He and I; author and authority

A curious feature about Daniel 4 is the way it begins in the 3rd person and then is told in the 1st person.

King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.

How great are his signs,
    how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace.

The author, David Lodge, wrote a book called ‘Thinks‘ which interacts with this theme of perspective. The novel is a work of Fiction but Lodge is exploring the scientific research on ‘Consciousness’. At one point he has this dialogue:

“That’s the problem of consciousness in a nutshell, Ralph says. ‘How to give an objective, third person account of a subjective, first-person phenomenon.’

‘Oh, but novelists have been doing that for the last two hundred years,’ says Helen airily.”

Lodge later discussed the theme in his book of essays, Consciousness and the Novel. Lodge wrote:

“According to VS Ramachandra, the ‘need to reconcile the first person and third person accounts of the universe…is the single most important problem in science.’ It is certainly critical to the study of consciousness.” (28).

And a little later:

“we read novels like ‘The Wings of the Dove’ because they give us a convincing sense of what the consciousness of people other than ourselves is like. We feel we have learned something from them; we have acquired new information. …we certainly don’t read novels in order to extract from them the confirmation of some banal proverbial ‘truth’ about human behaviour, like pride comes before a fall, or first impressions can be misleading.” (31).

What does one make of that when one considers the ending of Daniel 4?

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:37).

For me, speaking personally that is, I find that while I really enjoyed David Lodge’s book, Thinks, and found it and his essays very stimulating on the theme of consciousness, I do find that the experience of Daniel 4 leaves me feeling that ‘pride coming before a fall’ is not merely some “banal proverbial ‘truth’ about human behaviour”.

And, dare I say, not only do I think that, I believe that you like I, dear reader, need to take heed. For, ‘those who walk in pride he is able to humble’.

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