1. Ouspensky does not, like so many other occultists or theologians, notice the grave discrepancies and contradictions in the FCG (=Four Canonical Gospels). He thinks they are great works of conscious art. Let us now examine this issue.
Mark and John give no genealogical table for Jesus’ ancestry but Matthew and Luke do. The Gospel of Matthew and Luke have more similarities with each other than with the other two. But their genealogies are stunningly different:
Mtth: Joseph, Jacob, Matthan, Eleazar, Eluid, Acheim, Sadoc…
Lk: Joseph, Heli, Matthan, Levi, Melchi, Janna, Joseph…
They agree only on Joseph and his grandfather Matthan. They do not agree on any other subsequent ancestor. They don’t agree even on Joseph’s father’s name! Both accounts can’t be true but both can be false!
This suggests that the writers did not know Joseph’s family and were very far removed from him.
2. There are inconsistencies in Jesus’ birth too.
Matthew has Mary give birth in a house (2,11) in Bethlehem with no mention of Nazareth or of a manger or cave (as in other accounts). Neither angels nor shepherds come to celebrate. The Magi come, indeed, following the star and Joseph, warned by an angel, takes Mary and the baby and sojourn to Egypt to escape Herod. They return later and live in Nazareth.
Luke has Joseph and pregnant Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for enrolment and there Mary gives birth to Jesus in a manger. Angels and shepherds glorify the child but no star nor Magi with gifts appear! No slaughter of the innocents takes place and no sojourn to Egypt!
Again, both accounts can’t be true but both can be false!
3. We find a similar discrepancy at the other end of Jesus’ life, the crucifixion.
In Matthew 27:46 Jesus on the cross cries out in near despair Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani “my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And Mark describes the event in almost identical tone and detail (15:34).
But in Luke (ch 23) Jesus at no time loses control. First he prays that the Father should forgive the executioners “for they know not what they do” (23:54), then absolves the one criminal who has faith and finally breathes his last saying “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit”. Similarly, in John he seems to be detached (ch 19) calm and in control. He commends his mother to his beloved student and him tho his mother, then says simply “it is finished” and gives up the spirit.
Why such discrepancy? Obviously, the evangelists were not there. But also their informants perhaps did not witness the crucifixion.
4. If the evangelists can’t agree on such important issues as the birth and crucifixion of their protagonist why should we believe that anything else they write is true?
And, taking up the theologians’ point that the writers were “god-inspired” how could they differ so much in their account of the selfsame event? Or, to take up Ouspensky’ s view that they were men of superior mind and that “every phrase, every word, contains hidden ideas” (The New Model…,150), it is difficult to see any hidden ideas in contradictory narratives of the events of the birth and the crucifixion of Christ: all we have is only contradictory ideas!
Needless to say, O does not deal with such inconsistent accounts but carries on blithely with his theories and inadequate interpretations.
5. How is it, then, that the resurrection of Lazarus, which is such a startling miracle, is mentioned only by John (ch 11) while the others repeat other resurrections and so many comparatively trifling matters?
I’ll turn to another aspect which O mentions towards the end of his survey of the Gospels. On p 205 O refers to the incident where Jesus casts out of the temple the merchants and money-changers (Mth 21:12-13; Mk 11:15-16; John 2d:14-17). This may be “a most remarkable allegory”, as O describes it, but could such an event have taken place?
The Romans were wary of trouble especially at Easter and had the temple well guarded precisely to prevent any agitation. Many Jews would come from the Diaspora and offer prayers and sacrifice. The guards would most certainly have arrested Jesus or anyone disturbing the normal run of the day.
6. Another historical discrepancy is the frequent mention of the Pharisees as the men who were the upper religious class and who conspired against Jesus.
But the Pharisees came into power after 70 CE (=AD). Before the destruction of the temple by the Romans at that date (during the Siege of Jerusalem), the upper class were the Sadducees. So it is they who should have featured as the enemies – if FCG had been written even around 70 CE!
So there is much that is amiss in the FCG and O should have been much more circumspect in his approach. These are elementary facts of history and occultists and theologian should take them into consideration before making pontifical statements about the significance of the FCG.
Far more interesting are the Gnostic Gospels which, however, were not on the whole easily obtainable at the time of Ouspensky. Of this I shall write in a future paper.