may have been meant to be analogized to what is said in Luke 24:27, quoted above in the main text:

And having begun [or originated, or commenced, or ruled: archomai] from Moses and all the prophets, (the resurrected Jesus) interpreted [or translated, or fully explained: di-erméneuō] to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

In other words, the symbol of “Jerusalem” may have been meant to signify and correspond to “the scriptures”; with both of these corresponding to the idea of esoteric and cryptic “prophecy.”  In that case, the apostles’ “going forth” (or “leading out”: ex-égeomai) from “Jerusalem” would be the “outer image” corresponding to the more “inner” idea of the “exegesis” and “interpreting” (or “expounding”: ex-égeomai) of “prophecy.”

[16] Similarly, in John 5:39 Jesus says to the Jews,

You search the scriptures because you suppose (you) have eternal life in them; and these are what are bearing witness [martyreō] about me; and you do not want to come to me in order that you might have life.

A comparison of this verse with the passage in the main text suggests that what makes the disciples/apostles “witnesses” is that they are able to understand what they believe to be the true “inner meaning” or “inner spirit” of the Hebrew scriptures, so that they might then pass on that understanding to others.

If that is correct, then it would influence how one ought to read Bible verses such as 2 Peter 1:16, which says, “For we have not made known to you the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ (by) having followed cleverly devised myths, but (by) having become eyewitnesses [epoptés] of his majesty”—especially when one considers that this is said in the immediate context of the author telling readers that he and the other apostles have a more “sure” understanding of the “prophetic word” than the other church members do, as well as in the context of his speaking about the proper “interpretation” (epilysis) of the “prophecy of scripture.”  See 2 Peter 1:16-21.  Also, it is unlikely to be coincidental that “eyewitness” (epoptés) was the same name given to a person admitted to the third and highest grade of the ancient Greek Eleusinian mysteries—which did not involve the initiate making any claim that he had literally witnessed the appearance of any god in the flesh.