Friday, October 6
Blind Men, Elephants and Jesus
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“ ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Moral: So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

~John Godfrey Saxe (Photo credit, link here)

This summer I began reading through the gospels back to back. I've never done that before. Not in the order they appear in the Bible, but John, Mark, Luke, Matthew, I don't even remember why I chose that order. I think going from John to Mark is about as extreme as you can get.

What struck me not far into the second book, was how differently the gospel writers portrayed Jesus. It almost sounded like they were talking about a different person. Sure, there are accounts, parables and teachings that appear multiple times in two or more of the books, but the personality of Jesus seemingly changes between accounts. Don't take my word for it, go read it yourself. In John he's all about love, in Mark, he's extremely passionate, emotional, in Luke more precise and his regard for women evident, in Matthew, maybe here he's the most subversive in his "kingdom" thoughts.

[Why this was a surprise is beyond me. It shouldn't have been, but it was. In an instant I was almost mad at the disservice we render Scripture when we chop it into pieces and microscopically examine the words and their origin, and in the process, rip the life out of it. No cohesiveness...instead extracting a verse or two and studying it to see how "it" applies to our lives, rather than considering it contextually (relative to time, culture and the Scripture in its entirety). ]

And then I remembered the old story of the blind men and an elephant and it made perfect sense. When I put myself in the place of one of the blind men, I could see why God preserved an account from many people to brushstroke a picture of who He is through the life of His son. One perspective wouldn't convey a complete picture. I thought about Tad, how I would describe him as my husband; how our children would describe him as their father; how his parents would describe him as a son; how his brothers would describe him as a brother; how his friends, co-workers, etc. would describe's obvious what I mean. Same person, different perspectives, all telling a part of his story, all absolutely accurate relative to our own experience. But all, very different accounts.

The kids and I are starting all over again, doing the same thing for a morning kind of devotion before school this year. We're reading longer passages of scripture, beginning in Mark. I wonder if they'll see it, if they'll notice (the "differences" in Jesus' personality). I kind of doubt it. There's not a lot of time to think through any of it out loud, I'm not even sure what my "goal" is other than starting the day Godward. I also wonder what it says to them we don't do this on the weekends or over the summer (I'm not sure I want an answer :/). I guess the bottom line is I hope God will kill any agenda of my own, and have His way through the words.

Time will tell....

  Into the pensieve on Friday, October 06, 2006
  Your thoughts, please (14)

At October 06, 2006, Blogger Susan in va said...

You know it's funny, during the school year, I have my kids memorize approximately 3 verses a week. During the summer, the memorization stops cold turkey. I've thought the same thing that you have about how things stop during the summer. I'm usually just worn out - I just want to "veg" during the summer. Maybe admitting this will inspire us to change....hmmmm.... Ya think?

At October 06, 2006, Blogger Pamela said...

I feel very small. I need to do a little more reading and ALOT MORE THOUGHT PROVOCATION.

We read Genesis in home group - and the most I got out of it was the fact that Sarah (wife of Abraham) was 90 years old and so "hawt" that the ruler of the land wanted to take her as his woman!!!

At October 06, 2006, Blogger michele said...

Hey, thanks for stopping by and for your words of encouragement. It's really hard doing all that I'm doing, I don't recommend it :-)

The new blog looks great! They did a great job. You must be very pleased.

At October 06, 2006, Blogger michele said...

Hey, thanks for stopping by and for your words of encouragement. It's really hard doing all that I'm doing, I don't recommend it :-)

The new blog looks great! They did a great job. You must be very pleased.

At October 06, 2006, Blogger willowtree said...

My dad read me that poem years ago, thanks for the memory.

Now you know I don't get deep and philosophical but......there has been a lot of conjecture lately (and some very rigorous studies) about just this point.

The one most in vogue is that the gospels were written well after Christ's death and show more of the particular axe the writer had to grind than any real insight into Jesus. After all these guys were the Jim Bakkers of their time.

At October 06, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is definitely something I should do...and haven't. It's neat that you do it with your kids. Really excellent.

I have a lot to learn in the Bible department.

At October 06, 2006, Blogger Karmyn R said...

Not being very religious, I haven't read the gospels. However, it would make sense considering that every author had what they considered more important. Perspective is everything

At October 06, 2006, Blogger Amanda said...

Love the new layout!
And DITTO on what my sister said! :)

At October 06, 2006, Blogger Maria said...

Ah...I am not religious at all, but I was raised in a devout Catholic family, so I know the bible inside and out.

And yes, perspective is everything. We all have our own shoes to walk in and we all see the sun but the shoes only fit our feet and the we all describe the sun differently.

And that is my zen moment for the day.

At October 07, 2006, Blogger Susannah said...

Beautiful. As usual we're on the same page, Robin. I took a Synoptic Gospels course (plus John) last fall, and my eyes were opened to the very same ideas you've blogged about here. In fact, I've been gathering my notes for a post! Yours though is unique in that you've incorporated the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant (which I use frequently to explain relationship breakdowns.) What a perfect analogy. Your digression in parentheses "In an instant I was almost mad at the disservice we render Scripture..." couldn't be more right on the money. I hate to quote a single verse (although I do it) because so often we miss the context and lose the true meaning. God's grand plan for Redemption as revealed in Scripture is meant to be understood as a whole--both the Old and New Testaments together. It's too easy to parse words (like, what the meaning of is, is) and make the Bible say whatever we want it to. When we grasp the complete portrait of Jesus, as revealed by four authors for four audiences, then we see who He really is: fully human, fully divine. Thanks for an excellent post.

At October 07, 2006, Blogger Pamela said...

W.T. Jim Bakker????

Just can't put him in the same category as the Apostle Paul...

my word verification is: egoswtr
which much better describes the Jim Bakkers

At October 07, 2006, Blogger dan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At October 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow...great idea. Loved this sentence: "all absolutely accurate relative to our own experience"...such is life, huh? I applaude you for what you're doing w/ your kids. You do have an agenda: for them to know Jesus...and that's a great agenda! KUDOS to you!

At October 23, 2006, Blogger Kelly Curtis said...

Found it! Just printed it off - thank you!!!


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A Pensieve is a stone basin.... [One] can extract his or her own memories and place them in the Pensieve, especially to relieve the mind when it becomes too flooded with information. Anyone can examine the memories in the Pensieve, which also allows viewers to fully immerse themselves in the memories stored within...

A Pensieve first appears in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire...

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