Jesus of Nazareth was a great master. Few would disagree this with this statement. But who was he and what did he actually teach? Could the 'humble carpenter of Galilee' have been a member of an ancient arcane brotherhood? There is ample reason, within the Bible itself, to tentatively answer yes. I say 'tentatively' because, in my opinion, the textual evidence is not solid enough to draw a firm conclusion either way. Some of the evidence in support of this possibility will be the topic of this short talk.
Within the Gospels we find Shiloh [Shiloh is a name of Jesus employed by several arcane orders to designate his role as 'Teacher of Dark Mysteries,' especially those which are visionary in origin.] presented as a great and mysterious mystic who often spoke in obscure allegories and parables. His teachings are filled with titillating phrases such as 'Those who have ears to hear, let them hear' (ex. Mark 4:9). The traditionalist will argue that such expressions simply mean, 'If you are willing to accept the truth, hear this.' The context does not [only] support this finite interpretation however. In every case where the Master uses such expressions, he has just uttered something profound and not easily understandable by conventional knowledge or beliefs. For instance, at Matthew 11:15 he is explaining that John the Baptizer was the Prophet Elijah returned [The traditionalist will object, citing Luke 1:17, that John "came in the spirit of Elijah." In other words, he had Elijah's zeal for God and so on. One could counter by pointing to the discussion at Matthew 17: 10-13 where the connection is seemingly made clear]. This idea violated basic Jewish (and later Christian) doctrine and was very "difficult to hear."
Jesus himself explains his style of teaching at Matthew 13:10-17. There, the disciples ask the "Lamb of God" why he speaks in parables. He replies: "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." Why isn't it given? He explains why only certain people "have ears to hear" in the following verses. "For this people's heart has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes, they have closed, lest at any time they should hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you that many of the prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them. Hear, therefore, the parable of the sower..."
In verse 11 (of chapter 13) the Master uses the word "mystery" to describe His teachings. The Greek word employed here is "musia" which is a derivative of "muo" (to shut the mouth); as in secret or "mystery" (through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites): mystery" (GD 49). From this it is evident that at times Jesus was speaking a secret doctrine, one which only his initiates or disciples could receive or comprehend due to other, inner teachings already gleaned by them, i.e. his teachings were not plainly evident for 'all who were willing to accept it'. He explains in the following verse that the others had not developed the requisite spiritual qualifications to receive the teachings. "Whoever has will receive, whoever has not, will not." In verse 15 he explains that their hearts had become gross (pachuno GD 56) or calloused. They had 'closed their eyes, ears and hearts' to the Truth. In other words, although they had ample opportunity to receive the truth through their religious traditions, they had failed to do so. Closing their hearts means that they had shut off their feelings and minds to the Truth. Closing their eyes indicates that they refused to see the truth, or even acknowledge its obvious existence; they had closed the 'inner eye of the Spirit.' Closing their ears denotes that it didn't matter what he said or did, nor how great his wisdom was; they would refuse to receive his doctrine under any circumstances.
Again, by not pursuing the right path, by their own free will, they had rejected his teachings.
That parts of Jesus' doctrine were secret is further evidenced by his statement that "many of the prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you have seen." This phrase is significant. It suggests that the secret doctrine was known to exist in ancient times, and that many righteous men desired initiation into it. It further reveals that some of them had received it, because "many of the prophets and righteous men..." did not, i.e. some had.
As one of my old Bible teachers, Dr. Russell Powell, used to say, "when you see a 'therefore,' see what its there for." In this case its a very important therefore. Having explained the matter directly, the Master adds "Hear, therefore, the parable of the sower..." In other words, the subject matter continues and will be further clarified through another parable. In this well known parable Shiloh explains in more detail why it is that certain people receive his teachings while others do not. He explains that everyone has already received the essential teachings. The Apostle Paul further explains this, saying that "even the Gentiles" have received a degree of the truth by nature (Rom. 2:12). This natural gift is what is referred to here in verses 18-23. Some of those who receive this 'seed' have it quickly 'stolen' by 'the wicked one.' This wicked one, I submit, is not the external Devil, but mankind's own 'corrupt nature' (comp. I Cor. 12:2). The remainder of the people discussed are specifically Jews, the various types of ground referring to their ability/desire to serve God and 'produce fruits.' Only those described in verse 23, those whose hearts are fertile due to their spiritual discipline and sacred intention, can receive his good 'seed' unto completion. The following parables add more insight into who is worthy to receive the Truth and how it may be attained.
The question naturally arises, "So, what were/are his teachings?"
Theories abound of course. Some say Shiloh studied in Egypt, India, even the Americas, and from these teachings formulated his doctrine. Could be, who knows? His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of the Sri Gaudiya Vaishnava sampredaya claimed that once, while visiting the Holy Indian mandir of Jagannatha Puri, he had occasion to inspect the records of past initiates and found a reference to a Jewish lad named Yahvashuah ben Yoseph ("Jesus son of Joseph"). According to him, the records revealed that Jesus had studied in the holy dham for three years but was finally exiled for condemning the Varnashram Dharma (caste system) and daring to instruct his superiors (sounds like Jesus!). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) is based upon the premise that Jesus spent considerable time among the native Americans, whom they consider to be the so-called "lost tribes of Israel." Others seek a Zoroastrian and/or Essene connection.
The traditional Christian view of course is that as Jesus was God Incarnate, his knowledge was his own from conception onward. Many Buddhists claim Gautama had such innate knowledge from birth as do Vaisnavas for Sri Krsna and so on.
Within the Bible there is no conclusive answer as to where the Master received his knowledge, although we are told that he did live in Egypt for a while (Matt. 2:13-15). There is however another interesting possibility: According to the biblical record, the angel Gabriel announced the conception of the Messiah to Mary while she was living in Nazareth (Luke 1:26). Despite the fact that he was born in Bethlehem, Jesus was often referred to as the prophet of Nazareth (ex. Matt. 21:1). How is this relevant to our present study? It is important, because, I submit, there is much more to this phrase than meets the eye (for those who have eyes to see so to speak...). At Matthew 2:23 we read: And he [Jesus] came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled what was spoken by the prophets, "He shall be called a Nazarene."
A traditional explanation for why he was called the Nazarene is that it was a reference to Isaiah 11:1. There the Messiah is predicted to arise from "a rod (netzer) out of the stem of Jesse." From this word netzer the word Nazarite may be derived. This does not seem plausible to me however. A more logical answer, and the one which I believe is correct, is that throughout Jewish history a secret society has existed (and perhaps still does today) which had its origins in the ancient Nazarite priesthood. Of this Order very little is known. Numbers 6:2-21 is the first direct Biblical reference to it. From that text it appears that they were well established by the time these lines were written. They were a people 'called out' for some special service to the God of Israel, though the nature of this service is not revealed. We do know that they were not prophets, at least not primarily, and that they existed at least as late as the time of Amos (Amos 2:11,12). Samson was an initiate of the Order (Judges 13:5,7; 16:17).
Could the Order have lasted until the time of Christ? There is reason to believe it did not only that, but that it continued to exist after his death. During the Apostle Paul's trial before the Roman governor Felix, an orator named Tertullus accused him of being a "ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5).
Considering the secret nature of the Nazarites, Jesus' arcane doctrines, and the later accusation that Paul was one of their leaders, it seems quite plausible that Shiloh was the head of a/the Nazaritic Order and that the early Church was a public branch thereof, until it was absorbed and transformed by the Roman Empire and the early 'Church fathers' into an organ of the Roman state and subsequent political powers. It was during this transformative period that countless Pagan doctrines were adopted by the Church -- such as worship on Sundays (the day sacred to Pagan Romans, in clear violation of the Law of Moses and Jesus' personal example) -- Christmas (Yule/winter solstice), Easter (Eostar/spring equinox), All Saints Day/Halloween (Samhain/fall equinox), Saint Michael's Day (Beltain/ summer solstice) and so on.
If Tertullus was correct, and there is no reason to doubt his word, Paul succeeded Jesus as head of the Nazarites. This could explain the age-old question of why Paul, after his mysterious conversion, went to Damascus rather than to Jerusalem. In Damascus he was trained by Ananias, and received his instructions through visions rather than through the Jerusalem Patriarchate -- the external authorities of the Church of which Peter was the head. Due to his position within the Order, Paul (and Barnabas) received special training and secret instructions (Acts 13:1-5). This interpretation would also explain why, although Jesus chose Peter to be the head of the Church, Paul was its most influential theologian (Matt. 16:18).
Furthermore, if this theory is correct, which I believe it is, then the above mentioned reference to the rod (netzer) of the stem of Jesse offers a further interesting possibility: Could it be that the leader of the Nazarites was identified by the netzer or rod which he carried (even as was Moses)? And if so, might this be the same rod with which our long awaited Master of the Second Coming -- "who has a name written that no one knows but he himself," save God -- will rule once he dons the theocratic vesture bearing the title "King of kings," and "Lord of lords" (Rev. 19: 16)? Likewise, could the 'branch' which grew out of Jesse's (Jesus') roots be the early, pre-Roman Church, developed from a secret Nazarite tradition (Isa. 11:1)? Moreover, might this not support the view that at least some early Christian Gnosticism reflects the original teachings of Jesus and the original Christian/Nazarene sect? Such would seem perfectly plausible considering that in the traditional Christian teachings we find nothing new, nothing which had not been said before. If Shiloh's teachings had to be held in secrecy, which the Scripture clearly states, there must have been more to it than the contemporary Paganized Christian doctrines allow for.
Jesus was said to be "a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 5:6). This mysterious character, like the Nazarites themselves, is steeped in tradition although very little factual information is extant. He appears as early as Genesis 14:18 and as late as the Psalms 110:4. He had, according to Paul, neither father nor mother, nor beginning or ending of days. It seems significant that the writer discusses his connection to Shiloh at length in the letter to the Hebrews (Heb. 5:6,10; 6:20). Further, his connection with father Abraham indicates his powerful position, for Abraham offered his tithes (10% of his gross profit) to Melchizedek for God's service (Heb. 7:1-22). Might this great king/priest have been the original Nazarite, founder of the Order? Such of course is admittedly conjecture, however its serious consideration leads to some fascinating possibilities. Our time together today is running out however, so a detailed consideration of Melchizedek and his possible relationship with the Nazarites and Jesus will have to wait for another time. Some mention of him seems essential to this consideration however.
Assuming there is some merit to my thesis, is it possible to discover what the secret teachings of Jesus and the Nazarite Brotherhood were? To this I would offer a resounding, if somewhat unsubstantiated, yes. At Matthew 13 (11-16) we read that there are three requirements which must be fulfilled to receive the mysteries: 1) initiates must have 'eyes to see;' 2) they must have 'ears to hear' and; 3) their 'hearts must be open to receive.' If the Order has existed since the time of Melchizedek (and hence Abraham) and continues beyond the time of Jesus the Anointed, it seems quite possible (I might say all but certain) that it continues to exist today. Those who are open and receptive to its message and who 'seek, as for buried treasure," will certainly uncover' its essence (Matt. 13:44).
The Master said: I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. Nevertheless, when the Spirit of Truth is come, you will be guided into all Truth.
All Biblical quotations are from the Authorized (King James) Version.
GD: Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, James Strong, S.T.D., LL.D. MacDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia, no date given
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