A friend of mine had a conversation with one of his sons.
- Son: Why was Humpty Dumpty on the wall?
- JP: Not sure, it’s not in the text.
A third person jumped in (via Twitter) with this insight: Nor does it say he was an egg.
Turns out that Wikipedia is a mine of information about the tale of Humpty Dumpty, including the suggestion that it may have originally been composed as a riddle (to which the correct answer was ‘an egg’).
Without getting into too much detail about Humpty, I wonder if there are nonetheless a couple of cautions for preachers – or for anyone who reads and tries to apply the Bible.
- Making assumptions about the text. Humpty’s identity has probably been fixed in the general consciousness for some time, and he probably was an egg (unless someone wants to argue that he was an elaborate piece of fine China). But the text doesn’t explicitly state this. Careful preachers need to make sure that they observe what is actually in the text rather than adding to it; and that they observe everything in the text, rather than missing important details.
- Asking questions that the text does not set out to answer. My friend is right: the poem does not tell us why HD sat on the wall. Did he get onto the wall by himself? Did someone set him there? Why did they do that? And why did he fall? We are simply not told. Careful preachers will be sure to distinguish between what the text actually says and what it may imply.
Dare I say that these questions might be worth thinking about before you start planning your Christmas sermon on ‘Why the Innkeeper had no room for Jesus’!