Yet Another Paradigm

King James Version of the Bible

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Lately, I have had something tugging at my soul due to some pretty deep discussions with a few of you. So much so that I have begun to rethink what my beliefs really are (not that they have ever actually been crystal clear to begin with). For the better part of 2 years now I have been restricting my religious studies to that of Rabbinical Judaism (Torah, Talmud, Mishna and Kabbalah). The knowledge and sense of fulfilment that I have felt in this process is beyond words. However, for some reason I have felt something was missing.

Then while I was delivering a charge in the Lodge (remember I’m a Freemason) something, as if by Providence, clicked while I recited this line in the charge right as my eyes gazed upon the open Bible on the altar. For those of you who do not know, every Masonic Lodge has an altar and while the lodge is at labor (or the meeting is in progress) the Bible is open.

Finally Brethren, be ye all of one mind and may the God of love and peace delight to dwell with and bless you.

Yes, I just quoted the Apostle Paul.

Freemasonry uses the Holy Bible as its rule and guide in life. When a man is Raised to the degree of Master Mason he is presented with a Bible. Not just any Bible but, a Masonic Bible. Now, before you conspiracy nuts get all crazy on me, a typical Masonic Bible contains the following:

  • Record Pages to record the dates a man goes through the various degrees of Masonry.
  • Essays on the importance of the Bible as the Great Light to ALL Masons
  • Concordance on Masonic principles and tenets and where to find them in the Bible
  • The Old Testament*
  • The New Testament*

*The translation used by Masons is the King James Version.

As I finished the charge I found myself staring at the Bible. As I did, all the recent discussion I’d been having started to replay in my head and I realized that I’d been leaving out the central point within the circle of Freemasonry. Freemasonry has always been a “Fraternity of men under the Fatherhood of God”. We use symbols and allegory much like the teachers of antiquity. The Torah has always been viewed by the Jews as more than just a literal text. Much literature exists – especially for the Torah – on the various ways to discover the hidden meanings in the text. So I got to thinking… I’ve been paying no attention to the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) as it was my belief that Jesus was only a radical rabbi who was the victim of the tyrannical Roman Empire.

But, wait a minute…

With the exception of Luke and Acts, all the books of the New Testament were written by Jews. Some of which were highly educated and some of which were not. All of them knew Torah and all of them wrote about Jesus. So if these men knew of allegorical meanings within text and they wrote about a man who always taught in allegory (parables), what is the possibility that the books of the New Testament also have hidden allegorical meaning? (The most obvious of these is Revelation of course).

With this in mind I put all my Rabbinical Torah Commentaries, Talmud, the Zohar, and my (dusty) Christian Study Bibles into a cabinet and for the last 2 weeks been using my Masonic Bible (refer to the above). It contains no study notes or commentary within the text. It is just the Old and New Testament and it is in the beautiful KJV translation (to be honest I prefer KJV because it forces you to focus on what you read). I focused strictly on the text itself without any commentary or other distractions to unearth the message one layer at a time. I can see allegory and I see a messianic message as well. Keep in mind that when I say messianic it is in the context that Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Zerubbabel were messiahs for their time. The life, teachings, and death of Jesus had a purpose and a significant impact on just as broad a scale, if not broader, than the others. His failure to bring upon the long-awaited Messianic Era leaves me to believe that another figure will rise to the occasion. Whether it will be Jesus returning, all of them returning together, or  someone else altogether remains to be seen.

I have to be honest. I feel a comforting familiarity with reading the Gospels and Epistles again. I saw some things I’d missed before and have a new perspective on things now that I’ve sanitized myself of the dogmatic teachings I grew up with. There is wisdom, beauty, and hope.  I see parallels of  the same wisdom in Proverbs, beauty in the Psalms, and hope woven through the lives of patriarchs in the Torah. I will keep studying… The quest goes on.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light

Thomas Jefferson’s Bible

Cover - Jefferson Bible after treatment

Image by national museum of american history via Flickr

Thomas Jefferson is a personal hero of mine for several reasons.   Obviously because he  was one of our founding fathers and the author of the Declaration of Independence , but also because he was the epitome of  what it meant to be a “Seeker”.  I have mentioned The Jefferson Bible a few times but, I have recently stumbled across a website that lets you look at the original.  For those that don’t know Jefferson struggled with the miracles and magic in the Bible.  He believed in God and he held Jesus in a high regard.  He was theologically somewhere between a Unitarian and a Deist.  He read a lot and the Bible was one of the books he read the most (he had the Bible in Greek, French, and the good old King James Version you can read today)  Eventually Jefferson narrowed his view of the Bible to just the life and teachings of Jesus.  So he took a razor and some glue and literally cut the passages of the Gospels that he felt best reflected the teachings of Jesus and pasted them into a blank book.  He then used this as his Rule and Guide in life.  For a long time members of congress were given a copy of this book when they took the oath of office.  The rise of evangelicalism in the 50’s saw this tradition come to a quiet end.  It’s a shame when you think about it.  Imagine if members of  Congress followed the precepts taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

Here is a link to The Jefferson Bible

http://americanhistory.si.edu/JeffersonBible/the-book/?page=3&view=transcription#dl

I own a copy of this and have set it aside for a little to long as I have focused so much on Torah study.  In fact, due to some recent discussions with a very intelligent author I have decided to revisit the Christian Scriptures.  I am sure that the new reading lenses that I have developed from rabbinical Torah study will no doubt prove useful in reading about the Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.  Who knows, maybe I’ve been wrong about Paul too.  Stay tuned the Quest is about to go into yet another direction.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light

No, I haven’t forgotten Jesus

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

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I started The Quest with the desire to conduct an exploration of various theologies with the goal of gaining a better understanding of the Light of Truth. Somehow when I began to dig into the Kabbalah it led to the Torah and then I became consumed with studying just that. I suppose because I had discovered that there existed a tremendous body of literature (Talmud, Mishna, Zohar, and other rabbinical commentaries) that I had never been exposed to (when I was a Christian) that interpreted the various layers of the Torah, I began to focus on Jewish scholarship so much that I began to stray from my universal view of the Divine. In doing so I even began dismissing and even discrediting the Christian religion. The truth is I have nothing but respect and admiration for the teachings and morals of the character attributed to Jesus. In fact I think Thomas Jefferson said it best when he stated:

“Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christians.” ~Thomas Jefferson

His point being that it was the teachings and not the man himself that he followed.  The evidence of this is in his Unitarian beliefs and his theological compilation known as The Jefferson Bible. The following is an exact quote from a letter Jefferson wrote to Benjamin Rush in April of 1803:

“To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others.” ~Thomas Jefferson

I have had a few folks accuse me of Jesus bashing lately and I can see how that impression can be made.  To clear it up – I actually really like Jesus.  I am convinced that someone of significance existed a long time ago with that name (the actual interpretation of his name in English is really Joshua though).  The problem I have is the additional doctrines and teachings that were adopted by the church long after Jesus’ death.  Things like eternal damnation for lack of faith and predestination. 

Jesus was a rabbi.  Rabbi means teacher and you do not need a theology degree to know that he was really good at teaching.  Like all the great teachers and scholars throughout history he taught in allegories and symbolism.  Before you cast doubt on what I am saying,  show me one instance where Jesus did not teach in a parable.  You won’t find any because he always spoke in parables.  Even though one can not with absolute certainty know for sure how accurate the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) are due to the lack of any original or complete manuscripts, the various councils used to canonize them, and the several subsequent translations – there is no way to mistake the message Jesus was trying to convey – Love one another.  This message dates all the way back to the very beginning when man chose to take the reins from the Divine and seek knowledge of both good and evil.

“‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”  ~Deuteronomy 6:5

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself…”  ~Leviticus 19:17-19

“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’   This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~Matthew 22:37-40

I believe the message of Jesus has to be studied and not the dogmas and doctrines that were created by those with motives of control or power.  Jesus taught that the moral code in the Torah should not just be an outward exercise but an internal one.  So while I do not worship the man, I do firmly believe his message was pure, timeless, and applies to all of us.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light