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The Parable of the Candle

stock.xchng parable-of-candle

by Garth Wiebe

Chris and Lucy entered a building looking for Manuel. In a room they found a note and a lighted candle. Chris looked at the note and read it aloud:

‘Hi! It’s 2:30, and I’m leaving to run some errands. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. BTW, the electricity is out, so I lit a candle for you.—Manuel.’

Then Lucy said, ‘I know how we can find out how long it’s been since he left! Look, the candle has been burning since he lit it and has a significant amount of wax that’s melted and dripped down. If we figure out what the rate is which the wax is melting and measure the amount of wax that has thus far dripped, we can work backwards to find out how long it has been since he left.’

Chris said, ‘Why waste your time? The note says he left at 2:30.’ Lucy said, ‘Don’t believe everything you read.’ Chris replied, ‘Look, I’ve known Manuel for a long time, and this is his handwriting. Don’t be ridiculous.’

Lucy replied, ‘Ah yes, but what does he mean by “2:30”? A note like that is subject to interpretation. Suppose he was talking about another time zone or something.’ And so a short philosophical argument ensued about the note. However, Lucy prevailed and insisted on performing the measurement and calculations.

“Your Word is … a light for my path”. (Psalm 119:105)

A few minutes later, Lucy announced: ‘Well, I’ve got bad news for us. Based on the amount of wax that has melted and the rate at which the wax is melting, I can confidently tell you that it has been at least one whole day since this guy left. He was probably talking about 2:30 yesterday. And since he said that he’d be back “in a couple of hours”, we can assume that something happened to him and he’s not coming back at all. So much for your “note”.’

Just then, Manuel walked in. Lucy said, ‘Are you this guy “Manuel”? What took you so long?’ Manuel replied, ‘What are you talking about? I left you guys a note saying I’d be back in a couple of hours. It hasn’t even been that long.’ Lucy said, ‘Never mind the note. I measured the amount of wax that has dripped off your candle, and the rate which the wax was melting. I know you’ve been gone since yesterday.’

Manuel replied, ‘First of all, that candle isn’t burning anywhere near as brightly as when I first lit it. Second of all, I didn’t light a new candle, but a used one. And thirdly, I used another candle to light this candle and in the process the wax from that candle spilled all over this one.’

Lucy said, ‘So you set up that candle to deceive us, to make it look like you left the room over a day ago, when in fact it’s been less than a couple of hours.’ Manuel replied, ‘Look, I left you a note telling you when I left. I never intended for you to conduct some silly experiment measuring wax dripping off of a candle to figure out when I left. I put the candle there so you guys would have some light.’

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Readers’ comments
C. B., United States, 13 March 2014

Wow! Very good parable. Very well done and very relevant to the dating debate. Thank you and God bless! Keep up the good work!

Morris M., United States, 12 March 2014

Excellent!! Brilliant logic!!!

Thomas B., Canada, 12 March 2014

Nicely done, even down to the names of the characters. However, perhaps a brief explanation at the end would be useful for those who aren't already familiar with the concepts being portrayed (radiometric dating vs. Bible).

David Catchpoole responds

As web editor overseeing this article, I heard one or two of my colleagues voice similar sentiments, before we re-featured this on the front page yesterday. However, I’ve left the author’s wording as is, with the following in mind:

  • It is a parable, after all! Note that Jesus didn't explain all His parables to everyone there-and-then, either (Matthew 13:10–11, Mark 4:10–13).

  • I’ve stacked the ‘Related articles’ and ‘Further reading’ with articles that reveal the significance of the parable, for those who want to dig deeper. (And even for those who don’t, but who merely quickly skim just the list of titles—surely that would be sufficient for most intelligent readers to realize what the parable is referring to.)

  • If anyone had formally asked me about the meaning of the parable (and none have, as yet), I was ready to point out that my recent article Sermon ideas suggests how ‘The parable of the candle’ can be used as the basis for a church sermon.

  • ‘The parable of the candle’ is actually from our online archive of previously-published articles, which we have chosen to re-feature on our website front page as part of our current ‘Wednesday Creation Classic’ series that we’re running at present. (This series came about because we realized that many new readers to our print literature and website are unaware of the nearly four decades worth of creation publishing available on to read free-of-charge. Hence we have decided to dig into our ‘treasure trove’ for ‘gems’ to dust off and re-feature to a brand new, and ever-expanding readership.) Being from the archived record, we’ve kept ‘The parable of the candle’ true to its original form (save for the updated photos/layout). We originally published it on 21 May 1998.

Jackie S., United States, 12 March 2014

Thank you that was an excellent story.

Diane A., South Africa, 12 March 2014

Yes, let's believe the author of the note! It makes life so much more understandable!

Jorge S., South Africa, 12 March 2014


From now on I'll save time arguing with long-agers by simply referencing your analogy.

God Bless.

Lynette B., South Africa, 12 March 2014

This candle story is such a great object lesson. Thanks so much for your organisation.

Ray D., United Kingdom, 12 March 2014

This little parable is so true and so simple but there is no way those who are both blind and deaf to truth can receive it.

Cristi T., Romania, 12 March 2014


It deserves to be put on video!

I am a TV producer and I will try to do it!

During the years I learned a lot reading your newsletter and articles and they were really useful for some of my documentaries.

Jesus knew parables could be very powerful as means of communication.


Lynn E., Canada, 12 March 2014

I thought the parable was both elegant and brilliant. Yes, it makes the most sense to trust in the message that was written for us.

Bernie B., Canada, 12 March 2014

Well done. A good story to show the assumptions of radiometric dating and the primacy of trusting an eyewitness account.

Kobus V., South Africa, 12 March 2014


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