Volume 6, Number 1, January 2003



“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.]





“With all due respect for these meritorious scholars and publishers [i.e., Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza and the Elzevirs] who broke the ice and did the best with means at hand, the textus receptus does not deserve that superstitious veneration in which it was held for nearly 300 years.  It was hastily derived from a few and comparatively late manuscripts, before the discovery of oldest and most important uncials, without the use of patristic quotations and ancient versions, without even a good text of the Vulgate, and with no knowledge of the principles of criticism, which was a later and gradual growth.  It is essentially [but far from precisely--editor] the Byzantine or Constantinopolitan text which may be traced to the fifth century, and passed into all Constantinopolitan copies.


The true text is that which is nearest the original.  We have now sufficient material approximately to restore a text as it obtained in the ante-Nicene age up to the middle of the second century.   This must be derived mainly from the oldest uncial manuscripts, the Latin and Syriac versions, and the quotations of the ante-Nicene fathers.  Yet antiquity alone, like numbers, is no absolute test; it must be supported by internal probability.  Later sources must also be consulted, but are assigned a subordinate degree of authority.”


            Philip Schaff, chairman of the American Standard Version committee, in Theological Propaedeutic (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1893), p. 167.





In the extended review of Touch Not the Unclean Thing by David Sorenson (AISI 5:12), I made a couple of minor factual slips--first, the edition of the Greek New Testament that first used the term “received text”/textus receptus was the Elzevir’s second edition of 1633, not the 1624 edition as I ineptly stated though I have long known the correct date.  Second, D. A. Carson estimated the average number of variants between even closely related manuscripts as 6 to 10 per chapter (I had from memory written “7 to 10”).  On a somewhat larger scale, in briefly--too briefly--summarizing the “majority/Byzantine” view, I oversimplified it to the point of mischaracterization.  For a full and detailed account of this view, I direct the reader to the respective introductions in The New Testament in the Original Greek according to the Byzantine/Majority Textform (Atlanta: The Original Word, 1991) by Maurice A. Robinson and William G. Pierpont; and The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985; 2nd edition) by Zane Hodges and Arthur L. Farstad.  I also learned from Mr. Sorenson that his book was not published with funds from Pensacola Christian College as had been reported to me (though of course they stock it in their bookstore), but had in fact been privately funded.  I am happy to set the record straight.

                                                                                                                        ---Doug Kutilek





Commenting on the Apostle John’s peering into the tomb of Jesus on resurrection morning (John 20:5), famed Methodist commentator Adam Clarke (1762-1832) wrote: “But why did he not seize upon the linen clothes, and keep them as a most precious relic?  Because he had too much religion and too much sense; and the time of superstition and nonsense was not yet arrived, in which bits of rotten wood, rags of rotten cloth, decayed bones (to whom originally belonging no one knows) and bramble bushes, should become objects of religious adoration.”  [Commentary, vol. V, p. 656; all italics in original]






A concordance is, as most know, an alphabetic index of passages from the Bible, arranged according to a key word in each passage (there are actually concordances of other writings such as the works of Shakepeare, but here we speak only with reference to the Bible).  Concordances may be selective that is, listing only some of the Bible passages containing the particular word in question, or they may be exhaustive, that is, including every occurrence of every word of the Bible.  Not a few Bibles have selective concordances added as an appendix, though these are usually fairly brief.


Bible concordances have been prepared for the Hebrew text and Greek text, plus Bible translations in Greek, Latin, Syriac and most other major languages.  The demand for and production of such works in many languages is no surprise: a concordance is one of the most useful of Bible study tools, as anyone who has used them to any degree can testify.


It was a common ditty regarding Bible concordances when I was a Bible college student, “Cruden’s is for the crude, Young’s is for the young, and Strong’s is for the strong.”  This not-very-helpful or accurate bit of advice suggests a question: “Just who were these three--Cruden, Young and Strong?”  Space dictates that we examine in some detail the life of only one of these, and since Cruden is very much the most--shall we say “interesting”?-- of the three, we shall consider him.


Alexander Cruden, a native of Scotland born in 1701, was the second child in a Presbyterian family.  His father was an elder in the church.  Alexander was sent to Marischal College in Aberdeen, Scotland to prepare for the ministry, and earned the Master of Arts degree.  However, shortly after graduation, he began to display bizarre behavior and was confined for some time in a mental hospital.  This dementia would recur at various times for the remainder of his life.  Though I am no expert in mental disorders, to me he seems plainly enough to have been afflicted with “bipolar disorder,” or what was formerly called manic-depression, with a tendency toward the manic side.


From 1722 to 1732, he served as a tutor in the homes of several different members of the aristocracy in the British Isles.  In 1732, he moved to London where he became a proof-reader of scholarly works for London printers, and opened a bookshop.  In 1737, he gained the title of “Bookseller to the Queen” (Caroline), a title that brought no remuneration.


Cruden began the work on his concordance in 1736, and must have worked with unbridled energy and zeal, since it came off the press the very next year.  One source described his “indomitable perseverance and fixity of purpose” which was joined with a clear idea of what he wanted to accomplish.  And while it was not the first concordance of the English Bible, it was, when it appeared, by far the most thorough one.  Even so, it did not bring Cruden the financial reward he had hoped.  In fact, it proved to be his immediate financial undoing.  The concordance would be reissued in a revised form decades later in 1761, and again in 1769.  These later printings proved to be a financial success, and at last Alexander was rewarded for his intense labor.


When the first edition of the concordance proved a financial failure, Alexander lost his bookshop, and became once again mentally unhinged.  He was confined, chained to a bed, for some ten weeks, after which he managed to escape.  He wrote and published a 60-page pamphlet about his ordeal, protesting the treatment he had received.  He filed suit against both his doctor and the proprietor of the asylum, serving as his own attorney in the court proceedings.  He lost.  He then wrote a pamphlet about the lawsuit.


He was allowed to remain at liberty, and resumed his work as a proof-reader, where he gained a reputation as a particularly careful and thorough worker.  He saw through the press, among other works, an edition of Matthew Henry’s famous commentary.  Cruden’s protracted activity seems to have helped control his mania, though his eccentricities remained.  He was re-confined in 1753 for 17 days at the insistence of his sister after he became involved in a brawl outside his dwelling.  He subsequently sued her for having him committed.


Alexander sought to have himself knighted by the king, and appointed as “corrector of public morals.”  He had come, under the influence of the preaching of John Wesley, to think himself divinely appointed as the public guardian of national morals, even believing that his success was prophesied, and therefore assured.  He began signing his name “Alexander the Corrector,” and appointed a number of “deputy correctors.”  He deemed himself called of God to expunge graffiti from walls, to rebuke those who swore in public, and to seek to enforce the observance of the Sabbath by confronting those who desecrated it.  He also sought a seat in Parliament, and tried to woo and win in marriage the daughter of the mayor of London.  His advances were uninvited and unwelcome.  Other women were also similarly plagued by his attentions.  Cruden actually detailed some of his strange behavior in three pamphlets published under the title “Adventures of Alexander the Corrector.”


Yet, in spite of his often strange public conduct, he nevertheless retained a high level of personal piety and religious devotion, and was always liberal in his giving to those in need.  Once he helped a convicted sailor escape hanging.  In London, he associated himself with a non-conformist congregation.  Cruden was found dead kneeling in an attitude of prayer on November 1, 1770.


For all of his aberrant behavior, Cruden’s legacy is bound up with his concordance.  It proved to be an immensely valuable study aid for numerous generations of preachers and Bible teachers who used it incessantly to prepare messages, find Bible texts whose exact location they had forgotten, or to compile lists of verses on particular Bible themes.  Charles Spurgeon advised his students: “Fail not to be expert in the use of your Concordance.  Every day I live I thank God for that poor half-crazy Alexander Cruden.  Of course you have read his life, which is prefixed to the concordance; it exhibits him as a man of diseased mind, once or twice the inmate of a lunatic asylum, but yet for all that successfully devoting his energies to producing a work of absolutely priceless value, which never has been improved upon, and probably never will be; a volume which must ever yield the greatest possible assistance to a Christian minister, being as necessary to him as a plane to the carpenter, or a plough to the husbandman” (Commenting and Commentaries, p. 25).  On the flyleaf of his own copy of Cruden, Spurgeon wrote in part: “For these ten years this has been the book at my left hand when the Word of God has been at my right.  What a precious assistant.  Notes I had written have been destroyed by the binder to whom I had to send this volume because it was worn all asunder. . . . This half crazy Cruden did better service to the church than half the D.D.s & L.L.D.s of all time” (C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, vol IV, p. 302 for facsimile).


Cruden’s concordance retains its usefulness to this day (though most modern printings of it are in abominably small, badly-worn type), giving something more than the meager concordances appended to study Bibles, yet not cluttered like exhaustive concordances with many extraneous references to texts that are unlikely to be useful in preparation of Bible messages, and which require much time and close attention to wade through.


The great majority of Bible-believing Christians today would look with pity on poor Mr. Cruden, with his disturbed mental state, and they would be thankful to God that they had been blessed with a larger measure of mental soundness.  And such would be proper and right.  Yet who among us has proved so eternally useful to the work of God as Cruden?  Not only was he a blessing in his own generation, but Bible students for upwards of 250 years have been encouraged in their Bible study by the fruit of his labors.  Yes, Cruden was not entirely “all there,” but such as was there he devoted to a noble task, and God was pleased to override his eccentricity and bless his work.  God can likewise take our weaknesses and our frailties and turn them to good account, if they are placed at His disposal.


                                                                                                                        ---Doug Kutilek


[Some account of the life of Alexander Cruden may be found in:


Cross, Frank L., editor, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.  London: Oxford University Press, 1958, p. 358


Douglas, J. D. ed., The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978, revised edition, p. 273.  Very brief, with several minor inaccuracies.


Jackson, Samuel Macauley, ed, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge.  Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963 reprint.  Vol. III, p. 314.


M’Clintock, John, and Strong, James, preparers, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature.  New York: Harper & Brothers, 1894.  Vol. II, “Cruden, Alexander,” p. 593.


Spurgeon, Charles H., C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography.  London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1899, 1900.  Vol. III, pp. 68-9; vol. IV, p. 302.


Spurgeon, Charles H., Commenting and Commentaries.  Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1969 reprint of 1876 edition, pp.25-26.


Williams, Sir Edgar, ed., The Compact Edition of the Dictionary of National Biography.  London: Oxford University Press, 1975.  Vol. I, “Cruden, Alexander,” p. 480, by William Dunn Macray.  The fullest and most authoritative treatment of sources consulted.


A full-length biography was published in 1934, The Eccentric Life of Alexander Cruden, by E. Olivier.  I have not personally inspected this volume.  The biographical sketch of Spurgeon which was affixed to some editions of Cruden’s concordance was written by A. Chalmers and first appeared in the 6th edition, published in 1810]




English Bible Concordances Other Than Cruden’s


Almost certainly the most widely used concordance of the English Bible is that edited and published by James Strong (1822-1894) an American Methodist university and seminary professor (NOT to be confused with Baptist theologian A. H. Strong, 1836-1921, though he commonly is), who with John McClintock edited the immense and still highly valuable Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature in 12 volumes (a work that took from 1853 to 1887 to complete) [Note: CBD, www.Christianbook.com currently has this set for sale for $99 and change; if I did not own it, I would do whatever possible to obtain this set now and that price.  It has been out-of-print almost 30 years until just recently, and is now amazingly inexpensive.  I got a set for $200 a year ago, and would have spent more if necessary.  I use it constantly in my research.  Of course a CD-ROM edition also exists, but who would choose to read for hours off a computer screen when he could have a real paper-and-ink book in front of him?].  Besides producing the encyclopedia, and numerous other publications, James Strong also served on the American Standard Version (1901) Old Testament committee.


Strong’s concordance, first published in 1890, was produced by a small army of collaborators, and took nearly three decades to complete.  Even though it was all done manually, it has surprisingly few errors.  It is based on the KJV but also notes variant renderings in the ERV/ASV.  It comes equipped with “dictionaries” of a sort of the Hebrew and Greek original texts, but in reality though they give very brief definitions, each entry ends with an alphabetic listing of the way the word is rendered in the KJV, even manifest errors in translation.  By way of example--under elpis, #1680, the entry ends “--faith, hope.”  The uninformed reader might assume that these are the proper English equivalents of elpis, and that “faith” is the more common or usual equivalent.  In truth, this Greek word is always rendered “hope” in the KJV, except at Hebrews 10:23, where it is inexplicably--and beyond question, inaccurately--represented in English by the word “faith.”  No lexicon I’ve ever examined gives “faith” as a meaning of elpis; no other English version I have ever examined besides the KJV gives “faith” at Hebrews 10:23 as its English translation, including all those before 1611 (Tyndale, Coverdale, Geneva, etc.) and all those since.  No foreign language version that I know about gives a word equivalent to “faith” here.  The word is either a blunder of the translators, picking up “faith” from the word “faithful” in the next clause, or an uncorrected blunder of the type-setter who did so.  Of course since the KJV original translators’ manuscript is lost, there is no way to decide who erred here; we can only recognize that somebody did (see Henry Alford’s commentary on this passage).  “Faith” comes first in the Strong’s Greek dictionary simply because it precedes “hope” alphabetically, not because it is the primary or correct meaning.  The dictionaries in Strong should never be relied on alone for definitions.  For the NT, the reader should consult Vine’s Expository Dictionary, Abbott-Smith, Thayer, or Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich, and for the OT Harris-Archer-Waltke/TWOT, Brown-Driver-Briggs, Kohler-Baumgartner, or Holladay, to note some of the more common reference works.  An up-dated, corrected edition of Strong’s with better dictionaries has been edited by John R. Kohlenberger III and James A. Swanson.  Called The Strongest Strong’s, it is published by Zondervan.  If I had to replace my Strong’s today, I would get this and only this edition.


[A brief and incomplete account of Strong’s life and labors--it does not even mention the concordance--may be found in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge edited by Samuel M. Jackson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1964 reprint), vol. XII, pp. 114-5].


Strong assigned alphabetic sequential numbers to the Hebrew and Greek words of the original texts.  These numbers have been widely employed in language reference works--lexicons, dictionaries, word-study books--to facilitate use of these tools by those who cannot read the original languages.  This fact has made Strong, or at least his numbering system, indispensable for Bible study for those unlearned in Hebrew and Greek, and I expect that in some form, they will be around for many years to come.


Earlier than Strong’s concordance came Young’s Analytical Concordance.  Robert Young (1822-1888) was a Scottish Presbyterian and highly accomplished linguist and translator.  After forty years of manual labor--including three years of type-setting alone!--his concordance was published in 1879.  In nearly every way it is better and more useful than Strong’s.  Instead of dumping the Hebrew and Greek words, their definitions and uses into dictionaries in the back, they are right there on the page where the passages are listed.  And Young has separated the passages out according to the Hebrew and Greek words used--under “love,” as a noun (use as a noun and use as a verb have separate entries--a real plus), there are four Hebrew words and one Greek word with the relevant passages compiled under each.  Hence the name “Analytical.”  An appendix in the back gives the Hebrew and Greek words in transliteration, listing all the various ways they are used in the KJV with frequency counts (on elpis, e.g., “hope” predominates over “faith” 53 to 1).  Had I started with Young’s instead of Strong’s, I probably would have been a committed Young’s user (its order and arrangement, its efficient usability, is vastly better that Strong’s), but I had Strong’s first by almost a decade, and never got accustomed to using Young’s.  My copy of Young’s has replaced Young’s introductory matter with other material of marginal value.


[Young’s life is briefly reported in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge edited by Samuel M. Jackson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1964 reprint), vol. XII, 490; the entry in The Compact Edition of the Dictionary of National Biography, edited by Sir Edgar Williams.  (London: Oxford University Press, 1975), vol. II, p. 2355, adds only modestly to Schaff-Herzog’s information, and is in fact partly dependent on an earlier edition of it]


With the advent of computers, the production of concordances for new English versions has been made much easier and quicker.  As a consequence, an exhaustive concordance has been published for the New American Standard Bible (Robert L. Thomas, editor, New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Nashville: Holman, 1981).  It is arranged in the same way as Strong’s-- but in much more readable type.  Since it includes the Strong’s numbers, all the Bible study tools accessible through Strong’s could be accessed through this concordance as well. 


There is also an exhaustive concordance of the New International Version (Edward W. Goodrick and John R. Kohlenberger III, editors, The NIV Exhaustive Concordance.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990).  Also set up similar to Strong’s, it uses a different numbering system, though it has a key for locating the Strong numbers.  Its index-lexicon gives no definitions, not going beyond simply listing the English words used in the NIV for each Hebrew and Greek word.  Several smaller selective concordances of the NIV have also been published.


Of other reliable English versions, the New King James Bible has a concordance but I have not examined a copy.  There are also concordances for liberal versions such as the Revised Standard Version and New Revised Standard Version (NT), but I doubt these will be of any interest to our readers.  I have not used either.


Concordances of the Hebrew and Greek texts, and of several ancient versions (and numerous modern ones) exist, but limitations of space compel us to reserve that discussion for another day.

                                                                                                                        --Doug Kutilek


[Surveys of Bible concordances (not limited to English), may be consulted in:


Bromiley, Geoffrey, general editor, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979.  Fully revised edition.  “Concordances” by P. R. McReynolds, vol. 1, pp. 757-758.


Goodrick, Edward W. and John R. Kohlenberger III, editors, The NIV Exhaustive Concordance.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990, “Preface.”



M’Clintock, John, and Strong, James, preparers, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature.  New York: Harper & Brothers, 1894.  “Concordance,” vol. II, pp. 454-456.  By far the most detailed account, though naturally lacking any reference to the many 20th century concordances.


Orr, James, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.  Chicago: Howard-Severance, 1929.  “Concordance,” by James Orr, vol. II, pp. 696-697.]






WALKING WITH THE GIANTS: A Minister’s Guide to Good Reading and Great Preaching by Warren Wiersbe.  Baker, 1976.  289 pp., hardback.


LISTENING TO THE GIANTS: A Guide to Good Reading and Great Preaching by Warren Wiersbe.  Baker, 1980.  362 pp., hardback.


Warren Wiersbe is a noted pastor, radio speaker and voluminous author (like I need to tell anyone that!).  Perhaps he is most famous for his pastorate at the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, a church that has seen among its many illustrious pastors such men as H. A. Ironside, George Sweeting and Erwin Lutzer.  Prior to the Chicago pastorate, he led a church in northern Kentucky, just south of Cincinnati, and following his labors in Chicago, he became the general director and chief Bible teacher for the “Back to the Bible” radio ministry in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Of his many books, his “Be “ series of commentaries on various Bible books is widely known and used (more than 3 million books in the series have been sold).  I personally have never read any of these commentaries, likely to my own detriment.  I have long ago formed commentary use habits that center around other authors and works, and would be hard-pressed to expand that circle much wider.


While in Chicago, Wiersbe wrote a column that appeared regularly in Moody Monthly.  These columns focused on various aspects of the ministry, especially on notable preachers, authors and books that are worthy of a pastor’s attention, and which may be of material aid in his ministry.  Various of these columns have been compiled into the two “Giants” books--Walking with the Giants, and Listening to the Giants.  The former contains 18 biographical sketches of noted preachers and their published works, including such famous figures as Charles Spurgeon, Alexander MacLaren and G. Campbell Morgan, but others less known or even all but forgotten today, such men as Samuel Rutherford, Joseph Parker, and Charles E. Jefferson.  I will say that Wiersbe is much too easy on the aberrant theology of some of those profiled, such as Phillips Brooks and R. W. Dale, both of whose theology was decidedly heterodox on fundamental doctrines (I personally have a difficult time recommending such authors); and even G. Campbell Morgan fell into very serious error during World War I, preaching that all who fell in battle were assured of salvation, a fact Wiersbe ignores, though he surely knew it (Morgan also resigned from the faculty of BIOLA in the late 1920s because another professor, who was unquestionably teaching heresy, was dismissed from the faculty.  Wiersbe does note this incident, though is not clear as to whether the discharged teacher was genuinely heterodox).  If you want an introduction to the life and writings of E. M. Bounds, A. W. Tozer, Alexander Whyte, and the rest, these profiles will certainly fill the bill and may direct you to some valuable reading--and away from some not so valuable.


The 12 topical essays deal with such matters as “The primacy of preaching,”  “”Books about the ministry,” “The minister and prayer,” and other similar matters.  They are of great practical value and help.


Listening to the Giants has thirteen biographical sketches, to which are added excerpts from the writings of the person profiled.  Here are such men as C. I. Scofield, W. H. Griffith-Thomas, J. B. Lightfoot, and others.  The second section of this volume includes 7 topical chapters, on such subjects as the miracles of Jesus, His parables, books of quotations, sermon series, and an extended list (running to 42 pages) of a “Basic Library” for a pastor (not flawless--somehow Keil & Delitzsch on the OT is overlooked).  The final section of the book touches on such topics as the theology of D. L. Moody, Samuel Johnson, and Bunhill Fields cemetery in London where many non-conformists are buried.


Neither of these books is in print, and they are scarce in used bookstores.  I bought Listening when it first came out, but neglected to do so with Walking.   I looked for it for ten years, finding it only recently and paid a pretty penny for it, but was glad to finally get it.  If found, they should be bought at once--and immediately and carefully read.  Otherwise, borrow them from a library and make the most of it. 


In these two volumes, we can tap into Wiersbe’s extensive knowledge of authors and their books (his own thoroughly-used library numbers more than 10,000 volumes.  He reports in his autobiography that his wife has never once complained about his ever-growing library, something I’ve near heard said about any other preacher’s wife.  In fact, when the Wiersbes moved from Chicago to Lincoln Nebraska, Mrs. Wiersbe told the real estate agent that they were “looking for a library with a house attached”).  And we can glean a great deal of wisdom from a pastor of long experience and diligent labors.


These books are so rich in notable quotations, that I simply must refrain from extensive quotation and simply say, “get these books.”

                                                                                                                        ---Doug Kutilek


[Of Wiersbe’s other books we have read, we found his autobiography, Be Myself (Victor Books, 1997), 347 pp. profitable reading, as is true of his book, The Integrity Crisis (Oliver Nelson, 1988), 142 pp.  Why Us? When Bad Things Happen to God’s People (Revell, 1984), 159 pp., is the best book on the subject we have met with (reviewed in AISI 4:9)]



To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian by Stephen E. Ambrose.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.  265 pp. hardback.  $24.00


This is the final book from the pen (or, actually, word-processor) of noted historian Stephen Ambrose.  He died in November 2002, from lung cancer at age 66.  He, like President Grant writing his Memoirs, wrote in the shadow of certain and soon death.  (I suspect that for this volume, at least, there will be no charges of “plagiarism” for too free borrowing without adequate ascription from the writings of others, a charge leveled not without cause against some 5 of his other books).  Herein, Ambrose traces his career as historian, beginning with his training at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Louisiana State University.  Blessed with excellent professors (albeit, in some cases very far left in perspective), he was invited while still in his 20s to assist retired President Dwight Eisenhower in editing his official papers.  Up to that point, Ambrose had planned to be a Civil War historian (his M.A. thesis, on Lincoln’s chief military adviser Henry Halleck, upon publication was read by Eisenhower, leading to the aforementioned invitation).  This turned his attention toward World War II; ultimately, the bulk of Ambrose’ writings would be regarding that war.


In tracing his career as university professor and writer, Ambrose notes that as a student and beginning professor, he accepted the anti-business, anti-Republican, anti-military biases that had characterized his university training.  This led him to be an anti-Vietnam war activist as a professor, an activism that led to his losing a teaching job at Kansas State University.  However, as he studied, especially from original sources, Ambrose was pulled closer and closer to the center, with many of his biases yielding over time to the facts, though to the end, he was still left-of-center. 


(One part of the book that did infuriate me was his discussion of Viet Nam.  Like most historians, he fails to take particular note of one great fact: the U.S. military did not “lose the war in Viet Nam.”  President Nixon, as he had promised, had all U. S. ground forces out of Viet Nam, by February 1972.  The South Vietnamese army, fighting alone, was able to withstand the growing attack from the North Vietnamese communists, who were heavily supplied and continually re-armed by the Russians and the Chinese, until April, 1974, or a period of 26 months.  The failure of the ARVNs in the end was due entirely to the failure of the Democrat-controlled U.S. Congress to appropriate money for replacement munitions, weapons, spare parts and other essential war materiel--all of which we had promised the South Vietnamese we would do, and which we were entitled to do under the Paris peace accord.  Read Nixon’s little volume, No More Vietnams for a better perspective on the matter.  And Ambrose mistakenly characterizes all college students of the late 60s and early 70s as anti-war doves; while certainly some were, many--and as pro-war college student in those day, I would estimate that a clear majority--were not “peaceniks”).


Ambrose writes of numerous incidents or people in American history about whom his perspective greatly changed over time--Jefferson and Washington (he criticizes Jefferson for being great with the pen, but of seriously defective character, while Washington, much Jefferson’s inferior in intellect and education, was nonetheless greatly his superior in character).  Native Americans, commonly idealized as the first ecologists, at peace with nature and among themselves and a proper paradigm for us supposedly nature-despoiling whites, are assessed realistically as no better and no worse than the whites, and as often unspeakably brutal in their inter-tribal warfare, which was practically continuous.  (I will say, that in presenting how the white Europeans--especially through the agency of the U.S. government--repeatedly appropriated Indian lands without compensation, he leaves out one important exception: devote Christians, from New England to Pennsylvania to the Deep South, and on west, treated the Indians with fairness, compassion, compensation and honesty, and vigorously denounced the unfair treatment the Indians often suffered).  The Battle of New Orleans (1815), Grant and Reconstruction, Teddy Roosevelt, World War II and other topics are all singled out for special treatment.


Ambrose relates how he came to write many of his books.  Sometimes, it was by suggestion from his editors and publishers.  This was true of his multi-volume biography of Nixon, and his book on the building of the trans-continental railroad.  Sometimes it arose out of his own special interests and study (the case with his World War II books).


Ambrose does make a factual error in declaring that Teddy Roosevelt and his son were the only father-son recipients of the Medal of Honor.  I am certain that Douglas MacArthur and his father Arthur had that honor, and I think exclusively.


I shall regret that we can expect no more books from Ambrose’ now forever silent pen.  I

have read--and always with profit--seven of his books, and have half a dozen more to read.

                                                                                                                        ---Doug Kutilek



Some quotes from To America by Stephen E. Ambrose--


“When I first began teaching American history, my students would come to me before the first day of class and say, ‘Doc, I hate history.  I’m only here because it is required.’  My reply was, ‘You don’t mean that.  You don’t hate history, you hate the way it was taught to you in high school.’ “ (p.xiv; as a former high school history teacher, I have said this myself to students--“History is not boring; teachers often are.  And shame on them if they are.”--editor)


“[Today] our students. . . realize that God did not decide to make the United States so supremely special.” (p. xiv;  If they “realize” that, it is because professors have misled them.  There is no doubt at all that God in fact DID decide to make the U.S. supremely special.  “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,”--editor)


“Washington’s character was rock solid.  He was constant.  At the center of events for twenty-four years, he never lied, fudged, or cheated. . . . As our first President, [he] did more than anyone else to create the republic” (pp. 10, 12)


“What happened on December 8, 1941, was this: The U.S. armed forces had more enlistments that day than on any other day in American history.  Most of the youngsters who joined the military on December 8 and thereafter came from families who had endured the worst of the Great Depression.  They had seen little of the promise and opportunity in America.  Yet they were ready to fight when needed.” (p. 94)


“In 1944, at the height of the war, we had a national election to pick our leader--something no other nation did or would have dreamed of doing.” (p. 95)


Quoting Eisenhower: “Optimism and pessimism are infectious and they spread more rapidly from the head downward than in any other direction.” (p. 97)


“I believe that no infantry force in the world could have done what the Marines did on [Peleliu, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa]. . . . The Marines were the best fighting men of World War II” (pp. 105, 107)


“Today, we are the world’s only superpower, and around the world, even in Russian, there is nearly virtual agreement that if there is to be only one superpower then thank God Almighty that it is the United States.”  (p.117)


“It [i.e., the Marshall Plan] sounds too good to be true.  It happened.  While the Soviets were looting, raping, pillaging in eastern Germany, Poland, and elsewhere, the Americans were feeding, rebuilding, restoring. . . .The Marshall Plan was just what Winston Churchill said of it, the most generous act in human history.” (p. 120)


In 1957, Vice President Nixon said that “the Algerians would be better ruled by the French, make more progress, and live more prosperously than if they ran the country themselves.” (p. 122; 40+ years of history has proven that true, as is true of virtually ever former European colony in Africa; the average man was far better off under European colonial rule, with all its short-comings and defects, than under the regularly brutal and oppressive rule of home-grown leaders of now “independent” countries.--editor)


“There is always a ‘however’ when you are talking about Dick Nixon.” (p. 145)


“In 1996 I taught a course on World War II at the University of Wisconsin. . . .At the conclusion of the course some forty lectures long, a young woman student came up to me to say, ‘You are the first professor I’ve had in four years in Madison to teach me the meaning and value of patriotism.’ “ (p. 166)


“There is a sign at the North Dakota-Montana border that reads, ‘Custer was healthy when he left North Dakota.’ “ (p. 167)


To the inquiry, “ ‘Tell me the secret to being a successful author,’ Hard work is the answer.  You have got to have an insatiable curiosity, be an avid reader, have a memory that allows you to retain what you have read.  Teaching is a great help here.” (p. 187)