The Bible's Deeper Meaning
by Julian Duckworth
It may surprise you to hear that the Bible has a deeper meaning in the
words it uses and the stories it tells. This deeper meaning does not predict
the future by some mysterious code; it is about you as you are on the inside.
Once you see this, the Bible becomes an extraordinary tool for personal
discovery, something very different from the Bible you may have struggled
with and given up on. Learning about this deeper and more spiritual meaning
may reawaken your interest. If you have never been interested in God or
religion, or feel turned off by them, you may appreciate a chance to look
again in the light of this new way of seeing the Bible.
Here is a simple example for you. Many battles are mentioned in the
Bible. We have battles inside us, conflicts between our selfishness and
our desire to love other people. The Bible says that the people always
won their battles when they obeyed God. 'God' means the highest truth we
can know. When we choose to go with this truth instead of our ego, we will
our battle. The strategies for success are there in the details of each
Biblical battle plan.
People who study dreams tell us that everything in the dream is about
something inside us. If you dream about your dog, it is not really your
dog but something dog-like; devotion perhaps. The Bible works in the same
way. Whenever it mentions a tree, it is talking about a noble idea that
is growing in your mind, deeply rooted, reaching higher, branching, and
bearing fruit. Little wonder that the Garden of Eden, the symbolic first
"place", had the Tree of Life at its centre. This is a graphic picture
of the human mind, of consciousness, as it is meant to be.
single thing in the Bible has its own rich symbolic meaning, which helps
us to understand our spiritual life. 'Mountains' stand for higher levels
of awareness. 'Wells of water' describe our capacity to draw up or draw
on true ideas from deep in our mind, to have access to truth that refreshes
and cleanses us, as water does. Coins, those small bright shiny objects
that are valuable and can be invested, stand for insights in our mind that
can be put to good use, and earn interest because they have real worth.
Notice how the deeper meaning is always related to the qualities or
use of the object. This is the link between physical and spiritual levels,
between things 'out-there' and 'in-here'. Once you see this, you can explore
the symbolism yourself. Try this one: the Bible often mentions pearls,
and finding the pearl of great price. Think of the many qualities of pearls,
including how they are formed. Ask yourself, what is it within me that
is like a pearl? How did it form? What gives it its value?
A good technique is to read a verse in the Bible and after every noun
add the words in me". So for example you may have 'the king-in-me', 'the
rock-in-me', 'the poverty-in-me', and yes, even 'the God-in-me'. This method
may seem strange at first but it will help you to see that, for example,
there is something king-like in you, some ruling principle which guides
your thinking: hopefully it is a good king and not a tyrant.
Going further and deeper
Looking at things one-by-one helps us to work deeply with the Bible,
but we will get even more from looking in this way at a whole story. Let's
look at several Biblical stories to see how they describe situations inside
us. Here is a simple example, one that perhaps revolutionises our usual
understanding of the words said.
Jesus said, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
Our first idea here could be that Jesus is asking us to go and 'catch'
people for God. But think about fishing: you bring a fish up to the surface
from out of the depths. To go fishing is to bring something living and
useful to the surface, into view, to help someone see their value and that
what they have deep within them is wonderful and good. This is something
inside them inside us all - that can often stay unknown. What a different
and deeper meaning to these words of Jesus! This is now a truth that unites
all religions, not divides them.
The Story of David and Goliath
This story of a boy and a giant describes how conversations often go
on inside our mind. David is young, with no armour, and trustful of God
(that highest truth), and ready to fight Goliath who is huge, well-armed,
and so strong that the whole camp of Israel trembles. Every morning Goliath
comes forward from the Philistine camp and taunts them. David gets ready
to fight. He selects five pebbles from a stream. The stream is the flow
of experiences in life; the five round stones are a handful of solid truths
that have become part of you over the years, having been shaped and rounded
by the life through which God has led you.
David and Goliath meet in a one-to-one confrontation in the valley,
away from the two armies on the hills. Our struggles are no different:
they pit a single truth against one demanding wish that insists we must
have our own way. This is a battle fought in us daily. David slings only
one stone, his first sure-fire truth, and Goliath falls. Whenever you act
on what you know is true, you easily slay the seemingly invincible argument
that urges us to be selfish.
Story of Creation
God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. This is the
opening chapter of the whole Bible. It is an outline of our spiritual journey,
by stages, from chaos to humanity, and acts as a preface for the whole
Let's look at what this means. Before we understand anything true, our
mind is chaotic and without direction. God (that highest truth) commands
there to be light. At this point, there is only light and dark, a first
essential distinction for us. We now begin to see a focus, an alternative
way, some options.
On the second day, God commands waters above and below to divide. In
fact, separations happen on each of the first three days, before life begins.
The two waters are our discovery that there are two levels to our life:
a higher spiritual level of love and purpose, and a level of use and activity
that serves the higher one.
On the third day dry ground emerges. A solid base that we can depend
on now forms in our mind. Our spiritual life can now begin to show itself
in the very first plants, ideas growing in our mind that begin to take
On the fourth day the light that was general is now identified as we
look up and see the source of light, of truth. The sun in the sky is God,
that highest truth which is the source of all life and activity. There
is also the moon, which reflects sunlight at times of night in our mind
when we cannot otherwise see, and need to be reminded. On the fifth and
sixth days of creation living creatures appear: fish and birds in sea and
skies, then animals that roam the earth. These symbolise the fact that
we are created as free spirits with independent thoughts and feelings that
motivate and fill us. Now it can be said: Let us make human beings in our
image and likeness. Being human means using our freewill and our rationality,
knowing it comes from the highest source, from God who is truth.
Each 'day' is a distinct stage in the process of becoming a spiritual
person. This is a creation story of how we are re-created.
Water Turned into Wine
Here is a third example of a deeper meaning to a Bible story. This is
a story about Jesus in the world, a world "peopled" by many different needs
The story is set at a wedding. We can immediately ask what this wedding
is in us? What in us is to be joined together? Well, it is our sense of
goodness to the truth that we know. Our wish to do good is to be married
to our understanding of what love means.
The wedding feast runs out of wine. "Wine" stands for the truth when
it invigorates us. But this can run dry. How can it be restored? Jesus
commanded them to fill six empty water pots to the brim with water. When
they draw it out it becomes wine. Here is the symbolism. Our commitment
to life needs to be complete, up to the brim. When we have this total commitment
and then help others (the drawing out), the ordinary water miraculously
Not just any wine but the very best! It is the wine that everybody expects
will be served before the inferior wine, not last of all when no one can
tell the difference. Our idea of 'best wine' continually changes as we
discover that each stage in life is better than the one before it. Each
time it happens it seems like a miracle.
Some Final Thoughts
This outline aims to introduce a deeper more personal level of meaning
to the Bible, a book that for many people is synonymous with religion,
God, and holiness. We hope this deeper meaning now begins to shine through
what is often confusing on the surface. Deeper meanings don't replace the
beauty and power of Bible stories, they infill and transform them.
There is one more meaning for us to look at. The Bible often gives the
disturbing idea of an angry God, full of revenge and destruction. For many
people this is understandably a terrible idea and they may never read another
Can God really be like that? No, God cannot be like that at all. His
nature is all-loving. He is unable to harm anyone. The source of life seeks
our eternal happiness. We are created to experience deep joy, peace and
fulfilment. But whatever stands in the way of these blessings opposes them.
Divine anger, or the zeal of all that is true, is never once directed towards
people but rains down on each and all things that come between us and the
goal for us.
If we truly want it, any negative state in us will feel this wrath and
be destroyed. Only then will we be able to experience the inner joy and
peace for which we have been created.
From a leaflet produced in Australia by the Sydney New Church (Swedenborgian),
and reprinted in
OUTLOOK (ISSN 0969-1049 INCORPORATING
THE SWEDENBORG MOVEMENT NEWSLETTER)
For more extensive details of bible meanings of specific passages
and parables, see the web site