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University of Creation Spirituality
Doctor of Ministry Degree/Certificate Program

August, 2003 Intensive
Week 2: August 11-15

Seminar: The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus
- #60062

Instructor: Neil Douglas-Klotz

Faculty Bio: Neil Douglas-Klotz holds a Ph.D. in religious studies and psychology and a M.A. in somatic psychology. He is an independent scholar with a background in hermeneutics, Middle Eastern languages, and sacred movement. He is the author of the books, Prayers of the Cosmos, Desert Wisdom and The Hidden Gospel. He serves as co-chair of the Mysticism Group of the American Academy of Religion. He currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland and co-directs the Edinburgh Institute for Advanced Learning.

Course Description: Using his native Aramaic language and culture as a lens, we will look at the major wisdom themes in scripture that reveal Jesus as a powerful teacher and guide from the Middle Eastern tradition. In particular, we will investigate his relation to Jewish Creation (Bereshith) mysticism as well as the Wisdom tradition of Hokhmah (later known as Sophia). Along the way we will explore other keys such as Holy Breath, Sacred Unity, Life and Healing, Soul, Self and Love.

Participants will be introduced to the Middle Eastern tradition of interpretation-translation as a spiritual practice (Hebrew term, midrash). They will also gain an awareness of how this practice can be used in their own spiritual lives in their relation to everyday life themes of love, work and knowledge.

Methods: The class will use hermeneutical methods related to a Middle Eastern approach to key words in Aramaic that can be found in various strata of the reported sayings of Jesus in the Gospels. The Syriac Peshitta version of the Gospels, used by all Assyrian and Syrian Orthodox Christians will provide a text for a comparative analysis. The overall interpretive assumption of the course is: When or if Jesus said anything, he said it in Aramaic. The course will also engage in a form of heuristic group inquiry, guided by the instructor, that uses Middle Eastern styles of body prayer and meditation to explore spiritual themes in the lives of the participants.

Suggested Readings:
Douglas-Klotz, Neil (1999). The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spirituality of the Aramaic Jesus. Wheaton, IL. Quest Books.

Suggested Reading:
Boman, Thorlief. (1960). Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek. Philadelphia: Westminster.
Douglas-Klotz, Neil (1990) Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus.
San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco:
(1995). Desert Wisdom: The Middle Eastern Tradition from the Goddess through the Sufis. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. Available in the US from www.abwoon.com.
(1999b) Midrash and postmodern inquiry: suggestions toward a hermeneutics of indeterminacy. Currents in Research: Biblical Studies Volume 7, 181-193. Sheffield, Sheffield Academic Press.
Lee, Bernard J. (1988). The Galilean Jewishness of Jesus. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Writing Assignment: Choose one option for each paper: Pre-paper 5-8 pages, Post-paper 5-15 pages. Please site bibliographical references.

  1. Reflect upon the themes of the course and their relation to your own spiritual experience of cultivating a contemplative heart.
  2. How does the concept of Holy Breath as found in the cosmology/psychology of Jesus native language allow you to relate his sayings and teachings to your own experience as a breathing being in the world.
  3. How do various Aramaic/Hebrew concepts of love, as discussed in the course, illuminate or clarify your own experiences of relationship in different circles of your life?


Session 1: Introduction. Semitic and Greek language and cosmology. Texts of the Gospels. Middle Eastern hermeneutics and its relation to Western historical-critical approaches. Short history of the early Jesus Movement and Jewish Christianity. Theme and Body Prayer: Breath and Spirit.
Session 2: Influences of Creation (Bereshith) Mysticism in the teachings of Jesus. Themes and Body prayers: Holiness; Sacred Unity (the Middle Eastern God-Concept); Light and Darkness.
Session 3: The Hokhmah/Wisdom tradition in the teachings of Jesus. Themes and Body Prayers: King-Queendom; heaven and Earth. Use of Parables
Session 4: Hokhmah traditions, part 2. Themes and Body Prayers: Soul, Self and Life
Session 5: Themes and Body Prayers: Faces of Love; Yeshua Bar Alaha. Further discussion and closure.

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