Harpur, Tom. Water Into Wine. An empowering vision of the Gospels. Thomas Allen Publishers.
This is one of the books I selected from the shelf in our public library. I admit it was the title that motivated me. (I judged it by its cover!) Part way through the book I realized I had read this author before. In fact I purchased the book- “The Spirituality of Wine”. This book is quite different. I finished the book as an intellectual discipline, not because I was ‘into it’. To Tom there is no such a thing as a miracle. Hence all miracles in scripture are considered to be myths or allegories. He comes at spiritual truth in the same way as John Spong does. Like Spong, he grew up in an evangelical environment but he was able to ‘escape’ from that untenable position through education (self and academic). His ‘discovery’ that all humans are the Incarnation of Christ does not strike me with same enthusiasm that it did him. To me the value of reading the book was for information of what is actually out there.
“The mythic way is the genuine path towards the goal of a renewal of faith in our time.” (7) Sacred texts in Hellenistic culture were understood as having “both an exoteric and an esoteric meaning. The exoteric sense, the literal, was for beginners, those not yet ready to comprehend the real message. The true, or esoteric, meaning lay within or beyond the text itself.” (7)
“The chief value of a miracle is not that it happened, but the truth allegorically symbolized therewith.” Origen. “The entire Jesus Story (that is all it is) is a mystical drama with a whole range of symbols meant to relate us to the evolution of our innermost selves- our innate divinity.” (86)
Miracles cannot be taken literally. They have value as “exoteric imagery”. (118) A chapter is devoted to the proper interpretation of parables. The Palm Sunday story is just another allegory.
The author declares his personal endorsement and commitment to a “mythological and allegorical interpretation” (212) of scripture. He strongly rejects the historical and literal approach to miraculous events. Miraculous events, e.g. the parting of the Red Sea, must be viewed as “metaphor or symbolism”. (213)
Tom subscribes to a mythical version of “Christ within us”. (222) Paul declares; “This is a mystery: Christ in you, the hope of glory”. Tom interprets this statement as; “Each person was (is) called and challenged to recognize the reality of the Incarnation (of Christ) in his or her own life”. (223)