B. DYBWAD BROCHMANN
THE ART OF READING THE BIBLE
On the Mountain of Transfiguration
Let’s take a trip up on the “Mountain of Transfiguration”. We will try to understand a little of the fantastic ability Jesus had in using imagery and allegorical demonstrations.
Also at this time the Savior made a “natural choice”, as He didn’t take all twelve disciples. He only took three: Peter, John, and Jacob, probably the three who were most anchored spiritually speaking. There are two stories in The Gospel from the “Mountain of Transfiguration”, and we now present both of them.
In Luke 9:28 – 37:
28 “And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
29 And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.
30 And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias:
31 Who appeared in glory, and spoke of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.
32 But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.
33 And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.
34 While he thus spoke, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.
35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
36 And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
37 And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met him”. (Copied from the Bible.com Website).
In Matthew 17: 1-13:
1 “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
5 While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
13 Then the disciples understood that he spoke unto them of John the Baptist”. (Copied from the Bible.com Website).
In Luke it says that the disciples were “heavy with sleep”. It probably means what the author has maintained and what Christ Himself complains about, that people are spiritually slow and tired. We sleep the heavy sleep of nature because we have grown up from below. I think it’s difficult to understand religious peoples’ lack of wanting to acknowledge that the Doctrine of Evolution is in complete agreement with the teachings of The Bible. Also in the Garden of Gethsemane we hear the same thing, about heavy sleep, and that the Savior wants them to wake up and stay awake.
The stories from the Mountain of Transfiguration and from Gethsemane, both mention that the people were heavy with sleep. It struck me, when I read Giovanni Papini’s glorious book about the Savior’s life on earth, that also his eyes were heavy with sleep when he was going to write about the Garden of Gethsemane. He wrote something like: “The dark of night rested over everything, which probably will never be completely cleared up” – or something similar. But why was it “night” just because it was night in the spiritual life of the world? Judas also went out in “the night”, only because we slept and are sleeping the heavy sleep.
Everything becomes immediately easier and lighter when we first of all understand ourselves in the way that Christ saw us: heavy with sleep. There was and still is the deep sleep of nature and matter in us. We are slow to wake up. We don’t wake up by ourselves either. We have to be wakened up. In both stories (from Gethsemane and from the Mountain of Transfiguration), it’s obvious that Christ takes the disciples with Him because they are to experience something, which they don’t immediately understand, but which later on shall be explained in their and our conscience. We all know how “heavy sleep” affects us – no matter how necessary it is, and how much good it does. We also know how everything goes past us in a halfway clear fog,, if we experience something remarkable while we are so sleepy that we can’t quite follow along. This is exactly how the story about the disciples and their life together with the Savior appears. All of my life has been like I’ve been dreaming, where I saw without seeing, and heard without really understanding what I heard. How often don’t I receive letters from thoughtful women and men who say: “When I read your book….. I discovered a lot of thoughts that I knew about before, but that I wasn’t really clear about”. “Don’t you agree with me that others can also see the same things?” Of course. But there is a big division, or “a deep crevice” (Please refer to the chapter about daydreams) between man unconsciously and unclearly suspecting something while sleeping and dreaming, and being wide-awake and seeing clearly. (Look at the story about the baby born blind, whose eyes were opened by Christ). In the times of Columbus, people had suspicions that there was land west of Spain. Columbus didn’t only have a suspicion, he had a dynamic consciousness that made it possible for him to travel westward until he found the new land.
The people of his time asked him: “Are you so dumb that you think we couldn’t have done the same thing you did”? So, Columbus took an egg and asked them if they could make it stand on one end. They said they couldn’t. Then Columbus put the egg on its end, and slammed it down on the table. “Well, we could have done that too,” screamed the dreamers. “And that is just the difference”, said Columbus. “You could have done it, but I did it”.
“Ye shall do greater things than these”, said Christ. But you have to first wake up to dynamic consciousness.
If I didn’t know this, I would never be able to write a book like this, and really look out over the limitations and thoughtlessness of the helpless people in my own times. That’s why I think that there is both rest and comfort to find in the teachings of The Bible regarding our slow growth and creation. I can’t understand anything else but that people are still very sleepy if they don’t see the same thing. Religious people often appear to me to be like drinkers of intoxicants. You can see their condition already, by looking in their eyes and listening to their speech - that they still are going around sleeping and dreaming. They do dream that they are saved, and often speak about their happy condition in the same way that people do who have had too much sweet wine. Go in and listen to the Salvation Army where people first speak with “sweet tongues” about their love for Jesus, and then they switch over to beating the drum and blowing in the trumpets for their “salvation” or possibly for the Savior? Isn’t all of this the need of a sleepy world for more spiritual intoxicants and a dream life? Don’t music, song, and speeches play a similar role as stimulants and alcohol do to keep the “happy condition” going? It’s understandable that others will have tall cathedrals with somewhat cleaner air high under the ceiling, and prefer organ music instead of trumpets and drums. As for myself, I prefer to sleep outside under the open sky, because the cathedral seems to press down on me, and because I don’t believe that the Savior was so happy about spiritual foolishness and a life of dreaming.
You can also go in, if you have the mental strength for it, and listen to those who “speak in tongues”, and see how they arrange things, especially the women and the feminine men. Doesn’t that make you think of the inspiration of the more sober onlookers in Acts 2:13: “These men are full of new wine”?
Or why didn’t Christ allow His disciples to experience a Pentecostal celebration? Wouldn’t it have been a good idea if He could have been there and controlled the atmosphere and limited some of the religious ecstasy that we still see with many religious people, when “the spirit is over them”?
When you’re sitting in a big cathedral and suddenly hear the organ play with all the stops out, don’t you think of Acts 2:2? It says: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven like a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting”.
The Norwegian Lutheran Church attempts, just like those who speak in tongues, to create a religious atmosphere, and they use everything possible, just as the Catholics do, so that people will become spiritually intoxicated. But, the question is if Christ is as interested in this spiritual intoxication as we think? Is God as religiously interested as the people in the prayer meetings? I wonder if the fact that we’re sleepy has anything to do with anything? Isn’t the Holy Spirit of Truth a fairly different kind of flaming and lightening intelligence than all of these religious fanaticisms and dreams?
Christ’s description of the coming of the Son of Man seems quite different, i.e. pure and radiant as the light from heaven, compared to all of this sweet, spiritual intoxicating drink.
When Christ arranges a Pentecostal celebration inside of you, there is no doubt with anyone about your sobriety and abstinence. In Acts it tells us how the new Holy Spirit grabbed the emotions and affected the Orientals about 2000 years ago. Then outsiders began to study if these people maybe had drunk too much “sweet wine”, but I believe that this story is the objective truth and a description of reality. I have exactly the same impression when I observe primitive people in their understanding of the power of the Spirit and the life of the Spirit. It is part of our nature to become eccentric and hysterical when the Spirit of God will speak to us. The light of truth is agitating and it “shakes us up”. That is why I had to be almost 65 years old before I could write this book. I am very affected by being able to “see” the truth, and I try to be an instrument for the Holy Spirit of Truth.
I have heard so-called “psychoanalysts” say it often happens that when their “patients” hear the truth about their own inner workings, that they become so “shaken up” and unbalanced that sometimes they have the desire to kill the analyst. This was the destiny of Jesus Christ, because He told them the truth. (Read carefully in John 8: 37 – 45, that tells about the same thing. Read also John 10: 31 – 34).
The disciples that Christ took with him to the Mountain of Transfiguration were surely carefully chosen, since not all 12 came; it was surely those who were most “awake” concerning the available material. They had also been the most sober, otherwise the description of what they experienced couldn’t have been so calm and to the point. It was, however, strenuous; they felt tired. What they got to see was at any rate “a little too much”. Their eyes were dull. Keep that thought, and try to see that it is still nature’s heavy sleep in the spiritual life of the world.
Try to believe me when I assure you that I would have liked nothing better than to write this book about “The Savior on the Mountain of Transfiguration” when I was 20, or 30, or 40, or 50 years old. I was closer to 65 before I managed to do it, and still my work is unbelievably incomplete and imperfect.
“The cloud” is often used in The Bible as a symbol of unclear thoughts, or as a mysterious phenomenon. God speaks now and then in “the cloud”, also in the Old Testament. In 1 Kings 8:10 we read: “And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord”, and in verse 12, Salomon says: “The Lord said that he would dwell in the thick darkness” (in the unknown and hidden). In David’s poetic work Psalms 68:35 it says: “Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds”. In the Book of Lamentations it says: “Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through”, etc. (It isn’t easy to answer somebody’s prayer when you don’t know who and what you are praying to).
It seems to me that the way people have worshipped God up to now is that they have been praying to an unknown God, the God who hides from us in the inconceivable, or Who is gone from us every time we misunderstand, so our spiritual and mental life is obscured. All of this is explained symbolically by saying that God “lives in the darkness”. His power lies in things we know nothing about. The Savior also clearly says to the woman in John 4:22: “You are worshipping what you don’t know”. So that means that God lives in the cloud – the unknown. God is much closer to Christ. But when the Savior came and made Himself known, maybe there weren’t anymore “clouds” in the heaven of the Spirit? If the people weren’t complete before, they must see to it that they were now? No. Christ, who is one with the Creator and the creation, realized that He also must be hidden in” the cloud”. This is what the disciples need to prepare for. Christ has to be religionized and theologized. Creation is not complete yet. First now, when Christ is “elevated” will He be able to “draw everyone to Himself”, but until then He also needs to live “up in heaven – up in the clouds”.
We don’t know how the Savior arranged “the cloud” on the mountain, but it couldn’t have been that difficult since He manages the powers of nature in a more complete way than we do. Warships can hide themselves in artificial clouds in a minute. But Christ hid Himself in a “clear” cloud on the Mountain of Transfiguration so we could “explain” the truth, and experience that the cloud wasn’t a rain cloud, but a “clear” cloud, i.e. a very “clear picture” of everything. If we look at our own mental state as a spiritual dream state, this would be an explanation in symbols and, so all of this symbolism is fairly natural. It is in the dream state that people experience the pictures as reality. The language of dreams is exclusively the language of symbols. “Without a parable spoke He not unto them”, says Matthew 13:34. Peter talks about it being good to be here. What they were referring to was not where they were, but the condition they were in. He asks if they shouldn’t build wooden houses there. He wasn’t really conscious about what he was saying. It’s clear that Christ grips into his spiritual life and creates a new impulse – a new sprout to a fruitful spiritual life, a new attempt at more consciousness. Since it’s Peter who asks the question about “three houses”, I have often thought about the three great “Christian churches” – the Catholic, the Protestant, and the Reformed Church. If this has anything to do with reality, the future will show. Just let us blow ourselves up and act smarter than we are. We can hope in the future that we can become as wise as we want to be and maybe believe that we are now.
When Christ disappeared in the cloud, the disciples they fell down in terror. This is the same thing that happened with the “Church”, which has shaking knees because the Savior has hidden Himself from them. But it (and we) hear a voice anyway, a mighty voice that speaks out of all kinds of religious clouds and out of all kinds of theological fog and dialectic (the art of debate) in over 2000 years. “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him”.
You can say what you will about all the theologians and educated men through church history, and you can criticize sects and religious “isms” as much as you will, but they have one thing in common. There is one and the same voice sounding from all of the pulpits in the world, no matter how obscure, the contents with all of them is the same: “Christ is the Son of God, the Loveable, with whom God is pleased. Listen to Him”.
That is why the Savior says in John 13:13: “Spirit of the Holy Father. Sanctify them through Thy truth. Thy word is truth”. The role of “the Church” cannot be denied, since the voice still sounds today from the cloud. No matter how foggy and sleepy the world is, this profession of faith sounds over the whole world in all languages. When the “voice in the cloud” ceases in the future, we will see nothing other than Jesus Christ and His society. It is only now, while we are waiting and dreaming, and write poetry around Him, that He hides Himself for us in the cloud.
Many people ask: What is religion? Well, religion is imagery about the real reality before we know it and are confident with it. Theology is human poetry about the power of the Spirit of God, just as the mythology of the ancients was human poetry about the power of nature, the natural powers. Therefore, theology and mythology are imagery that tells more or less the truth about an unseen reality. Since we still dream as children about the coming holy society, the Savior is helping us along the way to think correctly; therefore He uses the best possible pictures and allegories. But a time will come, He says, when we shall speak freely, “when the books shall speak”, “when all the fog has disappeared”, etc.
There are surely many other things to learn by reading about “the Mountain of Transfiguration”. For now we have to be satisfied by seeing the world “terrified” and “sleepy”, just as we were told the three disciples were. We have mentioned this story to show how we meant The Bible should be read and understood. We should never forget that the whole book is a gigantic work of poetry; where the Spirit of God the Almighty, Who is creative and automatically effective, makes Himself known now, as always. Simple people, who learn that people are animals, are obligated to tell us how “animals” can write The Bible for mankind.
The Bible itself is proof of the big division between us and the animals, and The Bible is the bridge between us and the Kingdom of God, which is able to come nearer us over that “bridge”. Just listen to how I sit here and “rewrite” reality because I have been inspired by the word of God.