How to hear the Bible: Two beams, Four ends.

How I approached the Bible radically changed after my vision of the cross in 2011. I had been taught the common approach that is still widely declared in many areas, especially the United States. However, what the Holy Spirit kept showing me of the Crucified Living One from all corners of the Hebrew Scriptures did not fit. As a result, I really felt that leaders of the Christian world had been misinforming me. Beholding Jesus as crucified and ongoing living reality was hyper-literally the center of all!

After publishing The Jesus Pictures, I tried to trace it back. How long has this been a problem? There had to be echoes of the reality of beholding Christ “as He is,” which exposure clearly transforms inwardly. In the end, I discovered that the disconnect was manifesting during the time of the Apostles.

In Paul’s letters to various churches, he battled this tendency to slip away into the human default comfort zone. For instance, the letter to the Galatians addresses this issue of getting circumcised in addition to what Christ had already established at the cross. Likewise, Peter, John, and Jude were all concerned about lying prophets entering into the early church and spoiling the pure faith that Paul expresses as simply being focused solely into the Anointed One, Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3). Whoever wrote the book of Hebrews also sternly warned other Christians not to drift away (Hebrews 2:1).

So, back to my vision of the cross – I know that was REAL. Looking back now over a decade, I didn’t make up the connections, alignments, templates, and trajectories. The opening with its directional flow is there! The trajectory is clearly one-way into death; and one-way out in life. And in between, in the burial, in that place of death, rest, cessation, and so on… something can be seen that flips the script on people’s lives. Even that reversal is evident all over the Hebrew Scriptures.

In my book, Spiritual Knowledge, I talk about this great tendency to disconnect from the Living Crucified One, because it makes no sense to the natural mind. It is easy to get going in the direction you think is right in life, only to find out spiritual reality is going perpendicular to every direction you turn your head. But unless you are staring this paradox of God being the slaughtered, yet risen and standing Christ, I can’t say you are seeing anything substantial at all. This paradox of the crucified life is the main course of the Bible as meditation literature.

Back around the year 400 AD/CE, John Cassian heard about a four-fold way of reading the Hebrew Scriptures. It was not common knowledge during the time the Roman Empire had seemingly become thoroughly Christian. In fact, as I read what Cassian wrote and understood about the four levels, the categories rang true to this new way I had been experiencing of seeing Christ in the Hebrew Scriptures. Yet, at the same time, how Cassian explained it seemed muddled.

Immediately, the Holy Spirit made clear that the four categories are really two related, yet distinct realms: “in Adam” or “in Christ” that overlap through the cross. The transition from one to the other is going with the Jesus’s trajectory of being on the cross. The cross is really a door out of Adam and into the kingdom life of Christ’s own ways. It is not a prayer said as “one and done,” but a continuing crucified life walk.

How one hears the Bible typically remains “in Adam”. Adopting Christianity as your religion does not change this. Getting a doctorate in religion, or being the head of religion doesn’t change this. It is easy to slip back in there – simply look at Peter in Galatians 2. The “first pope” slid back there. Even knowing in your heart of hearts that there is an “in Christ” way of hearing the Hebrew Scriptures doesn’t make you hear “in Christ”.

What I saw in my vision is what a person is supposed to hear in the Hebrew Scriptures. In fact, the Holy Spirit has reiterated this countless times, and the books I’ve produced since 2011 are evidence. There are clear patterns of the simplest of design through which we can learn His Crucified Life – the heart giving how He operates as Who He is. It is all right there in the familiar Bible stories, yet hidden in plain sight from religious Christians and Jews filled with learning from other foci.

I know that as I briefly explain the four-fold ends as two distinct beams of “in Christ” or “in Adam”, that it will be received with misunderstanding. But I truly believe that I am obeying the reality of the Great Commission here: “having gone the way, make learners” of Jesus. Toss the word “disciples”; it has too much baggage. Be a learner of Jesus.

Learn His trajectory that is pictured in baptism. He is the Lone, Dying Seed (John 12:24). Learn this Life of Love shared amongst the Father, the Son, and in us by the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:3). Jesus is with us to effect even unto the end of our present times.

Here is a barometer to help you determine whether you will hear what I am saying.

And I saw in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth. Revelation 5:6

What stands out? What is the picture of eternal governance? What does this “standing, as slaughtered” picture mean to you? Unless, you have heard Revelation 5:6 in such a new way to see it as the pinnacle of understanding that book, or even kingdom living in general, you might as well go back to grazing in your favorite religious field and forget this webpage. Knowing what I am about to write is dangerous to the human tendency to institutionalize what should always be vitally and spontaneously living.

“In Adam” hears the Bible as a historical or mythical story. To “in Adam”, the Bible is a library of literature genres, either explaining quite literally how God made the world in six, literal 24-hour days, or how it is a creation establishing universal functions that is in dialogue with other cultures of the ancient near east. Either way, as one thoughtfully ponders the Scriptures, they learn wise ways for living life on earth. You could say that the story has a moral to it, and by adopting these wisdom virtues, we stay in God’s good graces. Other traditions might say that the Bible is God’s handbook to life on earth. Either way the claim is to become more like, or be the image Christ in the world. This will either manifest through reaching the lost, or providing examples of social justice, or even being accepting of people expressing whatever popular personal identity society stamps on them.

The first two-ended beam hears a story from history with a moral to it. The specific terms are historical and tropological. Tropological simply means “how you turn to face situations”. It really is the moral to the story that you heard. What Jesus said and did in His earthly ministry is an appealing thing to imitate “in Adam”. And what 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 says to controvert that is puzzled over. Why?

Hearing the Hebrew Scriptures as story with a moral requires no spiritual input. The Holy Spirit is optional. Any random atheist off the street could read the Bible and see that there are morals to follow. Why do you think they are primarily atheists? It is certainly not because of lack of archeological evidence or lack of manuscript proof. Christianity has all this in abundance. Rather, it is a heart issue that cannot tolerate the logical outcome: the perceived limiting morals, especially in respect to sexuality.

The “in Christ” side of the equation follows a similar line, but is perpendicular to our natural view, meaning “always just out of sight, wherever we tend to look”. I know it is trite, but one easy way to remember the parallel is: “History as His-story” followed by “being caught up in His Story’s Trajectory”. The Apostle Paul addresses this in 2 Corinthians 3-4. One can read the Bible and only see Moses with a glowing face. But when ones’ heart turns to see the Lord, then the real transforming glory can be seen. Also in Galatians 3, after just declaring how he is dead with Christ on the cross, Paul reminds them of the source for this: the beforehand writings of the Scriptures that portray and depict Christ crucified in a perfect and ongoing way. The Spirit flows that way. Hear the Scriptures that way.

Another way to think about the “in Christ” way of hearing is how the Hebrews writer speaks of having come to a heavenly city and a great assembly. Sadly, the typical translation loses what everyone in the ancient near east understood about all-encompassing plaza (pan-agora) in verses 22 – 23 of chapter 12. Fortunately, you can still imagine it a little if you have ever been to a large plaza or open square of an older city. There are still plenty in Europe. These areas served as the daily marketplace where one would find all their needs met for life in their city. People hung out there, shopped there, got news there, and so on. The Greek term for this is agora.

When John Cassian reported what he discovered about understanding the Bible, the level typically hidden from sight involves shopping at the “other marketplace”. The Greek word for other is allos. In Luke 24, when Jesus explained the Scriptures, He set forth the reality of this “allos agora”.

What is found there, strangely matches that “slain, yet standing” picture we saw from Revelation 5:6. In Luke 24, Jesus uses the words “suffering and glory” to describe these two legs of the trajectory. In reading Philippians 2:5-11, you might recognize the same trajectory that is supposed to be our only regulating mindset. If the word allegory, (allos + agora), has too much baggage for you, switch to “other market”.

As Jesus said in Luke 24, what you see there is centered on His suffering and glory, which is not some random phrase to describe our modern idea of “types and shadows”, but expressive of a dying-living trajectory impregnated into the warp and woof of the Hebrew Scriptures. It is as if some Ancient Sower aforetime has seeded the field of history before we encounter it. So, it is.

Seeds are living, yet must die first. If you are united with the seed, the composition of its matrix sprouts up into a risen reality. This is why there is the fourth level, and why it is called anagocial. The meaning of anagogocial is simply this: “up in a completing sense” coupled with the idea of “being led or brought.” Every time you are exposed to the reality of Christ crucified as the Source for the Hebrew Scriptures, there is the very real possibility of enjoying your present union with the same Christ! This is why we are to set our hearts above where you have been raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1).

This is the reality of the New Covenant described in Jeremiah 31:31-34. You can learn His Torah-Instruction yourself from the heart. It is His anointing that directly teaches (1 John 2:27). There really is no need for me to teach you when you are properly aligned as a branch and plugged into Christ, the Living Sap. It is simple (2 Corinthians 11:3). He is the Source! Hear Him! Go and make learners of Him.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: