|Ex Deo Nascimur In Christo Morimur Per Spiritum Sanctum Reviviscimus|
The Gospel of John and Its Relation to the Other Gospels.
Lecture 13 of 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Kassel, July 6, 1909:
Yesterday we contemplated the significance that the Mystery of Golgotha has for human evolution on our Earth. But as every event in the world is connected through literally endless interrelationships with the evolution of the whole cosmos, we will fully understand the Mystery of Golgotha in its true essentiality only by throwing light on its cosmic significance as well.
We already know that the Being we designate the Christ Being descended to our Earth from supra-terrestrial regions and that It was seen in Its descent, so to speak: in ancient Persia by means of the clairvoyant faculty of Zarathustra It was perceived in the Sun, then by Moses in the burning bush and in the fire on Sinai, and finally by those who experienced the Christ event, in the presence of the Christ in the body of Jesus of Nazareth.
We know further that the events of this Earth, and particularly the evolution of mankind, are related to our solar system; for we have shown that the development of humanity, in the form it has actually taken, could never have come about had not a cosmic body, in which our present Sun and Moon were still united with the Earth, cast out first the Sun and later the Moon, thereby establishing for the Earth a sort of position of equilibrium between Sun and Moon. Because man could not keep pace with the rapid development of the beings who sought the Sun as their field of action, the Earth had to be separated from the Sun; and because a continued union of Earth and Moon would have entailed a rapid hardening, an ossification, for mankind, the Moon, together with its substances and beings, had to be cast out as well. This made it possible for humanity to develop in the right way. But we learned yesterday that a certain remnant of this tendency to rigidity has nevertheless remained; and it would have sufficed to lead mankind into a state of corruption at the end of our Earth evolution had the Christ impulse not come. These considerations will give us an insight into our whole evolution.
At one time, then, Sun, Moon, and Earth constituted a single cosmic body. Then the Sun split off, leaving only Earth and Moon united. Finally our present Moon withdrew, and the Earth remained as the scene of human evolution. This occurred in the old Lemurian time, the period preceding the so-called Atlantean age which we have already discussed from various points of view. From that time forth, from the Atlantean into our own time, the Earth has developed in such a way that the Sun and the Moon forces have acted from without. Let us now consider the further progress of Earth development up to the entry of the Christ impulse, and let us concentrate on a quite definite moment of our Earth development: the moment in which the Cross was raised on Golgotha and the blood flowed from the wounds of Christ Jesus. Let us focus our attention on this moment in the evolution of our Earth.
Up to this point all that mankind had experienced had been determined by the entry, into the inner being of man, of the combined powers of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic beings; and we have seen that as a consequence of this intrusion man became amalgamated with the outer world in maya, or illusion: Ahriman prevented the outer world from manifesting itself in its true form, making it appear like a world consisting only of matter and solid substance — as though no spirit underlay all matter. For a long time, therefore — and this is still the case today regarding many factors in Earth development — the human being was placed in a state brought about by error, because he receives from his environment only the material sense impressions which he then elaborates in his conceptions. So by reason of this influence of Ahriman, or Mephistopheles, he has a false picture of the outer world and forms illusory and erroneous conceptions of the spiritual world.
But all spirit is bound up with physical effects, and we have seen what physical effects accompanied this distortion of outward perception. We have seen that, as a consequence of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influences, human blood became ever less fitted to provide the faculty of seeing the outer world in its true light: a steady aggravation of illusion was bound up with the blood's deterioration, with the dissolution of blood as it had been in the age of consanguinity, with the dispersion and killing off of blood by commingling it. No longer could men consult the old wisdom they had once possessed as a legacy, a wisdom that told them: It is an error to believe that the outer world is nothing but matter; for if you consult the remnants of the old wisdom you inherited, these will tell you that a spiritual world underlies the physical world.
But these remnants kept dwindling, with the result that man became ever more dependent upon the physical world in regard to his entire soul life and his knowledge. That is what transformed all his physical impressions into delusions and deceptions; and had it not been for the intervention of the Christ influence he would ultimately have lost his whole heritage of ancient wisdom by being gradually reduced to complete dependence upon the outer sense world and its impressions. He would have forgotten the existence of a spiritual world — that is what would inevitably have occurred: he would have become blind to the spiritual world.
It is now incumbent upon us to consider in all its gravity a truth such as this: the danger of man falling into ever greater delusion and error concerning the outer world. It is not a simple matter to do this — to contemplate in all its implications and its seriousness such a fact as man's lapse into error regarding the outer impressions of the sense world. Try to understand what it means to recognize as maya, as delusion, all external impressions of the senses as they confront us in the physical sense world. We are asked to learn that phenomena and impressions, as they exist in the sense world and as they impress us, are false; and that we must learn to see their true form behind the external impressions they give.
There is one event to which it is especially difficult, as a rule, to apply the truth, to say to oneself: The form in which it confronts me in the outer world is untrue, is illusion — maya. Can you think what event I have in mind? It is death. As a result of the sort of impressions we have described, our comprehension has come to grasp only external physical events; and for this reason death, when faced in the physical world, bears certain attributes that render it impossible of contemplation other than from the standpoint of the outer physical world. Death is a phenomenon concerning which mankind has inevitably become entangled in particularly erroneous and fatal views; and the inference we must draw from this is that the form in which death presents itself is but maya — a delusion.
Before our eyes in the outer physical world a great variety of phenomena present themselves. There are the stars that intersperse cosmic space, yonder, the mountains, the plants, the animals; here is the world of our minerals, and here, too, we have man, together with all the facts we can gather by means of sense observation. And if we enquire into the origin of these phenomena, of this outer physical-sensible world which appears to us as a world of matter, we must answer, Their origin is in spirit: spirit underlies our physical-sensible world. Then, were we to seek the primordial form of spirit from which springs all that is physical and of the senses, we could not regard it as other than the basis of all being. In Christian esotericism this is the aspect of divinity known as the Father principle. It underlies everything that is creature. So what exactly is it that was hidden from man when all things became obscured by maya, or illusion? It was the divine Father principle. Instead of the mirage of the senses, man should see everywhere and in all things the divine Father principle, of which all things and he himself are a part. The Father principle, then, does not appear in its true form. Because of the decline in human faculties, of which we have spoken, we see the Father principle veiled by delusion, by maya.
What do we find woven into this great delusion? Among all the phenomena we perceive, one stands out as essentially fundamental: death. Therefore we should tell ourselves that the outer objects confronting our senses are in reality the Father principle, are expressions of the divine-spiritual Father element. And since death is interwoven in the totality of the sense world, it is something that pertains to the divine-spiritual Father principle. Owing to the nature of man's development the divine Father principle has become obscured for him by many a veil, and ultimately by the veil of death. What must man seek? The Father, the cosmic Father; and just as he must learn to think of every object as being in truth the Father, so he must come to feel that death, too, is the Father. And why does a false picture of the Father appear to us in the physical sense world? Why is it distorted into the grotesque image appearing to us so deceptively as death? Because the Lucifer-Ahriman principle has been infused into every phase of our life.
What was needed, therefore, to disabuse man of this false, deceptive view of death and to provide a true conception of it was enlightenment arrived at by means of the facts in the case. Something had to occur whereby he could learn that what he had known about death, what he had felt about it — everything he had been impelled to do as a result of his conception of death — was untrue. An event had to take place which would show him the true aspect of death: its false form must be obliterated and its true one set forth. To substitute, through His deed, the true aspect of death for the false one, that was Christ's mission on earth.
It was owing to the interference of Lucifer-Ahriman in human evolution that death became the distorted image of the Father. Death was the consequence, the effect, of the influence of Lucifer-Ahriman. So what had to be done by Him Who would rid the world of this false face of death? Never could human life be released from this distorted form of death had not its source been removed — Lucifer-Ahriman. But that is something no earthly being could have accomplished. An earthly being can extinguish, within Earth development, anything brought about by earthly beings themselves, but not the Luciferic-Ahrimanic influence. This could be driven out only by a being that had not been on the Earth but out in cosmic space when Lucifer-Ahriman intervened, a being that came to Earth at a time when Lucifer-Ahriman had already fully entered the human body.
Now, this being did come to Earth and removed Lucifer-Ahriman, as we have seen, at exactly the right moment — eliminated the cause of all that had brought death into the world. This deed called for a being having nothing whatever to do with any causes of death among men. It had to be a being in no way connected with any cause of human death — that is, with anything brought about by Lucifer and later by Ahriman, with any individual human deeds done under the Lucifer-Ahriman influence — in short, with anything whereby men became guilty, fell a prey to evil. For the death of a being affected by any of these causes would have been justified. Only an undeserved death, undertaken by one without guilt — an utterly innocent death — could extinguish all guilty death.
An innocent being, accordingly, had to suffer death, wed death, submit to death; and by so doing He infused into human life those forces which will gradually create knowledge concerning the true aspect of death; that is, the realization that death as it appears in the sense world is not truth — that on the contrary, this death had to occur to provide for life in the spiritual world; that precisely this death forms, in fact, the basis of that life.
Thus the innocent death on Golgotha furnished the proof, which will gradually be comprehended by humanity, that death is the ever-living Father. And once we have achieved the right view of death, once we have learned from the event of Golgotha that external dying is of no importance, that in the body of Jesus of Nazareth there dwelt the Christ with Whom we can unite; once we have realized what Christ achieved, even though we see the image of death hung on the Cross, in rendering death a mere external event, that His life in the etheric body was the same before death as it was after this death, and that therefore this death cannot touch life — once we have understood that here is a death incapable of extinguishing life but is, rather, itself life, then the Christ on the Cross becomes the eternal emblem of the truth that death is in reality the giver of life. The plant comes forth from the seed: death is not the destroyer of life, but its seed. It has been sown in our physical sense world in order that the latter may not fall away from life, but may be raised into life. The refutation of death had to be furnished on the Cross by a contradictory death, by a death that was innocent.
We must now enquire what, exactly, was brought about by this event. From the previous lectures we know that as the fourth principle of his being man has an ego, and that as this develops, the blood is its outer physical instrument. Blood is the expression of the ego, hence with its steady deterioration the ego fell to an ever increasing extent into error, into maya, or illusion. Hence, also, man is indebted for the growing power of his ego to the circumstance that he is provided with blood. But this ego, in turn, he owes in its spiritual aspect to the fact of his having learned to distinguish himself from the spiritual world, of his having become an individuality. This capacity could not have been bestowed upon him otherwise than by temporarily cutting off his view of the spiritual world; and the agency that effected this was precisely death. Had man always known that death is the seed of life he would not have achieved independence for his ego, for he would have remained linked with the spiritual world. As it was, however, death appeared, gave him the illusion of being separated from the spiritual world, and so trained his ego to independence.
This ego principle, however, grew more and more independent: it exaggerated its independence, strained it past a certain point; and this condition could be counteracted only by the withdrawal of the force which had caused it. Hence the factor which would have induced exaggerated egotism, which would have fostered not merely the ego principle, egoism, but egotism — this factor had to be driven out. And this was accomplished in such a way that in the future it can be more and more eradicated from the individual egos as well: it was accomplished when death came on the Cross of Golgotha and the blood flowed from the wounds. In the blood flowing from Christ's wounds we have the factual symbol of the excessive egotism in the human ego. Just as blood is the expression of the ego, so the blood that flowed on Golgotha is the expression of excess in the human ego. Had not the blood flowed on Golgotha, man would have become spiritually hardened in his egotism and would have been doomed to the fate we described yesterday. But the blood that flowed on Golgotha gave an impetus for the gradual disappearance of the force that makes an egotist of the ego.
But every physical event has its spiritual counterpart, and as the blood flowed from the wounds on Golgotha there occurred a corresponding spiritual event: at this moment it happened for the first time that rays streamed forth from the Earth into cosmic space, where formerly there had been none. We must visualize, then, as created at this moment, rays streaming from the Earth into cosmic space. Darker and darker had the Earth become with the passing of time — up to the event on Golgotha. Now the blood flows on Golgotha — and the Earth begins to radiate light.
If in pre-Christian time some clairvoyant being had been able to observe the Earth from a distant cosmic body he would have seen the Earth's aura gradually fading out, and darkest immediately preceding the event on Golgotha. Then, however, he would have seen it shine forth in new colors. The deed on Golgotha suffused the Earth with an astral light that will gradually become an etheric and then a physical light. Every being in the world continues to evolve. What is today the Sun was first a planet; and just as the old Saturn became a Sun, so our Earth, now a planet, will gradually develop into a Sun. The first impetus in this direction was given when the blood flowed from the wounds of our Redeemer on Golgotha. The Earth began to shine — for the time being astrally, visible only to the seer; but in the future the astral light will become physical light and the Earth will be a luminous body, a Sun body.
I have explained repeatedly that no new cosmic body comes into being through the agglomeration of physical matter, but through the creation, by a spiritual being, of a new spiritual center, a new sphere of activity. The formation of a cosmic body begins in spirit. Every physical cosmic body was first spirit. What our Earth will ultimately become consists at present of the astral aspect of its aura which began to ray forth from the Earth at the time we are here considering: that is the first nucleus of the future Sun-Earth. But what a man of that time would have perceived with his misleading senses is a phantom: that has no truth, it dissolves, it ceases to be; and the farther the Earth moves toward its Sun state, the more will this maya be consumed and perish in the fire of the Sun. But through having been suffused at that time with a new force, through the newly created possibility for the Earth to become a Sun, it became possible as well for this same force to permeate man. This was the first impulse toward what I described yesterday: the radiating of the Christ force into the etheric human body; and thanks to the streaming in of this astral force it could start absorbing new vitality such as it will need in the distant future.
So if you will visualize the period in which the event of Golgotha occurred and then compare it with a later period — that is, if you compare a future condition of humanity with that which prevailed at the time of the event of Golgotha — you will find that at the time the Christ impulse intervened, the Earth of itself had nothing left to infuse into the etheric bodies of men. Some time later, however, the etheric bodies of those who had found a contact with the Christ impulse were irradiated: men who understood the Christ absorbed the radiant force that has been in the Earth ever since — the Earth's new radiance. They have taken the light of Christ into their etheric bodies. The Christ light streams into the etheric bodies of men.
And here we must ask, What takes place, now that there is always something of the Christ light in human etheric bodies? What occurs in that part of the etheric body in which the Christ light has been received? What happens to it after death? What is it, in short, that gradually permeates the etheric body as a result of the Christ impulse? It is the possibility that was given at that time, as an effect of the Christ light, for something new to appear, something living and breathing and immortal, something that can never perish in death. While men on Earth are still misled by the illusory image of death, this new factor will nevertheless be rescued from death, will have no part in it.
Ever since that time, then, the human etheric body has held something that is not subject to death, to the death forces of the Earth. And this something which does not die with the rest, and which men gradually achieve through the influence of the Christ impulse, now streams back again — out into cosmic space; and in proportion to its intensity in man it generates a certain force that flows out into cosmic space. And this force will in turn create a sphere around our Earth that is in the process of becoming a Sun: a sort of spiritual sphere is forming around the Earth, composed of the etheric bodies that have come alive. The Christ light radiates from the Earth, but there is also a kind of reflection of it that encircles the Earth. What is here reflected as the Christ light, appearing as a consequence of the Christ event, this is what Christ called the Holy Spirit. Just as the event of Golgotha provided the first impetus for the Earth to become a Sun, so it is true that beginning with this event the Earth began to be creative, surrounding itself with a spiritual ring which, in turn, will in the future develop into a sort of planet circling the Earth.
Thus a momentous process that commenced with the event of Golgotha has since been unfolding in the cosmos. When the Cross was raised on Golgotha and the blood flowed from the wounds of Christ Jesus, a new cosmic center was created. We were present when that occurred: we were present as human beings, whether in a physical body or outside this physical life between birth and death. That is the way new worlds come into being; and we must comprehend that while we behold the dying Christ we stand in the presence of the genesis of a new Sun.
Christ espouses death, which on Earth had become the characteristic expression of the Father Spirit. Christ goes to the Father and unites with His manifestation, death — and the image of death is seen to be false, for death becomes the seed of a new Sun in the universe. If we feel this event, if we can sense this unmasking of death and realize that the death on the Cross becomes the seed from which a new Sun will germinate, then we shall understand why mankind on Earth must have felt and conceived of it as the supreme transition in human evolution.
There was once a time when men still possessed a vague, dim clairvoyance. They lived in a spiritual element; and as they looked back upon their lives — from their thirtieth to their twentieth year, from the twentieth to the tenth, and so on back to their birth — they knew that they had come to this birth from divine-spiritual heights. For them birth was not a beginning: as spiritual beings they saw not only their birth but their death as well, and they knew that something of spirit dwelt within them which this death could not touch. Birth and death in their present meaning did not exist as yet: they came later, and they acquired their untrue, deceptive form in the outer image of the Father. Death became the characteristic feature of this external aspect of the Father.
Then men, in contemplating death, saw it apparently destroying life, and death became more and more an image representing the contrast to life. Though life brought a large measure of suffering, death was considered the greatest suffering of all. What view of death must have been held by one who saw Earth events from without, saw how these Earth events were reflected in humanity before the appearance of the Christ? If he had descended from divine-spiritual heights as a higher being with views differing from those of men, he would have been constrained, in contemplating mankind, to speak as Buddha spoke. This Buddha had come forth from his royal palace where he had been reared, and where he had seen only what elevates life. Now, however, as he came forth, he saw a suffering human being, then an aged man, and finally even a dead man. These experiences wrung from him the utterance: “Sickness is suffering, old age is suffering, death is suffering.” That is indeed the way it was felt by men; and in these words the common feeling burst forth from the great soul of Buddha.
Then Christ appeared. And then, after the lapse of another six hundred years — just as six hundred had passed between Buddha and Christ — there were those who understood, when envisioning the Cross and the dead Man upon it, that what hung upon the Cross was the symbol of that seed from which springs forth life in abundance. They had learned to sense the true nature of death. Christ espoused death, entered this death that had become the characteristic expression of the Father, united with this death; and from the union of Christ Jesus and death sprang the inception of a new life Sun. It is a false picture that shows death as synonymous with suffering: it is maya, illusion. Death, if permitted to approach us as it did Christ, is in reality the germ of life; and in the course of future ages men will come to recognize this. What men will contribute to a new Sun and a new planetary system will be proportionate to what they receive of the Christ impulse and then give of themselves in sacrifice, thus steadily adding to the radiance of the Sun of life.
Here the objection might be raised, So says spiritual science; but how can you reconcile a cosmology of that sort with the Gospel?— Christ enlightened those who were His disciples; and in order to prepare them for the most comprehensive revelations He employed the method that is indispensable if the loftiest truths are to be adequately understood: He spoke to His disciples in parables or, as it is worded in the German Bible, in “proverbs” (Sprichwörter) — that is, in transcriptions and parables. Then came the time when the disciples, having steadily matured, believed themselves able to receive the truth without its being clothed in proverbs; and the moment arrives in which Christ Jesus is prepared to talk to His apostles without proverbs, without parables. The apostles craved to hear the name, the significant name, for the sake of which He had come into the world.
Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in parables: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in parables, but shall shew you plainly of the father.
Try to feel the moment approaching in which He would speak to His disciples of the Father.
At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray to the Father for you:
For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father ...
He had, of course, come forth from the Father's true form, not from the deceptive image.
I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
Now it dawns upon the disciples, whose understanding had ripened, that the world as it surrounds them is the expression of the Father, and that what is most significant precisely where the outer world is most densely shrouded in maya, in illusion, is equally the expression of the Father: that Death is the name for the Father. That is what came to them in a flash of comprehension. Only, the passage must be read aright.
His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no parable. Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.
Jesus answered them, Now ye believe. 
Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Did the disciples know whither He was about to depart? Yes, from now on they knew that He would go to meet death, to wed death. — And now read again what He said to them after they had learned the meaning of the words: “I came forth from death”— that is, from death in its true form, the life-Father — “and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” And to this the disciples replied: “Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.”
Now the disciples knew that the true form of death is founded in the divine Father Spirit; that death as it is seen and felt by men is a deceptive phenomenon, an error. Thus Christ reveals to His disciples the name of death behind which is hidden the fount of transcendent life. Never would the new life-sun have come into being had not death entered the world and been overcome by Christ. Death, therefore, when contemplated in its true form, is the Father; and Christ came into the world because a false reflection of this Father had arisen in the aspect of death. Christ came to create the true form, a true image of the living Father-God. The Son is the issue of the Father, and His mission was to reveal the true form of the Father. Verily, the Father sent His Son into the world that the true nature of the Father be made manifest: life eternal, veiled behind temporal death.
All this is not only the cosmology of spiritual science. It is what is needed to extract the full, profound import from the Gospel of St. John. He who wrote that Gospel thereby established, so to speak, the loftiest truths of which he could say to himself that in these mankind would find sustenance for all future time. And in proportion as mankind learns to understand and practice these truths it will attain to a new wisdom and will grow into the spiritual world in a new way. But as this will come about only by degrees, it was necessary that in the meantime the guides of Christian development should provide for the creation of what may be called auxiliary books to function side by side with the Gospel of St. John, books not intended only for the most willing and understanding — such as is the John Gospel, meant as a legacy of Christ for all eternity — but suitable for the immediate present.
Thus there appeared in the first place a book from which people of the first Christian centuries could learn, in the measure of their understanding, the essence of what they needed to comprehend the Christ event. Even here, of course, there were but few in proportion to the whole of mankind who could glean from this auxiliary book the exact nature of what it contained for them. This first book of its kind, not intended for the innermost circle but still for the chosen ones, was the Gospel of St. Mark. This Gospel embodies precisely those features that held an intimate appeal, so to speak, for a certain type of understanding then prevalent (we shall come back to this). Then it gradually became less intelligible, human comprehension turning more in the direction of seeing most clearly the full force of Christ in its inner value for the soul and in a certain contempt for the outer physical world.
Next followed a period in which men were imbued with the feeling: 'Worthless are all temporal goods; true riches are found only in the properly developed inner self of man.' This was also the time in which, for example, Johannes Tauler wrote his book Von armen Leben Kristi (The Pitious Life of Christ): the time in which the Gospel of St. Luke was the one best understood. Luke, a disciple of Paul, was one of those who gave Paul's own gospel a form adapted to the time, stressing the “pitious life” of Jesus of Nazareth, born in a stable among poor shepherds. We recognize das arme Leben Kristi as mirroring the account in the Luke Gospel, a second subsidiary book for the further development of humanity.
In our time there will be those who can best learn what they are able to understand, as it accords with our age, from the Gospel of St. Matthew. People of our period, though perhaps referring less frequently to the name “Matthew,” will nevertheless select more and more what corresponds with the Matthew Gospel. The time will come when people will point out that it is impossible to understand the supersensible events that took place at the Baptism in the Jordan, as we have described them. That is an understanding which will come to many only in the future. We are approaching an epoch in which He Who, in the thirtieth year of His Life, received the Christ into Himself, will be increasingly thought of as“the simple man of Nazareth” — even by theological research.
Those who feel this way about it, those to whom the simple man of Nazareth is of supreme importance and who attach less significance to the Christ than to the lofty initiate — those, in short, who want Jesus of Nazareth — will feel the Matthew Gospel to be preeminently significant, at least in its import. A materialistically thinking age can say: We open the Matthew Gospel and find a genealogic record, a table of heredity that shows us the ancestors of Jesus of Nazareth chronologically. It runs from Abraham down through three times fourteen generations to Joseph; and we are told that Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob, and so on and so forth. It runs to Joseph and Jesus of Nazareth; and the reason this is stated is to make quite clear the possibility of tracing back to Abraham the physical line of heredity of that body into which Jesus of Nazareth, as an individual, had been born. Leave out Joseph, and the whole table becomes meaningless. To speak of a supersensible birth in the face of this table robs the latter of every vestige of sense; for why should the writer of the Matthew Gospel take the trouble to trace a line of ancestry through three times fourteen generations if he intended to follow this by saying that in respect of the physical flesh Jesus of Nazareth was not descended from Joseph? The only way in which the Gospel of St. Matthew can be understood is by stressing the fact that through Joseph the individuality of Jesus of Nazareth was born into a body which had actually descended from Abraham. The purpose of this table was to emphasize the impossibility of omitting Joseph, within the meaning of the Matthew Gospel; and it follows that neither can Joseph be ignored by those who fail to understand the supersensible birth in the sense of the Baptism in the Jordan.
But the Matthew Gospel was originally written in a community which placed the greatest value not upon Christ, but upon the individuality that stood before men in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the initiate. Underlying the Matthew Gospel was the initiate wisdom known to the Ebionite Gnostics, and this Gospel is based upon a document from that source as its model. Prime importance was placed on the initiate, Jesus of Nazareth; and all else connected with the matter becomes far clearer still by reason of its being embodied in the Ebionite gospel. But this is precisely what makes possible a certain approach to the Matthew Gospel — one which is not exactly demanded by it, for actually it is not implied, but which can be read into it: The Gospel of St. Matthew may be interpreted as implying that we are not dealing here with a supersensible birth. On the other hand, what is presented in the Matthew Gospel may be regarded as the symbol of a God — one who is simply called a God, one who, as a God, is really only a human being — even though this was not what Matthew meant. But those who nowadays base their standpoint upon Matthew — and they will do so more and more — will interpret the matter in that way.
In order that no man wishing to approach the Christ may be denied the opportunity of doing so, the Matthew Gospel provides for those who are unable to rise from Jesus to Christ: it is a rung in the ladder which they can ascend to Jesus of Nazareth. The mission of spiritual science, however, is to guide men upward to an understanding of the Gospel of Gospels, the Gospel of St. John. Every other Gospel should be regarded as complementary to it. In the John Gospel are to be found the reasons for the existence of the others, and we shall understand these aright only by studying them on the basis of the John Gospel.
A study of the Gospel of St. John will lead to a comprehensive understanding of what took place on Golgotha; to an understanding of the Mystery by means of which death, in the untrue form it had assumed in human evolution, was refuted. And men will further learn to grasp the fact that through the deed of Golgotha not only was it revealed to human cognition that death is in reality the source of life, but man was provided with an attitude toward death which permitted him to infuse more and more life into his own being, until ultimately it will become wholly alive — that is, until he will be able to rise from all death, until he has overcome death. That is what was revealed to Paul when he saw the living Christ on the road to Damascus — when he knew: Christ liveth — as he gazed with his newly found clairvoyance into what constituted the environment of the Earth. As an Old Testament initiate he knew that until then the Earth had lacked a certain light, but now he saw that light in it; hence the Christ was present; hence also, He Who had hung on the Cross was the Christ in Jesus of Nazareth.
Thus there came to Paul, on the road to Damascus, an understanding of what had taken place on Golgotha.