February 19th, 2002
Received by H.
Hello, my little brother.
You know, today's subject almost saddens me, because I would like
to deal with an extraordinary beauty that I cannot really share.
It is a problem of language, or perhaps it would be better to say
a problem of ways of thinking.
Some days ago, M___ sent you a message where he told you that he
had found in the apocryphal gospels some supposed sayings of Jesus,
"Whoever drinks from my mouth will
become as I am, and I will become that person, and the hidden
things will be revealed to him."
"Have you departed and removed yourself
from us?" But Jesus said, "No, but I shall go to
the place from whence I came. If you wish to come with me,
come!" They all answered and said, "If you bid us,
we come." He said, "Verily I say unto you, no one
will ever enter the kingdom of heaven at my bidding, but (only)
because you yourselves are full ... Therefore, I say to you,
'Become full, and leave no space within you empty ..."
As we have said repeatedly, not all sayings of Jesus' are contained
in the canonical gospels, and some of those which are contained
there do not appear in their original form. Even those that appear in their original form have lost
much or almost everything of their original beauty through bad translation. By this I don't refer to the translation from the
Greek into English, but from the original language in which they
were delivered, that is to say from Aramaic into Greek.
As you know, at the beginning the apostles had no intention of
recording Jesus' sayings and deeds in written form, since they awaited
his immediate return. But as time went by, some of them began to
write. They did not create a story as I do now, but they wrote
what Jesus had said, just as they remembered it. The Master's deeds
and actions did not interest them so much. What they wanted to record
in a pure form were his teachings. At that time, practically nobody
was interested in Jesus' biography.
Consequently, there very soon existed several writings, collections
of sayings in the Aramaic language, circulating in the eastern part
of the empire where Aramaic was understood and was used as a lingua
franca for trade. From these collections, Greek translations
were produced, since Greek was a language that was understood in the east as well
as in the west. The Aramaic originals eventually got lost, decaying
together with the influence of this language, especially after the
First Jewish War.
The translators of the sayings faced many problems, the principal
one perhaps being that Aramaic had one single word with many meanings,
while Greek had many words for a single significance. In the translation,
this meant that they had to choose among several Greek words in
order to reproduce the meaning of one Aramaic word. And as it happens
so often in life, they did not choose well on many occasions.
Later, when some interest arose in Jesus and his life, several
authors gathered these collections of sayings, and built a story
around them, largely fictional, partly based on tradition, with
liturgical intentions. What they did not understand, they simply
ignored and did not integrate into their writings.
The two statements above are examples. They are authentic, and
once again I would like to congratulate M___ for his keen eye, recognizing
the true pearls amidst many false things. But even if they were
not authentic sayings of Jesus, it would have been worthwhile using
them, because they contain truth. And to find truth, even when it
has its origin in later times, is always good.
They are two statements referring to Divine Love and soul transformation,
a teaching that in the gentile part of the church very soon got
lost. What a pity!
But I would like to return to the language problem.
In a message received through Dr.
Samuels, Jesus has already put forth a very typical and harmless
There are more things that I would like to write you about
and that is regarding the words: "It is easier for a
rope to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a
rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven." I did not use
the word "camel" for it has no association with
the word "needle," and it never occurred to me to
use it, as it is found in many versions of the New Testament.
I said harmless, because I am not referring to the substitution
of the word "mortal" for "rich." In Aramaic,
camel is "gamla", but "gamla" also means
rope or cable. This has already been explained, but it is a beautiful
example of how the translator chose the wrong word correspondence
amongst several possibilities.
Let us look at another example. In Luke
14:26 we read:
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother,
and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and
his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
The Aramaic word "sanah" means to hate and to abhor,
but it also means "to separate" or "to come away from."
If we use the second variant for the translation, this very controversial
text suddenly acquires a very different meaning.
This Bible quote appears also in a mutilated form in the apocryphal
gospel of Thomas:
Whoever does not hate father and mother as I do cannot be
my disciple, and whoever does not love father and mother as
I do cannot be my disciple. For my mother, who gave birth
to me, was a simple woman, but my true mother gave me life."
It does not make sense, either, in the form in which I have reproduced
it. In fact, it is not about hating parents, but about detaching
oneself from the parents, and the "true mother" is the
Holy Spirit, feminine in Aramaic.
This is another typical example where the translator chose wrongly
amongst the possible translations. But this is not the only problem.
Aramaic words sometimes allowed an excellent word game, which disappeared
totally in the translation, producing some very controversial statements,
which did not appear that way in the original. In Matthew
19:12 we read:
For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their
mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made
eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves
eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able
to receive it, let him receive it.
This was also dealt with by Jesus in a message received by Dr.
Samuels. But I wanted to go a little bit deeper into it, because
once again we find an Aramaic word with a double meaning. In another
instance, we find the word eunuch in the Book of Acts:
And, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority
under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge
of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship...
Here we see the absurd case that an eunuch from Ethiopia came to
Jerusalem to worship in the Temple of the Lord. According to the
Torah, eunuchs could never convert to Judaism, therefore, this Ethiopian
could not be a proselyte, and castrated Jews were excluded from
the Temple and from any religious assembly.
The word "eunuch" in the Aramaic original, in both cases,
is "imhaimna," which in fact may mean eunuch, but also
"believer" or "faithful man."
In the first example of the gospel according to Matthew, we can
appreciate an excellent play of words. In the second case, the translation
is simply bad. He was an Ethiopian, a faithful man or believer.
Do you understand now my sadness? When you read Jesus' sayings,
you cannot grasp even the shadow of what they really were.
Now it is time to say goodbye. God bless you all.
Judas of Kerioth