Why I wrote the book
A note by the author
I grew up in England in the 1950's and 60's, in a family and school environment dominated by the Roman Catholic church.
The case for research
Having witnessed the decline, over half a century, of the Christian churches in Britain, I wanted to understand what was driving this change. Was the decline a cultural mistake? Or wasn't it? And what, if anything, should be done about it?
Like many others, I was aware of the child sexual abuse scandals which in numerous countries have plagued the Roman Catholic church in recent years. I was aware too of the equally scandalous attempts by the church to keep such matters from public attention.
It seemed to me that such problems might be mere symptoms of a far deeper malaise that afflicted the Christian church without being recognised for what it was. Fundamental questions were in order:
- How should such evil be found thriving covertly at the heart of an organisation which for so long had claimed it existed not only to contend with evil, but to substitute what was good?
- If the Christian 'god' himself was good, then why was his 'church' so frequently found complicit in actions seen to be evil?
- What should the next generation be taught about the Christian tradition?
I began to suspect that the difficulty over- shadowing all the Christian churches could well be that no one had any idea what the underlying problem was. If this was correct, these organisations were inherently incompetent - doomed perhaps to eventual extinction for reasons they didn't understand.
Would it be possible to work out what was wrong? I thought it might be. But if taking this step had been easy then someone would have done it already. I knew that too.
The concerns of church leaders
It was on 6th January 2001 that Pope John Paul II gave this address in Rome:
At the beginning of the new millennium, and at the close of the Great Jubilee during which we celebrated the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Jesus and a new stage of the Church's journey begins, our hearts ring out with the words of Jesus when one day, after speaking to the crowds from Simon's boat, he invited the Apostle to "put out into the deep" for a catch: "Duc in altum".
Peter and his first companions trusted Christ's words, and cast the nets. "When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish" (Lk 5:6).
Roman Catholic bishops responded to this by pleading for people to 'read the gospels'.
Presumably they felt that if some were overlooking the vital message of salvation, it would only be necessary for them to read the gospels in order to discover what they were missing.
If this idea had been correct then the strategy might have worked.
But what if people distrusted the gospels for the perfectly sound reason that they didn't make sense as records of real events? And what if these bishops had drawn the wrong conclusions from the gospel themselves, missing the deeper meaning entirely?
Then their strategy could backfire. For the more carefully that people examined the gospels, the more likely it was they would begin to understand them - and go on to reject the simplistic claims for so long made by the church.
My own position
I was intrigued by some of the sayings in the gospels. In each of the three synoptic gospels the assertion is made that something has been 'hidden' and that 'it will be found'. Not that it was hidden and might be found; but that it has been hidden and will be found.
I had years of experience solving technical problems that others had found too hard to crack. I wanted to know why, in the gospels, Jesus repeats the promise of 'eternal life', the same promise first made by the serpent to the woman at Gn.3:4-5 - and which turns out to be the promise by which she is deceived. I wanted to know too what had been hidden in the gospels, how it had been hidden, and what difference it made when you found out.
Should the churches not know the answer to this? I realised now that they didn't. I realised too that ignorance on this point was the mother of all handicaps for the Christian church as a whole.
To begin with, of course, I didn't know myself what had been hidden, nor how. It was not something I had ever been taught, for no one can teach what he does not know himself. But what distinguished my approach was that I thought it should be possible to find out. For I did not consider that the gospel authors would have written "It will be found" if at the same time they had not taken steps to make this possible for their readers.
And if, almost 2000 years ago, it had been possible for some readers to penetrate the self-styled 'mystery' of the gospels, should it not be possible today? By reading carefully, should it not be possible to see what they saw, and so to learn what they once learned?
Solving the 'Mystery'
It was time to 'put out into deep' and see what was still there to be caught. The lake was scripture itself, and the questions now were these:
- "What had the writers done?"
- "How had they done it?"
- "Why had they done it?"
I directed my attention to answering these questions. It was only a few months before I first began to see what the authors of scripture might have done. Even so I had to complete a programme of reading and test out numerous hypotheses. Little by little I understood what had been hidden, and how, and why.
I realised that:
- The scriptures must be fiction.
- Making translations had served to obscure scripture's full message, a message far more subtle than most people realised.
- The gospels were recursive sequels to the Greek version of the book of Genesis.
- Far from being of Christian origin, these were all Gnostic texts.
- The Christian churches had long ago embraced the scriptures with enthusiasm, yet never understood the deeper message.
- Instead, they had been badly caught out by the little that they did understand.
A book to explain
If these conclusions were correct they would need careful explaining. For if the Christian churches were ignorant not only of their own origins but of the deeper message conveyed by the scriptures, then an explanation, however belated, would have serious implications for the future viability of those churches. And it could prove to be a turning point for the developing culture of the western world.
This book has been written to share with others a good part of what I have now learned. From it you may learn what has been hidden, and how. You may learn too why it is that Jesus repeats the promise of eternal life, the promise first made by the serpent... who is equally Satan, or the devil.
I hope you may find the book of interest.
J H Hatfield