“He… showed them his hands and His feet. They still could not believe , they were so full of joy and wonder… Then He said to them, ‘These are the very things I told you about while I was still with you; everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the writings of the prophets, and the Psalms had to come true.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures and said to them, ‘This is what is written: ‘The Messiah must suffer and must rise from death three days later, and in His name the message about repentance and the forgiveness of sins must be preached to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And I myself will send upon you what my Father has promised. But you must wait in the city until the power from above comes upon you,’ “ [LUKE 24:40, 44-49].
The disciples themselves did not get it until they “got”– received— the Spirit.
Luke ends his Gospel three verses later, as Jesus walks with the disciples to Bethany and then ascends “as into” it says, heaven. Luke opens his second book, the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, with that same scene (reminding us that “rising” “up to” the clouds or heaven is metaphorical, not physical, by having two angels appear then and asking them why they are gawking up into the sky like that. [ACTS 1:10-11]):
“Dear Theophilus: In my first book I wrote about all the things that Jesus did and taught from the time he began his work until the day he was taken up to heaven. Before he was taken up, he gave instructions by the power of the Holy Spirit to the ones he had chosen as his apostles. For forty days after his death he appeared to them many times in ways that proved beyond doubt that He was alive. They saw Him, and He talked with them about the Kingdom of God. And when they came together, he gave them this order: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift I told you about, the gift my Father promised. John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit;” [ACTS 1: 1-5].
We are not sure of who Luke was– a Greek convert? a Syrian? from Antioch? Paul names him in several of his letters as his companion and refers to him as a physician; he was if nothing else a scholar and writer, and his authorship was accepted in the Muratorian Canon, a fragment of manuscript from 170 or 180 C.E. which lists New Testament writings accepted as scripturally authoritative; the fragment is written in Latin and was discovered by Lodovico Antonio Muratori in 1740.
This means that within two hundred years of the writings of testimonies, letters from apostles, and of Jesus’ life and death, manuscript copies, of which there were thousands, were collected and canonized.
They were codexes, written in Koine Greek, the language common in the Hellenistic, Roman world: papyrus bound like books, rather than stuck together in scrolls; they were written to be carried around, read out loud, recopied and shared as the apostles, witnesses, converts, Jewish and Gentiles, moved about the cites, villages, ports, markets, dusty roads, and stony islands around the Mediterranean Sea.
Questioning their truth is one thing, but I do not know why there is difficulty believing that John (which is the English version of a name which in French could be Jean and in Russian Ivan and in German, Johann), wrote the Gospel John , or the disciple Matthew/Levi, with his students and note-taking scribes, wrote Matthew, or Peter (Simon, Cephus, Pierre in the French, or Pytor ) the Letters from him. There is far less evidence of a man named Plato, or an actual Socrates who wrote nothing but was the philosopher character in Plato’s Dialogues.
I did go through the common doubt and distrust of the accuracy of translation and copy and transmission, was suspicious of the hands of humans in it, pulling the words we have to read the 20th and 21st centuries farther and further from the original texts and the spoken words of witnesses, and of Jesus himself, warping the Common Era Gospels and Epistles, let alone the ancient “Old Testament” literature and “history”. My biggest leap of faith was deciding to accept the Book along with Jesus, because Jesus quoted the Hebrew scriptures and taught his followers how to understand it– somehow the Psalms and Prophets were true to Him; I’d accept that, start there, and try to quiet the So-Smart arguments of my own head.
As I began to read through books, verses and chapters in both Testaments, I found lines, and passages leaping out at me that I had missed in my reading-to-disprove readings. Symbols, signs, references, allusions, all lit up and began to connect, braid together into a language of scripture which revealed lines that held it together, so that it could be the God revealed by Jesus saying “Love,” and the God of Jacob who “hated” nice, helpful, simple hairy Esau who traded his birthright for a bowl of food (Jesus, recall, fasted for forty days and was tempted by the devil, first of all to make himself some food).
Springs of water, living water, water into wine and wine as blood and blood as covenant, The Lamb of God, the Ram that replaced Isaac at the altar when Abraham was ready to go through with the sacrifice, the Passover Lamb, the firstborn of everyone including Pharaoh, and Jesus the Firstborn of God sacrificed, sacrificing; angelic pronouncements and miraculous births– of Isaac, of Sampson and Samuel, of John the Baptist in addition to Jesus– these run through the whole collection of books, weaving them into one.
The only one? It does not say so. I don’t think so. But, Truth. But, Word of God, yes, I do think. Humans tried to find their human words to describe or relate what the Spirit of the LORD spoke to them or showed them in their dreams and visions– but every artist can relate to the difficulty of translating the wonderful vision or concept into material– actual notes on scores, actual lines or strokes of pigment on a surface, actual words that mean something, out loud of on paper, papyrus, wax, clay, a computer screen.
Written languages came late to humanity. Pictures have been made for eons– the cave paintings in Europe are about 30,000 years old, and writing about 6,000 years ago. Marks made in clay in Mesopotamia, developed into cuneiform, the beginnings of records– of numbers of concrete, particular things (goats, bread loaves, wine casks), then pictures of things to differentiate kinds and relations, and by the eighth century B.C.E., inscriptions were engraved on vessels and drinking cups. , and scribes began to write down the stories, the songs, the poems, the legends and dramas and tales that their cultures had been telling since their beginnings.
According to Matthew Battles in Palimpsest: The History of the Written Word, scribes began to write grammatically in their languages to record the dramas and songs and told tales, the myths and origin stories told from their beginnings. They were trained, educated slaves or free secretaries, copyists, rather than inventors or poets themselves.
The Hebrew scribes who copied the Torah scrolls, and the Prophets and Psalms, were serving the LORD, God ALMIGHTY, Whose Name could not be pronounced whom they feared and worshiped; they would have been extraordilarily careful to copy sacred text exactly and precisely, and, later, to translate with prayerful care, every dot and tittle, for the words that came from the LORD were sacred and holy and had power.
The prophet Jeremiah had his scribe Baruch and chapter 36 of the prophet tells how the LORD spoke to Jeremiah and told him to dictate it to Baruch to write on a scroll; Baruch read it aloud because Jeremiah was banned from the Temple just then– ” ‘Tell us, now, how did you come to write all this?’…Baruch answered, ‘Jeremiah dictated every word of it to me, and I wrote it down in ink on this scroll,'” [JER. 36:17-18], and then he read it to the king; the king Jehoiakim tore it up and threw it into the fire. The LORD told Jeremiah to dictate His message again, and Jeremiah told Baruch, who wrote it again.
Paul dictated most of his letters to the new churches of believers, and in one to the Galatians mentions writing himself: “See what big letters I make as I write to you now with my own hand?” [GAL. 6:11].
I believe that this Holy Spirit, this God in us, guards God’s word, guides the writing down, the copying, the translating, the typesetting. This God of All Power, the Spirit of Truth Who Reveals the Truth About God, active and inspiring and working to this very day, has kept the Bible correct through translations. Not everyone who calls themself a Christian is, or is in the Spirit, and no one calling for the any genocidal “cleansing” can be, while others, who do not denote themselves Christian, know and live in the Great Spirit; those who want and love or have the Spirit and serve God, Love, Life– whatever name you give it, to be paradoxical– are true to the word.
It is Satan, the Enemy of Truth who is the liar and father of lies.
In short, I trust the monks who in their scriptoria have copied and translated and printed the words of the LORD Whom they Love and have given their lives to, have been correct. The Bible is not all of the truth or the only sacred text and truth, but is nonetheless True.
Jesus, Who is called the Word made flesh, did not write– except once, says John, in the dirt: when the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, for which their law said she should be stoned to death, and asked Jesus what he said they should do. “But he bent over and wrote on the ground with his finger” [JOHN 8:6].
(“LORD, you are Israel’s hope; all who abandon you will be put to shame. They will disappear like names written in the dust, because they have abandoned you, the spring of fresh water,” [JEREMIAH 17:13].)
“As they stood there asking him questions, he straightened up and said to them,‘Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her.’ Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground.” [JOHN 8:7-8]
The earth is God’s palimpsest.
But Jesus said to the seventy-two disciples he sent out to preach, when they had returned hyped and excited, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven…but don’t be glad because the evil spirits obey you; rather be glad because your names are written in heaven.” [LUKE 10: 12, 20].
Jesus spoke about the kingdom of heaven in parables and stories because there is no earthly way to describe what is not of this world (this nature or this cosmos), although humankind can imagine there being something beyond their ken.
As is Holy Spirit. Can you relate if I say that when the choral group I am in at last sang our COVID-delayed concert, settings by contemporary composer Ola Gjeilo of Ubi Caritas, Christina Rossetti’s The Rose, W.B. Yeats’s Lake Isle and the Ordinary Mass as Sunrise Mass, the Spirit was singing in it? or if I say of the Spirit leading my reading of the Bible, “It was as if certain words and phrases were highlighted, and it began to make sense, I could –” does this tell you anything? The paper page did not actually glow, and I did not have or use yellow highlighter. We have imagery, symbolism; we have centuries of poetry and song and myth to allude to, dreams and the archetypes or collective unconscious to bring forth with all their levels and depths, personal and mythological, to help. A word or idea “lights up” and one “sees” meaning, “sees the light” or one plunges “into darkness” which is different than being “blinded by the light.”
Growing “like a seed” is one of the most common images that Jesus used, for they are buried in the ground and “die” to become, mysteriously, mustard plant or lilies or wheat stalks or Giant Sequoias; the kingdom of heaven is like that. And like yeast a woman kneads into her bread– only a tiny amount is needed and it spread through all the dough and rises. From inside out.
The Holy Spirit Jesus spoke of enters into us, makes us new creatures from the inside out.
But how? How is this? What is this? Why are we not healing diseases and blindness and lameness regularly, every believing or Christ-following Christian, by touching or praying? Where is the Power of God in us?
Luke began his first book:
“Dear Theophilus: Many people have done their best to write a report of the things that have taken place among us. They wrote what we have been told by those who saw these things from the beginning and who proclaimed the message. And so, Your Excellency, because I have carefully studied all these matters from their beginning, I thought it would be good to write an orderly account for you. I do this so that you will know the full truth about everything which you have been taught.” [LUKE 1: 1-4].
The end of the Gospel and first pages of Part Two, Acts of the Apostles, report Jesus, after his crucifixion and resurrection, just before His ascension to heaven, telling the disciples to wait in Jerusalem, and
“….when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,'” [ACTS 1 9].
That, the Holy Spirit which was the power that on Pentecost made the disciples speak in all the languages of the people in hearing range leading to the belief and baptisms of 3000 people that day, that power that raised Jesus from the dead, and is the source of the eternal life beyond the life-spanned animate earth we are, to those who open to it– that is the Spirit promised to the disciples– to us, if we believe, the power which changes us from the unseen dark waters in our psychic depths, and on up through to the order and light of our mind, when Christ is in our eyes as we look out, and in the people that we see– or so it is meant to be, but we all do manage to make our windows as dirty and smeared and distorting as our psychic mirrors get– we are works in progress, and the Spirit is at work urging us to house-clean and look again. To forgive and to feed and to love.
If Jesus defeated death, was victorious over sin, and heaven prevails against Satan and all his forces — in cosmic spheres, is it, only? What blocks or defeats it now, here, with Ukraine still under siege and over twenty mass shooting in the U.S. since that in Uvalde, Texas– where a legal adult went in and killed 19 children with a legal assault weapon and magazines of ammo, and evangelical so-called Christians supporting the NRA and inventing lies about homosexuals and promoting death penalties…
Carl Jung assures us that we can only change– our neurotic minds, psychotic breaks, anxious impossibility of living ordinary life like a normal human being with a little happiness– from inside out.
What blocks the Holy Spirit in us– our acceptance or its action, is ego. The ego is the part of one’s self that we know, are aware of– the center and organizing principle of identity and personality, what we think and do and believe about ourselves and world, and is our everyday, every-awake-moment consciousness and our sense of continuity, without which I would not really know if I was the same person today that I was two weeks ago, or who you are. It is necessary and normal, and much less of our psychic being than we can consciously realize. (We store all experiences and memories in back files in our minds and in our bodies, which ego-consciousness usually can, but we all learn as we get older, often cannot recall)
It is this ego that feels pleasure and shame, envy and lust and self-loathing, that tries to exercise will power to overcome habits, undergoes courses of self-improvement, attacks enemies– and in fear or when sensing any threat to itself, it will protect and defend itself at all costs– and the costs are often great. Neuroses and psychotic breaks from reality happen, Jung explains, when our idea of ourself cannot accept or tolerate something of ourself that is “wrong,” or “bad,” or “dirty” or “sinful,” or “wicked,’ or “disgusting.”
We make up mythical tales to protect us from what has happened to us that is terrible, or we project all the evils that we secretly desire onto others, who become our monsters, or our personalities split altogether into multiple personalities or into schizophrenia.
Any healing change, Jung insists, must arise from deep in the dark, creative, watery chaos of the unconscious, where dramas are played out among our images of inner Stepmothers and Old Kings and enchantments, teachers and tricksters, dragons and familiars, Evil Twins, shining Knights and singing Sirens, in our dungeons and castles, volcanoes and caves and mountaintops. In therapy, one seeks to break down ego’s fortified Tower walls of defense or prison by discovering, facing, owning our unruly but compensating unconscious elements, assimilating what we can to restore a balance or health, by shining some light into our dark mind and ongoing life story. “Shining some light”: metaphor again. By telling you that such awareness helped turn my golem-y lonely self-pitying shadow into a useful dragon which guards and shows me gems of our treasure, in our productive and creative times, but which can fall into whining and wallowing again, and which can erupt when threatened or outraged in all her fire-breathing, kingdom-decimating, green-eyed fury, which indicates the need to address some ego issues, again, –am I sharing anything you can understand? There is only metaphor, symbol to speak of the deep psyche– Archetypes.
Our own self-importance, this little ego, can block, can refuse, can smother Spirit, and that is what the Enemy wants.
The ego must surrender, must “die”, to allow the Holy Spirit to lead and move and work in one, according to Jung, the Buddha, and Paul Tillich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Richard Rohr, Francis Chan, and Jesus.
In the Last Supper scene of the Book of John (Chapters 13 through 17), Jesus tells the disciples eating the Passover meal together that when he, Jesus of Nazareth, is gone back to the Father, another, the Holy Spirit or Spirit of Truth, will come; he will not leave them alone to face the Jews and Romans and skeptics and Zealots. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Helper (TEV) “who reveals the truth about God” in JOHN 14, 15, and 16. ( The Amplified Bible lists the Spirit’s names as “Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Standby”)
The Spirit Who Reveals the Truth About God will:
“stay with you forever, [14:16]
“teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you,” [14: 26];
The Spirit Who Reveals the Truth About God “comes from the Father, and He will speak about me, [JOHN 15:27]
“prove to the people of the world that they are wrong about sin and about what is right and about God’s judgement, [16:8
“lead you into all the truth… He will take what I say,” Jesus said, “and tell it to you,” [16:13].
In Luke’s book of Acts, the Spirit of Truth Who Reveals the Truth About God came as Jesus had promised, on the festival of Pentecost:
“Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. They were all filled (AMP: “diffused throughout their souls”) with the Holy Spirit,” [2:2-3]
And before Saul was struck and converted on the road to Damascus and became Paul, “Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles, and everyone was filled with awe…And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved,” [ACTS 2: 43, 47].
The Christ- followers healed the lame and even raised a man from death like Elijah of old, and,
“An angel of the LORD said to Philip, ‘Get ready and go south to the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza(This road is not used nowadays). So Philip got ready and went. Now an Ethiopian eunuch, who was an important official..of the queen of Ethiopia, was on his way home. He had been to Jerusalem to worship God…As he rode along, he was reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The Holy Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to that carriage and stay close to it.'” Philip and the Ethiopian began talking; the Apostle explained the passages and told him the Good News. “As they traveled down the road, they came to a place where there was some water, and the official said, ‘Here is some water, What is to keep me from being baptized?’..both Philip and the official went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the LORD took Philip away. The official did not see him again, but continued on his way, full of joy. Philip found himself in Azotus..” [ACTS 8: 26–40]
Peter was also given a vision and went to meet a Gentile man named Cornelius, and even went into his house and preached to them, which was as wild for a Jewish man, even a Jewish Christian, as anything Jesus had done, and Peter said,
“‘I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Whoever fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him, no matter what race he belongs to.’ While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who were listening to his message. The Jewish believers who had come from Joppa with Peter were amazed that God had poured out His gift of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles also,” [ACTS 10:34-35, 44-45].
Not all who desire the Spirit act from burning conviction, or faith, or love,
“A man named Simon lived there [in Samaria], who for some time had astounded the Samaritans with his magic….Simon saw that the Spirit had been given to the believers when the apostles placed their hands on them. So he offered money to Peter and John, and said, ‘Give this power to me too, so that anyone I place my hands on will receive the Holy Spirit.’
But Peter answered him, ‘May you and your money go to hell, for thinking that you can buy God’s gift with money! You have no part or share in our work, because your heart is not right in God’s sight. Repent, then, of this evil plan of yours, and pray to the Lord that He will forgive you for thinking such a thing as this'” [ACTS 8: 9, 18-22].
This Spirit Who Reveals the Truth About God is the same Holy Spirit Who brooded and then moved over the waters of the formless deep at creation, and this ruach ha-kodesh is the same Spirit of Whom the angel Gabriel spoke to Mary, Jesus’ mother:
“Mary said to the angel, ‘I am a virgin. How, then, can this be?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and God’s power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God,’ ” [LUKE 1: 34-35].
‘”Through the power of the Holy Spirit,'” Paul says in 2 Timothy, “Who lives in us, keep the good things that have been entrusted to you,” [1:14].
Ubi caritas et amore, Deus ibi est.
“In his disciples’ presence Jesus performed many other miracles which are not written down in this book. But these have been written in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through your faith in Him you may have life.” [JOHN 20: 30-31].