The misinterpreted prophet

“And thus, I proclaim” the prophet ended his sermon, which had gone on at some length. The listenership had been entranced in rapt attention, for such were the gifts of the prophet. His gift of eloquence was not matched by an equal measure of clarity, however, and outside the immediate experience of receiving the word, opinions differed on what had actually been said.

Thus, a cottage industry of interpreters arose, who made the fancy words plain and the plain words fancy, as the situation and audience required. Most of these interpreters were true to their word, with only minor deviations from the core message (which, for some reason, seemed to resist every effort of being translated into French). Some interpreters, however, felt free to embellish a little here and a little there, until the prophet came out saying things surprising to those who were there and heard the word.

These surprising things mysteriously happened to portray this one particular interpreter in an especially good light. As if by accident.

For the most part, this mattered little in the grand scheme of things. Except in two regards: this particular interpreter seemed to be garnering more donations than the others, and the prophet noticed.

Thus, some time and many sermons later, the prophet decided to put his interpreters to the test. He made a series of very subtle and specific pronouncements that systematically contradicted the favored interpretations of the selective interpreter, just to see what would happen. The interpreter, not deterred, kept at it, not even mentioning the possibility of contradiction. Business were as usual.

Some time and many misinterpretations later, the prophet had had enough, and proclaimed in no uncertain terms (a rare occasion indeed) that he was pleased with the interpretive efforts of everyone so far, except our selective interpreter, which he named by name. This caused quite a stir, but given the clarity (and praise) of the proclamation, the work of interpretation went on as usual. For everyone, including our selective interpreter.

Determined, the prophet paid a visit. Our selective interpreter, surprised, greeted the prophet, became even more surprised upon hearing these words:

“You are the prophet now. Wear my robe; they will let you into my tent. I will be gone after this visit. Remember what I said”

The next day, the new prophet delivered a very familiar sermon, although perhaps slightly less ambiguous than usual –

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