I’m working on a couple of writing projects right now. One is on eternal life and another is on retranslating the Gospels, inserting all the different biblical terms I’m redefining. What I’ve found is that so much of our New Testament is covered over with theological insinuations that we miss some of the intended meanings of the original writers. Putting it in different words helps to open up new ways of thinking about it.
Let me give you an example. Even the Greek word translated as “God” is a misleading term. According to a current Greek concordance, theos came from pagan origins.[i] Now, let me say this—there were some very good pagan concepts of the Creator prior to the coming of Jesus. Unfortunately, my early Christian training taught me to fear and block myself from thinking anything good about people who didn’t believe what I was told I should believe about Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit. After all, pagans could lead me to the dark side.
Back to my point: God is a pagan term confiscated by Christians. On the other hand, the Aramaic term for God is alaha. That’s probably what Jesus called the Creator or the Originator of Life. The definition for alaha means “unity” or “oneness.” To add to this, I read that the early Essene community taught that Moses only had one commandment. Guess what it was? Unity.
God’s name is unity. I think that would make the will of God be something closer to unity. Hmmm. So I wondered what it would look and sound like if, when reading the Gospels, I inserted words that mean unity or oneness into the text in place of “God.” Would that offer any new insights? Would it helps to expand the image of the Creator beyond a humanoid person with feelings and emotions?
For years I’ve been preaching and teaching that the term eternal life doesn’t refer to the good life after your dead. Even bible scholars and commentaries are agreeing that the term is a reference to “the quality of life God/Unity wants for you to experience in your life today.” In the book, I’m explaining that the only place eternal does not mean eternal is in the Bible. I’ve condensed the fourteen words down to two. I’m calling “eternal life” the exceptional life.
I already wrote an explanation for changing the term kingdom of heaven in my book into the “development of unity” or “the process of growth toward oneness.”
Finally, so many terms in the Bible have developed singular religious and theological connotations that they are like deep wagon wheel ruts in a dirt road. They lead you to one way of understanding a teaching. To be “saved” is to stay out of hell. To be “healed” is to reverse the forces of nature in seconds. Etc.
In many places, I use different terms that the Greek concordances suggest for a word. Often, the teaching remains the same, but it opens up more room for thought when you hear it in different words. Let me give you a sample of how I’ve revised the Gospel text for Sunday, Oct. 11. (Also, since the original text didn’t have numbered chapters or verses, and no capitalization, I’m leaving them out, too.)
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Now as Jesus was setting out on the road, a certain man came running, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do that I may experience the exceptional life?”
But Jesus said to him, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good who is not one with unity. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder,’ Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”
And he declared, “Teacher, I have observed all these things from my youth.”
Then Jesus, having studied him, was committed to his well-being and said to him, “You lack one thing. Go, sell everything you own and give it willingly to those who beg, and then you will experience treasure in heaven; then come, (in some versions: take up the cross, and) follow me.”
But he was saddened by this instruction, and went away distressed because he owned many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who possess riches to enter into the development of oneness!” Nevertheless, the disciples were shocked at his words. In response, Jesus said again to them, “Children, how hard it is (in some versions: for those who trust in riches) to enter the process of growth toward oneness! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into harmony and the working together of all things.”
And they were shocked beyond measure, saying among themselves, “Who then can be rescued[ii] from the inclination to satisfy the human senses?”
Looking straight at them, Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with unity; for all things are possible with unity.”
Then Peter began to say to him, “Look! We gave up everything and followed you.”
So Jesus answered and said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has laid aside house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my sake and the gospel’s, who shall not lay hold of a hundredfold times as much now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands with their associated persecutions—and in the system of things[iii] to come, the exceptional life. Moreover, many who are considered highest will be lowest, and the lowest will be ranked highest.”
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So that’s a little taste of what I’m working on these days. Maybe it will motivate you to think through a few more of these things.
[i] Theos/God (Great Treasures, online Greek) – A name reclaimed from the heathen, and used in NT for the true God. Various derivations, ancient and modern, have been proposed, but it is nearly certain that its origin is from the East and comes from the Sanscrit root, DIU-S (pronounced dyus), which means (1) masculine, fire, the sun, (2) feminine, a ray of light, day,* (3) neuter, the sky, heaven. DIV-S also means (1) as adjective, brilliant, (2) as feminine, substantive, sky or heaven.
[Wherever the Sun shines in the world he has been or is, worshipped as God, because he gives light to Heaven and life to earth; and heaven was in turn worshipped as the abode of the Sun, but the object of adoration was Light and Life,** or heaven either as the abode of the Sun, or as personified. Then DIAUS was procreating or generative power dwelling in heaven. The Father of light and life. Hence came Latin, DEUS; Doric, ΣΔ (SD)EYΣ (S), and ZEOΣ (S); Lacedæmonian, Σ (S)IOΣ (S); Eolic, Δ (D)EYΣ (S), or ZEYΣ (S); and Attic, Θ (Th)EYΣ (S) and Θ (Th)EOΣ (S). †