A forensic textual analysis of Luke 17:20
For the last two thousand years and until very recently, Western civilisation found its version of reality within the Bible. Unfortunately for history, nobody has been able to agree on what that reality is. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, in 2001, there were 33,000 different denominations of Christianity – all of which assume that they have a monopoly on truth. Islam, Judaism and Christianity are all based on Hebrew Scriptures but violently disagree on what those scriptures mean.
For the last fifty years, our intellectual elite have told us that reality and truth are indeed subjective and have no inherent meaning; but today, in 2020, as our civilisation implodes, truth is being effortlessly manipulated by the Government-Controlled-Media, never have we had such a need to learn how to determine what is real from what is false!
As an example of this confusion, consider Luke 17:20 – a two thousand year old conversation recorded in the New Testament. It is one of the most misunderstood logia attributed to Christ, which may have been spoken by the actual Jesus of History. Understanding the reasons for this textual confusion, sheds light on the dangers of cognitive dissonance and the importance of an appreciation of objective reality in our everyday lives.
The human mind finds comfort in conformity. All of us believe some things ‘Religiously’!
We all know someone who believes in something that makes no sense and won’t listen to reason. No matter how much evidence you show them to the contrary they just can’t see the reality that seems so obvious to you and me.
For some it might be a belief in Donald Trump, for others it might be a belief in man-made climate change; it doesn’t really matter what it is. It is a fact that the ‘Religious Mind’ finds comfort in abdicating its responsibility to navigate reality for itself, and – to a certain extent – it is a blindness we all share; which begs the question, ‘Does Reality Matter’? Is there such a thing as objective truth anyway? Most people would say ‘Yes!’
We instinctively know that a connection to reality is a prerequisite of being sane; but what do we actually mean when we say that someone is ‘insane’?
Most of us expect the people around us to express a view of the world that reflects our own lived experience. We expect people’s actions to be based on reason and logic.
In 1957, Dr Leon Fastinger demonstrated that the human mind cannot live with two ideas that are self-contradictory – to do so causes us physical discomfort and long-term psychological stress. The level of emotional and physical discomfort we experience, when faced with a paradox in our beliefs, is in direct proportion to the depth of our emotional commitment to that belief. When a sane person is faced with a reality that undermines a deeply held belief they will do almost anything to make the pain go away. Typically they will try to avoid (Avoidance) the information. If that doesn’t work they will try to rationalise (Rationalisation) it away. Their last option will be increasing levels of aggression (Violence).
The theory of Cognitive Dissonance and its associated ‘confirmation bias‘ is now used against us by the media. International media sources are owned by only five multinational companies. They all show the same information all day every day. People naturally self-censor their information sources in order to avoid the discomfort of Cognitive Dissonance.
Unfortunately, for our long-term mental stability and health, our beliefs are dependant on our ability to comprehend reality. The problem is that if we base our fundamental beliefs on a false reality it is inherently unsustainable. Often human beings are subconsciously aware of the vulnerability of their belief and may not be consciously aware of the fact that they are employing avoidance, rationalisation and violence in order to protect themselves. Only by learning to notice our responses to information and forcing our mind to listen to disagreeable information will we be able to free ourselves from our slavish reactions.
In order to understand the objective reality of someone’s words, we must first understand the matrix of belief implicit in the exchange. The matrix of belief can be summarised as the sum of your past, how you feel about that past and your expectations for the future. In order to forensically analyse a text you will need to consider the following points:
- What did the speaker actually say? The translation closest to the original.
- What was the matrix of belief of the speaker?
- To whom was the speaker addressing his words and what was their matrix of belief.
To further complicate this intellectual minefield, the next problem we have is that different people have different levels of reading comprehension. Traditionally, reading abilities have been divided into three levels:
- Literal comprehension: absorbing information in the text
- Interpretive comprehension: seeing relationships between ideas contained within the text
- Applied critical comprehension: extrapolate existing ideas and opinions
Over the last fifty years reading comprehension has fallen all over the Western world. In 15th century England, 40% of the population were illiterate. Today, in 2020, 83% of the British population can read but just don’t bother. There is no effective difference between someone who can’t read and someone who chooses not to.
Over the last seventy years, reading has been taught using the ‘Look-Say‘ system, which teaches children to learn words as if they were Egyptian Hieroglyphics. It is for this reason that people can identify words in a sentence but not understand their combined meaning. Poor reading comprehension makes people dependant on authority. Lacking the ability to think for themselves they rely on authority to tell them what to think. Their reality is defined by commonly accepted authority figures.
Logic Vs. Inspiration:
Our ability to comprehend reality, as expressed in the written word, is further complicated by the fact that our experience of the world is not limited to just our five senses. Almost all of the major inventions, which created our modern world, did not come from a process of logic but rather through inspiration. Nikola Tesla invented the A.C. Motor, Radio and the X-Ray. Tesla’s mother, Georgina, taught him to find inspiration within the silence of his mind. However, whilst ultimate reality may not be found through logic alone, what truth you find must not, itself, contradict logic.
It is evident then that expressing our non-binary inner life through the medium of binary language is extremely difficult.
It is for this reason that religions like Zen Buddhism use a “direct pointing” form of language rather than descriptive or narrative text in order to express the profundity of their non-binary reality. For example, “What is the sound of one hand clapping.”
It follows, therefore, that to understand such a statement we must first have shared the same internal esoteric experience as the speaker or make the leap of logic to directly comprehend his meaning.
Exegesis Vs Eisegesis
Logically speaking, when we forensically analyse a text we are trying to find out what the original speaker or writer was trying to say and why. We are trying to get inside the mind of the author. We call this kind of forensic textual analysis ‘exegesis’.
Another common approach to textual analysis, particularly popular within Hebrew culture, is a system called ‘eisegesis’. In this system, the analyst uses a principal text as a way to express their own ideas and narrative. Eisegesis is not really interested in the mind of the original author.
When analysing a text it is vital to be aware of your own objectives and sub-conscious bias. If you are using exegesis to study a text it is also vital to understand the bias of the author.
Forensic Textual Analysis based on Philosophical Coherence:
Philosophical coherence is based on an axiom, or series of axioms, that share a common logic, against which other texts can be compared in order to ascertain their validity.
As an example consider the following conversation attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Luke:
“Now, being inquired of by the Pharisees as to when the Kingdom of God is coming, he answered them and said, ‘The Kingdom of God is not coming with scrutiny’. Neither shall they be declaring ‘look here’ or ‘Look there’ for the Kingdom of God inside of you is.”
Luke 17:20, Thomas 70
γαρ η βασιλεια του θεου εντοσ υμων εστιν
Level 1: Literal comprehension:
Most people will read the text and say, ‘Ok! The Kingdom of God is inside of me‘, and shrug their shoulders – ‘who cares!’ ‘It doesn’t affect my life’!
This is a reading comprehension at a basic level. The person has read the text literally but cannot see the implications of the statement. They know nothing of the history of the southern Levant; they know nothing of Hebrew culture and history. They know nothing of Judeo-Christian doctrine on which their culture was based. This person has been taught their whole life that their life is an accident of evolution and entirely meaningless. They cannot see how this statement might contradict everything that they’ve been taught about themselves and the world around them.
Many Christians will read this text and grasp that the Kingdom of God is within them and that it cannot be seen. They will just shrug their shoulders. They will not be able to see that this single statement entirely undermines everything they have been taught about Christianity.
If a Jewish person reads this statement at a low level of comprehension, they will not realise that this one statement proves that the Jesus of History was not the Christ of myth.
It is very common, particularly for American Evangelical Christians, to obsess about the idea of ‘Kingship’ as they often believe they have no way to interpret the concept. The result is a rather childish view of the ‘Kingdom of God‘ as being an expression of ‘absolute and unlimited’ power, which they extrapolate on to an anthropomorphic vision of God.
History (and the Hebrew Scriptures) demonstrates exactly how limited and fallible the concept of monarchy, in real life, actually is.
At this level, it is almost impossible for the reader to extract anything useful from a written text.
Level 2: Interpretive comprehension:
At this level of comprehension the reader will realise the following additional points:
- The Pharisees expected a physical Kingdom of God to come in the future.
- The Kingdom, to which the Jesus of History is referring, will not be a visible military or cultural polity, nor will it be a utopian future.
- The Jesus of History is saying that the Kingdom of God is within the Pharisee to whom he was speaking.
Until very recently, the last line of this saying was translated correctly with the Greek ‘Entos‘ in the text rendered as ‘Within’ or ‘Inside’. Biblical scholars with certificates awarded from Divinity Colleges realised the implication of the three points above and in 1989, with the publication of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, changed the translation from the second person singular to an indefinite second person plural. The new translation accommodates the Christology of the evolving church by adding words to the statement as, “the Kingdom of God is among you” or “the Kingdom of God is among some of you.” This allows their readers to avoid cognitive dissonance and continue to believe that only they have the keys to the Kingdom of God.
As an example of the dangers of a low level of reading comprehension consider the following quote from a noted Biblical Scholar:
“Attempts to read Luke’s ἐντὸς ὑμῶν as a reference to the inward, spiritual dynamic of the kingdom of God (e.g., Caragounis, “Kingdom of God?” 423-24) find ready adherents in this age of psychology and individualism here in the West. But they falter especially on the grounds that (1) nowhere else in Luke-Acts is the dominion of God regarded as an inner, spiritual reality; and (2) the notion that the Pharisees contain within themselves the kingdom of God is inconsistent with the Lukan portrayal of persons from this Jewish group.”
Professor Joel B. Green – NICNT, e-Sword
We will return to Professor Green’s quote in our conclusion but notice how Biblical Scholars justify their forgery. You will also notice a, not very, subtle use of eisegesis. Professor Green assumes that the Kingdom of God, to which the Jesus of History was referring, was something that only certain ‘kinds’ of people could experience, if indeed the Kingdom of God was an inner reality. Professor Green is therefore assuming that Jesus excludes other Jews from the Kingdom of God but would implicitly accept Professor Green and all the Gentiles.
He also, falsely claims that the translation of the text as ‘within’ is a new-age affectation but the truth is that this is the original translation and is included in the 1611 edition of the King James Bible. Obviously, Professor Green’s statement is a perfect example of avoidance of cognitive dissonance using rationalisation.
Level 3: I Applied critical comprehension:
If we read Luke 17:20 at this level of comprehension we must consider the following:
- The Jesus of History was replying to a direct question from a Pharisee and used the Pharisee’s term, ‘The Kingdom of God’ in his reply in order to illustrate his own point.
- The Pharisee was asking about a principally Judean concept that had been growing in popularity since the death of King Josiah in 609 BCE. With the failure of Judean military hopes and after several foreign invasions, the Judean scribes had promoted the idea that their God (Yahweh) would establish a physical, military and cultural utopia on their behalf via a military leader.
- The answer given by the Jesus of History neatly sidesteps this question by effectively ignoring it. He explains that the connection to God, justice and peace, which the Pharisee is waiting for (represented by the concept of the ‘Kingdom of God’) already exist within him. The use of this metaphor in this instance is unavoidably unsatisfying, as it doesn’t really answer the Pharisee’s question. The Jesus of History appears to be uncomfortable with it but uses it to subvert the topic.
- To illustrate point 3 and in reference to the rest of Luke, the Jesus of History rarely refers to God directly but uses the term ‘Light‘ as his preferred metaphor for God, for instance:
“Because of the mercy of God who sends the light of day from on high to visit us and to enlighten those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, to direct our feet on the path of peace.”
“No man when he hath lighted a candle, covered it under a vessel, putteth it under the bed, but setteth it on a candlestick, that they that enter may see the light. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made apparent, nothing concealed that will not be made known.”
“The Light of the Body is the eye. Whenever, then, your eye may be single, your whole body is luminous…”
In Luke 17:20 and the three logia above, the Jesus of History is using metaphor as a direct pointing to an inner reality and it is understood within Hebrew culture that insight is required to interpret this style of commentary correctly. This system of insight language the Kabbalah (Hebrew mystical tradition) calls, ‘The language of Root and Branch’.
- The matrix of belief of the Jesus of History, who was born a Jew, lived as a Jew and died as a Jew, is illustrated by these sayings. These three examples of metaphors for God, all come from Luke are also echoed in the other gospels and in the extra biblical sayings. The metaphor of the ‘Breath’ of God (Ruach) as Light is common within Hebrew spiritual and mystical texts. The concept of the spirit of God as our divine essence (Yetzer ha’Tov) is very old and comes from Genesis 2:7:
“God formed the human out of the soil of the ground and he blew into his nostrils the breath of life- and the human became a living soul.”
The concept of ‘Bene Elohim‘ – that life comes from, and is connected to, God – is uniquely Hebrew and not present in Greco-Roman cosmology. The Prophet Muhammad used a unique term for God that expresses this concept:
“By Him in Whose Hands my life is, none of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father and his children.”
It should be noted that it was the Jesus of History who uniquely applied the term Bene Elohim to anyone with a direct connection to God through Emunah.
In Greek thinking, and thus in Christian thinking, connection with God was extra to the self and often traumatically accompanied by frenzy. In Acts of the Apostles 19:6, the arrival of the spirit of God was accompanied by aspects of insanity like ‘Talking in Tongues‘. This is entirely unknown in Hebrew culture.
- Luke 17:20 appears to have been copied ‘word-for-word’ from a common source. Professor Robert W. Funk and the scholars of the Jesus Seminar identified that hypothetical common source as the document called Q-Source. All of the Q-Source sayings appear to be commentaries on existing Hebrew texts, which inculcate a recognisable Hebrew philosophical paradigm. The Q-Source shares the same foundational philosophical and cultural concepts implicit within contemporary Hebrew mystical spirituality.
- Those sayings in the Gospel attributed to Christ that do not appear in the Q-Source often do not conform to our Hebrew philosophical paradigm and appear to be extrapolations based on Greco-Roman philosophical paradigms.
- We can therefore say, from reading Luke 17:20 correctly that the following Christian doctrines cannot be based on the Jesus of History:
- The Church: God is within all living things, all of whom have direct access to him through their own essence. The entire edifice of priests, bishops and popes is unnecessary.
- The Second Coming of Christ (the Rapture): The Jesus of History did not believe in the apocalypse, the last day or the resurrection of the dead.
- Messiah: The Jesus of History did not believe that he was god or the military leader expected by the Judeans.
- Original Sin: If all living things have direct access to God within their essence, the doctrines of original sin, vicarious sacrifice must also be unsupportable based on this saying.
- Animal or Human Sacrifice: If all living things are expressions of the spirit of God the concept of animal sacrifice cannot be justified based on this understanding.
The quote I mentioned earlier from Professor Joel B. Green is a perfect example of rationalisation to avoid cognitive dissonance. In his quote, Professor Green maintained that there were no other references in the Gospel of Luke to an internal ‘Kingdom of God’ but if we look at Luke 13:19 we can see that, according to the Jesus of History, the Kingdom of God is often born out of something that a person might discard and grows slowly unnoticed, which provides shelter for all the creatures of heaven and is an obvious reference to an inner reality.
“What is the Kingdom of God like, and to what can I liken it? Like it is to a mustard seed, which a man discards in his garden and grows and becomes a great tree and the flying creatures of heaven roost among its boughs.”
Often people fear someone else giving voice to their own secret fears. Professor Green insults anyone who would read Luke 17:20 as ‘Within’ by saying “ready adherents in this age of psychology and individualism here in the West”. For an American living in the Bible Belt it would be better to be associated with a known pedophile than a liberal. The use of this subtle insult is a good example of the use of aggression to avoid cognitive dissonance. It is obvious that Professor Green is very uncomfortable with anyone voicing his own doubts based on his subconscious awareness of objective reality.
In order to understand Luke 17:20 Professor Green would have to understand Hebrew culture, spirituality and history in the first century and today.
Luke 13:19 above is describing the Kingdom of God as the growth of faith (Emunah). Unfortunately for Professor Green this concept is often misunderstood by Christians who translate the Hebrew concept of Emunah as ‘faith’ but this is a fatal mistake. The Church inherited their concept of faith from the Greco-Roman Saint Paul:
“We walk by faith, not by sight.”
2 Corinthians 5:7
The word ‘faith’ in Greek texts is πιστεωσ (Pistis) and it actually means ‘belief‘ and it is by the power of belief that Christians enter the Kingdom of God. Belief is instantaneous so it is evident that it is not belief to which the Jesus of History is referring when he says ‘The Kingdom of God’ as he explains in several passages that its appearance comes slowly without notice.
Wisdom (Sophia), on the other hand, comes through direct experience and work. Through experience we come to know God. The love and trust we have, as expressed by Emunah, supports our world because it is based on reality.
Without examining the matrix of belief for the Jesus of History and his audience it is impossible to grasp the original meaning of Luke 17:20.
A misunderstanding of Luke 17:20 allowed for the Christian Church to justify morally repellent axiomatic doctrines, which has led many people to become atheists. Because of poor literary comprehension most Western people feel that they can only choose between Christianity and Atheism, the Jesus of History would disagree.
Logic Vs. Inspiration:
Professor Green perfectly demonstrates how difficult it is to understand non-binary reality expressed in ordinary binary language. Because institutional religions discourage their members to connect to the divine outside of the control of the group, textual scholars often lack the inner frame of reference by which to understand the profundity of logia like Luke 17:20, which is expressed in the language of ‘Root and Branch’.
Exegesis Vs. Eisegesis
As a consequence of the restrictions, which a scriptural approach to spirituality places on the mind, it is common for Christians, like Professor Green, to make the Kingdom of God into a mirror image of themselves. In the last hundred years, scholars have turned Christ into everything from a communist to a Jihadi. They have turned the Kingdom of God into a communist utopia, a military empire and an undisclosed astral destination.
All of these scholars are reading into the text aspects of themselves.
Without the Christian Church, it is doubtful that the Jesus of History’s words would have survived the formation of Rabbinical Judaism, in the first half of the first millennium. However, in order to reclaim those original sayings it requires forensic textual analysis based on philosophical coherence. It also demands from us that we overcome our own cognitive dissonance to find the truth.
The failure of the Church, in the previous century, has given birth, now in 2020, to a world so lost that its governments cannot see the evil that they bring on their own people. As entire nations are placed under arrest with violence and the threat of violence. Through the manipulation of information, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing, in the words of its mastermind, Klaus Schwab, what it means to be human. If that is not evil, I don’t know what is.
It is therefore your obligation to learn how to find the truth within or behind the words that evil men will use to enslave you.