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Book Review: The Hidden Power of the Gospels by Alexander J. Shaia

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Alexander J. Shaia believes that there’s a very good reason for the selection of the four gospels of the Bible. In his new book, The Hidden Power of the Gospels, Dr. Shaia moves beyond the surface of the gospel accounts and blends his journey of “quadratos” into the narrative.

I first encountered Dr. Shaia when I reviewed Beyond The Biography of Jesus: The Journey of Quadratos, Book I. A flood of responses, passionate ones, came out of that review and I awaited the second book of the series. While I didn’t particularly grasp the nature of Dr. Shaia’s conjecture and was unconvinced by his lack of evidence, I had respect for his creative approach and his thirst for spiritual growth.

The Hidden Power of the Gospels, then, assembles the first two legs of The Journey of Quadratos and fleshes them out before adding the final two to complete the voyage.

Once again, the quadratos equation is at the root of everything. Dr. Shaia is convinced that the selection of the four gospels, read in their original sequence as Matthew, Mark, John and Luke, was by design. He describes his own epiphany and his arrival to the mouth of this “journey of balance,” too, offering some personal insight as to how he came to believe in quadratos.

The Hidden Power of the Gospels is more self-help than theology. It is largely designed as a way to fashion the gospels, historical accuracy and theological context aside, around a set of theories for personal improvement.

The idea here is that the four gospels, read properly, unchain deep personal truths. Along the way, Dr. Shaia’s book outlines a set of exercises that can help further unlock The Hidden Power of the Gospels.

Each gospel has a sort of “theme” or guiding principle that further melts into quadratos, too.

Matthew, for instance, promotes the idea of being amenable to the expedition and of learning the limits of oneself. Dr. Shaia compares the first step of the journey to the Greeks visiting the temple, contrasting the early peril as a “frightening admission for the ego-self.”

Dr. Shaia admittedly has little interest in historical veracity or even reason, and that may trouble some readers. He also tends to oversell his case when he suggests that much of the calamity of Christianity lies as a result of abandoning the old reading cycles. Much is made of the number four and its worth, while the number three is discarded as a catastrophic consequence of curtailed living.

The Hidden Power of the Gospels is well-written and welcoming, sure, but Dr. Shaia’s concept still leaves a lot to be desired for serious thinkers. His quadratos has doubtlessly helped many achieve a sense of wholeness and balance in their lives and his Blue Door retreat may well be a haven for contemplation and self-discovery.

But his discarding of the Bible’s historical context, of the other gospels and of historical reality almost seems too expedient. Dr. Shaia’s blend of psychological theories, New Age thinking and other handy systems of belief do little to add lucidity to The Hidden Power of the Gospels, and the results are jumbled, puzzling and often bizarre.

That said, I do not doubt Dr. Shaia’s seriousness nor do I question his thirst for knowledge and understanding. As I said in my review of his earlier book, reading the Bible is a spiritual journey to be savored. The Hidden Power of the Gospels may not be ultimately satisfying, but it is a provocative, pleasant piece of work.

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About Jordan Richardson

  • Do you consider this book to be in the same self-help genre as “How to Win Friends and Influence People”? It’s hard to read HTWF and not see Carnegie’s Christian and biblical influence.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Sort of. Carnegie’s is a lot more basic, whereas a lot of what Dr. Shaia does can be esoteric and even mysterious. It’s based on the notion that there are four gospels in the canon, but one wonders how the belief in quadratos would look if other gospel texts were included or if scripture had been comprised in a different way.

    It’s a passionate theory, but it almost seems arbitrary.

  • Hmmmm…..an arbitrary theory. Reminds me of someone finding music hidden in “The Last Supper”.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Well, it’s not entirely arbitrary as I said.

    But Dr. Shaia’s journey of quadratos essentially inserts the sort of “self-help” portion into the existing scriptural template and strives for a spiritual sort of truth out of the decision to include four gospels in the Bible. As we know, there were other gospel accounts.

    I think Dr. Shaia places too much emphasis on the reading cycle, too, and on liturgical outlines that are supposed to guide to a sense of self and of empowerment.

    There are a number of ways to read scripture, any scripture, that can lead to empowerment and some sort of internal truth. A lot of people have a lot of varying theories as to how to own the text, so it’s a crowded marketplace. I commend Dr. Shaia, as I have frequently, for exploring and for making the journey his own. I’m sure it helps people.