The real meaning in Jesus sayings.
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, such as:
“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 example:
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
© Copyright is asserted in this message by Geoff Cutler 2013