“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! ....” (Matthew 23:13)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13)

What does 'woe to you' mean?

Jesus is confirming that the teachers and administrators of the politically-driven temple institution did not represent God. But here he is also condemning them. Why?

Because they were keeping others away from their relationship with God.

"Woe to you" comes from the Greek phrase, οὐαὶ δὲ ὑμῖν. The word οὐαί (ouai) relates to grief or denunciation. Having grief in something relates to being exasperated at that thing. But this exasperation also comes with condemnation - to denounce something or someone.

Jesus is particularly denouncing abominating activities - to advertise to be saving people while actually thwarting people from reaching their personal relationship with the Supreme Being.

Is this still happening?

Ironically, this tradition has continued through this day, even among the very institutions and their teachers that claim to represent Jesus. Many sectarian institutions of today that claim to follow Jesus are taking the very position that Jesus condemned among the institutional temples of his time.

Jesus predicted this scenario:
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" (Matthew 7:21-23)
We have seen many "fruits" among sectarian institutions claiming to follow Jesus over the centuries, including imprisoning or murdering people who don't attend their churches, and more recently, of priests who have abused young children who came into their church to "enter heaven." Instead of being guided spiritually, these hypocritical teachers sexually abused them.

A few isolated cases?

So we must ask, is this simply a few isolated priests that have gone rogue and have used the institution to become abusive?

As the cases have become exposed, it has become evident that practically the entire institution is infected, as abusive priests have been protected by those who were higher up in the institution. This has, at least in the past, included even the highest position in the institution.

While there may have been some who sought to protect the reputation of the institution because they felt the institution had a noble purpose, such a noble purpose is tainted by protecting abusers - thus allowing abuse to continue within the institution.

Are they abusing their authority?

Much of this abuse has been based upon the tendency of some to take advantage of positions of power and authority. Using power and authority for self-centered purposes. This has been an issue among so many sects that have been led by charismatic leaders who sought to gain power and authority over others.

But we must point out that those who abuse others with their power do not have real authority. Their authority is not God-given. It is politically developed, after convincing politically-appointed councils they are right for the job.

They may have begun with a seemingly noble purpose. They may have wanted initially to help others. But authority in the physical world comes with an interesting caveat. It can become a disease, whereby the leader identifies with that authority and begins to think they are great and that authority comes from them. That they have some sort of right to have power over others.

Once this consciousness takes form, the person becomes infected by power, just as a body can become infected by a virus.

Once a leader of a sect or church begins to feel powerful and exert power over their followers or congregation, things can become dangerous for those followers. Their blind trust in the leader can expose them to the potential for abuse in one respect or another.

Human history is littered with religious leaders who have abused their followers in one way or another. For some the abuse may have simply been philosophical. But for others, physical and mental abuse has been done, causing years of torment and psychological damage for the follower.

How can we tell if a teacher may become abusive?

There are a number of signs for a potentially abusive teacher. While this doesn't mean they definitely have or will become abusive, these signs do not bode well for followers who seek the Truth. Signs of a possibly abusive teacher include one or more of the following:

-They seek a position of authority.
-They want a prestigious title.
-They are concerned about their appearance.
-They seek fame for themselves.
-They want to make a name for themselves.
-They seek to gain a large following.
-They see themselves as better than others.
-They want others to praise them.
-They want followers to blindly follow their instructions.
-They become angry when someone questions their authority.

Often, in order to achieve this authority, they will invoke the name of Jesus or some other recognized authority. This is described by Jesus in Matthew 7:21 above. They might even say to their followers, "In the name of Jesus ..." This makes them appear authoritative.

Another sign of a potentially abusive teacher is they seek to gain political power and authority from their institution. This is often done by gaining a prestigious title and position of authority in that institution. Perhaps it is a priest, or cardinal or bishop. For other sects, it may simply be gaining the position of "reverend" in a church with a big (or bigger) congregation. Or perhaps it is gaining some other title of prestige in some other sect.

Many institutions will elect their teachers through councils and electorates. These may be appointments from cardinals, bishops or groups of deacons. Then these institutions will pay teachers and administrators sometimes healthy salaries from money taken the alms of their followers. This effectively creates a business out of the institution, and for the positions of teachers. Was this sanctioned by Jesus?

What about paid teachers?

If turning church into a business by doling out and collecting salaries is condoned by Jesus, why did Jesus turn over the tables of sellers at the synagogue? Why did he say:
“Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:16)
We must therefore ask: What is the difference between church bazaars and bake sales and rummage sales - and a priest collecting a salary - and this market in the courtyard of the temple?

Jesus also condemned the practice among the temple priests of collecting from the households of widows after their husbands died:
"They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely." (Mark 12:40)
Paying priests and reverends from the coffers of followers helps produce the ability for these teachers to feel they have the authority to take advantage of their followers. Because their services are ultimately paid for out of the donations of their followers, professional teachers begin to see their followers as sources of income.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!"

The reason why Jesus rejected these ecclesiastical temple officials - even though they claimed to follow the teachings of the prophets as Jesus did - the temple officials abused their authority, being focused upon maintaining their authority and the authority of their institution rather than upon serving the Supreme Being.

"You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces."

How does an ecclesiastical teacher shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces, blocking them from entering?

With their words. It is done by misinterpreting scripture. It is done by bending and twisting the teachings of Jesus, Moses, David, Jacob, Samuel, Job, Zechariah, Abraham and Joshua and other representatives of God. It is done by misrepresenting the lives and teachings of God's loving servants, in other words.

It is also done by focusing people upon fanatical sectarianism in the name of one of God's representatives - instead of upon their actual teachings. Trying to trick people into thinking that if they join their fanatical sectarian organization, they will somehow become one of God's chosen actually distracts them from focusing on trying to come to know and love God. In other words, such a teaching, emphasizing joining a particular group and practicing certain rituals as though they are the end in itself - blocks their follower's ability to progress spiritually:

"You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” 

We see this fanatical sectarian approach cultivated by many institutions over the centuries. These institutions are not founded upon coming to know, love and serve God: They are built upon maintaining authority for those who organize and run the institution. They are no different than the temple institution of "teachers of the law and Pharisees" that Jesus was speaking of.

This is evidenced by the corruption of Jesus' life and teachings as dictated by the political doctrine of the Synods of Nicaea. Organized by the Roman government, the Councils of Nicaea produced the Nicene Creed in 325 A.D. and evolved into the Roman Catholic Church. This same Roman Catholic institution violently enforced Christianity for over ten centuries.

This and other institutions seeking authority teach a corrupted interpretation of Jesus' teachings and life, namely that Jesus was God become man who died for our sins and all we have to do is accept that and we are saved. This allows people to continue their self-centered activities, and periodically attend church to wash their sins off on Jesus. Did Jesus teach this? No.

The kingdom of God is not entered by joining a church or sect or proclaiming being saved. It is accomplished by changing our consciousness from loving and serving ourselves to loving and serving the Supreme Being. In other words, it is about a relationship. There is no such thing as the kingdom of God without God. The kingdom of God is the place where the Supreme Being's loving children are engaged in a relationship of loving service with God. This is why Jesus' most important teaching was:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)

“You devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers ..." (Matthew 23:14)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Therefore you will be punished more severely.” (Matthew 23:14)

Wasn't Jesus also a rabbi?

This is another strong statement by Jesus as he severely criticizes the institutional temple teachers and officials. But wasn't Jesus also a rabbi? Why would Jesus criticize the very institution that he was a part of? Why would he condemn his colleagues?

Jesus did not see himself as part of this institution. Yes, Jesus did sit with the teachers at the temple when he was younger. This means that he did study under some temple teachers for a time. But Jesus did not follow them and pass on their teachings. Instead, he went to the desert and decided to follow John the Baptist, who was also condemning the temple institution and its teachers for misleading people:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' " John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts [beans of the locust tree] and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? (Matthew 3:4-7)
Jesus' teachings mirrored John's. Not only did he also criticize the Pharisees and Sadducees as John did. But he also taught the same central message that John taught:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 3:2)
After John was imprisoned, Jesus began to teach the same message:
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. ... From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matthew 4:17)
It is no coincidence that Jesus' teachings mirrored John's. After all, he received baptism from John. Baptism at that time was the accepted means for committing oneself to the teachings of a spiritual teacher. (Baptism is still practiced today, but it is more of an institutional ritual now - typically signifying a person joining a particular sect or church.)

Let's look more closely at Jesus' statement to the temple teachers:

How did they 'devour widows' houses'?

The Greek word translated to "devour" is κατεσθίω (katesthiō). The applicable meaning, according to the Greek lexicon, is to "forcibly appropriate" or "to strip one of his goods". This can only mean that the Pharisees and temple officials were confiscating the wealth of women after their husbands died.

And why would institutional temple priests and officials do such a thing? What would drive them to take a person's wealth after the man of the house died?

This points to only one thing: That the temple priests and officials were being paid professional salaries for their positions, and the only way to bring in enough funds in the treasury to pay these out to the temple priests and Pharisees was to confiscate large sums from widows. This means that the temple priests and Pharisees were not even satisfied with their salaries as appropriated from tithings. They had to forcibly gain further income.

In other words, Jesus is railing about these temple teachers being paid salaries for their positions and becoming increasingly greedy as a result.

They had turned what should have been service to God and to others into a business. Jesus railed similarly when he saw the temple being used as a marketplace, as he turned over the tables of the merchants, saying:
"It is written, 'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it 'a den of robbers.'" (Matthew 21:13)
This is the same issue. Being a professional teacher, be it a Pharisee, rabbi, priest, preacher, minister, reverend, cardinal, imam, guru, bishop or pope, is to turn what should be service to the Supreme Being into a business.

Jesus never accepted a salary. His teachings were given for free (and there were no collection plates passed around) because teaching was his service to God. A person who accepts a salary becomes beholden to that source of income. Thus such a teacher can never be God's representative. It is not possible. They will only represent the source or institution paying their salaries.

It also creates, as has been shown in many modern sectarian teachers and their institutions, greed among those involved in the collection and payment of salaries. Thus we find many of these professional teachers advertising themselves on television, radio, and mass-mailings in manipulative ways in order to gain more income. Their motivation is tainted by money - and so is their service.

Can someone be paid to serve God?

Not according to Jesus. This is why Jesus said:
"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:24)
The word "money" here is translated from the Greek word μαμωνᾶς (mamōnas) - which can mean "mammon" or "wealth" - but also materialism in general. One might say that money represents materialism, but it should also be said that money can be used to serve God, and in this respect, it becomes part of one's service.

But to collect money in exchange for service cancels service to the Supreme Being. It is either one or the other - not both, as Jesus states. One cannot propose to be serving God by teaching and then also collect a salary for that service as well.

Many modern preachers, for example, will offer "prayer requests" in mass mailings and internet campaigns. The "prayer request" strategy is one of the biggest money-making schemes invented. This type of scam is also intended to "devour widows houses" by tricking innocent people (often the elderly) into believing that if the preacher prays on their problem, the problem will be fixed.

Such a prayer request pitch will often be worded manipulatively to lead the person into believing that he or she will have a better chance of the prayer working if they donate. So they donate large sums along with their prayer requests, and the preachers make millions of dollars off this scam.

Why did Jesus say, 'for a show make lengthy prayers'?

This indicates these temple officials do not have a personal, confidential loving relationship with God. Rather, they make a big show of their prayers in public in order to impress others. They use their positions of authority to earn money, and then make a big show to make others think they are advanced spiritually. This very scene is repeated daily on evangelist television shows.

Jesus is basically calling the temple priests a bunch of scam artists. They are cheating people. And sadly, this is precisely what is now going on today in the name of Jesus within many modern ecclesiastical sectarian organizations.

Why would they 'be punished more severely'?

Here Jesus said, "Therefore you will be punished more severely.” What does this mean?

The Supreme Being created the physical world as a place of consequence. Here the results of our actions are returned to us. This enables us to hopefully learn, leading ultimately to our learning about the Supreme Being and returning to Him.

But those who pretend to represent God and yet try to utilize their positions in order to take advantage of others will have a worse fate: They will suffer the results of misleading others.

Jesus shows us by example how a real representative of God conducts himself. Jesus never accepted a title or salary by an institutional temple organization, although he certainly could have. He never made a big show of his prayers. When Jesus prayed, he prayed in a private place, away from others:
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26:39)
Jesus also shows us what to pray for here. He shows us that we should not be praying for God to bring us stuff, as though God was some sort of genie or waiter: "God give me a big car." "God give me a big house and a big job." These are not prayers. These are orders. These are what a superior party asks from an inferior party.

A servant of God does not order materialistic stuff from God. God is our loving, merciful master. Therefore we should not be praying for God to bring us materialistic things. Sure, we can ask God for mercy, forgiveness, and the relief of suffering. But ultimately, we should be praying to become one of God's humble loving servants. We should be asking God to give us the ability to please Him with our lives.

This is what Jesus' prayer in Matthew 26:39 is: Jesus is asking that he be permitted to do God's will rather than his own will. This is the prayer of a loving servant of God.

“You travel over land and sea to win a single convert ..." (Matthew 23:15)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Matthew 23:15)

Why did Jesus say they 'travel over land and sea'?

Over the centuries, missionaries have traveled by boat and by land, and now by air to distant locations to convert those of other beliefs to their particular sect. By Jesus’ statement, we know this was also taking place in those times among the institutional temple sects.

We can draw many inferences about Jesus' statement with regard to some of the missionary expeditions launched by sectarian institutions including the Roman Catholic Church over the centuries.

If we consider these missionary efforts over the centuries, we find that not all were intended to pass on Jesus' teachings. Many of these supposed followers often incorporated violence and intimidation to convert natives in foreign lands. This was often followed by those lands being taken from native populations. As a result, over the centuries, many native cultures have become lost or severely diminished.

Unbeknownst to many of these missionaries, some of these native cultures also worshiped the Supreme Being in their own unique manner. For example, we find many North American Native tribes honored The Great Spirit.

While there may have been those who sincerely wanted to bring Jesus’ teachings to others, there were many others who simply sought glorification from claiming to have converted many.

Many of these 'travels' resulted in the slaughter of thousands of people for the sake of supposedly saving them. Does murdering innocent native people in the name of a particular sect or philosophy save them? Surely burning and pillaging native villages does not save them from hell - it brings them hell.

Was this pleasing to Jesus? Certainly not. As we can see from Jesus' statement, conversion can also be condemned, depending upon who is doing the converting and how it is done.

What did he mean by 'a son of hell as you are'?

Jesus confirms that these 'missions' of these institutional temple priests were worthless, and their converts become as lost as they are. This is confirmed by the Greek phrase υἱὸν γεέννης, which has been incorrectly translated to "son of hell."

The more appropriate translation for υἱὸν γεέννης would be a follower of those who will suffer.

The word υἱὸν has been incorrectly translated as son. While υἱὸν can mean 'son' in the context of a father and his physical son, this is not the correct context. This context indicates the translation, as confirmed by the Greek lexicon, υἱὸν should be "used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower." So a person who becomes converted by one of these hypocritical Pharisees, becomes one of their followers.

The next word in the phrase is γεέννης. γεέννης has been translated to "hell," and this is not altogether wrong, but Jesus' concept of hell should be clarified.

The Greek word γεέννης, transliterated as 'geenna,' is an allegorical reference to a location south of Jerusalem in the valley of Hinnom, called 'Gehenna.' Here there were ghastly sacrifices of children and animals to an idol called Moloch. The animals and children were thrown into the fire.

This place and its practice were abhorred by the local people, and they used a reference to this as a place of suffering, where people followed a demoniac god and suffered as a result. Therefore, this place (Gehenna) became referred to allegorically as a place of suffering. This has since been expanded to mean some kind of underworld.

Many people have been lulled into a concept prognosticated by sectarian teachers that hell is an underground world where a fiery devil named satan lives and tortures people who are chained up on cavern walls. This imaginative teaching has even been taken to the extent that the entrance to hell is through volcanoes.

This has been proven wrong by those who have explored volcanoes, and by those who have drilled many miles deep into the surface of the earth. There are no caverns where people are being chained to walls and tortured.

So where is hell then?

Hell is right here. We are living in hell. The question is to what extent we are suffering in hell. This physical dimension simultaneously supports relative degrees of hell, depending upon our past activities.

Do we think that a person who is starving is not in hell? Is a woman who is repeatedly raped at gunpoint not in hell? How about a person in the grips of war? Are they not in hell? How about someone being tortured or murdered in a Holocaust? Are they not experiencing hell? Or how about someone in prison, subjected to being beaten or raped? Are these circumstances not hellish enough?

Many other species of living organisms are also living in hell - some even worse than these. Consider a small mouse who lives in a house with a big cat. The mouse is constantly in fear, being chased by this gigantic (monster-like) cat with huge teeth, who eventually catches it with its long nails and rips it apart in a gruesome death. Is the mouse not in hell? How about a bug in constant fear that he will get snagged by the gigantic tongue of a frog? Is the fly not living in hell?

All of these circumstances, to one degree or another, are hellish. Why? Because they are wrought with fear, pain and suffering.

Have we sinned in a previous lifetime?

The question is whether our life in the physical world is the result of actions taken in a previous lifetime. Consider this question, asked of Jesus by his disciples:
"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:1)
Why did Jesus’ disciples (note multiple disciples) ask this question? This question was very logical because some people are born normal and others with deficiencies. Why is one person born blind they asked? Why is one person born in more fortunate circumstances than another person?

The question arose from an understanding of Jesus’ teachings. At one point Jesus said to someone:
Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14)
In other words, they understood that there were consequences for sinning.

And in this case, Jesus' disciples assumed that before the man was born, he had the ability to sin, and this sin caused his current suffering.

In order to have the ability to sin, the man must have had a previous physical body. Why? Because as Jesus also taught that sinning was an activity executed through the flesh. In other words, the person must have had a prior physical body in order to have sinned before he was born.

Note also that Jesus did not ridicule or criticize this question. He accepted it. He did not say, “that cannot happen.” What he said was:
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me.” (John 9:2)
In other words, Jesus accepted that a person could suffer in his next life from sins of the past life. This means that we do have previous lifetimes.

This is also confirmed here in Matt. 23:15, as Jesus confirms that the Pharisees will suffer, and so will their converts. Jesus is not threatening a fictitious place called hell. He is simply telling them that they and their followers will suffer in the future for what they are doing now.

Does he mean they will suffer during this lifetime? That would be impractical, since they were living within a system that continued to support their practices. Therefore, Jesus could only be referring to a future lifetime.

Why are there consequences to our actions?

Jesus is indicating from his teachings that there are consequences to certain actions. Especially bad consequences for harming or misleading others. Why are there consequences?

We can look around us each day and see how in the physical world there serves up a reaction for every action. All of us suffer our particular situations for the activities we did in the past. Consider a person sitting in jail. They are in that hellish situation because of their past activities. Or a person who has lung cancer from smoking. Their smoking addiction caused their current suffering. Or a person who is beaten up by another person after starting a fight.

All of these indicate that the physical world is a place of consequence. Everything we do has a consequence here: Good or bad.

Does this mean that God put us here to suffer? Actually, God set up the physical world as a place of learning. This is a rehabilitation center, where we have the opportunity to grow.

Why? Those of us in this physical world are here because we turned away from our relationship with the Supreme Being. We no longer wanted to be His loving servant. We wanted to enjoy separately from God - rather than love and serve God (our natural constitution).

So we were sent down to this physical world and given virtual temporary physical bodies in order to 1) exercise our right to try to enjoy independently from God and try to pretend to be God, and 2) to learn.

And since these bodies are temporary virtual shells, the miseries they suffer are also virtual. We might compare this with an icon in a video game. The icon may get shot, but we are still sitting there handling the video game controller.

This virtual world has a purpose, however. We have been sent here to take on these virtual physical bodies because God wants us to learn once again how to love. He wants us to return to Him and His loving kingdom because He knows only this will make us happy.

In order to return, however, we must have a change of consciousness. We must be willing to give up the idea that we are going to enjoy ourselves independently of God. We must give up the idea that we are superior to others and the world revolves around us. We must learn what it means to love and care for someone other than ourselves.

Isn't this what the physical world constantly teaches us? That loving and caring for others brings happiness, while self-love and selfish behavior brings us misery? Is this a coincidence? No. It is intentional. God programmed the physical universe to teach us about love.

The ultimate source of pleasure for us is to love and serve the Supreme Being, because when we love and serve God, we become truly fulfilled. And when we love the Supreme Being we automatically love all of God's children. These are the real teachings of Jesus:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

"Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? ..." (Matthew 23:16-18)

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ ” (Matthew 23:16-18)

Why is Jesus making this comparison?

As indicated by “Woe to you, blind guides!" Jesus is criticizing the Jewish priests with regard to their teachings and guidance (or lack thereof) to others relating to the Supreme Being. Let's break down the meaning of Jesus' statement:

The word "bound" is derived from the Greek ὀφείλω (opheilō), which means to be in debt or owe something in return.

And the phrase "swear by" is translated from ὀμνύωto (omnyō), which means to 'promise, with an oath' according to Thayer's lexicon. So Jesus is talking about creating obligations by means of pledging one's allegiance.

When a person makes an oath or pledges their allegiance to something, they are creating a subtle debt. Let's say a person comes to us and says they pledge to us that they will fix our car if it breaks down. When our car breaks down, who will we call? We'll call the person who made that pledge. Why?

Because they made us a pledge. They created an obligation with their pledge.

Why was swearing by something important?

In modern society, we typically do not "swear by the temple." But some will often swear on Jesus' name or swear on the Supreme Being's Name. Today this has become a blind figure of speech, but the origins of these statements relate to making a pledge on the name of Jesus or the Name of the Supreme Being.

Today we also hear people swear "on my mother's grave" as they commit themselves to a statement. This is the kind of statement Jesus' is referring to, except during ancient times, people would not "swear on my mother's grave" - they would "swear on the temple" - which is to "swear by the temple."

Certainly we also know from Jesus' statement that people would also "swear by the gold in the temple" - as they make a promise or commitment.

So Jesus is saying that the Pharisees are teaching that there is no obligation if one swears by the temple, but there is one if someone swears by the gold in the temple.

The point Jesus is making is to "swear by the temple" should indicate the pledging of oneself to the worship of God. This is because Jesus sees the temple as the house meant to worship the Supreme Being. Jesus takes the temple seriously, which is why he became angry when he saw the temple grounds in Jerusalem being used as a marketplace, saying:
"It is written, 'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it 'a den of robbers.'" (Matthew 21:13)
The first part of Jesus' statement is being quoted from Isaiah:
"And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to Him, to love the Name of the LORD, and to be His servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—these I will bring to My holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." (Isaiah 56:6-7)
Jesus takes this statement by the Supreme Being - spoken through Isaiah - seriously. He sees the temple as the place where the Supreme Being is worshipped. The place where offerings are made to the Supreme Being.

What 'gold' is Jesus referring to?

With regard to the "gold" - is Jesus speaking literally about gold? Nope. The Greek word translated to "gold" is χρυσός (chrysos), which means "precious things made of gold, golden ornaments." In other words, Jesus is speaking of gold itself, he is speaking of those things that glitter: In other words, the materialistic elements of the temple.

Thus Jesus is condemning the notion that the swearing by the temple has little meaning, whereby swearing by the materialistic aspects of the temple - which include its sectarian qualities - is condoned by these ecclesiastical Jewish teachers. This is confirmed when Jesus says:

What does 'the temple that makes the gold sacred' mean?

Jesus is speaking of the personal nature of the Supreme Being. What makes the temple sacred is the presence of the Supreme Being. This makes His temple and the assets within it sacred. This is confirmed by Jesus' statement in Matthew 23:20:
"And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the One who dwells in it."
Jesus is speaking of the Supreme Being's personal presence in the temple. To ignore this while focusing on the trappings of the temple is to offend God.

We might compare this to a person who is introduced to someone and all he cares about is their status and job title and how much money he has. He doesn't care about the person themselves.

In the same way, most of us could care less about the personal nature of the Supreme Being. We are too busy trying to enjoy the world He created. We are too interested in getting ahead, and taking advantage of our situation.

This is Jesus' point regarding these ecclesiastical Jewish teachers: They are most concerned about the trappings of their positions in the temple - and not focused upon having a personal relationship with the Supreme Being. This is the purpose of the temple - to approach God and make offerings to Him - and try to re-establish our personal relationship with Him.

“Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? ...” (Matthew 23:16-22)

“You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the One who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the One who sits on it.” (Matthew 23:19-22)

What is 'the gift'?

Jesus is referring to an offering made to God. The Greek word δῶρον (dōron) refers to something given to someone else as an offering.

This is what devoted people did in ancient times when they approached an altar of God. They brought an offering and presented it to God at the altar. They were making an offering to God.

After all, why does a person give someone a gift? To express their care for the other person. To express their love. The ancient teachings of the scriptures referred to offerings as a facility by which to please Him:
"Bring the grain offering made of these things to the LORD; present it to the priest, who shall take it to the altar. He shall take out the memorial portion from the grain offering and burn it on the altar as a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD." (Lev. 2:8-9)
God doesn't need any grain or anything else - just as a woman doesn't need a little flower that a man may offer to her. An offering is given to express love. To please the other person.

In the same way, the original purpose of making an offering to the altar was to express one's care for God. The focus of an offering is to please the Supreme Being.

Did Jesus teach about making offerings to God?

By Jesus' statement, we understand that he also taught the importance of making offerings. He also instructed elsewhere:
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24)
“See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matt. 8:4)
"The gift Moses commanded" refers to making an offering to the Supreme Being. Reaching out to Him with a small gift. A token, but something that has meaning (food has meaning because it sustains the life of the body). A humble offering made with sincerity. This was an integral part of Moses' teachings, as evidenced in the Old Testament.

Jesus also made offerings when he supposedly 'gave thanks.' As was illustrated during the Last Supper, the Greek word translated to "gave thanks" would more appropriately be translated to making an offering to God.

What is the purpose of offering to God?

The Supreme Being owns everything. He doesn't need our stuff. But He appreciates offerings made with humility and sincerity. And since the Supreme Being's presence is not limited to the temple, we can make an offering from anywhere. We can pick a flower or fruit and make an offering - in the name of His loving representative Jesus - from where we stand - which will help bring us closer to the Supreme Being.

The Supreme Being is practically forgotten within these sectarian churches. While they focus upon Jesus as if he were God, they completely ignore the very Person Jesus was trying to teach his students to come to know and love. This is why Jesus stated:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:21-23)
This indicates that Jesus is not interested in people pledging his name - he is interested in his followers coming to know, love and serve ("does the will") the Supreme Being - whom Jesus is distinguishing from himself.

This Supreme Person Jesus is referring to is also spoken of specifically in the verse above:

What does Jesus mean by 'the One who sits on it'?

When Jesus refers to the temple he is not referring to a building. He is referring to a place where the Supreme Being is worshiped. It is a personal thing to Jesus.

And who is Jesus referring to as the "One" who "dwells in" the temple and "sits on" God's throne? Certainly, Jesus is referring to the Supreme Being.

By worshiping the things of this world, including our reputation, possessions, money, fame, power and position - we become beholden to those things. By desiring the things of the world, we become "bound by" the demands of the physical world.

This desire for material things comes from a place of self-centeredness and misidentification, because we are intending to make ourselves happy, and we are incorrectly identifying ourselves with these temporary physical bodies.

Jesus is telling them that while they are focused upon the trappings of their positions - their temples, their salaries, their titles, their authority and their prestige - they were forgetting the Supreme Being. And by becoming focused upon the material trappings of their positions with the temple, they had become enslaved by - and blinded by - the desires for those material trappings.

And due to the ignorance created by this enslavement, they were not able to teach the Truth, as Jesus was doing.

Those temple priests also became "bound" to those political councils that authorized them. They were bound to the responsibilities of their political positions.

Is the temple just a building?

It is important to note that the temple Jesus is referring to here (or church, mosque or another place of worship) is not a building, just as the altar being discussed is not some physical materials. The Temple housed the Altar, and the Altar was seen as the representation of God. It is a place where God is worshiped. It is thus inseparable from God.

Although God can be prayed to anywhere, and reached from where ever we are, an authorized Temple and Altar - one that has been approved by God and anointed by a representative of God - is a place where those who want to re-establish their relationship with God can put their heads to the ground and submit to Him, and offer gifts to Him.

These activities - offering homage and offering gifts - are the stuff of relationships. Why? Because by offering the Supreme Being gifts, we are able to re-establish our loving relationship with Him.

This is a universal law of relationships. If we like someone we barely know, and want to come to know them better and get closer to them. What do we do? We find some way of getting in front of them, where we can offer them some kind words, and offer them a gift. This is what people do, because this is the stuff of relationships.

Can we have a relationship with God?

We can also have a relationship with the Supreme Being. God is not a monolith or a vague cloud or booming voice. God is a person. He is the Supreme Person, and we can each have a personal relationship with Him.

Certainly, anyone can have a building built and put a symbol on it. This does not make the building a real Temple or Church. What makes it a real Temple is when a loving servant of God humbly requests God's presence to accept His loving servant's worship. On behalf of His loving servant, God will indeed come into that place, and there in that Place, others can connect with God in the spirit of the relationship between God and His loving servant.

A building constructed with lots of stained-glass windows, large hallways, golden symbols, and a big congregation area is not a real Temple if it is constructed for any other purpose other than to glorify God. If it is built to support the organizational objectives of a religious sect then the building will just be another building - not a Temple of God. It might be a pretty building, and that’s about it.

So what motivates God to authorize a location to become a Temple? What motivates Him to become present and accessible within a Temple?


God is attracted by those who out of love, desire to serve and please Him. Whenever such a person humbly asks the Supreme Being to be present within a location that was prepared for Him with reverence, God will come and be present. Why? Out of love. It is because of His loving relationship with His loving servant.

This is why the places where Moses, Abraham and other loving servants of God established as temples were so special to Jesus, as he states here.

In fact, where ever such a loving servant of God has exercised His relationship with God is a Holy Place. Why? Because God was personally present at that Place as He exchanged a relationship with that loving servant.

Buildings erected by those only interested in gaining respect, followers and authority - especially among those collecting salaries for their teaching positions - are not able to create such a Holy Place. Jesus has explained this previously:
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:15-18)
Sadly, some of the bad fruits that Jesus pointed out concerning the institutional temple officials are also seen today among institutions that claim to follow Jesus.

How can we recognize 'false prophets'?

• Teaching the Truth is never a paid professional position.

• Someone who teaches the Truth doesn’t otherwise personally profit from their teachings.

• Someone who teaches the Truth does not abuse their followers.

• Someone who teaches the Truth does not seek to gain followers.

• Someone who teaches the Truth does not seek to gain positions given by a council of people. Teaching the Truth is not politics.

• -Someone who teaches the Truth does not make up a new religion or speculate on the Truth. They speak from knowledge given to them.

• The Truth is always consistent with scripture, as applied to the current time and circumstance.

• Someone who teaches the Truth never teaches that they are God or that we are all God. Someone who teaches the Truth is a humble loving servant of God, someone who asks each of us to also become God’s humble loving servants.

• Someone who teaches the Truth also practices those teachings.

We can see by the above criteria that Jesus taught the Truth. His purpose was to help others, not profit from his position of authority.

Jesus' primary teaching was clear:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-40 and Deut. 6:5)

“You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:23-24)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:23-24)

What does 'strain out a gnat but swallow a camel' mean?

The word "strain" is taken from the Greek word τυφλός (typhlos), which means to "filter through" or "pour through a filter" or "strain out."

For example, if some water contained a gnat, the gnat could be removed by pouring the water through a mesh cloth or other type of filter.

Meanwhile, "swallow" comes from the Greek word καταπίνω (katapinō), which means to "to drink down, swallow down."

Obviously, a gnat is much smaller than a camel. So what does the gnat represent and what does the camel represent?

The topic relates to tolerance. During Jesus' times, people would strain water or other drinkables through filters before they would drink it. This was done to remove out the bugs and other impurities. So Jesus is speaking of them filtering out a small thing while they were willing to "swallow" a big giant thing like a camel.

So they were not tolerant about a small issue but didn't care about the bigger issue.

The gnat represents a tiny thing - a thing that is not very important. Jesus is speaking of the rituals they follow and the relative importance of following those rituals, compared to the larger importance - compared to the camel - of loving and serving the Supreme Being - and holding fast to Him.

The issue of filtering or swallowing relates to focus. Straining the gnat means they were focused upon the tiny things - the ceremonial rituals - while ignoring the main thrust of Moses' teachings - loving and serving the Supreme Being and others - represented in this analogy by not straining out the camel.

What are 'blind guides'?

The word "blind" comes from the Greek word τυφλός (typhlos), which can mean either physically blind or mentally blind. Jesus was not saying they were physically blind. Certainly, they weren't all without eyesight. He was saying that while they were supposedly teaching others and being an example to others, they were not seeing or teaching the Truth.

Jesus is saying that they were blind to the essential elements of devotion to God.

Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees and scribes because of their lack of compassion and mercy towards others, yet they demanded others strictly practice all the various rituals. He is describing the hypocrisy of their demands to rigidly follow rituals while missing the substance of the teachings of the Prophets.

The high priests and judges of the institutional temples followed many rituals, including tithing. Jesus is not condemning those rituals. Rather, he is stating that the focus should be on helping others to come to know and love the Supreme Being.

What is a 'tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin'?

This statement by Jesus means these institutional priests and Pharisees were giving tithings in the form of ten percent of their production of culinary herbs grown in their gardens.

An ancient practice, tithing is the donation of part of one's wealth towards the service of the Supreme Being. In the Old Testament this goes back as far as Abraham:
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. (Genesis 14:18-20)
We see here that Abraham accepted Melchizedek as his spiritual teacher (he blessed Abram) and then gave him a tenth of his possessions.

Jesus understood the purpose behind such a practice. As taught by Abraham and then Moses, the goal of these practices is to please the Supreme Being and come to know, love and serve Him. This was stated clearly by Moses:
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:5)

"Love the LORD your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always." (Deut. 11:1)

"So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul—" (Deut. 11:13)

"If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to Him and to hold fast to Him—" (Deut. 11:22)

"... because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today—to love the LORD your God and to walk always in obedience to Him—" (Deut. 19:9)

"For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then..." (Deut. 30:16)

"... and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the LORD is your life..." (Deut. 30:20)
So we find here that love of God was the foundation of Moses' instructions (inclusive of the Ten Commandments) to his followers. Loving the Supreme Being - holding fast to Him - which means taking shelter of Him - is the basis for following the other commandments Moses gave, some of which were being followed by the institutional priests and Pharisees.

What are 'the more important matters of the law'?

Jesus is commenting on the foundation of "the law" - translated from the Greek word νόμος (nomos), which means "anything established, anything received by usage, a custom, a law, a command."

Love for God is the foundation of law, as indicated by the Greek word πίστις (pistis) - being translated here to "faithfulness." The word means, according to the lexicon, "conviction of the truth of anything." In the context of Jesus' statement, he is referring to Moses' underlying instructions to love and serve the Supreme Being and "hold fast to Him."

The other components - "justice" and "mercy" relate to how the priests treated the followers of the institutional temples. They did not treat them with fairness, nor with compassion - the basis for the Greek words κρίσις (krisis) and ἔλεος (eleos).

In other words, they were not fair or compassionate. They unfairly punished those who did not follow all the rituals.

What does 'the latter, without neglecting the former' mean?

We see here that Jesus was not condemning the giving of tithings. The phrase, "without neglecting the former" refers to the tithings, while "the latter" refers being fair and compassionate to others, as well as holding fast to the Supreme Being.
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law of the Prophets ..." (Matthew 5:17-20)
In the same way these institutional teachers were ignoring this central component of Moses' teachings, today's sectarian institutions and their teachers miss the focus of Jesus' teachings - all the while remaining focused upon the pomp and circumstance of their respective positions and their various ritualistic ceremonies - which focus upon a self-interest for salvation. This lies contrary to the teaching of love for God that Moses and Jesus professed.

And just as the teachings of Moses were clear, Jesus' teachings were also very clear:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)

“First clean the inside of the cup and dish ...” (Matthew 23:25-26)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:25-26)

Why is Jesus talking about cleaning a cup and dish?

Jesus continues the analogy using the cup and dish. Again he uses the word "inside" - ἔσωθεν (esōthen) - referring to the soul or inner self.

By cleaning the "inside of the cup and dish" Jesus is referring to purifying one's consciousness. How can one's consciousness become purified?

By submitting oneself to the Supreme Being. Because the Supreme Being is all-purifying and merciful, by approaching Him with humility, our consciousness will become purified.

Jesus is speaking of substance versus perception. A person may strive to appear religious in order to impress others. But the substance of religious practice is our relationship with God.

Jesus' criticism was aimed at these institutional priests, but the issue is pertinent to each of us. Jesus' statement should help us look at ourselves, and consider who we accept as teachers.

This is a reference to physical appearances versus the status of the heart. A person may wear flowing robes and otherwise appear to be religious. But within their hearts, they may be only interested in themselves.

This self-centeredness is our disease, and why we are here in the physical world in the first place. This physical body allows us to exercise our self-centeredness with seeming independence.

The Supreme Being allows this because love requires freedom. He gave us the facility of the temporary physical world - full of the illusion of permanence and appearing to be a place of enjoyment - in order to allow us the freedom not to love and serve Him.

But we are not these physical bodies and this physical world is not our home. These physical bodies are temporary vehicles which will die within a few years and thence decompose. And everything we thought we owned - including our name, reputation, house, wealth and family - are lost at the time of death of this body.

In this verse, Jesus is metaphorically referring to the physical body as the outside of the cup and dish.

We are the spirit-persons residing within the physical body. This person leaves the body at the time of death and moves on. This spirit-person being referred to by Jesus with the word "inside" - translated from the Greek word ἔσωθεν (esōthen) - which literally means "from within" and "your soul" according to the lexicon. The "soul" is the spirit-person. We are each a soul.

The condition of this spirit-person - also metaphorically considered the condition of the heart - determines the destination after the death of the physical body. This condition is the state of our consciousness.

Why does Jesus call 'teachers of the law and Pharisees 'you hypocrites'?

Jesus is calling these institutional teachers "hypocrites" because their hearts did not reflect their shows of religiosity. The loving servant of God does not utilize their relationship with God for the purposes of fame, glory or wealth. The two are polar opposites.

The relationship between God and His loving servant is such that the loving servant seeks to glorify God, not themselves. God still may choose to glorify his loving servant - as he did with Jesus - but the loving servant does not seek that glory.

Ironically, Jesus' description of the Pharisees and the "teachers of the law" can also be applied to many of the sectarian institutions today that claim to follow Jesus.

Being appointed as a temple priest or Pharisee does not indicate a relationship with the Supreme Being. In the same way, going to seminary school and passing the examinations and being selected by councils has nothing to do with the heart of a priest, minister or reverend.

Appointments or seminary tuition payments tell us nothing about that person's relationship with God. As we saw in sexual abuse cases, a person could pass the seminary with flying colors and still be an enemy of Jesus and God.

Once seminary school is completed, appointments to positions such as priest, pastor, minister or reverend, bishop are often made using political processes. This requires candidates to impress councils of deacons and other institutional officials.

Furthermore, maintaining a position of priest, pastor, minister, preacher, or reverend requires continuing to please those councils and officials. They become obligated to those councils and officials that appointed them. And because they are paid salaries for their positions, they must please the councils in order to maintain their livelihood.

This has nothing to do with the work of pleasing God or representing God. The role of being God's loving servant is not displayed in a title. It is not evident from a resume. It is not evident from political recommendations.

Becoming God's servant is strictly something that occurs internally, between a person and the Supreme Being. This has been established by Jesus through his teachings and example.

This is consistent with all relationships. Let’s say we meet someone, and we make friends with them. We spend time with them, hanging out together and sharing intimate things about each other. We begin to trust each other. Would we then take advantage of that friendship in order to impress others or make some money? A true friend would not do this. A true friend would not try to take advantage of their friend in order to gain something.

It is no different in our relationship with the Supreme Being. If we utilize the beginning of a relationship with God - whether God gave us a glimpse of Himself or some understanding - for the purposes of our own success, fame or wealth - we would be doing the same thing: We'd be using God. We would be abusing our relationship with Him.

Why is Jesus so upset with them?

As we can see here, trying to take advantage of a position with God is extremely distasteful to Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is maintaining an intimate relationship with God. He is upset that these Sadducees and Pharisees (the priests, ministers, preachers, rabbis and reverends of those times) were using their positions with the temple for self-centered purposes.

We see from the Book of Matthew that Jesus was accepted into synagogues to teach: But he neither sought nor held an appointment as a rabbi, Pharisee or Sadducee by any council or assembly. Instead, Jesus became the disciple of John the Baptist, who was a student of the priest Zechariah, a devoted servant of God in the tradition of Melchizedek - who was Abraham's spiritual teacher.

Jesus also carried on this ancient tradition by teaching his own disciples and students, and then asked those disciples and students to each go out and teach others.

Thus we can see by Jesus' example that the authority to teach comes not from a political election by councils of men. Rather, it comes from becoming the sincere student and servant of a spiritual teacher who is themselves a student and servant of a spiritual teacher who is themselves a student and servant of a spiritual teacher, and so on. In this way, each student and teacher is a loving servant of the loving servant of God.

The sincere student of an ancient line of bonafide teachers carries not an appointment by that teacher because a sincere teacher authorizes every student they teach to carry on their teachings. Rather, it is God who ultimately empowers such a student. This empowerment comes in the form of a personal relationship with God, which is fostered by one's teacher. An example of this is Eli's fostering of his student Samuel's relationship with God. Just consider this excerpt from 1 Samuel:
The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli ...
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"
Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

(1 Samuel 3:1-10)

“You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside ...” (Matthew 23:27-28)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-28)

What are 'whitewashed tombs'?

A 'whitewashed tomb' is a tomb where the tombstone has been cleaned but there is is still a decomposing body underneath it.

The exterior may appear clean and pure, but the inside is rotten. Jesus is saying they are like whitewashed tombs because while they wore the robes, and acted to appear to others to be pious and religious, they were not interested in being God's servant or teaching others how to develop their relationship with God.

Their interest was their own authority and what they could gain from their institutional positions. This made them like the rotting bodies inside tombs.

Jesus is referring to the consciousness of the inner self as contrasting with one's external appearance and activities. The word "inside" comes from the Greek word ἔσωθεν (esōthen), which means "from within" and "your soul" according to the lexicon.

Jesus is referring to the soul - the person within this temporary physical body.

The phrase "full of dead men's bones and everything unclean" refers to their consciousness. Jesus is speaking of a consciousness of being self-centered and full of greed.

Why were they 'full of hypocrisy and wickedness'?

Pretending to be religious with robes and tassels is hypocritical if the person wearing them has not put those principles to practice. This was true in Jesus' time as well as it is true today.

Today we find that some who wear the robes and tassels and claim to follow Jesus are actually following the example of the Pharisees in that they honor the robes and titles more than serving God.

As a result, they have institutionalized the teachings of Jesus. While focusing on the interests of their organization and their positions within it, and the various rituals related to utilizing Jesus' murder for their salvation, they have missed the essence of Jesus' life and teachings: To love and serve the Supreme Being.

We can see this tendency among humankind among so many different sectarian institutions around the world. So many institutional teachers have focused their energies upon the politics and groupthink that prevails in that organization as they seek their positions of authority: All the while ignoring the core tenets of those who provide the namesake to their organizations.

These institutions may have been formed early on to carry on the teachings of their particular teacher, so there may be no fault there. And these may have involved some sincere students of those teachings. But as time has gone by, many have sought to utilize these organizations to gain their own prestige and power - just as the institutional priests and Pharisees referred to by Jesus.

Were they abusing their authority?

This is precisely what Jesus is accusing these institutional teachers of: They were abusing their authority by using the teachings of the prophets for their own purposes of prestige and authority.

Those who do this offend those teachers they pretend to represent. And once they begin to teach, they pass on this offensiveness to others. This breeds successive generations of those who not only misunderstand the teachings of the teacher(s) but offend them by using them to seek their own personal power and authority.

This has taken place among many sectarian organizations that claim to follow Jesus. Instead of focusing on Jesus' instructions to do God's will and learn to love God, they focus their teachings upon praying to Jesus for money and material things, and "bathing in the blood of Jesus" in order to be cleansed of sins.

Were these the teachings of Jesus? He gave so many lectures and sermons. Why did he never instruct those around him to pray to him for money or to get a great job? Why did he never tell his students that they can wait until he is crucified, and just be saved by staring at the cross and pledging their allegiance to him?

Jesus describes this issue clearly:
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will come to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' ” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Jesus is saying that regardless of what we proclaim to others or do in the name of Jesus, unless we are serving God, Jesus will still say: ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Jesus will send us away, because our focus has remained upon ourselves and our own interests. We aren't interested in what pleases God. We are focused on ourselves, and how to impress others with our religiosity.

Jesus' teachings told us to instead focus our hearts and lives upon God. This is why Jesus' primary teaching was:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37)

“You build tombs for the Prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous ...” (Matthew 23:29-33)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the Prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the Prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the Prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:29-33)

Why is Jesus criticizing this?

Jesus is pointing out that many of the Prophets and teachers were murdered or otherwise persecuted by the same institution that was criticizing Jesus - and would eventually try him.

According to Jesus' statement, these Prophets were murdered by the forefathers of some of those same institutionalists who were proud of their worship of these Prophets.

From this statement, we can see that Jesus is quite upset about this. Why was Jesus so upset? Why did Jesus say such terrible things about these institutional temple teachers and officials who were supposedly worshiping the same Prophets that Jesus followed and quoted?

Because they were offending these Prophets with their lives and their teachings. Jesus is upset because of his love for the Prophets, and because these teachers and Pharisees were supposedly representing the teachings of the Prophets, but they were actually taking advantage of their titles and positions, and becoming wealthy and powerful on the backs of their temple followers.

While Jesus recognizes that they outwardly did not condone the murder of Prophets by their forefathers, Jesus sees that they are continuing the tradition of their forefathers by condemning Jesus, which eventually led to the murder of Jesus' body.

Which Prophets were persecuted?

• Abel (killed by Cain)
• Isaiah (mortally cut with saw)
• Jeremiah (stoning)
• Ezekiel (martyred)
• Zechariah (martyred)
• Amos (killed with a staff)
• Uriah (beheaded)
• John the Baptist (beheaded)
• Jesus (crucified)
• Stephen (stoning)
• James (stoned)
• Antipas (burnt)
• Peter (crucified upside down)
• Andrew (crucified)
• Thomas (stabbed)
• Philip (martyred)
• Matthew (stabbed)
• Bartholomew (martyred)
• Matthais (burnt)

Why did they refuse to accept Jesus?

As is the case with many of the list of martyrs above, the Pharisees and chief priests didn't accept Jesus because they felt threatened by Jesus' teachings. Why were they threatened by Jesus' teachings even when Jesus strictly followed the teachings of the Prophets?

Because Jesus exposed the fact that they were not teaching the essence of the Prophets' teachings. Rather, they claimed to represent them while their teachings and activities contradicted the teachings of the Prophets.

We often see this in the physical world. In His mercy, God sends His loving servants to the earth in an effort to bring us home to Him. His representative teaches us to love and serve God, and shows how to do this with their life.

Yes, some follow sincerely. But some who occupy positions of power will feel threatened by those teachings because they know their teachings are not pure. So they will criticize and persecute those sincere messengers of God.

We can see this occurred not only in Jesus' life, but also in Jesus' teacher, John the Baptist's life. It also occurred among Jesus' disciples, including James and Peter. This also occurred among many of the Prophets as Jesus refers to in his statement.

Jesus is pointing out that this act is the most heinous act of all: To murder the body of one of God's messengers. Jesus is very upset that while these temple teachers may be descendants of those who have killed the Prophets, yet they are proud of their positions of power: This is the ultimate in hypocrisy, as Jesus indicates.

So we must ask: How did these institutional temple teachers and officials gain their positions of authority? We see from Jesus' remarks that they were not true followers of the Prophets.

How did they get their positions?

The Pharisees and chief priests of the temple gained their positions by appointment - through politics. By impressing the councils that appointed teachers amongst the institutional temple, these teachers gained their positions. They did not, as Jesus did with John the Baptist, submit themselves to God's representatives before them.

They did not commit their lives to the service of God without compensation, title or any pomp and circumstance as Jesus did, John did, and Jesus' disciples did. They were appointed by a council of men and embraced their paid positions together with their flowing robes and began to exert authority over their followers.

The true teachers such as Jesus, John the Baptist and all the Prophets before them did not gain authority through a council. Nor were they elected through a political process. God's true representative is empowered and chosen by God after having submitted to previous messengers of God.

Jesus illustrated this process by example as he took baptism (a ceremony representing becoming a disciple) from John, and then took students and disciples on himself. Jesus then sent his disciples off to teach, just as he had. These are not coincidences. This is how God's empowerment works: Connection with God is gained by pleasing His loving servant and establishing a loving relationship with God - not through a political process among councils.

And previous to Jesus' disciples, Jesus and John the Baptist, we find many other instances of this student-teacher relationship among the Prophets, including Samuel and Eli, David and Samuel, Solomon and David, Joshua and Moses, Abraham and Melchizedek and many others. All of these Prophets were first students who pleased and became enlightened by their teacher, and then were empowered by God (via a personal loving relationship with Him) to represent Him. None of them were elected by political councils.

Do they profit on the backs of followers?

Today we find amongst those who supposedly represent Jesus, the same ecclesiastical systems of gaining authority found amongst the institutional temple teachers and officials that Jesus is criticizing here. We find preachers, priests, ministers, reverends, popes, bishops and others all elected to their positions.

We find them paid for their services just as the Pharisees were paid. They drive around in their big cars (and pope-mobiles) and live in big houses, paid for by those who innocently attend their churches and give tithings.

In some cases, we find charismatic ministers, reverends and priests who earn millions of dollars every year from their ministries and indulge in many luxuries from salaries paid for by their ecclesiastical organizations that trick people to donate money with their prayer towers and prayer handkerchiefs. Like wolves, they prey on unfortunate people who believe that if the reverend prays for them, they will receive relief from their suffering.

And do they teach what Jesus taught? Do they teach love for God and doing God's will? No. They teach that we can pray to Jesus to gain wealth, health and a good job. They teach that Jesus can give us power and prestige. They teach that we can live it up as long as we come back to their church on Sunday and "be saved" by the depictions of the persecution of Jesus' body.

Is this what Jesus taught? Think again. The sad yet ludicrous thing is that the very same hypocrisy that Jesus was criticizing in this statement is now taking place in the name of Jesus.

Jesus never taught us to pray to him to get wealthy, or to get our leg fixed or get a great job. Jesus taught:
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21)
Jesus also taught, just as Moses taught:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'" (Mark 12:30)
This teaching is, according to Jesus, "The most important one," (Mark 12:29) and precisely what the prophet Moses also taught - illustrating how the pure spiritual teachings were passed down through this succession of spiritual teachers:
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:5)

“Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers ...” (Matthew 23:34-36)

“Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berakiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23:34-36)

What is the context of Jesus' statement?

The time and place, and who Jesus was speaking to is critical to the context and meaning of this statement by Jesus. To attempt to broadly interpret Jesus' statement outside of its context - as many have done - is to mislead.

Let's first consider who Jesus is speaking to: Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples. (Matt. 23:1) Among the crowds were institutional temple priests and Pharisees, some who had questioned Jesus. Jesus then proceeded to focus his discussion upon these high priests and Pharisees of the institutional temple of that time (see previous verses).

Who is Jesus going to send?

Jesus says he will be "sending you prophets and wise men and teachers." Who are these? These are his disciples:
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'" (Matthew 10:5-7)
But Jesus did not simply send twelve:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. (Luke 10:1)
And he instructed them to pass on his teachings:
"Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'" (Luke 10:9)
Jesus is explaining that he is sending out his followers to pass on his teachings to others. This is the ancient process of passing on God's message. The devoted follower learns from a spiritual teacher who was also a devoted follower of a spiritual teacher and so on. Each becomes committed to the teachings of their teacher, and establishes their own relationship with God. After such time, they may be empowered by God to teach to others.

Consider some of the "prophets and wise men and teachers" that Jesus sent - whom they also killed as Jesus predicted:

• Stephen, who was stoned to death
• James, who was stoned to death
• Antipas, who was burnt to death
• Peter, who was crucified upside down
• Andrew, who was crucified
• Thomas, who was stabbed
• Philip, who was killed
• Matthew, who was stabbed
• Bartholomew, who was killed
• Matthais, who was burnt to death

Jesus' teacher, John the Baptist, was also killed (beheaded) for his teachings. And of course, Jesus was also crucified for his teachings.

What about the coming war with the Romans?

Note also in Jesus' statement that he recognizes some of his followers will be tortured and killed. This did take place. Not only in the case of Peter - who was crucified upside down - but others as listed above and more.

In the decades following Jesus' passing came the Roman-Jewish wars. These lasted nearly a century. For decades, the entire society was in crisis. Romans were burning down Jewish settlements, and killing both Jews and Christians. This was a very dark time in human history. There was such turmoil, that Jewish people were trying to pretend to be Romans, and trying to gain kudos from other Romans by turning in other Jews - sometimes even their own family members.

During this time, as far as the Romans were concerned, there was little or no difference between those Judeans who were following the teachings of Jesus - considered a Jewish rabbi - and those who were not. They were all considered Jews to the Romans. Thus the Romans were killing all types of Jews, and the Jews were also turning on themselves. And those Roman Jews who worked for the Romans in their official posts were persecuting those Jews who were teaching and/or following the teachings of Jesus.

In Matt. 23:34-36 above, Jesus is foretelling this persecution of both his followers and the Jews in general. Notice his last sentence here says "all this will come upon this generation." By generation, he means those during the lives of those around him.

What does Jesus mean by 'generation'?

"Generation" here is being translated from the Greek word γενεά (genea) which indicates, from the Greek lexicon, "an age (i.e. the time ordinarily occupied be each successive generation), a space of 30 - 33 years," as well as "the several ranks of natural descent, the successive members of a genealogy." So the implication is that Jesus is foretelling of events that would take place in the coming decades, to those of that generation of Jews - making up the bulk of the crowd Jesus is speaking to.

Jesus is also speaking of previous messengers of God who were murdered. Abel and Zechariah were both loving servants of God. In the case of Abel, he was murdered by Cain. In the case of Zechariah, there is some controversy about "Zechariah son of Berekiah" and his being killed "between the temple and the altar."

The Infancy Gospel of James, a Gnostic text from the second century, appears to identify this Zechariah with John the Baptist's teacher, the priest, Zechariah, who was murdered by Herod's agents in a temple yard. However, this Zechariah was not the son of Berekiah, and there is no clarity that this Zechariah was murdered in such a way from scripture.

Some have speculated that Jesus was speaking of Zechariah son of Jehoiada from Chronicles 2, who was stoned in the courtyard "of the Lord's temple" for opposing idol worship.

But does it matter? We know at least two Zechariahs were murdered for their devotion to God. Why does it matter which one? Is two murders of God's devoted teachers not enough?

The bottom line is that Jesus is speaking of a culture and a society that has turned their backs on the Supreme Being. They were a self-serving society. The anger we find in Jesus' statements against these people was also found repeatedly in the Old Testament as God relayed His disappointment and upset with the Israelites.

Is this about love?

Those Prophets who came to teach the Israelites about God were God's messengers. They were also lovingly devoted to God. But those who were focused upon their own power and authority became threatened by the teachings of the various Prophets.

Just imagine how upset you would be if you sent someone to help a group of people and they murdered the person you sent.

Jesus also relays this mood within his parable of the wedding banquet:
"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' But they paid no attention and went off - one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.'" (Matt 22:2-9)
There is more to this parable, but the meaning of this section is critical to the position that God has been in with regard to those loving servants that He has consistently sent to the earth to bring us back to Him.

Consider first what kind of anger this is. This is not the kind of anger we experience when we become upset at someone who doesn't do what we want them to do. This is anger that is related to loving someone.

First, God enjoys a loving relationship with those who He has sent to bring us home. To see His loving servants suffer makes Him angry due to His love for them.

Second, God - also out of love for us - wants us to regain the loving relationships we shared with Him prior to the point we rejected Him and we fell into the physical universe and took on these temporary physical bodies.

God, out of His love, is trying to bring us back to Him by sending His loving servants to canvas us. So God also becomes sad and angry - again out of love - when we reject those attempts and decide to continue on our self-centered ways.

This kind of anger would compare to a parent becoming angry at their child after the child runs off and steals candy form a store. They are not angry about the candy or the store. They are angry because they know that stealing is not good for the child. A criminal life is an awful life, and the parent does not want to see their child suffer like this. So their anger is out of love for the child.

In the same way, God becomes angry out of love. While many might doubt that God is a loving God because He gets angry, the type of anger that God has - and Jesus shows here as well - is actually love. Their anger is out of love for us.

Is this a permanent situation for us?

These physical bodies are not our true identity. If our body gets hurt or dies, we don't die. Just as a driver gets in a car and drives it, the living spiritual individual gets into a physical body and drives it for 50-100 years.

The body then falls apart or gets killed and the spiritual individual leaves the body. Therefore, the spiritual individual is separate from the physical body. Just as the driver can step out of the car when the car breaks down, the spiritual individual leaves the body at the time of death.

Therefore, we must remember that those events that take place to our bodies do not happen to us. Just as our game avatar or icon in a computer game can get punched and blown up without affecting the person sitting at the computer operating the controls, the physical body can undergo all sorts of calamities without touching the spiritual individual.

The spiritual individual will remain untouched - outside of the lessons the physical events convey. But even this is similar to the virtual computer game. The computer operator might not be affected by his avatar getting blown up, but he will learn lessons from the game. He'll come to understand why the avatar got blown up and any other lessons the game was designed to teach us.

We could also compare this to parental discipline. The child might be really upset that she got sent to her room, but the parent knows this is a passing thing. The main thing the parent is concerned about is the long-term education of the child.

In the same way, God set this physical world up to teach us. The primary lessons being taught in the physical world relate to love. They relate to how we treat others and how we care about others. When we treat others badly, we get treated badly. Why? Because God designed the physical world to steer us towards our natural position - of loving and caring about others. We get treated badly after we treat others badly so that we will understand how it feels.

Understanding how it feels to be someone else is also called empathy. Once we develop empathy, we can begin to care for others.

Learning to care for others is part of the journey towards re-developing our innate love for the Supreme Being. And once we are re-introduced to God by one who already loves Him, we can come to know God and learn to love God. Then we can truly love others. This is why the Supreme Being periodically sends His loving servants to teach us. This is also why Jesus said:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

“O Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you ..." (Matthew 23:37-38)

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. (Matthew 23:37-38)

What does Jesus' analogy mean?

This statement and analogy by Jesus may seem a little complex, but it is actually very simple if we understand the relationship between Jesus, God and the people of Jerusalem Jesus was addressing.

The word "prophets" in this verse is taken from the Greek word προφήτης. While this word has been used in the Greek society to describe "an interpreter of oracles or of other hidden things," the use of the word by Jesus (and coming from his Aramaic) is better translated as (according to the Greek lexicon) "one who, moved by the Spirit of God and hence His organ or spokesman, solemnly declares to men what he has received by inspiration, especially concerning future events, and in particular such as relate to the cause and kingdom of God and to human salvation."

In other words, the "Prophets," which include Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Moses, Joshua, Eli, Samuel, David, Solomon, Job, Jeremiah, Noah, John the Baptist and others, were God's representatives. They spoke on behalf of God. They were surrendered to God, and were in love with God. They thus worked on God's behalf as His humble servants. Jesus and some of his disciples are also included in this group.

Here is a list of Prophets who were killed.

The Greek word προφήτης, translated to "prophets" here, also means "messiah."

What does 'your house is left to you desolate' mean?

Why does Jesus state this? Why is Jerusalem's "house" "desolate"?

"House" here is representing their hearts. Their hearts are desolate, because those Jews who have heard (and were even teaching) the words of these prophets had abandoned their meaning. What is left is emptiness.

Despite their positions as appointed teachers of the institutional temples, they were not interested in loving or serving God. Jesus thus describes their institution and their teachings as being desolate - empty.

This is the state of anyone who abandons our innate relationship with the Supreme Being: Empty. Desolate.

Were the Prophets also Messiahs?

According to the Temple tradition, the Prophets were also considered Messiahs. But they were also awaiting a final prophet - which they called the Messiah - just as the Prophets before were.

How could this be? Isn't Jesus the only Messiah? Actually, the word "messiah" and "prophet" are synonyms according to the Greek lexicon. And in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ (mashiyach) also can be translated to "messiah," as well as "anointed one." Throughout the books of the Old Testament, it describes the "anointed" as God's priests and representatives. For example:
Those were the names of Aaron's sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests. (Numbers 3:3)
David also referred to himself a number of times as having been anointed. He also reflected upon God's statement about himself being anointed by God:
"I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him." (Psalm 89:20)
Because "messiah," "anointed one" and "prophets" can be connected as synonyms in the scriptures, we can conclude that each of God's loving servants and representatives such as David, Samuel, Eli, Moses, Abraham, Joshua, Noah, Job, Jonah, Ezekiel, Zachariah, John the Baptist, Jesus and some of Jesus' disciples and others, were all representatives of God - "those sent to you" as Jesus says above - and thus each one can be considered a "messiah."

Meanwhile, sectarian institutions - beginning with the politically-assembled Council of Nicaea of 325 AD organized by Roman Emperor Constantine to dictate the doctrine of Christianity - have maintained that Jesus is the only Messiah.

Yet the scriptures clearly utilize two words translated to "messiah" (מָשִׁיחַ in Hebrew and προφήτης in Greek). Within their context, both were used to describe God's representatives such as Moses, David and so on.

None of their uses in the scripture indicate or single out one particular person as the only Messiah ever. Often they will be used in the singular, but this is referring to "messiah" or "prophet" as a role.

For example, we could use the word "captain" to address a single person who was the captain of a ship (e.g., "Yes sir, captain."). But we could also use the word "captain" to describe the role of captain (e.g., "A captain's duty is to steer the ship"). We could also use the word captain to refer to many people who occupied the position (e.g., "Every captain in the fleet showed great valor.")

Was this indoctrination or brainwashing?

An institutional stranglehold took hold of the teachings of Jesus. This led to the indoctrination of millions of people for centuries resulting from the stranglehold of the Roman Catholic Church.

The need for the Roman government to control all of Europe and the regions around the Mediterranean Sea and North Africa depended upon them gaining complete control over the religions of the region - the most prominent in the beginning of the Fourth Century being Christianity.

This realization came to the Roman Emperor Constantine. So even though the Romans had persecuted Christians for centuries, Constantine realized that this did not prevent the religion from growing. It was to be reconciled with, and as a means to control the vast and growing Roman Empire.

So Constantine created a commission of powerful teachers from around Europe, called the Council or Synods of Nicene. He also pushed them to come up with a single edict - called the Nicene Creed - to enable solidarity among the regions, allowing one single church - the Roman Catholic Church - to gain control over the Christian religion - which lasted more than 1,000 years.

This Creed - even though some of the teachers vehemently disagreed with - made Jesus the only Messiah, and relegated all the other messiahs previous to Jesus to the position of "prophets" - with their central purpose to foretell Jesus' coming.

Constantine also ordered that scribes were to be employed to translate a selected group of scrolls - the rest were burned - into the first Latin Bible. The original scrolls were mostly in Greek and Hebrew, and they were confiscated and translated to Latin. Once produced, the new Latin Bibles could only be read by priests and the common people were forbidden to have in their possession any other scripture.

Furthermore, this Latin translation was to mirror the Nicene Creed, and became the official Canon of the Bible for over a thousand years.

This politically corrupted interpretation of Jesus' teachings allowed the Roman Catholic Church to control the people. Anyone who interpreted the scriptures differently or taught anything different was burned at the stake, put in prison and otherwise tortured and silenced.

Did this strategy work?

The Roman government, and then the Roman government's proxy, the Roman Catholic Church, dominated Europe and its governments, for well over ten centuries - until the 1500s, when Henry VIII separated from the Roman Catholic Church - because their teachings and politics were strangling his ability to rule England - and created the Church of England.

By this period - when the Bible was finally translated into English - the first in 1380 by John Wycliffe, persecuted for this along with colleagues - the Nicene Creed interpretation was so cemented into the Christian teachings that it could not be removed. So the early English versions of the Bible were also consistent with the Nicene Creed - and every translation that followed has accepted the Creed as the underlying foundation.

Yes, even the Church of England and the movement of Martin Luther and others that created the few alternatives to Roman Catholic domination over Christianity still kept to the tenets of the Nicene Creed. After over a thousand years of control over the interpretations of the Christian scriptures, every other possible interpretation was thoroughly squelched by the powerful Roman Catholic Church.

Therefore, the interpretation that Jesus was the only messiah was firmly cemented into Christian thinking. Any other interpretation would be - and still is by practically every ecclesiastical Christian institution - considered blasphemy.

Yet if one simply reads the scriptures and examines the Greek and Hebrew they are taken from, it is quite simple to discover that the Old and New Testaments describe the "prophets" as all being "messiahs." Yes, Jesus did accept that he was Messiah. But he used this term in third-person, indicating it to be a role rather than one person throughout history - a role related to representing the Supreme Being:
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "God's Messiah." Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. (Luke 9:20-21)

"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me." (John 6:38)

“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)
These statements clearly indicate that the role of Messiah related to Jesus being God's representative. Jesus was sent by God - and his teachings were given to him by God.

Does "Messiah" also mean savior?

The Prophets could clearly save their students and followers because they were introducing them to God and giving them God's teachings. They were showing them how to resume their loving relationship with God. This is what saves people. This teaching is also the common thread amongst all of God's representatives, or Messiahs. Consider, for example, the most important commandment according to Moses:
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:4)
Now consider Jesus' most important instruction:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)>
Consider Joshua's (Moses' student) instruction to his followers after Moses' passing:
"But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul." (Joshua 22:5)
Consider Hosea's instruction:
"But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always." (Hosea 12:6)
Consider Joel's instruction:
"Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity." (Joel 2:13)
Consider David's statement:
"My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge." (Psalm 62:7)
And David's teaching to Solomon:
"And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts." (1Chron. 28:9)
Consider the instruction of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes:`
"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Revere [mistranslated to "fear"] God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man." (Eccl 12:13)
And Samuel:
"If you revere [mistranslated to "fear"] the LORD and serve and obey Him and do not rebel against His commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God - good!" (1Samuel 12:14)
And Job:
"How great is God - beyond our understanding!" (Job 36:26)
And Proverbs:
"So that your trust may be in the LORD, I teach you today, even you." (Proverbs 22:18-20)
These and so many other verses among the prophets confirm a consistent communication from all of the prophets - all consistent with Jesus' teachings: To give our lives to the Supreme Being, come to love Him and take shelter of Him.