Saturday, April 5, 2008

Back to the Gospel according to Mark

Some years ago, in the aftermath of a post of mine about Thomas on the DU group on Yahoo!, which Gary later used in Your Immortal Reality, someone made a comment that I should write a book about Thomas. I figured Gary's work was enough, besides I was working on a translation of the Gospel according to Mark, and advised the party of such. To which I got a reply that nobody would read my book about Mark anyway, but everyone would read a book about Thomas. I felt hurt and insulted for about a week, but then I turned around and realized that perhaps I should listen to this suggestion. Shortly we will start finding out, as the book is due out in late summer, and in fact I received the very first advance order the other day.
Meanwhile, I have come to realize during the work on the book about the Thomas gospel, that in reality it was an invaluable preparation for the book on Mark, exactly because it forced me to really sort out my notions of what happened in those early years, and how Thomas clearly comes before the influence of Paul, whereas the canonical gospels all come either contemporaneously (Mark) or clearly after Paul.

Meanwhile, working on the problems of the tradition in the context of the Thomas story, has brought it much more clearly into focus for me just how many levels of distortion are really at play. Evidently, in the earliest, living teaching, if there is any real connection to the teacher at all, and a living awareness of the content (meaning) of the teaching as opposed to the form, being true to the spirit, would allow the apostles to use any kind of example (parable) at all to make a point, as long as they were in the living awareness of serving the same truth Jesus did, and thus were saying the same thing in spirit, even if the form might have been different. Yet, even at that level distortions would creep in almost immediately, for, just as much as we do not understand the non-dualistic teaching of A Course In Miracles for a long, long time, until we begin to fathom it experientially, similarly the apostles, still rooted in their roles in the world, were only rank beginners in understanding Jesus. Hence we end up looking at the accounts, canonical or otherwise, not as consummate expressions of realized truths, but as the first tentative accounts of truths which the writers of these accounts barely had begun to fathom, except they knew it was important enough to write down.

And, in the event, there also are some circumstances which now make it easier for me to work on the Gospel according to Mark, and share some of that work with the readers. As of recently, I have set up an account at and linked it to my Facebook account. The best way to hook up to this is actually to find me on Facebook, and to click on the "B" symbol on the left hand side under "applications" and then to join the Greek Bible study site from there, the point being that within Facebook you can actually read my notes, along with the English text, while on the Bible Study site, you get more columns of text, including the Greek text, but you cannot (yet) get access to my notes. Therefore at this moment the only way to access my notes is through Facebook. Once you know, it's easy. (Note: As of 12/19/09 this has not been working for a while, but I will reflect it here whenever the site completes their upgrade, so it can work with Facebook again.)

The focus of my notes on Mark will be on seeing that whole book from a right-minded perspective. The foundations for the notes I will develop there will be based mostly on Jan Willem Kaiser's book Beleving van het Evangelie (Experiencing the Gospel), on the Course, and of course the Thomas Gospel. I now realize why I had to write Closing the Circle before going on with the Mark project. All going well the Mark project will result in two books: my own fresh translation of Mark with some added materials from J.W. Kaiser, most notably his Introduction to the Study and Interpretation of Drama.

The major shift is to completely appreciate that then as now the teachings came in a dualistic form, representing a non-dualistic teaching, or as Kaiser would put it, a message of Eternity clad in the images of Time. The imagery was simply different then, than what we now have in the Course, but the range of misunderstanding is the same, starting out with taking things literally. So come and visit me on Facebook if the idea of taking a different look at one of the Gospels is appealing to you. My own foundation in this regard comes from J.W. Kaiser, but nowadays Eckhart Tolle also has some interesting observations about the real meaning of Jesus in the quotes we know of him, and his observations closely parallel the work of Kaiser.