"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 5, Number 8, August 2002

 

“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.

For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;

Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.

I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.

I will show partiality to no one.  Nor will I flatter any man.”

 Job 32:17-21

 

["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek.  Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God.  The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.

 

AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com.  You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.  Back issues sent on request.  Some may also be downloaded at http://www.tegart.com/brian/bible/kjvonly.  Articles on the King James Bible controversy and recent issues may be accessed at www.KJVOnly.org

 

All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only.  Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand.  Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]

 

THE PERSPECTIVE FROM THE EDITOR’S CHAIR

 

With its flood of discovery and the subsequent publication with paper and ink or electronically of vast amounts of information on virtually every imaginable subject, the present era has been dubbed “the Information Age.”  The truth be told, this is no great innovation to true disciples of Jesus Christ.  We have always been in the information business: sinners are perishing for lack of knowledge, that is, they do not know Christ or in many cases even know about Him.  We who do know Him are bound by gratitude, duty and command to take this knowledge of Christ which we possess to those who “sit in darkness” so that they in turn may see great light--the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, visible only in the face of Christ.

 

To prepare ourselves as fully as possible for our great task, we are compelled to continually grow in our knowledge of Christ.

 

I began “As I See It” in 1998 as a relief valve to keep myself from exploding (my sentiments are closely mirrored by the quotation from Job 32:17-21 which we have begun to print at the beginning of each issue).  Preposterous, absurd, wretchedly inaccurate or grossly ignorant things I would read in Christian or secular publications cried out for a response--but where and how and to whom?  At other times, I felt compelled to pass on to others significant quotations I had come across in my reading, or recommendations of books that I found to be significantly superior to the “run of the mill.”

 

Starting AISI was also for the purpose of putting “in print” information on topics about which I have been repeatedly asked.  Now, when someone asks, “Do you know anything about the Old Latin version?  Is it the same as the textus receptus?” or “What is your opinion of John Gill or A. T. Robertson?” all I need do in many cases is cut and paste or attach something I’ve already written for AISI.  Having an ever-growing “archive” to draw on has saved me countless hours of repeating the same information in correspondence (and having the internet and e-mail saves the tedium of making photocopies at Kinko’s by the ream).  And if I get requests for information on a topic I haven’t yet addressed, I am often motivated to study out the subject and write up my findings.

 

And then there is that great reality (with apologies to Shakespeare): “The WRITING that men do lives after them; the rest is all interred with their bones.”  Matthew and John blessed their own generation with their preaching about the things which they had personally seen and heard during their association with Jesus.  They have blessed all subsequent generations because they wrote down those accounts, and we thereby have them available to us in our day.  Spurgeon blessed thousands while he lived with the spoken word; he has blessed multiplied thousands more--myself among that throng--because of his written and published words.  I, too, hope to extend my influence beyond the confines of my own mortality by publishing what I believe is worthwhile material.

 

And then I sense a compulsion to steer others toward what I have found to be genuinely worthwhile writings. Life is astonishingly short, a fact more deeply impressed on my mind with each passing day.  Time is too precious to waste reading second- and third-rate literature.  I have in the past often fallen victim to remarkably poor book recommendations from ill-read and uninformed preachers and professors.  I recall one Bible college teacher back in the 1970s who was all hepped-up on a book about “the Federal Reserve Conspiracy” and urged me to get and read this “important” book.  I had enough sense even then not to waste time on that book.  And I recall in the early 1980s when I was a new Bible college professor, someone at the campus paper did a survey of the professors regarding their book selections if they were compelled to have only one or two books for study the rest of their lives.  The result of the survey was just about the most ill-considered, unenlightened booklist I have ever seen.  I shudder to consider that those who recommended the books in question were teaching students!

 

True enough, as Andre Malraux is reported to have said, that in love as in literature, we are often amazed at other people’s preferences.  One man’s delight is another man’s plague.  I’ve been long considering an article on books I simply could not finish and authors I simply cannot read.  I’m sure my list will leave some readers dumbfounded.  Yet the mere personal aspects of book preferences aside, there are books that are unquestionably inferior and should be avoided by the wise steward of time.

 

It has been my perpetual goal to serve the readers by drawing attention to the best of my gleanings--reviews, quotations, and such stuff.  And warn them away from the inferior of which there is an immense glut.  I have always been glad to entertain inquiries about sources and resources (and I get such on a fairly regular basis), especially from missionaries, since their relative isolation from published resources is an added hindrance to their work.  I have even toyed with the idea of a “missionary information service”--providing them with information on ministry-related topics which they could not easily obtain on the field (a couple years ago, a missionary in Tahiti asked me for information about the London Missionary Society, and I was glad to locate the specific information he needed, and mailed him photocopies; I learned some things worth knowing in the process).

 

To these writings of others, I add in the pages of AISI some of my own composition.  I am not expert in everything, and my interests do not extend to many areas that are all the rage in contemporary Christianity.  But I do try to write from an informed perspective about subjects that are of importance, and with complete accuracy in each statement, quotation and reference.

 

There is an avalanche of written material bombarding the Bible student today, not just books and periodicals--the standard media of information in the past--but now also the internet with its ever-expanding quantity (I say not quality) of information.  In the middle of such a bewildering torrent of words, there is only one way to lay claim to a reader’s limited time: make the time spent truly worth the while by being “relevant” (in the best sense of the word) and keeping the quality high.  This has been our consistent aim, though one not always reached to our own satisfaction.

 

I sometimes hear that an individual subscriber reads only a portion of any particular issue of AISI (though others in contrast read it right through).  This comes as no surprise, indeed is very much expected.  Among the readership are pastors, missionaries, Bible college and seminary students, Sunday school teachers, both male and female, some just beginning a life of Christian service, and some advanced in age and of long experience.  The topics dealt with are usually wide-ranging--some devotional, some informational, some intended to be entertaining, and some technical and perhaps a bit esoteric.  Likewise with book reviews--naturally enough these are on topics that interest me (and my interests are quite diverse) or that I perceive a need to address (e.g., if a book is all the rage; though I have not read or reviewed “The Prayer of Jabez” and suspect I never will).  While the reader will not always be interested in every article, it is our hope that he will always find something of interest in every issue.

 

We do seek to provide readers with solid information on controversial topics so that they can formulate opinions on the basis of being well-informed.  We cringe at the dogmatic certitude displayed by many who have in reality no sufficient grounds for such certainty, being uninformed, misinformed, yes, and mal-informed on the topic at issue (we displayed not a little of this very same characteristic in our earliest college days and only wish someone had taken in hand to rescue us from our own youthful folly).

                                                                                                                        ---Doug Kutilek

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The Authority of Scripture: the Ultimate “Fundamental”

 

“The problem of authority is the most fundamental problem that the Christian Church ever faces.  This is because Christianity is built on truth: that is to say, on the content of a divine revelation.  Christianity announces salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, in and through whom that revelation came to completion; but faith in Jesus Christ is possible only where the truth concerning Him is known. . . .Modern man, sceptical and indifferent as he is to dogmatic pronouncements about the supernatural order, may find it hard to take seriously the idea that one’s eternal welfare may depend on what one believes; but the apostles were sure that it was so.  Theological error was to them a grim reality, as was the spiritual shipwreck which comes in its wake.” (J. I. Packer, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, pp. 42, 43)

 

“The Bible does not need to be supplemented and interpreted by tradition, or revised and corrected by reason.  Instead, it demands to sit in judgment on the dictates of both; for the words of men must be tried by the Word of God.  The Church collectively, and the Christian individually, can and do err, and the inerrant Scripture must ever be allowed to speak and correct them. . . .[T]he proper ground for believing a thing is not that the Church or reason say it.  Both of these authorities may err, and in any case it is not to them that God has told us to go for authoritative indications of His mind.  The proper ground for believing a thing is that God says it in His written Word, and a readiness to take God’s word and accept what He asserts in the Bible is thus fundamental to faith.” (ibid., pp. 48, 49)

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DO “CRITICAL” NEW TESTAMENT GREEK TEXTS SUBVERT

THE DOCTRINE OF BLOOD ATONEMENT?

 

An assertion commonly found among rigid advocates of the “King James Version Only/textus receptus only” (KJVO/TRO) point of view is that all modern Greek texts--“critical” or Alexandrian texts such as Westcott-Hort, the various Nestle editions (1st-1902; 27th-1993), or the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament editions (1st-1966; 4th-1993) and also the “majority” or “Byzantine” texts (Hodges-Farstad or Robinson-Pierpont) subvert or attack the doctrine of blood atonement by excising--ripping out--references to the blood of Christ. 

 

A specific example summoned in evidence to prove this claim is Colossians 1:14.  In all non-textus receptus Greek texts--Alexandrian, majority, it doesn’t matter which--and in all English translations dependent on those Greek texts--NIV, NASB, TEV, NEB, RSV, it doesn’t matter which--the words “through his blood” (Greek dia tou aimatoV autou) are absent, gone, annihilated.  Does this not prove their case and justify their assertion?  What further proof could be needed to demonstrate the reality of this heinous assault on the fundamental doctrine of the blood atonement?

 

Before swallowing this KJVO camel, let us consider the facts of the case.  First, the blood of Christ is mentioned 40 times in the textus receptus editions of the New Testament and the KJV (if my count is correct), almost half of which have specific reference to the atoning value of the blood of Christ offered in sacrificial payment for our sins--

 

--Acts 20:28  “purchased with his own blood”

--Romans 5:9  “being now justified by his blood”

--Ephesians 1:7  “redemption through his blood”

--Ephesians 2:13  “brought near by the blood of Christ”

--Colossians 1:14 “redemption through his blood”

--Colossians 1:20  “peace through the blood of his cross”

--Hebrews 9:12  “but by his own blood”

--Hebrews 9:14  “the blood of Christ”

--Hebrews 10:19  “by the blood of Jesus”

--Hebrews 10:29  “the blood of the covenant”

--Hebrews 13:12  “sanctify the people with his own blood”

--Hebrews 13:20  “through the blood of the everlasting covenant”

--I Peter 1:2  “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus”

--I Peter 1:19  “with the precious blood of Christ”

--I John 1:7  “the blood of Jesus Christ his son”

--Revelation 1:5  “from our sins in his own blood”

--Revelation 5:9  “redeemed us to God by your blood”

--Revelation 7:14  “in the blood of the lamb”

--Revelation 12:11  “by the blood of the lamb”

 

Some are used with reference to the symbolism in the Lord’s supper--

 

--Matthew 26:28  “my blood of the new testament”

--Mark 14:24  “my blood of the new testament”

--Luke 22:20 “new testament in my blood”

--I Corinthians 10:16  “communion of the blood of Christ”

--I Corinthians 11:25  “the new testament in my blood”

--I Corinthians 11:27  “the body and blood of the Lord”

 

Some are used figuratively of procuring salvation through faith--

 

--John 6:53  “and drink his blood”

--John 6:54  “and drinks my blood”

--John 6:55  “my blood is drink indeed”

--John 6:56  “and drinks my blood”

 

A few of them are with reference to the guilt/responsibility for Christ’s death--

 

--Matthew 27:4  “I have betrayed innocent blood”

--Matthew 27:6  “it was the price of blood”

--Matthew 27:8  “called the field of blood”

--Matthew 27:24  “innocent of the blood of this man”

--Matthew 27:25  “his blood be on us”

--Acts 5:28  “bring this man’s blood upon us”

 

A pair of occurrences are with reference to the literal physical blood of Jesus--

 

--Luke 22:44  “great drops of blood falling down”

--John 19:34  “came thereout blood and water”

 

And finally a small cluster from I John that are hard to classify, being of uncertain (to me) interpretation--

 

--I John 5:6  “by water and blood”

--I John 5:6  “but by water and blood”

--I John 5:8  “the Sprit and the water and the blood”

 

(I do not pretend that this classification scheme is entirely satisfactory, there being some overlap in categories, and I certainly see the possibility of improvement; I do think I have located and listed all New Testament references)

 

In one and only one of these forty places do the non-receptus editions uniformly lack the reference to the blood of Christ, and that is in the Colossians 1:14 passage noted above.  Is the excision, the exclusion, the deletion of “through his blood” there based on something other than sinister motives of the basest sort?  Indeed it is.  The simple reason the phrase is excluded from these printed texts is that the evidence in favor of including the phrase is notably weak and evidence in support of its exclusion is quite strong.

 

Adam Clarke in his famous 180-year-old commentary (establishing that the facts have long been readily available to anyone and everyone who was actually interested in discovering the truth) well summarizes the evidence:

 

“The clause dia tou aimatoV autou, Through his blood, is omitted by [Greek manuscripts] ABCDEFG, and most others of weight and importance; by the Syriac, Arabic of Erpen, Coptic, Aethiopic, Sahidic, some copies of the Vulgate and by the Itala [Old Latin]; and by most the Greek fathers.  Griesbach has left it out of the text.  It is likely that the reading here is not genuine; yet that we have redemption any other way than through the sacrifice of Christ, the Scriptures declare not.  The same phrase is used Ephesians 1:7, where there is no various reading in any of the manuscripts, versions, or fathers.” [vol VI, p. 515].  Somewhat more evidence is known today, but it merely confirms the thrust of Clarke’s summary.

 

If it were true that the words “through his blood” were omitted in many ancient Greek manuscripts and modern printed editions at Colossians 1:14 in an attempt to suppress and eliminate the doctrine of blood atonement, those hypothetical textual corrupters who carried out this doctrinal assault would have proven themselves as perhaps the most inept enemies of the Gospel in all history, since they left the reference to the blood of Christ unchanged in the Ephesians 1:7 parallel, but more amazingly, did the same just 6 verses later in Colossians 1:20, where the words “having made peace through the blood of his cross” stand unchanged and unchallenged in all witnesses.  No, at Colossians 1:14, the weight of evidence declares that the words “through his blood” were never an original part of the text here, but were added later by scribes, in conscious or unconscious imitation of Ephesians 1:7, with perhaps a bit of influence from Colossians 1:20.

 

[For additional and somewhat more detailed presentation of the evidence at Colossians 1:14, see Henry Alford, The Greek Testament (Moody Press 1958 reprint), vol. 3, p. 201; Alexander Souter, Novum Testmentum Graece (Oxford: University Press, 1947, revised edition Zane Hodges and Arthur Farstad, The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text (Nashville: Nelson, 1985; second edition); A. Merk, Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute; seventh edition, 1951).  In many commentaries and Greek New Testaments, this variant is simply ignored, since the exclusion of the phrase as the true original reading here is not a matter of dispute among informed writers.]

 

In only one other place is reference to the blood of Christ involved in a variant reading where exclusion is favored by some Greek Testament editors, namely Luke 22:43, 44.  This passage, involving an appearance of an angel in Gethsemane and the bloody sweat incident, is not quite unique to Luke in Greek manuscripts (it is actually found in one small group of Greek manuscripts at Matthew 26:39).  It is absent from several very early and important witnesses (manuscripts, versions, and fathers).

 

[Any detailed treatment by us here would become too involved and distract us from the larger issue; for a presentation of the evidence, let the interested reader consult The Greek New Testament, edited by Kurt Aland, et al. (1st ed., 1966; 4th, 1993) where there is a full presentation of the evidence; Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (London: United Bible Societies, 1971), p. 177 briefly discusses the evidence and how he evaluates it; F. H. A Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (3rd edition, 1883), pp 599-602 discusses in much fuller detail the evidence known in his day, arriving at a conclusion contrary to Metzger, Aland, et al. Scrivener’s presentation of evidence requires supplementation today; much of the more recently discovered evidence goes against Scrivener’s conclusion.] 

 

Even among text editors who conclude from the evidence that these two verses were not an original part of Luke’s Gospel, they nevertheless commonly (but not universally) include them in the text, albeit with markers that indicate that the verses are a later though very early insertion into the text.  However this variant arose (either as an insertion of non-original material into the text, or the deletion of original material from the text--either deliberately or accidentally), there is nothing to suggest that an assault on the doctrine of blood atonement is afoot, since the nearby reference to the same--“The new covenant in my blood” in Luke 22:20--stands untouched in all printed Greek New Testament editions.  At any rate the verse Luke 22:44 is not one that speaks directly of the redemptive value of Christ’s blood (in contrast to Colossians 1:14, textus receptus).

 

Having considered these two places--Colossians 1:14 and Luke 22:44--it is notable that in none of the other thirty-eight references in the New Testament to the blood of Christ, is there a question as to the genuineness of the text as it stands in the textus receptus, and all other printed Greek texts (Westcott & Hort, Nestle, Hodges-Farstad, etc.).  Clearly, there has been no wholesale assault on the doctrine of blood atonement either in the Greek manuscripts or in modern critical editions of the Greek New Testament.

 

On the other hand, there is some small evidence on which it could be claimed, using the same criteria as the KJVO/TRO advocates, that the textus receptus (and all English translations based on it, including the KJV) attack the doctrine of blood atonement by their omission of a reference or two to Christ’s blood found in some Greek manuscripts but excluded by the textus receptus.  Specifically, at Matthew 27:49, some early and important manuscripts, with limited support from ancient versions and a church father add “and another took a spear and pierced his side, and water and blood came out,” words nearly identical to a sentence found in John 19:34.  Shall we fault the textus receptus here and accuse its editors of assailing the doctrine of blood atonement for excluding this phrase?  Defenders of the textus receptus would counter that the evidence favoring the inclusion of the words at Matthew 27:49 is especially weak, and besides, we have the words in a parallel passage with absolute certainty of genuineness (and from which passage the words in Matthew 27:49 were likely borrowed).  And to this we would readily assent; the situation here is very much parallel to the variant at Colossians 1:14 vis-a-vis Ephesians 1:7.

 

We could add to our “evidence” of something “sinister” in the textus receptus the absence of the “bloody sweat” passage from the textus receptus at Matthew 26:39, where, as already noted, it is present in one group of related Greek manuscripts.  Neither the textus receptus, nor, consequently, the KJV has this reference to the blood of Christ, at least not in this place.  But I suspect that no KJVO/TRO partisans will begin denouncing the textus receptus or the KJV for this “shocking assault “ on the doctrine of blood atonement.

 

If it were true that modern critical Greek text editors were making a deliberate attempt at eliminating blood atonement from the Bible, we would expect many, if not most or even all references to Christ’s blood to be eliminated or at least questioned in these critical Greek texts, but we do not find this to be the case.  In only two of forty places is there a textual variant, and the conclusion of many text editors to exclude these two passages as non-original parts of the New Testament is not based on theological reasons, but on an evaluation of the actual evidence from manuscripts, ancient translations and authors.

 

The absence of reference to the blood of Christ in some modern English Bible translations--most notoriously “Today’s English Version” (TEV), also known as “The Good News Bible” (GNB)--is a different matter altogether.  There, the theology of the translator, namely Robert Bratcher, who is a theological modernist, likely did play a major part in de-emphasizing blood atonement by sometimes (but not always) substituting “death” or “sacrificial death” where the Greek literally has “blood.” (see Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:20; Revelation 1:5; etc.).  The issue here is the theology of the translator, not the reading of the Greek text followed.

 

In summary, we must conclude that there is no assault on the doctrine of blood atonement in modern critical Greek texts.  All claims to that effect are false and are attempts to incite emotional reactions and passions against those texts, rather than to correctly inform interested listeners of the actual truth of the matter and the facts of the case.  The alteration of references to the blood of Christ is some few modern Bible translations is a wholly unrelated issue, having nothing to do with the Greek text on which those versions are based, and everything to do with the theological disposition of the translator.

                                                                                                                        ---Doug Kutilek

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

WHEN CHARACTER WAS KING: A STORY OF RONALD REAGAN by Peggy Noonan.  New York: Viking Press, 2001.  338 pp., hardback.  $24.95

 

Beyond doubt the title of this chatty and highly readable biography of Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the United States, is intended to draw attention to the stark personal contrast between Reagan and the moral wasteland that is the heart and soul of William Jefferson Blythe Clinton, regrettably the 42nd President of the United States.  And the volume, with scarcely a reference to Clinton, draws a vivid and obvious distinction--Reagan was a man guided by certain fixed principles: personal integrity, honesty, and responsibility are indispensable in any free society; personal freedom is essential to prosperity, progress, and general happiness; the government exists for the benefit of the people, not the people for the benefit of the government (read: ruling elite), and therefore the power of the state must be vigorously and vigilantly restrained; God is actively involved in the affairs of mankind, and each man is dependent on God for his existence and accountable to God for his actions. (The frequency and extent of Reagan’s prayers as President will come as a welcome and refreshing surprise)

 

When Reagan became President in 1981, the economy was tottering on the brink of collapse--runaway inflation, unemployment more than 10% and going higher, interest rates at 20% and climbing; and the morale of the nation abysmal: the post-war Vietnam malaise lingered; 52 Americans had been humiliatingly held hostage by Moslem extremists in Iran for 444 days, Russia had invaded Afghanistan, communism was on the march in central and southern Africa, and Central America; America’s armed forces were weak and growing weaker, while the Soviets were engaged in the biggest arms build-up in their history, and had surpassed the U.S. in virtually every category of military strength, including and especially in heavy nuclear weapons mounted on ICBMs.  I believed in 1980 and still believe today, that if Carter had been elected to a second term, the Soviets would today dominate the entire world, repression rather than freedom would be the order of the day and the U.S. would be only a has-been, once-great power.

 

But Reagan was elected, and it was ”morning once again in America.”  As Noonan notes, Reagan kept all of his campaign promises--he restored hope to the American people, he restored prosperity to the American economy (creating the conditions that led to the unprecedented expansion of the 1990s), he restored strength and morale to our military, he faced the Soviets--and faced them down.  “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”  And he did!!!!!

 

Yes, Reagan made some mistakes, yes, sometimes his judgment was not perfect, but we knew implicitly then, and surely in retrospect see plainly now, that he acted out of principle, acted on character, acted on the basis of right as he understood it, but never with a view to self-gratification, self-aggrandizement or selfishness, his “legacy” or the latest polls.  He was indeed a great President, because he was a great man--like Washington and Lincoln--a man of settled principles and high ideals, and I am certain, the greatest President in my lifetime.

 

If the echo of the eight miserable Clinton years characterized by unbridled deception, dishonesty, depravity debauchery and disgrace still lingers, as Paul Harvey says, “wash your ears out with this” book.  Character does matter, indeed in leaders it matters more than anything else.  (And, as an aside, isn’t it refreshing to have a President now who doesn’t leave us wondering what new scandal will turn up this week?)

 

The author Peggy Noonan was for several years in the middle of the Reagan presidency a White House speechwriter.  Her book is based largely on interviews with individuals involved in Reagan’s personal and professional life.  While there is no documentation and only a limited bibliography, it is a reliable and refreshing read. 

 

God bless Ronald Reagan.

                                                                                                                        ---Doug Kutilek

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NOTHING LIKE IT IN THE WORLD: THE MEN WHO BUILT THE TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD 1863-1969 by Stephen E. Ambrose.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.  431 pp., paperback.  $16.00

 

Two essential ingredients for economic prosperity and expansion are rapid communication and efficient transportation.  The 19th century saw massive leaps forward in both these areas, advances which made practicable the extension of the United States from an Atlantic-hugging nation of modest size at the beginning of the century to a continent-wide yet united and unified--and prospering­--emerging world-power by the end of the century.

 

The telegraph was the first real modern advance in communication.  It was made possible by the invention of the electric generator, the development of the Morse code, and the actual physical installation of thousands of poles and mile upon mile of wire.  But when done, information could travel at the speed of light--news of political scandal, of election results, of foreign intrigue, of wars, of disasters, and of course personal information.  In only a matter of seconds, rather than long months at sea or traveling cross country on foot, the very latest news could pass from New York to San Francisco.  The nation was literally tied together by copper wires. (A transcontinental telegraph line had been strung early in the 1860s; another was added with the construction of the Omaha to Sacramento rail line paralleling the tracks).

 

But more important than sending information by wire was the actual physical transportation of men and materials by rail.  Before the power of steam was harnessed and put on wheels, the absolute maximum speed of human travel was twenty miles per hour at best in the most efficient sailing ships under ideal conditions.  And such speed was limited to ocean travel.  Inland water travel was limited to larger rivers and lakes, and the few man-made canals.  On land, horses rarely exceeded 5 miles an hour over long distances, and human pedestrian travel went at a fraction of that.  To pass from the East Coast to California or Oregon (as tens of thousands did in the decades of the 1830s, 40s and 50s) required a treacherous 6-month ocean voyage “around the Horn” or a tedious, laborious and often life-threatening trek of almost equal length in time across the Continent, crossing unnumbered forests, rivers, plains, deserts, hills, and mountains, exposed to dangers from weather, wild beasts and sometimes wilder men.  Few who traveled out west by either means ever wanted to repeat the journey.

 

Steam was first harnessed in the 1700s to pump water out of English coal mines, then it was adapted to use on ships to overcome the limitations of wind power (contrary or calm winds).  Finally, steam engines were mounted on wheels, and the machines propelled over fixed wooden rails at “unbelievable speeds” in excess of twenty miles an hour.  First iron, then steel rails replaced the wood, construction engineers figured out how to lay track for strength and durability, and the work of binding the nation together with ribs of iron began.

 

By the beginning of the Civil War, railroads had reached to most of the major cities east of the Mississippi, and the railroads played a large part in moving men and munitions during the war.  As early as the 1830s, there had been talk of a transcontinental railroad, and by the 1850s, preliminary surveys of potential routes had been made.  Sectional disputes, North and South, prevented any action before the war, as each side wanted such a railroad to originate in its region, and thereby directly benefit that region economically.

 

Once the Civil War began, Lincoln, who in his law practice was one of the most experienced “railroad” attorneys in the country, often arguing cases on behalf of railroads in Illinois courts, pushed ahead with plans for a transcontinental route.  The choice for a “jumping off” location: Council Bluffs, Iowa/Omaha, Nebraska.  While some progress on the project was made during the war, only after Appomattox did major leaps forward occur.

 

Ultimately two companies were granted permission to build the railroad--coming from Sacramento, California and building to the east was the Central Pacific; building west out of Omaha would be the Union Pacific.  The Federal government was economically very generous to the builders, granting them huge tracts of land on either side of the rail lines both for right-of-way and to sell to cover construction expenses, guaranteeing bonds issued by the railroads, and many other provisions.  In return, the government’s landholdings adjacent to the railroads sky-rocketed in value and expenses for military transportation in the Great Plains were dramatically reduced.  And of course the rapid and relatively cheap transportation of goods and people facilitated massive westward migration and made possible the movement of manufactured goods from the east to the great farming regions, while farm products--grain, hay, and livestock--, could economically be shipped to the burgeoning cities back east.  The whole nation benefited from the transcontinental railroad.

 

The tens of thousands of laborers who built the railroads--and who did so almost entirely with muscle power--were for the Union Pacific mostly young war veterans, from both North and South, in their late teens or early twenties.  For the Central Pacific, the greater portion of the labor force was Chinese immigrants, often with Irish supervisors.

 

In any project on such a massive scale, involving so much money--and the Federal government--it is no surprise to discover that corruption, overcharges, pay-offs, kickbacks, and a horde of other financial “irregularities” occurred.  By the time the project was completed in 1869, there was a growing public outcry against the corruption.  The investors who formed the two companies became exceedingly wealthy (though admittedly they also took great financial risks at the beginning), often awarding themselves huge dividends at the very time the railroads were losing money heavily and were far in arrears in paying debts accrued in construction, including wages to the laborers (remind you of Enron, WorldCom and other companies today?).

 

The accomplishment of such a massive project in less than four years is just astonishing.  Consider that all of the iron for the Central Pacific (amounting to many tens of thousands of tons)--rails, bolts, plates, plus engines and cars--was entirely transported to California by ship from the east coast.  And for the Union Pacific, the great majority of the hundreds of thousands of railroad ties and construction timbers used had to be shipped west from Iowa or Illinois, because the plains were almost tree-less (to say nothing of shipping all their rails by train from steel mills in the east).  Both groups of laborers--but especially those of the Central Pacific--had to dig numerous tunnels through the mountains, some of them hundreds of feet long through solid granite where progress amounted to only about a foot or less per day!  In the Sierras of California, heavy winter snowfall was a serious problem in as much as it buried the tracks deeply and for many months on end.  To remedy this problem, the rail line was roofed over for a distance of 50 miles, 26 miles of that continuous!  And near the end of the project, the Central Pacific work force once laid ten miles of track--manually--in a single day!

 

Ambrose has provided a lively and informative account of this nation-transforming construction project, though his narrative is marred by not a few repetitions of information or even of quotations (the kind of stuff a good editor would have caught), and more than half a dozen outright factual blunders.  For instance, he says on p. 93 that Charles Francis Adams, Jr. was the grandson of two presidents; he was actually the great-grandson of one, and grandson of another--the two presidential Adamses (on p. 320, Ambrose repeats this information, but there gets it right).  On p. 115, he locates the Chickamauga battlefield in Tennessee (rather than Georgia), and on p. 173 he reports that Indians did not like the new tracks since buffalo would not cross them, thereby dividing the herd in two.  This statement is preposterous, and expressly contradicted by many contemporary accounts--David Dary in The Buffalo Book (Avon books, 1974), p. 85, reproduces one such 19th century report, to wit: “the train was intercepted by a whole herd of buffaloes and compelled to halt until they had crossed the track.”  Other errors or misstatements are found on pp. 70, 143, 180, and 309.  These peccadilloes do not greatly detract from the book, but are somewhat surprising to find. 

                                                                                                                        ---Doug Kutilek

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THE CELTIC GOSPELS: THEIR STORY AND THEIR TEXT by Lemuel J. Hopkins-James.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934; edition of 2001.  278 pp. hardback.  $29.95.

 

The Celtic Gospels spoken of here are not manuscripts of a Celtic translation of the Gospels (to my knowledge, no evidence of any pre-Reformation translation of the Bible into any Celtic language exists), but rather are medieval manuscripts of the Gospels in Latin which were copied in what is today Wales.  In particular, the author presents the text of “The Book of St. Chad,” (also known as Vulgate manuscript L) an 8th century Latin manuscript of the Gospels, covering Matthew 1:1 to Luke 3:8 (the manuscript is actually volume one of a two-volume set, but volume two, containing the rest of Luke and all of John, was lost in the 14th century); the remainder of Luke is presented from the Hereford Gospels, a Latin manuscript of similar vintage and provenance, with a closely kindred text.

 

The Latin text herein published was compared (collated) against numerous other Latin manuscripts, many of the Old (pre-Jerome) Latin version(s), some of the Vulgate Latin, and at least two printed texts of the Vulgate--the Clementine of the late 16th century, and the Wordsworth and White edition of the 19th and 20th centuries.  The general findings of such collations are these: of the departures by ms. L from the Wordsworth-White edition of the Vulgate, about 40% are found to be in agreement with one or more of the Old Latin manuscripts.  In short, the text of L is a mixed text (no surprise--this is a common, even usual feature of medieval Latin manuscripts), one that Hopkins-James concludes is an Old Latin base revised toward the Vulgate, rather than a Vulgate text revised toward the Old Latin.

 

(Let me hasten to repeat here what I have said before elsewhere: the notion that the Old Latin version is the equivalent in contents to the Greek textus receptus or even of the Byzantine/majority text is a pure fabrication created out of nothing by Benjamin G. Wilkinson in his 1930 volume Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, and popularized in Which Bible?, edited by D. O. Fuller in the 1970s.  That the OL differs in multiplied hundreds even thousands of places from the t.r. and/or the majority text is obvious: e.g., in this semi-Old Latin manuscript, the so-called doxology to the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:13) is absent from both places this prayer is found in the manuscript--in Matthew 6, and after Mark 16:20.  In Luke 11:2ff, the clauses “which art in heaven” and “ but deliver us from evil” are absent.  Mark 1:2 reads “Isaiah” not “the prophets.”  Luke 17:36 is absent from the text.  These are just a few of the multitude of non-t.r., non-majority text readings that abound in this and other Old Latin or semi-Old Latin manuscripts).

 

This volume is valuable to the student of the text and textual criticism of the New Testament for the early Latin text it presents, and also for the readings from a great many Old Latin manuscripts which it reports.  The introduction of some 70 pages is also wide-ranging and informative.  Unfortunately, the author did not think to compile in one place a bibliography of the works cited by him, and so the reader has to glean these for himself.

                                                                                                                        ---Doug Kutilek

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