The 1st Corinthians Mystery
By Christine Ford
Times change, people change. Faces move in and out of our lives just as surely as the sun rises each day in the East, and sets in the West. Our jobs change, our age changes, hairstyles, weight, opinions, understandings, seasons, moods and weather, name it, it changes! None of it is fixed, indeed I have come to know that the only constant in this sometimes desolate plane of existence IS change. In my naiveté, (which still sneaks up from the basement where I profess it is tethered every once in a while and bitch-slaps me) however, I figured the quotations from the Bible that I had memorized as a child would remain the same. Come on, I’m not THAT old, not in this physical present lifetime anyway!
While doing what I had conjectured would be no-brainer research for my April article for the Spiritual Climate Newsletter, I had quite an awakening! I came into stark confrontation with the vast array of interpretations of the Bible and found that even as we “know” it, in its incredible hodge-podge form of English misinterpretation, the words of the Bible are subject to change. Thus continues the alteration of the meaning of the already mis-stated text by transfiguring the words even within our modern day renditions. And I’m just talking about the simple current English stuff, not translations from Ancient tongues that Dr. Strickler so often refers to!
I have listened intently over the years to Dr. Strickler’s increasingly enlightening discourses on the Bible as we know it, as it has been misinterpreted, words misrepresented and ill-translated to suit the mode of the political times as it was passed down through the centuries. A small example was given publicly in Dr. Strickler’s January article in the Spiritual Climate Newsletter when he briefly examined Genesis 1:1, “In the Beginning. . .” Just simply look at the obvious! There are multiple English translations of each word written in those ancient tongues, the permutations and combinations become mind boggling! To become more complex, add insult to injury by the bastardized translations and re-translations of the original written text from the sacred tongues of Aramaic and Hebrew into Greek, Latin, German, and finally English, with a undoubtedly a few other random languages thrown in there for good measure. It’s not too much of a stretch to wonder if there is ANY similarity at all to that which was expressed genuinely “In the Beginning” and that which some ignore-antly take literally as THE WORD OF GOD! Dr. Strickler’s apologetic that Hebrew is a living language is well taken. Hebrew is a sacred tongue of principle and intelligence, a language in which thoughts, concepts and vibrations are conveyed with the utterance of a single letter. This is unlike our English ABC’s in which each letter represents a sound or two, or may be combined with other letters to make a new sound, but has no actual meaning ascribed to the symbol itself.
For example, WHAT is a “B” in the English language? It is a symbol that represents a sound, that when coupled with other letters creates printed words that we can string together making sentences and thoughts to be read either silently or orally. Letters create a printed version of that which we speak and think. That is not anyone’s definition of it but my own, but I know you get the drift. Pretty straightforward stuff, a “letter” in English represents a sound. I could, on the other hand, site VOLUMES on what the “Bayth” or “Beth” symbolizes in Hebrew, from principles, to color, to tonality, to numerical values, to planetary correspondences, to intelligence just to name a few, as well as representing the letter “B” in the English language. Take a leap herewith me! Come on! Is it not completely and perfectly obvious that the Bible as we know it was more, so much more than the weak, prosaic babble of text that has been printed, bound and presented to us to swallow whole as “The Word”? Of course that is fact, but that is just a side venture into one of the enlightening areas that we have been exploring in classes lately, a “teaser” if you will, designed to perhaps illicit a question or two from our varied readers out there. Back, however, to my modern day dilemma of “The 1st Corinthians Mystery”!
As the old joke begins, “There I was, minding my own business”, inspired by the triad of words so often linked in class by Dr. Strickler, “Beauty, Truth and Love”. As I mulled the relationship of these words, turning them over in my mind, a barrage of memories assaulted me from my childhood. Biblical passages that I had diligently committed to memory to earn my prized white Bible with the gold edged pages and the little plastic framed picture of the Angel hovering over the kids crossing the bridge with the wind whipping and the darkness enveloping them whirled through my mind! Many snippets spun around in my head, but the phrase that took front row pushing out all others was “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Hmmm, “faith, hope and charity, these three”, THREE, like the three I was pondering, beauty, truth and love! Must be on to something here! With my curiosity piqued, I followed the thread!
Since I couldn’t remember where in the Bible that came from, I started my Net search! After finding a whole bunch of Bible sites, I reached the stage of “Enter phrases or words” for search. Upon entering “Faith, Hope and Charity” my results kept coming back that there were no results, but I got lots of hits on Faith and Hope! 1st Corinthians 13:13 to be exact! Feeling somewhat like Alice in Wonderland, I went for the Faith and Hope pill, and was totally astounded to find that in the majority of the Bibles, the wording was “Faith, Hope and LOVE” not “Faith, Hope and CHARITY” as I remembered it. I kept searching until I did find one that used the words as I had been taught, and was satisfied that I hadn’t fallen down the rabbit hole after all! This discovery, however, struck a chord somewhere way deep inside me.
My initial reaction was that of Thumos, quaking, anger, of having to prove that my memory served me correctly, because the most Bibles I referred to did NOT present the passage as I had memorized it some 48 years ago. The discrepancy was not that of a minor nature either, it was the altering of a key word repeatedly throughout the entire passage that totally changed the fabric of that which was conveyed. Having been so blatantly lead to this discovery by the research for my article was like a big old red flag waving that my Soul and Spirit were speaking directly to me about SOMETHING that needed my attention and exploration. I quickly chose to get over my anger and do something productive with that energy!
Interestingly, I have found time and time again that that’s how agape and Spiritual progress works. Events don’t just happen randomly and without purpose, there’s a discovery to be made around every corner and in each exchange you have within your environment. The secret is to become discerning enough to ferret these hints out, and then wise enough to persistently follow the thread to the pot of gold (or shit!) at the end of that thread. Many times you are then lead to yet another thread, and another, and another, ad infinitum, and on you go, asking, seeking and knocking! Exhilarating? YES! Intriguing? YES! Exciting? YES! Occasionally, a pain in the ass? YES! THAT TOO! But never dull or boring!
The writing of this article served as an opening of awareness for me to perhaps THE core belief, indoctrinated into me as a child that has molded and shaped my actions and reactions, responses and choices that I have made from the time of memorizing that quote. In innocence, as a child, I took those words as “Gospel” (all puns totally intended) truth, right up through the present moment when I recognized that pot of SHIT for what it was, simply because I had accepted the statement in blind faith because “The Bible Tells Me So”. Are you ready for me to expose myself right out here naked and in print in front of you? Here it goes!
Here is what I have discovered thus far on my agape hunt! The reason I was lead down this path of exploration by the screaming and nudging of my Soul and Spirit, the reason for my initial very strong response of anger to the switching of the words lies in the definitions of Charity versus Love. There was a marked influence indoctrinated into my belief structure as a child by the statement “The greatest of these is CHARITY”. This had a major impact on my patterns, the choices I made and the direction that I followed from that point forward in my life.
Okay, so what, you say. Sounds real simple, big deal. It IS simple, and yet, it is profoundly complex! This illustrates exactly how those suggestions you unconsciously and unwittingly give to your subconscious duplicate and replicate, whether those suggestions are the truth or not! This is the mechanism by which patterns of whole lifetimes are put into motion. If never questioned and allowed to multiply unchecked, the created chaos and misunderstood repercussions replicate until the monster gets so enormous it just swallows you up and there is no “you” left, no destiny to be reached. You become monster food to be eaten and pooped out, only to start all over again next time, unless you open to and welcome the intervention of the whisperings and shouts of those unseen cheerleaders, Soul and Spirit and follow that thread to the discovery!
A composite definition of Charity is “provision of help or relief given to the poor, something given to help the needy, generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; aid given to those in need, lenient judgment of others.” Charity is defined as giving, giving, giving, and then giving even more to the wretched masses, the poor, the needy, the suffering, those less fortunate or less blessed than oneself, even to the point self sacrifice and suffering. In the definitions I found there was no hint of charity being reciprocal in nature, it was just an eternal outpouring of energy and aid given without question to anyone found “needy”. Let’s face it, in this world there certainly are an abundance of those in need, whether that need be emotional, physical, intellectual, instinctual or spiritual. The Bible told me at the tender, impressionable age of 10 or so that the GREATEST of these was charity and I memorized and repeated the chant. So did my Subconscious mind.
As the wheels turned, I could literally SEE my life progress and unfold in front of my eyes, how I became an enabler, a caregiver, a pushover, a teacher of those kids who were needy and suffering. The ultimate mom who gave up her life for her family, a peacemaker and bleeding heart taker in of stray dogs and stray human beings to the degree that I had no time, energy, love or strength to give back to myself. I merely existed for the sole (Soul, NOT!) purpose of sacrifice. The exquisite martyr, I functioned isolated in my loneliness and sorrow, awaiting the golden time when I would reap my reward after I shuffled off this Mortal Coil, for I had lived The Word, The greatest of these is charity. Man! Major slap in the face to find out some 50 years later that the GREATEST of these has changed and is now Love, and I’ve based my whole pattern of my life on a mistruth, huh? Sucks to be me! No WONDER the initial reaction of my Ego was to be genuinely pissed off!
Love, on the other hand, is defined as “strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties, affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests, warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion.” Can you feel the flow moving back and forth as you read those words? I can, especially in stark contrast to the definition of charity. Love is a two way street, a compromise, an ebb and flow, a giving and taking, not a drain or infinite feed line from you to another that saps you of your vitality. Love is revitalizing and replenishing, it springs from a deep well that is ever nourished and sustained by the Soul and Spirit, and it is okay for you to receive back, not just give until there is nothing left to squeeze out. Even within the impersonal form of unconditional love of the Spirit and Soul there is a warmth and a quality of livingness that envelopes you like wings, taking you to a place where you KNOW you are incredible for the simple fact the you were created in the likeness and image of The One.
How different might my journey have been had I committed to memory as a child “The greatest of these is love” rather than “The greatest of these is charity”? Perhaps my entire sojourn was forged on the discovery of this hidden gem, waiting for this precious pivotal point of understanding and comprehension as the veil was lifted. Where lie the other keys to the path that I blazed with truncated messages passed on to my subconscious as I sought to become what I am growing to today? What vast webs of half-truths and blatant lies did I feed to my developing psyche before beginning to embrace the truth my Spirit and Soul speak along my trek towards enlightenment?
The questions abound, and the answers elude me as of the closing of this article. These are areas to be explored within my journey and myself. You have your journey and explorations as well. It is my fervent hope that by sharing my discovery, you too will be encouraged to delve into the depths of that which replicated and multiplied to make you what you are today, and the inconsistencies and lies upon which much of it was based. By the way, the NEXT most predominant quote I remembered, other than the 23rd Psalm, was “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.” I don’t think I even want to go there!
May you be granted the strength and the honesty to explore the foundations of the half-truths you are living and open to the full Beauty, Truth and Love of that which you are in Spirit and Soul.
Praise be YHVH,