This article presents the author's views which are not necessarily those of the Grand Encampment or any person representing the Grand Encampment.
by Sir Knight Jeffrey L. Kuntz, Sr. Warden, 32°
What? Wait a minute! Jesus a Freemason?
To make such an assertion would make the jaws of even many a Masonic Brother drop, not to mention those of non-Masons, especially, perhaps, Christian clergymen.
Freemasonry in America, as we know it today, basically originated in England in 1717 and is believed by many Masonic historians to be descended from the builders' guilds of operative masons in Europe in the Middle Ages, whose members built the great cathedrals of that time. It would, therefore, be rather surprising to hear anyone claim that Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, was a member of our fraternity.
However, let us take a look even much further back in history. Many Masonic historians agree that Freemasonry has roots going back as far as Old Testament times. In fact, as all good Masons know, the teachings of our great order are-in part, at leastbased on the building of King Solomon's Temple and the rebuilding of the Temple after the exile. Some believe that these teachings go back to the mystery schools of the ancient Egyptians and other groups that have served as channels of esoteric knowledge.
Those rather misguided individuals who are opposed to Freemasonry, whether they be certain clergy, or whoever, would be surprised to be informed that the fraternity is largely structured on events in the Bible, and that both York Rite and Scottish Rite Masonry are based on passages in the Old Testament in the "lower'' or earlier degrees, beginning with the book of Genesis, and are based on events in the New Testament in some of the "higher'' or later degrees.
There are certain passages in both the Old and New Testaments that should draw the attention of any alert York Rite Mason. Psalm 118 (verse 22) in the King James version of the Bible states: ''The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner." Jesus referred to this verse when reciting the parable of the tenant in the vineyard in Matthew 21: 33-45.
The apostle Paul in the second chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians refers directly to Christ as being the cornerstone. Paul was writing to the Gentiles there assuring them that they, too, were now built upon the foundation - that is, the spiritual foundation - laid by the prophets and apostles, which is really what Solomon's Temple and the rebuilding of the second temple represent, being rich in symbolism.
It is interesting, too, to note that the plumb line is mentioned in the book of the prophet Amos in chapter 7, verses 7 and 8. In the fourth chapter of Zechariah, Zerubbabel is described as holding the plummet (plumb line) in his hand as God promises Israel that the temple will be rebuilt.
Coming back to the New Testament, then, in the second chapter of Matthew, we read in the Christmas story about the "wise men from the east." Does this necessarily mean they came from the direction of the east? In the Bible, certain words, such as proper names, etc., mean something. In Masonry, we know, since the sun rises in the east, that (verse 5), Paul was called a "ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes."
Another interesting form of the name is Nazarite. This goes back to the sixth chapter of the book of Numbers. Nazarites were those of a group of Israelites who showed a special devotion to God by taking certain vows, one of which was to never shave or cut their hair. Sampson was a Nazarite, as written in the book of Judges.
During the last several centuries before the birth of Christ to about the year 250 A.D., there existed another the direction of the east is symbolic of light and enlightenment. The Magi were likely highly enlightened mystics and possibly astrologers.
Another rather curious matter dealing with the meanings of names is the fact that Jesus was called a Nazarene, and that as a boy He lived in a city called Nazareth. Both "Nazarene" and "Nazareth" mean "separated." It is interesting to find that a city called Nazareth is not mentioned anywhere in either the Old Testament or in any Judaic literature. There are historians who claim that a town by that name did not exist in Galilee at that time and that the name was indicative of Jesus being a member of a secret sect or order that existed in Northern Palestine for centuries. Quite interestingly, also, in the 24th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles very important order or sect called the Essenes, with which Freemasons should be somewhat familiar. They were the possessors of the Dead Sea Scrolls that were discovered in the late 1940s in caves near the Qumran community along the northwest corner of that body of water.
Certain passages of some of those scrolls give indications of what some Biblical scholars and occultists had thought even before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls-that Jesus and also John the Baptist were Essenes. Some of the parables Jesus used are very similar to those in the scrolls. The teachings and writing style of the Gospel of John are similar to certain scrolls, as are some other New Testament books.
The question would, naturally, occur to some: Why did Jesus never speak of the Essenes, or why are they not even mentioned in the Bible? In all likelihood, those who were taken into the order were very strictly bound to a vow of secrecy. Could it be, however, that the Essenes and Nazarenes were actually one in the same?
There is no doubt in the minds of some students of Christian mysticism that Jesus was, indeed, a member of the order of the Essenes and that that is where He spent most, if not all, of His time from the time He was a teenager to age thirty, preparing for His very special ministry, which was prophesied centuries before. To say that the one who was to become the great Messiah was a worker in His father's carpenter shop for fifteen years or so is ridiculous. It seems like it would have been a terrible waste of His time, does it not?
There is a very curious story about Jesus as a young boy in the apocryphal book known as the First Gospel of the Infancy of Christ. Joseph took Jesus to the school master Zaccheus to learn His Hebrew letters. As the teacher began to instruct Jesus to name the Hebrew characters, the boy soon turned the tables on Zaccheus by asking him the meaning of "Aleph," the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. As the master was about to whip Jesus, the boy preceded to explain the meaning of each part of each Hebrew letter and why the letters were in a certain order. Freemasons who have received certain degrees should know that each of the Hebrew letters has certain import. After Jesus finished the alphabet, the master was so astonished that he said, "I believe this boy was born before Noah," and to Mary he said, "Your son has no need of any learning." In a following passage in the Infancy Gospel is a story which is supposed to be an elaboration of the narrative in the second chapter of Luke's Gospel about the twelve-year old Jesus in the temple discussing higher learning with the Jewish teachers. The Infancy passage states that the young Jesus explained such things to them as, ''the mysteries which are contained in the books of the prophets; things which the mind of no creature could reach." They were amazed at His knowledge of such fields of learning as astronomy, natural philosophy, and the study of metaphysics, which is partly what Freemasonry is actually about.
Another interesting passage found in the final chapter of this apocryphal book states, "Now from this time, Jesus began to conceal his miracles and secret works, and he gave himself to the study of the law, until he arrived at the end of his thirtieth year." The passage then goes directly into Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River. Perhaps, this is one of the stronger clues to His association with Essene community.
Many other incidents written in this apocryphal gospel concerning Jesus' early years seem even more bizarre, which is one reason this was one of the many apocryphal works that did not make the Biblical canon. This certainly does not necessarily mean there are not worthy messages in these noncanonical writings, especially when they tie in or even shed light on those of the Biblical canon.
Sir Knight Jeffrey Kuntz is Sr. Warden of Baldwin Commandery No. 22, Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He resides at: 179 OCR, A15, Montoursville, PA 17754