Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 3-5-08

Jesus said, "The Kingdom of the Father is like a woman. She took a little yeast. She buried it in dough. She made the dough into large bread loaves. Whoever has ears should listen!"

Gospel of Thomas 96, trans. by DeConick

15 comments:

J. K. Gayle said...

amen. amen.

JMS Providence said...

Hmm...that's deep.

José Solano said...

I must be hearing echoes. Shall I say Omm or Hmm?

He told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened." Mt. 13:33

And again he said, "To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 13.21 It is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened." Lk. 13:20

Now who can interpret the parable?

JMS Providence said...

Go ahead, Jose...let's see wutchu got? I'm listening.

Geoff Hudson said...

Yeast is an active living ingredient. Comparison with the kingdom is therefore a later interpolation. The correct analogy was with the Spirit of God which was living and active and could enter a person and cleanse him completely. The text was originally prophetic.

Athanasius said...

I like this one. Here Christ, speaking as Wisdom Incarnate, is speaking of how the Kingdom comes in the Eucharist, and how one finds the Kingdom when one responds to Wisdom's invitation to her banquet, and comes to feast upon the bread of heaven. To those without eyes to see or ears to hear, it is merely bread, chewed to no avail, to those with eyes to see and ears to hear, it is the very food of the eschaton, that brings into this world the life of the world to come, the medicine of immortality, the provender of the resurrection life.

lightseeker said...

The concept that the faithful and pious - those who have found within themselves the Kingdom, the Spirit/Bread of Life - will never go hungry is just one level of comprehending this saying. On a deeper, social level, there is also a subversive element to this wisdom saying about Jesus' Kingdom - which many people listening to Jesus also may have had "ears to hear" - even his enemies.

According to Jewish food purity laws, the intentional act of hiding leaven in dough ("wetting down grain" - adding water to yeast and flour) creates a situation which is potentially ritually unclean - i.e., dangerous - yet done with care and watchfulness, this act can result in great abundance.

Jesus' peaceful yet momentum-building method of inaugurating God's Rule was a veiled threat that soon, with God's imminent arrival, the corrupt, self-serving establishment (Temple priests, Sanhedrin, etc., aligned with the Roman oppressors)** would be overturned, and the Bread of Life would be available for all God's children (those who walked in His Way), including those who were currently poor (overtaxed) and hungry.

**For an analogy, refer to GT 102.
Jesus said, "Damn the Pharisees! They are like a dog sleeping in the cattle manger: the dog neither eats nor [lets] the cattle eat."

Now that's deep wisdom: politically subversive yet awe- and hope-inspiring. AMEN.

JMS Providence said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JMS Providence said...

"Jesus' peaceful yet momentum-building method of inaugurating God's Rule was a veiled threat that soon, with God's imminent arrival, the corrupt, self-serving establishment" would be overturned"

Ain't that the truth!
Right on, Light!

lightseeker said...

Thanks, jms providence!

And I want to add that each human being can be and is "the woman" who hides the little bit of leaven (Spirit) in some dough (a person, or mankind as a whole).

Jesus knew that the Kingdom of God is ushered in through each one of us, because God dwells within us when we acknowledge His presence in our lives. Jesus was the Messiah/Master because he recognized this and led the movement to teach us and awaken and kindle that spark of God in each of us. If Jesus could get each person to become filled with the Spirit of God, then God and His Kingdom would certainly arrive on Earth, and it began with change (repentance/changing one's way of thinking/aligning with God's will vs. ego/individual selfish will) from the inside-out, one person at a time. The Kingdom comes with each one of us. The Kingdom of God was (and is today!) a movement, building like a cresting wave or a rising tide - or like those rising loaves of bread.

In that sense we are all potential Messiahs/Children of God/Light Bringers. WE the PEOPLE are the ones we (and those ancient Israelites) have long been waiting for; WE are the ones who signal that the Kingdom/Rule of God is already here, NOW. Those who still wait for a Messiah/Savior (whether for a 1st or 2nd coming) have missed the point.

When we all get this, and think, speak and act accordingly - with Love and compassion - toward all our neighbors, that is the arrival of the Christ and the Kingdom of God. It is potentially here and now, abundantly! We need only to believe and enact it - with the help of a little yeast (Spirit) - to make it so. AMEN!

José Solano said...

—Parables may be interpreted at different levels or from different perspectives but it is important to first grasp the fundamental meaning that everyone may hold in common. They should be examined in context because in the NT they generally come through a developmental teaching. This is very different from the GT because the GT is a rather disjointed, haphazard collection of sayings that make it somewhat dysfunctional for teaching purposes. The GT sayings may come from varied sources over a long period of time. They may come from students at a church gathering or listening to sermons and jotting down what they recalled afterwards. They may have heard some of the canonical gospels read at gatherings (churches). It’s not as if they brought their pencils and notebooks or laptops to class to take notes. Much of it could be hearsay and we know how imprecise that is

The canonical Gospels are at a far higher level of knowledge and inspiration and it’s fully understandable why the compilers of the Canon might have left out the GT, if they knew about it.

In the NT this parable of the woman baking bread is in the context of several other parables that help elucidate its meaning. In Matthew 13 the parables come in this order: The Sower, The Wheat and the Tares, The Mustard Seed, our Bread Baker Woman, The Pearl of Great Price, The Dragnet, and the function of Understanding Scribes.

This often-overlooked parable about the understanding scribes is enormously important to sum up this teaching about the kingdom of heaven. The NKJ reads:

“Jesus said to them, ‘Have you understood these things?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.” The He said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.’”

I’ll let you look over and ponder Mt. 13. I hope to comment further when I return later. I’m building a church sanctuary and any moment now they are delivering 5,000 + linear feet of quality T&G alder wood that I’ll be finishing and installing on the ceiling to improve acoustic.

PS: The understanding of “leavened” and “unleavened” bread is another study not directly related to this parable. Sorry I have to run.

lightseeker said...

The parable of the woman and the leavening/yeast has multiple attestations (GT, probably Q, and Mthw and Luke) and is very likely an authentic saying of Jesus. The earliest core of the GT contains other authentic sayings of Jesus common to the Synoptic Gospels and GT was probably compiled and written down from early oral traditions (just as the canonical Gospels likely were! - just in linear narrative format vs. a sayings format such as Q or signs format which G of John used as a source). The core of GT could be very early (earlier than the Synoptics maybe) and authentic, so don't be so quick to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Just because apocryphal writings aren't canon doesn't mean they aren't just as meaningful and valuable as teaching tools on their own. Wisdom is wisdom in any Age.

And what makes one so sure the authors of Matthew and Luke didn't insert this parable into a string of other Kingdom sayings in a context as they saw fit to create a linear story? (Just as the Sermon on the Mount is likely composed of a bunch of "Blessed are" sayings strung together in one fictitious event, with a few of the author's/Church's own sayings/dogma added in later - esp. when the early Church was being persecuted AFTER Jesus' death? Jesus likely didn't say those things, and they are in the Canon...) I seriously doubt someone was by Jesus' side taking dictation during all the long speeches and sermons Jesus purportedly makes, esp. throughout Matthew (and John)! These were literary, narrative compilations by the Gospels' authors, drawn from various sources, oral and written (collections of short sayings, perhaps even GT!), of things Jesus had said and taught - Jesus probably did not speak them in the actual order or groupings we have them today in the received canon. So the context in which one finds a parable, say the G. of Mthw 13 for example, may be an imaginative creation to suit the that Gospel author's purpose/aim, not of Jesus himself. Remember, the Gospels are religious propaganda, written with bias, whereas with a sayings gospel such as GT each saying can and does stand alone. Who do you trust? Jesus' words on their own or his words contained within a biased context?

In the same way the Jewish people understood varying levels of meaning in the OT stories, Jesus' sayings and parables were carefully crafted with multiple levels of meanings, meant to be understood based on one's level of spiritual understanding/development. This is what Jesus meant by "Whoever has ears should listen!" and why he spoke with hidden meanings in parables. One can hear a literal (or moral) meaning with one's physical ears, but if one listens with Spiritual ears, one can understand an even deeper, spiritual meaning/mystery. And regardless of the context in which the parables are found in the Synoptic Gospels (John doesn't even use the parables!), Jesus likely knew that in addition to his own disciples/followers, would-be converts and curious others who were listening to him, there were those listening who would be perceived as (or who perceived themselves as) Jesus' opponents, such as the Pharisees, scribes and Temple/Jerusalem establishment. Indeed, Jesus himself was as shrewd as a serpent and yet harmless as a dove...

At any rate, I believe Jesus was a phenomenally wise prophet and teacher - we can apply his words of wisdom to our lives today, every day. And as for myself, rather than take on blind faith what has been handed down "through a developmental teaching" over 2 millennia by a Church/Church leaders with their own agendas, I prefer to go within and trust God and Jesus/Yeshua to help me find the Truth/meaning of the parables. That's what the orthodoxy couldn't tolerate - that people with an iota of intelligence and spiritual depth be allowed to find their own meanings in Jesus' teachings - and why those who chose to seek and find the Kingdom (and Truth) within themselves (advocates of gnosis) were branded as heretics. Because it takes the power (and the tithes that come with it) out of the hands of the Church/Church leaders and empowers the individual. That's more likely why GT was left out of the canon (aside from the fact that certain Gnostic sects were a bit far-out in terms of egotistical elitism and bizarre, complex cosmology - NOT ALL advocates of gnosis were so extreme - the G of John can even be considered Gnostic!). Sometimes I think early Church fathers such as Irenaeus (who propounded the 4-fold Gospel just because 4 was the ideal number - ???) weren't able to discern the deeper meanings at the core of Jesus' teachings which the early Christian proto-Gnostics perhaps HAD grasped - and what the orthodox Church fathers couldn't understand and control was dangerous from their perspective, so because it didn't conform to what they taught and understood, it was branded heresy. Heck, the Gnostics considered them (proto-Orthodox) heretics! It's all in where one stands, one's point of view.... Since Jesus himself left no instruction manual as to how one should interpret his hidden sayings, then one interpretation is not more "right" than another. Maybe Jesus' intent *was* for each person to find whatever meaning he/she gleaned from his sayings, each on his/her own level of spiritual comprehension - exactly why he provided no explanations to the masses. I don't need a priest or pastor to teach me the "right" way to interpret a parable... It could just be that I (or anyone for that matter) am more spiritually advanced/mature than the priest or pastor, and I'm comprehending on a much vaster, deeper level, beyond what the Church teaches. How fantastic is that?! As a teacher, Jesus would have wanted exactly that - for his listeners to excel in spiritual comprehension! To get it on their own rather than him having to explain the hidden meaning of a parable to them. Matthew apologetically explains retrospectively, "This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet" as Jesus had to then turn around and do with his own (dense?) disciples - explain what the parable meant. How do we know this isn't this Gospel author's interpretation of the parable, not Jesus' own? And if Jesus' own disciples couldn't get it on their own, we're to trust what they hand down to us as the correct Church dogma??? I have my doubts after nearly 2000 years....

"The canonical Gospels are at a far higher level of knowledge and inspiration" is totally your opinion, Jose (probably based on what you've been taught in the Church). I understand and appreciate what you say, but I don't feel that the canonical Gospels are better or more inspirational than the GT or other apocrypha. I'm sure each author was inspired - full of the Holy Spirit. Perceptions, understandings and interpretations differed, that's all. I take them all - canon and apocrypha - as a whole, for a more complete picture in order to get to the core of what Jeus/Yeshua originally taught. I am very glad for the Nag Hammadi discovery/Library and that we now have the option to examine the many different views held by early Christians. It's possible to see how beliefs and interpretations went off in different directions or branches (i.e., orthodox and gnostic). Just because the "orthodox" Church fathers "won" and their "developmental teaching" (dogma how they teach it should be interpreted) was more readily understood on a simple level by the (less spiritually mature?) masses doesn't necessarily mean that is the only, correct or best way to perceive and understand Jesus' teachings. Orthodox doesn't always mean the "right opinion"....

Jesus taught us to seek within - like it or not, that is the basis of gnosis. Soul to Spirit, one to One, no priest needed to explain or interpret for me. When I want to understand the Truth of a saying/parable as it applies in my own life right now, I go within my own heart and soul, contemplate and listen to God and Yeshua as my guides. I believe everyone can find Truth - God's Love, peace and forgiveness - and come to their own understanding of Jesus/Yeshua's teachings in this manner and apply them to their own lives today. "Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you." THAT IS TRUTH.

Sorry, didn't mean to get so long-winded. (blush, grin)

Good luck with your Church sanctuary, Jose!

Peace, Love and Light to all.

Trou said...

The Gospel of Thomas was a Gnostic text. Consider the proposed author, Twin Twin Judas (Didymos Judas Thomas). From a gnostic viewpoint we are all in this physical world due to some mistake in the heavenly regions and we all have the spark of divinty in us yet most are "drunk" or spiritually asleep. Knowledge of this truth will save us. Maybe Judas the twin refers to the physical part of the spiritual Jesus. Just a guess but one I base on verses refering to the two being one as in "Two will relax on a couch and one will die and on will live." Maybe the physical and spiritual halfs of a person.

The parable in question could refer to the spark of divinity in us (the yeast) that makes alive the whole loaf (grants us the Kingdom of Heaven). The yeast is said to be hidden in the dough as our spiritual nature is hidden in those who do not recognize it.
This information that was revealed to us by Jesus' teachings is what saves us. Read the first saying which says, "He who finds the interpretation of these sayings will not find death."
This understanding of the foundational belief of the Gnostics can reveal the meaning of the sayings of this Gospel.
The later orthydox interpretations have lost this underlying gnostic belief but vestigal concepts can be seen if looked at with a critical eye.
Of course I could be wrong...but what are the chances of that. :)

José Solano said...

“Go ahead, Jose...let's see wutchu got? I'm listening.” JMS Providence

If we avoid “mystical” and esoteric types of interpretations at the beginning of our study we will come up with a more sober understanding of what this parable and the related parables are talking about.

The parables taken out of context, without study or instruction, fall on deaf ears. “Hearing you will hear and shall not understand . . . .” This is what Jesus tells His disciples happens to those that are not taught. Jesus offers explanations to his disciples and then they go on to teach others. And this is how the kingdom of heaven is spread.

These parables are primarily about how God’s kingdom grows here on earth. Seeds are planted in the earth or yeast (leaven) is mixed with flower (meal) to make leavened bread. Yeast makes bread rise.

The ritual consumption of unleavened bread has nothing to do with this parable. Paul focuses on that imagery: “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Gal. 5:9), “the leaven of malice and wickedness” (1 Cor. 5:8) In this imagery Paul is talking about evil influences mixing with the good whereas in the former it’s actually good influences, the Word of God, helping produce more bread, the spreading of the kingdom of God. The Jews eat both types of bread at different times just as Catholics do. The Eucharist is unleavened but there is no prohibition against eating leavened bread.

The woman and the sower are symbols of God and not meant to be taken literally. These are parables.

A great deal more can be said but I hope this will suffice to set at least some readers on the right course.

Peace.

lightseeker said...

Let me explain my post about the use of yeast/leaven being a “dangerous” or subversive *hidden* element in parable of the leavened bread.

This is something of which most non-(orthodox-)Jews today are unaware. In the context of Jesus’ culture in 1st century Palestine, most people understood the Laws that yeast/leaven – as an agent that caused fermentation (i.e., associated with a state of death/decay) - was a source *at times* of ritual impurity/uncleanness. For eight days over Passover, one could not eat, touch, or even have any leaven or anything leavened in one’s house; eating anything leavened during this time would result in being cut off (excommunicated!) from the congregation of Israel! (Ex. 12: 15, 19-20) At any other time in the home, people could eat leavened bread. Regarding offerings to YHVH, however, no grain offering with leaven, or no blood/meat sacrifice mixed with or to be burned with leaven was permitted. The only bread offering that allowed leaven was the peace/fellowship offering for thanksgiving (Lev. 7:13); whereas, strictly a thanksgiving offering was made of unleavened bread! So one had to be very careful about how and when one used leaven. It was suspect as a potentially contaminating (unholy, unclean) substance. (As Jose illustrated with Paul’s comments, leaven could either contaminate or purify, depending on one’s intended purpose.)

Therefore, for Jesus to use a woman hiding leaven in her dough as a metaphor for spreading his teachings/the Word and the growth (“rising of the bread”) of the Kingdom of God might be seen by Jesus’ opponents (Temple priests and scribes, strict observers of Torah) as subversive, a dangerous contamination where one mixed leaven and God’s Law. To Jesus’ opponents, Jesus had a tendency to be lax with the Law, which they saw as blasphemy. (And this is also why in Mt 13:51-52 Jesus explains that to teach pious, strictly Torah observant Jews about Jesus' Kingdom, one must draw on the gems from the old covenant to help explain the gems of the new covenant - Jesus' interpretations of God's Way/Laws. A wise householder knows how to combine the old and new treasures.)

At the simplest level of meaning of this parable, yes, it was that the woman represents the disciple/follower who sows Jesus’ teachings/the Word and produces the growth or spreading of the Kingdom of God. This was the simple explanation Jesus gave to the apostles to teach to those who did not understand the meaning of the parable on their own. But as I express in my previous two posts, there is a deeper, spiritual meaning that may be grasped by those with “spiritual” ears (more mature in spiritual comprehension) – and that is at the individual level of one’s soul. Yeast brings about a seemingly miraculous transformation in the dough, just as the Holy Spirit brings about a miraculous transformation in a Christian’s life – one who follows in God’s Way and makes a commitment to transforming their life from the inside-out. Just as Jesus said “You are the light of the world,” the yeast can represent that light or spark of God within a person; it is the responsibility of a child of the Kingdom to let that light shine, let that yeast work to leaven the dough within oneself first, then teach that to others and spread the light/fire, grow the Kingdom (the woman's bit of dough became multiple loaves). Jesus realized that not everyone understands this internal process or is capable of doing the hard work on oneself to make this spiritual transformation. This is why Jesus quoted from Isaiah, and why he said “hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” and “to them [the masses] it [this deeper meaning] is not given.” Thus, for those who could not comprehend the concept of individual transformation from within, Jesus advised his disciples to teach them this very simple meaning of the parable – and this is what I believe Jose means by setting “some readers on the right course.” I’m sure it was Jesus’ hope that as people followed his teachings/Word, they would in time come to the deeper understanding of the leaven as transformation within themselves – the miracle of how simple flour/dough (the body or individual person) becomes full (rises) of the Spirit. It’s the same concept of turning water into wine – a miraculous transformation!

This deeper understanding of the parable of the leavened bread is what many Gnostics understood (then and today – I’m a modern advocate of gnosis, going within for answers/Truth and to know via experience my connection with God), but unfortunately, this is not the understanding that has been taught by the orthodox Church to the masses/people in general. It’s the basic, simplified meaning of the parable (spreading merely the Word of God) that has been handed down to those not able to grasp the deeper meaning – as Paul so clearly understood and explained in 1 Cor. 3 to “the babes in Christ” who he “fed milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it.” Sadly, I believe the teachings of the deeper mysteries (which Jesus may have taught to his innermost circle of disciples) have been lost over the millennia, and most Christians today are only being fed milk.

I think I'm done now with this topic. :-) Peace to all.