Fifth Gospel ~ Chapter Two
To warm and cheer readers for the Winter Solstice, serializing Rudolf Steiner’s Fifth Gospel in Story Form (1991) my first book as editor
We have set ourselves the task of understanding the events of Palestine with increasing clarity. The world of the Gospels, like all that is Christ’s, is patient and gradual, gentle, like a grain fallen into the Earth. Without this quiet realm of gradual nourishment, becoming and fruiting, the noisy, power-snatching world would have no bread. It cannot be emphasized too much how utterly inconspicuous the events described in the Gospels were in comparison with everything that stood in high repute at the time. In the history of humanity there is no greater contrast than that between Christ and Caesar. He who was really a magnificent spiritual Being became an ordinary man, walked the Earth unseen and unnoticed. All the glitter of fame and power went to those who ruled the world from the throne of the Caesars. They were worshipped almost as gods when, really, the Caesars hardly succeeded in being human.
8 In that region there were shepherds
Who remained out in the fields
Guarding their flocks during the night
9 An angel of the Lord came upon them
The glory of the Lord
Shone around them
And they were shaken with awe.
10 The angel said to them
Do not be afraid
See how I bring you
News of great joy
Which will come to all the people.
11 Today in the city of David
A savior has been born to you Who is Christ the Lord
13 All of a sudden
A great heavenly host
Was there with the angel
Giving praise to God and saying
14 Glory to God in the heights
And peace on the Earth
Among men of good will. (Luke 2)
Dr. Steiner says according to the Akashic Chronicle, St. Luke’s record of the shepherds in the fields is accurate. A Being from spiritual heights does indeed make a proclamation. Together with this Angel, there suddenly appears a ‘heavenly host.’ The shepherds stand in awe in the presence of a spiritual Being stepping forward into their world.
Who ensouled the light they saw? What spiritual Being had a light so strong that a retinue of lesser angels accompanied it? Strange as it may seem, Dr. Steiner says, according to the Akashic Chronicle, if we trace the revelation to the shepherds back into previous ages, it leads back to the ‘Enlightenment’ of Buddha. The light appearing in the revelation to the shepherds, is the same light that even today is spiritual nourishment for a very large section of humanity. Taken altogether, the Events of Palestine can be likened to an immense outflowing river from spirit. To stand in that river and feel the currents converging and mixing, we must draw into our understanding an appreciation of the individual streams intertwining. The stream of Buddhism is the first of the spiritual streams to make its appearance in the chronology of Christ Jesus’ life, so let us begin there.
Some five-hundred some years before the shepherds saw the light in Palestine, in the fifth-sixth century B.C., in India, there lived the great Bodhisattva, whose mission was to instill the truths that would arise gradually in humanity as new capacities of thinking. He gave the impulse for this and thereby became the Buddha. He does not appear again in earthly body. He can only appear in the light-form body he assumed after passing beyond the stage of embodiment, his “Nirmanakaya.” Dr. Steiner’s story of Buddha takes up many pages in his lectures on The Gospel of Luke. See especially pages 74 and 75.
Consider Buddha’s dilemma at the time of the birth of the Jesus child in St. Luke. To carry his impulse into the future, he can now work on humanity only from above. In his light-form body he can only reach down into the souls of humanity to the etheric-astral level. He is unable to touch humanity .down in the depths of physical existence. So he inclines over the child born to Joseph and Mary In Nazareth for a very special purpose. What the Buddha had brought to humanity when he was previously on Earth, needed to be renewed now and take a more mature form.
Buddha stimulated new capacities of thinking. For the majority of humankind, these capacities developed slowly over many hundreds of years. Five hundred years later, in the time of the birth of Jesus, most people are still groping to comprehend and make conscious what Buddha brought forth. If Buddha’s impulse was to become renewed now and universally fruitful, it was necessary for an entirely fresh and youthful force to flow into it. Where was the Buddha to find such forces? He found these in the Jesus-child of the Luke Gospel.
So Buddha cooperated with the Being becoming the Christ. He inclined over the child and drew upon the youthful forces. The forces which had once been acquired and matured by Gautama Buddha began to work in this child. The power radiating out of the spiritual world from the Buddha shines upon the Jesus-child of the St. Luke Gospel from the very day of birth and the Being of the Buddha entered into the astral body of the St. Luke Jesus. It is then possible to say that having incarnated as Gautama Buddha, this Being did not come again as a teacher, but was nonetheless present as a living force working from the spiritual world into the physical. Dr. Steiner establishes in the Akashic Chronicle that in the astral body of the St. Luke Jesus child we have aspects of the Buddha forces at work.
Then we can look again at the experience of the shepherds and say, the shepherds, being clairvoyant for a moment, see the lumination of the Buddha. The Bible pictures the appearance of the glorified Buddha in the more familiar term “heavenly host.” The shepherds are, as well, meant to behold in vision a message being announced to them by the wisdom-filled God from the heights:
“Peace be to men on Earth who are filled with good will.”
This is the proclamation made to the shepherds by the Nirmankaya of Buddha as it hovers over the Jesus-child. That is, the Event of Palestine will not necessarily bless all men, but will bless men in whom the living power of love is germinating. It is this active giving power of love that must gradually become the reality on Earth.
There is a further connection visible in the Akashic Chronicle between the early months of Buddha’s life and the early months of the life of the St. Luke Jesus child. The Buddha who accomplishes his greatest deed, in shedding his luster upon the child in the manger, had an auspicious birth himself. He was born in India long ago. His whole momentous significance was revealed to a sage living at that time named Asita. What he beheld in the spiritual world caused Asita to go to the royal palace to look for the little Bodhisattva-babe. When he saw the child, Asita foretold his mighty mission as Buddha, predicting to the father’s dismay that the child would not rule over his kingdom and would instead become a Buddha.
Then Asita began to weep. He was asked if misfortune threatened the child and answered: ‘No, I am weeping because I am so old I shall not live to see the day when this Savior, the Bodhisattva, will walk on the Earth as Buddha! Indeed Asita did not live long enough to see the Buddha teach. However the same Asita who saw the Bodhisattva babe in the palace of the king was born again as Simeon and appears in the scene of the presentation of the Jesus-infant in the temple in St. Luke’s Gospel. We are told Simeon was inspired to go into the temple where the child was brought to him. It was granted to him to witness the further stage of this Being and to perceive the radiance of the glorified Buddha above the head of the child.
When Jesus was presented and shown to Simeon, he beheld above the child the radiance of the Being he had been unable to see in India as the Buddha. Then Simeon could say to himself: ‘Now I need no longer grieve, for what I did not live to see in the earlier time, I now behold: the glory of the Savior shining above this babe. Lord, now let thy servant die in peace!’
33 His father and mother
At what was said about him.
34 Simeon blessed them
And said to his mother Mary
See, this is the one who is destined
To cause the fall and resurrection
Of many in Israel
And for a sign which is disputed.
35 And a sword
Will also pierce your own soul
That the thoughts of many hearts
May be revealed (Luke 2)
The “sword that would pierce the mother’s heart” are words to something we shall endeavor to understand.
16 When Herod
Saw that the Magi had scorned him
He was full of fury
He sent out
And killed all the boys in Bethlehem
And in the surrounding districts
Who were two years old
According to the time
Which he had carefully enquired from the Magi
In the St. Matthew Gospel, Herod’s attention is aroused. In order to escape the massacre of the babes in Bethlehem, the Joseph of the St. Matthew Gospel with his wife and child, flee into Egypt. When Herod dies, it was made known to Joseph they might return. However for fear of Herod’s successor, they went to Nazareth instead of returning to Bethlehem. The reader may ask: Why are we being so specific about which Gospel the Jesus-child in question appears in?
If we take the Gospels literally, we find that the two stories cannot have taken place in the life of a single Jesus-child and, indeed, a single set of parents, Joseph and Mary. The facts of time surrounding the scene of the Massacre of the Innocents are the first of many circumstances where only by overlooking many details reported in the Gospels can we imagine that all events occurred to one family: Joseph, Mary and Jesus. A literal-minded comparison of the facts of time in the St. Luke and St. Matthew Gospels indicates one Gospel tells the story of one family: Joseph, Mary and Jesus and the other tells the story of another family: Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Dr. Steiner’s investigations into the Akashic Chronicle confirm this to be the case.
How does the Massacre of the Innocents suggest two Jesus children? If the Jesus-child of the St. Luke Gospel were threatened by this event, St. Luke would be expected to have written about it. And what about the John-child? Why does St. Luke omit the threat of Herod’s decree to him? The fact that he mentions this threat in the case of neither infant, suggests the Jesus-child St. Luke is writing about was not born in the timeframe where Herod’s decree was a threat.
According to Dr. Steiner, the Akashic Chronicle tells the births of the two Jesus children were separated by a few months. The Nathan-Jesus and John the Baptist were born too late to be victims of the “massacre of the innocents.” Both the Nathan-Jesus and John were born a matter of months after the Bethlehem massacre.
To avoid Herod’s decree, his parents took the Matthew-Jesus to Egypt. If the John child had been born the same time as the Matthew-Jesus, he would have been put to death in the massacre. However as revealed in the Akashic Chronicle it is even more clear the events in the St. Luke and St. Matthew Gospels did not take place at the same time.
Readers who wish to zoom in on the topic of the differences between the St. Luke and St. Matthew Gospels that evidence two families of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, will enjoy Lecture One of Dr. Steiner’s The Gospel of St. Luke. Because of the added complexity of tracking the history of two Jesus-children, we will maintain Dr. Steiner’s precise language about which child he is referring to at any given time.
In the meeting between the mother of Jesus and Elizabeth, the mother of John, St. Luke gives an early account of the forerunner of Jesus of Nazareth, John the Baptist.
39 Mary set out into the hill country
To a town in Judea
40 Where she entered Zechariah’s house
And greeted Elizabeth
41 So it happened
That when Elizabeth Heard Mary’s greeting,
The unborn babe leaped in her womb.
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
43 What does this mean for me
44 When the sound of your greeting
Came to my ears
The babe in my womb
Leaps for joy
According to St. Luke, when the mother of John was in her sixth month of pregnancy, the young mother of Jesus goes to her. An embryo normally is quickened by its own Individuality its own eternal, divine aspect. But here, it is quickened by means of the spirit around another embryo. We are told the child in the body of Elisabeth begins to move when the mother bearing Jesus approaches (Luke 1:39–44). A deep correspondence already existed between the one who is to bring about the fusion of two spiritual streams and the other who is to announce His coming!
In the Gospels, these two Beings reach out to each other in another manner. The eternal portion of John the Baptist, his Individuality, descends from the same spiritual region as the soul-being of the Jesus-child of the Luke Gospel. The soul-capacity in the Luke-Jesus and the Ego-capacity in John the Baptist were inwardly related from the beginning. The same Individuality withheld from Jesus is bestowed on baby John. The contrast between the two is one of maturity and innocence; the quality of the developing John the Baptist is maturity of experience while the quality of the developing Luke-Jesus is his innocence and youthfulness.
So on one hand a very young soul is guided to the place where the “new Adam,” as St. Luke calls him, is to reincarnate. On the other, to perform his task as the herald of the Being who is to come into Jesus, John above all required a soul born as mature — even over-mature. For John, a very old soul was called forward. He is born of old parents. From the very beginning his astral body is pure, cleansed of all the forces which degrade a person because his aged parents were unaffected by passion and desire.