August 24, 2016
Jonathan, the son of Saul, Israel’s king, considered David a friend, as did Israel’s enemy, Achish, the Philistine king. How did David become a friend without borders — a friend to all kinds of people, including those with different backgrounds, different religions, and different nationalities?
It is a timely lesson during this season of Olympic friendships and rivalries, so I’ve included a link to a story provided by the World War II Museum about the friendship between a German track star and Jessie Owen. I admit that I didn’t know about Luz Long congratulating an African-American in front of Hitler in the 1936 Olympics, and Long’s final letter before being killed in World War II is truly inspirational. Yes, we do have our contemporary “Jonathans” who remain friends despite politics and governments.
I am backtracking this week so we can read the whole story of David’s friendship with Jonathan which begins after David kills Goliath. In I Samuel 17, King Saul doesn’t recognize David although in the preceding chapter, David tries on Saul’s armor and gets Saul’s permission to battle Goliath. According to the notes in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, two versions of the David and Goliath story have been combined. On another level, Saul is becoming blind with jealousy toward David, beginning with David’s slaying of Goliath.
Earlier this week a church member mentioned to me how some Bible scholars and archeologists question the existence of the Bible characters and history we love so well. Mrs. Eddy gave a succinct response to a similar question asked of her about the existence of Christ Jesus:
“I do not find my authority for Christian Science in history, but in revelation. If there had never existed such a person as the Galilean Prophet, it would make no difference to me. I should still know that God’s spiritual ideal is the only real man in His image and likeness.” (Miscellany, p. 318-319)
In today’s readings, Mrs. Eddy questions the existence of Virgil, one of our classic figures whom she may have considered a spiritual friend and guide.
“Chaucer wrote centuries ago, yet we still read his thought in his verse. What is classic study, but discernment of the minds of Homer and Virgil, of whose personal existence we may be in doubt?” (Science and Health, p. 82)
There is some background on this question in the podcast, “Mary Baker Eddy Mentioned Chaucer, Homer, and Virgil,” which discusses literature’s mixture of fact and fiction (such as putting an historical figure such as Virgil into a fictional story), and which you can hear in the final minutes of a link included on the readings and resource page. (I happened to see a new movie trailer with Tom Hanks based on Dante’s Inferno; I think poor Tom is acting like Dante’s Virgil, so that’s a great example of muddling facts-and-fiction, or actually fiction-and-fiction in the movies!)
When I was preparing these readings, it occurred to me that Mrs. Eddy had spent so much time with her Bible, reading and pondering it, that the Bible heroes became her friends. “We think of an absent friend as easily as we do of one present” (Science and Health, p. 82). It is wonderful to know the Bible so well — its contents and its characters — that it becomes your Friend. When the inspired Word guides us to eternal Life, then that is a real “past, present, and future” transfiguration moment for us!