Posted by: Jim E | September 28, 2012

Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Words, Imagery, Literary Device, Reference And Sometime,To Confuse…

I have been reading a number of books…most of them very good…different authors, about history but different events…the Civil War, WWII naval battles, a Viet Nam POW…and others…some of which I will write about someday…but what I find in reading that is so wonderful, are the choices that the authors make concerning words, imagery, maybe a device used to spark interest or keep it…reference to another time or place…so most history books, well most books, use those things and others to make their point and hold interest…and some things I read, especially political writing, use words to confuse or obfuscate, i.e. obscure the topic they are covering…never telling all sides…

Let me tell you why I am writing about this now…well, it is a political season, so we need to watch what we believe from what we read…but mostly it came up because of what I read in the letters to the editor in National Geographic a month ago…and it has been on my desk for that long and I need to clear get it off my desk…so short or long, I will post these thoughts…they come from not only the National Geographic Letter, etc…but also from the Bible…well, frankly that is what was in the National Geographic…okay, enough, let me start… 

The letter to the editor was about something in National Geographic’s article on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s speech to which they made reference…the reference was from Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech…given when he accepted the nomination of the Republican party of Illinois in 1858 to run for Senator….he would run unsuccessfully against Stephen Douglas but it culminated in the famous “Lincoln/Douglas Debates”…the “House Divided” speech ranked with his “Gettysburg Address” and “second inaugural address” as being the best known speeches of his career……

The letter writer commented: Before Abe said it, Jesus did: “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25, et al)…to which the editor answered, When Abraham Lincoln accepted the nomination to be Illinois’s Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1858, he used Jesus’ words in his speech without attribution, knowing his audience would understand whom he was quoting. He didn’t have to add, “as Jesus said to the Pharisees.”

Now what caught my eye in this interchange of thoughts???…the first thing that came to my mind was that in Lincoln’s day, it was true, everyone in the crowd would know who he was referencing…they were all Biblically literate at least to that extent…the second thing, was the letter writer really asking whether National Geographic knew what they were referencing…there are so many Biblical references in the English language that many people today have no idea where the reference came from…the third thing was the fact that both found that Lincoln knew his audience also knew his reference…and that maybe today, if the reading audience was going to know this reference, then they needed to add attribution…I just found that interesting…

Reading within that same period, again, the use of reference, imagery and a literary device, came before me…from Our Daily Bread, a daily devotion booklet I have use for years…I have found it a good way to start my day…it was from John 10:1-10…on the Insight section of my copy I found much the same thing as above, only this time it was concerning Jesus…“Jesus’ analogy of His relationship to His people being like a shepherd to his sheep would have been both familiar and shocking. To a first-century Israelite, few comparisons would have elicited such well-known and well-understood ideas.The twist came when the Shepherd (usually pictured as caring for the sacrificial sheep) would Himself be sacrificed (v. 11) for the welfare of the sheep. That concept would have been surprising to say the least…

Here we have Jesus using words eliciting certain imagery and reference that those listening would understand…they were very much aware of shepherds and sheep…what Jesus did, as Abraham Lincoln did…He applied it to the message he was trying to get them to hear…for Abraham Lincoln, it was the fact that this country could not stay together with slave and free states…Jesus, on the other hand, was explaining to those listening…that the Shepherd not only cared for His sheep but was going to lay down his life for them…both ideas were bold in their use and in Jesus case revolutionary…but in both cases wonderful use of words…reaching their audience with something that would never be forgotten…

Those examples, in a very few days was underlined by a comic strip that came across my computer…it was a Calvin and Hobbes strip, one of my favorites but no longer being produced…just got out of the rat race I guess…I don’t know why I liked this comic strip so much but I did…still do when it come up here and there…maybe because Calvin often pointed out the hypocrisy of our time, as this one did…or maybe because of his brash behavior that everyone wishes they could act like at times but don’t dare…

Here, with the help of Hobbes, Calvin eviscerates writers who try and act intelligent and smarter than we are…and we in turn are suppose to bow to their acumen…heavens I just did it…how about obfuscate back a few paragraphs…just a trick…when writers try and confuse, rather than enlighten…well, it makes Calvin and even Hobbes upset…I guess I’m saying, I’d rather follow the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ, to get my point across…so I guess I finally got that off my chest…and off my desk…and now don’t worry, I am very sure I will never be able to say, as someone much smarter than I has already said…”Academia, here I come!”… 

Okay, I’m done, but maybe this is the reason I love Calvin and Hobbes…

Or maybe this is the real reason…all coming from my youth, probably yours too…

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Responses

  1. Well put, Jim! Calvin and Hobbes was a great comic strip!

    • Thanks for the comment…yup, Calvin and Hobbes can say it in a way I can’t…I know that for sure…and in a fun way…thanks…Jim E


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