Chinese whispers is one of the names for a game played around the world, in which one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly, and often amusingly, from the one uttered by the first. Some players also deliberately alter what is being said in order to guarantee a changed message by the end of it.
This game has been played around the world for generations to show the inaccuracy of rumors and gossip. But does this phenomenon end with only menial stories and trivial gossip? Or does it extend far beyond the game and affect the human species on a grander scale?
Some may say that humans are flawed in our design, in that we love to embellish upon the stories we learn and teach. We quickly find it is hard to keep another person’s attention unless we spice things up a bit and grab their attention and draw them in. This is especially true in today’s world where everything is getting grander, louder and faster. This is not only isolated to our entertainment industry but all aspects of our lives. We have become like impatient movie goes shouting at the movie screen for the next big thing to come along and entertain us. If something does not grab your attention in the first 10 seconds we simply change the channel or walk away. If you don’t believe me, watch someone change channels on a television, tune a radio or interact with the internet.
Unfortunately, the implications of this phenomenon goes far deeper into our lives than just our entertainment. It is a kind of cancer that has spread into every aspect of the human experience. This is not a recent or modern discovery. It has been with us, quite possibly, since the dawn of mankind’s desire to share.
It’s not so much about the embellishment of our stories, but rather what we will do to grab hold and captivate our intended audience, and in this case I am speaking about the whole Christian community. Yes, I am saying that our modern Christian faith comes with a great deal of embellishment that has been handed down from generation to generation, to the point that only parts of what the Bible is saying is being heard or understood by its modern readers.
It is not exactly the Bible itself that has been corrupted or altered by ancient whispers, though todays Bibles are becoming easier to read and as such the standards are dropping and they are no longer what they once were. The meticulous care for detail that once went into the copying and preserving of the original text of the Holy Scriptures was so intense and elaborate that if even one small error was discovered on a page the entire page would be burned… and every time the Lord’s name was written down, the pen/quill that wrote the word would be burned, as well as the garment that the scribe wore would have to be changed to prevent contamination by human ego and error. So if for centuries that much care was once put into the dedication and preservation of the Holy Scriptures, till the invention of the printing press, then how can there be room for embellishment and alteration in it?
Despite the addition of easier to read Bibles, it is not in the words in the Bible that I am referring to, but rather in the reading and teaching of its contents that have changed and have been embellished upon. Look around you in any city, especially in the eastern US, and tell me how many churches you can see from any high rise building? From the hotel room where I once stayed in Indiana I counted at least 12 distinct different churches in less than a two mile radius. And no two of those churches belonged to the same religious denomination. There was Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Methodist, Non-Denominational, Presbyterian and more… and oddly enough, all of these churches were teaching out of the same Good Book. Each church has its own set of beliefs and interpretations of the Bible, not to mention the individual beliefs of each of the practitioners of each of these congregations. That is a lot of varying beliefs based on a single book. These ancient whispers have been passed down over many ages and the interpretations have stained our pure garments of understanding with the many marks of sins, because our beliefs have become steadfast, unyielding and often so unforgiving that we forget mercy and lose understanding along the way. How many people do you know that have been impacted negatively by the weight of religious influences in their life? Through these beliefs that have been handed down and taught to us we have become guilty of casting our painful stones of judgment onto so many that do not believe as we do, and there are few who do not carry these bloodied stains upon their spiritual garments today… yes, this means even you… AND ME!
The “Right” Way
Right now, there are many Catholic readers of this post whom have raised their hands in protest and may be saying or thinking “This is why in our church we are not allowed to read the Bible ourselves, as we are not qualified and prone to self-interpretation” And some may also argue” that for over a thousand years the Catholic Church had supreme dominance and control over all Christianity, and all modern churches today are offspring of the Catholic Church. And though there have been some changes in the Catholic Church over the years, much of its teachings have been preserved from long ago!”
This all makes for a very convincing argument, but unfortunately none of this stopped the whispers from changing our modern faith one whisper at a time. I have heard it said that “The only proper way to worship in church is if the Bible is read in its original Latin”
But to this I have to ask “Latin? Really? Wasn’t the Bible originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek?” I know of no single book in the Holy Scriptures that was originally written in Latin and though I am not here to point fingers at any one religion, the Catholic Church too is not without its share of the blame and blood that is carried over to its children today. Because as many of you know the Bible has become a great source of political power over the ages, and if you control the masses and their beliefs, you control the power of the world. Just look at many of the political campaigns today, and though church and state are supposed to be divided, they are still platforms that each candidate plays upon.
Here is a challenge for you to see if you can see the effect of these ancient whispers that have carried over for centuries, as they have been told down the line and see if they affect your understanding of the Bible…
Do you remember in the Bible when Noah is preparing the Ark with his sons for the impending flood and inevitable doom of the world, and all of his neighbors are gathered around pointing and laughing at poor Noah as he works?
“What’s with the boat Noah?”
“Fool! There’s no water near here!”
“Rain? What’s rain?”
I am sure you are like most Christians today and can see this so clearly in your head and wish you could tell these people to leave poor Noah alone. But tell me this, where is this, ever so familiar, story written in the Bible? Where is there any mention of Noah being mocked by anyone? Where does it mention that Noah even had any neighbors at all? In my studies of the Bible I can only see it mentions that the Lord asked Noah to prepare an Ark to His specifications, and that Noah did exactly as he was told. The embellishments added by the churches help to make for a more dramatic experience and a more human tale, but really how accurate is this story now with the whispers of embellishment clouding our understanding? What if the lesson was not about doing what God said despite opposition? What if it was trying to tell you something more specific and that lesson was somehow diminished by Noah’s perceived obedience in the face of peer pressure becoming the central focus?
THE DONKEY TALE
A fond image that many like to share at Christmas time is the image of Joseph leading a donkey with either a pregnant Mary on its back, or an image of Marry carrying the baby Jesus in swaddling cloth in her arms, but where in the Bible does it say that Mary rode into or out of Bethlehem on the back of a donkey?
… Nowhere! There is no mention of a donkey being ridden by Mary at all. But yet we seem to remember this as being a part of our Christian heritage. It’s so iconic it HAS to be real? Right?
THE WISE MEN
Another great favorite image at Christmas time is the image of the THREE wise men that came to visit the Christ child in a manger and bear Him great gifts of dedication. Now according to this tale there are THREE Men from the Orient bearing gifts for the Christ child. Now in your mind I am sure you have a pretty good mental image of that manger and the three very distinguished gentlemen. Traditionally you see one as being Ethiopian and thus a man of color. You may even have been taught that these men might even be of a certain sect looking to find their foretold messiah separate from the Hebrew tradition. But none of this is mentioned in the Bible anywhere! So where are these men from and what nationality were they? Who knows???
Also what kind of animals did these men ride? Traditionally we think of three men on camels looking to follow a star to the child messiah but few people realize that there is no mention of any of these details in the Bible, at all. There were three gifts presented to the child king but there was never any mention of a number of Magi present, only that there was more than one of them bearing gifts. Nor does it ever mention what animals they rode upon, if even any at all.
These embellished whispers run rampant in our understandings of the Bible today and we often take them as being solid gospel truths. But they are often just embellishments to make the story better. Another classic example is the image of Eve with her poison fruit. What kind of fruit grew on the Tree of Knowledge, was it an apple? …Or was it simply an unmentioned fruit?
The fruit of the garden trees are not mentioned at all except for one, and though an apple is what we classically assume was eaten (because we see it in all the religious paintings!), but the only specific tree mentioned by genius in the Garden of Eden is a fig tree, and ironically the fig is more likely the tree Adam and Eve ate from because it grows two different crops of fruit each year. One crop is very sweet and other crop is very bitter, hence the knowledge of good and evil.
But somehow the apple is the fruit that got the bad rap. Whenever the word apple is mentioned by name in the Bible, it refers to the dark spot at the center of the eye, and that seems to me more likely to refer to the focus of one’s attention, rather than the fruit of the original sin.
Also, where was Adam when Eve was picking and eating this deadly fruit that lead to the downfall of all mankind? If it was known to be so deadly, wouldn’t he have snatched it away from Eve and saved us all from the fate of living in a fallen world? Well, according to the Bible, it seems that all the while Eve took the apple and ate of it, Adam is said to have been with her, right there at her side.
Our Downfall from Our Ancient Past to Our Modern World.
These were all just small samples of the unfortunate whispers that have been told down the line from one generation to the next, changing and somewhat distorting the image that the Bible holds. By themselves they don’t seem so bad and they hold some lovely and powerful truths that many have held dear from their childhood and onward into adulthood. We carry these images with us still and they fill our consciousness with images of truths that we think are all we need to take away from these stores and we then close the book to them… But this is part of the beginning of a fall from the power and truth the Bible holds.
There is so much more to our Holy Text that the casual observer cannot see, and as a result many of the scholars too have become blind to them even though they are hidden right before their eyes.
|Ecclesiastes 8:17 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.|
We are told so many things about our faith by our religions, and some come with fire and brimstone preaching filled with stories of Heaven and Hell, and the damnation waiting to consume our souls when we make a mistake. And though there are elements of truth to these teachings, they are not the full message… and these are not even the most powerful message the Bible holds for you. The hidden truths are not about damnation and feeling the pangs of guilt and a constant remorse for a bad choice you may have made along the way. It is actually a book of inner freedom from self-bondage and these teachings of Hell and damnation are great crowd getters, but they are also just another form of control further locking us into a cycle of self-bondage!
Self-discipline is a major factor of growing in the spirit but fear is not the key.
|Leviticus 25:17 Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God.|
The love for God is not about fear but rather about reverence as though the respect and awe one would hold for a king in ancient times. I am not sure if anyone still holds this same reverence for any kings today but it is based in a respect for the might and power the king holds and his benevolence and dominion in life, but not a blinding crippling fear.
|Genesis 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.|
Our God is not our enemy and He never has been. He is here to guide us with words of understanding. And though much of our faith is based in faith, there is still more. Love and faith are not enough alone. There are still the human factors to consider, like how we treat others and how we treat the things God has entrusted to us. But we cannot do the right things unless we understand what it is that is right, and this is only discovered in knowing ourselves and the world around us. And through these insights we learn to rule our immediate world as God would have us do. So knowledge and insight are highly important in our Christian spiritual walk through this life. Much of the Bible is about a call to knowledge and wisdom, but this message gets constantly overshadowed by the message of love and faith or the fear of God and His wrath against sinfulness. Either way, none of these are the answer alone and only factors that help us find our greatest peace in life. It is sad to say, but love alone is not enough. Faith is close but too is not enough… Without understanding, faith and love can be misguided and lost on a storm of feelings or misunderstood truths. And fear is always our enemy and never our salvation. So the fear of Hell and damnation may have brought you to the Lord, but that should not be all that keeps you from returning to your old ways.
So what alternatives do we have? Where do we go from here when much has been lost and now hidden by the whispers of lore? Now I am not a scholar and I am not even a particularly brilliant man. I am however a humble man with a humble plea to my Lord for simple and pure understanding of His creation. I am not indoctrinated with fine details of religious dogmas of any one religion. I have been a student of many truths and I am here to tell you that there is a whole world of discovery hidden right before your eyes in the pages of the book we call the Bible. It is NOT easy to see if your heart is filled with the whispers of your church. It is NOT easy to see unless you know what you are looking for. Once you see beyond the thin veil that covers your eyes, the world will suddenly become a far more beautiful place and it will also become much clearer to understand. But like all journeys into the unknown it is better to have a guide that is familiar with the new terrain. If anything you read today speaks to your soul and you feel something has been missing in your faith and religion and you KNOW there has to be more, please let me know. Because I think it’s time to start teaching others to see the Bible as I see it, with new and open spiritual eyes.
3 And he spake many things unto them in parables…
10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:
It’s time to stop being one of the crowd. It’s time to see and hear the words as you have never known them before. So, if you believe God is calling you to understand, please join in in these new studies and watch as the Bible unfolds.
This is not about any one religion. This is simply learning to understand the truths the Bible has in store for you as a real life person and the process it takes to learn to rule your life like a king over your own inner world. And once you learn to rule yourself, inside you God will have a home.
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