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The belief that enhanced understanding will necessarily stir a nation or an organization to action is one of mankind's oldest illusions. - Andrew Hacker

"Not to laugh, not to lament, not to curse, but to understand." - Spinoza

Jesus on Understanding God
Updated: 01/10/2021

On some critical level it is a huge mistake to confuse or conflate the meaning of the words "comprehend" and "understand". The word "comprehend" comes from a root meaning to encircle, to encompass, totally surround and engulf. The word "understand" is a compound word composed of "stand" and "under" meaning to support, meaning that one sees or knows enough to like and agree or at least to see the logic. In a personal relationship, say between a man and a woman, we don't pretend to "comprehend" the other person totally. For a man to say that he comprehends women not only sounds extravagant and arrogant but probably is. Such an accomplishment would leave nothing to be further revealed, surprised or delighted with, and the relationship would be static and stale. I have no desire to comprehend all the intricate facets of another person, or the universe, but I do demand to understand those things that affect me.

"God has placed no limit to intellect." - Bacon

Appreciation is Primary

Probably the primary or most basic requirement for a respectable loving relationship is for both people to have a desire and commitment to understand and appreciate each other.  We are in the position of needing that kind of relationship with God, in that our alternative is to be on our own and just finish aging and dying if we are not too unfortunate, and yet religion down through the ages has made the soul or psyche of God alien, non-human and beyond understanding, so that we don't even believe we can.  If we believe that we cannot understand God we are left just always wanting things from him.  Put yourself in his shoes and imagine living with someone like that–forever!

I shall light a candle of understanding in thine heart,
which shall not be put out. -   II Esdras 14:25

One pervasive question should be kept in mind: Why did Jesus say anything to us if it were not meant to be understood?

A related and important question should be asked. Is the creator incapable of creating beings–his children–that are by nature NOT capable of understanding him? If so, why would Jesus say, "And this IS life for all ages (salvation), that they understand you ... and he whom you have sent"? If not, why would he say that? Doesn't understanding precede worship? Did not Jesus exhort us to understand before we can truly worship? And, shouldn't we be asking a lot of "WHY" questions and expect to find answers?

All of us want relationships with peers that can understand us. Theologians and non-theologians spend countless hours of study, contemplation and prayer TRYING to understand! Are we doomed to failure? Is it that we are by nature incapable, or is it because we are locked into a false paradigm fashioned by psychologically unhinged mythmakers? Is it because we are not being really honest with ourselves, staying in denial of our true worth and who we really are? Is it because of our sin, our false concepts of God?

Of great significance is the fact that Christian Bible translators have consistently and continually translated the key Greek words in the passages below as "know" or "known" instead of "understand" or "understood", while the latter two are a clearer, more impactful and legitimate translation.

John's Primary Premise

John 1:17,18  For the law was given through Moses; but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever understood God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him plain.

Commentary - This is one of John's most basic premises, that no one had ever understood God, but that Jesus came to make him plain.  John is NOT linking but CONTRASTING the theology of Moses and Jesus here, and clearly implying that Moses was wrong and that not one man in history had ever understood God properly, not even Moses.  Not until the resurrection did John, Thomas, and a handful of followers begin to believe and understand the TRUTH about God.

John 3:3  Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one receives birth from beyond, he cannot understand [see, conceive, imagine] the kingdom of God."

Commentary -  In saying, "Receives birth from beyond" he was talking about himself, not some mystical "being born again." (See: Luke 3:22)  In the context of mankind being so confused, so full of sin (missing the mark in terms of understanding and concept), so full of false religion we can hear his words "he cannot understand" as being TEMPORARILY true, but that he came to change that.

John 3:10,11  Jesus answered him, "You are the teacher of Israel, and you do not understand this?  Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we understand, and testify about what we have seen; but you do not receive [conceive] OUR testimony.

Commentary - When Jesus is having this conversation with Nicodemus it was probably when he was in Jerusalem for the last time just before his crucifixion, and no one had really yet received or conceived his and the father's testimony about the TRUTH.

John 4:10  Jesus answered her and said, "If you really understood the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me some to drink,' you would have asked him, and he would give you living water." 

Commentary - What if the gift of God is that which Jesus implies when he calls us sons of God and his brothers, that being a destiny of equality and peerage?  What if, right then and there in a short time while he was on the Earth, Jesus could have helped them finish growing into mature Gods and equals, had they really paid attention and seen the opportunity?

John 4:22-24  You do not understand what you worship; we worship what we know, since salvation is of the Jews.  But the time is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the real meaning and the truth, and the Father ardently seeks those worshiping him in such a way.  God is spirit [real meaning], and those worshiping him need to worship him within the real meaning and the truth."

Commentary - Spiritual worship is to give credit for the sustenance and enhancement of life and to see the beauty and elegance of the person's character.  This passage is a statement saying that God has real meaning for rational, reasonable men, and is not a statement about his being some kind of incorporeal entity. The sentiment "since salvation of the Jews" does not mean that only Jews will be save, nor that you somehow need to become a "spiritual" Israelite, but that He, being a Jew, delivers that salvation.

John 5:14  Afterward, Jesus finds him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you have become healthy!  Come and continue not sinning, lest a worse thing happen to you."

Commentary - Jesus defines sinning as misunderstanding God (John 15:22-25)  What worse could happen to this man?  How about just finishing out his meaningless life while aging and then just dying in his unproductive, unrewarding concepts. (See: John 8:21-24)

John 5:24  "Truly, truly, I say to you, the one understanding MY message and believing the one having sent ME, has life for all ages; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from dying to living."

Commentary - This is one of the most sweeping and inspiring messages that Jesus taught.  He is literally saying that, in the context of it being possible, understanding God is the way to present immortality. The judgment that Jesus is referring to here is the one that is already imposed on us, "I told you that you would die in your sins, for you WILL just die in your sins unless you believe that I am he."

John 5:37,38  "And the Father having sent me has himself witnessed about me.  Neither His voice have you ever understood nor his stature have you ever realized; and you do not have his message abiding in you, for you do not choose to believe him whom he has sent."

Commentary - This is Jesus' indictment of the Jews and their concepts of God, concepts which demean humans, including God.   These concepts only produced hypocrisy, misery and failure.

John 6:26,27  Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw the real significance, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.  Do not labor for perishing food, but for the food enduring to everlasting life, which the Son of man will give to you; for this one has God the Father certified (validated)."

Commentary - In the light of verse 40, Jesus is hereby telling them to labor to understand God through his message and life actions, and that then they will have immediate, tangible immortality.

"The deepest principle of Human Nature is the craving to be appreciated."
 - William James.  Can we imagine that this also applies to the Originator?  

John 6:40  For this is the will of the one sending me, that every one understanding the Son and choosing what to believe within him should have everlasting life; and I will elevate his stature at the last day."

Commentary - Literal immediate immortality is the reward for committing oneself to understanding God through Jesus and choosing one's belief system in harmony with our idealism and within the context and limits of what he said and did.  Is not Jesus saying that the true believer will be elevated to empowerment (privileged equality, kingship of the heavens) at the end of the course?

John 6:46  "Not that any one has understood the Father except the one being from God; this one has understood the Father."

Commentary - Here again Jesus is saying that not one man has ever understood God up until that time except himself. He is declaring what John echoes in John 1:18.

John 6:63,64  "It is the meaning of the message that gives life, [what happens to] the flesh gains nothing; the DIRECTIONS [instructions] that I have spoken to you are the real meaning and the life source.  But there are some of you that are not choosing to believe."

Commentary - Jesus did not come to give us law, or to validate living by law.  He came to tell us that meaningful changes come from changing what we believe, not working directly on our behavior or mortifying the flesh.  He came to set us free to be peers with God.  He gave us directions or instructions on how to attain to that which we really want, not commands to be obeyed.

John 7:16-18  So Jesus answered them, "My teaching is not just mine, but is of the one sending me.  If any man desires to do his will, he will understand whether the teaching is from God or whether I speak from myself.  The one who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he seeking the magnificence of the one sending him is credible, and in him there is no unreasonableness."

Commentary - Jesus is here reasoning with the Jewish people, appealing to their experience relating to the credibility of witnesses.  He is seeking some basis for credibility with them, for if they do not believe him, they will perish, that is, they will just age and die in their sins or be killed by the Romans.

John 8:18,19  "I AM THE ONE witnessing about myself, and he sending, the Father, witnesses about me."  Then they said to him, "Where is your Father?"  Jesus answered, "You understand neither me nor my Father; if you understood ME, you would understand my Father also."

Commentary - Here Jesus is clearly equating, in the context of them both witnessing and attempting to be understood, understanding him with understanding God.  See: John 14:8,9 where Jesus is equating to Philip that to understand him is to understand the Father.

John 8:31,32  Jesus then said to the Jews having begun to believe within him, "If you stay within MY teaching, you are truly my disciples, and you will understand the truth, and the truth will set you free."

Commentary - Jesus here sets out a course for his followers, one of consistently choosing what to believe in the context of what he, Jesus, teaches.  The finishing of the course he promises will be to understand the truth and will bring freedom and empowerment.

John 8:38  "I speak of what I have understood with my Father, and you do what you have understood from your father."

Commentary - Their "father", referenced here, was the father of all lies, the original sin, the fear and misconception of God engendered by the allegory of Adam when he ran away in the garden of Eden.

John 8:47  "He who is for God understands the words of God; the reason why you do not understand them is that you are not for God."

Commentary - The term God should conceptually be de-coupled from the term creator. His creatorship makes him neither good nor bad, only his character, purpose and values can do that.  The term God must be defined as the IDEAL person from the perspective of the human individual and race, or the term really has no significant meaning at all.   Only when a person chooses to define God as the ideal for himself and mankind does that person then have a perspective that can even allow understanding the truth about God.

John 8:54,55  Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father glorifying me, whom you say your God is.  You have not understood him; but I know him, and if I say I don't know him, I shall be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his words of reason."

Commentary - Again Jesus is using the same reasoning that he used in John 7:16-18, where he concedes that if it were just him saying these things about himself, it would count for nothing.  But in the context of his having a formal introduction from God to the nation at his baptism by John in the wilderness, and especially by the backing of God in the many miracles, including resurrections, he points out that it is unreasonable to dismiss him and his message.

John 10:16  "And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; it is right for me to lead them also, and they will understand my voice, and will become one flock, with one shepherd."

Commentary - Not only is it possible for the Jewish followers of Jesus to understand  his message, but it is possible for others as well.

John 12:44,45  And Jesus cried out and said, "The one choosing what to believe within me, is choosing what to believe not merely within me but within him who sent me.  And he coming to a knowledge of me comes to a knowledge of him who sent me."

Commentary - "He perceiving me perceives the one sending me."  This is the answer or solution for sin, sin being a wrong, negative perception of any aspect of God, such as his psyche, character, purpose, plan or values.

John 14:6-9  Jesus says to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life source; no one comes to the Father, except through ME.  If you had understood ME, you would have understood my Father also; and from now on you understand him and have experienced him."
    Philip says to him, "Master, show us what the Father is like, and it satisfies us."  Jesus said to him, "Am I with you so long a time, and you do not understand me, Philip?  The one understanding me has conceived the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father?'"

Commentary - At the end of Jesus' public ministry, Philip still did not get it.  Philip still conceived the psyche of God the father (including purpose, values, character, attitude and demeanor) as being quite different from that displayed by Jesus.  You can hear the frustration in his response to this request coming from a man still committed to sin.  See: John 17:6.

John 14:22  "He having MY directives and heeding them, that one is the one loving me; and he loving me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him."

Commentary - Here Jesus is directing his followers to listen to, focus on, and heed his personal instructions of directions in contrast to that which was traditional, i.e., the ancient scriptures (including the Old Testament), the teachings of others, and tradition itself.

John 14:25,26  "These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you.  But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will inagurate on my authority, that one will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you."

Commentary - The phrase "Holy Spirit" should be translated to read the "God spirit" and the attitude of loving the truth.  Without a commitment to know the truth no matter what, one cannot ascertain the truth; but with this commitment is the promise that all things will be revealed and learned.

John 15:14,15  You are my friends if you do what I direct you.  I call you servants no longer, for the servant does not understand what his lord is doing; but I called you friends, because I made known to you all that I have heard from my Father."

Commentary - Again what Jesus directs us to do is to labor toward understanding God and thereby choose what we believe according to what he said and did and not some other source of information.

John 15:18-27  "If the world has a negative perception of you, understand that it has misperceived me before you.  If you were of the world, the world would have loved its own; not that you are not of the world, but I picked you out of the world, therefore the world misperceives you.  Remember the adage that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.'  If they persecuted me, they also will persecute you; if they pay attention to my message, they will pay attention to yours also.  But all this they will do to you in my name, because they do not understand the one sending me.
     "Unless I came and spoke to them, they would not have guilt; but now they have no excuse for their sin.  The one misperceiving me misperceives my Father also.  If I did not the deeds among them which no one else did, they would not have guilt; but now they have seen and misperceived both me and my Father.  It is as if the message may be fulfilled that is written in their own canon,
     'They have hated me without a cause.'
     "But when the Paraclete comes, whom I will engender to you from the Father, even the spirit of loving the truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will testify about me; and you also witness, because you have been with me from the beginning."

Commentary - The above passage is where Jesus clearly gives us his definition of what sin is.  This understanding of what is sin is profound and fundamental to understanding  the message of Jesus and having a correct theology, that is a correct understanding of God.  A Paraclete to the Greeks was a person that was big, strong, and wise enough so that when you were with them you were safe from getting into trouble.

John 16:2-4  "They will put you out of the synagogue; a time comes indeed when anyone destroying you will think he is offering service to God.  And these things they will do to you because they neither understood the Father, nor me."

Commentary - Misunderstanding God clearly can result in working against God (that which is good) while the person thinks they are working for God.  This is a straightforward result of what Jesus calls sin.

John 16:12-15  "I have yet many things to say to you, but you are not able to handle them now.  When that one comes, the spirit of loving the truth, he will lead you into all the truth; for he will not speak from himself, but whatever he hears he will speak, and the coming things he will announce to you.  That one will glorify ME, for he will receive and declare to you from what is mine.  All things which the Father has are mine; therefore I said that he will receive and declare to you from what is mine."

Commentary - Jesus is here telling his disciples that he had many more good things to share with them, but they had not taken the foundation posture to be able to either understand or to receive them.  Throughout the course of being with Jesus during his public ministry, his  followers exhibited a ridiculous lack of interest in his being the source of truth and they asked few questions, most of which were simplistic or misguided.  What an opportunity was missed!  There are so many questions and yet how little was recorded.  This is one reason (not valid) that "Christendom" is so attached to the idea that the entire Bible is the word of God, for the Bible gives so many answers, albeit different or not consistent, and from other men whom Jesus claims did not understand God. 

John 17:3  "And this is the life source of the ages, that they may UNDERSTAND YOU, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent."

Commentary - This is one of the clearest statements Jesus makes; he is literally making the equation: understanding God = life that does not end.

John 17:6  "I revealed your character to the men whom you gave me out of the world;"

Commentary - One facet of the character and values of God revealed is that God would rather die than interfere with the integrity and sovereignty of our own psyche, volition, and freedom.  He can only stand and offer us the chance to choose to believe the truth, he cannot program it into us.

John 17:17  "Finish consecrating them in the truth about you; your EXPRESSION OF REASON is truth."

Commentary - Jesus is here expecting God to work somehow to finish settling at least some of his followers in the truth, i.e., a mature and complete understanding of God.

John 17:25,26  "O righteous (reasonable) Father, the world understood you not, but I understood you; and these knew that you sent me.  I made known to them your character, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I unified with them."

Commentary - The purpose of knowing the truth, understanding God, and being in unity is revealed.

John 18:37  "But for this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I might testify about the truth.  Every one being for the truth listens to my voice."

Commentary - The purpose for Jesus coming, teaching, and ultimately being crucified is hereby stated as being to give us a basis for believing the best about God, i.e., understanding the truth about God and ourselves. It is NOT to satisfy some larger than God justice, or to vindicate his behavior, or to give us a facade of righteousness, or to pay a price, or to sacrifice, etc. ad nauseam. It was for the ultimate communication of the truth to us who are so steeped in wrong concepts about God.

John 20:22,23  And having said this, he filled them with spirit, and said to them, "Conceive the Real Meaning.  Whatever sins you have yielded up, they are left behind them; whatever you have conquered, they are conquered."

Commentary - Contrary to what most "authorized" translations have him saying here, Jesus is not giving his disciples authority to seal judgment on the "sins" (fundamentally wrong concepts of God) of others. This an egregiously bad translation and wrong concept! Having done everything that He can do, Jesus is hereby resigning himself to whatever state of sin or fundamental choice of belief the various disciples now have.

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