Monday, 2 May 2016

Are You a Galilean Too?

The Gospel of John 7:40-52 [Saturday of 4th. Week of Lent]

40. Some of the crowd who had been listening said, "He is indeed the prophet,"
41. and some said, "He is the Christ," but others said, "Would the Christ come from Galilee?"
42. Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from Bethlehem, the village where David was?"
43. So the people could not agree about him.
44. Some wanted to arrest him, but no-one actually laid a hand on him.

45. The guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees [the Sanhedrin] who said to them,
        "Why haven't you brought him?"
46. The guards replied, "No-one has ever spoken like this man."
47. "So," the Pharisees answered, "You, too, have been led astray?
48. Have any of the authorities [the Sanhedrin] come to believe in him? Any of the Pharisees?
49. This rabble knows nothing about the Law - they are damned."
50. One of them, Nicodemus - the same man who had come to Jesus earlier - said to them,
51. "But surely our Law does not allow us to pass judgement on anyone without first giving him
        a hearing and discovering what he is doing?"
52. To this they answered, "Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself:   prophets do not arise in Galilee."

            For those of my readers unused to reading, or uninterested in, the Bible, I crave your indulgence. I cited this passage in full because there are a number of ways in which this passage can be interpreted, which I wish to note but not develop. First, this passage can be read as being a true, historical account of the time. It must be said, however, that writers in ancient times were less interested in historical accuracy than in getting across a meaning, an idea, around which they fitted an historical motif. Second, It can be read as an all too human response of the 'Church' to a lay rebellion, applicable to modern times rather than biblical times. Third, and it is this interpretation to which I have been brought, one can see this as an activity which takes place within a person, a psycho-spiritual conflict involving the ego-self. In this case, the Sanhedrin, the rabble, the epithet 'Galilean' take on symbolic meanings.
            It would make this post too long to go into each of these points, so I will close with an extract from my meditations recorded in my private diaries, which relates to this passage from the St. John's Gospel.

            "One is required to descend into an inner hell, perhaps many times in life. To fall unendingly into the Abyss where what one thought was right may be wrong; where what one thought was bad may bear the hope that there is good; where certainties and reassurances disappear. From the pit of that hell there comes a spiritual resurrection, a new life in which the warping dominance of the ego-self is overcome and least in part."
            "Life is uncertain. That may well be its chief characteristic. I breathe a breath. Will there be a next breath, or is this my last? There is a pause, a silence between breaths which opens into eternity. It is the space between the tick and the tock that counts the passing of the seconds. I fall, and continue to fall more through, rather than into, the Abyss for that experience is everywhere. It is what is. If God is seen as the Abyss, I have no choice but to trust it. What else is there? Nothing is certain anymore, except uncertainty. In the days when Newtonian physics was paramount the universe could be seen as a vast machine. It had ever been thus, and would continue so. But why and how? What guarantee existed that this state would continue? Who could guarantee that this breath of mine would be followed by another, and another? No-one!"
            "No-one! No authority! To attempt to turn to authority is to turn to fundamentalism, is to go to sleep. Fundamentalism is another word for Idolatry. And that is an abdication of personal responsibility. To seek human approval over and against the reality of uncertainty is to look the wrong way. Listen, yes! Learn, if possible! Know that one can be mistaken, yes! Accept that I may be walking the wrong path, or walking the path the wrong way!"

"..........There is an inner, spiritual path that climbs a mountain. That path is slick, uncertain, only as wide as the width of my foot. On one side of the path the mountain rises sheer to the heights; on the other the mountain falls to the very depths. Always, the path climbs upwards towards its peak, and at the peak there will be a meeting. No matter how often that meeting takes place, I am forever climbing and arriving, simultaneously. Is this the right path? Of that I am not quite certain, but I have been shown no other. In this one path must I trust........."


  1. My first thought as I read through the Scripture was the old saw about a wise man never being someone you actually knew, or were related to. It's something of a self disparagement that someone as lowly and normal as ourselves could ever be engaged with an embodiment of holiness.

    You thought of other things, Tom. I enjoyed reading your insights as I always do.

    1. Hullo Susan; Thank you for this. I think I tend to agree with you on the matter of wise people, and our engagement with them. I think this problem is more serious, perhaps, than we like to admit. The world is not short of people voicing opinions, no matter how empty the vessel. But there is also a kind of divorcement that separates genuinely spiritually wise people from others on the basis of self denigration. It is a pity, because much may be lost in the process.

  2. I thought the scripture you quoted compared amazingly with the current political discourse, not only in my country but it seems around the world. I think sometimes and hear others say how rough the language has become and we see it as the worst time in history. Until we read the history. But I am taking your spiritual venture into the world of politics. Continue, please.

    1. Your point is well taken, Bruce. I recall some time ago during the debate in the UK, by the Anglican Church about the ordination of women priests, how hateful and vile was the language used by those clerics who were against female ordination. And as you say, it is happening all round the world. There seems to be rarely a time when politics is completely divorced from religion, so it is legitimate to take spirituality into the world of politics. However, I will continue to follow the path I am on, and steer clear of politics as far as possible. Thank you, Bruce.

  3. Hi Tom,
    I enjoyed reading your insightful post about a subject which is of interest to me but I hasten to add I am no expert. As your no doubt are aware the Johannine movement attributed the word (as in Jesus) becoming flesh to add a cosmic dimension and appeal around 95 AD to even incorporate Hellenistic influences.
    Today many NT scholars think the historical events concerning Christ's early period and his birth are pure conjecture. Not to say there is no factual basis but rather the writer’s purpose is to convey deep spiritual meaning. For instance why would Joseph go to Egypt? The dying madman Herod was extremely unlikely to be concerned with a child born of 2 parents -possibly just born in a cave in the presence of shepherds as Luke’s approach suggests. Luke talks about shepherds understanding a child was born in one of their stables- referencing angels (angels being people who brought messages) to proclaim this great News.
    And as to the Galilean influence notice the references elsewhere to “Jesus the Nazarene” - a name more likely to describe the Jewish movement called “Essene-Nazarenes" or "Ebonite’s" to whom Jesus may have joined to became their leader, Nazareth at that time in history did not exist and only became a settlement and city in Galilee much later on. Nor are there any OT references to such a place. Yet we have this idea he lived in place called Nazareth in Galilee- due to purely to mistranslations. In reality we don’t have any idea where he came from or where he was brought up or what Jewish group be was aligned to or even started.
    But as you say one can still discover psycho-spiritual truths such as is evident in such writings inspired by a simple hope and longing the long held fruits of prior prophesies can be realised. As fragile human beings, but more than just flesh and blood, we remain in need of psycho-spiritual support just was the case in the early evolving church at the time of John’s gospel.
    Best wishes

    1. Quite so, Lindsay. I find the wonderful thing about meditating on [or one might even say, 'being meditated on'] the possible psycho-spiritual truths is the sense that one is being 'spirited' into a new place of understanding. And that is exhilarating and fun!