Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Friday, October 08, 2010

Christian Studies

The part of The Four Gospels course that I enjoyed the most was actually the bonus material of the Scholars Translation of the Gospel of Thomas. It was interesting to read a translation of the (original?) Greek text, but after thirty-five (plus) years of studying the Bible, and as many of the different original manuscripts as I have been able to obtain, the translation of the Greek version of the Four Gospels, given in The Unvarnished Gospels, did not shed much new light on my understanding of them. However, finding a new understanding of the Four Gospels is not necessarily why I read them most of the time. Over the years, I have read the Gospels for many different reasons, but the two primary ones are that I find them very comforting, and I really do enjoy reading them every so often! I am particularly fond of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount.

There is something about reading the words of the Master that seems to put me in closer contact with him, and deepens our relationship. His words are understandable at all levels, allowing each individual the freedom to develop their own unique and personal understanding of the timeless Wisdom. Indeed, everyone’s life is different, yet I believe that every person can find answers and hope in the words of Jesus, that apply specifically to their life! Scholars may debate their meanings endlessly, and certainly, many of the interpretations do contain Truth, but their real beauty lies in the fact that anyone, no matter their background or “intelligence,” can understand their meanings and find Truth. This makes sense to me, because I know that Jesus did not come to this planet to enlighten only those people who lived during the time of his physical incarnation, but to give a true and loving understanding of God to all people, for all time.

My entire adult life, I have looked for, read, and tried to discern Truth from all books concerning the life and teachings of the Master Jesus. I have followed this course for many other masters and religions as well. I accept Truth from whatever source I find it. It was a great boost to the material available on Jesus and Palestine, when the “Gnostic” codices and texts were discovered in 1945, near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and again when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves near Qumran, on the banks of the Dead Sea, in 1947. The Nag Hammadi Library not only contained copies of many gospels and texts that scholars thought had been lost for all time, but also many previously unknown gospels as well. Among these was The Gospel of Thomas. Before taking this course, I already had studied, and was familiar with, The Gospel of Thomas, The Hidden Sayings Of Jesus, by Marvin Meyer, which contains the original Coptic text (with the original papyrus annotations), as well as the translation and interpretations.

I have studied many, many books, analysis, and interpretations of both groups of texts. I personally, have long favored The Gospel of Thomas. Interestingly, it is one of the “Gnostic” gospels that biblical scholars tend to deride the most. They often state that after endless scholarly analysis of all texts containing the words of Jesus that “are generally accepted to have actually been spoken” by Him, they further state that many of the statements in The Gospel Of Thomas that are attributed to Jesus “could not possibly have been spoken by Him.”
None of it can be “proved “ conclusively either way. As much as I enjoy the scholarly pursuit of the origins of ancient codices and gospels, and trying to determine what Jesus really did or didn’t say, for application into my life, it still boils down to personal Truth and Faith. Every person must seek and find their own Truth. Whether or not statements can be proven to have been spoken by the Master, for me, the most important thing is do they hold Truth for me, and do they strengthen my Faith. If they don’t, then I am not likely to try to apply what they say to my own life. If instead, I feel that they do hold Wisdom, then I believe it is incumbant upon me to do my best to consciously live these Truths. My personal feeling is that each and every person is themselves, a “Minister,” consciously or unconsciously, living, and consequently teaching, their own Truth (whatever it may be) to the world, from one minute to the next.
I did enjoy this opportunity to re-read The Four Gospels of the New Testament and also The Gospel of Thomas! I am very pleased that our Seminary encourages its ministers to expand their range of understanding, by studying gospels, codices, and texts outside of the Bible, that reveal the life and teachings of The Son of God. I am including a very brief bibliography of some related texts that I have found helpful, and some of my fellow clergy may find interesting.

Holy Bible - From the Ancient Eastern Text: George M. Lamsa’s Translation From the Aramaic of the Peshitta (ISBN 0-06-064923-2)
The Jerusalem Bible - Reader’s Edition (ISBN 0-385-01156-3)
The Urantia Book (ISBN 0-911560-02-5)
The Gospel of Thomas - The Hidden Sayings of Jesus (ISBN 0-06-065581-X) by Marvin Meyer, Interpretation by Harold Bloom
The Nag Hammadi Library (ISBN 0-06066935-7) by James Robinson (General Editor)
The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q & Christian Origins (ISBN 0-06-065375-2) by Burton L. Mack
Jesus: A Life (ISBN 0-449-90807-0) by A. N. Wilson
Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography (ISBN 0-38549793-8) by Bruce Chilton
Edgar Cayce’s Story of Jesus (ISBN 0-42510327-7) by Edgar Cayce and Jeffrey Furst (Editor)
Companions Along the Way (ISBN 0-44921221-1) by Ruth Montgomery
Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew
(ISBN 0-19-514183-0) by Bart D. Ehrman

Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament
(ISBN 0-19-514182-2) by Bart D. Ehrman
Whose Word Is It?: The Story Behind Who Changed the New Testament and Why
(ISBN 0-82649129-4) by Bart D. Ehrman
The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (ISBN 0-19510279-7)
by Bart D. Ehrman
The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You (2 Volume Set) (ISBN 0-87612555-0) by Paramahansa Yogananda
A Course In Miracles (ISBN 0-9606388-9-X) by Helen Schucman and William Thetford, published by the Foundation For Inner Peace
Love Without End: Jesus Speaks… (ISBN 0-9666623-1-8) by Glenda Green
The Keys of Jeshua (ISBN 0-9666623-7-7) by Glenda Green
James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls (ISBN 0-14025773-X) by Robert H. Eisenman
The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered (ISBN 1-56619-623-X) by Robert Eisenman and
Michael Wise
The Complete World of The Dead Sea Scrolls (ISBN 0-500-05111-9) by Phillip R. Davies, George J. Brooke, and Phillip R. Callaway

The books concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls are included because they do an excellent job of setting the stage for the religious, spiritual, and political environment of the time, into which Jesus was to incarnate. The list of books that have something meaningful to contribute to the subject of the life and teachings of Jesus is practically endless. While some of these books may contain material that all Christians might not agree with, they are very thought provoking, and I hope they will be read with an open heart and mind.

Blessed be,
Scott R. Bobbitt


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