Support for Christianity
Chapter 40. The priests criticize the misunderstood sermon on the mount. Nathanael’s profound explanation on behalf of the Lord.
"1. When the sermon had ended many were shocked, and mainly the priests and some of the people said, ‘Who can attain to salvation? We teachers of the law also preach properly and justly as once Moses proclaimed from the mountain the commandments to the people. But all that is like dew and a gentle evening breeze compared to this strict teaching and mightiest of sermons. There is hardly a tenable argument against such precepts, but they are too severe and hardly anyone will be able to practice them.
2. Who can love his enemy, who do good to the one who harms him maliciously and who can bless those who hate him and speak only bad about him? And if a person wants to borrow something from me, I must not turn away and refuse to listen to him nor steel my heart against his words, even if I see clearly that the borrower will never be able to return what he has borrowed? Ah, what a silly thing! If the lazy ones and the shirkers hear about it, will they not promptly go to the wealthy and borrow from them as long as they possess something? Once they have in this way - and nothing is easier than that - lent everything to the poor, who can never return what they have borrowed, and in the end have nothing left themselves, the question arises: Who will in the future be working and from whom will the poor then receive a loan?
3. It is only too obvious that with the observance of such precepts, which oppose the nature of all human institutions, the world would in no time become a real desert. Once the world is a desert, where will men receive any education, since all schools just come to an end if no one has the means to establish and support them?
4. This teaching will not do at all. The bad people and enemies of the good and their good works must be punished and who slaps my face must be slapped back at least twice, so that he will no longer wish to slap my face again. The careless borrower must be put in a work-house to teach him to work and in future earn his living by diligently working with his hands. The very poor may ask for alms and they will not be refused. That is an ancient but very good law under which a human society can well exist. But the precepts this alleged Christ has now given are too impractical for human life and cannot possibly be adopted.
5. I did not want to mention all the other things, absurd as they sounded, but the suggested self-mutilation in case of vexation through parts of one’s own body and besides the evidently recommended idleness, according to which no one should be concerned about anything, but only keep seeking the Kingdom of God, as all else would be given him from above! -Let us try this only for a period of a few months, during which people do not touch anything or work, and we shall soon see whether fried fish will be swimming into their mouth.
6. And how stupid is the recommended self-mutilation when limbs cause vexation. If we let someone with a sharp axe in his right hand cut off and fling away the left, what will he do when afterwards the right hand vexes him, - how will he cut that off, and how tear out the eyes and finally, without hands, cut off his feet that might still annoy him? Ah, leave us alone with such a teaching! This would not be good enough for a crocodile, let alone for man. If you think only a little of the consequences, it will become clear to you that such a teaching can be nothing else but the result of some ancient Jewish fanaticism.
7. And if all the angels descended from the heavens and taught men such ways of attaining everlasting life and the use of such means for gaining heaven, such stupid teachers should be thrashed out of the world so that they may swallow their stupid heaven. - But what inconsistency. - “A tooth for a tooth” and “an eye for an eye: he considers unjust and cruel, preaches utmost gentleness and tolerance, even opens the gate for all thieves by saying: “If a man demands your shirt, let him have your coat as well.” What a teaching! -But on the other hand people are to tear out their eyes and cut off hands and feet. - Which one of you has ever heard a greater nonsense?
8. Here the Priest steps up to Me and says, ‘Master, your deeds prove that you can do more than any ordinary man, but if you are able to think correctly, which I do not doubt since at the house of Irhael I heard you speak quite wisely, then revoke certain most impracticable precepts of this your sermon. Otherwise we must, notwithstanding all your deeds, which are truly worthy of a Messiah, regard you as a fanatical magician taught in some ancient Egyptian school and expel you from here as a real Messiah-blasphemer.
9. Just have a closer look at your mighty teaching, and you will see that your teaching is quite useless for gaining everlasting life and cannot be followed by anyone. For, if a person is to win heaven in such a way, he is sure to forgo heaven. It would be preferable not to have been born than thus to win a heaven which one can enter only as a mutilated cripple. Tell me honestly whether you understand this or whether you are really serious about your teaching.’
10. Say I, ‘You are a high priest, but you are blinder than a mole under the earth; what can be expected of the others? I gave you metaphors here and you swallow only their material part which threatens to suffocate you. You do not seem to have the least idea of the spirit I put into these metaphors.
11. Believe Me, we are quite as wise as you imagine yourselves to be and know very well whether or not a person could and should mutilate himself to gain everlasting life. But we also know that you do not grasp the spirit of this teaching and will not be able to grasp it for quite some time. We shall not, however, revoke our words because of that. Although you have ears, they do not hear the right thing, also you have eyes, but they are spiritually blind and, notwithstanding your open ears and eyes, you do not hear and see anything.’
1. Says the High Priest, ‘Yes, yes, you may be right therein to, and I will not, and at this stage also cannot, contest whether - and what kind of - spiritual is contained in your educational metaphors. One thing, however, you cannot dispute that if I, for instance, wish to pass a teaching to someone which I want him to understand and practice as my disciple, I must surely give the teaching in such a way that my disciple will understand it in its true sense. Once I know that my disciples has fully grasped the inner truth of my teaching, I have every right to demand of my disciple to act according to my teaching.
2. If I give someone a teaching in metaphors, which as such are impossible to practice, and if my disciple then asked me: “What does that mean? How am I to take my own life in order to win life? How am I to kill myself, so that as a dead man I may receive a new, even an eternal life, out of death?”, then I shall say to him, “Look, friend, you must understand this in such and such a way. For, behold, between the given metaphor and the truth it contains there is this and that spiritual correspondence, and you have to arrange your life in accordance with this correspondence, not with the external picture.
3. Look, Master, then the disciple will understand it and, as already mentioned, I have then every right to demand of him to become active in the spirit of the truth of my teaching. But can I, without being a fool, expect him to act according to my harsh metaphor? And if I in all earnest did demand that, I would appear to all thinking people as a man who carried water in a sealed up vessel and when a thirsty man came to him requesting a drink, the water carrier promptly passed him the sealed up jar, saying: “There you have the jar, - drink!” The thirsty man then tried to drink, but could not find an opening and asked the carrier: “I can I drink from it since the jar is sealed up from all sides?” - and the carrier told him: “If you are blind and cannot find the opening, swallow the whole jar and you will thus also swallow the water with it.”
4. Tell me, you otherwise dear and wise Master, what the thirsty man would have to say to such a carrier? I think he could in this case justly call such a water carrier a fool.
5. This does not mean that I want to call you exactly a fool, but if you say that because of our spiritual blind-and-deafness we cannot grasp the spirit of your teaching, your teaching would still be like the water in a sealed up jar with the thirsty man would in fact have to swallow together with the water, a demand which could only come from a prophet who has escaped from an asylum. - Regard this matter as you please. As long as you do not add a sufficient explanation to your teaching, which in some of its points holds much that is good and true, I and many clearer thinking people abide by what I have expressed, You will never live to see that, because of your teaching, we shall promptly begin to cut off our hands and feet and tear out our eyes. We shall also continue to work as before and gain our bread by the sweat of our brow, and the one who will deceitfully offend against us, shall not be spared a just punishment.
6. To the thief who steals a shirt from us we shall not give our coat too, but he shall be seized and thrown into prison, where he will be given sufficient time to repent of his wrong action and live a better life. If you are truly a wise man gone forth from God, you must also be convinced of the sacred need to preserve the Mosaic Law, which God Himself proclaimed under lightning and thunder to the Israelites in the desert. If, however, you want to break the law with your teaching, take care that you can face Jehovah!’
7. Say I, ‘I am of the opinion that the lawgiver is entitled to either leave the law alone and fulfill it himself according to the spirit and truth or abolish it completely under certain conditions.’
8. Says the High Priest, ‘This now sounds peculiar from your mouth. This morning I would have revered such a word from your mouth, for then it really seemed to me that you were indeed the Promised. But after the teaching you give us you have in my eyes become a madman, whom it pleases to present his fixed idea to us as the promised Messiah’s wisdom. Therefore, you had now rather explain your harsh teaching, as without sufficient explanation no one could ever grasp it and act according to it.’
9. Say I, ‘So tell me then what confounds you so much in My teaching, and I shall solve the problem for you.’
10. Says the High Priest, ‘I have already mentioned that several times, but to show you that I am very reasonable and moderate, I tell you now that I accept all the other points of your teaching as good and wise, but I cannot possible accept the tearing out of eyes and the cutting off of hands and feet. Think it over yourself whether it is possible to tear out one’s eyes. Also, will not the one who himself cuts of one of his hands or feet soon bleed to death? And once he is dead, what fruits of betterment will he then be able to produce?
11. Look, that is the impracticable point of your teaching which can never be reasonably complied with and if there ever should be any fools who do comply with such teaching, they will not achieve any betterment thereby. For if someone should survive, who will not praise God because of the misery such a teaching claimed to be from God has caused him.’
12. Say I, ‘Very well, your request is fair enough and it tell you: Among all the priests since Samuel you are the wisest, for you have an honest heart and do not basically reject My teaching, but only wish to have it explained. Therefore, I will also give you a light. This light will not come from My mouth, but from the mouth of one of My disciples. Do now turn to one of My disciples, which will prove to you that My teaching is already understood by people without My explanation.’
1. Here the High Priest turns to Nathanael and says to him, ‘Following your Master’s direction, I now happen to turn to you. Will you, therefore, explain to me at least the most difficult point of the teaching of your master. But please do use only clear and pure words, for with a haze over a haze, a room cannot be illuminated. And now do speak.’
2. Replies Nathanael, ‘Are you of such a closed mind that you cannot grasp a clearly given teaching in its true sense? Have not practically all the prophets predicted that Christ would open His mouth to speak to the people only in parables?’
3. Says the High Priest, ‘Yes, you are right, that is how it is written.’
4. Continues Nathanael, ‘Well, since you as one versed in the Scripture know that why then do you call the Lord a fool because according to the Scripture He opens His mouth in parables? You may, of course, implore the Lord for a light to help you understand them, but not call Him a fool if you do not understand His allegorical speech, since you are still ignorant in such divine matters.
5. Behold, all things in nature have their order and can exist only in their specific order. Thus have also the things of the spirit their specific order, beyond which they cannot exist nor be imagined or expressed in words. However, between the natural and the spiritual things, since the former have gone forth from the latter, there is and exists an exact correspondence which, of course, only the Lord knows in all detail.
6. Thus, when the Lord tells us - who are all still within the fixed order of natural existence - of purely spiritual things, He can do so only by using metaphors. To be able to understand these properly, we must strive to awaken our spirit through observing God’s commandments. Once this awakening has taken place, openly then shall we understand all that the Lord has said and revealed in such a corresponding parable, and that is wherein his divine Word will for ever differ from our human word.
7. But now pay good attention. What the eye is to the natural man, is to the spirit the ability to view the divine and heavenly things, which alone suit the nature of the spirit for its most blessed, everlasting existence.
8. However, since the spirit, according to the most necessary divine order, has to be for a certain time imprisoned in the matter of the flesh of this world, so that it may become firm in its freedom and almost total independence of God without which it would never be able to see God, let alone exist in, beside and with God (but when the spirit is maturing within matter and becoming firm in freedom and independence of God, it is exposed to the quite unavoidable danger of being swallowed up by matter and perishing together with it, from which death an awakening to life in God is and must be extremely hard and painful) - the Lord said, not to the physical man, of course, but to the spiritual man: “If your eye offends you, tear it out and fling it away, for it is better to enter the heavens with one eye, than hell with both,” which is to say as much as: If you find the light of the world too tempting, make an effort and turn away from such a light; which would draw you into the death of matter. Deprive yourself as spirit of the empty gratification that enjoyment of the world can offer and turn with your soul to the purely heavenly things, for it is better for you to enter the realm of eternal life without much worldly knowledge than be swallowed up by the death of matter - too worldly wise on the one hand and too little spiritually wise on the other hand.
9. If the Lord here spoke of two eyes, hands and feet, He thereby did not mean the two eyes and the two hands and feet of the body, but only the obviously dual ability of the spirit to see, act and progress. He does not warn the flesh, which has no life, but the spirit not to concern itself with the world, when it feels too much attracted to it. In that case it is better to enter eternal life without knowledge of the world than be in the end swallowed up by the necessary judgement of the world because of too much worldly knowledge.
10. The spirit shall, of course, also see the world and get to know it, but it shall not take pleasure in it. Once it begins to feel that the world attracts it, it should promptly turn away from the world as danger is already threatening. Behold, this necessary turning away is expressed by the corresponding picture of the tearing out of an eye and He who is able to give us such an appropriate metaphor must surely be well-versed in all man’s spiritual and material circumstances. In my opinion, this could be possible only to Him through whose power, love and wisdom all things spiritual and material have been created. I think you will now have understood me and realise how flagrantly you have sinned against the One Who carries yours as well as all our lives in His almighty hand!’
1. Here the High Priest, as well as many others, is quite startled and says after a while, ‘Yes, yes, now I do understand it. But why did not the Lord speak right away as plainly as you have now spoken? Then I would surely not have sinned against Him.’
2. Says Nathanael, ‘If a seven year old boy would ask me that, I would not be at all surprised, but I do wonder how you, one of the principal sages of this place, could ask like that.
3. Would you not also like to ask the Lord why he put into the grain of seed the limitless forming and developing ability of the tree that will be going forth from it? Why the tedious development of a tree from the grain of seed and following that the long wait for the ripe fruit? Just look how foolish you still are!
4. The Lord’s word and teaching is like all His works. He gives us His teaching in seed-pods. These we have first to sow into the soil of our spirit, which soil is called LOVE. Then the seed will sprout and grow into a tree of true knowledge of God and ourselves, and from this tree we shall then in due course be able to gather fully matured fruit for eternal life.
5. LOVE IS THE PRINCIPAL THING; without it no fruit of the spirit can thrive. Sow the wheat into the air and see whether it will grow and bear fruit for you, but if you put the grain of wheat into good soil, it will grow and bear multiple fruit. The right love, however, is a proper soil for the spiritual grain of seed which we receive from the Lord’s mouth.
6. This is the reason why the Lord has now for all of you abolished the harsh Mosaic law of punishment, so that you may soon grow richer in good soil in your hearts. For he who punishes according to the law has little or often no love at all and the divine word-seed will, therefore, develop in him only poorly. The one who is being punished is anyway in the judgement in which there is no love, since judgement is the death of love.
7. Therefore, it is better if you do not immediately see your fellowmen’s faults, but are forbearing and patient. And if they in their weakness ask something of you, you shall not withhold it from them, so that love may keep growing in yourselves and also in your weak brothers Once this is present in abundance in you as well as your brothers, the divine seed will thrive within you and the weak will then in his strength look upon you with good will and reward you many times over for what you did for him when he was weak.
8. But if you are stingy and hard where your weak brothers are concerned, you yourselves will never attain to a divine fruit within you and the judgement of the weak will in the end drag also you into destruction.
9. When the Lord said, “Give the one who asks you for your shirt also the coat,” He only meant to point out that you who are rich and have many possessions should give abundantly to the poor when they come to you. Thereby you will also gain much soil in your hearts and thus be blessed with the possession of such true soil, and the poor will truly bless you, for from your hearts they will receive the most effective sermon of God’s true Gospel and thereby become strong for your own eternal support. But if you give miserly and calculate when and how much to give, you help neither yourselves nor your poor brothers, and because of it these will never become a support for you.’
1. Says the High Priest, who has listened to this speech most attentively, ‘Everything is now in order and I think that I understand all this pretty well. There is just one thing I still want to mention: The Master actually speaks only of tearing out the right eye and cutting off the right hand. Only in my searching zeal I added also the feet, but look, you have now also explained to me the cutting off of the feet just as you did the eye and hand about which alone the Lord spoke as far as I know. You said that there existed correspondence only in the Word of the Lord Who speaks to man’s spirit. How come then that you found also correspondence in my addition?’
2. Says Nathanael, ‘You are wrong. The Lord spoke also of the right foot, but He hinted to the scribes to omit that about the foot because those who have directed their inner vision heavenward and have activated their love-will - which corresponds to the left arm as the hand of the heart - in accordance with God’s will after getting rid of the right arm or right hand - by which the purely worldly motivation is to be understood - no longer need to rid themselves of the right foot. Once the eye is in the right light and the hand, or rather the will, is acting correctly, the progress into the regions of eternal life is automatically there or the right foot, denoting worldly progress, already automatically severed and a special effort is no longer needed.
3. You Samaritans could as well start with the foot, for although your sight is now directed toward the divine and your hands are engaged in the right action, your foot or your eagerness for progress is directed towards the world. You expect of the Messiah something quite different from what you should expect of Him in accordance with the predictions by all the prophets, and that, spiritually seen, is your right foot which you should sever, so that you can set out on the right road to the Kingdom of God. Only because of you the Lord had spoken also of the right foot, but did not have it recorded because the future followers of the Lord’s teaching will know very well where and wherein the kingdom of the Messiah is and consists and what has to be done to enter it. Is there anything else you wish to query?’
4. Says the High Priest, ‘Now everything is clear to me as far as I am able to grasp it but, notwithstanding the fact that I now do understand it, I must add that your teaching, the way it is given, is a severe and hard to understand teaching and you will find that many will be taking offence at it.
5. Not that I wish to make a bad prophet for you, yet I tell you that with the arrogant Jews you will not achieve what you have achieved with us, notwithstanding our stupidity in many points. We do believe now, although still as if in a dream. The prominent Jews, however, will not believe you like this. They will ask of signs and my in the end even persecute you because of the signs. We did not ask you for signs, but you nevertheless worked them voluntarily.
6. We do not believe you because of the signs, which partly could also be worked by men, but purely because of the teaching since it has now been explained to us. Therefore, you should stay with us, for with the proud Jews and Greeks you will have little success.’
Nathanael’s apostle-confession about the imitation of the Lord according to the new teaching of love from the sermon on the mount.
1. Says Nathanael, ‘This far I had to instruct you, from here on everything is in the Lord’s hand. What He wills, we also shall will and do, for all of us are spiritually still very poor. Therefore, we must remain with Him, so that we may gain the Kingdom of Heaven. We will bear together with the Lord all suffering and persecution, so that with and in Him we shall have the proper comfort. In His name let us be meek in all our thoughts, opinions, wishes and desires, also in all our actions, so that we may be able to take real possession of the true soil which is THE PURE LOVE OF GOD IN OUR HEARTS.
2. We shall not shun the land where conditions are harsh and unjust either; we shall be hungry and thirsty for true justice, since we have the One with us Who can truly satisfy us everlastingly.
3. And we ourselves will be most merciful towards everyone, be he just or unjust in his dealings with us, so that in the eyes of the Lord we may be considered worthier of God’s great mercy.
4. We will also everywhere, just as here before you, guard our hearts as much as possible against impurity, so that the Lord may not turn away from us when we face Him. For with an impure heart one cannot approach God and in spirit contemplate in all truth His countenance and the abundant wonders of His works.
5. If we are of a pure heart, we must be peaceful, patient and gentle toward everyone, for an angry heart can never be pure, since anger always grows out of the ground of pride. But if we are of a peaceful heart, we may confidently approach as children the One who brought us the SONSHIP OF GOD and taught us Himself to pray to God as our Father.
6. It is of no importance, my friend, if, as you believe, we shall be persecuted in other lands and places on account of our most righteous cause, for we have Him and through Him the heaven of heavens. And thus we are happy already here, supremely happy, whether people love us or scorn and persecute us for His sake, because He is Lord over all and over everything. We serve Him above all, whom all the heavens obey and are always prepared to serve, as we could convince ourselves yesterday and on earlier occasions, and this alone is our highest reward and greatest honour. Therefore, do not be concerned about us, for we know and recognise what we have to reckon with.
7. The High Priest was quite surprised at this speech so full of determination and said, ‘Truly, if I were not needed here and did not have wife and children and some other responsibilities, I would go with you.’
8. Says Nathanael, ‘We have left wives, children and other things and have followed Him, and our wives and children are nevertheless living. I tell you what I think about this: Whoever cannot in this world, for the love of Him, leave whatever it may be, is not worthy of His grace. Whether it offends you or not, this is the position. My heart tells me so, and in the heart everything is truth once the spirit within it has awakened to the living thinking in God. He does not need us, but we do need Him.
9. Have you ever helped Him to raise the immense sun above the vast horizon and spread its celestial light across the wide earth? Or have you ever seen, let alone forged, the shackles the Lord puts on the winds, how He constrains the lightning and the mighty thunder and the sea in its depths? Who can claim ever to have helped the Lord in anything? And if this is so, who, when he is called by the Lord to follow Him, can still think of his wife, his children and his things and not follow unconditionally - Him, the Lord of all life, of all the heavens and all the worlds, for whom we have waited so long to come and who has now come exactly in the way all the prophets and patriarchs had predicted?’
10. Says the High Priest, ‘If I only were not the high priest, I would in truth do what all of you have done. But I am the high priest and since you, as I have heard, will stay here only for one more day, these people, who are so weak in faith, need me like the eye for seeing. So you will understand that I have to remain here, not so much because of my wife, my children and things, but rather because of these weak believers, who for quite some time yet will be unable to completely relinquish their set idea of old about the nature of the Messiah and the purpose of His coming. It will cost me a great effort, but what can I do?
11. I now believe firmly that your Master is the promised Messiah, but what about my flock? You have seen how already during the sermon many left. These are of a vexed unbelief which they will now diligently spread and many who still remained and yesterday fully believed have now their doubts, too, and do not know what to believe.
12. Imagine what a job I, being an oracle to all of them, shall have! But if I do not convert them, they will remain to the end of the world whatever you can imagine, but not what they are supposed to be. And look, that is the main reason why I have to stay here, and I am convinced that the Lord will not deny me His grace because of it. Even if I am not bodily in His company, I shall remain so spiritually for ever and endeavour to serve Him as a most faithful servant and shepherd in full accordance with His here proclaimed teaching, and I think that He will agree to this.’
13. Say I, ‘Yes, I would like that and it suits Me very well. You shall be an excellent tool for Me in this community and your reward in heaven shall once be great. But now evening has come and let us go home again. So be it!’
14. Following these words we walked down from the mountain and homewards. There was still quite a crowd around, although earlier, when I ended My sermon, many had left full of unbelief and vexation." (GGJ 1)
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