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The Influence of Biblical Verse in Freemasonry
by Adam Clarke
The topic of Freemasonry offers a wide array of subjects for study to the Masonic scholar interested in unlocking its mysteries. In pursuit of our quest for Masonic learning we should stop to examine the three Degrees of Ancient Craft, or Blue Lodge Masonry and ask ourselves, “What lesson (or lessons) should I be learning from each Degree?” The key to the subject matter is hidden within a little understood yet vitally important part of the ritual of the first section of each Degree.
We tell ourselves and the new initiates that the manner of candidate preparation is intended to present a condition where the “… mind might conceive before the eyes beheld the beauties of Freemasonry.” As the candidate of each Degree undergoes the ritual of circumambulation he is then presented with the theme of the Degree – contained in the Scriptural reading. The theme is often lost however, or misunderstood, because of the mystic nature of the readings. An examination of each of the Scriptural readings reveals the unique manner in which each theme is presented.
Entered Apprentice Degree
Imagine yourself as the candidate once again, hearing these words for the first time. The first sentence might tend to calm your apprehensions and uncertainties about your forthcoming experience by pronouncing in simple terms what a pleasure it is to “dwell together in unity” or to be in the presence of a body of men united together in mind and spirit of purpose. This peaceful unity is of utmost importance to Masons as it is the mortar or cement that binds us together as a fraternity. “It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments; …” Aaron, the elder brother of Moses, and his sons were appointed by God to be the High Priest and ministers of God for the children of Israel (Exodus 28:1). God directed that an “oil of holy ointment” (Exodus 30:23-25) be made consisting of measured amounts of myrrh, sweet cinnamon, sweet calamus, cassia and olive oil. This “holy anointing oil” was to be poured upon Aaron and his sons as a blessing or consecration prior to their entry as priests into the tabernacle, containing all the holy vessels and the Ark of the Covenant, to minister and pray unto the Lord (Exodus 30:30). This reference therefore alludes to the sacredness of such unity. Mount Sion or Mount Hermon (Deuteronomy 4:48) was known to have copious amounts of humidity, even in the driest weather, which formed on the tents so profusely that it appeared as though it had rained the whole night. This precious dew or water provided continuous life giving growth to the plants and animals of the otherwise arid region; hence the allusion to life forevermore.
The theme of the Entered Apprentice Degree then, as foretold to the candidate through this reference to the Scripture passage, is that he is about to enter into a fraternal union with men of good character. This unity of good brethren is so precious that it is comparable to the holy anointing of the High Priest of the ancient Israelites. Further, his association with this fraternal unity promises to enrich his future life just as the dew of Mount Hermon and the mountains of Zion.
This is perhaps the least understood and most misinterpreted passage of Scripture as it relates to the theme of the Fellowcraft Degree. Amos was one of the lesser prophets of the Old Testament. He was a herdsman and tender of fig trees who lived in the territory of Tekoa south of Bethlehem and was sent by God to call the people of Israel to repentance. He foretold the judgements of God which were to fall on the Syrians, Philistines, Tyrians, Edomites, Moabites and Ammonites. In this Chapter of Scripture Amos describes a vision shown to him by God. In this vision God represents to Amos the judgements he is about to bring upon Israel for their many iniquities. Verses 7 and 8 describe God’s illustration to Amos of His attitude regarding the sins and transgressions of the people of Israel. The Lord standing upon a wall made by a plumb line signifies the laws and commandments He has communicated to the people of Israel to build them into a just and upright nation. The plumb line in His hand symbolizes the strict justice He will visit upon them according to their iniquities. The phrase “I will not again pass by them anymore.” is an indication that God will no longer show them any mercy in His administration of justice.
The underlying theme of this Scripture as it applies to the Fellowcraft Degree is to admonish the candidate that he is now crossing the threshold from youth to manhood. As a man and a loyal member of the Masonic fraternity he will be more strongly bound to the fraternity by strict moral guidelines. Likewise, as an adult member of society, he will be expected to exemplify the highest standards of behavior and uphold the civil laws. As an Entered Apprentice, the candidate was introduced to the most basic moral principles, loyalty, trust and charity, which serve as the foundation upon which to build strong relationships. His development as a Fellowcraft will expose him to greater responsibilities that require a stronger discipline.
The Book of Ecclesiastes was supposedly written by Solomon in order to show the vanity of the world, and of human life, and that no happiness can be expected by the human soul, but in the fear, love and obedience of God.
The Twelfth Chapter begins with the admonition to every person that he should remember to worship and praise God as his Creator beginning in the early days of his youth, while his mind is still strong and sharp, and not distracted by trivial or worldly matters, or weakened by the physical infirmities of old age. The remaining verses of this Scriptural reference describe, in a mystical way, the many ailments and infirmities that mark our passage into old age, up to and including the death of the physical body and the return of our spirit to its Creator.
The theme set forth by this Scripture for the candidate desirous of attaining the sublime degree of Master Mason is that death awaits us all. Just as Solomon expressed throughout the Book of Ecclesiastes, all earthly ambitions are but vanity and there is no real happiness to be gained in this world except in the nurturing and development of our soul through love of God and obedience to His will.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014