Mansions of Mysterious Metaphors
“In my Father’s house are many mansions…” – John 14:2 KJV
The 1843 children’s board game The Mansion of Happiness used a sixty-seven space spiral track to teach children the various Christian virtues and vices. You have to love that they tried.
I love it when Jesus tries to describe the indescribable. It’s where you find all the weirdest metaphors, the ones that are deliberate paradoxes, specifically designed to make your brain hurt.
The metaphor-rich section of scripture John 14:1-14 suggests that God’s realm is a home with many homes within it. The King James Version is the most illogical to conceptualize but also the most poetic: “In my Father’s house are many mansions…”
Naturally, you can’t have a giant thing inside a small thing. You can’t have a mansion inside a house. So what was Jesus trying to say?
Well, first, Jesus was not trying to speak 16th century English. But when the King James Version of the Bible was translated, they were. So let’s note that! Back then, “mansion” was just another word for a house, like when we use the word “manse” even today for a parsonage.
So you might translate Jesus’ metaphor as a house that has many houses within it. It’s still illogical. It still makes no sense.
There is no metaphor that will make sense to us in this life, with our limited senses, and limited experiences. But that didn’t stop Jesus from telling us about it anyway, and you have to love that he tried.
With all we do not understand, thank you for reminding us that we need not be afraid, and thank you for trying to explain it all anyway. Amen.
Lillian Daniel’s new book Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To: Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion without Ranting is now available for purchase, but you can hear it all for free at 1st Congregational Church of Dubuque, Iowa.