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 'Roll on John' - an analysis - Part 2.


Bob Dylan’s ‘Roll on John’ – an analysis – Part 2.

In this article we take a closer look at the first verse and the refrain of this song.
Somewhere I read a very creative interpretation saying that the words ‘Doctor, doctor tell me the time of day’ would refer to a common practice used in hospitals for attendants or nurses to note the exact time of death of a patient. ‘Another bottle’s empty’ would refer to blood transfusion, to the fact that another bottle (bag) of blood is empty and that further treatment of the patient is useless, also useless because  ‘another penny is spent’, which would mean that another life is blown out. ’He turned around and he slowly walked away’ -according to this interpretation- would refer to doctor Lynn who on December 8th 1980 at 11.15 pm - turned around and slowly walked out of the emergency room of the St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center to notify  family and  press that  John Lennon had passed away.
Intricate and inventive as this interpretation may be, we don’t feel that this is what Dylan had in mind. What seems more realistic is that the first line of this song was taken from an old song from Lonnie Johnson called ‘Oh! Doctor The Blues (1926)’, which has the following opening lines: ‘Oh doctor, doctor, tell me the time of day, Oh doctor, tell me the time of day, all I wants is a good drink of whiskey, to drive my blues away, some people say, that it's women, wine, and song, but it's the blues and whiskey, that lead another good man wrong’. So the opening lines have more to do with the use of alcoholic beverages, of liquor, and the effects this use has on the mental status of the poet. He was so much in a state of intoxication that he had lost all sense of time and now he starts to awake and begs for help from a doctor, as if he says:  ‘Doctor please help me, I don’t know who I am, where I am, and what day it is, help me out of this dreadful trance, it is enough now, another bottle’s empty, another penny is spent’. The expression ‘to spend a penny’ means ‘to use a public lavatory’. It refers to the (former) use of coin operated locks on public toilets. It was used mostly in the UK and mostly by women (men's urinals were free of charge). Within the context of the song it refers to the frequent use of a public lavatory following excessive drinking.
It would seem that Dylan uses this whole scene of drinking and the effects it has on him, primarily to express a sort of anesthesia he underwent, to make the unbearable in some sort of a way bearable, to make the unthinkable in some kind of way thinkable. Unbearable and unthinkable is what now follows: ‘They shot him in the back and down he went’. This is so hard to bear for a sober mind and almost too terrible to be true, just as he wrote elsewhere: ‘I need something strong to distract my mind’. It is the more so unbearable because Lennon was a fellow- artist and this makes it extra scary, what happened to Lennon may happen to any celebrity, may in fact also happen to Dylan: some lunatic who catches you off guard and shoots you in the back.
But there may be a second reason why Dylan opens the song with this drinking scene. I wrote in my previous article that the opening lines of this song are reminiscent of some sort of medieval dream-vision poem in which the poet enters into some kind of trance at the start of the poem, loses all sense of time, and loses contact with the present world and enters an entirely different, ancient world, a world where the difference between the conscious and the subconscious and the difference between reality and fiction is continuously obliterated. ‘Doctor, doctor tell me the time of day’ indicates that the poet has lost all sense of time and that he is now ready and in a position to sway backwards and forwards between the times and experiences of John Lennon on the one hand, and the ancient times and experiences of St John, cooped up on the isle of Patmos in 95 AD, on the other hand.
‘He turned around and he slowly walked away, they shot him in the back and down he went’ refers to the horrible and senseless murder of John Lennon on December 8th 1980. John Lennon was shot by Mark David Chapman at the entrance of the building where he lived, The Dakota, in New York City. Lennon had just returned from Record Plant Studio with his wife, Yoko Ono. Chapman took aim directly at the center of Lennon's back and fired five hollow-point bullets at him from a Charter Arms .38 special revolver.  After being hit four times in the back Lennon staggered up five steps to the reception area, saying, "I'm shot, I'm shot" and ‘down he went’ to the floor and died shortly afterwards.
It says ‘they’ shot him in the back, where one would expect ‘he’ shot him in the back. The reason why Dylan uses a more generic ‘they’ here, may be that Dylan somehow feels that the society as a whole bears responsibility for the fact that it creates circumstances which make it possible for kinky and deranged personalities as Chapman to arise and commit such horrible crimes, also a subdued feeling is expressed, as if Lennon was in a generic sense killed by his fans or pubic, even if only one individual actually pulled the trigger.
A lot of analysts and fans feel that in the refrain of the song:’ Shine your light, move it on, you burned so bright, roll on, John’ Dylan addresses John Lennon directly, some see it as a prayer from one great artist to another great artist. Plausible as these interpretations may seem at first glance, yet personally, for various reasons, I cannot get my neck around this interpretation.
First of all, the same words ‘Shine your light’ were also used in the song ‘Precious Angel’ (1979). In this song Dylan addresses the ‘precious angel’, who is said to be Mary Alice Artes, the woman that is said to have led Dylan to Jesus in 1979.But there is more. At the time, somewhere in 1979, John Lennon responded furiously to Dylan’s conversion to born again Christianity. When in 1979 Dylan wrote a song called : ‘Gotta serve somebody’  Lennon retorted  by composing a song called ‘Serve yourself’ with lyrics like: ‘Well there's something missing in this God Almighty stew, and it's your mother (your mother, don't forget your mother, la), you got to serve yourself, nobody gonna do for you, you gotta serve yourself, nobody gonna do for you, well you may believe in devils and you may believe in laws, but if you don't go out and serve yourself, la, ain't no room service here’. Yoko Ono in in 1998 somewhat tried to soften the harshness of Lennon’s stance in this matter by saying about ‘Serve yourself’"[This song] was right after Dylan's song "You Gotta Serve Someone", you know - the lord, I suppose, you know. So then he was kind of upset about that and it was a dialogue, you know. In that sense it's fun, I mean you can hear it was fun. He wasn't seriously against it. He showed his anger in a way but also [...] his sense of humor”. Although –as far as we know - there is no known record of this, it is not hard to imagine – to say the least of it - that at the time Dylan was not  amused by Lennon’s antagonism and must have felt run down hard by these words. No matter how much respect Dylan has for Lennon as a great artist, he certainly does not see Lennon as a source of light in the way Dylan sees Light and certainly not as a Light that should shine on him and on others for that matter.  Although there is a lot of compassion for John Lennon shining through in Dylan’s words, yet all this makes it not very likely that when Dylan says: ‘Shine your light’  he addresses John Lennon. Dylan seems bewildered, perplexed by the senseless murder of his good acquaintance and fellow artist Jon Lennon, who was brutally knocked down while he was still in the prime time of his life, and Dylan is now looking for somebody that could in any way shed some light on what seems utterly senseless, the incredible and the incomprehensible, the fragility of life.
The beauty of poetry as embodied in Lennon can in an instant be swept away by the most extreme violence.  We see the same phenomenon come back later on in the song when Dylan quotes William Blake’s poem ‘The Tyger’. In this poem a tiger is pictured. A tiger which is at the same time strikingly beautiful in its appearance and yet also terrifying and horrific in its capacity for violence.  Therefore, in order to come- in some sort of a way- to terms with his bewilderment and perplexity, it seems that Dylan in his anguish flees for comfort to the other John, to St John the Apostle. He turns to St John, the writer of his favorite Bible –book:  ‘The Revelation to John’, to have his light shine on this matter.
St John is quite appropriately called the ‘Apostle of Light’. The3rd day of Christmas (December 27th) is St John’s Day. Much of St. John’s work – his gospel and his letters - is suffused with light encountering darkness and overcoming it.
So when St John is addressed here with the words ‘Shine your light’ it is not actually St John’s own light that is meant but the light of Jesus which St John so abundantly reflects and of which he testifies. Jesus calls himself the Light of the world (John 8:12).The most senseless killing in history was the killing of the Light of the world, of Jesus, at the same time it was the killing that made the most perfect sense. Only in Him the old and weary poet finds comfort for all that would otherwise be senseless and incomprehensible.
‘Move it on, you burnt so bright’, in the Apocalypse Jesus reveals to St John that He, Jesus, is ‘the bright morning star’ (Rev.22:16), a light that burns so brightly,’ it moves on’ through history. His light not only burnt so bright when He was on earth but it will continue to shine and it will never fade.
In this refrain of the song there is also a clear sense of urgency. Words like ‘Move it on’ and ‘roll on John’ express this urgency, an urgency which we find in many a place in St John’s Apocalypse. Time after time St John makes it clear that the end is near and that Jesus will come back soon, e.g. Rev. 22:7: “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book” and Rev. 22:12, 13: “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End”.  ‘Move it on, roll on John’ because the time is near and be ready for you do not now the hour.
Be continued………

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Bob Dylan's 'Roll on John' - an analysis - Part 1 - Introduction


Dylan’s ‘Roll on John’ – lyric analysis – Part 1 – Introduction.

“Roll on John” is another masterpiece from the album ‘Tempest’ which I really love. The song has a melancholy melody, it chimes and despairs, the music lingers on as we are slowly drifting from scene to scene and Dylan’s voice is really heartfelt.  When I heard the song for the first time, the lyrics somehow disappointed me. My first thought was that, no matter how great an artist John Lennon may have been and no matter how much I like his music, so much praise and eulogy for a mortal human being sounded over the top and initially the song felt to me as if there were some sort of misplaced idolatry in it. Also at first glance, the praise and eulogy addressed towards Lennon in the lyrics of the song, somehow seems to suggest that Dylan and Lennon were close friends, if not soul mates or bosom buddies. But they weren’t. They certainly respected each other and the relationship they had, can best be described as good acquaintances, rather than as close friends. It gave me the first clue that there must be more to it and when I continued listening to the song, I soon found out that parts of the song which deal with the various aspects of slavery could hardly be attributed to or connected to John Lennon’s personal life-span.
Not that there were no attempts made to have the entire song deal with John Lennon only, including the references to slavery. We all know that Lennon grew up in Liverpool. I read somewhere that Dylan may have made these references to slavery because Liverpool was once directly involved in the slave trade and it had been the biggest port for trading slaves for 50 years before abolition in 1807. When you take a walk through the streets of Liverpool you will find that the remnants, which remind you of this ‘golden age’ of slavery, are still visible. Some of the street names – like Hardman Street, Bold Street, Tarleton Street, Blackburne Place etc.  –where given in honor of and to commemorate slave traders.  They even launched a campaign in Liverpool some years ago, to have these street names renamed. Even when the slave trade was finally abolished Liverpool remained the biggest importer of cotton – which is one of the main products of slavery- for many years. I even read that some of the architectural splendor of Liverpool’s city center might have been based on and paid by the financial benefits of slavery. Dylan visited Liverpool many times and it is therefore not at all unlikely that Dylan was aware of this when he wrote this song.
Apart from this, Liverpool was also the assembly point for Irish migration to the USA, in particular after the Irish famine of the 1840s. Conditions on these passages across the Atlantic were said to be so horrible that they were later on compared to the equally dreadful circumstances under which the African slaves were shipped to America, half a century before. When we take Lennon’s Irish heritage into account, the reference to slavery in this song is not at all far-fetched.
But there is more.’ You been cooped up on an island far too long’ is interpreted by some  as a reference to the island of Manhattan, where John Lennon had  lived for more than 5 years- prior to his assassination in 1980 - in some sort of reclusion, ‘cooped up’ in his apartment at the Dakota.
Some people say that the references to slavery in this song allude to the fact that the Beatles had to accommodate their act if they expected to get out of playing places like the Cavern and be accepted by the music industry at large and to make it into the London scene. The lineThey tied your hands and they clamped your mouth’ is supposed to refer  to the orders the Beatles received from their management not to publicly discuss  hot political and social issues when they came to America; issues  like the war in Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement in the sixties. In later interviews they made it clear that they resented these orders and restrictions placed on them during their first sequence of tours. By 1965-1966 however, the Beatles took the liberty and had the power to do, and say, whatever they pleased.

Plausible as a comprehensive analysis of the song  - only dealing with John Lennon – may seem, yet there are enough reasons to assume that in the song Dylan deals with more than one ‘John’. Personally I found reasons enough to believe that the other ‘John’ Dylan has in mind in this song, is St John, the Apostle.
First of all, there is a sort of ‘finality’ prominently present on the album ‘Tempest’. ‘The Tempest’ was Shakespeare’s last play (albeit whimsically dismissed by Dylan – in his typically Dylanesque style – because, as he said, the album title is ‘Tempest’ and not ‘The Tempest’). The Book of Revelation – said to be Dylan’s favorite Bible book- is mentioned in the song ‘Tempest’ as the last  book the captain of the Titanic read during the last  dying seconds of his life. The Book of Revelation written by the longest lived of the Apostles, St John, in the last stage of his life, is at the same time also the last book of the Bible.
Furthermore, this song is reminiscent of some sort of medieval dream-vision poem in which the poet enters into some kind of trance at the start of the poem, loses all sense of time, and loses contact with the present world and enters an entirely different, ancient world, a world where the difference between the conscious and the subconscious and the difference between reality and fiction is continuously obliterated. The song starts with ‘Doctor, doctor tell me the time of day’ indicating that the poet has now in fact lost all sense of time and that he is now ready and in a position to sway backwards and forwards between the times and experiences of John Lennon on the one hand, and the ancient times and experiences of St John, cooped up on the isle of Patmos in 95 AD, on the other hand.
But the lyrics are not entirely dealing with John Lennon and St John. There is a third personage and that is the poet himself. This is apparent from the last verse where the object suddenly changes. One would expect the lyrics to read there ‘I pray the Lord his soul to keep’ referring either to the soul of John Lennon or St John, but instead the lyrics read ‘I pray the Lord my soul to keep’. The statement of the writer, Will Hermes, who sees the song as ’a prayer from one great artist to another and a reminder that Dylan now stands virtually alone among his 1960s peers’ takes it too far. True, the song certainly has many elements of a prayer, especially in the refrain, but not a prayer from one artist to another but rather of a prayer to the Lord above. In this prayer the poet expresses on the one hand the turmoil in his soul, not only about the senseless killing of John Lennon, but deep inside also the worries about the whereabouts of Lennon’s soul. It seems as if he now implicitly wrestles with the question: where do I stand among all this, what will happen to me? How will my soul end up? How will posterity look back on me? At the same time he finds great comfort in the other John, the Apostle. Although the sufferings of St John were immense, hard labor in the quarry mines on the isle of Patmos, St John’s light shines on in the book of Revelation and until the end of time. The fire of St Jon’s suffering has gone out out but the Light is never dying, it shines on and on and rolls on and on. 

Finally, Ellen Gunderson Traylor wrote a novel in 1970 called ‘John, Son of Thunder’. In Chapter 120 and 121 Gunderson Traylor describes the degrading circumstances under which St John –well over 90 years old - had to work as an exiled slave in the quarry mines on the isle of Patmos, in the year 95 AD.
Although words like: ‘Rags on your back just like any other slave, they tied your hands and they clamped your mouth’ seem to be taken  almost literally from Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’ but words to that same effect are also in Ellen Gunderson Traylor’s novel and it is therefore not at all unlikely that Dylan read this harrowing novel..
In our next article we will delve deeper into the lyrics, in a verse to verse analysis, and we’ll see how we can piece all these things together.  Please comment on this article by clicking on the button ‘reacties’ on the bottom of this page.

Vaker avondmaal vieren?


Ergens las ik het volgende voorstel: laat kerkenraden de gemeente oproepen om in de viering van het avondmaal haar eenheid zichtbaar te maken. Dat is zeker een goede zaak. Tevens werd voorgesteld om het aantal vieringen uit te breiden naar 10 zondagen per jaar. Je zou zeggen: wie kan met deze uitbreiding niet blij zijn? Toch heb ik, als ik daar verder over nadenk, wat aarzelingen. Ik probeer aan die aarzeling stem te geven in het volgende verhaaltje waarin ik u vraag een mooie bos bloemen te vergelijken met het avondmaal. Een mooie bos bloemen kan een zichtbaar teken zijn waarin je uiting geeft aan je hartelijke liefde en trouw voor je geliefde. Nu gaat het om een vergelijking die natuurlijk lang niet op alle punten klopt. Het avond maal is veel meer dan een bos bloemen. Het gaat om het punt dat ik er mee wil maken en ik hoop dat het aan het einde duidelijk is wat ik probeer te zeggen. Het gaat om het volgende verhaaltje:

Ze waren zo goed begonnen aan hun huwelijk. Ze maakten voldoende tijd vrij om met elkaar te praten. Dat waren gesprekken van hart tot hart en op gezette tijden. Dat hadden ze nodig om de vlam van de liefde brandende te houden. Toen kwam er langzaam een kink in de kabel. Zijn dagelijks werk begon hem steeds meer op te slokken, ook in de avond uren en de weekenden. Dan had hij ook zijn hobby’s. Die slokten ook best veel tijd op. Avond na avond was hij op pad. Voor gesprekken samen kwam steeds minder ruimte. Ze begonnen langzaam van elkaar te vervreemden. Ze spraken elkaar nog nauwelijks écht. Hij wist wel dat dit niet goed was. Maar meer tijd voor haar vrij maken, daar kwam gewoon niet van.  Toen dacht hij: “Weet je wat?, ik koop voor haar een mooie bos bloemen om het goed te maken”. Dat kwam goed bij haar over. Ze dacht: “Gelukkig, hij houdt nog steeds van mij, misschien wil hij voortaan weer meer tijd voor mij vrij maken”. Maar dat gebeurde helaas niet. De bloemen bleven wél komen, steeds vaker zelfs. Maar hem zag ze steeds minder. Op laatst zeiden haar die bloemen niets meer. Ze begon er zelfs een afkeer van te krijgen. Ze wilde niet afgekocht worden. Totdat er zelf een moment aanbrak dat ze de bloemen terug slingerde in zijn gezicht. Ze zei: “Hou op met het schenken van die bloemen, wordt het niet  tijd om eerst eens echt  met elkaar te gaan praten?”.

Wie goed om zich heen kijkt, ziet dat ook in het gezin en de kerk steeds minder echt met elkaar gesproken wordt. In het ND van 23 januari jl. las ik dat we volgens Maarten Dekker in een geestelijke crisis leven. Hij zei: ‘De crisis is zo ernstig dat de geloofsoverdracht in de gezinnen al mislukt. Catechisatie is daarom een hoogst missionaire bezigheid. Er is ongeloof in gezinnen en kerken, en daar heeft de kerk al genoeg aan”. Dekker noemde als oorzaak voor de leegloop van de kerken in West Europa onder meer het verdwijnen van het besef van ‘eeuwigheidsdimensie’’. Veel gelovigen, aldus Dekker, beseffen niet dat geloven een kwestie van leven of dood is. ‘Daardoor zijn we ons gaan richten op het leven hier, op Amnesty en goede chocolade. Dat is secularisatie. Het gaat in de kerk primair om Christus’. (Ik ben het overigens niet met Dekker eens dat we door die secularisatie in eigen kring niet meer naar buiten gericht zouden moeten zijn, maar daar gaat het mij nu niet om.)

In het gezin en de kerk wordt steeds minder echt met elkaar gesproken, stelden we. Dit proces begint in het gezin en zet zich voort in de kerk en wordt daar zichtbaar. Willen we die trend ombuigen, dan moet dat beginnen in het gezin. Ik zeg er maar meteen bij: dat kunnen we niet in eigen kracht, we zullen erom moeten bidden.
Wat bedoelen we als we zeggen dat er ook in de kerk niet echt met elkaar wordt gesproken? Dit: God nodigt ons in elke eredienst uit voor een gesprek. Dat doet Hij door Zijn Woord tot ons te richten. Wij, de gemeente, geven daarop antwoord. Zo ontstaat er een gesprek van hart tot hart. Daardoor wordt de vlam van de liefde brandende gehouden en versterkt. Maar wat blijkt helaas? Een steeds groter wordende groep gemeenteleden heeft hieraan in steeds mindere mate een boodschap. De toewijding begint te haperen en het gevolg is maar al te vaak dat het kerkbezoek steeds slordiger wordt. Zo heeft meer dan de helft van de gemeente geen behoefte meer aan een tweede kerkdienst. Bij de slager krijg je soms te horen: ‘Mag het ook wat meer zijn? ’Kerkleden hoor je steeds vaker zeggen: ‘mag het ook wat minder zijn?’. Bij de slager mag je gerust ‘Nee’ zeggen maar in de kerk ligt dat toch een heel stuk anders, als God daar iets van ons vraagt heeft een ‘neen’ van onze kant altijd consequenties. Jammer is het dat de hele discussie over het kerkbezoek dan ook veelal in de sfeer van het ‘moeten’ terecht gekomen is, terwijl het toch om een ‘mogen’ gaat. Je hoort mensen wel eens zeggen: ‘als het moet dan hoeft het voor mij niet meer’. Denk je dat het bij God anders is? Met Hem valt niet te marchanderen, ten diepste is het bij Hem alles of niets. En dat komt omdat Hij alles voor ons wil zijn.

In de economie wordt er soms geld bij gedrukt terwijl er geen onderliggende waarde is. Dat heet inflatie. Het gevolg is dat je met hetzelfde geld steeds minder kunt kopen. Is het niet zo dat als je vaker avondmaal gaat vieren zonder dat daar een groei aan onderliggende waarde onder zit, het avondmaal inflateert? Wordt het avondmaal dan niet van minder waarde, vervlakt het niet? Als dat zo is, dan kan het net zo gaan zoals met die mooie bos bloemen. Het zegt op den duur niets meer. Om dit te voorkomen lijkt het mij nodig dat er eerst gewerkt wordt aan de groei van de onderliggende waarde. Daar is veel gebed en moed voor nodig. Moed om elkaar aan te spreken op je toewijding aan de Heer. Maar die hernieuwde toewijding begint in de gezinnen. Daar moet weer echt met elkaar worden gesproken.
Moet het niet zo zijn:  Als we iets te vieren hebben bouwen we een feestje. Als we iets extra’s te vieren hebben bouwen we een extra feestje?
De vraag die ik wil stellen is deze: Kan het avondmaal functioneren als een zelfstandige aanjager van de toewijding aan de Heer? Met ‘zelfstandig’ bedoelen we: los van de groei van het Woord en toewijding van de gemeente aan de Heer. Als dat zo is zouden we elke week avondmaal moeten vieren.





Luther en de tollenaar van Lucas 18.


In mijn weblog artikel 'Ben ik nog steeds een zondaar?' hielden we ons bezig met de stelling van Luther “Simul Iustus et Peccator” wat zoveel betekent als “Tegelijk rechtvaardige én zondaar”. De aanleiding destijds was een blog van Ds. Jos Douma die schreef:’ “Kunnen wij niet zeggen: ‘In Christus ben ik geen zondaar meer, maar een nieuwe schepping dankzij het vernieuwende werk van de Geest; en zeker, ik zondig nog, vaker dan me lief is; en zeker, op de man af gevraagd erken ik dat het vaak zo tegenvalt met dat nieuw leven – maar God zij dank, ik wás een zondaar, ik bén een nieuwe schepping’.
We concludeerden toen het volgende: “De tollenaar in Lucas 18:13 zei niet:O God wees mij, heilige, die gezondigd heeft genadig’ maar hij zei: ‘O God, wees mij zondaar genadig’. Dat is nogal een verschil.
Aangezien de discussie over dit onderwerp in onze kerk nog voortduurt, leek het mij nuttig om eens wat nader te kijken naar die gelijkenis van Jezus over de biddende tollenaar en Farizeeër (Lucas 18:9:14) en te zien of de stelling van Luther “Simul Iustus et Peccator” door deze gelijkenis wordt ondersteund.
Nu kunnen we ons op verschillende manieren een draai geven aan deze gelijkenis om ons gelijk er mee te halen. Lange tijd hebben wij over de Farizeeën in Jezus dagen alleen maar in negatieve termen gedacht. We hadden daar ook alle aanleiding voor. Jezus heft in Mattheüs 23 een tirade aan tegen de Farizeeën waarbij woorden vallen als ‘huichelaars’, ‘slangen’ ‘witgepleisterde graven’ etc. Wanneer je dat hoofdstuk leest, ben je dan niet snel klaar  met deze Farizeeër die hier aan he bidden is?. We kunnen hem als een echte huichelaar snel ter zijde schuiven en zijn gebed van nul en generlei waarde achten.
Het is echter Prof. J. Van Bruggen geweest die in zijn Bijbelverklaringen ons de ogen ervoor geopend heeft dat er in die tijd een main stream onder de Farizeeën was, waarbij de onderhouding van de wet van Mozes helemaal geen middel was om een eigen gerechtigheid op te bouwen, een soort van tegoed bon waarmee je de hemel kan verdienen, maar waarbij de wet juist functioneerde als een soort van omheining om juist binnen het verbond te blijven. Helemaal niet zo negatief als we vaak denken, integendeel. Die gedachte kan gevoed worden door het feit dat Jezus opdracht geeft om je aan alles te houden wat de Farizeeën je zeggen (Mat. 23:3).
De tollenaar kan je ook snel weg zetten als collaborateur met de gehate Romeinse bezettingsmacht en bovendien dan ook nog iemand die volksgenoten afperst. Een echte zondaar zou je zeggen.

Maar dan gebeurt er iets wonderlijks. De tollenaar heeft berouw en komt tot inkeer, slaat zich op de borst en zegt: “God, wees mij zondaar genadig.” Jezus zegt dan van de tollenaar “hij ging naar huis als iemand die rechtvaardig is in de ogen van God”. Dat was echt opzienbarend. “Kan dat zomaar?” moeten de verbijsterde omstanders gedacht hebben. “Dit kan toch niet! Moet die tollenaar eerst niet alles terug betalen wat hij afgeperst heeft, voor er sprake kan zijn van vergeving?”. Het antwoord is: Ja, dit kan zo maar! Zo is het liefde volle Vader hart!. Hij vergeeft zonder voorwaarden!. Zo maar, uit pure liefde. Zo is Hij! “God in mensen een welbehagen”.
Nu staat er in de NBV dat de tollenaar naar huis ging als iemand die “rechtvaardig is in de ogen van God”. In het Grieks staat dit woord “rechtvaardig” echter in de voltooide tijd, vandaar dat de SV heeft vertaald: “Deze ging af gerechtvaardigd in zijn huis”. “Gerechtvaardigd” in de voltooide tijd betekent van Gods kant ook dat het voltooid is. “Gerechtvaardigd” betekent: vrij gesproken van schuld en zonde, de tollenaar komt in de “rechte” verhouding tot God te staan. Alle schatten en gaven van het Koninkrijk gaan daarbij open voor de tollenaar. Er rijst een lied van overwinning op in de tollenaar. De tollenaar is nu “in” Christus en méér dan overwinnaar (Rom. 8:37). De tollenaar is een “nieuwe schepping” geworden (2 Kor. 5:17). Het oude leven is voorbij gegaan en zie er is nu een nieuw leven gekomen!.
De vraag die nu opkomt is: is dit nu alles wat er te zeggen valt? De tollenaar krijgt alles en de Farizeeër niets? Kan de tollenaar die rechtvaardiging, die vrijspraak nu in de kast zetten, er naar kijken en zeggen, “dit is nu mijn eigendom en dat kan niemand mij afnemen, ik ben onoverwinnelijk en onaantastbaar geworden, ik was eens zondaar, maar nu niet meer, spreek me daarom a.u.b. ook niet meer aan als zondaar want dat ervaar ik feitelijk als een belediging?”. Voor we daar een antwoord op kunnen geven, lijkt het mij een goede zaak eerst nog eens te kijken naar wat die tollenaar nu precies zegt.
Het eerste wat opvalt in 18:13, is dat er eigenlijk staat: “God, wees mij de zondaar genadig.” Het bepaald lidwoord “de” is niet mee vertaald, maar het staat er wel degelijk in het Grieks. Geen onbelangrijk verschil. Je hoort nogal eens zeggen: ‘we zijn nu eenmaal zondaars’. Zonder lidwoord. Dat klinkt al snel als een soort excuus. Maar de tollenaar kwalificeert zich als ‘de’ zondaar. Dat raakt zijn hele identiteit, hij belijdt dat hij één brok zonde is, de zondaar bij uitstek, in zichzelf totaal verloren. Wij zouden er haast aan toevoegen: en dus geneigd tot alle kwaad. De tollenaar houdt niets achter en verbloemt niets.
Het tweede dat opvalt, is dat waar in 18:13 vertaald is: “Wees mij genadig” er een werkwoord in het Grieks wordt gebruikt  ‘hielaskomai’ wat in het Nederlands zoveel betekent als: ‘verzoenen’. Natuurlijk heeft verzoening alles met genade te maken, vandaar ook de vertaling “Wees mij genadig”. Verzoening gaat primair altijd van God uit die genadig wil zijn en het goed wil maken met de mens. God houdt van mensen. “In mensen een welbehagen” hebben we tijdens kerst prachtig uitgelegd gekregen.
Letterlijk staat er in 18:13: “Toon U voor mij verzoend”. Nu is het aardige dat ditzelfde woord ‘verzoening’, in het Grieks ‘hielasmos,’ ook voorkomt in I Joh. 2:2 waar staat: “Hij (Christus) is een verzoening voor onze zonden”. Uit de context waarin I Joh 2:2 staat blijkt dat die “verzoening” met de zondaar – de bediening van de verzoening - geen eenmalige gebeurtenis is, waarna de termen “zonde” en “zondaar” a.h.w. in het museum geplaatst kunnen worden. Integendeel. Johannes stelt met nadruk dat de zonde ook in het vernieuwde leven van een Christen nog volop aanwezig is. I Jo. 1:8: “ Als we zeggen dat we de zonde niet kennen, misleiden we onszelf en is de waarheid niet in ons”.
Laten we de zaken duidelijk stellen. Het offer van zijn eigen leven dat Christus bracht om de verzoening van de zonden tot stand te brengen is wel een eenmalige gebeurtenis geweest: eens en voor altijd (Hebr. 7:27). Door dat offer heeft Jezus Christus a.h.w. een voorraadkamer opgebouwd, vol met verzoeningsmiddelen, een nooit meer opdrogende bron van verzoening, voldoende om de zonde van de hele wereld te verzoenen. De publieke uitdeling van die verzoening gaat continu door (een wereldwijde 24 uurs economie van verzoening tot aan de jongste dag (cf. Rom. 3:25,26). Maar nu moet je, ook als kind van God, elke dag weer naar die bron van verzoening toegaan om er uit te drinken, je zonde te belijden. Dan worden de zonden vergeven zegt Johannes want we hebben een pleitbezorger bij de Vader, Jezus Christus de Rechtvaardige (I Joh.2:1).
Nu gaan we weer even terug naar die tollenaar. Hij ging ‘gerechtvaardigd’ naar huis. Van Gods kant uit is het helemaal in orde. Een eindpunt dus. Maar tegelijkertijd (simul) is het ook een beginpunt. De Heilige Geest gaat nu beginnen met Zijn werk in en aan de tollenaar. Dat doet de Heilige Geest met ieder kind van God. De Geest gaat allerlei lagen in het binnenste de tollenaar aanraken en naar boven brengen. Lagen in het binnenste van de tollenaar waar zonden zitten. Gedachten, woorden, werken waarvan hij al wel wist dat ze niet goed waren en zonden waarvan hij zich niet eens bewust was. Die bewustwording is een geleidelijk en heel vaak een pijnlijk proces en telkens zal de tollenaar weer moeten uitroepen: “O God wees mij de zondaar genadig”. Is dat pijnlijke proces van levensvernieuwing nu iets om pessimistisch en verdrietig van te worden? Aanleiding om een beetje in de mineur te blijven hangen en te zeggen: “Het wordt met mij toch niets!”?. Nee dat is zeker niet de bedoeling! Want wie zich hiervoor openstelt en ruimte geeft aan de Geest om je te vernieuwen die zal tegelijkertijd meer en meer gaan merken wat ‘rechtvaardiging’ betekent. Die zal meer en meer de intense vrede, blijdschap, troost en geborgenheid van Vader in zijn leven gaan ervaren. Die gaat groeien in geloof en liefde! Dat proces duurt een leven lang. Het lijkt net of het twee communicerende vaten zijn: Hoe meer besef van eigen zonde en tekort, hoe meer we ons afhankelijk voelen van de genade, des te mee zal God ons laten  voelen en ervaren dat we gerechtvaardigd zijn.
Jezus trekt aan het einde van deze gelijkenis een conclusie en geeft daarmee de juiste gebedshouding aan: “Want wie zichzelf verhoogt zal vernederd worden, maar wie zichzelf vernedert zal verhoogd worden” (18:14). Sommige christenen bidden alleen maar vanuit de overwinning. Zonde en genade besef gaan dan gemakkelijk naar de achtergrond of verdwijnen zelfs geheel. Dan is het gevaar niet ondenkbeeldig dat je gebed gaat ontsporen en veel meer gaat lijken op dat van de Farizeeër dan je lief is, de Farizeeër die immers ook bad vanuit de overwinning. Dit gebed van de Farizeeër staat minder ver van ons af dan we wel eens denken.
Maar wie zichzelf vernedert en beseft dat hij zondaar is zolang hij hier op aarde leeft, en alleen van genade kan leven, en telkens met die gebedshouding naar God toegaat, die bidt zoals God het graag ziet, en zal verhoogd worden, in hem rijst een lied van overwinning op.
God heeft de zondaar lief, ook al haat Hij de zonde. Als Hij ons lief heeft, ook al zijn we zondaar, laten we er dan niet voor terug schrikken ons voor zijn aangezicht zondaar te noemen en ons niet mooier voor te doen dan dat we vanuit onszelf zijn. Tegelijkertijd zijn we ook rechtvaardige. Hij ziet ons als dé rechtvaardige, dankzij Christus.
Die twee blijven gelijk opgaan: zondaar én tegelijk rechtvaardige. Ons begrip als mensen is beperkt. Met én én heeft ons verstand moeite, als we denken dat twee begrippen tegenstrijdig zijn en dan lijkt het of we voor een dilemma staan waarin we een keuze moeten maken. Wij denken gemakkelijk dat het óf  óf  moet zijn. Of je bent zondaar óf je bent rechtvaardige. Dan kan je kiezen en dat lijkt veel gemakkelijker. Maar soms kunnen beide dingen waar zijn, zonder dat we dat met ons verstand helemaal op een rijtje kunnen krijgen. Dan moeten we het spanningsveld die er tussen begrippen bestaat, aanvaarden als een door God gewild spanningsveld. Later, in het hiernamaals, zullen we begrijpen dat die spanning er eigenlijk helemaal niet was, maar dat het aan ons beperkt begrip lag.
Maar er staan wel meer van die én én dilemma’s in de Bijbel. Voor ons gevoel zit er iets tegenstrijdigs in, maar niet vanuit God’s kant bekeken. Laten we er een paar noemen:
Onze Vader in de hemel weet van tevoren wat wij nodig hebben én toch wil Hij dat wij Hem erom bidden (Mat6:8). Nog een ander dilemma: Je zondigt niet (I Joh. 3:6,9 en I Joh. 5:8) én je zondigt wel ( I Joh 1:8-10) – Wil je weten hoe dat kan, lees dan mijn weblogartikel 'Is de zonde een gepasseerd station?

We stelden aan het begin van dit artikel de vraag of de gelijkenis van Jezus over de biddende tollenaar en Farizeeër de stelling van Luther “Simul Iustus et Peccator” ondersteunt. Het antwoord is m.i. : JA. Deze stelling kan de toets van de kritiek nog steeds doorstaan. En ook de bede “Vergeef ons onze schulden” in het gebed dat Jezus ons zelf geleerd heeft, moet blijven.

Wilt u reageren op dit artikel?, scroll dan naar beneden naar ‘reacties’ en plaats uw reactie.







Bob Dylan's 'Pay in Blood' -an analysis- Part 4 - final part


In this final part we deal with the verses 5 & 6.

‘How I made it back home, nobody knows
or how I survived so many blows
I’ve been through hell, what good did it do?
You bastard! I’m supposed to respect you?
I’ll give you justice, I’ll fathom/fatten your purse
Show me your moral virtue first
Hear me holler and hear me moan
I pay in blood but not my own’.
The question is, are the words ‘How I made it back home, nobody knows, or how I survived so many blows’ just an illustration of the ‘survival of the fittest’, an expression of the resilience of the human race, that no matter how hard the human race is oppressed, it will always come out on top and it will always survive, no matter how hard it is struck, or is there more to it? There is certainly a lot of truth in this argument of human endurance. Yet we feel that there are strong arguments to think that this verse too is for the larger part about Jesus, albeit in covert terms as so often in Dylan’s work, in words which although they cannot be directly derived from the gospel, they nevertheless force themselves upon you as somehow connected with the gospel. Jesus ‘made it back home’. His home is in Heaven, at the right hand of God the Father. He left his home, the heavens, when he incarnated and –apart from His divine nature - adopted the human nature through the Virgin Mary. He became Man to ‘pay in blood’ for the sins of the entire mankind. Jesus is the One Dylan points at in the refrain of the song when he says: ‘I pay in blood but not my own’. For Jesus this payment meant indescribable pain, torture and suffering both physically and mentally, culminating in His crucifixion and the worst suffering of all when He was forsaken by God the Father (Mat. 27:46).   He received blow after blow but yet he survived. He died on the cross but rose from the dead after three days and ascended back to Heaven: ‘He made it back home’. How He –Jesus- made it? Dylan says: ‘Nobody knows’, this is of course seen from a human perspective. No living soul under the sun can fathom the depth of His sufferings or grasp the glorious power by which Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven. Only God knows. In fact, whatever happened to Jesus, it all went according to God’s plan.
When Dylan goes on to say: ‘I’ve been through hell, what good did it do?’ this reflects Matt. 27:46 where Jesus on the cross, in bitter agony, cries out with a loud voice: ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me?’. Some theologians have argued that Hell is the place where God is not present, and that Hell is the place of absolute absence of God. So being forsaken by God the Father, with whom He has an eternal and most beloved relationship, is the equivalent of going through Hell, which at the same time also meant that the devil and all the demons had free rein to hurl themselves on Jesus and bring his suffering to its culminating point, to a point which no human being has ever endured or will ever endure.
‘What good did it do?’ is the poetical equivalent of Jesus saying ‘Why?’ Why have you forsaken me?’. This outcry of Jesus again has to be seen from a human perspective, to be understood as the suffering as the Son of Man.  From a divine point of view however, it did a lot of good .It is the best thing that could ever have happened to the poet. This is not explicitly stated but is silently implied. Jesus, going as deep down as Hell and covered with the wrath of God, realized payment in blood for mankind to its full extent and made the refrain of the song true: ‘I pay in blood, but not my own’. It was not my blood but it was Jesus’s blood.
The words ‘You bastard! I’m supposed to respect you?’ adds insult to injury for Jesus. So much surrendering love from Jesus was met with the most extreme hostility from his opponents. Some have argued that the Talmud states that Jesus was a bastard born of adultery (Yebamoth, folio 49b). However, this is a matter of interpretation; since the name of Jesus is not mentioned in this section of the Talmud, this interpretation is to be regarded as highly controversial and speculative and should for that reason be rejected. That is not to say that Jesus was (is) not called a bastard son by others. He was and He is. We also refer to what we already said about the line: “You've got the same eyes that your mother does; If only you could prove who your father was“. But it even goes further than that. In the gospels we also hear of a false and wicked accusation that Jesus was empowered by the devil (the demons). Luke 11:15: ‘No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons”. ‘I’m supposed to respect you? ‘’ is a rhetorical question showing utter contempt and it not only refers to Jesus being falsely called a bastard son but  also to  His humble, low birth from Nazareth. John 1:46: ‘“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”.
The poet dwells on the same subject as he goes on to say: ‘I’ll give you justice, I’ll fatten your purse, show me your moral virtue first’. Some here some alternative lyrics here: ‘I’ll fathom your purse instead of ‘fatten’ and ‘show me your moral that you reversed’ instead of ‘show me your moral virtue first’, but within the context this seems less appropriate. Also these words are best understood if you regard them as addressed to Jesus. These words resound in the gospel. ‘I’ll fatten your purse’ may almost be literally applicable to Jesus since Jesus had no money and he sent forth his disciples without money in their pockets (Mat. 10:9). One day they asked Jesus: “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?”(Luke 20:2). Luke 11:16 says: ‘Others, trying to test Jesus, demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority’. It is as if people said to Jesus: ‘we will accept you and follow you and do you justice, we will fatten your purse but you must first accept our conditions and follow our political agenda. Free us from the Romans and give us bread. Stop talking about your heavenly mission, unless you can proof to us by a miraculous sign that you are – as you claim - sent by God the Father. ‘Show your moral virtue first’, sounds as if they reprimand Him: ‘who gave you the authority to judge us; on what moral virtue are you doing all these things!’. ‘Hear me holler and hear me moan’ means: hear my said and bitter complaint, how on earth is it possible that so much love from Jesus is met with such fervent hostility? This world has really gone mad and nobody is capable to break this morbid deadlock.  It stresses even more the need for redemption and substitution at the highest possible price and that is payment through blood. It is once again the reason why the refrain follows: ‘I pay in blood, but not my own’.
We come to the final verse of the song:
You get your lover in the bed
Come here, I’ll break your lousy head
Our nation must be saved and freed
You’ve been accused of murder, how do you plead?
This is how I spend my days
I came to bury, not to praise
I’ll drink my fill and sleep alone
I play in blood, but not my own’.
Sexual dissipations and abuse, extreme violence, nationalism and racism seem to have ruled the earth throughout the ages. Sexual dissipations- to get as many lovers in your bed as you possibly can, and extreme violence – ‘Come here, I’ll break your lousy head’ – go hand in hand in this forlorn world. ‘Our nation must be saved and freed’   has been the standard slogan to justify racism, nationalism and ethnic cleansing for many centuries and at all places in the world. ’Our nation must be saved and freed ‘also may easily lead to individual human rights of innocent people being sacrificed on the altar of nationalism. This is exactly what happened to Jesus and may lurk at the background of what the poet tries to tell us here. We read of this in John 11:47-50: “Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man (Jesus) certainly performs many miraculous signs. If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.” Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about!  You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” It is as if Caiaphas says: ‘Our nation must be saved and freed, I’m gonna do whatever circumstances require’’ and Caiaphas goes on to say in John 11:50:You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man (Jesus) should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.”
When human rights of ethnic groups, minorities (e.g. slaves) or of individuals are scarified for the benefit of the nation, this may lead to accusations of downright murder, that is why it now says: ‘You’ve been accused of murder, how do you plead?’. Some have quite rightly argued that America – and in fact the the whole western world- may be accused of murder for having built an entire society on the institution of slavery for such a long time, only for financial gain. But there are more layers in this accusation. It looks as if Dylan also takes this accusation of murder to a more personal, individual level and in the end focusses the attention on the murder of Jesus Christ.  It is as if K. Kristofferson’s “They killed Him” – covered by Dylan on his album “Knocked out Loaded” re-echoes here. This song deals with the fact that some of the noblest and greatest men in history were violently killed. “They” killed Mahatma Ghandi who ‘knew his duty, and the price he had to pay’, and “they” killed Martin Luther King, who ‘made the bells of freedom ring today’. But then the song describes the murder of Jesus Christ:
The only Son of God Almighty
The Holy One called Jesus Christ
Healed the lame and fed the hungry
And for his love they took His life away
On the road to glory where the story never ends
Just the Holy Son of man we'll never understand’
The question that is now raised in the song about all those innocent killings is: ‘How do you plead?’. How do you deal with this accusation? Well, the implicit answer is that we, as mankind and as individuals, must plead guilty. And if we are guilty we have to face condemnation. This song makes us clear that in the eyes of the poet there is only way to escape eternal condemnation is to accept the notion that redemption is needed and payment is necessary. Man cannot pay through his own strength and power and has to conclude: ‘I pay in blood but not my own’. But before this conclusion is again drawn Dylan takes one more detour: ‘This is how I spend my days, I came to bury, not to praise’. This is how spend my days’, means this is what I’ve been contemplating for so long, by day and by night: ‘I came to bury not to praise’. This line ‘I came to bury not to praise’ is taken from Mark Antony's funeral oration in Shakespeare’s play ‘Julius Caesar’ (Act 3, Scene 2). Mark Antony delivers a speech about the assassinated Caesar. After Brutus has spoken, Mark Antony goes on to say:
‘Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar’.
If we to try to find out why Dylan uses this line ‘I came to bury not to praise’ here and take a closer look at this play, things are not what they seem. Mark Antony is fully aware of what happened to Caesar and he knows who the conspirators are, including Brutus, but Antony is only allowed to speak to the crowd on the condition that he does not implicate Brutus or anyone else in the death of Caesar and Antony swears that he will not implicate anybody. Yet in a stealthily way Antony tries to turn the crowd against the conspirators in order to revenge the murder of Caesar. Antony does this through speaking in some sort of rhetorical double tongue; he repeatedly, and sarcastically, refers to Brutus as an 'honorable' man, and through this exaggerating repetition he tries to impugn Brutus to the crowd and covertly incites the crowd to riot against Brutus and the conspirators. Antony’s speech means the inverse of its language. We often see this in politics. But not only Mark Antony, we also see another politician, Brutus, ‘pumping out the piss’. Brutus slew Caesar, yet he says in his speech: ‘If there by any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesar’s, to him I say that Brutus love to Caesar was no less than his. If then that friend demands why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer: Not that I loved Caesar less but I loved Rome more’. (Act 3, scene 2).What Brutus says sounds as if he says: ‘but our nation must be saved and freed’. This comes close to what Caiaphas said about Jesus. John 11:50: “Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about!  You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.”. Somehow Dylan makes a link from Antony and Brutus to Jesus, maybe to show that dirty politics always leads to utmost injustice. Apart from the Caesar connection, ‘I came to bury, not to praise’, within the context of the song, it may also be a reference to Romans 6:4: “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives”, meaning that Christ has come to bury our old and bad nature. It may  look as if the poet gives us this message: ‘In this song I came to tell you some inconvenient truth and you are not going to like it, I came to bury which is never a pleasant thing to do, and I certainly did not come to play up to you, to praise you, to give you a good feeling, you have to remember that I pay in blood, payment in blood is serious business because the price is very high price, in fact nobody could ever pay a higher price than his own blood and it  has been paid for me, somebody else –Jesus - did it for me so it is not my own blood’. Because of this payment peace and abundance has now come into my life and that’s why I conclude:  ´I’ll drink my fill and sleep alone´. “Fill” as a noun means a full supply, as much as supplies want; as much as gives complete satisfaction .It is a direct quote from the Bible. Ps 36:9 “They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights” .Leviticus 25:19 ''Ye shall eat your fill.''  The idea behind is that once you are reconciled with God, His presence in your life will give you hugh abundance and everything you need to reach your destination will be yours. ‘to sleep alone’ underlines this idea of peace and quiet that has  come over the poet, exactly as Psalm 4:8 says: “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.”. Cover him over and let him sleep till the new morning has arrived. He can lay at rest because he paid in blood- though it is not his own. 





Bob Dylan's 'Pay in Blood' - an analysis - Part 3


In this article we take a closer look at verse 3 and 4 of this fascinating song. Verse 3 reads:
“Low cards are what I’ve got
But I’ll play this hand whether I like it or not
I’m sworn to uphold the laws of God
You can put me out in front of a firing squad
I’ve been out and around with the rowdy men
Just like you my handsome friend
My head’s so hard, must be made of stone
I pay in blood, but not my own”.
In most games of cards when you find out that you have received low cards, you say to yourself: “Low cards are what I’ve got”, and you simply say : ‘I pass’, but in this case the player is determined to play on and says “I’ll play this hand whether I like it or not”. The question of whether ‘he’ likes it or not to play on seems just as irrelevant as the question of whether ‘you’ like it or not. Whether he likes it or not is not even a question. Nevertheless he at least suggests that he is not going to like it to play on and implicitly suggests that the vast majority of his fans and followers are not going to like it either. ‘You can’t win with a losing hand’ Dylan wrote in ‘Things have changed’. What is Dylan hinting at here? Part of the answer is in what Dylan wrote in the song ‘Series of Dreams’:  ‘And the cards are no good that you’re holding, unless they’re from another world’. When, in this world, you say: “I’m sworn to uphold the laws of God” you have a very low card indeed, at least so it seems. Although it is a very high card in this other world, a world you can’t see with your eyes, here on earth it is a very unpopular card indeed and although it’s a card he does not like to play, -in fact nobody would like to play this card at all-   he has to play it, he has sworn to play it. Why? Well, I think that the 60 minutes CBS television interview Bob Dylan gave in 2004 might give us an important clue. In this interview Dylan is asked why after so many years he still out there on stage, performing all of his songs on tour. After emphasizing that he doesn’t take any of it for granted, Dylan gives the following reply: ‘’It goes back to that destiny thing. I mean, I made a bargain with it, you know, long time ago. And I’m holding up my end’’. On the question what his bargain was, Dylan answers: ‘‘to get where I am now”. And asked whom he made that bargain with he answers: “With the Chief Commander, in this earth and in a world we can’t see”. No matter how elusive this answer may sound, one may easily read between the lines that his part of the bargain, as Dylan sees it, might have been that Dylan would “uphold the laws of God”, he has even ‘sworn’ to uphold the laws of God. Upholding the laws of God may mean that Dylan feels that as an artist he has to act as ‘watchtower’, to warn people, in some sort of a way just like the old biblical Prophets once did, that this world is doomed. It may be the reason why the song ‘All along the watchtower’ which dwells on this subject, has run like a continuous thread through almost all of his gigs for so many years. He seems convinced that he has a mission to fulfill in life and he has found a way to express his determination that he will adhere to the principles of this mission, that’s why he says: “You can put me out in front of a firing squad”. If this is necessary he is ready to give his life for his conviction and to become a martyr. Even being put out in front of a firing squad will not make him change his mind; he will uphold the laws of God, no matter what happens to him.
The words “I’ve been out and around with the rowdy men” are heard differently. Since there is no official transcription, some hear ‘rising’ men instead of ‘rowdy’ men. ‘Rowdy’ may mean ‘disturbing the public peace’ and that is exactly what Dylan has been doing all his life, e.g. what he did when he wrote all these protest songs in the sixties, therefore ‘rowdy’ seems to fit better than ‘rising’’. He has been ‘out and around’ e.g. with the ‘rowdy’ sixties ‘counterculture’ and adds “just like you my handsome friend”. “Handsome” means pleasing in appearance especially by reason of conformity to ideals of form and proportion, also agreeable to the correct (political) taste. Therefore, when he says “my handsome friend” there is an undercurrent of irony and bitter sarcasm in his words. His so-called “handsome friends” followed and supported him as long as long as the “voice of the sixties counter culture” – as they saw him – was mainstream, popular and suited their political agenda. Later on however,   for example in the late seventies, when Dylan converted to a very unpopular type of Christianity, most of these former friends, who could not get their neck around this, were gone.  Dylan has always had a stubbornness, always going in the opposite direction of what the experts say, that is why he goes on to say that “My head’s so hard, must be made of stone” shows his determination and stubbornness not to back down on  -what he regards  - as critical issues. His handsome friends follow the main stream and retreat when it no longer suits their agenda but he is ready to persist and to walk the line till the very end. Why? Because he says: “I pay in blood, but not my own”.  The price paid for him is just too high to give in.

‘Another politician pumping out the piss
Another ragged beggar blowing you a kiss
You've got the same eyes that your mother does
If only you could prove who your father was
Someone must've slipped a drug in your wine
You gulped it down and you crossed the line
Man can’t live by bread alone
I pay in blood, but not my own’.
When Dylan says "Another politician pumping out the piss” some analysts on the internet see this as a disillusioned septuagenarian’s attack on the politicians, the state of modern politics, and vested interests who rule this earth for their own ends and without any moral or human compass, others see it as some reference to the attitude  of ‘many of the more prominent Christians in America who supposedly pay for their own sins in another's blood (Christ's) and yet have very little compassion or forgiveness to offer anyone else’. True as these connotations may be, it goes deeper than that. When we consider this verse as a whole, it looks as it refers to what happened to Jesus when He was in the final stages of his life here on earth.
“Another politician pumping out the piss” may also very well refer to the governor and politician Pontius Pilate, who in spite of the fact that he was deeply convinced that Jesus was innocent, nevertheless handed over Jesus to the Sanhedrin to be crucified, apparently for political reasons only. Pilate violated justice just to save his own political neck, as we may read in John 19:12: “Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar’. Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.” This notion just tipped the balance in Jesus’s lawsuit when seen from a secular point of view. ”Pumping out the piss” was particularly illustrated when Pilate copiously and ostentatiously washed his hands publicly, to fake innocence for the shedding of the blood of Jesus. (Matt. 27:24).
“Another ragged beggar blowing you a kiss” may be a poetical reflection on what happened to Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and entered the town of Jericho, less than a week before he was condemned and crucified by Pilate. We read of this in Mark 10:46. There was this blind beggar Bartimaeus who shouted to Jesus:  “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus healed his blindness. It shows that no matter how brutally Jesus was rejected by the authorities, he kept on standing up for the blind and the poor and the downtrodden.
Some have argued on the internet that “You've got the same eyes that your mother does; If only you could prove who your father was “may represent Dylan’s retort to some 48 year old man from Rhode Island, who claims to be Dylan’s bastard son. There is hardly any credence in this story however, and even if it were true, it would be very unlikely that a private person like Dylan would refer to such an intimate matter in a song. Within the context it is therefore much more likely that this episode refers to Jesus. It all has to do with the claim from Jesus that He is the Son of God and that God is his Father and for that reason He was conceived by the Holy Spirit through the Virgin Mary. The Pharisees reject this claim as the dialogue of John 8:13-19 shows: “The Pharisees replied, “You are making those claims about yourself! Such testimony is not valid.” Jesus told them, “These claims are valid even though I make them about myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don’t know this about me. You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact.  I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other. “Where is your father?” they asked. Jesus answered, “Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who my Father is. If you knew me, you would also know my Father.” But not only the Pharisees but also some of the closest followers of Jesus, the Apostles initially had a hard believing Jesus’s claim and at that time equally felt the need for ‘proof’. We read of this in John 14:8 when the Apostle Philip said to Jesus: “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”   
Dylan goes on to say metaphorically: ‘Someone slipped a drug in your wine, and when you gulped it down and crossed the line’. This scene is not based on the gospel and therefore cannot be attributed to what happened to Jesus after his crucifixion. It is true, Jesus drank  a taste of wine on the cross but only after his mission on the cross had been fulfilled (John 18:28-30) and he drank it voluntarily, knowing what he was doing, and apart from this, this drinking of sour wine in which there was no drug at all - certainly did not cause his death. As said earlier ‘Someone slipped a drug in your wine, and when you gulped it down and crossed the line’ is rather about human bondage and slavery and is another way, a poetic way, of expressing what went wrong with man in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden. Wine symbolizes the ultimate communion between God and man. One day this communion will be restored (Mat 26:29). In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, man deliberately broke this communion and willingly gulped down the treacherous words of Satan and by doing so crossed a fatal line. From that day on mankind became enslaved to Satan.
‘Man can’t live by bread alone’ is a direct quote from Jesus (reciting Moses who said the same in Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus was led into the desert and had fasted for forty day and nights and in the end became very hungry. The devil tempted Jesus to use His super natural powers and to turn the stones of the desert into loaves of bread. Jesus refused categorically as we may read in Matt. 4:4: “But He (Jesus) answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God”. The meaning is that in order to obtain his daily bread man entirely depends on the charity and grace of God and not on his own capabilities. Food is a gift from God. He needs to look up to his creator to get it. Salvation too is a gift from God. To obtain salvation payment has to be made in blood. Man cannot pay however, therefore is has to be someone else’s blood; that is why again the refrain follows: ‘I pay in blood, but not my own’.
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Bob Dylan's 'Pay in Blood' - an analysis - Part 2


In our first article we discussed the refrain of the song: ‘I pay in blood but not my own’, in this article we start examining the verses of the song. On the internet some have argued that the verses of the song represent a dialogue between a slave and his master; the slave is meant in those verses which speak of pain, suffering and hardship and the master is meant in those verses which speak of revenge, retribution, punishment and violence. Implicitly the whole institution of slavery is tackled and the western nations, including America, are ‘accused of murder’ for so long having kept up a system of human repression, just for financial gain. Although, as we will see, not all verses deal with this issue and the perspective shifts continuously, yet I think there is a lot of truth in the notion that a large part of this song deals with slavery and its horrible consequences. That the song for a large part is about slavery may be backed up by Dylan’s recent RS interview. In this interview Bob Dylan says that stigma of slavery ruined America and he has a hard time believing the country can get rid of this shame because it was ‘founded on the backs of slaves.’ Dylan goes on to say that in America “people are at each other’s throats just because they are of a different color; it will hold any nation back.” Dylan also said:  “If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today.”

At the same time, Dylan would not be Dylan if he would not take the issue of slavery to a deeper and more spiritual level. The poet has the intention to cut to the core of slavery – of human bondage - and in such a situation harsh words cannot be avoided to picture the dark reality of this slavery. Only when we come to understanding what is at the core of human bondage we start coming aware of its terrible consequences and of the only way to get out of it and that is through redemption – payment in blood.
Actually, slavery, human bondage, started at the beginning of mankind when as Dylan says metaphorically ‘Someone slipped a drug in your wine, and when you gulped it down and crossed the line’. This is another way, a poetic way, of expressing what went wrong with man in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden. Wine symbolizes the ultimate communion between God and man. One day this communion will be restored (Mat 26:29). In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, man deliberately broke this communion and willingly gulped down the treacherous words of Satan and by doing so crossed a fatal line. From that day on mankind became enslaved to Satan. His enemy became his master. Through all ages, in an ill attempt to free mankind from the yoke of slavery we have seen that, in turns, slaves have become masters and masters have become slaves.  Only redemption, interference, from above is capable of breaking this morbid chain of events, this deadly cycle.  But it goes even further than that. Human sin is the mother of all slavery. Redemption from slavery, initially brought out by the exodus of Israel from the slave house of Egypt, was only the beginning; it was fully materialized when Jesus – through his payment in blood - bought mankind free from the slave house of sin .But it did not stop there. Those bought free are subsequently transformed through the Holy Spirit. This transformation is described i.e. in 2 Corinthians 3:17, 18: ‘For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image’ . By the way, this is quite something else Dylan spoke about in his recent Rolling Stone interview. Dylan did not speak about ‘Transformation’ but he spoke about ‘Transfiguration’ a process which he said he had undergone in the sixties. ‘Transfiguration’ however, is usually reserved to Christ only (see e.g. Mat. 17:2).So when a ‘normal’ human being – no matter who he or she is – assumes that some kind of a ‘Transfiguration’ has happened to him or herself, a lot of alarm bells have to start ringing. When you hear people talk about a ‘Transfiguration’ experience you’d better watch out. ‘Transfiguration’’ imaginations may easily lead to misplaced ‘delusions of grandeur ‘which may ultimately lead to ‘the disease of conceit’.
Transformation – or inward renewal through the Holy Spirit – has two main aspects and we can recognize at least one these aspects in ‘Pay in blood’. The first thing Transformation causes is: pain and suffering. Transformation changes the heart. That is never an easy process. Dylan – in the context of talking about slavery in his RS interview- : “You have to change your heart if you want to change.” The second aspect of Transformation is joy and gratitude but we do not find this in this song. Having said this, we take a look at the first verse:
‘Well I’m grinding my life out, steady and sure, nothing more wretched than what I must endure’
seems partly inspired by the poet Ovid. The Poems of Exile: ‘Tristia and the Black Sea Letters’ Book V says:
‘You write that I should divert these mournful days with writing, stop my wits rotting from neglect. That’s hard advice, my friend: poems emerge as the product of happiness- need peace of mind- but my fate’s shaken by adverse gales, there could be nothing more wretched than what I endure’.
Dylan’s words Well I’m grinding my life out, steady and sure, nothing more wretched than what I must endure’ immediately takes our mind into the realm of slavery. One thinks of hard, strenuous and monotonous slavery work over an indefinite period of time without any prospect of relief and in violation of all basic human rights. Your life is grinded out as if you are in some prison where you are stuck under a millstone, the friction of which pulverizes your life, steady but sure, or like the poet Milton once wrote: ‘send thee into the common prison, there to grind’. Nothing more wretched than what I must endure’ is as it says in Proverbs 15:15: ‘All the days of the oppressed are wretched”. It recalls not only the wretched days of the poet’s ancestors the, the Hebrews, who were enslaved in Egypt as Exodus 3: 7 says:  “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering” but it is also a bitter complaint of all slaves and oppressed of all ages.
As said, the concept of slavery has not only a social aspect but also a personal, spiritual aspect. Man must be redeemed from his enslavement to sin and set free. It involves the changing of his heart and this is likewise a very painful process. No matter how beautiful the outcome in the end may be, this learning process feels like grinding your life out, and what you come across in this process of renewal, what you endure feels very wretched indeed. The apostle Paul – and any other person going through a process chastening for that matter – is aware of this inner conflict this process evokes and like Paul sometimes has to confess: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).
“I’m drenched in the light that shines from the sun” whereby ‘sun’ may also be understood as ‘Son’ as ‘Christ’. When one is drenched in the light that comes from the ‘Son’, from Jesus, it may mean that one is so enlightened that one becomes the gift of discernment, the trait of judging wisely and objectively in all circumstances. Strictly speaking only God, including the Son, owns this gift to perfection and has the authority to use it. When an adulterous woman was brought to Jesus (John 8:5), Jesus had the perfect right to say “I could stone you to death for the wrongs that you done” but He voluntarily refrained from His right to take up the first stone and to stone her to death and decided to let her go.  But in the hands of sinners, oppressors and slave-drivers, this gift of discernment turns into an arbitrary, despotic, illegal means of retaliation and revenge from which there is no escape. ‘Sooner or later you make a mistake, I’ll put you in a chain that you never will break, legs and arms and body and bone” emphasizes once again that there is no escape once innocent people are in the hands of oppressors who have no other objective but to exploit other people for their own gain.  The inclination towards revenge and abuse of power is deeply rooted in the human condition, is at the bottom of all our hearts, and is always after complete submission of any opponent, to tie him in unbreakable chains, ‘legs and arms and body and bone’. This chain of events can only be broken if payment in blood is made, but – as outlined in our first article - it cannot be the blood of the human condition itself, that is why it says: ‘I pay in blood, but not my own’.

We move on to the second verse of the song:
‘Night after night, day after day, they strip your useless hopes away,
the more I take, the more I give, the more I die, the more I live.
I got something in my pocket make your eyeballs swim,
I got dogs could tear you limb from limb,
 I’m circling around the Southern Zone,
I pay in blood, but not my own”.

In ‘Night after night, day after day, they strip your useless hopes away” we see again that once you’re in the slave-driver’s hands, any hopes of a livable future are reduced to zero. On a deeper, spiritual level, these words refer to the healing power of the Holy Spirit, in a continuous process of inner renewal, the Spirit dashes, strips, any hope the human condition may have to redeem itself from the cycle of death under its own power. Apart from this, also this line seems  partly inspired by Ovid Book III of The Black Sea Letters which has: “When I return to this place, gods and heaven are left behind me: the Pontic shore is close – too close to Styx. And if my fight goes against Fate’s prohibitions, then strip me, Maximus, of my useless hopes”.
In “The more I take, the more I give, the more I die, the more I live” the poet alludes to the teachings of Jesus and Paul. There seems to be something paradoxical in these words. These words seem contrary to received opinion and common sense; something which in appearance is absurd, but yet may be true in fact. It all has to do with the process of inward renewal by the Spirit, which is a precondition to get rid of all slavery in its deepest sense. If you surrender to this process, it looks as if you are a loser (confirmed further on in the song by: ‘Low cards are what I’ve got’) when in fact you have a winning hand. When you give more than you take, you end up with nothing. Ending up with nothing because you chose to give instead of take is only absurd when you do not reckon with the blessing of God which ultimately is behind everything, just as it says in  Acts 20:35”: “You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.
The words the more I die, the more I live” seem equally paradoxical and absurd. These words allude to what Jesus says in Mat. 10:39: ‘If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it’. The process of change, of inward renewal is a painful process and feels like dying but in the end it leads to life in abundance. In this respect Hebrew 12:, 11 rings true: “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way”.
When we hear the words: “I got something in my pocket make your eyeballs swim, I got dogs could tear you limb from limb, I’m circlin’ around the Southern Zone” the swing apparently has moved to the highest point if its opposite direction, but it all happens within the same personality. The slave and the slave-driver are one and the same person. On the one hand, the process of change has softened and humiliated his heart –‘the more I take the more I give’-  but on the other hand,  the alter ego representing revenge, retaliation, the slave driver’s attitude,  is still very much present within himself, lingers at the bottom of his heart, and is ready to lash out mercilessly. But the good news is that the poet is aware of the fact that this dark craving for bloody revenge still lingers at the bottom of his heart. Awareness of these dark feelings is the first precondition to combat those feelings of hatred and revenge, and that is exactly what the Spirit wants to bring about in a man. If you want to combat those feelings it is necessary to look into the mirror, and to become conscious of those feelings. The worst thing that could happen to a man is when he deceives himself and when he thinks that he does not have those kinds of morbid feelings and that he is a better person than anyone else. “I got something in my pocket make your eyeballs swim, I got dogs could tear you limb from limb” proves that he has the weaponry and the means available to strike his opponents a mortal blow and that he is ready to use these weapons in such a way that his enemies will never get up again. The dogs are ready and will tear you apart limb from limb, in the same way as dogs tear apart an escaping slave or prisoner.
” I’m circlin’ around the Southern Zone” at first glance reminds you of the so-called ‘Southern Zone’ which stretches from the South African Cape to the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, formed by the Zambezi River. It is more likely however, that this is an allusion to the Southern part of America. The South of America held on much longer to slavery than the North. So when it says” I’m circlin’ around the Southern Zone” it may give you the idea of some sort of vulture, a vampire maybe, circling around in the Southern States of America to find new blood, new victims to enslave. For all these ugly things, payment in blood is necessary, but once again we say: it cannot be his own blood, redemptive blood from elsewhere is necessary.

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Bob Dylan's 'Pay in Blood' - Part 1 - Introduction-


‘Pay in Blood’ is another intriguing and fascinating song from the album ‘Tempest’. At first glance the lyrics of this song seem to dripping in blood, are full of hatred, violence and vengeance of a battered, spiteful, poet who apparently has a hard believing whether he will make it back home alive and who is ready- without showing any mercy whatsoever - to have his enemies pay in full for all the wrongs they have done.
In some sort of a sense, the song breathes the same atmosphere as some songs on Dylan’s album ‘Modern Times’. On that album and on ‘Tempest’ as well, and in particular in this song, we see some of the violent struggle, abundantly present in the Old Testament where the resistance against the promised road, which will ultimately lead to the promised Savior, the Messiah – Yeshua- Jesus, is so strong and violent that there is no alternative left but to combat this resistance with equally violent weapons. In this respect the New Testament has taken a new and decisive turn and we will also find this back in the song - as we will see later on.  
The key to understanding the song is hidden in the refrain: ‘I pay in blood, but not my own’.  Raised in the Jewish tradition and faith, Dylan is fully aware of what ‘to pay in blood’ means. The Thora makes it clear that life itself – the soul of man, in Hebrew ‘Nefesh’ – is in the blood of a man.  This principle of the life being in the blood is made clear in Leviticus 17:11: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar. It is the blood that makes atonement for one's life”. Reconciliation between God and man has to be made and can only be achieved through payment in blood. In the Thora, in the Old Testament, animals took the place of man and were sacrificed on the altar and the blood of these animals brought about reconciliation between God and man. This was all done in anticipation of the real Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who came and sacrificed himself by shedding his precious blood and by doing so  ransomed the world ( I Peter 1:19).Jesus Christ paid in full by his blood for the sins of the whole world. So when the poet says: ‘I pay in blood’ it is as if he were saying: “I’m no better a man than anyone else in this fallen world. I fully participate in the human condition. The human condition is in itself full of evil, of hatred, of violence, of vengeance and retribution, I see this when I look around this world, and when I’m honest, I find it also in myself. This world is hopelessly forlorn and so am I. To set things right there is only one way out. Reconciliation – redemption- payment –atonement - has to be made. There is only one sacrifice that God will accept to reconcile himself with this world and with me personally and that is through payment in blood. That is why I can only pay in blood. This blood is nothing else than myself, not only my soul but also ‘legs and arms and body and bone’. At the same time I find that I’m a sinner and because I am a sinner I cannot pay with my own blood. I need somebody else to pay for me, somebody who takes my place and who is not a sinner. There is only one person who is not a sinner and whose sacrifice of his blood will be accepted by God, and that is the blood of Jesus Christ, He will pay with His blood instead of mine and that is why I say: ‘I pay in blood, but not my own’”.
This concept is called ‘substitution’ and there can hardly be any doubt that this is what Dylan has had in mind here.  It is all about redemption, whether we like it or not.
On the other hand, when we compare the core of this song with some of the songs of his so-called Christian trilogy – ‘’Slow Train coming”, “Saved” and “Shot of Love” – something important has changed. In songs like ‘I believe in you’ it is “them” – non believers, infidels - against Dylan and his newly found faith: they like to drive me from this town, they show me to the door and say don’t come back no more’ and also in one of the most controversial of all Dylan songs Dylan ever made ‘Property of Jesus’, it is again “them” against Dylan. ‘Resent him (Dylan) to the bone’ followed by the Dylan’s bitter retort: ‘You got something better; you’ve got a heart of stone’.
But in this song he confesses: ‘My head’s so hard, must be made of stone’. It is no longer only just “them” against me. He confesses that he has an equal part in the mess we all created. The point he wants to make is that no man or woman on this earth, whether he or she is a Christian or not, or no matter what other faith he or she practices, has the power within himself or herself to rise above the wicked condition of the human condition we are all in. Redemptive power has to come from elsewhere and can never be found in the human condition itself. Humanity makes matters only worse. It is exactly the reason why he says: ‘I pay in blood, but not my own’.
It is striking that the universal necessity to pay in somebody else’s blood is implicitly expressed in Dylan’s recent Rolling Stone interview with Mikal Gilmore. It is true, that here and there we have to take some of the statements in this interview with a pinch of salt and we have to take into account that Dylan likes to fool around and to play tricks with the press but let’s take it for what it is worth. In this interview Dylan complains about being called “Judas” for playing an electric guitar, and then says: “These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified’. (By the way, you don’t refer to Jesus as “our Lord” and speak in such a manner about him unless you yourself believe in Jesus as “your” Lord, but that is not the point we intend to discuss in detail here – for more information on this issue, we refer to my article What does Bob Dylan really believe?. ).
What is notable, however, is that Dylan follows the RS interview up with a very nasty statement which may be called anything but Christian: “All those evil motherf**kers can rot in hell.”  At first glance such a nasty statement would fit in very well with lyrics of ‘Pay in Blood’ where passages like ‘I could stone you to death for the wrongs that you done’
‘I got something in my pocket make your eyeballs swim’, ‘I got dogs could tear you limb from limb
etc. seem equally denunciatory and equally full of revenge and spite. Whether the statement “All those evil motherf**kers can rot in hell” is on the same level as some of the violent passages in ‘Pay in Blood’- and in other songs on this album for that matter - remains to be seen. More light will be shed on this as when we will discuss the lyrics of ‘Pay in Blood’ in more detail in the upcoming articles on this song.
Finally, denunciations like “All those evil motherf**kers can rot in hell” are in sharp contrast with the teachings of Jesus. When our Lord Jesus was crucified he said: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus says in Matt. 7:1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged’. No man has the right to wish other people in hell, no matter how justified Dylan’s remarks about the Judas accusations may be. At the end of times, on Judgment Day, the final judgment will be made but we have to bear in mind that this will be a divine privilege. This nasty remark proves the more so that Dylan is a sinner and needs cleansing through blood, in the same way as we are all sinners and need cleansing.  At the same time utterances like this stress the need for continuous payment in blood. There is a well spring of blood is available for everybody. The good news is that in the song ‘Pay in Blood’ the poet is amongst the ones who pay in blood, but fortunately it is not his own blood.
In our next article we are going to look at the lyrics in more detail and we’ll see if we can piece this all together. As always your comments on this article will be appreciated. Please press the button ‘’reacties’ below.



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