The Missing Years of Jesus

The last Biblical account of the childhood of Jesus tells of the time when, at age twelve, he traveled with his parents to Jerusalem at the feast of the passover, and how, at the start of the return trip to Nazareth, his parents discovered he was missing. After a separation of three days, they found him in the Jerusalem temple “amidst the doctors,” who were “astonished at his understanding and answers.”

In response to his mother’s concern, Jesus replied: “How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”* (See sidebar below for Bible account)

From then on nothing more appears in the Bible on the life of Jesus until his apparently sudden arrival on the scene at the age of thirty. Often people have asked the question: What transpired during those missing eighteen years?

Jesus had begun his mission
Assuming that what we find in the Bible is true—that Jesus returned to Nazareth with his parents, and was “subject unto them”—his “subjection” to them can hardly have lasted for eighteen years considering the “declaration of independence” he made to them at the age of twelve. Christian tradition has him working as a carpenter. Jesus, however, seems flatly to contradict that tradition, for his own words were, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?”

After this strong statement, it is unthinkable that he would have simply gone home, remained there for eighteen years, and become a common apprentice and journeyman carpenter under Joseph until the age of thirty, and only then commenced his life’s mission. At twelve he had already told his parents he had God’s work to do. And, as he strongly implied, he had begun that mission already.

Westerners are likely to object, “But twelve is too young for any boy to begin a life mission!” His parents evidently held the same view. It is obvious, however, that Jesus did not hold it, for we find him telling them in no uncertain words—words very different, moreover, from what one would expect of any child of twelve—what he must do. In fact, he seems almost to have scolded them for finding him. Reflect that he made that statement after he had been missing for three whole days. Surely the event was extraordinary.

The tradition in India
The only episodes I know that were comparable to this story about Jesus, who was virtually renouncing every blood tie to his family, have occurred in the lives of great reincarnated masters. Paramhansa Yogananda recounted the following story to me as a historic fact: Swami Shankara told his mother at the age of six that he had decided to renounce the world for God. When she tried, quite naturally, to hold him, he jumped into a river and allowed himself—so the story goes—to be caught by a crocodile.

“Look, Mother!” he cried. “Either you give me your consent, or I will let this crocodile take me. Whatever happens, you won’t have me anymore!” Hastily she gave her permission. And the child, who had been born with divine power, made the crocodile release him, whereupon his life mission began.

Another example which occurred more recently involved Swami Pranabananda, a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya.** Pranabananda, my Guru told me, attained full liberation and left his body. “In his next incarnation,” Yogananda said, “he left home at the age of six. His declared purpose was to join Babaji in the Himalayas.” After a brief pause, Yogananda continued with a smile, “It caused a lot of commotion in that village at the time!”

In the light of spiritual tradition—especially in India, where the lamp of spirituality has burned brightly for centuries—the declaration by Jesus at the age of twelve, that he must “be about his Father’s business,” was not unique. That he had, moreover, a karmic tie with India had already been indicated by the visit, soon after his birth, of the three wise men of the East.

Clearly then, those eighteen years must have been deliberately omitted from the official account of Christ’s life. Two vital questions forcibly intrude themselves on this picture: What was omitted? And,What was the reason for that omission?

The decision of the early Church Council 
In 1958, I had an interesting conversation with a prominent spiritual leader in India: Swami Bharati Krishna Tirtha, the Shankaracharya of Gowardhan Math. He was at that time the senior representative of the ancient Shankara Order of Swamis. Throughout the land people respected him highly as a man of truth and honor. My own experience with him, which covered many months, supports that reputation. I will quote something he told me, in his own words as exactly I can remember them, about one of the early Church Councils of Constantinople. He told me the date of that council, but I don’t recall it:

Some years ago I came into possession of one of only three copies of an ancient document which purported to be an account of the proceedings of one of the early Councils of Constantinople. In that council, the question was raised as to how the Church should deal with the record, which still existed, of the missing eighteen years of Jesus Christ’s life.

The problem raised was that the account might unsettle the faith of devout Christians. The Bible stated that Jesus had spent at least a number of those ‘lost’ years with great masters in India, to which land he had gone to study with them. The question raised in the council was whether Christians might not be shaken in their faith if they thought that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had studied under anyone. The general feeling of the prelates was that the account should be removed in order to protect the devotion of the faithful.

At that point, someone in the audience got up and stated, ‘I am a layman, not a priest, and am aware that it is not customary for such as I to speak at these councils. However, I feel I must speak out. What I have to say is, if the apostles themselves were not shaken in their faith by this revelation, why should we who truly believe, all of us, that Jesus was the Son of God, have less trust then they? Surely the simple truth will not in any way diminish his stature in people’s eyes!’ The man’s objection was not considered, however, and the account of those eighteen years was removed forthwith from the Bible.

Testimony of a Master
Let me submit, also, what to me is the strongest testimony of all: the fact that Paramhansa Yogananda himself declared many times, as a definite fact, that Jesus Christ did visit India, and that he lived there for some years.

I had been with my Guru for just a month when he invited me to his desert retreat at Twenty-Nine Palms, California, where he was dictating his revised correspondence-course lessons. During one evening’s session he stated during dictation: “The three wise men who came to honor the Christ Child after his birth in Bethlehem were the line of gurus who later sent me to the West: Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Swami Sri Yukteswar.” This was heady stuff, especially for a young neophyte!

Yogananda announced to us also, “Jesus, in his youth, paid a return visit to India to study under the ‘wise men’ who had come to honor him as a baby.” People may wonder, as those prelates did at the Council of Constantinople, why an Incarnation of God needed to learn from anybody.

A liberated master, whose mission it is to mix with the public, must comport himself in such a way as not to impose his wisdom on those who hear him. It would be no help to them were he to overwhelm them with his omniscience in everything. He must, for their sake, seem down-to-earth and, in that sense, perfectly normal. Thus, it was perfectly normal for a great master—indeed, for an avatar like Jesus, which is to say an Incarnation of God—to assume for a time the slight veil of delusion, as well as the behavior of a normal human being, in order to help others, later.

The discovery of an ancient manuscript
There are records in India which support the claim that Jesus lived in that country for several years. In 1887, the Russian writer Nicolas Notovitch discovered in the ancient Tibetan monastery of Himis, in Leh, a province of Ladakh in northern Kashmir, an ancient manuscript which detailed the life of Jesus (called Issa in that work). It recounts that Issa had traveled there as a young man, and had later “preached the holy doctrine in India and among the children of Israel.” It tells how Jesus (Issa) left home to avoid pressure from his parents, Joseph and Mary, to take a wife. Legend has it that he traveled by camel caravan over the “Silk Road,” which was the main passage between the East and the West. Notovitch published a book which became famous in his time, called The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. In it he described Issa (Jesus) spending time in Puri, Orissa, among the priests at the famous Jagannath Temple.

A prominent disciple of the great Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Abhedananada, later (in 1922) went to Ladakh in order to verify the account by Notovitch, and actually succeeded in doing so. Later still, Nicholas Roerich, the Russian artist who was then already well known as a veritable “Renaissance Man,” wrote in 1929 of the many legends he had heard in Kashmir about the visit of Jesus Christ to that land, and about the manuscripts at Himis monastery. In 1939, Madam Elisabeth G. Caspari, a Swiss musician, and her husband visited the Himis monastery and also learned about the manuscripts, which were shown to them.

The account of Jesus leaving home as a boy to avoid marriage is very much in keeping with ancient tradition in India. Marriage in Israel, too, was arranged in those days after a boy reached the age of thirteen.  Jesus himself explained his return  to Israel, after the “lost eighteen years,” when he declared that it was his destiny to fulfill his mission in Israel. He therefore returned to Israel.

* Sidebar
Luke 2:41–52

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem. And, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. They, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey and then sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances.

And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, and after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” And he said unto them, “How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.

And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

** An account of his life appears in  Autobiography of a Yogi.

From Revelations of Christ, proclaimed by Paramhansa Yogananda, presented by his disciple, Swami Kriyananda, Crystal Clarity Publishers. To order click here

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The King James Bible

The Bible of King James
First printed 400 years ago, it molded the English language, buttressed the “powers that be”—one of its famous phrases—and yet enshrined a gospel of individual freedom. No other book has given more to the English-speaking world.
Photograph by Jim Richardson

By Adam Nicolson

Rome Wager stands in front of the rodeo chutes on a small ranch just outside the Navajo Reservation in Waterflow, New Mexico. He is surrounded by a group of young cowboys here for midweek practice. With a big silver buckle at his waist and a long mustache that rolls down on each side of his mouth like the curving ends of a pair of banisters, Wager holds up a Bible in his left hand. The young men take their hats off to balance them on their knees. “My stories always begin a little different,” Brother Rome says to them as they crouch in the dust of the yard, “but the Lord always provides the punctuation.”

Wager, a Baptist preacher now, is a former bull-riding and saddle-bronc pro, “with more bone breaks in my body than you’ve got bones in yours.” He’s part Dutch, part Seneca on his father’s side, Lakota on his mother’s, married to a full-blood Jicarilla Apache.

He tells them about his wild career. He was raised on a ranch in South Dakota; he fought and was beaten up, shot, and stabbed. He wrestled and boxed, he won prizes and started drinking. “I was a saphead drunk.”

But this cowboy life was empty. He was looking for meaning, and one day in the drunk tank in a jail in Montana, he found himself reading the pages of the Bible. “I looked at that book in jail, and I saw then that He’d established me a house in heaven … He came into my heart.”

The heads around the preacher go down, and the words he whispers, which the rodeo riders listen to in such earnestness, are not from the American West: They are from England, translated 400 years ago by a team of black-gowned clergymen who would have been as much at home in this world of swells and saddles, pearl-button shirts and big-fringed chaps as one of these cowboys on a Milanese catwalk. “Second Corinthians 5. ‘Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.'”

Here is the miracle of the King James Bible in action. Words from a doubly alien culture, not an original text but a translation of ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, made centuries ago and thousands of miles away, arrive in a dusty corner of the New World and sound as they were meant to—majestic but intimate, the voice of the universe somehow heard in the innermost part of the ear.

You don’t have to be a Christian to hear the power of those words—simple in vocabulary, cosmic in scale, stately in their rhythms, deeply emotional in their impact. Most of us might think we have forgotten its words, but the King James Bible has sewn itself into the fabric of the language. If a child is ever the apple of her parents’ eye or an idea seems as old as the hills, if we are at death’s door or at our wits’ end, if we have gone through a baptism of fire or are about to bite the dust, if it seems at times that the blind are leading the blind or we are casting pearls before swine, if you are either buttering someone up or casting the first stone, the King James Bible, whether we know it or not, is speaking through us. The haves and have-nots, heads on plates, thieves in the night, scum of the earth, best until last, sackcloth and ashes, streets paved in gold, and the skin of one’s teeth: All of them have been transmitted to us by the translators who did their magnificent work 400 years ago.

The extraordinary global career of this book, of which more copies have been made than of any other book in the language, began in March 1603. After a long reign as Queen of England, Elizabeth I finally died. This was the moment her cousin and heir, the Scottish King James VI, had been waiting for. Scotland was one of the poorest kingdoms in Europe, with a weak and feeble crown. England by comparison was civilized, fertile, and rich. When James heard that he was at last going to inherit the throne of England, it was said that he was like “a poor man … now arrived at the Land of Promise.”

In the course of the 16th century, England had undergone something of a yo-yo Reformation, veering from one reign to the next between Protestant and anti-Protestant regimes, never quite settling into either camp. The result was that England had two competing versions of the Holy Scriptures. The Geneva Bible, published in 1560 by a small team of Scots and English Calvinists in Geneva, drew on the pioneering translation by William Tyndale, martyred for his heresy in 1536. It was loved by Puritans but was anti-royal in its many marginal notes, repeatedly suggesting that whenever a king dared to rule, he was behaving like a tyrant. King James loved the Geneva for its scholarship but hated its anti-royal tone. Set against it, the Elizabethan church had produced the Bishops’ Bible, rather quickly translated by a dozen or so bishops in 1568, with a large image of the Queen herself on the title page. There was no doubt that this Bible was pro-royal. The problem was that no one used it. Geneva’s grounded form of language (“Cast thy bread upon the waters”) was abandoned by the bishops in favor of obscure pomposity: They translated that phrase as “Lay thy bread upon wette faces.” Surviving copies of the Geneva Bible are often greasy with use. Pages of the Bishops’ Bible are usually as pristine as on the day they were printed.

This was the divided inheritance King James wanted to mend, and a new Bible would do it. Ground rules were established by 1604: no contentious notes in the margins; no language inaccessible to common people; a true and accurate text, driven by an unforgivingly exacting level of scholarship. To bring this about, the King gathered an enormous translation committee: some 54 scholars, divided into all shades of opinion, from Puritan to the highest of High Churchmen. Six subcommittees were then each asked to translate a different section of the Bible.

Although the translators were chosen for their expertise in the ancient languages (none more brilliant than Lancelot Andrewes, dean of Westminster), many of them had already enjoyed a rich and varied experience of life. One, John Layfield, had gone to fight the Spanish in Puerto Rico, an adventure that left him captivated by the untrammeled beauty of the Caribbean; another, George Abbot, was the author of a best-selling guide to the world; one, Hadrian à Saravia, was half Flemish, half Spanish; several had traveled throughout Europe; others were Arab scholars; and two, William Bedwell and Henry Savile, a courtier-scholar known as “a magazine of learning,” were expert mathematicians. There was an alcoholic called Richard “Dutch” Thomson, a brilliant Latinist with the reputation of being “a debosh’d drunken English-Dutchman.” Among the distinguished churchmen was a sad cuckold, John Overall, dean of St. Paul’s, whose friends claimed that he spent so much of his life speaking Latin that he had almost forgotten how to speak English. Overall made the mistake of marrying a famously alluring girl, who deserted him for a presumably non-Latin-speaking courtier, Sir John Selby. The street poets of London were soon dancing on the great man’s misfortune:

The dean of St. Paul’s did search for his wife
And where d’ye think he found her?
Even upon Sir John Selby’s bed,
As flat as any flounder.

This was a world in which there was no gap between politics and religion. A translation of the Bible that could be true to the original Scriptures, be accessible to the people, and embody the kingliness of God would be the most effective political tool anyone in 17th-century England could imagine. “We desire that the Scripture may speake like it selfe,” the translators wrote in the preface to the 1611 Bible, “that it may bee understood even of the very vulgar.” The qualities that allow a Brother Rome Wager to connect with his cowboy listeners—a sense of truth, a penetrating intimacy, and an overarching greatness—were exactly what King James’s translators had in mind.

They went about their work in a precise and orderly way. Each member of the six subcommittees, on his own, translated an entire section of the Bible. He then brought that translation to a meeting of his subcommittee, where the different versions produced by each translator were compared and one was settled on. That version was then submitted to a general revising committee for the whole Bible, which met in Stationers’ Hall in London. Here the revising scholars had the suggested versions read aloud—no text visible—while holding on their laps copies of previous translations in English and other languages. The ear and the mind were the only editorial tools. They wanted the Bible to sound right. If it didn’t at first hearing, a spirited editorial discussion—extraordinarily, mostly in Latin and partly in Greek—followed. A revising committee presented a final version to two bishops, then to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and then, notionally at least, to the King.

The King James Bible was a book created by the world in which it was made. This sense of connection is no more strikingly felt than in a set of rooms right in the heart of London. Inside Westminster Abbey, England’s great royal church, the gray-suited, bespectacled Very Reverend Dr. John Hall, dean of Westminster, can be found in the quiet paneled and carpeted offices of the deanery. Here his 17th-century predecessor as dean, Lancelot Andrewes, presided over the subcommittee that translated the first five books of the Old Testament. Here, in these very rooms, the opening sentence “In the beginning God created the heaven, and the earth” was heard for the first time.

John Hall is the man who conducted the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton in the abbey earlier this year, and as we talk, thousands of people are queuing on the pavements outside, wanting to get into the abbey and retrace the route the new duchess took on her big day. It is the other end of the world from Rome Wager’s sermon to the cowboys in the New Mexico dust, but for Hall there is something about the King James Bible that effortlessly bridges the gap between them. He read the King James Version as a boy, and after a break of many years he took it up again recently. “There are moments,” he says, “which move me almost to tears. I love the story, after Jesus has been crucified and has risen, and he appears to the disciples as they are walking on the road to Emmaus. They don’t know who he is, but they talk together, and at the end they say to him, ‘Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.’ That is a phrase—so simple, so direct, and so powerful—which has meant an enormous amount to me over the years. The language is full of mystery and grace, but it is also a version of loving authority, and that is the great message of this book.”

The new translation of the Bible was no huge success when it was first published. The English preferred to stick with the Geneva Bibles they knew and loved. Besides, edition after edition was littered with errors. The famous Wicked Bible of 1631 printed Deuteronomy 5:24—meant to celebrate God’s “greatnesse”—as “And ye said, Behold, the Lord our God hath shewed us his glory, and his great asse.” The same edition also left out a crucial word in Exodus 20:14, which as a result read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” The printers were heavily fined.

But by the mid-1600s the King James had effectively replaced all its predecessors and had come to be the Bible of the English-speaking world. As English traders and colonists spread across the Atlantic and to Africa and the Indian subcontinent, the King James Bible went with them. It became embedded in the substance of empire, used as wrapping paper for cigars, medicine, sweetmeats, and rifle cartridges and eventually marketed as “the book your Emperor reads.” Medicine sent to English children during the Indian Mutiny in 1857 was folded up in paper printed with the words of Isaiah 51 verse 12: “I, even I, am he that comforteth you.” Bible societies in Britain and America distributed King James Bibles across the world, the London-based British and Foreign Bible Society alone shipping more than a hundred million copies in the 80 years after it was founded in 1804.

The King James Bible became an emblem of continuity. U.S. Presidents from Washington to Obama have used it to swear their oath of office (Obama using Lincoln’s copy, others, Washington’s). Its language penetrated deep into English-speaking consciousness so that the Gettysburg Address, Moby Dick, and the sermons and speeches of Martin Luther King are all descendants of the language of the English translators.

But there was a dark side to this Bible’s all-conquering story. Throughout its history it has been used and manipulated, good and bad alike selecting passages for their different ends. Much of its text is about freedom, grace, and redemption, but those parts are matched by an equally fierce insistence on vengeance and control. As the Bible of empire, it was also the Bible of slavery, and as such it continues to occupy an intricately ambivalent place in the postcolonial world.

Amid the rubble and broken cars of Trench Town and Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston, Jamaica, every property is shielded from the street and its neighbors by high walls of corrugated iron nailed to rough boards. This is one of the murder capitals of the world, dominated by drug lords intimately connected to politicians and the police. It is a province of raw dominance, inescapable poverty, and fear. Its social structure, with very few privileged rich and very many virtually disenfranchised poor, is not entirely unlike that of early 17th-century England.

This is one of the heartlands of reggae—the Rastafarian way of life that gave birth to it—and of the King James Bible. As the Jamaican DJ and reggae poet Mutabaruka says, “The first thing that a Rasta was exposed to in this colonial country was this King James Version.” Rastafarians are not Christians. Since the 1930s they have believed that the then emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, is God himself. His name was Ras Tafari before 1930, when he was called “King of Kings, Lion of Judah, Elect of God.” Those echo the titles the Bible gives to the Messiah. The island had long been soaked in Baptist Bible culture. In the mid-20th century, as Jamaicans were looking for a new redemptive Gospel, this suddenly made sense. Ras Tafari was the savior himself, the living God, and Ethiopia was the Promised Land. For Rastafarians, intensely conscious of the history of black enslavement, Jamaica was Babylon, their equivalent of the city where the people of Israel had been taken as slaves. Liberty and redemption were not, as the Christians always said, in the next life but in this one. “The experience of slavery helps you,” Mutabaruka says, “because there is this human need for salvation, for redemption. The Rastas don’t believe in the sky god. Their redemption lies within the human character. When the Europeans came and say, ‘Jesus in the sky,’ the Rasta man reject that totally.” (Jesus in the sky being Rasta shorthand for the whole story of the Resurrection.) “The man say, ‘When you see I, you see God.’ There is no God in the sky. Man is God, Africa is the Promised Land.”

Michael “Miguel” Lorne is a Rastafarian lawyer who for 30 years has been working for “the poor and the needy” in the toughest parts of Kingston. The walls of his office are filled with images of Africa and the Ethiopian emperor. But the windows are barred, the door onto the street triple locked and reinforced with steel. “The Bible was used extensively to subjugate slaves,” Lorne says. It seemed to legitimate the white enslaving of the black. “Your legacy is in heaven,” he says, not smiling. “You must accept this as your lot.”

The Bible has been an instrument of oppression—or “downpression,” as they say in Jamaica, because what is there “up” about oppression?—but it has also been the source of much of what the Rastafarian movement believes. “The man Christ,” Lorne says, “that level of humility, that level of conquering without a sword, that level of staying among the poor, always advocating on behalf of the prisoners, the downpressed, setting the captive free, living for these people. What is the use of living if you are not helping your brother? It is a book that gives you hope.”

Lorne exudes a wonderful, tough-minded goodness. “We hope for a world where color does not play the dominant role it plays now,” he says. “We want the lion and the lamb to lie down together. That is one of the beauties of Rastafari. We who have suffered and been brutalized and beaten, we have been agitating for compensation and reparation for years, but we don’t think we will stick you up with a gun to get it.”

Pious Rastafarians read the King James Bible every day. Lorne has read it “from cover to cover.” Evon Youngsam, who is a member of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, a Rastafarian “mansion” in Kingston, its headquarters opposite Bob Marley’s old house in the city, learned to read with the King James Bible at her grandmother’s knee. She taught her own children to read with it, and they, now living in England, are in turn teaching their children to read with it. “There is something inside of it which reaches me,” she says, smiling, the Bible in her hand, its pages marked with blue airmail letters from her children on the other side of the ocean.

The adherents of another, strict Rastafarian mansion, Bobo Shanti, in their remote and otherworldly compound high in the foothills of the Blue Mountains outside Kingston, rhythmically chant the psalms every day. The atmosphere in Bobo Camp is gentle and welcoming, almost monastic, but there are other Rastafarians whose style is the polar opposite of that, taking their cue from some of the more intolerant attitudes to be found in the Bible. Several Jamaican reggae and dance hall stars have been banned from performing in Canada and parts of Europe for their violently antigay lyrics. The justification is there in the Bible (“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: They shall surely be put to death,” Leviticus 20:13), but this is a troubling part of the King James inheritance: a ferocious and singular moral vision that has become unacceptable in most of the liberal, modern world.

Not only at its roots in the heart of Westminster but also in some of the most obscure corners of the English-speaking world, this book remains complicatedly and paradoxically alive. Not that it any longer holds universal sway. From the late 19th century onward, revisions and new translations began to appear with increasing regularity. Scores of new versions of the Bible or of substantial parts of it have been published in the past 50 years. But the 1611 version remains potent in places where a sense of continuity with the past seems important.

With the cool summer rain of the Hebrides in northwest Scotland spattering the glass of his windows, John Macaulay, elder of his church in Leverburgh on Harris and a boatbuilder at home in Flodabay, muses on the double inheritance of authority and liberty that the King James Bible has given him and people like him. He was brought up in the strict way of Scottish Presbyterianism. “Everything for the Sabbath was prepared on the Saturday,” he says, sitting now by the same hearth he sat by 60 years ago. “You had to bring extra water into the house—you didn’t have piped water in those days. Buckets of water from the loch across the road. Peats were taken in from the peat stack so that you had all the peats that you needed for the fire. Potatoes were peeled, meals prepared. My father always shaved on the Saturday evening, and I did too when I got older. The Bible said you must not work on the Sabbath, and so we did not.”

No one was allowed to drive on a Sunday. “The only person with a car going to church was the minister, and he would drive, but he would never pick anyone up on the road. You had old men tottering along—howling gale, driving snow—but no, even if he stopped and was to offer anyone a lift, they would not step into a car on a Sunday.”

In this Gaelic-speaking family, the Bible was the frame of life. Every evening of the week they knelt for prayers in front of the fire and the reading of a psalm. On Sunday the only book they could read was the Bible.

Before he was four years old, Macaulay was taught by his mother to read English from the Bible. “It is literally true that the English I learned was the English of the King James Bible. But we didn’t use English at all in the house. Unless we had visitors who had no Gaelic, which was rare. I could read English from the book, but I could not have a conversation in it. I did not really know what it meant.”

In some ways his immersion in a sacred book has sustained him through life. “You were taught very early on that there was someone there looking after you, someone you could rely on, someone you could talk to. You knew his words. They were in your mind.” But there was another side to it. The authority of the church with this book in its hand also became a source of fear. “It is not just awe and reverence; it is fear. People are fearful of being seen to be doing something wrong. There are lots of people that go through life without ever expressing themselves or their feelings, and it is sad to see that.”

The reverence for the minister, the man in the pulpit explicating the supremacy of the Bible, remains potent. “The church is a refuge from the realities of life,” Macaulay says, “but there is also something else, which is a wee bit more sinister. Domination is a factor. The power of some of these preachers to really control their congregation. That has always been there.”

The King James Bible has always cut both ways. It had its beginnings in royal authority, and it has been used to terrify the weak. It has also brought an undeniable current of beauty, kindness, and goodness into the lives of rich and poor alike. Its origins were ambivalent—for Puritan and bishop, the great and the needy, for clarity and magnificence, to bring the word of God to the people but also to buttress the powers that be—and that ambivalence is its true legacy.

From: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/12/king-james-bible/nicolson-text/

The Gospel of John (Selected Verses)

“In the beginning was the Word
The Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through Him all things came into being,
not one thing came into being except through Him.
What has come into being through Him is Life,
Life that was the Light of men;
and Light shines in Darkness,
and Darkness cannot overpower it.”

– John 1:1-5

____________________________________________________________

“In all truth I tell you,
no one can see the kingdom of God
without being born from above…

… In all truth I tell you,
no one can enter the kingdom of God
without being born through water and the Spirit;
what is born of human nature is human;
what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

– John 1:3, 5-6

_____________________________________________________________

“… the hour is coming –
indeed is already here –
when true worshippers
will worship the Father
in spirit and truth:
that is the kind of worshipper
the Father seeks.
God is spirit,
and those who worship
must worship in spirit and truth.”

– John 4:23-24

_____________________________________________________________

“How can you believe,
since you look too each other for glory
and are not concerned
with the glory that comes from God?
Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you
before the Father:
you have placed your hopes in Moses
and Moses will be the one who accuses you.”

– John 5:44-45

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“It is the spirit that gives life,
the flesh has nothing to offer.
the words I have spoken to you
are spirit and they are life.”

– John 6:63

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“I am the light of the world;
anyone who follows me
will not be walking in the dark,
but will have the light of life…

… If you make my word your home
you will indeed be my disciples;
you will come to know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.”

– John 8:12, 31-32

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“Anyone who loves life loses it;
anyone who hates his life in this world
will keep it for eternal life.”

– John 12:25

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“And eternal life is this:
to know you,
the only true God,
and the Anointed Saviour whom you have sent.”

– John 17:3

Love

‘Love is always patient and kind;
Love is never jealous;
Love is not boastful or conceited,
It is never rude and never seeks its own advantage,
It does not take offence or store up grievances.
Love does not rejoice at wrong doing,
But finds its joy in the truth.
It is always ready to make allowances,
To trust, to hope,
And to endure whatever comes.’

– 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, The Holy Bible

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‘When love beckons to you follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.’

– Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

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‘Love is the first born, loftier than the Gods, the Fathers and men. You O Love, are the eldest of all, altogether mighty. To you we pay homage! In many forms of goodness, O Love, you show your face. Grant that these forms may penetrate our hearts.’

– Atharva Veda IX 2.19

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Mythical Creatures of the Bible

The Unicorn

  • Job 39:9-12
  • Pslams 92:10
  • Deuteronomy 33:17
  • Numbers 24:8

*This is changed in some translations of the Bible to “wild ox”

Leviathan

  • Job 26:13; 40:25

Behemoth

  • Job 40:15

The Phoenix

  • Genesis 1:2

*While there is no written evidence to support this claim, this initial account is very much akin to the Egyptian Creation Story, where the benu bird of the Egyptians, flew over the deep at the beginning of creation.

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