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More Than Meets the Eye: The New Testament Gospels and the Writing of Part IV of The Urantia Book

Merritt Horn is a Trustee and Instructor for UrantiaUniversity. In his presentation at the Urantia Book Fellowship's International Conference 2023, Merritt documents the parallels between Part IV of The Urantia Book and the gospels in the King James version of the Bible. 

In his IC23 workshop titled "More Than Meets the Eye: The New Testament Gospels and the Writing of Part IV," Merritt documents how the revelators have modernized and used the very language of the King James version.

The revelators didn’t create their own translation of the gospels.  He asks the question - why would the revelators choose to use the gospels so closely?

Read the full interview with Merritt Horn below...


Your topic at IC23 is a comparison between the King James Bible and the Jesus Papers. How did you come up with that topic?

The research into this topic goes back 30 years actually. When I was working on the original edition of the Fellowship’s Urantia Book back in the mid 90s, it struck me that there was some language in the book that normally we would just read past, but is a bit archaic. That’s when I began to realize that the relationship between the Gospels and the writing of The Urantia Book was more than meets the eye.

So tell me about that relationship. What is it that most people miss when they read The Urantia Book?

Over the course of time, I could see that the revelators were basing The Urantia Book more on the Bible that I originally thought. I could see that they modernized the verbs and pronouns, and other stuff like that, but they’re [the revelators] working right out of the King James tradition.

At the same time that The Urantia Book was being written, the Revised Standard version of the Bible was also being written. Both sets of authors were working from the American Standard Bible, which was the most recent version at the time, and they were modernizing it. That’s why the Revised Standard and The Urantia Book can sound pretty similar in places. But they’re not the same; there were many decisions for word-choice that had to be made. So, both groups would reach back into past versions like the King James Bible.

If you just go in and modernize those verb forms and then look more closely at the whole tradition, you end up with a version that is clearly based on the Bible, clearly based on the King James tradition, and clearly based on the American Standard doing the same thing. The revelators didn’t even go back to the Greek except occasionally. Their work is from the English King James tradition.

And you can’t convince somebody of this, you have to show them.

So, I’ve gone through and I’ve created a harmony which required me to create a new translation of the Gospels. Just like the Revised Standard editors did, I reached back independently into earlier versions to create a full parallel reading. The whole text of Part IV is there in order, but alongside it are the passages from the Gospels that relate to it.

Why do you think the revelators based the text of Part IV of The Urantia Book on newer English versions of the Bible rather than going back to the original source?

They did have Jesus’ Aramaic. They did have the original Greek. They could tell the story any way they wanted. Why did they do it this way—not just tell the same stories that are in the Gospels, but tell them using the very translations that are part of our tradition.

Whenever somebody mentions Jesus, or we mention Jesus while bringing up The Urantia Book, we’re assuming that they know who we’re talking about. But, where does their knowledge of what we’re talking about come from? It comes from their church or right out of the Bible.

But with The Urantia Book you learn not only what Jesus did, but also what’Jesus’ motivations were. In the Gospels, they authors reported what they saw and what they thought, but they couldn’t get into Jesus’ mind. They didn’t know what he was thinking or what he was intending. And that’s what The Urantia Book brings.

And so, to really pin this down, with my harmonized version I can put them side by side I can see how they’re very similar, even paragraph after paragraph. But what does The Urantia Book add? It gives the context: here is what he meant to do, here’s why he felt he needed to do this. And of course, that solves so many issues that the modern day reader has with the Gospels.

This is going to be a great tool for people who aren’t as familiar with the Bible.

I hope so. I hope that study groups use it and that the usefulness of the basic work will remain. It feels like a foundational bit of scholarship that will be very helpful going forward.

I can see that there's a lot of passion and a lot of heart in this work that you're doing, but how would you say this demonstrates your spiritual journey?

Yeah, that passion is what’s kept me at it all these years. It’s nothing glamorous, I just felt like it just needs to be done. But I do think that the more we can see how the revelators “do” revelation, the more confident we can be in helping them. The more we can see what they’ve done, the better idea we get of what they are trying to do and how they did it, and we’ll be more capable of doing the same thing. That’s our job now, right? To help them in their work today.

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