Woe to him who would not be true, even though to be false were salvation.

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Senior Member
Topic sentence:
Woe to him who would not be true, even though to be false were salvation.

Added by Cagey, moderator

A sentence from Melville's "Moby Dick".

I wonder what does "even though to be false were salvation" mean ? How does this second part of the sentence relate to the first part?
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  • cropje_jnr

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    It means you musn't lie, even if lying can save you.

    That's a very general rendition, though, it's hard to be more precise without being familiar with the specific context.


    New Member
    I am still puzzled. If "salvation" here means divine salvation, then it doesn't make sense: why woe to one who is true when lying brings salvation, which is a good thing? If it means salvation in the ordinary sense (i.e. escape from a difficulty), that makes more sense except why use such a loaded term as "salvation"? It seems like there is some deliberate interplay, like human "salvation" is divine "damnation" and vice versa. But I can't make sense of what that means in the context of the whole sermon.


    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    This is taken from a sermon about Jonah. Jonah refused to preach to the unconverted as he was supposed to, and was swallowed by a whale. After he repented, God freed him from the whale, and Jonah fulfilled his duty as a preacher.

    So the reading is the second one you suggest. It is 'salvation' in the sense of escape from earthly difficulty. 'Be true' means to be faithful to the duty God has called you to.

    Link to the passage in Google books: Moby Dick
    [Google links may not work for everyone because of copyright laws and for other reasons unknown to me.]

    For people who are not be familiar with the story of Jonah: Book of Jonah - Wikipedia
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