List of articles
by Rev. Michaël Merle
In Chapter 21 of The Revelation to John (The Book of the Apocalypse: Revelation) we read part of the description of the New Jerusalem, a picture of a mighty vision experienced by John in the Spiritual World: “The city has a great and high wall and twelve gates. And on the gates twelve angels, and names were written on them: the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.” (verse 12)
This year we hope to uncover an understanding of the twelve ways in which we can enter the New Jerusalem.
The way of Joseph and his sons
Joseph represents the element of suffering in life. Yet, he not only survives; he thrives! He achieves greatness through his challenges. He overcomes all adversities and becomes a great leader saving his entire generation. Despite his corrupt environment (which may have significant resonance for us today) he maintains his spiritual integrity. The powerful light that emerges in Joseph, out of the darkness of his surroundings and circumstances, separates into two distinct dimensions – his two sons: Menashe and Ephraim.
Menashe represents the ability not to succumb to the powers of the constraints (mitzaim) that are present in Egypt. These powers wish that one forgets one’s spiritual roots. Menashe reminds us to remain connected regardless of the challenges.
Ephraim takes it even further. It is not enough to just survive in an alien environment, but to thrive – to “be fruitful in the land of my affliction". Ephraim represents the power to transform the difficulties into Divine power in us.
Reported by John-Peter Gernaat
Over the first three Sundays of Michaelmas Rev. Michaël Merle led three workshops exploring the nature and structure of Koine Greek – the language used to record and convey the Gospel: euangélion (εὐαγγέλιον): The new word that resounds from the realm of the angels: the good news, which translated into Latin gave us: evangelium.
The purpose of these workshops was to consider why the New Testament was written in Greek? How did this language, and what it captured of the concepts of life and development, contribute to our understanding of God? These questions as well as an exploration into some of the words found only in the New Testament or mainly in this text formed the basis of these workshops.
We began by considering the influence of Greek on the English language. The major remaining contribution of Greek is in the words we use in the sciences. Here we begin to understand how root words (roots) are used as prefixes or suffixes to give a very specific meaning to words. An example would be the skin or the dermis. In embryonic development we speak of the ectoderm (the outer dermis), the mesoderm (the middle dermis), and the endoderm (the inner dermis). When considering our skin as earthly human beings we speak of the epidermis (the well-fitting layer of dead skin cells upon the dermis that protects the dermis beneath). Anabatic winds flow up mountains and katabatic winds flow down mountains. This is because ana means up and kata means down. We quickly saw how roots in Greek can be used to give words a very specific meaning.
As a matter of interest, we looked at how the Greek alphabet developed from the Late Phoenician alphabet. We had studied the development of the alphabet during the St Johnstide workshops when Michaël ran workshops on the use of Ancient Hebrew in the Old Testament. (Click here to read the article.) It was interesting to see how the Romans adopted the Greek alphabet to give us our modern alphabet, and how many new letters we have that were adapted from the Greek or Latin as opposed to directly taken from them.
When we consider the Gospel (and here we could say all the books of the New Testament) we are not reading a historical record. A 'social media' account of the day would have been written in Aramaic, the language of daily discourse. The purpose of the Gospel was to provide an understanding of what had occurred and what was still unfolding. In order to be precise, the Gospel was written in Koine Greek. Koine Greek was the language of philosophy (philo is love and sophia is wisdom, thus philosophy is a love of wisdom) and the writers of the Gospel wished to make it clear that the most profound writings of the time had been taken a step further, had been renewed through the events of which the Gospel speaks. Koine Greek converged ideas and concepts better than any of the other languages in common use at the time
Koine Greek had a capacity for using roots and creating new words. This allowed the Gospel writers to create words that were new, to describe precisely what they wished to convey. Everyone understood the meaning even when a word was newly created. Because each root in Greek can be translated into several different words – words that are dependent on the context in which the root is used - and sometimes an entire sentence is needed to express the meaning; hence, translating the Greek Gospel is no easy task. Translators prefer to find the most appropriate word or phrase for the Greek rather than writing sentences, and so each translator opts for a certain preference and in so doing, although not betraying the Koine Greek, something of the original meaning may be lost. (Of the modern European languages, German is best suited to creating new words by conjoining words. The new word can be understood by the meaning of each conjoined word and also be understood in its own right as conveying a clear concept. This may be considered as one of the reasons that German was best suited to bringing us the concepts of Spiritual Science. It also means that the translation of concepts of Spiritual Science require unpacking in other languages.)
A word that predominantly occurs only in the Gospel is the word anablēpo. The root ana means up and the root blēpo is to look or see. The Hebrews had a tradition of looking up in prayer. This is integral to the relationship the Hebrews had with Yahweh of the Elohim. The Greeks did not have this tradition of prayer. The Greeks placated their gods, but they did not communicate with their gods. Thus, the concept of looking up, or anablēpo was not one used in the Greek language. The word is used predominantly in the Gospel. In the Gospel it is used when Jesus raises his sight to the Father in prayer. But it is also used by Mark in the story of the healing of the man described in translation as being blind. The Koine Greek word is tuphlos/typhlos (τυφλός, ή, όν) which means to raise a smoke. In relation to a person, it signified that their sight was impaired, and this sight could be physical sight or spiritual sight. When Jesus asks the man: “What is it that you will I do for you?”; the man responds: “restore my anablēpo”. The man willed to be able to look up as one would in prayer. He asked to have his spiritual sight restored. In most translations the man asks for his sight because he was blind. Only in understanding the Koine Greek can we appreciate the nuanced way of understanding that this was not merely physical blindness and physical sight, but that the Gospel writer wishes us to understand a spiritual plea in the man’s request.
One of the interesting words that we considered is in the Lord’s Prayer, in the fifth petition: Give us this day …. The word that is used in Koine Greek is epiousious / epiousion. The first root (epi) tells us that this is appropriate, well fitting, fittingly, fittingly placed upon. The second root (ousia) means beingness. A good translation of this petition is: Give us this day the bread fitting for our appropriate. substantial development. This petition in the Aramaic of the day was Hawlan lachma d’sunqanan yuamana. This translates as produce in life and soul - bread or knowledge - needed or in illumined measure (as in a bird’s nest) - today. This could be translated as Give me the capacity today, to produce within my life and soul the nourishing understanding we need to illumine our circle of becoming. In his translation into Latin St Jerome used the word super-substantial (or super-essential). The King James translators followed Tertulian’s view of looking to the Old Testament for guidance and deciding to use the experience of the Israelites in the desert receiving manna on a daily basis, enough only for each day, as to best understand this petition and hence we have Give us this day our daily bread, as if we can only receive what we need for today. Epiousious can be considered the appropriately fitting substance that we receive today in order to manage tomorrow (and all that follows).
Finally, we undertook the translation of a part of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 6: 10-13. Verse 12 reveals that our fight is not against our life on earth (our incarnation into earthly life) but rather against specific hierarchies of angelic beings that are very clearly defined. They are the “first rulers” or the spirit beings from the beginning of time. We know them as the fallen archai or the azuras; the spirit beings powerful in spiritual and earthly moral influence; cosmic powers of darkness; and spirit beings behind the pain we suffer in earth existence.
These workshops provided insight into the language of Koine Greek and how it was used to express the good word from the angels (the evangelious). This report does not detail the full workshops or all the scripture verses that were translated. It provides only a small window into some of the fascinating work that was undertaken in the course of the three Sundays.
by John-Peter Gernaat
In our study of John’s Gospel in October we learned something of the structure that John has used. John describes signs that Jesus did. Other Gospel writers may have referred to these as miracles or healings. John describes seven signs of Jesus and also seven “I am”-statements. Between two signs, John includes stories that bridge the one sign to the next.
The first sign is the turning of water to wine at the wedding feast in Cana. The stories that follow all have something to do with worship – the way we relate to God. We learn about this in the cleansing of the temple; in the understanding that we are born from above; in the experience of what it is to be the friend of the Bridegroom; and in the questions related to worship that Jesus asks the Samaritan woman at the well.
Each sign can be related to one of the sacraments. This makes it clear that the sacraments with which we are familiar, are archetypal. The first sign relates to baptism. The jars that are used by the servants are jars for purification. Jesus, as Christ, becomes Lord of Nature, turning water to wine. Baptism is the establishment of a relationship to God through a community. Baptism related a child to a community.
The second sign, the healing of the son of the courtier, describes a man willing to work with the inner reality and who does not need outer signs. The boy is suffering from a fever. This is a metaphor for the transition from childhood into adolescence. This sign relates to the sacrament of Confirmation. There are clear numerological indications in the story: Jesus goes “after two days” and the healing occurs at the seventh hour. Together we arrive at fourteen, the age of transition. Jesus confirms that the son will live. This is a confirmation that the boy will have new capacities to take on the challenges of life.
There are no stories between the second and the third sign. The third sign is of the man who has spent thirty eight years waiting to enter the pool called Bethesda so that he might be healed. The man confesses the reality of his life to Jesus. This sign is performed before the man’s fortieth year (the period of gestation). Before the condition he has suffered from is confirmed, he is released from it. He is made whole. This sign is related to the sacrament of Consultation (Confession).
After the fourth sign is the discourse that Jesus has about the working of the Father and of the Son and the witnessing for the Son. We come to understand the life which the Father bears in his being is also given to the Son to bear. We hear this in the Act of Consecration of Man in the words that follow each of the three prayers before the Communion: He who bears and orders the life of the world as He receives it from the Father …
Then comes the fourth sign followed immediately by the fifth sign. The fourth sign is the feeding of the five thousand and the fifth sign is of Jesus appearing to the disciples as they cross the sea by night and the waters having become tumultuous through a wind. These two signs were discussed in depth for the significance that they reveal.
Report by John-Peter Gernaat
The gospel reading on the first Sunday of Trinity before Advent was from Revelation 1. The description of the Son of Man described by John confused me the many times that I read it. Who is it who is behind John when he turns around? Is it Jesus resurrected? That is the usual interpretation. Understanding that this is also the Future Human Being filled with the Christ, fully transformed a Spirit Human, is never a description presented by Bible study teachers or preachers. So it was with great interest that I listened to the Introduction to the Book of Revelation presented by Rev. Michael Merle on 29 November 2023.
This talk gave us a sense of the Book of Revelation and presented a context, in preparation for further talks that will go into more depth and detail. The Book of Revelation is a particularly unusual work and really stands out from the rest of the New Testament.
The New Testament can be seen to be made of four parts: the Gospels; the Acts of the Apostles - which is the continuation of the events after the ascension and considered to have been written by Luke; the various letters written to congregations and certain individuals; and the Book of Revelation. The images presented in the Book of Revelation have caused several commentators to question why it is a part of the New Testament.
There is one book in the Old Testament that also stands out and is filled with visions and tells of a dragon. This is the Book of Daniel. The Book of Daniel is interestingly composed and is written in two languages; it begins in Hebrew changes to Aramaic and ends again in Hebrew. The Protestant bibles contain only part of Daniel while the Catholic Bible contains an additional three stories. The Protestants considered Daniel to form one of the Prophets, but in the structure presented in Hebrew scripture Daniel forms part of the Writings that follow the Prophets. The Aramaic part of the book of Daniel is very carefully structured and contains a lot of mirroring. The book as a whole can be divided into two parts: what was happening in the court with the changing of culture and history and then the revelations given to Daniel.
The Book of Revelation has a strong connection to the Book of Daniel because the Book of Daniel brings us the first picture of the Son of Man – an archetype of the human being, the son of humanity standing as a future image. What was read in the gospel reading earlier on the same day would have resounded for anyone who knew the Book of Daniel - his hair as white as snow, white as wool is the description from the Book of Daniel. It would have been a description that the reader would immediately have recognised as it contains a picture that they would have understood. The colour white described here does not describe the age of the Son of Man, but rather a colour that best reflects light. It represents a very different quality, as in the description of the Transfiguration or of the angels in the tomb after the resurrection, standing in white, bright shining robes. The Book of Revelation is written in the tradition that is now referred to, properly, as apocalyptic literature. ‘Apocalypse’ is the Greek word for revelation it does not refer to terrible times, as it is often used today. Thus, apocalyptic literature, in scriptural terms, is the literature of revelation. The book of Ezekiel contains a lot of apocalyptic literature. In the gospel by Luke, in chapter 21, Jesus speaks of what is coming and reveals a picture that is apocalyptic. The apocalyptic pictures always contained within them the seed of overcoming. It is not a guarantee of overcoming but the potential is there. For example: “Stand in these tumultuous times”; “Don’t lose heart…”. In the Book of Daniel, we encounter the three young men in the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lion's den; these are apocalyptic times where those experiencing them survive because they do not lose their head and find their strength, God-given, that they take hold of.
The Book of Revelation, like the Book of Daniel, is carefully structured, in its 22 chapters. The first chapter of the Book of Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ, Christ is revealed as the archetype of the future human being; here is the human being fully filled with the divine, with what, in anthroposophical terms, is called Spirit Human. This is the future towards which we are evolving, depicted very much in the imagery of the Book of Daniel (the Son of Man): the human being to which we will give birth. One could say that what John sees before him is the son to which he will give birth, which is a picture of Christ in the human being.
The second and the third chapter of the Book of Revelation are devoted to the letters to the seven churches. These chapters are very key for us as we are still a community that respects a letter from the Angel. Our epistle (which means letter) at the beginning and at the end of the Act of Consecration of Man is not just a prayer; the epistles are letters written to us and it is our response in the same letter that goes back to the angelic world. These epistles have a place in the overall movement and form of the sacrament: they belong properly to the right-hand side of the altar.
Chapter 4 is a vision of heaven: the curtain is drawn aside, the heavenly court is unveiled. John is not dreaming this vision, he is living this vision, he has been drawn up into the spiritual world. He walks into the Throne Room of God where no other human being has walked in and come back to report on it. This is how we know that this John is Lazarus, he has gone through his initiation, his temple sleep and more. We have a real sense that he can now cross the threshold and go into the spiritual world and return to tell us. There are elements in his vision in chapter 4 that echo the prophet Ezekiel, rather than the Book of Daniel. He sees an angelic group in the imagery that Ezekiel saw, this unusual, mysterious imagery. This is a description of one of the groups of angelic beings described as wheels within wheels within wheels, which is a rather unusual description for a group of beings. They are the Thrones. What is described is movement within movement within movement, so we have to go beyond the literal description, but still hold onto what the picture opens up.
Chapter 5 introduces us to the sealed book of future events. The book has to be opened up, the seven seals have to be broken and pictures have to be revealed. This is important because this chapter starts with pictures, this is about, what in Anthroposophical terms, we call Imagination. We discovered that we really have to develop an imagination, a picture of what we are now and what we are becoming.
Chapter 6 is the opening of the seals and Chapter 7 also is still with the seals and chapter 8 is the opening of the 7th seal. With the 7th seal comes the next stage; after Imagination - our capacity and quality to perceive pictures in the spiritual world - we come to a quality of new hearing, Inspiration. We come to the seven trumpets, to sound. Sound of the trumpets brings the inspiration. We have the unfolding of the earth evolution and the ending of earth evolution as we know it with the great cosmic storm that is described in Chapter 9.
Chapter 10 brings us to humanity at the threshold of the spirit world. Chapter 11 is the measuring of the temple and the altar with the 7th trumpet. These qualities inform the form of the Act of Consecration of Man. The picture of the priest with the censor is the priest measuring the altar. The priest is demarcating the altar so that the spiritual world becomes aware of where it is that this extraordinary event of transubstantiation is taking place. The censing makes the altar visible to the spiritual world and it becomes visible to the human being by measuring it out, its length, it's breadth, its depth. The seven sticks bearing light are visible on our altar. They are there because there is no more that one can do. In the old Catholic Mass, there was a hierarchy from two candles, to six candles to seven candles. Only when a Bishop was celebrating were seven candles placed upon the altar. The priests in The Christian Community are ordained to worthily celebrate all the sacraments, including the sacrament of ordination. The Act of Consecration of Man, as the renewed sacrament, renrews the highest form of sacrament one might hope to celebrate in the old form.
Chapter 12 is the vision of the cosmic woman, the woman clothed with the sun, resting her feet upon the moon, crowned with 12 stars, giving birth; and the war in heaven with the dragon. There is the story of Bel and the Dragon in the book of Daniel. The dragon represents something very real.
In chapter 13 we have the two beasts and the purpose of two evils; and the great mystery of numbers is represented, the number 666 – what happens when you fall short of 777, and what that represents and why that is evil, because it looks so like the full thing and yet it is not. This is of the wonder of evil, that it can approach this mystery of looking so like what is pretending to be, but is not – the great act of pretence.
Then there is the fall of Babylon and the Marriage of the Lamb, the dividing of the spirits and now, having moved through Imagination and Inspiration, we arrive at Intuition.
Intuition is represented by the seven bowls which the angels have to tip and pour onto the world. They pour out onto the world the passion of God, the intensity of God’s gaze and activity. We have gone from picture, to hearing, to action. We see this also in the structure of the Act of Consecration of Man. The picture comes from the Gospel: there we have the picture in words, and we have it in the sermon as well, a picture one can work with. Rudolf Steiner’s instruction to the first priests was that their sermon should leave the congregation with a picture. Then we hear the inspired words, on the offertory, that bring about the reality of the action of transubstantiation in the third part of our Sacrament, not just of bread and wine, but of all of us: our consecration, our transubstantiation is at play here.
The fall of Babylon represents the fall of the corruption that the human being has brought onto the earth, that falls away. Then we have the song of deliverance which comes with the rider on the white horse. This is an extraordinary image that is not exclusive to Christianity. Hinduism work with many revelations of the divine, one of which is the Buddha. The Buddha is considered the ninth revelation of the ten revelations of the divine. The tenth manifestation, which is yet to come, is the rider on the white horse. It is an image of divinity in the future bringing something to humanity.
In chapter 20 we have the fall of Satan and the 1000 years, which has been interpreted differently by many different groups.
Finally, we come to chapters 21 and 22: the New Heaven and the New Earth of chapter 21, and the new Heavenly City of chapter 22. The new Heavenly City is the City in which the River of Life flows along the central concourse of the City and on either side the Tree of Life: on this side and on that. So it is one Tree on both sides of the River, or one could imagine an avenue of Trees on both sides of the river. We are to become the Tree of Life, so the Tree of Life in the City represents us. We are alive, bearing life, and the leaves of the Tree is for the healing of the nations. We have a sense that we are to become the healer, not only being whole ourselves, but offering wholeness to others.
Here we now have a sense of the important structure of the Book of Revelation:
The Book of Revelation can be seen as a guide, not of the life that brought us life, as the gospels are a guide, but rather how we live that life. It is a guidebook to being Christian. So, it is not about the past, it is not about the future, it is not about the present, it is about all of them, it is about right now, where we are, right now in our present lives. It is about the hardships of every life in every age. Unfortunately, none of us are spared. How do we stand in this storm of life, how do we manage it? It unfolds the path from Imagination to Inspiration to Intuition. This book is an attempt to show us the way to the true fulfilment of our being through Christ, from the opening picture of the Son of Man, to the closing picture of being a Tree of Life in the new Heavenly Jerusalem, It is the seed of the future.
The most amazing thing about the Book of Revelation is that it is not the end. We have the picture in chapter 21 where “every tear is wiped away”, no more pain, no more suffering, no more death. This is the picture of the Buddha’s view of Nirvana. One might think that it is over. And a new verse begins: “and I heard a voice that says: I make all things new”. The seed is taken from the fruiting of one season and planted for the next season. “I am the originator and the fulfiller”; I bring things into being and I bring things to their fulfilment so that the new can begin. It is a book that introduces us to the first and to the second death – we will speak more about that at another time – about transition; about spiritualisation; about transubstantiation; and about our evolution to the future Spirit Human Being.
Some may wonder why the Book of Revelation made it into the canon of scripture. There are some scholars and theologians who say that if we lost every book of the Bible and could keep only one, it should be the Book of Revelation, because it has the whole picture in it, if one knows how to read it.
In the training of the priests for The Christian Community Rudolf Steiner gave several courses, but the only book out of the whole of scripture that formed the theme of one of the most important courses in the preparation of priests, was the course on the Book of Revelation. This is our book, more than any other in the New Testament, to explore, to understand, to guide. The ending of the Prologue of John’s gospel tells us that no one has beheld the Father, and now the Son comes as a guide in this beholding of the divine. It is equally a good description of the Book of Revelation. John has beheld and has written for us how we to can become beholders of the Spiritual Worlds and of all that only manifests and carry.
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