Why the Gospels are hard to understand

As a student in a Catholic school, from elementary to college, I grew up under the tutelage and guidance of Catholic priests who inculcated in us Christian teachings, doctrines, rituals, and practices. We regularly attended mass, confessed our sins, and received Holy Communion. We were introduced to the teachings of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

But we never studied the Bible. I do not remember an occasion when we were asked to read the Bible. Neither were we encouraged to ask questions about the Catholic religion. We were only taught how to memorize and obey Christ’s teachings as interpreted by the Catholic Church.

So, we grew up completely ignorant of what Jesus really taught and said, except what the priests taught us, and read in Catholic books.

It was only after college that I developed enough courage to read about other religions and other beliefs. I started reading such books as the Hindu Vedas, the Upanishads, as well as the teachings of Gautama Buddha, and even those of Chinese sages, like Confucius, Lao Tse, and Chuantzu.

I also began to read the Holy Bible in three versions, the Revised Standard Version, the Jerusalem Bible, and the King James Version. I read the commentaries of Biblical scholars and found out that the Christian Bible contains as much as 4,000 errors, and that in the opinion of most scholars, the King James Version has the least number of errors.

Photograph courtesy of pexels/pixabay During a person’s formative years, the teachings of Christ were taught but not the Bible.

I found the Christian Gospels very difficult to understand, not only because Jesus usually spoke with two meanings, but because of some other deeper reasons I shall discuss later.

The first reason Jesus’ teachings are difficult to understand was given by Jesus himself. The disciples were given the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to the public, He spoke in parables. When asked by the disciples why He did that, Jesus replied in Matthew (13:11-12): “To you, it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been given… The reason I speak to them in parables is that seeing they do not perceive and hearing, they do not listen, nor do they understand.”

But even Jesus’ closest disciples sometimes argued among themselves as to the meaning of His words. And when they asked Him what He meant by some teachings, He replied with exasperation, “How long should I be with you until you understand what I have been trying to tell you?”

If the disciples themselves, especially Peter, who became the first Pope of the Catholic Church, could not understand what Jesus meant, what more we, the common followers of Christ?

The difficulty in understanding the Gospels does not lie only in the fact that Jesus often spoke not always literally, but also metaphorically and symbolically. According to P.D. Ouspensky, there is a deeper explanation why the Gospels are hard to understand or interpret.

P.D. Ouspensky was a Russian intellectual, philosopher, and pure mathematician, who was at one time, a follower of Gurdjieff.

In his monumental and massive book, A New Model of the Universe, published in 1931, Ouspensky explained in the chapter, “On Christianity and the New Testament:”

“The four Gospels are written for the few, for the very few, for the pupils of esoteric schools. However, intelligent and educated in the ordinary sense a man may be, he will not understand the Gospels without special indications and without special esoteric knowledge.”

By esoteric knowledge, Ouspensky meant hidden, higher knowledge taught in mystery schools of ancient civilizations, like Egypt, Greece, and India.

According to him, “Every phrase, every word, contains hidden ideas, and it is only when one begins to bring these hidden ideas to light, that the power of this book, and its influence on people, which has lasted for two thousand years, becomes clear.”

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