The Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. –Numbers 11:25
Dear members and friends of the Swedeborgian Church,
Assyriology is the archaeological, historical and linguistic study of the entire ancient Mesopotamia. In late 19th century, assyriologists made a breakthrough when they were able to translate the cuneiforms possibly written by a very ancient people. However, this caused serious trouble to Christians and Christianity as a whole because the translations of the old cuneiforms — which definitely predated Abraham — revealed stories identical to the stories in Genesis. Why was this a problem? The existence of texts and stories that predated and obviously might have influenced Abraham meant that the Bible is not the original source of the creation story! Consequently, the absoluteness of the Bible as the word of God became a subject of doubt and debate. This could have been the cause of a big and significant revolt against the Bible and the Christian God among late-19th century intellectuals.
It has been almost 24 years since I began my study of religious matters and theology, and nearly 8 years since I began to serve as a pastor for Swedenborgian churches. However, when it comes to defining who God is, I am deeply puzzled. My struggle has been caused by the simple fact that most people seem to have a set idea of who God should be, and thus what the nature of God cannot be. Why is this a problem? Because people have a tendency to place their understanding of reality in a figurative box and demand that God fit within that box. Then, they boldly claim that if God does not fit, it is not the true God. The box could be their own statement of faith, dogma, theology, or even the Bible. All written materials including the Bible are not the divine itself nor do they contain the divinity within, but are mere tools given by God through which human minds can discover, comprehend, and reach to the truth: the divine is present in all beings and space. Often, the Old Testament describes this omnipresent aspect of God as the spirit of God. The Hebrew word for spirit is ruwach, which is also often translated as breath and wind. In a way, we could even argue that the ancient people might have only thought of the breath of God or the wind of God as the spirit of God from the English Bible. But perhaps the ancient people had another understanding: the divine is as present as the wind, whose coming and going is a mystery to human minds, yet there is no place on earth where there is no wind. So my friends, stop seeking out the divine out there, but start discovering and understanding the divine who is present within and around you.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee