I love the author Haruki Murakami and freely admit I am among those who wait excitedly when I hear he has a new book. I just finished reading his latest, Men Without Women, a collection of short stories about the lives of men who, in one way or another, are alone.
In one of the stories (An Independent Organ) the narrator is describing a particular character, a Dr. Tokai. As the narrator explains that he plans to record everything he learned about Tokai, he says this:
Most of it originates from things he told me directly, though certain parts are based on information that people close to him told me, people he trusted. Admittedly, a certain amount is also conjecture, based on my own observation of things I thought might be true. Like soft pate nicely filling in the gaps between one fact and another. In other words, the portrait that follows is not based entirely on fact. As the writer of this account, I cannot recommend that the reader treat it like evidence submitted in a trial, or supporting documents for a business transaction…
But if you slowly take a few steps back…and view this portrait at a distance, I’m sure you’ll understand that the veracity of each tiny detail really isn’t critical. All that matters is that a clear portrait of Dr. Tokai should emerge.
My first thought when I read these lines was that this, with slight editing, could be a lead in to the four Gospels. None of the accounts of the life of Jesus can be considered like “evidence submitted in a trial or supporting documents for a business transaction.” Nor was that their intent. The question is only do they, individually and collectively, give a clear portrait of Jesus. And I believe the answer to that question is yes.
We can argue about the particular factual details. Did he go to Jerusalem early in his ministry or only later? Did he feed 4000 or 5000? Etc. But as with Murakami’s narration about Dr. Tokai, “the veracity of each tiny detail really isn’t critical.” If we step back and view the portrait, we get enough of a picture to meaningful know this person Jesus.
I should add a more general note about the book: I devoured it in little more than a day. If you are already a Murakami fan you’ve probably already purchased the book; if not, I recommend it.