Hunting down a quote . . .

TCLC - Twentieth Century  Literary Criticism

TCLC – Twentieth Century
Literary Criticism
(Photo credit: CCAC North Library)

The other day in the daily message I get from “Seasons for Nonviolence,” I found this thought-provoking quote:

No two persons read the same book.

It seemed a pithy summation of a fundamental understanding of reading and interpretation that we share at BibleWorkbench. It is true of reading any book, and perhaps even more true when we read religious texts like the Bible. It’s one reason that we encourage group study of the texts, with opportunity for participants to share their insights- the Bible they have read- and hear from others about their reading.

I was curious about the origin of this quote, and a pass through the web revealed that although it’s often attributed to literary critic Edmund Wilson, it’s also linked to John Ruskin, and sometimes appears in a longer version:

No two persons read the same book
or see the same picture.

Now, since Wilson was a literary critic and Ruskin an art critic, maybe each had the same observation in their own area of specialization, and somewhere along the line the two were joined together. Kinda like the Gospel writers piecing together bits of Jesus’ teaching.

Perhaps Wilson and Ruskin found themselves on the same page (so to speak) because what they were saying was true at a very deep level. I’m reminded of a question that used to be raised at the synoptic gospels seminars sponsored by the Guild for Psychological Studies: “Is this true because Jesus said it, or did Jesus say it because it’s true?”


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