"An Epistle Containing the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician" Themes

Robert Browning

Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Although it is not introduced until the last stanza, the main theme of the poem is the idea of Christian love as the means to salvation, a foundational Christian belief. The effect of this novel idea on the pagan Arab physician Karshish, as it is revealed to him through the story of Lazarus, shows how revolutionary this idea was during the first century c.e. Until that time, Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Arabs perceived their deities to be whimsical at best and vengeful at worst. Therefore, Jesus’ mystical teachings of an All-Loving God the Father, his presentation of himself as the human-born Son of God, and his message to love thy neighbor were all radical ideas, notions that possibly threatened the customs and institutions of the day. Scientific-thinking men like Karshish would find it hard to accept such radical ideas. Karshish, however—as an example of a thinking man of his time—is intrigued by the idea of Christian love, and one can see how his curiosity might lead him to give further consideration to Christian ideas and possibly to convert to Christianity.

The poem also presents the Christian theme of the benevolent miracle. Pagan gods were believed to interfere in human lives, often for the sake of their own entertainment. Jesus, on the other hand, reportedly worked miracles, such as raising Lazarus from death, for benevolent reasons as an expression of love for humankind. Moreover, the word “miracle” connotes...

(The entire section is 430 words.)