Robert Zimmerman And Bob Dylan 


by Larry Fyffe

Some forms of Gnosticism depict the material world as evil product of a flawed Demiurge – it’s even claimed by some religious leaders that along with His prophet Abraham, the Demiurge is made manifest in the Hebrew Lord:

It’s said that thus spake rabbi Jesus:

Ye are of your father the devil
And the lusts of your father ye will do
He was a murderer from the beginning
And abode not in the truth
Because there is no truth in him
When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own
For he is a liar, and the father of it
And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not
(Gospel Of St. John 8: 44, 45)

With their duality of light and darkness, some of the song lyrics of Bob Dylan are easy to interpret as at least having some elements of Gnostic thought within them, but certainly not those expressed, or at least attributed to, the Apostle John above; claimed it is even by some Christian teachers that the same John penned the Gnostic-influenced Revelation which only adds to the confusion.

In any event, be it of little surprise that those with a Jewish background, like Bob Dylan, have trouble reconciling Judaism and Christianity – try as they or he might.

About the influence of folksinger Woody Guthrie, Robert Zimmerman writes:

My eyes are cracked, I think I have been framed
I can't seem to remember the sound of my own name
What did he teach you, I heard someone shout
Did he teach you to wheel and wear yourself out
Did he teach to reveal, respect, and repent the blues
No Jack, he taught me how to sleep in my shoes
(Bob Dylan)

Interpreted the following song lyrics can be that the Gospel of St. John is written with the intent to clearly separate Christianity from the Jewish religion:

I just wish for one time
You could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment
I could be you
(Bob Dylan: Positively Fourth Street)

Likewise the following lyrics can be viewed as a concern over the AntiSemitism that’s fermented in the Gospel:

Down here next to me in this lonely crowd
There's a man who swears he's not to blame
All day long I hear him cry so loud
Calling out that he's been framed
(Bob Dylan: I Shall Be Released)

Because of the prevalence of AntiSemitism In America, many Jews change their names:

I can't see my reflection in the water
I can't speak the sounds to show no pain
I can't hear the echo of my footsteps
Or remember the sounds of my own name
(Bob Dylan: Tomorrow Is A Long Time)

Robert Zimmerman has a bit of political fun with the anti-Jewish prejudice he’s aware of:

Now I'm liberal, but to a degree
I want everybody to be free
But if you think that I'll let Barry Goldwater
Move in next door, and marry my daughter
You must think I'm crazy
(Bob Dylan: I Shall Be Free No.10)

He humorously points out that the Jewish God does not forsake Abraham’s son:

Oh, God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe said, "Man, you must be putting me on"
God said, "No"; Abe say, "What?"
God say, "You can do what you want, Abe, but
The next time you see me coming, you better run"
(Bob Dylan: Highway Sixty-One Revisited)

Even in his ‘Christian phase”, Bob Zimmerman takes a humourous shot at the unbiblical Christian dogma of ‘original sin’:

Nothing can hold you down, nothing that you lack
Temptation's not an easy thing, Adam given the devil reign
Because he sinned I got no choice, it run in my vein ....
I'm pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord
(Bob Dylan: Pressing On)

Zimmy learns to how to sleep in his own ‘Gnostic’ shoes:

You may call me Terry, you may call me Jimmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything, no matter what you say ....
Well it may be the devil, and it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody
(Bob Dylan: Gotta Serve Somebody)

Bobby’s a hard man to pin down.

12 years of Untold Dylan

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