Sometimes it feels like Bob Dylan says: "I practice a faith that's long been abandoned, ain't no altars on this long and lonesome road"

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Has Dylan become multi-religious?


 In part VIII his analysis of Dylan’s song "I contain Multitudes" my respected fellow Dutchman Jochen Markhorst analyses the line: “Everything’s flowing all at the same time”.

In his analysis Markhorst comes up with a Dylan quote taken from Dylan’s 2012 Rolling Stone interview which reads: “There’s truth in all books. In some kind of way. Confucius, Sun Tzu, Marcus Aurelius, the Koran, the Torah, the New Testament, the Buddhist sutras, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and many thousands more”.
Markhorst then concludes: “Dylan articulates the insight that most of us do reach, sooner or later: that the Great Truths of all religions, cultures and times overlap. We hear an expression of that insight here, in the key line of the fourth verse, also one of Dylan’s Eternal Themes: “Everything’s flowing all at the same time”. A Great Truth that we encounter often enough among Buddhists anyway, and is also expressed quite literally that way in the narrative that, at least in the Western world, is the most popular and widely read Buddha story, in Hermann Hesse’s Siddharta (1922):“The river is everywhere at once, at its source and at its mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the rapids, in the sea, in the mountains, everywhere at once, and only the present exists for it, and not the shadow of the future”.

To further back up the point Markhorst wants to make, he also quotes from Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations”. Markhorst writes “No doubt Dylan had several aha-moments when reading Meditations, but a checkmark in the margin he will have made at Meditation 43, “Time is a river, a violent torrent of events coming into being; and as soon as it has appeared, each one is swept off and disappears, and another follows, which is swept away in its turn”, and if not, at Meditation 37:“If you’ve seen the present, then you’ve seen everything — as it’s been since the beginning, as it will be forever. The same substance, the same form. All of it.”

When we read this we had to rub our eyes. Is this really true? Has Dylan become a multireligious person? Has Dylan indeed finally come to the conclusion that something like “the” truth does not exist and that “the Great Truths” as Markhorst calls them– overlap and can be found in all (world)religions? I’m sure it would be a relief for the vast majority of Dylanologists if this were the case.

However, we have to disappoint them. It is not what these words “There’s truth in all books. In some kind of way” intend to say. On the contrary. There is a big difference between "truth" and "the" truth. Let us try and explain this.
If one believes that God truly and exclusively revealed Himself in the Books of the Bible, both in the Old and the New Testament,  and that this is "the" truth, does that mean that wisdom can only be found there? Of course not. Glimpses and traces of this exclusive truth have filtered through to all world religions and ideological systems and in the books which represent these religions and ideologies. Or to put in in simple words: If it is true – and we believe it is true - what Jesus exclusively says of Himself in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” does this mean that He is the only person in which truth can be found? Of course not. Although He exclusively owns this truth, this truth is passed on to his followers and to anybody who is willing to receive this truth. Therefore to find glimpses and traces of this exclusive truth elsewhere is a matter of discernment. And Dylan is a learned and wise man who has this capability of discernment.

Markhorst believes that when Dylan wrote the line “Everything’s flowing all at the same time” he was inspired by a line from the Buddha story, in Hermann Hesse’s Siddharta (1922) and by Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations”. But is this undeniable? We don’t think so. We can find similar quotes in the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon (990-931BC), many centuries before e.g. the Bhagavad-Gita and Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations “were written.

Here are some passages from the Book of Ecclesiastes which prove that a line like “Everything’s flowing all at the same time” might just as well have been inspired by the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes.
Ecclesiastes 1:7: “All the rivers run into the sea, Yet the sea is not full; To the place from which the rivers come, There they return again” .
Ecclesiastes 1:6: “The wind goes toward the south, And turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit”.
Ecclesiastes 3:20: “All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust”.
Ecclesiastes 1:9, 10: “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us.(NJKV).

It is true, Dylan said in his 2009 Rolling Stone interview that he liked “the morality thing” in ancient writers like Plutarch, Cicero, Tacitus and a Stoic writer like Marcus Aurelius. But is this really so odd when you consider that it was the Apostle Paul who himself quoted the Stoic poets Epimenides and Aratus in the Bible in Acts 17:28 “For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ (NJKV)? .
Therefore it is much more likely that Stoic writers like Epimenides and Marcus Aurelius were inspired by the Tenach and more specifically by Biblical books like Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. It explains why the Apostle Paul cites Stoic writers and why Dylan said that he likes “the morality thing” in these Stoic writers.

In part Part XVI of his analysis of “I contain multitudes“ Markhorst states that the journalist Jody Rosen, as far as the interpretation of Dylan is concerned, “falls into the same trap as so many reviewers, analysts and fans before her: she, too, equates the narrator with the writer”. But when Markhorst writes that “Dylan articulates the insight that most of us do reach, sooner or later: that the Great Truths of all religions, cultures and times overlap” Markhorst walks into the same trap he warns Jody Rosen not to walk into.

When Markhorst says: “Dylan articulates the insight that most of us reach” Markhorst also equates the narrator with the writer. Why would he do that and at the same time reproach others who do the same thing? Simply because it may suit his agenda. Someone on the internet called this “the ABC” phenomenon. “ABC” stands for “anything but Christ”. It means that a wide variety of world views is acceptable for ABC folks, except the (Jesus) Biblical one. When Dylan, either implicitly or explicitly, refers to the Bible or supports the Judeo-Christian world view in his lyrics, these ABC folks immediately object and say: “do not equate the narrator with the writer” or “who says that Dylan personally believes these things” etc.

Apart from all this, in his December 20th 2022 Q&A session in The Wall Street Journal Dylan states: “I’m a religious person. I read the scriptures a lot, meditate and pray, light candles in church. I believe in damnation and salvation, as well as predestination. The Five Books of Moses, Pauline Epistles, Invocation of the Saints, all of it”. Although we admit that we find it a bit hard visualising Dylan lighting candles in churches, we believe Dylan is sincere here. Remember that this is a Q&A session. Dylan’s answers to these questions were not given spontaneously but done in writing and therefore fall in the category what Dylan elsewhere calls: “thinking it all over and I’ve thought it all through”. Therefore, this statement from Dylan once again confirms that he still a devout Christian and a pretty orthodox one at that!

Indeed, it was Walt Whitman who wrote: “I am large, I contain multitudes”. But then again, was it not the Apostle Paul who struggled within himself with two identities in Romans 7? Look what he says in Romans 7:15: “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate” (NLT) . Paul finds many contradictions, many conflicting moods, within himself and because of this he concludes in Romans 7:24 “Oh, what a miserable person I am! "(NLT).
Although it is against his will, Paul finds that multiple sins still have access to his mind and these try to pollute his soul. He does not say so literally, but Paul might just as well have concluded: “I contain multitudes”. And who is to say that Dylan may not have had the apostle Paul in mind when he wrote this song?

We conclude that the insight which Markhorst imposes on Dylan “that the Great Truths of all religions, cultures and times overlap” is wrong. Dylan did not say that. It only reflects Markhorst’s personal belief.

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Arie de Rover over de afgoden in ons leven- Deel 2.

Arie de Rover over de afgoden in ons leven – Deel 2.

Een recensie door Kees de Graaf.

In mijn vorige weblog artikel over de Podcast “Arie de Rover over de afgoden in ons leven”, hadden we gesteld dat Arie de Rover rake dingen zegt over afgoden in ons leven. Afgoden die ons nog steeds bedreigen.
Als punt van kritiek op deze podcast stelden we dat wij -volgens Arie de Rover -niet meer om vergeving van zonden hoeven te vragen, want zo zegt hij, er is al voor onze zonden betaald aan het kruis. Ik denk dat deze denkwijze op gespannen voet met de Bijbel staat. Daarom belangrijk genoeg om er hier nader onderzoek naar te doen.

Om de context duidelijk te krijgen, geeft ik eerst een transcriptie van een deel van deze podcast (ongev. vanaf minuut 17).
In het voorgaande ging het er in de podcast over hoe we van onze afgoden verlost zouden kunnen worden. Het antwoord van Arie was: capituleren. Er volgt dan het volgende dialoog met Jorieke:

ARIE: "Capituleren voor God betekent dat je niet je zonden belijdt, dat was ik religieus gewend, “Ik heb dit verkeerd gedaan, wil je het mij vergeven”, dat is , laat ik het zo zeggen, weinig effectief. Het is trouwens ook niet nodig hè,
JORIEKE: Het is niet nodig je zonden te belijden?
ARIE: Alle zonden is al betaald.
JORIEKE: Ik denk dat nu 90% van de luisteraars met de oren aan het klapperen zijn. Leg dit even uit.
ARIE: Voor alle zonde , voor alle verkeerde dingen die je in je leven kan doen, daar heeft Jezus al voor betaald. Die staan jouw relatie met wat God betreft niet meer in de weg. Daar staat ie voor met zijn open armen. Nee, wat scheiding brengt tussen God en jou, is dat je je liever in de armen van een ander werpt, een afgod, dan bij God. Dus in de plaats dat je met je verkeerde dingen naar het kruis gaat, - dat is vaak een ritueel – en daar doe ik niet min over hè, dat diskwalificeer ik nu niet, van dat moeten mensen niet doen of zo , maar ik heb wel gemerkt dat dat een mens vaak niet vrijer maakt.
JORIEKE: Hoe zo niet?
ARIE: Nou, morgen doe je weer verkeerde dingen, moet je weer, voel je je weer schuldig. Schaam je je weer. Ontneemt je die weer je identiteit als kind van God, je denkt dan, God zal wel weer boos zijn, ik moet schuld belijden want anders is het niet goed tussen God en mij. Nee niet me je zonden naar het kruis, maar met je afgoden naar de troon van de Here Jezus. Want daar zit hij, bij het kruis is ie niet meer. Trouwens het kruis bestaat überhaupt niet meer. En de Here Jezus is niet meer bij het kruis, je zou kunnen zeggen, dat je voortdurend terug in de geschiedenis gaat, als je dat doet. Dat feit is al lang voorbij. Daar is al betaald. Ook voor de dingen die je morgen verkeerd doet. Jij schrikt er weer van morgen, maar God niet joh. Dat wist hij al toen hij daar hing. Nee, wat scheiding brengt, wat jou weghoudt bij die onvoorstelbare liefde van God , de zekerheid die Hij je nu kan geven, zijn je afgoden.
JORIEKE: En wat is dan voor jou het verschil tussen de zonde en de afgod?
ARIE: Nou ja, de term zonde die gebruik ik nu even vanuit het perspectief dat de meeste mensen hebben, zonde is verkeerde dingen doen. Of het goede nalaten.
JORIEKE: Op gedragsniveau?
ARIE: Ja. Officieel is dat geen zonde he. De zondeval is: een geestelijk probleem n.l. dat je God niet God maakt. Dat is de zonde. Dus voor mij, is afgoderij dus in principe de zonde. De tekst dit ik net las uit Rom. 1.: Zonde is niet: verkeerde dingen doen, zonde is dat je God niet God laat zijn.
JORIEKE: Maar andere dingen geef je die waarde?
ARIE: Klopt. Dus als je nu, wat ik ontdekte, en waar ik mee aan de slag ben gegaan, ik ben met mijn afgoden naar de troon van de Here Jezus gegaan. Ik heb hem dagelijks gesmeekt en dat doe ik nog steeds, of hij mij wil bevrijden van mijn afgoden, want ik kan ze zelf niet eens loslaten. Zo bang is de kleine Arie in mij.
JORIEKE: Waar ben je dan bang voor?
ARIE: Alles wat belangrijk is in je leven hangt vast aan je afgoden. Het is zo’n diep, diepe bevestiging die je nodig hebt, je identiteitsverlangen is zo’n wezenlijk onderdeel van je menszijn, om dat zelf los te laten en helemaal in handen te leggen van God, dat is echt capituleren. Dat is ook het teerste wat je kan doen. Overigens, kun je God niet beter eren dan dat te doen hè, want je toont wel aan dat je Hem helemaal vertrouwt. Het is net als een klein kind wat zich wat zich in angst en paniek zich helemaal in jouw armen werpt. , en zegt , pappa, Mamma, houdt me vast”. Tot zover de transcriptie.

Laat ik nu ook bij die 90% behoren die hier met hun oren staan te klapperen. Want wat Arie hier in feite zegt is ongeveer hetzelfde als wanneer ik zou zeggen: “Stop maar met bidden, want God weet alles al, bidden is eigenlijk vragen naar de bekende weg”. Als ik dat zou zeggen dan lijkt dat Bijbels. Want ik lees in Mat. 6:8: “Jullie Vader weet immers al wat jullie nodig hebben, nog vóór jullie het Hem vragen”. En toch wil God dat wij bidden, ons hele hebben en houwen aan Hem voorleggen. Hij wil n.l. als een Vader met ons praten, communiceren, ook al weet hij alles al van tevoren.

Zo is het in zekere zin ook met het offer dat Jezus bracht op Golgotha. Arie heeft gelijk als hij zegt dat voor alle zonden door Jezus al is betaald. Dat zegt o.a. Hebreeën 7:27 duidelijk: “Hij hoeft niet, zoals de andere hogepriesters, elke dag eerst offers op te dragen voor zijn eigen zonden en die van het volk, dat heeft hij immers voor eens en altijd gedaan toen Hij het offer van Zijn leven bracht”. (zie ook Heb. 9:26,28).

Maar betekent dat nu ook dat ik voor de zonden die ik als geliefd kind van God vandaag bega geen vergeving meer hoef te vragen omdat er al voor betaald is? Of omdat volgens Arie “God dat allang wist”?
Moeten we nu uit het gebed -dat Jezus ons zelf geleerd heeft- het “vergeef ons onze schulden” schrappen omdat die schulden al vergeven zijn? Naar mijn mening niet. 1 Joh. 1: 9 is daar duidelijk over: “Belijden we onze zonden, dan zal Hij, die trouw en rechtvaardig is, ons onze zonden vergeven en ons reinigen van alle kwaad”. Wanneer de apostel Johannes hier zegt: “we”, dan gaat het om hemzelf en de gemeente die hij aanspreekt. De noodzaak om je zonden te blijven belijden is en blijft nodig. Die vergeving is dus een actueel gebeuren die gegeven wordt op basis van wat er eens op Golgotha is gebeurd.

Om dit helder te krijgen, zou je wat er op Golgotha is gebeurd, het beste kunnen vergelijken met een onuitputtelijke bron van genade en vergeving. Die bron is daar door Jezus verworven . Uit die bron mag en moet je elke dag weer drinken. Maar dan moet je wel elke dag naar die bron toekomen om eruit te drinken. Als je dat doet krijg je vergeving van je dagelijkse zonden. Als je dat doet zal je nooit meer veroordeeld worden. Maar hoe gaat dat dan in zijn werk? Een aantal teksten geven het antwoord:

Rom. 8:34: “Wie zal hen veroordelen? Christus Jezus, die gestorven is, meer nog, die is opgewekt, zit aan de rechterhand van God en pleit voor ons”.
Hebreeën 7:25: “Zo kan Hij allen die God door Hem naderen volkomen redden, omdat Hij voor altijd leeft en zo voor hen kan pleiten”.
Hebreeën 9:24: “Christus is immers geen heiligdom binnengegaan dat door mensenhanden is gemaakt, een afbeelding van het hemelse heiligdom, maar de hemel zelf, waar Hij nu bij God voor ons pleit”.

Wat ons opvalt in Rom. 8:34 en Hebreeën 9:24 is dat er staat dat Hij voor ons “pleit”. Dat wordt in de tegenwoordige tijd weer gegeven. En dat is ook de bedoeling. Want dit pleiten van Christus gebeurt vandaag nog steeds. Het pleiten bij de troon van de Vader is een continu dienst geworden, 24/7!. En dat blijft zo tot aan de jongste dag! En elke keer als Hij voor ons pleit dan zal de Vader naar Hem luisteren. En dan worden onze zonden vergeven, telkens weer! Elke dag besmeuren wij door onze zonden ons feestkleed. Maar elke dag krijgen we door Zijn pleitbezorging, Zijn Voorspraak, weer een rein feestgewaad uitgereikt. De genade wordt hierdoor alleen maar dieper en rijker! Maar volgens Arie is dat allemaal niet meer nodig.

Jezus draagt ons in Mat. 18:22 elkaar niet zeven maal te vergeven, maar wel zeventig maal zeven. Eigenlijk moeten we elkaar dus tot in het oneindige vergeven. Al wij elkaar al 70x7 maal moeten vergeven, hoe zal  dat bij onze hemelse Vader zijn? Ons geduld met elkaar raakt naar de zoveelste misstap snel op. Maar het geduld van God raakt nooit op. Ook al zondigen we voor de miljoenste keer, Hij wil graag dat wij telkens terug bij Hem komen. En dan vergeeft Hij telkens weer opnieuw. Hij doet dat heel graag!. Je zou kunnen zeggen dat “vergeven” bij de “core business” van de hemel hoort.

Als de Rover dan zegt: “Nou, morgen doe je weer verkeerde dingen, moet je weer, voel je je weer schuldig. Schaam je je weer. Ontneemt je die weer je identiteit als kind van God, je denkt dan, God zal wel weer boos zijn, ik moet schuld belijden want anders is het niet goed tussen God en mij. Nee niet me je zonden naar het kruis, maar met je afgoden naar de troon van de Here Jezus” dan slaat hij m.i. de plank op een aantal punten mis.
Moeten wij ons niet schamen voor onze zonden en ons schuldig voelen? Ik denk van wel. Wat is daar mis mee? Kan Arie aangeven met welke houding we dan mogen naderen tot de troon van God naderen? Het is waar, als wij elke dag met een oprecht hart God om vergeving vragen dan tast dit inderdaad onze identiteit als kind van God nooit aan. Maar al is dat zo, dan blijft het nog wel diep tragisch dat we zo vaak en zo veel te kort schieten. Dan is het toch terecht dat we ons daar voor schamen.
Maar het hoeft niet bij schaamte te blijven. Want God is oneindig genadig. Dat God bereid is om ons telkens te blijven vergeven, dat verdiept juist de genade. Ook nadat we “de genade klap” zoals de Rover daar over spreekt, al hebben ontvangen.

Ik denk dat als je je dagelijkse zonden niet belijdt, dat je de genade dan goedkoop en oppervlakkig maakt. Onze hemelse Vader wil met ons een diepe relatie aangaan. In een aardse relatie is het goed om dagelijks met elkaar te spreken. Om meteen op te ruimen wat verkeerd is gegaan. Daar wordt een relatie sterker van. Zo wil God ook met ons omgaan. Hij wil ons dagelijks spreken. En dan dank je en loof je prijs je Hem voor alle zaken die goed zijn (gegaan) en benoem je ook de zaken die fout zijn gegaan en waarin je hebt gezondigd.

Voorts maakt Arie een soort van tegenstelling tussen afgoderij en concrete zonden. Dat doet hij wanneer hij zegt: “Dus voor mij, is afgoderij dus in principe de zonde. De tekst dit ik net las uit Rom. 1. Zonde is niet: verkeerde dingen doen, zonde is dat je God niet God laat zijn”.
Ik denk dat dit een valse tegenstelling is. Arie stelt het voor alsof je 2 begrippen hebt die los staan van elkaar. Je hebt dan eerst het begrip “Afgoderij”. En dat is volgens hem de eigenlijke zonde. En dan heb je vervolgens ook nog “verkeerde dingen doen”. Maar dat is volgens Arie alleen maar “op gedragsniveau”. Dat zou volgens Arie GEEN zonde zijn.

Ik denk echter, dat “afgoderij” en de daaruit voortvloeiende zondige daden (de verkeerde dingen doen) bij elkaar horen en in elkaars verlengde liggen. Vanuit de afgoderij komt het tot concrete zondige daden. En die zondige daden tasten allereerst de eer en het recht van God aan. Vervolgens brengen deze zondige daden onszelf en onze naaste en ook de schepping schade toe. Dat wimpelt Arie een beetje weg als hij zegt “God weet dat allang”.

Niet alle zondige daden zijn trouwens “afgoderij”. De Bijbel brengt daar nuance in aan. In Galaten 5:19-21 lezen we: “Het is bekend wat onze eigen wil allemaal teweeg brengt: ontucht, zedeloosheid en losbandigheid, afgoderij en toverij, vijandschap, tweespalt, jaloezie en woede, gekonkel, geruzie en rivaliteit, afgunst bras-en slemp partijen, en nog meer van dat soort dingen”. Afgoderij is hier één van de zonden in een heel rijtje.
“Hebzucht” en “zedeloosheid” daarentegen worden door Paulus aangeduid als “afgoderij “– zie Ef. 5:5 en Kol. 3:5.

Tenslotte nog iets wat me opvalt. Arie schrijft:
ik ben met mijn afgoden naar de troon van de Here Jezus gegaan. Ik heb hem dagelijks gesmeekt en dat doe ik nog steeds, of hij mij wil bevrijden van mijn afgoden, want ik kan ze zelf niet eens loslaten. Zo bang is de kleine Arie in mij.”. Het mooie van deze opmerking is dat Arie tot de conclusie schijnt te zijn gekomen is dat je kennelijk nooit van je afgoden afkomt. ”Elke ochtend groeit mijn ego weer aan” heb ik hem dan ook elders horen zeggen. De titel van zijn boek “Leven na de genadeklap” suggereert echter, dat er een eenmalige genade klap plaats vindt en daarna niet meer. Maar dat “en dat doe ik nog steeds” geeft aan dat het gebed om genade blijvend is en dus dagelijks gebeden moet worden. Juist omdat telkens nieuwe afgoden de kop opsteken. Ons binnenste lijkt wat dat betreft op een rommel zolder. De Geest maakt ons van de rommel bewust . Maar gelukkig: we mogen er mee naar de troon van genade. Dan wordt de rommel opgeruimd. Maar telkens duikt er weer nieuwe rommel op. We blijven een gebouw “in aanbouw” tot onze laatste snik.

De rommel wordt opgeruimd. Onze zonden worden vergeven. Ook al schamen we ons terecht voor onze zonden, we hoeven ons niet te schamen om met onze zonden naar de troon te komen, ook al komen we voor de miljoenste keer. Hebreeën 4:16 moedigt ons aan daartoe aan: “Laten we dus zonder schroom de troon van Gods genade naderen, waar we telkens als we hulp nodig hebben barmhartigheid en genade vinden”.
En als we dan de troon naderen, dan krijgen we telkens vergeving. Vergeving op grond van wat er op Golgotha is gebeurd. Die vergeving wordt telkens gegeven door de pleitbezorging van Christus.
Uiteindelijk komen we toch weer bij het kruis uit, ook al wil Arie daar niet van weten. Want die pleitbezorging kan blijvend plaats vinden op grond van het kruis van Golgotha!.



Bob Dylan's "Not Dark Yet" - an analysis by Kees de Graaf - Part 4 (Final part).


In this final episode we take a closer look at verse 4.

Verse 4.

I was born here and I’ll die here against my will
I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still
Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don’t even hear a murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

The words "I was born here and I'll die here against my will" are a paraphrase of a Talmudic passage from the Pirkei Avot , Chapter 4, verse 22 which reads: "Let not your heart convince you that the grave is your escape; for against your will you are formed, against your will you are born, against your will you live, against your will you die, and against your will you are destined to give a judgement and accounting before the king, king of all kings, the Holy One, blessed be He". (Source: Ethics of the Fathers: Chapter Four -

However, the context of this passage from the Pirkei Avot deals with divine judgement and the impossibility to escape from it. Therefore, the following passage from the Biblical book of Job also seems appropriate as a backdrop for these words because it deals with the fundamental existential question Job raises to God because of his immense suffering. This passage reads:
Why then did You bring me from the womb? Oh, that I had died, and no eye had seen me! If only I had never come to be, but had been carried from the womb to the grave. Are my days not few? Withdraw from me, that I may have a little comfort, before I go—never to return—to a land of darkness and gloom, to a land of utter darkness, of deep shadow and disorder, where even the light is like darkness”( Job 10:18-22 BSB).

In a certain way- and at least partly- the words "I was born here and I'll die here against my will" may also apply to the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. In Gethsemane Jesus fell on his face (cf.“Crawling down the avenue” as it says in “Make You Feel My Love”) and prayed to God saying: “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Mat. 26:39-44) NLT). On the other hand, we should not forget that Jesus gave Himself voluntarily, out of love, as a sacrificial lamb (cf. Hebrews 10:7; Psalm 40:7-9).
They say that the words “I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still” have something to do with reincarnation as formulated in the kabbalistic teaching on “gilgul” which is the Hebrew word for “cycle” or “wheel”. One of the properties of a wheel is that it can be stationary and at the same time move by revolving round its axe.

The line “I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still” also draws our attention to the handout of an interesting lecture on the internet from the Rabbi Yossi Paltiel called "The Crime of Standing Still". The idea behind this kabbalistic thought may be that whereas angels are “standing still” and so to say remain in an unchanged and static position towards God, the human soul however, when it came into this world and was unified with the body, attained the capacity to move forward.

According to Rabbi Yossi Paltiel, the human soul, when it entered the earth changed its position from “standing still” to action. God created a world of action in which a person can change his heart from one pole to the another, from evil to good, from darkness to Light etc. “Standing still” and not moving in this world would mean for a person that he or she produces no fruit at all to God.

When it says “I know it looks like I’m moving” this ‘movement’ may be an allusion to the greatest booster of all movement and action: prayer. Then the picture of a Jew swaying to and fro in prayer or religious study comes to mind. In this respect we should not forget that when Jews are in prayer they do not kneel down – like (some) Christians and the Muslims do- but they “stand” in prayer.

When we follow this train of thought “I know it looks like I’m moving” may mean that although it looks as if he is praying- because his body moves to and fro – yet he is not finding any words for his prayer and he is “standing still”, unable to produce anything at all, not even “the murmur of a prayer”.

The poet is “Standing still” because “Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb”, which means that he is so traumatized that he has become completely apathetic, no longer capable to respond to any external stimulus. It even goes so further than that when he says: “I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from”. Some say that this line hints again at the kabbalistic gilgul teachings on reincarnation in which the loss of memory is associated with the transition from pre-existence to re-birth. If this were true the “here” would mean “this world”.

The words “I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from” echo a Laurel and Hardy film “Beau Hunks” (1931) in which Oliver, dumped by his girlfriend, joins the Foreign Legion “to forget”. When they get to Fort Arid in the desert, Stan confesses that he has “forgotten what we came here to forget”.

Within the context of the song we feel that the words “I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from” can best be interpreted as the subconscious feeling fallen man still has that something is terribly wrong with this world and that somehow he is part of it. He has gone astray and desperately tries to find a way to get away from it, but he is unable to break free. He has forgotten what the key is to get out of trouble. He needs help from above but is not aware of it.

“Don’t even hear a murmur of a prayer” takes us one more time back to the “Darkness at the break of Noon” (cf. Matt. 27:45), to Jesus on the Cross. Jesus was forsaken by God the Father (Matt. 27:46). All lines of communication with God -which were so vital for Jesus- were broken. Prayer to God, even the “a murmur of a prayer” was made impossible. The door was closed for Him.

Here again, at the end of the poem, when it says “Don’t even hear a murmur of a prayer”, we reach the point where “Darkness” was no longer “getting there” it actually had gotten there. It could not have been any darker than this.

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Met Arie de Rover over recht en onrecht.

Met Arie De Rover over recht en onrecht.

In dit weblog artikel geef ik een korte impressie van de podcast van “Jorieke” van 28 Februari 2018 die zij gemaakt heeft met Arie de Rover over recht en onrecht. Dit was een zeer boeiende podcast die veel stof tot nadenken geeft.

De Rover stelt terecht dat het juist is dat, als je met schrijnend onrecht te maken hebt gekregen, in wat voor vorm dan ook, je alles in het werk mag stellen om je recht te halen.
Maar het maakt een groot verschil of je dat doet vanuit de genade van God of vanuit je gekwetste ego dat om wraak vraagt. Als je dat doet vanuit je gekwetste ego en je krijgt je recht niet dan ontstaat er wrok die zoveel energie opvreet dat het de mens verteert en dan gaat het veelal van kwaad tot erger.
Maar als je vanuit de genade leeft, dan leg je je zaak bij God neer (Rom. 12: 19) en dat geeft rust en ruimte. Juist omdat je zelf vanuit de genade leeft, komt er ruimte om te vergeven omdat je identiteit er niet vanaf hangt.

De Rover stelt dat mensen – ook christenen- vaak goede daden doen om hun schuldgevoel af te kopen. Alleen goeddoen vanuit de genade kan je van dat schuldgevoel verlossen. Goeddoen wordt dan een vrucht van die genade en komt dus voort uit de genade die je zelf eerst ervaren hebt. Dit lijkt mij juist maar toch denk ik dat de Rover te negatief spreekt over dat schuldgevoel. Waarom zou schuldgevoel niet een werking van de Heilige Geest kunnen zijn die je juist naar de genade leidt?
Had Petrus geen schuldgevoel toen hij Jezus tot drie keer toe verloochende? Natuurlijk wel, want hij “weende bittere tranen”. (Mat. 26:75) Maar Petrus wierp zich op de genade van God en zo kon het weer goed komen. Hoe kan een mens zich anders ooit bekeren als hij niet telkens door schuldgevoel gedreven zich tot de genade van God wendt? Nee, schuldgevoel moet blijven en we moeten dat inderdaad niet afkopen om ons een goed gevoel te geven maar we moeten bidden: maak ons door uw genade meer en meer tot blijmoedige gevers van alles wat u ons eerst gegeven heeft.

Nog een puntje. De Rover stelt dat het onrecht was dat Jezus in onze plaats stierf. Ik begrijp wat de Rover hiermee probeert te zeggen, maar toch vind ik het te kort door de bocht. We moeten niet vergeten dat Jezus ook vrijwillig de dood is ingegaan. Als iemand vrijwillig besluit om in onze plaats een schuld te betalen, zou ik dat geen onrecht willen noemen. Jezus voldeed daarmee aan Gods recht.

Conclusie: ook deze podcast mag u eigenlijk niet missen!

Arie de Rover over de afgoden in ons leven.

Arie de Rover over de afgoden in ons leven.

In de wekelijkse podcast van Groot Nieuws Radio verschijnt er wekelijks een Podcast van Jorieke Eijlers met als titel “Bij Jorieke”. Met mijn buurman wissel ik die podcasts uit en dat is zeer opbouwend. Deze keer wil ik in het kort een podcast recenseren van 20 September 2018 met als titel “Arie de Rover over de afgoden in ons leven”.

Als de Rover het over “afgoden” heeft, dan deelt hij rake klappen uit. Het is bijzonder nuttig en ook confronterend er kennis van te nemen hoe allerlei afgoden heel gemakkelijk in ons leven binnen dringen, ook in het leven van de christen. Alleen al om die reden kan ik deze podcast hartelijk bij u aanbevelen. Ik ga daar nu niet uitgebreid over vertellen. Ik zou zeggen, ga eens luisteren en u zult er zeker geen spijt van krijgen!

Dit gezegd hebbende, is het jammer dat de Rover af en toe doordraaft en daar wil ik toch de vinger bij leggen. Ik noem een paar punten:
1. Een boeddha beeldje in de tuin hebben kan helemaal geen kwaad zegt hij. Want afgoden bestaan eigenlijk helemaal niet zegt de Rover, en feitelijk klopt dat ook, zie I Cor. 8:4. Dus als jij zo’n beeldje mooi vind zonder dat je daar “afgoderij” mee bedrijft , is dat geen enkel probleem. Ik geloof niet dat de Rover dit kan volhouden Want dat kan persoonlijk voor jou dan zo zijn, maar je hebt ook rekening te houden met je “zwakke” naaste zoals Paulus dat zegt (I Cor 8:7). En als je met de “zwakke” geen rekening houdt, dan zondig je zegt Paulus. Stel dat iemand een haken kruis een mooi symbool vindt, louter als symbool en dus niet vanuit de afgoderij die er in het nationaal socialisme mee bedreven is. Toch zou ik het fout vinden dat zo iemand een hakenkruis vlag zou ophangen, louter en alleen vanwege de ellende die eraan verbonden is. Symbolen zijn geen neutrale objecten. Er kan een verderfelijke ideologie achter schuil gaan.

2. Dan hoor ik de Rover zeggen dat je niet om vergeven van zonden hoeft te vragen, want je zonden zijn al vergeven. Christus heeft aan het kruis voor al onze zonden betaald en dus zijn ze al vergeven. Toch is dit een eenzijdige opvatting die naar mijn mening niet Bijbels is. Alleen al het feit dat Jezus ons in het Onze Vader oproept om dagelijks te bidden: “vergeef ons onze schulden” maakt ons duidelijk dat het vragen om vergeving een doorgaande bezigheid is voor de Christen. Lees verder maar wat er staat in 1 Johannes 1:8 en 9. En Jezus is nu nog steeds – as we speak – onze pleitbezorger in de hemel die voor ons pleit. (Hebr. 7:25 en Rom. 8:34). Vergeving is dus een dynamisch gebeuren. Het offer van Jezus aan het kruis voor onze zonden, is als een fontein waaruit we elke dagen niet alleen “mogen” drinken, maar ook “moetén” drinken. Dit is naar mijn mening een belangrijk punt. In een volgend weblog artikel hoop ik hier nader op in te gaan.

Deze paar punten nemen niet weg dat ik echt lyrisch ben over deze podcast en ik beveel deze van harte bij u aan!.

Bob Dylan's "Not Dark Yet" - an analysis by Kees de Graaf - Part 3.


Verse 3.
Well, I’ve been to London and I’ve been to gay Paree
I’ve followed the river and I got to the sea
I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies
I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes
Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

“Well, I’ve been to London and I’ve been to gay Paree, I’ve followed the river and I got to the sea” first of all shows movement. Movement is thematic for the album TOOM. Almost all songs recorded during the TOOM sessions show some kind of movement.

We give you some examples of this movement: From “Love Sick”: “I’m walking through streets that are dead”, “Dirt Road Blues”: “Gon’ walk down that dirt road”;Standing in the Doorway”: “I’m walking through the summer nights”, "Trying to get to Heaven": “I’m walking down that lonesome valley, trying to get to Heaven before they close the door”, up to “Highlands”: “I’m gonna go there when I feel good enough to go”. And, most importantly, for the song that unfortunately did not make it to the final TOOM cut: “Marching to the City”: “Now I'm marching to the City and the road ain't long”.

“Well, I’ve been to London and I’ve been to gay Paree, I’ve followed the river and I got to the sea” must be read against the backdrop of Zechariah 9:10 : “He shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth”(KJV).

The “He” in this prophecy from Zechariah points forward to Christ who would bring the Kingdom of Peace to the ends of the earth. This prophecy is beginning to be fulfilled in Acts 1:8 where Jesus says: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”(BSB).

That “the ends of the earth” from Zechariah 9:10 and Acts 1:8  probably was in the back of the poet’s mind during the TOOM sessions is obvious from another TOOM song: “Make You Feel my Love” where it says: “Go to the ends of the Earth for you, to make you feel my love”

This connection is further worked out in Dylan’s “Marching to the City”. First we have to ask: which City is the poet referring to? Well, if you compare this city with the lyrics of Dylan’s 1980 song “City of Gold”, it can only be the City of Jerusalem.

It looks as if the poet is part of a pilgrimage (one could call this pilgrimage the Never Ending (Gospel) Tour). A Tour that according to Acts 1:8 starts in Jerusalem and goes – just like Zechariah 9:10 and Acts 1:8 prophesied - to the “ends of the earth” and which will in the end return to Jerusalem, to its final destination which is the City of Gold (Rev.21:21).“The ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) at the time stood for Europe, so one could say that this included cities like London and Paris.

As said, the poet is on this lonesome pilgrimage, worded in “Marching to the City” as “Go over to London, maybe gay Paree, follow the river, you get to the sea”. “Paree” is the French pronunciation of “Paris.” According to the Oxford Dictionary Paris was originally called “Gay Paree” with “gay” meaning “happy, joyful and lively”. The sexual connotation of “gay” is from a later date.

From the words “I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies” it is apparent that this pilgrim is totally disillusioned, he is down and out. While he is marching to the City and is “hoping he could drink from life's clear streams” (cf. Rev. 22:1), he is instead confronted with a hostile world where lies rule the earth.

“I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies” echo in Dylan’s “Things Have changed”: “All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie”. These words show that in the view of the poet something is fundamentally wrong with this world and humanity is unwilling and uncapable to repair this.

Dylan once wrote “ Life is more or less a lie, but then again, that’s exactly the way we want it to be”(From “Chronicles” 2011 p. 57, Simon and Schuster). It all happened when in the beginning man chose to believe the biggest lie ever produced by Satan, namely that man could become independent from God. Ever since that time we have lived in a“ World Gone Wrong” situation, to quote the title of one of Dylan’s albums. And now the poet feels the pain and the full impact of what it means “to be at the bottom “of such a world, he has gone through all of the pain.

But there is another layer beneath those words; behind this human suffering from the poet we also see divine suffering shining through. During the Last Supper (Matt. 26:30) Jesus sang with his disciples Psalm 116:11 “I said in my haste, All men are liars”. They sought false witnesses- liars- against Jesus to put Him to death (Matt. 26:59).

Jesus is the only One who has really felt what it meant “to be at the bottom of a world full of lies”. He, in our place, went to the bottom of a world full of lies to set us free from the devastating consequences of Satan’s original lie. He set us free on the Day when Innocence died.

To have a better understanding of the words “I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes” we have to have a look again at the draft “Marching” to the City” where we find similar words in the following context: “Well I'm sitting in church, in an old wooden chair, I knew nobody would look for me there, sorrow and pity rule the earth and the skies, looking for nothing in anyone's eyes”. In his desperation the poet is looking for answers.

For answers he takes refuge in a church, in an old wooden chair. Nobody would ever have imagined that he would -for all places- go to a church looking for answers. It was and it is not trendy to find answers in church, the place where heaven and earth meet.

It says: You will find “nothing” there in “anyone’s eyes”. In “anyone’s eyes” practically means in nobody’s eyes. Everybody around him feels that you cannot find anything in such a place, in church, which may offer you solace.

These words remind us of a line in Dylan’s “False Prophet” where the False Prophet- alias Satan- says to the believers: “Put out your hand - there’s nothing to hold”. Satan tries to convince people that when you will reach out for help to God, He will leave you empty-handed, you will find nothing. The poet has to deal with the same reproach here: he is “looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes”.

Although it is true what Dylan once wrote in his song “God Knows”: “God knows you can rise above the darkest hour of any circumstance”, it does not make this statement: “Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear” any less poignant.

It seems obvious that the poet is deliberately downgrading the poignancy of this statement by saying that sometimes his burden “seems” more than he can bear. This must be because he is aware of what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”(NJKV). But almost invariably it does not feel that way.

When you are in the middle of a crisis in life, you feel there is no escape at all and that your burden is more than you can bear. Just like the poet says in “My Own Version Of You”: when “I get into trouble, then I hit the wall, no place to turn, no place at all”. It may feel that way, no matter whether you are an infidel or a believer. It may even go further than that. A trauma may be so overwhelming that it pushes a man to the limit, just like what Dylan wrote in his song “Honest With Me”: “Some things are too terrible to be true”.

But yet again, there is at the same time a deeper spiritual layer under the words “Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear” because, severe as the suffering of e.g. Job once was, nothing compares to the burden Jesus had to bear. On his way to Golgotha, Jesus literally collapsed under the burden of his Cross and therefore they forced a man from Cyrene, named Simon, to carry the Cross for Him (Matt. 27:32).

But excruciating as his somatic suffering on the Cross was, nothing compares to the burden Jesus had to bear when He was forsaken by God the Father(Matt. 27:46). “Darkness at the break of noon” (cf. Matt. 27:45) led to the absolute low point, when complete darkness was not “getting there” but had gotten there. He reached the absolute low point when he was forsaken by God and man, and He knew what it meant for Him: “my burden is more than I can bear”.


Bob Dylan's "Not Dark Yet" - an analysis by Kees de Graaf - Part 2.


n  this episode we take a closer look at verse 2 of this song.
Verse 2.

Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writing what was in her mind
I just don’t see why I should even care
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.
Verse 2 seems to deal with suffering on a human level. The words “Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain” may be a personal – albeit accurate- statement about the dreadful state of the human condition, usually uttered as a result of negative personal experiences.

“My sense of humanity has gone down the drain” draws our attention to the Biblical book of Job. In chapter 21 of Dylan’s book “The Philosophy of Modern song” (2022) we find a passage which shows that Dylan has been quite familiar with the Biblical book of Job. Dylan writes: “Supposedly, early readers of the Bible were disturbed by the harshness of God’s behaviour against Job, but the prologue with God’s wager with Satan about Job’s piety in the face of continued testing, added later, makes it one of the most exciting and inspirational books of the Old or New Testament”.

Job lost all of his children and all of his possessions (Job Chapter 1). But not only that. Job was “ infected with terrible boils from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. And Job took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself as he sat among the ashes” (Job 2:7 BSB).

Down and out, his friends came to Job to comfort him. But these friends ended up adding insult to injury. Job complains bitterly. Listen to hear what he has to say, not only to his so-called friends, but also to humanity: “One should be kind to a fainting friend, but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty. My brothers, you have proved as unreliable as a seasonal brook that overflows its banks in the spring”. (Job 6:14,15 NLT).”They despise me and won’t come near me, except to spit in my face.” (30:10) “They come at me from all directions. They jump on me when I am down” (30:14).

Job’s sense of humanity had gone down the drain and Job suffered from the same experience as Dylan once described in his song “Ain’t Talking”: “they”-the world- “will jump on your misfortune when you're down”.

“Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain” may be interpreted in various ways. According to the stoic cosmology, of which the philosopher Heraclitus (about 540-480 BC) was the forefather, there is a unity of opposites which suggests that the unity of the world and its various parts is kept through the tension produced by the opposites. In this sense, good and evil, light and darkness, life and death and also beauty and pain form an inextricable unity; a unity which is inherent in creation and essential for the cosmos to exist.

The Judeo-Christian view however, believes that God’s initial creation was good (Gen. 1:31). In the beginning, there was no evil or pain in paradise. Not until man fell into sin, disintegration could come in. Disintegration like death and decay and pain entered the creation.

However, the restoration of fallen mankind in its original status is the most beautiful thing that ever happened in the history of mankind. But there is pain behind that beauty. In order to amend the downfall of mankind, it took a very painful sacrifice. It was Christ who suffered all the pain. He paid the price, not only for mankind, but for the whole downfallen creation.

Paul Simon – in his song “I am a Rock” – may have written that “a rock feels no pain and an island never cries” but that does not apply to this Rock (of ages), Christ. On the contrary, for all beautiful things in the world a price was paid by Him and it is the reason why we can say: “Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain”. Beauty, in its true shape, can only be recognized when we see the price- the pain - that was paid for it to make beauty possible again. Just like Dylan says in his song “Dark Eyes”: “But I feel nothing for their game where beauty goes unrecognized”.

But the poet is not in a mood to recognize that something beautiful might be underway: “She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind, she put down in writing what was in her mind”. We do not know if the repetition of the word ‘down’ – in ‘down the drain’/’down in writing’ and the word “kind” in “kind of pain” and in “she wrote it so kind” is deliberate to make us link these points.

Was his disillusionment with humanity caused and strengthened by the letter he received from her? His disillusionment may have gone so far that he had become unfeeling and suspicious of any kind of gesture of sympathy, prompting his bitter response to her letter: “I just don’t see why I should even care”.

It all seems to suggest that you may become so defiled in this world that you are no longer capable to respond to sympathy others bestow on you, you simply do not care anymore. It reminds us of what Dylan once said- paraphrasing Psalm 27:10 - at the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991: “He (Dylan’s father) said, you know it's possible to become so defiled in this world that your own father and mother will abandon you, and if that happens, God will always believe in your own ability to mend your own ways”.
This may be one of those situations when you cry out that “Every nerve in your body is so vacant and numb” and say: “I just don’t see why I should even care” and you have no choice but to leave things in the hands of God to give you the power to mend your own ways.

In our introduction of this analysis we wrote that the lyrics of “Marching to the City” represent a sort of draft from which i.e. “Not Dark Yet” eventually evolved. What was going on in the mind of the poet when he wrote: “I just don’t see why I should even care”? Well maybe this line from “Marching to the City”: “I been hit too hard, seen too much, nothing can heal me now, but your touch”. People cannot help him, not even a kind letter from a beloved person, only the touch (of God) may help him to mend his ways.


Bob Dylan's "Not Dark Yet" - an analysis by Kees de Graaf - Part 1

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Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet” – an analysis by Kees de Graaf- Part 1.

Dr A.T. Bradford published a book in 2011 called: “Out of the Dark Woods – Dylan, Depression and Faith – (The Messages behind the Music of Bob Dylan)”. In this book Dr. Bradford stated that in the 1990ties- due to traumatic private circumstances- Dylan suffered from a severe reactive depression which was said to be responsible for the title of his next album of original songs “Time Out of Mind”. According to Dr. Bradford, “Time Out Of (my) Mind” summed up Dylan’s mental condition at the time and that all songs on the album show symptoms of moderate- severe reactive depression. On the face of it – and certainly for the song “Not Dark Yet”- this thought seems a very plausible thesis.

However, we feel that there are some compelling arguments against this thesis from Dr. Bradford. Take e.g. a song like “Make You Feel My Love” on the same album. “Make You Feel My Love” is a song full of tender love, comfort and compassion and hardly shows any symptoms of depression. And what to think of the album closing track “Highlands”? True, there is enough material in this song which may be classified as “depressive”. But look how the song ends: “The sun – “Sun“ may also be understood as “Son” in the sense of the “Son(of God)- is beginning to shine on me, but it's not like the sun that used to be”. The album closing song “Highlands" is not at all pessimistic and dark, on the contrary, in the end the windows get wide open for the Light to shine in!

The idea to classify “Not Dark Yet” as a pitch dark and depressive song, is fed by the thought- defended by the vast majority of Dylanologists - that this song is a one layered song dealing with mortality and suffering but only on a human level. And more specifically: suffering because of lost (romantic) love while the death bells already toll.

This idea is strengthened by the fact that there is an earlier outtake of “Not Dark Yet” (released on “Fragments” – The Bootleg Series volume 17 - which-from the third line of verse 2 - has quite different lyrics. E.g. a line in this first outtake like “Her lips were so tender, her skin was so soft” prompts you into the direction of the idea that this song is mainly about lost (romantic )love. Not only lyrically the song evolved but also musically. Musically the song evolved from an upbeat tempo of the first outtake to into a slow civil war balled – a death march- which ended up on the album. However, as we have seen so often in Dylan’s oeuvre, - “for all those who have eyes and for all those who have ears” - his songs are multi-layered. Apparently Dylan was not satisfied with the lyrics of the first outtake and subsequently took suffering and mortality from a personal to a more universal level.

Therefore, apart from the human suffering, there is another and deeper layer in the song which expresses divine suffering. And as we will see, this divine suffering must be the suffering of Christ. As we will also find out in the specific lyrics of the song, sometimes human suffering is meant and sometimes divine suffering or both. And of course, the suffering of Christ has both elements of suffering- the human and divine - blended into one. As far as human suffering is concerned, it will appear that the book of Job is of importance. Job’s suffering foreshadows some of the suffering of Christ. We conclude that if we take all these things into account we are far removed here from Dr. Bradford’s idea of a reactive depression.

The poet may have had good reasons to combine human suffering and divine suffering into one song. Romans 8:17 says that if we are to share in the glory of Christ, we must also share in His suffering. In this respect it is not without significance that “Not Dark Yet” was used as a sound track for Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of Christ”.

It is true, “Not Dark Yet“ portrays an immense suffering and amidst darkness, it looks as if the poet has come to the end of his trail and there seems to be no hope left. On this album, for the light to appear at the end of the tunnel, we have to wait till the final stanza of the closing song “Highlands”- which in itself is a metaphor for “Heaven”- and then the quest to find peace- expressed also later on in the album in the song “Trying to get to heaven”- will finally come to rest. But here - in this song -all focus is on mortality and suffering.

One other thing is not without significance. During the “Time out of Mind” recording sessions, Dylan first wrote and recorded the song “Marching to the City”. This song was abandoned and later released on “Tell Tale Signs” (The Bootleg Series Volume 8). A few lines from “Marching to the City” ended up on “Not Dark Yet” and on “Till I fell in love with You”. One could argue that “Marching to the City” was a first draft for “Not Dark Yet” and for “Till I fell in Love with You”. Comparing the context of some lines from “Marching to the City” with how they ended up on “Not Dark Yet” may help us to understand what was on the poet’s mind when he first wrote those lines.
Let us see how we can piece all these things together in the specific lyrics of the song.

2. Analysis.
Verse 1.
When it says that “Shadows are falling” our attention is immediately drawn to the garden of Getsemane, the place where Jesus and his disciples stayed during the evening of his arrest. It is also the place where the suffering of Christ is growing in intensity (Matt. 26:36-46, Marc. 14:32-42 and Luke 22:39-46). We see a suffering in the darkness of the garden of Getsemane which will culminate the next day, the day of His crucifixion, during which we get to the point where - as Dylan calls it elsewhere -there was “Darkness at the break of noon” ( with reference to Matt.27:45, Marc.15:33 and Luke 23:44).

“Shadows are falling” is a sign that total darkness is approaching and at the same time that “It is not dark yet”. When it says: “I’ve been here all day” the poet may intend to give us a retrospection overviewing the whole life of Christ. His whole life can be characterized as a “day”(c.f. the “Day of the Lord” which is a standard expression) during which shadows are constantly falling and getting longer and thus a life in which suffering is a constant factor, a suffering which gets worse and worse as we draw near the end. More and more Jesus becomes what Dylan elsewhere calls “A Man of constant Sorrow”.

As “Shadows are falling” ,for Him, Jesus, “it’s too hot to sleep”. However, it’s too hot to sleep” must be seen here in contrast with the sleepy attitude of His disciples. In Luke 22:45 we read: “When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow”(NIV). Whereas his disciples, overwhelmed by sorrow, found some refuge in sleep, for Jesus there was no escape. He felt the increasing heat of Divine Judgement which made it impossible for Him to find a moment of rest. “Too hot to sleep” looks like an understatement because in Luke 22:44 we read: “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground”.(NIV). Sweating blood is called “hermatohidrosis” and may occur when individuals are suffering from extreme levels of stress.

“Time is running away” indicates that there is nothing Jesus can do - and wants to do for that matter- to stop time and to stop the sequence of events that now unfolds and which will irreversibly lead to the uttermost suffering on the Cross.
“Feel like my soul has turned into steel” reflects Matt. 26:38 (NLT): “He (Jesus) told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death”. His soul, always so full of compassion (Matt.14:14),has now become unfeeling and impenetrable. Grief has made His soul hard as steel and – as the poet calls it elsewhere in his song "Mississippi" “cold as the clay”. Jesus is now metaphorically “twenty miles out of town” and “Cold irons bound”.

When it says: “I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal” for the first time, the focus shifts from (divine) suffering of Jesus to human suffering. At first glance the word “sun” in “I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal” makes you think of the “sun” as celestial body. However, the word “sun” might very well be a homophone here. If you take the word “sun” here literally- in the sense of a celestial body -this does not make any sense, because the “sun” cannot heal scars, on the contrary, exposure to sunlight makes scars worse and more painful. Therefore, when the word “sun” is used here, we have to understand “Son”, in the sense of the “Son of God”, Jesus. We see the same phenomenon elsewhere in the album ‘s closing song “Highlands“ where it says: “The sun – “Sun“ is then to be understood as “Son”, Jesus- is beginning to shine on me, but it's not like the sun (the celestial body) that used to be”.

We conclude that “I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal” refers to human suffering and might refer to the apostle Paul who mentions these scars in Galatians 6:17 (NLT):“From now on, don’t let anyone trouble me with these things. For I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus”. Elsewhere (2 Corinthians 12:7,8) Paul refers to these scars as “a thorn in the flesh” which Jesus – the Son - did not heal and did not take away from him, not even after intense prayer.

“There’s not even room enough to be anywhere” looks like some contradiction in terminus because if one exists , there is always (enough) room “to be anywhere”. This phrase is reminiscent of a line in Dylan’s “Things have changed":I've been trying to get as far away from myself as I can” because “to get away from yourself” is equally impossible.

“There’s not even room enough to be anywhere” is basically the same as what Jesus says of Himself in Matt. 8:20 (NLT):”But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head”. It means that when Jesus appeared in the flesh and revealed Himself as the Son of God, he entered a hostile world where He was not welcome at all. He entered the world as a place where there is a resting place for all creatures except for Him “there is no place to turn, no place at all”, for Him “There’s not even room enough to be anywhere”.

Each of the four stanzas of the song ends with the refrain: “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there”. It is as if the poet intends to make it clear that although it is not entirely dark yet, we will certainly get to the point where it will be entirely dark.

It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there” summarises the whole process of ever intensifying suffering from Jesus Christ. It was already dark in the garden of Getsemane . Being in great anguish, His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44). In the garden he felt the immense suffering that was coming. But it was “not dark yet” because dark as it may be in the Garden of Getsemane, yet there was some heavenly aid available .

We read of this heavenly aid in Luke 22:43: “Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him” (NLT). It would be quite different the next day, the day of His crucifixion. The next day it would be like Leonard Cohen wrote in his song “You Want it Darker”:Vilified, crucified, In the human frame, a million candles burning, for the help that never came”. At noon that day, the darkness would be complete, the utter darkness was finally “getting there”: “At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock” (Mat. 27:45 NLT). But this time, there is no heavenly aid available because at the pinnacle of darkness we read:“At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”. (Mat. 27:46 NLT). The utter darkness and pain is reached when man is forsaken by God. It never happened to any creature here on earth, no matter how dark human suffering may be. It only happened to the Son of God of God, in His substitutionary suffering. Only for Him darkness was “getting there” so that the light could shine again upon humanity.
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