Christ Healing the Sick | Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich

Narrating Thoughts & Feelings in European v. Hebrew Style

In European style, the narrator is allowed to explain what someone is thinking and why they feel that way. In Hebrew style, by contrast, thinking occurs as internal speech: When someone speaks within his or in her heart, it means he or she is thinking, and the narrator may quote what they think. Take notice that groups of people seem to speak as one voice, when, in fact, they are thinking and not talking at all. When they do finally talk as a group, they speak as one. This is because it’s how the Old Testament does it—not because they are all staring at a magical teleprompter.

Most of the Gospels avoid, therefore, talking about emotions. The Gospel of Mark, which is adapted for a polytheist audience, has the most references to Jesus’ emotions. Jesus sighs deeply in His spirit, is moved with compassion, marvels at disbelief, is moved with righteous anger, and even loves the man whose possessions are more important to him than following Jesus.

Image: Christ Healing the Sick | Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich, 1742.
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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