The Secret Teachings of Jesus
Hello, I’m Keith Campbell, independent priest of the Home Temple, and welcome to GodSmarts.
I’d like to start this episode with a joke. The full joke is very long, but in the interests of time I’m going to abbreviate. A man was wandering by a monastery on a high hill when he heard a very strange, beautiful noise. He was so intrigued by the noise that he climed all the way up the mountain, found the abbot and asked him what was making such an unusual noise. The abbot told him sternly, “i’m sorry, but I can’t tell you. You’re not a monk”. The man went on his way, but his mind was so obsessed about the source of the sound that he finally climed back up the mountain and asked what he had to do to become a monk. The abbot told him he had to travel the world, count all the grains of sand on the beaches and all the blades of grass in the fields.
So he wandered the world for many years, counting all the grains of sand and all the blades of grass. Finally, many years later, he returned to the monestary and was made a monk.He could hardly contain his excitement as he was finally lead to the secret door where the strange sound came from. What he saw there was absolutely amazing, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you about it. You’re not a monk.
Secrets have often been a part of religion. Last time we looked at the recently discovered Gospel of Thomas, and I explained why many scholars think it’s a very important look at the authentic teachings of Jesus. But the Gospel of Thomas says that some of Jesus teachings were secret. The very first verse says:
“These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.” – Thomas 1
Did Jesus have secret teachings?
There is very good evidence that he did. Jesus would take his disciples aside to explain the secret meanings of his parables, that the public didn’t get to hear. “You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” Jesus says, “but they have not. (Matt 13:10-11, NET)̀
The Greek word used for secret here is “musterion”, which means “to shut the mouth”. It referred to the sort of secrets that the initiates of the mystery schools were taught. Jesus said that some of his teachings weren’t for the unspiritual.
“Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs” – Matthew 7:6 NET Jesus says.
When his disciples figured out who he was,
“…he instructed his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
(Matt 16:20, NET)
When he was transfigured on the mountain with Peter, James and John,
“As they were coming down from the mountain, he gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (Mark 9:9 NET)
But haven’t all these secrets been revealed to us in the Bible?
We’re told at the end of the gospel of John that There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25, NET)
We’re told that,
“To the same apostles also, after his suffering, he presented himself alive with many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3, NET)
But we don’t know a single word of what he said.
Paul told his readers that he couldn’t teach them the deepest spiritual truths.
“I could not speak to you as spiritual people, “ he says, “but instead as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready. In fact, you are still not ready, (1Cor 3:1-2, NET)
So Paul’s epistles only gave spiritual milk, not the solid meat of the mysteries, but as a “steward of the mysteries of God.’ (1Cor 4:1, NET) Paul only explained “… spiritual things to spiritual people. (1Cor 3:13 NET)
Many of the early leaders of the church mentioned these secret teachings. Origin said that just like the Greek mysteries, Christianity had it’s secrets.
“But that there should be certain doctrines, not made known to the multitude, which are (revealed) after the exoteric (outer) ones have been taught, is not a peculiarity of Christianity alone, but also of philosophic systems, in which certain truths are exoteric (outer) and others esoteric. (inner)” (Origin Contra Cesum: Book I Chap VII)
Basil also mentioned the Christian mysteries – the oral teaching passed on from the apostles saying that:
“the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence. What the uninitiated are not even allowed to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents.” (Basil of Cesaria: On the Holy Spirit, Book XXVII)
And Clement of Alexandria talked about
“ the gnosis (secret knowledge) itself is that which has descended by transmission to a few, having been imparted unwritten by the apostles.” (Clement of Alexandria: Stromata Book VI Chapter VII)
One of the most famous gnostic teachers, Valentinus, a man who nearly became bishop of Rome, claimed to have been taught the secret teachings of Jesus by a disciple who learned them directly from the apostle Paul.
We assume that Jesus purpose was to publicly proclaim his message to the world, and then to die on the cross and rise from the dead, leaving his clear message in the Bible for everyone to read. We assume that because this written message – the outward message, is all that modern Christianity has to offer. But from these clues, it appears that Jesus also had a deeper, spiritual message that was only passed on to a few of his most spiritual disciples, and by them to their own select disciples. This is the way that spiritual discipleship has worked through much of history. Many of the Rabbis of Jesus time had inner circles of disciples with whom they shared their deepest teachings.
So what are these secret teachings of Jesus? And how can we know what they are if they aren’t spelled out in the Bible?
Well I’d like to tell you. But you’re not a monk.
Until next time, I’m Keith Campbell for Godsmarts. See you soon.
Just kidding. Next time, we WILL try to see what clues we can discover about Jesus’ secret teaching.