At the beginning of the year the BBC ran a series of programmes about the most iconic figures of the 20th century. There were seven categories – Leaders, Explorers, Scientists, Entertainers, Activists, Sports Stars, Artists and Writers. The viewing public had the opportunity to vote for their favoured person in each category, finally voting for an overall winner.
Each person was a well-known, household name, with the exception perhaps of Tu You You, a Chinese pharmaceutical chemist (still alive at the age of 89) who developed groundbreaking treatment for malaria but who worked hidden for years during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. She was ranked against Alan Turing, Marie Curie and Albert Einstein – all giants in their fields of work.
It struck me as being impossible to rank the achievements of each individual. Each person in all the categories had faced enormous personal and professional challenges in their life’s journey. However, Alan Turing was voted as the most iconic figure, recognised as the father of computing, for his essential work on Enigma and for the very personal struggle that he faced throughout his life.
I began to muse how we would rank some of the well-known, iconic Old Testament figures that we have learned about, and loved, since childhood. Can Noah’s challenge of saving his family and the world’s animals be compared to Moses, and the trials and tribulations that he faced leading his people from slavery to the Promised Land? Or to the remarkable life of Jacob, father of 12 sons who became the Twelve Tribes of Israel?
I particularly loved the story of Joseph and his brothers (way before the colourful musical) and the highs and lows of his life – the times of change and turmoil that shaped them all and Joseph’s rise from slavery to strength and political influence.
The Old Testament is rich in iconic personalities, too many to detail here, but with the contemporary taste for listing “The Ten Most Popular …” as featured on television and magazines, perhaps we have our own, personal iconic personality of the Old Testament.