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Â© Symphony of Love Ministries Santa Fe, NM Introduction: This brief study presents the salient teachings of Jesus based on the two "sermons" of Jesus as presented in the books by Matthew and Luke. The focus of this essay is on major teachings attributed to Jesus in his sermons, rather than a detailed analysis of whether Jesus stated them exactly as recorded. This writer includes some references to the "Lexical Aids To The New Testament" section of the KJV translation edited by Spiros Zodhiates and issued as The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible - King James Version (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1991 ISBN 0-89957-657-5). Readers and students are invited to utilize the recently issued New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and the New Living Translation (NLT), both contemporary gender-inclusive translations done by academic Bible scholars. The NRSV is a more "theologically liberal" version, and the NLT is a more evangelical Christian scholarly translation. Both the NRSV and NLT translations are favorably reviewed by Philip W. Comfort, Ph.D., in his book Essential Guide to Bible Versions (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2000 ISBN 0-8423-3484-X). In this essay, I use the KJV translation. In his book The Sermon on the Mount: The Key to Success in Life, the famous Divine Science minister Emmet Fox wrote: "The first thing we have to realize is a fact of fundamental importance, because it means breaking away from all the ordinary prepossessions of orthodoxy. The plain fact is that Jesus taught no theology whatsoever. His teaching is entirely spiritual or metaphysical. Historical Christianity, unfortunately, has largely concerned itself with theological and doctrinal questions which, strange to say, have no part whatever in the Gospel teaching." He adds that: "It will startle many good people to learn that all the doctrines and theologies of the churches are human inventions built up by their authors out of their own mentalities, and foisted upon the Bible from the outside, but such is the case." Furthermore, Fox asserts that "Jesus has been sadly misunderstood and misrepresented in other directions too. For instance, there is no warrant whatever in his teaching for the setting up of any form of Ecclesiasticism, of any hierarchy of officials or system or ritual. He did not authorize any such thing, and, in fact, the whole tone of his mentality is definitely anti-
ecclesiastical. All through his public life he was at war with the ecclesiastics and other religious officials of his own country." The Sermon on the Mount According to Matthew with References to Luke: The de-constructionist scholars question the validity of the sermon accounts because of different locations (a "mount" in Matthew and a "plain" in Luke) and different presentations of what Jesus said. Perhaps Jesus had a "core message" he presented to different audiences in different places. It is quite possible that Matthew's version is an "expanded" sermon intended to present a more detailed rendition of what Jesus actually taught over time. It is therefore very useful as a "summary" of his core teachings. It is more profitable to focus on the essence of the teachings than to quibble over the liberal theologians' academic trivia that de-focuses us from the teachings. The teaching begins in the fifth chapter of Matthew's account with The Beatitudes. The word "blessed" in the anglicized Greek makarios can mean "to be fully satisfied." Zodhiates (NT lexicon, p. 1735) observes that "Aristotle contrasts makarios to endees, the needy one. Makarios is the one who is in the world yet independent of the world; his satisfaction comes from God and not from favorable circumstances." Zodhiates' point is well taken, since Jesus is juxtaposing how certain conditions are valued. The poor, those who mourn, the meek and the hungry, are not usually considered to be "blessed." We would consider them to be "needy" and worthy of pity. Just what did Jesus mean in his use of the word poor (or ptochos in the Greek)? Zodhiates (NT lexicon, p. 4434) contrasts two Greek words for poor people: ptochos and penes. "The penes may be poor but he earns his bread by daily labor. The ptochos is so poor that he can only obtain his living by begging. The penes has nothing superfluous, while the ptochos has nothing at all." So Jesus is again presenting a deeper meaning: not just "the poor" are blessed, but those who might be described as "destitute beggars" who are "empty" (in ego), or with no self-worth. Likewise, Jesus taught that the one who has nothing will (be in a position to) gain everything. In Matthew's version, it is "the poor in spirit" who are blessed. Writing from an evangelical Christian perspective, Zodhiates states that "The first step toward blessedness is a realization of one's own spiritual helplessness" (Commentary in Zodhiates' KJV edition, op. cit., p. 1181). Yet Jesus also said "but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (John 14: 10). From a New Thought and Divine Metaphysics perspective, we could interpret this to mean that when we empty our ego of its preconceived ideas of Spirit-God, we then become "poor in spirit" and we can receive the
"Kingdom of Heaven." Indeed, Luke's version simply states that "Blessed be ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." In his classic New Thought book The Sermon on the Mount: The Key to Success in Life, the famous Divine Science minister Emmet Fox writes: "To be poor in spirit means to have emptied yourself of all desire to exercise personal self-will, and, what is just as important, to have renounced all preconceived opinions in the wholehearted search for God." Jesus is establishing a base attitude or attitudinal state that is foundational to understanding all the rest of his teachings. It is a core attitude of emptying the ego and divesting intellect of worldly knowledge and values, giving up attempts to inflate our ego-level self-worth or assuming that we, ourselves, can "do the work," and then becoming receptive to receiving our spiritual good. In education theory, this attitude is a prerequisite for our "readiness to learn." In a practical sense, if we do not first see a need, we do not seek to satisfy the need. The need is not material, as Jesus makes clear in Matthew 6: 32-33. The "need" is spiritual. One must be "poor in spirit," not necessarily poor in things of the world. But one must also know that one is "poor in spirit" and then be willing to seek the spiritual blessing that ensues from the "empty" state of owning nothing in the way of dogma or worldly beliefs, and willingly being poor, in ego. Jesus said "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6: 33). So we might also see that an extension in a contemporary context can be: Blessed are those who are poor in the spirit of dogmatic religion or outer Christian religiosity, for they are in a better position to receive the fullness of Christ! Blessed are those deemed poor by the value system of the institutional church, the poor in churchly status, for they can receive the riches of Jesus' teachings free from theological dogma. Nona Brooks and her sister Fannie James were likewise "poor in spirit" and religious status but ready to become blessed in realization of Truth when they felt they had to leave the Presbyterian Church in Pueblo, Colorado! Many "seekers" are thirsting after righteousness in religion, as they were in Jesus' day. Also "blessed" are they that mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. The Greek word pentheo refers to inner sadness (NT lexicon, p. 1748). The reference is to those seekers who want "something more" and "something more spiritually satisfying" in life. They want righteousness. (Jesus' teaching also had social and political and economic implications, of course.) Dikaiosune can mean "conformity with
the claims of higher authority" as well as "justice" (NT lexicon, p. 1706). In Divine Science, the "claims" are the Divine attributes or qualities of wisdom, love, knowledge, understanding, power, life and joy - such express the righteousness (right state of reality) of God. In Matthew's account, Jesus next states the karmic law of cause and effect. The merciful will obtain mercy in return; the "pure in heart" shall "see God." In the Greek, "pure in heart" can mean pure in our thoughts, understandings, and feelings (NT lexicon, p. 1726). Peacemakers are the "children of God" --or offspring of the Divine Idea of Harmony in expression. To be "persecuted for righteousness' sake" is to confront the values and thinking that constitute the "ways of the world" that often contradict Jesus' teachings. Those ways elevate materialist values, selfishness, greed, and "eye for eye and tooth for tooth" thinking. Of the latter concept, Jesus taught "You have heard it said - but I say." To have a "reward in heaven" is to dwell in the spiritual consciousness. Jesus advises followers to be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world." That is, disciples can "season the world" with spiritual enlightenment, wisdom, and peace. The "light of the world" that Jesus claimed to express is the Holy Wisdom of Spirit omnipresent in the world. Jesus states that his teachings "fulfill the law." Biblically, in the Old Testament, God or SpiritElohim is not the same Hebrew word that is translated as "the Lord" or Yahweh. The Lord is a symbolic term for the karmic law of cause and effect. It is not "God-Spirit" as "Elohim" but "the Lord" that expels Adam and Eve from the Edenic garden, and later sends plagues upon those who practiced idolatry (giving power to a falsehood, elevating the non-spiritual above the spiritual). Basically, Jesus teaches how to have a "user-friendly" relationship with the Law, which is "neutral" in its nature and definite in its outcome. In Matthew 5: 20, the implication is that the external religious practices of the Pharisees are of little effect; the Pharisees do not enter the kingdom of heaven or state of spiritual consciousness. In Divine Metaphysics, we know "the Pharisee consciousness" can be an inner state of mind, not just an external practice. Jesus continues the idea of internal locus of control when he states that "sin" or separation from the Divine Harmony "begins in the heart" or within. Metaphysically, "adultery" means "to water down" and contaminate the Divine Standard. In the Old Testament commandment against adultery, the (anglicized) Hebrew word na'aph literally means "to apostatize" (from the Strong's Hebrew and Chaldee dictionary appendix section included in the
Zodhiates Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, KJV edition, p. 75). Thus, we may apostatize or adulterate Jesus' teachings by settling upon war or hatred or dissonance and then attempting to rationalize or justify our spiritual adultery. The religious wars and conflicts of the ages are perhaps the ultimate adultery. The apostle Paul wrote that "Love never fails" in First Corinthians 13: 8; those in John's mystery school declared that "God is love" as stated in First John 4: 8. This is "the sword" that Jesus' teachings bring to non-loving practices and thinking. Our "family of ideas" inside us finds the "sword of truth" brings inner conflict and separation of truth from untruth. There might be internal as well as outer dissonance and anger. This is why Jesus said we must establish peace (inner and outer) before approaching the "altar" within us. But Jesus also said it was a state of anger "without a cause" that brings judgement. Anti-Jesus pundits claim Jesus taught us never to be angry, yet he expressed seeming anger towards the Pharisees. Jesus is not teaching total pacifism, but rather is advocating righteousness. Yet at the same time, Jesus taught followers to "make friends" with the adversary. In a metaphysical context, the "adversary" that keeps us from the altar of inner harmony and wholeness must not be given our attention or focus. We don't "struggle against" disease, but affirm health. We don't "fight to overcome poverty" but redirect our attention to Perfect Provision (providence) given (through Grace) in Divine Right Order. To "turn the other cheek" is to turn away from the reports of the world: wars and rumors of wars, poverty, political and religious conflicts, and in our times, even the "reports of the fundamentalist Christians," and instead, re-perceive wholeness. Emmet Fox wrote "Do not try to divorce or amputate the inharmony, but let it dissolve away of itself under [prayer] treatment." Fox also stated that "to take a vow" is "to try to seek to fix your belief for tomorrow while it is yet today." In Religious Science, this can be the "malpractice" prayer method of "outlining" or dictating or visualizing what must happen, how it must happen, when it must happen, and the only way it is to happen. Jesus stressed that we are to love our enemies. "But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, Bless them that curse you and pray for them that despitefully use you." (Luke 6: 27-28, KJV) In keeping with his overall teachings on love, the Greek word agape is used, which indicates a "benevolent" and "unselfish" love (NT lexicon, p. 1680). In the omnipresence of Spirit, there is no enemy. If all is an expression of the One Spirit, there cannot be a separation of Cause, but only differences in
Effect. To judge the effect is to judge the Cause behind all effects, creating division. Spirit, being One Omnipresence, cannot compare or contrast itself with itself. Hence, Jesus taught people to "judge not," and noted that "a house [mind] divided against itself cannot stand." At a practical level, A Course in Miracles teaching is that there is only love and fear. To react to another's fear in any way other than a loving way is to empower the fear and respond fearfully to it. Franklin Roosevelt's truism "there is nothing to fear but fear itself" has practical applications. The KJV translation of Paul's assertion that "love never fails" is charity, as compassion, never fails. This provides a nuance of understanding regarding Jesus' teaching on the primacy of agape love. We are to be a charitable and compassionate people. Jesus' teachings on almsgiving, prayer, and fasting are in direct contrast to the practices of the Pharisees and the "Christian" religionists through the ages, who practice "religiosity" more than spirituality. "They have their reward." Jesus says "do not sound a trumpet before thee." The Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6: 9-13, perhaps modified by later "church fathers," can be interpreted metaphysically. The term "Father in heaven" is closer to the Greek word theos than to the literal pater, and can mean "disposers (theteres, placers) and formers of all things" (NT lexicon, p. 1722). The use of the term "Father" as contrasted to terms for "God" in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, emphasizes Jesus' teaching that "God" was as a father rather than a judge or one who punishes. Heaven is the abode of the Divine Ideas. We "hallow" or honor its "name" or essence and characteristics. "Thy kingdom come" refers to the unfolding in expression of the Divine Consciousness, through its creation. "Thy will be done" indicates "God" is First Cause. In Religious Science teaching, humankind has "volition" but can only Spirit can express will. "On earth as it is in heaven" is interpreted to mean that the out-picturing in form of The Formless (to use Taoist images, or "the uncarved block" that becomes "the ten thousand things") emanates through Spirit as expression in form or substance. "Give us this day" refers to the perfect provision. Forgiveness, a central attitude in all of Jesus' teachings, and one of his most valued attitudes of compassion along with non-judgement, is the "flip side" of provision - Providence requires Grace and Grace is predicated upon Love. We are "led into temptation" when we uphold what older New Thought termed the "race consciousness" or the "collective belief system" of the world with its "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" thinking. In New Thought, "evil" is not a reality but a condition, just as illness
is the absence of the reality of health, or hate a fear response in the absence of love. Our treasures are not "upon earth" but "in Heaven." True satisfaction and joyful fulfillment do not depend on outer phenomena or possessions. Again, Jesus teaches an "internal locus of control." In Matthew 6: 22-23, Jesus teaches the importance of perceiving in an enlightened way. Is the glass half full or half empty? Our "whole body" of thoughts responds to our perceptions. "The single eye" is what can be termed focusing on the INvisible dimensions: love and peace and charity and patience or inner invisible realities of an eternal nature that supercede the conditions of life around us. Since we "cannot serve two masters," we are to treasure the eternal spiritual values and inherent qualities, defined in Divine Science as love, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, power, life, and joy. What follows in the "sermon" as reported in Matthew are what might be called "keys to kingdom living" and inner peace. In Matthew 6: 24-34, we are informed that there is nothing to worry about or seek from without. Thoughts and affirmations are important, but to think that a "spiritual mind treatment" is an end and not a means to an end is idolatry. Jesus said "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" Instead, the Kingdom "formula" is "take no thought" and "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness [justice, love and harmony], and all these things shall be added unto you." "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." The "key" is to "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1). We can get distracted, especially at the ego level, in judgements and comparison thoughts that lead to jealousy or envy or greed or selfishness. But, Jesus stresses, "it is the Father's good pleasure" to give us the kingdom, which is found "within" us. The "law and the prophets" can be summed up in "The Golden Rule" found in many of the world religions. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7: 12, KJV). "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened unto you." In Matthew 7: 15-20, we learn that "behavior and belief" are interrelated, or in New Thought interpretation, the "thoughts and actions" determine our situations and opportunities. "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." Jesus did not seek adulation or worship, and
stated that "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." But if our priority is right - not worship but practice; not outer profession but inner conviction - we then can establish a basis for "success in life" on a rock, a firm foundation. "Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock." Jesus was a universal spiritual teacher, not a religionist. That is why, wrote Matthew, "And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine. For he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes [religious professionals]." Of course, there have been centuries in history when a strong external social-political entity such as the institutional church was necessary to preserve the teachings, while in many ways not observing them or obscuring them in rituals and dogmas. We would say it was "Divine Right Order." But the time has come in our evolution in consciousness, as a New World Order is upon us, to "redeem" Jesus from theology. This can take three forms of expression. One form is that articulated by the Catholic theologian Karl Rahner: it is permitted in our age to be "the anonymous Christian" who does not profess a religion, even Christianity, but practices and applies the teachings. A second aspect is to try to establish another institutional "Reformation," as some liberal Christians such as Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong are doing. The theological content of "church as usual" must be modified to proclaim a universal Jesus and not a mythical interpretation of Jesus as the "founder" of a specific religion or church. Third, the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus can be applied in practical non-religious but openly spiritual ways. New Thought pioneers began a process of "redeeming Jesus" apart from the church. Thus, Fannie James wrote in Truth And Health: "Some object to this [Divine] Science teaching because it has not come through the church. Our bishops and great religious teachers should be the first to receive the light of a new truth" they say. Has it ever been so? Has not every reform come from outside of the church? Has not the church feared to entertain the idea of progress in religious thought? When, occasionally, a minister does see and express some new discovery he is usually ejected from the church." (p. 16) The "new discovery" is simply that Jesus is for everyone, not just for "Christians" or those "religious" in the ways of the world. His healing ministry was "scientific" and not religion-specific. (See our E-booklet "An Analysis of
the Healing Ministry of Jesus.") Likewise, his teachings are universal and can be practiced by all of humankind, regardless of whether or not one calls Jesus "Lord, Lord!" REDEEMING JOHN 3: 16 and JOHN 14: 6: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Using the "Lexical Aids to the New Testament" by Spiros Zodhiates found in The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible, we can reinterpret and "redeem" this statement attributed to Jesus and used by evangelicals to "convert" people. "God" or theos in the Greek, came from a verb theo, meaning "to place" and was adopted in the NT "as the name of the true God" (NT lexicon, p. 1722). Zodhiates writes that "The heathen thought the gods were disposers (theateres, placers) and formers of all things." In New Thought, "God" is a Principle, and as Spirit, it expresses itself (disposes or distributes itself) through creation as the Omnipresence. The Holy Spirit, or what Ernest Holmes in Religious Science called "The Thing Itself," a principle and not a person, must "love" creation because it IS creation. "The only begotten Son" is its Divine Idea, the archetypal human, the Christ Consciousness, in expression. In the Greek, only begotten or monogenes, refers to "only" and "to make" and can be interpreted to mean "the only one of the family" and designated as "the only One of the same stock in the relationship of the Son to the Father" (NT lexicon, p. 3439). Since "God is a Spirit" (John 4: 24), the relationship is spiritual - "only begotten" in the Spirit. Son in the Greek is hulos, which is "distinguished from child" and indicates "those who show maturity acting as sons" in a context that "gives evidence of the dignity of one's relationship and likeness to God's character" (NT lexicon, p. 1764). The word for believe, pisteuo, can be used in the sense of indicating "a mental persuasion" (NT lexicon, p. 1749). And while orthodoxy focuses belief on the persona of Jesus, belief can also be in the efficacy and spiritual validity of Jesus' teachings and the validity of the universal healing practices he used, described in the booklet "An Analysis of the Healing Ministry of Jesus." Following the "only begotten" of Spirit teachings presented by Jesus keeps us from perishing. The Greek apollumi can refer to either temporal or eternal destruction (NT lexicon, p. 1692). Everlasting life refers to aionios or "constant, abiding, eternal" and zoe, the "principle of life" rather than bios, physical life. The "promise" has always been spiritual life, not physical life (NT lexicon: pages 1684 and 1720). (See I. Corinthians 15: 42 & 44.)
Another "evangelization verse" is John 14: 6. "The way, the truth, and the life" in Greek can be translated as "path" or "a method or manner of obtaining" for the way; "the unveiled reality" and "the veritable essence of matter" for the truth; and life again is zoe -- "the principle of life in the spirit and soul" (NT lexicon, pages 1741, 1685, and 1720). When Jesus said no one could "come to the Father" except through him, we interpret that to mean through his teachings, example, and methods. "In his name" and "by [or through] me" means in the characteristics or consciousness of Jesus. In her text Truth And Health, Fannie James defines "salvation" as "A return to true consciousness that destroys all false conceptions of life. Being saved from erroneous opinions and beliefs. Understanding is the only salvation and Jesus' whole life was spent in opening man's thought to understanding. He said the truth shall make you free." (p. 174) Mrs. James also writes that "Christ is the Universal Man [Human]." "Jesus never drew the least distinction between his power and possibility and that of others; the Christ [consciousness] was his power. He taught that there was but one good; he spoke always of the one power and declared that it was no more his than another's; he revealed one father, one source; My Father and your Father, he said."
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