A Rebirth of Christianity

A Rebirth of Christianity

By Alvin Boyd Kuhn
Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 2005, Paperback, xiii + 267 pages.

Alvin Boyd Kuhn, who died in 1970-seven years before the initial publication of A Rebirth of Christianity would be pleased to note the prescient nature of his book's title. Since then there has been a dramatic increase in biblical scholarship delving into the allegorical and mystical aspects of Christian scriptures with such texts as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel According to Mary Magdalene.

"The modern world is only now beginning to recognize a fact that is bound to have profound effects upon Christianity: the fact that the ancient and revered scriptures of antiquity are not history, but rather spiritual truth dramatized and illustrated by some history," Kuhn writes. The early church fathers -Clement, Origen, Augustine-were well acquainted with the allegorical mode of writing, but that Christianity soon took a crucial "misdirection" when biblical exegesis became burdened by "the shackles of a literal and historical dogmatism."

This loss of the ability to "interpret the divine allegories committed the succeeding ages to a mental darkness" that has had profound consequences. Kuhn suggests that Christianity may now be on the verge of a reawakening, pointing to the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gospel of Thomas, and the Second Vatican Council's legitimizing of allegorical interpretation. "The task now confronting modern intelligence is to throw off the blinders of a shallow realism that have obscured mystical vision and to awaken the long-stifled faculties of insight into noumenal verities."

An accomplished student of Egyptian hieroglyphics, Kuhn identifies themes from the Gospels, which can be traced back to the literature of Palestine, Persia, or Egypt. Many of the rites and symbols of the Christianity can be found in earlier religions. Under modern scholarship, of which Kuhn cites numerous examples, "the edifice of historical interpretation is fast crumbling." But if the Christian can no longer read the Bible as pure history, what is left? "What is lost as history will come back with immeasurable gain as spiritual allegory," he assures us.

Whether the esoteric approach to Christianity will ultimately gain wider acceptance within the Christian world or remain the province of a few Gnostic scholars remains to be seen. Many are wedded to the literal approach. Lest we become overly optimistic, the words of the Roman Emperor Julian bear repeating: "There is no wild beast like an angry theologian."


March/April 2006