Rudolf Steiner’s Fifth Gospel ~ Ch.3
To warm and cheer readers for the Winter Solstice, serializing Rudolf Steiner’s Fifth Gospel in Story Form (1991) my first book
In the ancient Hebrew people, two lines of generations descend from David. We learn from the Bible how David had two sons, Solomon and Nathan. So two lines of descent, the Solomon line and the Nathan line stem from David. Leaving aside the intermediate generations we can say: At the beginning of our era, descendants of both the Solomon and the Nathan line of the House of David were living in Palestine.
In Nazareth there lived a man named Joseph, a descendant of the Nathan line. He had a wife, Mary. In Bethlehem as well there lived a man named Joseph, a descendant of the Solomon line. It is not in the least surprising there were two men of David’s lineage named Joseph and each was married to a Mary as the Bible says. Thus at the beginning of our era, there were two couples in Palestine, both bearing the names of Joseph and Mary.
The Bethlehem couple traces its origin back to the Solomon or kingly line of the House of David. The other couple in Nazareth traces its to the Nathan or priestly line. The couple descended in the Nathan Line are described by St. Luke in his Gospel. The couple descended in the line of Solomon is related by the writer of the St. Matthew Gospel. Just as the Gospel of St. Luke correctly relates only the history of the Nathan-Jesus child, the Gospel of St. Matthew correctly relates the history of the Solomon-Jesus child whose parents lived originally in Bethlehem. St. Luke says only the parents of the Jesus of whom he is writing resided in Nazareth; they went to Bethlehem to be “taxed” and Jesus was born during that short period evidently on what our calendars record as December 25th. The St. Matthew child was evidently born 354 days earlier on January sixth.
Students of Dr. Steiner have done much creative work around the Fifth Gospel material. Astrologically speaking, the two children shared the same moon sign, facilitating their intimate physical sharing. This is according to star events worked out by the Astrosophist, Willy Sucher in the period 1945–1955.
The parents then returned to Nazareth with the child. We have another helpful distinction between the two families in how the Nathan-Mary is the younger Mary; the Solomon-Mary is the older Mary. Because of this we find one part of the facts given in the Gospel of St. Matthew and another equally valid part of the truth given in the Gospel of St. Luke. Both accounts must be taken literally, for the facts are like this.
The Renaissance paintings showing both Jesus children being presented in the temple at age twelve and other indications of earlier wide acceptance of the two Jesus children can be seen in the German book, Zwei Jesuknaben (Two Jesus-children) by Hella Krause-Zimmer.
The Evangelists took seriously something we of today can hardly imagine being significant. St. Luke wanted to justify and validate the authority of Christ Jesus in the manner used in his day. On what basis did persons of ancient times claim public authority? They claimed a union with illustrious ancestors through their bloodline. So Luke traces the generations of Jesus back to God himself: Jesus was the son of Joseph, Joseph was the son of Eli, he was the son of Matthat…then: he was a son of David, and then says: he was a son of Adam, and Adam was of God! (Luke Chap. 3)
St. Luke wished to explain the Being of divine-spiritual power he is writing about received his authority in part because his blood traces back to the time of man’s first descent into earthly incarnation and before. The old progenitor of humanity on Earth returns as the ‘new Adam’ of a renewed humanity.
When St. Luke speaks of the “Son of God,” he is testifying to the reincarnation of a Being who was the earliest blood-ancestor of all the generations. A mystery of blood is referred to here. Homogenous blood of the most-high God had to flow through the generations in an unbroken sequence and be maintained until the present descendent, in order that the spirit too might be led down into the descendants when the time came. This secret was known to St. Paul and lies behind his words. St. Luke, the writer of the Gospel, a student of St. Paul, knew this also. He speaks of it in the consciousness of his age. He knew how a blood-relationship reaching back to Adam is necessary, how a very definite process of lineage is needed to lead spiritual substance from the Sun-sphere down into humanity. In his Gospel we are clearly told this Entity of Divine Force is fulfilled through a line of heredity, streaming in a direct line down through all the generations, from an early stage of human existence.
After its experience in the dawn of humanity’s history The Adam-etheric body had not been led through incarnation after incarnation but had been kept at a very early stage of earthly experience, untouched by further Earthly embodiments. This is the soul who had waited the longest before embodying again. Why? This soul had no compulsion whatsoever to embody again. The Nathan Jesus-child carried the Adam-soul as it was before the Fall from innocence. The pristine forces of the Adam-Individuality had been preserved, kept back “in reserve” through the ages. This was expressed by saying: ‘The possibility of eating also from the Tree of Life must now be taken from them.’ The soul of Adam had remained young, infinitely youthful. The son of the Nathan-Joseph and Mary is born of a young mother. In Hebrew the word “Alma” would have been used. A soul of such a nature needs to be born of a very young mother. Fantastic as it may seem to modern humanity, the Individuality led into the Jesus-child is in a sense the reincarnation of the very first member of humanity.
The still guiltless part of his being was nurtured and fostered, kept untouched by human guilt. He was preserved from entanglement in the Luciferic influence causing the “Fall of man.” In contrast to other human souls, we can think of his soul as an empty sphere, something still completely virginal in regard to all earthly experiences known to men of that time. In the Nathan-Jesus we have what humanity receives not through our earthly but through our heavenly conditions.
The Adam-soul extended down into the child born to the Nathan-Mary and Nathan-Joseph as a provisional Ego or soul for their child. It seemed as though the Nathan-child really had no ego at all. However, only this Being was strong enough to pass into the body of the child the forces it needed in order to establish a living union with the Nirmanakaya of Buddha.
Would an ordinary human being who passed through many incarnations in the physical world have been able to receive and make use of the overshadowing power of Buddha’s light-form body? Indeed no. It was this combination of spiritual forces making it possible for the Nathan-Jesus to influence the mother of John the Baptist, that is, to influence John in the womb before he was born.
This is how we can understand the glorification of the Divine Child in the hearts of the simple men and women who adore the Christ child in the manger. Kept at the stage of humanity’s childhood, born for the first time in a body as we know it, this Being is the personification of humanity at the stage of childhood. So everywhere, and with beautiful simplicity in Christmas plays, we find the legend of the child revealing to humanity our connection with Christ Jesus through our childlike nature. As well there is the assurance in this Child, there came to Earth, the principle which saves and preserves the Eternal in the human soul.
The Joseph and Mary of the Solomon line described by the writer of the St. Matthew Gospel did not originally live in Nazareth; he lived in Bethlehem. They also had a child named Jesus. In the body of this child too a great Individuality was living. The Gospel traces this Jesus’ lineage back to Abraham, a person to whom God had revealed himself. The child in the Solomon line had a different task to fulfill.
Unlike the Nathan-child, whose function it was to impart fresh forces of, the Solomon Jesus-child was to bring to humanity great maturity. Under the guidance of all the Powers concerned, the soul embodied had an impressive list of earlier embodiments. As told by Brian Gray, faculty member at Rudolf Steiner College, according to Willy Sucher, he had been several well known individualities in the past. Once he taught the mysteries of Ahura Mazda in ancient Persia. He appeared again as Zarathas or Nazarathos, the great teacher of Pythagoras. He appeared as Cyrus the Great and the prophet Daniel in 599 B.C. This Individuality was none other than Zarathrustra, now re-embodied in the Jesus-child described in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
Every great spiritual stream moving in the world has its particular mission. However, though believers might like to think these streams are forever isolated from each other, they are really separated only during certain epochs. When they merge again, they mutually fructify one another. The event of Palestine is an illustration of one most significant fusions of spiritual streams.
As some people seem to imagine, significant ideas and conceptions of the universe and of life do not float through the air as pure abstractions, ultimately uniting in a book somewhere. Rather, they are brought to life on Earth by living men and women, people with purpose. When a system of thought comes into existence for the first time, it must be presented by an Individuality, a man or woman who has a mantle from spirit to teach; or whom perceives a special mission towards which they devote all the energies of their life.
When spiritual streams unite and fertilize each other, something quite definite must also happen in these individuals who are the bearers of new world-conceptions. If we were content to say in an abstract way: ‘Buddhism and Zoroastrianism fused in the Event of Palestine,’ leaving out the concrete detail, it would only be necessary to show these two streams united. As students of Spiritual Science, though, we are concerned with more than the contents of the teachings. We are called near to the personal accounts of the Individualities who were the actual bearers of world-conceptions. Students of Anthroposophy, “the study of the beautiful wisdom of humankind,” must always endeavor to get away from abstractions and arrive at concrete and sometimes quite personal biographies.
The fusion of the two Jesus-children entailed slow and gradual preparation. At the beginning of our era, side by side and represented by actual persons, we have on one hand the stream of Buddhism described in the St. Luke Gospel and on the other hand the stream of Zarathrustra described in the St. Matthew Gospel. At the beginning of the Gospel of St. Matthew are facts concerning the near blood-relations of Jesus of Nazareth. We are told along what lines the physical person of Jesus came to be. The writer of the St. Matthew Gospel wanted to show how the qualities and nature of a whole people since Abraham were contained in extractly one human being, how the blood of Jesus reached back by way of the generations to the Father of the Hebrew people.
We find in the Gospel of St. Matthew the Solomon-Jesus-child was born in Bethlehem; he is taken to Egypt. After their return, the family settles in Nazareth. The two Jesus-children live in the same village, the young Adam-Individuality in the child of the priestly line of the House of David; and, the Zarathrustra-Individuality in the child of the kingly line. The child representing the spiritual stream of Zarathrustra was destined to grow up near the child representing the stream of Buddhism. Thus the two streams were brought together in physical proximity.
Indications of these happenings are contained in the Old Testament, for instance, in two prophecies, one in the apocryphal Books of Enoch, pointing more to the Nathan Messiah of the priestly line, and the other in the Psalms, referring to the Messiah of the kingly line. Dr. Steiner says every detail in these scriptures harmonizes with facts which can be ascertained in the Akashic Chronicle.
The men who followed the star to Bethlehem might rightly be called great ‘Magi.’ We would call them great Initiates. They can also be called ‘Kings,’ that is, men versed in the art of establishing social order in the world. In the Mystery Schools of Babylon, Chaldea and Assyria, the name of their great master, Zarathrustra had been honored in the highest degree by generations of pupils. They looked forward with longing to the next appearance of their great teacher and leader. They knew the secret of his reincarnation, how he would come again at the end of 600 years. As the time approached when the blood suitable for this incarnation should be ready, these three messengers, or wise men, went forth from the East. They knew the consciousness shining through Zarathrustra would guide them, as a star to the place. It was the great teacher himself which like a “star” guided the three Magi to the birthplace of Jesus, as told in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
Deep and fervent attachment to the Individuality — not the personality — of Zarathrustra prevailed in the mystery schools of Chaldea. They saw in him the ‘Star of Humanity.’ Another of his names, Zoroaster, means Golden Star, or Star of Splendor. They saw in him a reflection of the Sun itself. The most precious gift he had bestowed upon men was knowledge of the outer world and of the mysteries of the Cosmos received into the human astral body in thinking, feeling, and willingness. The pupils of Zarathrustra strove to infuse themselves with the wisdom which could be drawn from the deep foundations of the divine-spiritual world. These Wise Men of the East felt intimately connected with their great leader. With their deep atunement to this essence they could not fail to know when their Master was born again in Bethlehem.
Led by their Star, they brought as offerings to him symbols for the knowledge gained from mastering the secrets of the outer world: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold as symbol of enduring wisdom, frankincense the symbol of piety which pervades a person as feeling, and myrrh the symbol of strength of will. By appearing before their master when he was born again in Bethlehem, the Magi expressed their devotion to and their union with him. The writer of the Gospel of St. Matthew relates the literal truth when he describes how the Wise Men who Zarathrustra once worked with, knew he had reappeared among men. The wise men expressed their connection with Zarathrustra through the three symbolic gifts, acknowledging the precious gifts Zarathrustra had earlier bestowed on them.
We can also acknowledge another kind of gift given at the birth. The Gospels become especially profound when they indicate facts which would have been essential to the minds of persons living at the time of Christ. In many cases these are aspects of lineage and bloodline that — up to that time — denoted actual authority and capacities. The quality in the human being connected more with will and power — the kingly nature — is shown transmitted by the paternal element in heredity. The inner nature connected more with wisdom and inner mobility of spirit, is transmitted by the maternal element. With his profound insight into the mysteries of existence, Goethe hints at this in the words: “From my father I have my stature and life’s serious conduct; from my mother a happy nature and delight in telling fables.”
In prior eras of time it was much more true whatever expresses itself directly in the outer structure of our bodies and in life’s serious conduct’ tended to inherited from the paternal parent. For this reason the Solomon-Jesus of the St. Matthew Gospel inherited power from the father because he had to be the best transmitter to the world of the divine forces radiating through the world. This is expressed by the writer of the Gospel in the most wonderful way. The birth was announced from the spiritual world as an event of great significance to Joseph, the father.
The inner traits and personal qualities inherited from the mother, were transmitted to the Jesus in the Nathan line. So in the Luke Gospel, the birth of Jesus is announced to the mother. Because the reincarnated Zarathrustra wanted to work with all possible power, to give again to men, in a rejuvenated form, everything he had given out in earlier times, he had to gather together and concentrate all the power he had ever possessed. So it was to his advantage to be in a body from the kingly line of the Solomon line rather than in a body from the priestly line of the House of David. In this way the Gospel of St. Matthew indicates the connection of the kingly name in ancient Persia with the ancestry of the child in whom Zarathrustra was re-embodied.
Zarathrustra had further forces he could reclaim. After numerous embodiments, he had surrendered his astral body to be used by Hermes in the creation of the Egyptian culture and had surrendered his etheric body to Moses to be used in the formation of the Hebrew culture. Through relinquishing some of his forces, the stream of Zoroastrianism had flowed into Egyptian and Hebraic culture and civilization. By being born in the body of the St. Matthew Jesus-child in Hebrew lands, he gathered back his bequest to Hebrew culture; now it was necessary for him to return to the geographic area of Egypt to fetch back, as it were, the rest of his forces. So, reincarnated as Jesus of the Solomon line of the House of David, he was led to Egypt. In this way we come to understand the Flight into Egypt in the St. Matthew Gospel. The Zarathrustra-Individuality absorbs all his available forces so as to give again to men in full strength and in a rejuvenated form, what he had bestowed upon them in past ages.
The parents St. Luke describes lived in Nazareth. They go to Bethlehem for enrolling or taxing. While they are there, Jesus is born. Then comes the circumcision after eight days. Nothing is said about a flight into Egypt. A short time afterwards, the child is presented in the temple; the customary offering is made and the family returns to Nazareth.
The two Jesus-boys born at the beginning of our era were contemporaries living near one another. Yet, the two differed very greatly in their personalities. In fact, there is the greatest possible difference between the two Jesus-boys, as shown in the Akashic Chronicle. The character of the Nathan Jesus-boy only glimmers faintly in the descriptions of the Gospel of St. Luke. He had no aptitude for external scholarship. Up to age twelve he showed no interest whatever in any of the scholastic achievements of human culture. Yet due to the light-form body of Buddha overshadowing him, he unfolded a depth of inwardness comparable with nothing of the kind in the world, a power of feeling which had extraordinary effect on everyone around him. In the Nathan Jesus we see a Being of infinite depths of interior feeling. In the Solomon-Jesus we have an Individuality with a profound and mature understanding of the exterior world.
It would be an error to imagine up to his twelfth year the Nathan-Jesus was especially gifted in any outward sense. In regard to external things, he was untalented in all human culture had developed. He could not receive it because he had no familiarity with earthy customs or their purpose; he had not lived among these things. Contemporary earthly culture was foreign to him. Unlike the normally reincarnating soul, the Nathan Jesus-child had no prior context, no reference points, for what human culture had now evolved to.
Instead in this child, just those qualities were strongly marked which we call qualities of the heart: intense sympathy with every human joy, every human suffering, lack of concern with himself and a disinterest in worldly knowledge as an end in itself. It was in all inward matters where he was might. He had an inner gentleness, a profound empathy with human experience, deep and sensitive feelings, tenderness — an angelic quality of being. From the first days of his life, through his mere presence, such that through his touch, he performed beneficent deeds, deeds which even without his conscious intention became deeds of healing.
As he grew, his capacity to extend through himself to his environment, beneficent magnetism grew. His ability to extend through his touch, to specific persons, an infusion of warming and transforming spirit, rapidly increased.
From his earliest years onwards he felt the sufferings and joys of others as his own; he was able to live in the souls of others. He expressed this quality to a supreme degree. An immense capacity for love, a disposition capable of immense self-sacrifice, characterized him. All the qualities of heart were shown in this child.
In contrast with his lack of interest in worldly learning, the remarkable fact was he could speak from his birth. To understand the mystery of the Nathan baby’s ability to speak is to learn about language from before the time language disunited. The Tower of Babel suggests mythic imagery for this early diversification of tongues.
Dr. Steiner says it is a quite correct tradition the Nathan-Jesus child spoke, although in a language incomprehensible to other people. What this child said could be understood by the Mother only, who in her heart and feelings was able to discern what the words implied. This primal language is lost and can be spoken today by no one. The Jesus-child who had not gone through successive human incarnations received from the starting point of human evolution the faculty of speaking this primal language, a language that speaks to the inner qualities of the heart; and so, it was understood by the Mother’s heart.
What belonged more to the physical, etheric and emotional bodies, was present from birth as a mature faculty in the Nathan Jesus-child. What belonged more to the mental body was mature in the Solomon Jesus-child.
To use the words of St. Paul, the boy described in the Gospel of St. Matthew descended from the Solomon line of the House of David. In him lived the Individuality of Zarathrustra.
In the Matthew Jesus-child, we have a completely human being. Even when an Individuality who has reached the heights attained by Zarathrustra re-embodies, it by no means follows during childhood he would know himself to be Zarathrustra. In fact nothing within this child could attest to the fact, “I am Zarathrustra,” no thought like this was present. In childhood and early youth, the Solomon Jesus-child did not know within him lived Zarathrustra. Yet the capacities attained in the past by such a soul reveal themselves early in life and show visibly in his character. The Solomon Jesus-boy was endowed with faculties of a very high order. His prior familiarity with earthly cultures made it easy for him to understand and assimilate the fruits of his time, place and culture.
In mainstream culture today we have by-and-large set aside all rituals. However at the time of Christ Jesus and prior to it, all the cultures of humanity were very much embodied in rituals, sacred worship, and in ceremonial enactments. While an ordinary young boy or girl takes in little of what he or she sees and hears, this boy assimilated with great inner genius, from the sparsest of observations and indications, where humanity around him was, spiritually speaking, at that time. He evinced a supreme gift for absorbing the scholarship and learning produced by the culture up to his time. Such a child today would be called “highly-gifted.” Up to his twelfth year the Solomon Jesus-boy rapidly assimilated everything possible to be learnt from his environment.
Spiritual Science is able to reveal facts concerning the evolution of humanity. Such a perspective differs greatly from the perspective of external science, which only has recourse to data of the material world.
Present day humanity can be traced back through various epochs to the primeval humanity of ancient Atlantis and even before. In primeval times, soon after the Atlantean catastrophe, Zarathrustra poured out upon the Iranian people the treasures he drew from the Holy Mysteries. In Zarathrustra Dr. Steiner is not speaking of a man of that name living in the time of Darius; rather, to an individual who was placed, even by the Greeks, about 5,000 years before the Trojan War. He opened out a new path to these people, enabling them to exercise the forces of the human spirit to shape and develop external culture.
He pointed towards the sunlight as the external body of a high spiritual Being. Zarathrustra said: ‘Behold not only the radiance of the physical Sun; behold too, the mighty Being who sends down His spiritual blessings as the physical Sun sends down its light and warmth!’
Zarathrustra proclaimed Ahura Mazdao to the people of Persia as a Being who would descend to Earth and unite with humanity and with the very substance of the Earth — but not yet. Pointing to the Sun, Zarathrustra could only say: `There is His habitation; He is gradually drawing near and one day He will live in a body on the Earth!’
Zarathrustra knew this would be an historical event affecting the whole future of humanity. In speaking of Ahura Mazdao, Zarathrustra referred to the Being known later as the Christ. To distinguish the Being in the aura of the Sun from the small human aura, he called it “Great Aura,” Ahura Mazdao. In Zarathrustra we have a mighty priestly nature. It is this Being who came into the Solomon-Jesus.
The dispensations from spirit in the Zoroastrian and Buddhist religions appear distinct and unique only as long as they are separated. In many ways the two are incorporated, their differences resolved and transcended, through their union and rejuvenation in the new dispensations flowing out of the events of Palestine.
Had the full revelation of Buddha not taken place in his time, it would not have been possible for the souls of all human beings to unfold “law-abidingness,” a term we know also as “dharma.” See also Socrates’ death in this regard, his unwillingness to overturn the local “rule of law” even to save his own life. In none of the epochs before Buddha could there have existed on Earth a person capable of discovering within himself the teaching of compassion and love as expressed in the Eightfold Path. Before Buddha, men could only obey these principles because they were handed down as tradition or were inculcated into them from the schools of the initiates. Only now could men distinguish dharma, from out of their own souls; and gradually, fathom the wisdom of moral precepts, such as the Eightfold Path.
The Buddha brought forward teachings on which the moral sense of incarnated mankind was based. These were received as deeply penetrating teachings concerning the ennobling of human nature. Such was his task. It leads directly to the ideal of what a person is and can become, in his or her inner life. Hence everything in Buddhism has to do with inwardness, with the inner developing of human nature.
Genuine, original Buddhism contained no ‘cosmology.’ This was introduced later on. In certain sermons, Buddha avoids any definite reference to the Cosmos because the essential mission of the Bodhisattva was to teach humanity of their own deep inwardness.
The task of Zarathrustra was altogether different, in fact, exactly the opposite. Zarathrustra taught the God without, teaching men and women to apprehend the realities of the environment in which they lived, including the great Cosmos. Zarathrustra pointed to the powers and forces outside man. He engendered external vigor, efficiency and certainty of aim in outer activity.
The capacities human beings possess and express today did not always exist. Imagining humans of one-thousand years are ientical with us now, is due to ignorance. As children do, most adults assume conditions today were ever so, going both far into the past; and, far forward into the future. Not until the mid-1800s were any human beings even capable of learning about and conceiving of how humankind differed inwardly and outwardly in earlier eons. In this way, for most people, how human beings of two-thousand years ago were significantly different from us now remains — unimaginable to most. For humanity, the distant past is not primarily a costume change, convenient as this is to imagine!
Since the late 1800s, our capacities are developed to where, with our own power of reasoning, any one of us is justified in saying: ‘I recognize this or that truth by means of my intelligence and my reason; I can recognize what is moral and immoral, logical and illogical in many respects.’ Yet it would be an error to believe these capacities were always conscious and taken for granted in human nature. The capacitiy of the part of us who speaks “I am” came into existence and matured gradually over scores of generations.
What people can do today on their own, in their wakeful consciousness, at one time had to be taught. We, humanity, was taught by certain Beings, as a child is taught by its parents or teachers.
These earlier Beings, though embodied among humanity, possessed more highly developed spiritual capacities and could converse in the Mysteries with divine-spiritual Beings even loftier than themselves. The spiritual stream of the Buddha is ministered by one category of such Beings. His Eightfold Path is an enumeration of the qualities needed by the human soul if it is to escape the harsh effects of Karma.
In course of time Buddha’s teaching must become more than a teaching of compassion. It must become deeds of love by men and women individually, through their own feelings and sense of morality.
So deep inwardness characterizes Buddha’s spiritual stream, while Zarathrustra directes his gaze to the outer world. From Zarathrustra came sublime teachings relating to the Cosmos in order for and women to be enlightened about external environments into which they were born; while, Buddha’s gaze was directed inwards.
In this way we see two Jesus-children growing up. After the Nathan-Joseph’s family returned from Bethlehem, they continued to live in Nazareth with their son. They had no other children. This young mother was to be the mother of this Jesus only. When Joseph and Mary of the Solomon line returned with their son from Egypt, they settled in Nazareth and had several more children, Simon, Judas, Joseph, James and two sisters, as the Gospel of St. Mark relates (Mark 6:3).