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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book: "JESUS; the man who lives" by Malcomb Muggeridge

This work is a wonderful walk through the biographical portions of the first four Gospels, with full-page Art illustrations. Our "St. Mugg" provides the narrative company of a perpetually skeptical but late to his ardency, Believer. Muggeridge does note that no historical sources outside of the Gospels are available to corroborate anything said or done by Jesus. [To date, the actual existence of Jesus remains uncorroborated by real or direct evidence. He left no artifact or archeology or contemporary record. This lacuna is highlighted by the forged insertion into Josephus' history.]

The three chapters explore His Coming, His Teachings, and His Dying and Living. The Teachings of Jesus should be of interest to everyone, and they are honestly quoted and helpfully explored -- admitting to the obscurities. Jesus presents no theology, no law, nor even a Church.

"The religion Jesus gave the world is an experience, not a body of ideas or principles. It is in being lived that it lives, as it is in loving that the love which it discloses at the heart of all creation become manifest." [71]

The study is as comprehensive as the Gospels themselves. Intense, even comparative across these sources, noting the discrepant versions of events and parables -- for example, the three very different versions of the spikenard episode: "When Jesus was in Bethany with Lazarus, [who he had previously raised from the dead when Martha sent for Jesus to advise him that his beloved had died]... while Martha was preparing supper, Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and annointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair..." [124].

The emphasis is on what actual sins are, and that sin is rarely what the authorities say it is -- for example, Jesus roundly abuses hypocrisy -- the Pharisees "who say and do not" -- as the worst possible offense.[130]

Those of us not given to power over others or to accumulations of material things, will be gratified by Muggeridge's faithful recitation and explosion of the Beatitudes, and in particular, the bits about the poor and the meek. On the eve of of his crucifiction at Gethesemane -- this must be important -- Jesus told a lawyer to sell everything, give the proceeds to the poor, and "follow me". [114]. Jesus repeats this "distribute unto the poor" admonishment to his close friends, Lazarus, Martha and Mary.[116] If a "Christian" is one who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, then there cannot, cannot, be more than a few dozen Christians in the world today. What a hypocrite professes makes the point.

A light on St. Mugg's own conversion is shed in the summary of Jesus' teachings provided by Jesus himself:

"Jesus summarized all his teaching for us in two great propositions which have provided Christendom with, as it were, its moral and spiritual axis...: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and the second, like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' On these two commandments, he insisted, hang all the law and the prophets. His manner of presenting them indicates their interdependence; unless we love God we cannot love our neighbour, and, correspondingly, unless we love our neighbour we cannot love God. Once again, there has to be a balance...".[130]

"The simple fact is that to be truly loved God has to become a Man without thereby ceasing to be God. Hence Jesus, ... Thus the two commandments become one...". [133]

Here we may have but the core of Muggeridge's conversion to Catholicism late in life.

Of course, he managed at the end to regain his certainty that Faith had no meaning, and died knowing there was no immortality or God. But that is another book, not this one. Much of the grace and gratitude of the religion which St. Mugg did so brilliantly express is so in this one.