Search This Blog

Monday, August 2, 2010

What's With the Hebrew?

For the second installment on the allegories in the Reality series, I wanted to talk more about the ring. Eventually, I'll talk about the allegorical nature of the ring itself, once the final book in the series comes out later this fall, and some time has passed. Meanwhile, there is one aspect of the ring that early on received comments.

For those not familiar, the first chapter/short story in the novella, Infinite Realities, tells how Sisko gains the ring, which as the priest says, marries him to God much as Sampson's hair created a vow between him and God. The ring Sisko gains in the mystical steam house enables him to be his "brother's keeper" by helping others with his new abilities to heal and perform miracles. And like Sampson's warning to never cut his hair, Sisko is told to never use the ring for his own benefit or it will become a curse instead of a blessing.

The words inscribed on the ring, which the priest reads, are the words of Christ, "It is more blessed to give, than to receive." And as the story relates it, these words are inscribed in Hebrew on the ring. That's why you see the Hebrew infinitive forms "to give" and "to receive" printed on the cover of Infinite Realities.

Early on when fellow writers critiqued that first story, someone mentioned the fact that Christ would have said those words in Aramaic or Greek, not likely Hebrew. And though it is entirely possible He could have said them originally in Hebrew, I agree, He probably used one of those two languages. Most likely Aramaic since that was the common tongue at that time in Israel. And I received that comment more than once from different people.

So, why did I use Hebrew? Did I have a reason? Oh yes! I did.

First, the practical consideration. Yes, it is unlikely Jesus used Hebrew when he said those words, and you won't find them exactly like that in the Old Testament, so He wasn't directly quoting Scripture. My response: and your point is...?

Think about the premise of the story here. Jesus isn't talking, rather God inscribed those words on the ring for a reason. He could have used any language in the world. He might have used German, or Swahili. It could have been anything. Because Jesus originally said them in one particular language wouldn't restrict God to use that one language, within the context of the story. So what language Jesus used initially has nothing to do with what language can be on that ring. Using a different one doesn't violate any historical reality. And, need I remind you, this is after all, fiction.

"So, dear author," I can hear you asking, "why did God use Hebrew to inscribe those words?"

Good question. Thanks for asking. In my mind, God chose Sisko to bear that ring. Hebrew is the language of God's chosen people. By using Hebrew, it analogically and allegorically signifies that God chose Sisko to bear the ring and fulfill that mission.

Warning, a bit of a spoiler coming up on Transforming Realities, but I'll be as general as I can to make the point.

Now, let's take this a bit further. In my novel sequel, Transforming Realities, toward the end of the book one of the results for Sisko's son being in the steam house is obtaining an ability, but it also causes him to be dependent upon his sister to both activate it and deactivate it. The first draft of that created some interesting reactions among those critiquing the story. Most didn't like it because they felt it bound the poor lad against his will to the whims of his sister. I think nearly everyone who critiqued it didn't like it.

I did a few things to lessen the negative affect on the reader, created a positive sense that Nathan liked this ability, and had a choice to accept it, though he couldn't reject it without some consequences. And while that helped, I think the general consensus was an uneasy feeling that Kaylee had that much control over him.

But in the end, I left it that way, and it relates to the fact that God chose Sisko to wear the ring above. Because Sisko didn't really have a choice either. God put the ring on him, and he couldn't pull it off. God didn't bother to stop and ask him if he wanted this mission. Yet this ring, as the priest said, married him to God's will in this matter.

No one balked at that situation. Why? I think it's because in Sisko's case, he is bound to God. In Nathan's case, he is bound to a human, his sister. And our reaction to that tends to run deep, especially in our individualistic society. We don't want to be dependent upon anyone, and rugged individualism is most often seen as a good thing. To have someone be put under the control of another hits our image of independence right where it hurts. We would rather not be forced to deal with that.

Before someone accuses me otherwise, let me say I'm not excusing one's responsibility to do for themselves what they can, and help out each other as often as we can. But the truth of the matter is that each of us is enslaved to another in one form or fashion, and according to the Bible, we are required to live out our lives by loving one another. And what is love but the total giving of ourselves for another person? Is it not enslaving ourselves to them? Is it not martyrdom of our lives to benefit another?

"But that's a willing enslavement," you might say. Hum, you think? Once you say "I do," it's supposed to be for life, and yet frequently isn't. A boss tells you what to do and how to do it. You are forced to do so if you want to make enough money to live. You may not even do that out of love. And yet, all labor is a form of slavery. Some freer to come and go as they please, but you give hours of your life to benefit another so you can feed and put a roof over yourself and maybe a family. Circumstances put us at the mercy of others, whether it is cancer entrusting us to the wisdom of doctors, or an earthquake destroying all we have, and we are forced to seek out help to survive. We are even enslaved to our government, which most of us didn't ask for, and required to pay taxes.

And do we need to go down through the pages of history and look at all the different forms of slavery? No, we cringe at the idea of another having authority over us. So much so that St. Paul's words in Ephesians about wives and husbands still ruffles the feathers of many a church goer.

But the bottom line is that Christ said, "In as much as you do it to the least of these, you do it to Me." And the least of these includes also the greatest of these, whether that is a rich boss, a overworked spouse, a screaming child, a beggar, or a dying friend. In as much as you show your love to these, you are enslaving yourself to Christ. I would even go so far as to say, that unless you are willing to be enslaved by another, you will fail to be a slave for Christ.

"But they might abuse me! Take advantage of me!" Yes, they might. Get out of destructive relationships if at all possible. Loving a person doesn't mean enabling them to continue with behaviors that are destructive for their souls and those around them. Indeed, your enslavement to them demands you want what is best for them, which may be counter to what they say they want. But we are still called to love, to fulfill whatever the calling, ministry, or investment into each others lives that we are given the means and ability to do. For God has chosen it for us.

That's why the inscription is written in Hebrew in my story. It's because God chose Sisko. Sisko didn't chose to bear the ring or become a miracle man. Just as Nathan didn't chose to be bound to help his sister. But he did so out of love for her, and the "bond" turned from a "have to" to a "want to." If we are not bound to another in some form or fashion, we don't love Christ as we ought. And we would do well not to shy away from the mission God has given us, but embrace it with faith in our Master, even if that calling entails a human "master."

No comments:

Post a Comment