Many swear by the Bible. They insist that it is the only true word of God, to be accepted in its entirety without question and without personal interpretation. And yet surprisingly, everyone disagrees in a big or small way with everyone else in regard to what the Bible teachings and passages really mean. A thousand believers, a thousand religions. There are various reasons why.
Infants crawl before they stand, stand before they walk and walk before they run. In learning to read and write, we begin by memorizing the alphabet, then we put the letters together to form words, we combine words to express our meaning in sentences and so on. Regarding math, we learn to count, then we add and subtract, multiply and divide. Only after can we take up algebra, geometry and physics. Everything begins with simple basics and progresses to the more complex. So do we deepen our awareness of the Truth.
The Bible being the oldest source of the Divine Teachings for Christians, it is only right that we make it the starting point of our studies. But lest we be misled, it is important that we properly appreciate certain distinctions within the Bible, itself. Yes, it is divinely inspired. But there are levels to its teachings. Those who don’t realize this will naturally end up confused.
In the Old Testament, the prophets expounded on the divine teachings but, on the main, they admit that their understanding is less than perfect. Instead, they point to Jesus, our Lord who will come and reveal more of the Truth. All their pronouncements then are to be regarded as partly true and partly false. All who quote from them are quoting half-truths, at best. And besides, so much of the Old Teachings, not all, are now irrelevant, obsolete and have been superseded by the Teachings of Jesus.
Jesus knowing the Truth revealed it to his disciples. But being like any typical group of students, his followers could only comprehend so much. This they imparted to others in their turn. Truth not thoroughly understood and handed down became colored to some certain extent. There are higher and lower level interpretations of Truth.
Recognizing the strong influence of traditions, Jesus made use of them together with ceremonies, rituals and symbols to illustrate his teachings to the people of those times more effectively. Baptism, symbolic of purification, was retained from John the Baptist to foster a strong sense of belonging. The Jews having been slaves of the Egyptians and then the Romans, situations involving masters and slaves were more understandable to them than if the situations were related to the more advanced concepts of free men and universal brotherhood. Jesus’ death on the cross became the ultimate human sacrifice in the tradition of the blood of the lamb where the lamb was sacrificed to safeguard the lives of the Hebrew first-born during the Egyptian experience. The body and blood of Christ now reminds us every Sunday of his divine message and the fine examples we all should emulate, and our own necessary trials and hardships. Stark naked Truth being too direct, offensive to the sinful and blinding to the ignorant, Jesus clothed it in parables.
After Jesus completed his mission and returned home, the Apostles and later the church fathers interpreted his teachings for the purpose of instructing the greater masses of ignorant people. Necessarily, the Catechism had to be formulated with a view to bringing the Higher Teachings down to such a level where they could be understood and accepted, in like manner that we do not teach collegiate subjects to grade school pupils. Here again, some conflicts and inconsistencies resulted from the integration of non-Biblical teachings drawn from church traditions which did not always completely agree with the teachings in the Bible.
Over the centuries, social, economic and political exigencies compelled that the teachings be further degraded to ensure the attainment of certain desired ends. Objections to these subsequent Church edicts — the infallibility of the Pope in matters of faith and doctrine, celibacy, indulgences, sacraments and others, as well — sparked the Protestant Revolt of the 16th century. These and similar self-serving man-made laws are not God’s laws and we should not allow them to confuse us any further.
Because of these many innovations, much was lost. Now 2,000 years after, the original Truths that Jesus taught are obscured and the reasons behind the downgrading of his teachings have been completely forgotten. The rituals, symbols and other trappings of religion are fanatically embraced while the meaning and purpose behind them have been consigned to the wayside. Now is the time for us to stem the tide and get back to the true spirit of things.
Neither is the Bible the only true word of God nor is it complete in itself because "there are many other things that Jesus has done and if all these should be written down, then the whole world itself will not be able to contain all the books that should be written." In fact, there is so much more he wants to tell us which he didn’t then, because we would not have been able to understand them anyway at the time.
And how can we not help but personally interpret all these truths for ourselves? Everyone understands differently because everyone has had different experiences to draw insights from. Every teaching, even that supposed to come from divine sources, must test true in the light of our own personal experiences. Otherwise, our conscience and intuition will tell us that it really is not true and we should reject it outright, immediately, regardless of who proposed it. Or else we should withhold our judgment until more sufficient facts can prove or disprove it.
In all our evaluations, experience is the light God gives each of us that will enable us to determine correctly what is right and true. Beyond this, only those who apply the teachings can ever really know the Truth. Knowledge may be given but enlightenment must be earned. In order to get over our confusion and resolve the many conflicting interpretations, we should start over and conduct a new study and investigation. Aware now of the hierarchy of the divine teachings, we should better go back to basics, focus rather on the direct source, the true light — the life and teachings of the Master in the Gospels. This done, then we should continue to move forward in our quest.
Today, there are much more recent and highly authoritative sources of divine instruction relayed to us through different messengers that clarify and effectively upward revise the divine teachings again, this time specifically, for the men of the coming millenium. Truth is everywhere continually on the march and gathering speed. To those whose hearts and minds are open, even the mysteries are being unfolded and made plain. According to his promise: If we seek for his Truth, then we will surely find it.