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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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 Hebr. 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.

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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Bob Dylan's "My Own Version of You" - an analysis- Part 4 (Final Part).


In the next verse beginning with “I can see the history of the whole human race
It’s all right there – it’s carved into your face", God seems to be the subject. We see things here from God’s perspective and these words can therefore best be interpreted as a divine summarization and appreciation of the end result of the- fruitless- efforts from the antagonist to “bring someone to life” and by doing so “make his own version” of God.

The history of the human race is marked by these continuous efforts. “It’s carved into your face” may be an allusion to the Second Commandment: ”You shall not make for yourself a carved image” (Ex. 20:4 NKJV). Throughout history mankind has defied this Commandment and has kept on trying to carve an own version of God. This hideous self-carved image, which is visible in the face of the antagonist, is exactly the opposite of how God meant it to be when He created Man in His own image (Gen1:26).

There was a moment in the history of the human race when God was on the brink of giving up on mankind. Because of the wickedness of man.(Gen.6:5) God repented that He had made mankind. It grieved God at his heart and He was about to destroy mankind (Gen. 6:6,7) and it was as if God asked Himself: “Should I break it all down”? But He did not because Noah found grace in His eyes (Gen 6:8). There was also a time when it was as if God wondered: “Should I fall on my knees“ to save mankind?. He actually did fall on his knees this when Jesus fell on his face in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt.26:39) – “crawling down the avenue” of Getsemane as Dylan calls it in his song “Make you feel my love”- Jesus praying in great anguish and begging His Father: “let this cup pass from me”. It was a time of great darkness on the Cross (Mat.27:45) and when forsaken by God and men, Jesus could have desperately wondered: “Is there light at the end of the tunnel - can you tell me please”.

What now follows may be seen as a sort of reproach from God -Jesus- to the antagonist. The antagonist tries to make his own version of God and of history. It is now as if Jesus says to the antagonist: “For me there was light at the end of the tunnel when I was resurrected from the dead, when I went from suffering to glory, enabling me to set many free and bring them from human bondage and slavery to freedom. But what about you? Look what happens when you, the antagonist is at the steering wheel. “Stand over there by the Cypress tree” and I will show you two examples from history which will show that your way of handling things has produced nothing but slavery”.

The first example of “slavery” takes us to the Mediterranean where the “Cypress tree” grows, it takes us way back to the Trojan War, to “Where the Trojan women and children were sold into slavery”. "The Trojan Women” is a reference to a tragedy by the Greek playwright Euripides, produced in 415 BC during the Peloponnesian War. Wikipedia says that “it is often considered a commentary on the capture of the Aegean island of Melos and the subsequent slaughter and subjugation of its populace by the Athenians earlier that year”.

Now this example of the“Trojan women and children sold into slavery” from Greek history seems to be taken at random but we feel that this is not the case. Dylan writes about the ancient history of Greece and Rome as a sort of model for what happens in our modern times. Apart from “The Trojan women” the words “Long ago before the First Crusade” (1096-1099) and “Way back before England or America were made” also seem to make this connection. This whole idea had already been on Dylan’s mind for at least three decades. Consider what Dylan said in an interview with Paul Zollo in 1991: “A college professor told me that if you read about Greece in the history books, you’ll know all about America. Nothing that happens will puzzle you ever again. You read the history of Ancient Greece and when the Romans came in, and nothing will ever bother you about America again. You’ll see what America". In other words: The Enlightenment, the abolishment of slavery, the industrial and sexual revolution did not make America free, human bondage and slavery in all sorts of ways is still out there in our modern society.

The second example of human bondage and slavery takes us right into hell: ”Step right into the burning hell”. It is called the place “where some of the best known enemies of mankind dwell”. Now it looks as if the following words “Mister Freud with his dreams and Mister Marx with his axe” picture Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx as being inhabitants of hell. This idea seems obvious because both Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx are known as uncompromising atheists. In his book “The Future of an Illusion” Freud describes belief in God as a collective neurosis and called this phenomenon a “longing for a father”.

It is interesting what The Rev. Gianbattista Mondin, S.X. wrote about Karl Marx in an article called “The Atheism of Karl Marx” (taken from: ”L'Osservatore Romano” Weekly Edition in English 20 April 1978, page 12): “Marx is an atheist because of his passion for man. What he wishes to safeguard with atheism is the greatness of man. With atheism he intends to exclude that there is any superior being, greater than man. It is in view of man's greatness that he considers it necessary to destroy religion, because in his judgment the latter is the opium, the drug, the substitute which prevents man from becoming aware of his dignity”. There is similarity between the worldview of Marx proclaiming the superiority of man above God, and Victor Frankenstein, who in his own way, by creating a monster, attempted to be like God and even outdo God.

However, no matter how compelling the picture of Freud and Marx as hell dwellers may be here, yet this is not exactly what the words say. The words do not explicitly state that Freud and Marx are in hell. It seems that this idea is deliberately left unsaid. When you consider that it does not belong to the authority of mortal human beings to condemn anybody to hell- no matter how much you may abhor somebody’s views and walk of life- then you may understand the hesitation in the words of the poet to be too explicit about the whereabouts of Freud and Marx.

But there may be an additional reason to think in another direction. The attributes of hell are usually metaphorically described as fire and brimstone but that is not the case here. This is because this “raw hide lash” in “See the raw hide lash rip the skin off their backs” alludes to an attribute that can be used by a slave-driver. Here it seems as if the subject of slavery still is on the poet’s mind. Slave- drivers may use a “raw hide lash” to punish slaves for either refusing to work or for attempting to escape. Slavery was born the moment man freed himself from God and enslaved himself to Satan.

Slavery was there in ancient times when “ Trojan women and children were sold into slavery”. Slavery is still there in our modern times. Marx promised the proletariat a political state free of religion but this freedom ended up in death and destruction and the utmost slavery for many millions of people in the Gulag. Freud may be debunked here because he defied God in the most intricate of God’s creation: the human mind. The human mind which was made according to God’s own image. Freud played with fire in his attempt to explain the human mind through science rather than through divinity. Here it seems as if the ideas of Freud and Marx to get rid of God and to “make their own version” of God, have come back to haunt them. The same ”raw hide lash” which enslaved their followers and “ripped the skin off their backs” now lashes down on the backs of Freud and Marx.

“You got the right spirit - you can feel it you can hear it- you got what they call the immortal spirit, you can feel it all night you can feel it in the morn, creeps into your body the day you are born” echoes the Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850). In “Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows” (from The Prelude, Book 1) William Wordsworth writes:
“Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
in one society”.
The word “Spirit” rhymes with “you can feel it, you can hear it” and is borrowed from Dylan’s own song “Solid Rock” from the album “Saved” (1981): “It's the ways of the flesh to war against the Spirit, Twenty-four hours a day, you can feel it and you can hear it”. However, whereas in “Solid Rock” there is dualism between the human existence – “the ways of the flesh” and the “Spirit”, this is not the case when you read Wordsworth. “The immortal spirit” suggests that the human spirit or soul is pre-existent and “creeps into your body the day you are born”. For Wordsworth believed that upon being born, human beings move from a perfect ideal realm into an imperfect, vulnerable and sometimes even hostile world. In poems such as the ”Ode: “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” (1804) Wordsworth writes:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!”.

In this song, the idea behind “You got the right spirit” and “you got what they call the immortal spirit” can only thrive in a non-dualistic concept. In this non-dualistic concept the Spirit is not at war against “the ways of the flesh”, the human existence, but is in unity with it. And it is within this unity that the antagonist operates. The antagonist (falsely) claims exclusive ownership of “the immortal spirit " and this ownership is emphasized by the “You” in “You got the right spirit”. Whereas in the dualistic (Biblical) concept the Spirit is a divine gift from heaven, in the non-dualistic concept the spirit is “owned” by the antagonist and “creeps into your body the day you are born”, with all devastating consequences as a result of this. However, no matter the claim of the antagonist that he has the “immortal spirit”, yet the ability “to bring someone to life” is exclusively the territory of the Holy Spirit.

The following lines “One strike of lightning is all that I need, and a blast of electricity that runs at top speed” are once again inspired by Shelly’s novel “Frankenstein”. Victor Frankenstein at the age of 15, witnesses an electrical storm that arouses his interest in electricity and possible applications for its use. In the novel it is assumed that Victor uses this knowledge of electricity to create his monster.

Within the song the creative attempts from the antagonist “to bring someone to life” now reach a climax. Using electricity as a substitute for the spirit represents an ultimate attempt to “jump start his creation to life”, and this is the best he can come up with. Previous attempts like “getting blood from a cactus and making gunpowder from ice” seemed a rather plastic attempt to create life. Here he gets as close as he can be in reaching his goal because he seems to realize that not only he needs some invisible power like an“ immortal spirit”, but also some dramatic instant action like a“strike of lightning” and “a blast of electricity” to “jump start his creation to life”.

In this ultimate attempt he tries to imitate God who creates everything instantly, as in a flash, just at the command of His word, like we said earlier: “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast”(Psalm 33:9 NKJV). God does all dramatic, decisive, and life changing acts in the twinkling of an eye, as in a flash of lightning. This will also be the case when He (Jesus) will return to the earth on the clouds: “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:27 NKJV). Likewise, upon His return, Jesus will not only “bring someone to life”, but He will bring all to life and he will do this in the twinkling of an eye, like it says in 1 Corinthians 15:52 (NKJV): ).”In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed”.

We already saw that “What would Julius Caesar do?” is a -rough and rowdy- parody of “what would Jesus do?”. Likewise “Show me your ribs - I’ll stick in the knife” is  no less a dark parody of God’s initial creation. The poet Milton uses parody in “Paradise Lost” in which Satan mocks God’s creation and Christian rituals.

Consider the gracious and gentle way in which God created Eve: “And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man". (Gen. 2:21,22 NJKV)and compare this with the cruel – rough and rowdy – ways of the antagonist: “Show me your ribs - I’ll stick in the knife”.

"I’m gonna jump start my creation to life” sounds triumphant and determined but cannot conceal the futility of this attempt simply because when e.g. you try to jumpstart the engine of your car, you need the help of another car to jumpstart your engine. The antagonist has a problem. To achieve his goal he needs the help of somebody else and he does not have the (divine) tools at his disposal to jumpstart his creation to life.

For the last time we hear “I want to bring someone to life” but now the antagonist seems to realize that “to bring someone to life”, he needs to be in command of time and space so that he can “turn back the years”. Only God is in command of time, just like it says in 2 Peter 3:8 “Do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”(NJKV).

Just like for the devil,It is clear that the antagonist is running out of time. He cannot reach perfection. The desire to be able “turn back the years” is only wishful thinking. Wishful thinking, just like it says in Dylan’s song “Shelter from the Storm”:If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born”. Wishful thinking, even if you “do it with laughter – do it with tears”. As a last resort the antagonist turns to the two extremities of human emotion: laughter and tears, but in vain. His laughter is no more than what he wrote in his song "What Good am I?":“laughter in the face of what sorrow brings”! It was Shakespeare’s who wrote in his play “Julius Caesar”: “If You Have Tears, Prepare To Shed Them Now". 

The end of the story is that the antagonist now"hits the wall" harder than ever before and in a "rough and rowdy way" at that. For the antagonist and "for all those that sail with him" we may draw the same conclusion as Dylan once did in his song "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll": “Now is the time for your tears”.

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Bob Dylan's "My Own Version of You" - an analysis- Part 3


In this article we continue our probe into this enigmatic masterpiece.

“I’m gonna make you play the piano like Leon Russell, like Liberace - like St. John the Apostle, play every number that I can play”
are mysterious words and make our following analysis very speculative. When you consult the Wikipedia pages of Liberace (1919 -1987) and Leon Russell ( 1942 – 2016), it says of Liberace: "Liberace recreates—if that is the word—each composition in his own image. When it is too difficult, he simplifies it. When it is too simple, he complicates it." They referred to his as "sloppy technique" that included "slackness of rhythms, wrong tempos, distorted phrasing, an excess of prettification and sentimentality, a failure to stick to what the composer has written”. It looks as if with these words the poet makes a thought association between Liberace and the antagonist. Liberace makes “an own version” of the original musical material and the antagonist tries to do the same and creates his own version of man which turns out to be a caricature of how God intended man to be.

Wikipedia says of Leon Russel: “One of Russell's titles and signature nicknames is: Master of Space and Time”. Here the poet seems to make another thought association but now between Russel and St. John the Apostle. Of course, in case of St. John the Apostle the words “play the piano” should not be taken literally – there were no pianos at the time St. John the Apostle lived in the first century. St. John the Apostle playing the piano is some sort of a metaphor for the way in which the apostle composed the book “The Revelation to St. John”, also called “The Apocalypse” .St. John received these revelations from Jesus (Rev.1:1) and the Holy Spirit ordered John to write down these revelations in a book (Rev.1:10,11). St. John composed this book in such way that -just like for Leon Russel -one could say that in the composition of the Revelation St. John showed that he was a “Master of Space and Time”. The apocalyptic visions written down in Revelations do not show a linear chronological order but rather the apocalyptic visions written down are cyclical, skilfully growing in intensity and masterfully culminating in the presentation of the New Jerusalem, the City of Gold (Rev. 21,22) and at the same time restoring the tree of life from Gen. 3 :22 in its original position (Rev.22:2), going back and forth in time and space.

When it says “I’ll see you baby on Judgement Day, after midnight if you still want to meet” it looks as if all of a sudden the poet introduces Jesus speaking. On “Judgement Day” Jesus will come back on the clouds not only to “gather his jewels” (Dylan’s rewritten version of “Gonna change my way of thinking”) but also to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim. 4:1).

However, the setting of Judegement Day is that of the gospel of Matthew chapter 25. First,( Matt. 25:1-13) we have the parable of the Ten Virgins. The return of Jesus on “Judgement Day” is metaphorically represented there by a wedding party. However the bridegroom’s arrival was delayed (25:5) and the virgins fell asleep but then “at midnight” the bridegroom arrived. In my analysis of Dylan’s song “Soon after midnight”- elsewhere on this website we wrote: “The idea that Christ will return at midnight – as bridegroom to meet his bride, the church, - is wide-spread within the Christian tradition and is based on Matt. 25:6 where it says: ‘At midnight they were roused by the shout, 'Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!'(NLT).

Now when it says here “If you still want to meet” this seems in contradiction with the parable where the five foolish virgins demanded access to the wedding party saying: “Lord, Lord, open the door for us”( 25:11 NIV) but they were refused. So in the parable it looked as if they were anxious to meet the bridegroom (Jesus). However, “If you still want to meet” seems to suggest that the virgins are indeed willing “to meet” the bridegroom as long as it is fun, as long as it is a wedding party. Meeting him as Judge on “Judgement Day” is another matter and the words “If you still want to meet” suggest that the virgins are no longer so enthusiastic for such an encounter.

“I’ll be at the Black Horse Tavern on Armageddon Street” continues the idea that we are still on “Judgement Day” and although words like “Black Horse” and “Armageddon” are taken from the Revelations of St. John, we still are very much in the setting of Matthew 25. From Matt. 25:31 and onwards, on"Judgement Day", Jesus holds a court session during which he separates the gathered nations, “he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Mat.25:32). The idea here of the poet might be that on “Judgement Day” the Judge Jesus holds session at the “Black Horse Tavern”. Now the name “Black Horse” refers to the third apocalyptical seal opened In Rev. 6:5 where it says: “When the Lamb (Jesus) broke the third seal, I heard the third living being say: “Come”, I looked up and saw a black horse and its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand”(NLT). This third seal is said to represent worldwide famine.

Now there are quite a lot of restaurants in the USA and elsewhere in the world named “The Blackhorse Tavern”. There is injustice and a kind of cynicism in this image when you consider the contrast between the extravagant menu cards of these Black Horse Taverns and famines which afflict millions of people on the earth in the end-times. This same contrast between extravagance on the one hand and famine on the other can be found in this third seal (Rev.6:5,6). This injustice is a case worthy of judging on “Judgement Day”.
This court session is “On Armageddon Street” and “Armageddon” is a reference to Rev. 16:16: “And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew Armageddon”(NKJV). Armageddon stands for the place where the final battle between the kings of the earth will take place on “that great day of God Almighty" (Rev. 16:14) which is the same day as “Judgement Day”.

Two doors down not that far to walk” suggests that you can’t miss Jesus on Judgement Day, in fact not a soul will escape his attention, regardless “if you still want to meet” or not. Every knee shall bow (Phil 2:10). “I’ll hear your footsteps - you won’t have to knock” expresses that He knows exactly who you are. “He sees your deeds and knows your needs even before you ask” (Dylan’s ‘When He returns’- with reference to Mat. 6:8). As long as you are among the living you can “knock” on His door and Jesus will answer you (Luke 11:9) but on “Judgement Day” this will all be different. Then it is too late for redemption, knocking on His door will no longer help you: “you won’t have to knock”, you will be refused just like the five foolish virgins (Mat. 25:12,13).

The next refrain “I’ll bring someone to life” resumes the thread of the song. The antagonist says he wants to “balance the scales”. This may be an interesting thought association from the poet because in the previous verse, the rider on the “Black Horse” pictured in Revelation 6:5, has a “pair of scales” in his hand. Here the antagonist claims that by bringing someone to life he can be like God and on equal footing with God and therefore “balance the scales” with God.

Although Victor Frankenstein does not give a detailed description of how he created his monster and therefore quite rightly may say: “I’m not gonna get involved in any insignificant details” yet the words “I’m not gonna get involved in any insignificant details” can be read as the limit of human impudence and pride. In God’s creation there are no insignificant details. Take for e.g. the complexity of the creation of the human eye. Every detail has its function and if the smallest of details misses out, it cannot function properly.

The following words: “You can bring it to St. Peter - you can bring it to Jerome, you can move it on over - bring it all the way home, bring it to the corner where the children play, you can bring it to me on a silver tray” are at first glance mysterious and dark. This is because the “it” is not further identified. Obviously the apostle Peter is meant here, who was one of the most ardent disciples of Jesus Christ. The first thing that comes to your mind when we read “You can bring it to Jerome”, is a reference to song from Bo Diddley called “Bring It To Jerome”.

Most commentators feel that “you can bring it to me on a silver tray” is an allusion to the beheading of John the Baptist whose head was presented on a platter to the mother of Herodias.(Mark 6:25,28 Mat. 14:8,10). Although the Scriptures do not explicitly state that it was “a sliver tray” on which the head of John the Baptist was presented but just “a platter”, the allusion fits well. It is not difficult to make a thought association between this gruesome picture of John the Baptist’ head presented on a tray and the equally gruesome picture of the antagonist collecting “Limbs and livers and brains and hearts”. However, it still does not give us a definitive clue why “St. Peter” and “Jerome” and “the corner where the children play” are introduced here in the first place.

The answer might be in the conclusion that follows: “Do it with decency and common sense”. Remember that the antagonist for all intents and purposes wants to do things “for the benefit of all mankind”; he pretends to have high moral standards, no matter how repugnant his life making actions can and must be viewed upon. He claims to produce a very decent end product which is acceptable for all circles of life. It is acceptable not only for Saints like “St. Peter” and “St. Jerome” but the end product is so exquisite that you can even “move it on over - and bring it all the way home“ and present it to your young children, to “the corner where the children play”.

The claim from the antagonist “I’ll bring someone to life - spare no expense, do it with decency and common sense” is yet another false claim. The ability to “bring someone to life “ and in the process “spare no expense” and at the same time “do it with decency and common sense” are properties which can only be attributed to God. When He brought Adam to life He righteously concluded that “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). To save mankind He spared no expense- not even his Son- and everything He does, He does in the right order and in the right time and therefore with “decency and common sense”, in the most emphatic way.

To be or not to be” is a quote from Shakespeare (“Hamlet" Act 3, Scene 1).Within the song these words have a deeper- divine - layer. Therefore, when it says: “Can you tell me what it means to be or not to be”  make only sense if they come from the mouth of God.From the mouth of the antagonist these words make no sense. “To be or not to be” expresses the existential duality between God and His creation. It was the Hindu philosopher Shankara (788-822) who denied existential duality between God and (His) creation and called this “a-dvaita”.

However, the Bible makes it clear that there is such an existential duality. As far as this existential question is concerned, it looks as if the poet had the Biblical Book of Job in his mind where God rhetorically asks Job: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand” (Job 38:4 NIV), see also Isaiah 40:12-31).Within this concept of thinking, God is the Only One who can truly say that He always “is”, the Only One who knows “what it means to be or not to be”; e.g. Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (KJV).

But unlike for God, the days of a creature like Job are numbered. Job challenged God by raising the “be or not to be” question but God replied: “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2 KJV). He who has no knowledge is a fool (Proverbs 13:16). This is basically the same as if God had said to Job: “You won’t get away with fooling me”. Now God goes on to say to Job: “Now brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall inform me” (Job 38:3 BSB). It is as if God rebukingly says to Job: “Answer this question:, “you won’t get away with fooling me, can you tell me what it means to be or not to be?”. Job however, retraces his steps and repents (Job 42:3) and admits that he was indeed a fool (Job 42:3) by raising this question in the first place.

“Can you help me walk that moonlight mile” is an obvious reference to a 1971 song from the Rolling Stones called “Moonlight Mile”. It is true, Job may be able to walk that moonlight mile but that is not enough and when God asks him “Where does the light come from, and where does darkness go? Can you take each to its home? Do you know how to get there?”. (Job 38:19,20 NLT) Job fails to give the answer. When forced to, a man may walk a mile but to have the power to walk two miles in such a situation, is divine grace, just like Jesus says in Matthew 5:41 (ESV) : “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles”.

Can you give me the blessings of your smile” is a rhetorical question and may be read as a reproach to the antagonist. A blessing means God’s favour and protection. The blessing of God’s smile is a metaphor for His kind and undeserved benevolence which He bestows on people. The antagonist and no mortal human being for that matter, can bestow such a blessing upon others.

For the sixth time we hear the refrain “I want to bring someone to life” and this time the antagonist is determined to go the utmost and says “use all my powers” and he may think that when he does it secretly in “the dark and the wee small hours”- “wee” meaning “very early”- he may succeed. This contrasts with God, who does not do anything in the dark. His first act of creation was “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3 NLT) and He does not live in the darkness but in a "flickering Light" ("Where Teardrops Fall"). God does all of His following creative actions in the Light but we have to bear in mind that at the same time this Light  in which God dwells, is unapprochable to man ((1Tim 6:16).

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