Nearly 40 years after Bob Dylan stunned the music world with the release of his overtly Christian album, “Slow Train Coming,” followed quickly with the unambiguously gospel “Saved,” people still don’t know what to make of America’s most enigmatic troubadour.
The conventional wisdom is that Dylan took an intense dive into evangelical Christianity for a couple years and then returned to his Jewish roots. But applying conventional wisdom to Bob Dylan and Jesus tends to be a fool’s errand.
A new book, written from the meticulous perspective of an investigative reporter, may have solved the mystery of Dylan’s spiritual sojourn, once and for all.
It’s called “Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life” by Scott M. Marshall.
The shocker? While Dylan clearly had a deeply impactful, life-changing, soulful personal experience in the late 1970s, it was hardly disconnected from what had come before or ever since.
Take these lyrics from 1970’s “Father of Night” – long before his so-called “conversion.”
Father of night, Father of day
Father, who taketh the darkness away
Father, who teacheth the bird to fly
Builder of rainbows up in the sky
Father of loneliness and pain
Father of love and Father of rain
Father of day, Father of night
Father of black, Father of white
Father, who build the mountain so high
Who shapeth the cloud up in the sky
Father of time, Father of dreams
Father, who turneth the rivers and streams
Father of grain, Father of wheat
Father of cold and Father of heat
Father of air and Father of trees
Who dwells in our hearts and our memories
Father of minutes, Father of days
Father of whom we most solemnly praise
And what about lately?
Did Dylan revert back to Judaism, as conventional wisdom has suggested since attending the bar mitzvah of his son, Jesse, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in 1983?
Author Scott Marshall exhaustively chronicles in his new book that Dylan has continued to perform many of those overtly gospel classics on his most recent tours.
Could it possibly be that Dylan is both Jewish and a follower of the Jewish Messiah?
Carolyn Dennis, Dylan’s former wife, perhaps explains it best in the book:
I noticed a Bible in his luggage one day as he was packing. Amidst all the rumors that he was no longer a Christian, I asked him if he was still a believer. His answer was short and simple: “I believe the whole Bible.” I have always known Bob to be one that uses few words. Knowing that he was born into the Jewish faith and culture and being one of the people that he so proudly proclaimed his acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to, I did not push or ask anything more about it. As far as I am concerned, I didn’t need to. The answer seemed complete to me and he’d answered my question. Bob has never denied being Jewish, nor has he ever denied being Christian to me.
In his most recent 2017 interview on his own website, Dylan is asked for his favorite movies. He quickly rattles off the top three – “The Robe,” “King of Kings,” “Samson and Delilah.”
Does this really sound like a guy who walked away from Jesus?
I found “Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life” to be a great read. I literally could not put it down. But that’s me. I’m an admitted Dylan-phile.
Over the course of my life, I’ve had the opportunity to interview many people – from presidents of the United States to some of the biggest movie stars and musicians. My biggest regret was not getting a chance to interview Dylan. (The guy just doesn’t give many interviews). But, in my case, it wasn’t for lack of trying.
I’ve read his own autobiographies. I’ve read what many others have written about him. But I feel like I know Dylan better – and appreciate him more – after reading Scott Marshall’s “Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life.”
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