“The vision of Christ that thou dost see
Is my vision’s greatest enemy:
Thine has a great hook nose like thine,
Mine has a snub nose like to mine….
Both read the Bible day and night,
But thou read’st black where I read white”
Phillip Yancey quotes this poem in his book “The Jesus I Never Knew
” which I’m reading at the moment. It strikes at something that is so blatant, and yet I forget it all the time: we do not see things as they are, but as we are (cf Anais Nin). We walk around with lenses on our eyes and filters on our ears. We may hear the same words as each other but interpret them differently, or better yet, remember them differently (on that note, see this
TED talk by Daniel Kahneman). This is surely what David meant when he said:26
“To the faithful you show yourself faithful,to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
27to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.
Is God different to different people? Or do we see the same God differently? I think we do not see God, or the Bible, or each other objectively. Since we are a product of all that we have experienced, we see and interact with everything in light of that fact. You are the product of the people you meet, the books you read, the movies you watch, the courses you study – like a traveler learning new phrases and acquiring new mannerisms, we are far less ‘individual’ than we think we are.
Importantly, this is not just an interesting fact – a little thought experiment to brighten a dreary day, it really is of utmost importance. If I read the Bible differently to you, if I hear the same words of God differently to you, this is a problem. I’m not talking about the legitimate variety of expressions and ways we respond to God, I’m talking about deciding who God is, what his priorities are, and thus what ours should be. These should not be open to wide interpretation. Either God is something or He is not.
I wonder to what extent the Gospel writers were influenced by their own experiences? Their Jewishness, or their medicalness, or simply their personality type. Perhaps some degree of variation is actually what God wants, after all it was Him who chose 4 gospels and not one.