"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 10, Number 10, October 2007

 

“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

 

“That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.”

Earl of Kent

Shakespeare’s King Lear

Act I, scene iv, ll. 32-34

 

[“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.  All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org]

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John Gill on the Relationship of Bible Inspiration to Bible Translations

 

Editor’s note: For more than 35 years I have been reading and studying about the inspiration, canonization, copying and translating of the Scriptures. In all that study, the single best statement by far that I have discovered about the relationship of Bible translations to the original text is that written more than 235 years ago by John Gill (1697-1771), Baptist pastor in London and predecessor of Charles Spurgeon.  In his Body of Divinity [the full title is: A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity: Or, a System of Evangelical Truths], (London: Mathews & Leigh, 1839; Sovereign Grace reprint,1971; The Baptist Standard Bearer reprint, 1984 ), pp. 13-14, published only a year or two before his death, Gill addresses the subject as follows:

 

Fourthly, This [i.e. inspiration] is to be understood of the Scriptures, as in the original languages in which they were written, and not of translations; unless it could be thought, that the translators of the Bible into the several languages of the nations into which it has been translated, were under divine inspiration also in translating, and were directed of God in the use of words they have rendered the original by; but this is not reasonable to suppose.  The books of the Old Testament were written chiefly in the Hebrew language, unless some few passages in Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezra, and Esther in the Chaldee language [note: Esther is in fact entirely in Hebrew--editor]; and the New Testament in Greek: in which languages they can only be reckoned canonical and authentic; for this is like the charters and diplomas of princes; the wills or testaments of men; or any deeds made by them; only the exemplar is authentic; and not translations, and transcriptions, and copies of them, though ever so perfect: and to the Bible, in its original languages, is every translation to be brought, and judged, and to be corrected and amended; and if this was not the case, we should have no certain and infallible rule to go by; for it must be either all the translations together, or some one of them; not all of them, because they agree not in all things: not one; for then the contest would be between one nation and another which it should be, whether English, Dutch, French, &c. and could one be agreed upon, it could not be read and understood by all: so the papists, they plead for their vulgate Latin version; which has been decreed authentic by the council of Trent; though it abounds with innumerable errors and mistakes; nay, so far do they carry this affair, that they even assert that the Scriptures, in their originals, ought to submit to, and be corrected by their version; which is absurd and ridiculous. 

 

Let not now any be uneasy in their minds about translations on this account, because they are not upon an equality with the original text, and especially about our own; for as it has been the will of God, and appears absolutely necessary that so it should be, that the Bible should be translated into different languages, that all may read it, and some particularly may receive benefit of it; he has taken care, in his providence, to raise up men capable of such a performance, in various nations, and particularly in ours; for whenever a set of men have been engaged in this work, as were in our nation, men well skilled in the languages, and partakers of the grace of God; of sound principles, and of integrity and faithfulness, having the fear of God before their eyes; they have never failed of producing a translation worthy of acceptance; and in which, though they have mistook some words and phrases, and erred in some lesser and lighter matters; yet not so as to affect any momentous article of faith or practice; and therefore such translations as ours may be regarded as the rule of faith.  And if any scruple should remain on the minds of any on this account, it will be sufficient to remove it, when it is observed, that the Scriptures, in our English translation, have been blessed of God, either by reading them in it, or by explaining them according to it, for the conversion, comfort, and edification of thousands and thousands.  And the same may be said of all others, so far as they agree with the original, that they are the rule of faith and practice, and alike useful.

 

Here I cannot but observe the amazing ignorance and stupidity of some persons, who take it into their heads to decry learning and learned men; for what would they have done for a Bible, had it not been for them as instruments?  and if they had it, so as to have been capable of reading it, God must have wrought a miracle for them; and continued that miracle in every nation, in every age, and to every individual; I mean the gift of tongues, in a supernatural way, as he bestowed upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost; which there is no reason in the world ever to have expected.  Bless God, therefore, and be thankful that God has, in his providence, raised up such men to translate the Bible into the mother-tongue of every nation, and particularly ours; and that he still continues to raise up such who are able to defend the translations made, against erroneous persons, and enemies of the truth; and to correct and amend it in lesser matters, in which it may have failed, and clear and illustrate it by their learned notes upon it.

---

 

Gill's statement is entirely in harmony with the uniform views of prominent Baptists in the centuries before and after him, including Henry Jessey, Benjamin Keach, Andrew Fuller, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Spencer Cone, John Broadus, J. P. Boyce, Basil Manley, J. R. Graves, Thomas Armitage, Alvah Hovey, B. H. Carroll, Charles Spurgeon, J. Hudson Taylor, A. T. Robertson, Noel Smith, and W. A. Criswell, to name only some whose writings I have mined for information on this subject.  I have found no exceptions among prominent Baptists.  Gill, then, in effect summarizes not only his own view but that of Baptists historically. 

 

That Gill's words speak so directly to the current English Bible translation controversy seems little less than astonishing, indeed almost prophetic, anticipating and refuting this present error centuries in advance as they do.  In reality, Gill's words, originally written to refute a Roman Catholic error of claiming infallibility for a Latin translation apply so well to the English Bible controversy because those who advocate an error-less, infallible English translation have fallen into what is essentially a Roman Catholic error, merely substituting one translation, an English one, for another.  As Gill refuted the error of the papists, so his words are a rebuke to his modern-day Baptist brethren (and others) who have, with good intentions, stumbled into essentially the same error.

---Doug Kutilek

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Bible Acrostics and “Full Transference” in Translation

 

A reader writes:

 

“Are the acrostic formations, such as those in the Psalms and Lamentations inspired?  It would seem to me to be a death knell for those who would claim total preservation in a translation.  I have not seen any discussion on this matter in anything I remember reading.   [I] have enjoyed the web site.

 

D----  H---“

 

Dear D. H.--

 

It is indeed true that “acrostics” are an integral part of the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament.  Biblical acrostics are poems/ psalms written with successive lines (or clauses in some cases), or groups of lines, beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  Among OT acrostics are Psalms 9/10 (partial), 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119 (8 lines per letter), 145; Proverbs 31:10-31; Lamentations 1, 2, 3 (3 verses per letter), and 4; and perhaps others.  In some English Bible versions and editions, the acrostic in Psalm 119 is pointed out, with the groups of eight lines headed with the corresponding Hebrew letter (it was from one such edition that I first learned the Hebrew alphabet). 

 

There is a worthwhile article by N. H. Ridderbos on acrostics in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE), revised edition edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Eerdmans, 1979), “Acrostics,” vol. 1, pp. 32-3.

 

Those who would claim the KJV as a perfectly preserved English translation, which allegedly transfers into English all the content of the original without either loss or addition are confronted here with the fact that the KJV unquestionably does not preserve the acrostic structure of the Hebrew original, and therefore cannot honestly be said to transfer all the content of the original.

 

Your observation is indeed correct.

 

Doug Kutilek

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“Faith” versus “Presumption”

 

It is not uncommon, upon challenging the validity of some theological or doctrinal view of an individual, to receive the dismissive reply--“I just take it by faith.”  I think specifically of those who claim that the KJV is a perfectly preserved English equivalent of the original Hebrew and Greek texts.  When pressed to give “chapter and verse” where any English Bible version at all, or this specific English version in particular is identified as just such a “perfectly preserved” version, the reply often heard is: “I just take it by faith.”  The same kind of reply is also heard when charismatics are challenged on the validity of “slaying in the Spirit” or “binding Satan” or seeking Divine guidance by opening the Bible at random and following whatever text the finger happens to hit upon, and other peculiarities of their creed--“I just take it by faith,” they too confidently affirm.

 

The problem in each of these cases is that it is in fact not “faith” that is being exercised, but rather presumption.  Faith, to be genuine, must be founded on fact.  If God truly promised something, then acting upon that promise is “taking it by faith.”  God clearly said that a flood was coming; Noah acted upon that clear statement, built the ark and saved his family.  God promised Abraham a homeland, numerous progeny and Divine protection and blessing.  Abraham “took it by faith,” went out to the land God had promised, and saw the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promises.  Joseph truly believed God when He said that He would take the Israelites out of Egypt at a future date.  He took this by faith and gave commandment concerning the removal of his bones to Canaan.  In each of these cases, and many others, there was a specific and definite promise from God.  Acting upon what God has promised is taking it by faith.

 

However, to act upon something which God has not promised as though He had--or “ought to have”-- is not faith but presumption.  Those who suppose that unlimited, on-demand healing is part of the atonement and therefore insist that God will and must heal believers of every disease in this life “if they have enough faith,” are not “walking by faith” when they refuse medicine or medical care, but are walking by presumption.  They are assuming as true what God never promised (the “redemption of the body” in its fullness is plainly stated to be yet future, Romans 8:23).

 

When someone addresses Satan or demons directly, and authoritatively declares, “I bind you in the name of Jesus,” he is not acting by faith, but is acting on presumption, since God nowhere ever gave any such power or promise to believers today.

 

Those who have confidence that God will “multiply” their “seed-money” sent to some “televangelist” so that they, the “sowers,” can become rich--besides displaying graphically the base motive of unbridled greed--are not acting by faith, but are acting with presumption, since God never made any such promise or pledge to people.  Some religious personality may have promised it, but God certainly never did.

 

And when some insist and demand that God must have perfectly protected His word from the least error or mistake in copying and translation, so that we could have just such an infallible translation today, they are not acting on faith, but on presumption, since there is no Biblical promise of perfect preservation either in copying or in translating (and all verses appealed to as “proof texts” of this claim are misinterpreted, misunderstood and misapplied).  Even Dean Burgon (1813-1888), darling (incongruously) of the KJVOnly cult, wisely declared on this point: “. . . That by a perpetual miracle, Sacred Manuscripts would be protected all down the ages against depraving influences of whatever sort,--was not to have been expected; certainly, was never promised." (The Revision Revised, p. 335).  And he certainly means promised by God.

 

“Taking it by faith,” then, is acting on what the Bible actually does say and affirm, not merely on what someone says it affirms.  God has no obligation to honor our “faith” if it is not founded in biblical fact.  Indeed, we have every reason to expect the opposite, that rather than acceptance and blessing, we will receive rebuke and judgment.

---Doug Kutilek

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More Quotes from Douglas Southall Freeman on Leadership

 

In the June 2003 issue of AISI (6:6), we reviewed and extensively quoted the published lectures of Douglas Southall Freeman (1886-1953; editor of the Richmond [Va.] News-Leader and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Robert E. Lee and George Washington) to various audiences of American military officers on the topic of leadership, namely, Douglas Southall Freeman On Leadership, edited by Stuart W. Smith.  On re-reading that book recently, it became evident that we had not cited all the “gems” from the book in our review.  We hereby remedy that previous oversight (or “undercite,” as it were).

---

“Morale and discipline are so closely related, of course, in all military organization that we often use the two terms as synonymous.” (p. 62)

 

“I wonder if there ever was an army that had great morale that did not have a great commander.” (p. 74)

 

“[T]he nearest approach [Robert E. Lee] had to a rule of thumb for judging the competence of an officer was the condition in which he found that officer’s camp.” (p.89)

 

“Lee] always worked on the theory-- . . .--that after a campaign or a battle, the removal of the incompetent is just as essential as the promotion of the capable.” (p. 91)

 

“In high command, caution is necessary up to a certain point.  When caution becomes confirmed pessimism, it breeds despair, and that ruins morale.  General Lee would never keep a confirmed pessimist in command in the Army of Northern Virginia.  One of the ablest, technically, of all the division commanders, probably one of the best of all the engineers of the Army of Northern Virginia, was removed because he was too much of a pessimist.” (p. 93)

 

“We have a great many examples in the War between the States to illustrate the principle that loyalty is bilateral.  Quite often we are, in war, disposed to think, as the officer stated, that it is a unilateral quality, in short, that loyalty and subordination are synonymous.  Just as much loyalty is due on the part of the commanding officer to his subordinates as is due from his subordinates to him.  In fact, there is a different and a higher, if not a more delicate, moral obligation involved.  In the one instance there is the army law; in the other instance is the higher law of noblesse oblige.  I believe it can be said that with very few exceptions, those officers who have been most mindful of their obligations of loyalty to their subordinates are those men who have received from their subordinates something more than that loyalty which conforms to army regulations.” (p. 96)

 

“I want to go on record here, gentlemen, before you of a war college, and say that in my judgment, however humble it is, 20 percent of the casualties of the War between the States were attributable to the incompetence of commanders; and that is a terrible bill to have to pay.” (pp. 143-4)

 

“[In] a house in Alexandria[,Virginia after the war]. . . the widow of one of [Lee’s] officers brought him a little child for him to bless.  The old man took the child and looked at it. . . . He then said what I think every man who wishes to serve his generation must remember first of all, and no man more than a soldier.  ’Madam,’ looking up at the mother and stroking the head of the child, ‘Madam, teach him to deny himself.’ “ (pp. 160, 161)

 

“Why was General Lee accepted as a leader?  No matter how good a man is potentially, dynamically his leadership postulates acceptance.  You might be the best soldier ever turned out from West Point or polished off at the war college or Fort Leavenworth, but unless your leadership is accepted by your men, your qualities, nine times in ten, will never have adequate opportunity of display.  Leadership postulates ability; it postulates no less acceptance of that ability, recognition of that ability by those one must lead.  Why was General Lee accepted as a leader?  It was, first of all, because victory against odds convinced all of his subordinates that he knew best what to do in a given situation.  There is no single attribute of a commissioned officer in war, obviously, that has the same effect as victory.” (p. 165)

 

“The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.” (p. 171; quoting Confederate General Richard S. Ewell)

 

“There are some basic reasons why Lee was accepted as a commander.  Very simple.  He knew better what he was doing than anybody else, in the judgment of his men.  He had a sound and correct theory of offensive strategy. . . . He became a leader in the eyes of his men because, among other reasons, he was always the master of himself.  He never lost his head.  There was only one time in his whole career during the War between the States when it could be said that he showed any definite excitement.” (p. 171)

 

“It is no small thing for a man to live for thirty years of his life while he looks into the private correspondence of such men as Robert E. Lee and George Washington and Stonewall Jackson.” (p. 194; this was what Freeman himself had done).

 

“A man very seldom loses the respect of his men if he says he doesn’t know something when he can demonstrate that he knows something else, but look out for that man who tries to bluff about his knowledge. . . . If you don’t know, say so and try to find out.” (p. 208)

 

“[I] never knew a great American seaman, I never knew a great American soldier, or read about one, who was not fundamentally a man.  And that means a man of character; it means a man of industry; it means a man of fair play.” (p. 209)

 

“The American people need nothing in this world more than they need to get up earlier and go to bed earlier.” (p. 211)

 

“Nothing can be more hurtful to the service than the neglect of discipline, for discipline more than numbers gives one army superiority over another.” (p. 222; quoting Washington)

 

“The best form of welfare for the troops is a superlative state of discipline, for this saves them from unnecessary losses.” (p. 222; quoting Erwin Rommel)

 

“Oh, beware of the doctrine of [America as] a chosen people, but believe in the doctrine of the triumph of right!  We cannot always apply the maxim, ‘Be still and know that I am God’ [Psalm 46:10], but we have in our history every assurance, ‘Be right and see that I am God.’ . . . Washington spoke for himself but he spoke for all those who have followed after and have studied the real history of the American army when he said, ‘Providence, to whom we are infinitely more indebted than we are to our wisdom or our own exertion, has always been displayed in power and goodness when clouds and darkness seem ready to overwhelm us.” (p. 227)

 

“It is better to know everything of one [military] campaign than to know something of every campaign.” (p. 231)

 

“First, learn at least one of the languages that you are going to have to use [in dealing with allies and enemies].  Learn at least one. . . .Now it is for you to learn Japanese , to learn Russian, to learn Rumanian, perhaps Hungarian--a number of those far dialects and languages; and they can be learned.” (p. 233)

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

The Warden of English: the Life of H. W. Fowler by Jenny McMorris.  Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2001.  242 pp., hardback.

 

Anyone who has studied journalism, or done much writing, especially for publication, has heard of (and probably owns) “Fowler,” the short-hand way of referring to A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (or simply, Modern English Usage) by Henry W.  Fowler (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926).  Since its first appearance, this little volume, bound in the exclusive Clarendon Press blue, has been the unofficial “standard” reference work on proper English grammatical usage.  While some have denounced this small work as stuffy and school-marmish, this characterization is excessive; the book is both highly instructive and often quite entertaining.  Used copies are regularly met with in bookshops, and the work is still in print, in a 3rd revised edition, edited by R. W. Burchfield, current editor of the massive and authoritative Oxford English Dictionary.  (A similar and more recent work which addresses the American form of the English language is Modern English Usage by Wilson Follett, edited and completed by Jacques Barzun [New York: Hill and Wang, 1966].  Both Fowler and Follett should be within arm’s reach on the shelves of anyone interested in writing well).

 

Who was this Fowler?  Henry W. Fowler (1858-1933) was the oldest of 8 children born into the home of an ordained minister who was employed as a school teacher.  Educated at Oxford B. A., M.A. 1886), Fowler followed his father’s career path and for 17 years taught at a college preparatory school.  He left after he refused as required to prepare the students for confirmation in the Church.  Fowler, sad to say, though raised on evangelical doctrine, by turns embraced, then doubted, then denied, and finally dismissed the faith he had been taught as a youth.  His wife was a regular attendant at Anglican services, but as an adult he never went.  The cause of this apostatizing is not at all clear from the book.

 

After his departure from teaching, Fowler lived for a few years in London, eking out a living by writing essays for publication.  He then moved to the Isle of Guernsey in the English Channel, where his 12-years-younger brother Frank lived, and who was occupied growing tomatoes.  These two then-bachelor brothers proposed to Oxford University Press the publication of a new English translation of classical author Lucian; the idea was accepted, and their translation was published in 4 volumes in 1905.  This began Henry’s relationship with Oxford University Press (OUP) which lasted to the end of his life.

 

The Fowler brothers were contracted by OUP to produce a book on current English (mis)usage, The King’s English (1906), followed by an abridged edition of the then far-from-finished Oxford English Dictionary.  This later appeared in 1911 as The Concise Oxford Dictionary (still in print in a 10th edition, edited by Judy Pearsall), and later the still smaller Pocket Oxford Dictionary (1924).  Frank died at 48 in 1918 from tuberculosis possibly contracted while serving in the British army.  A Dictionary of Modern English Usage had been discussed and planned by the brothers as a joint venture, but after Frank’s death, Henry carried through the work alone, and duly dedicated it to Frank.

 

Henry Fowler was eccentric in a stereotypically British way.  He was largely a recluse who much preferred to communicate via writing rather than in person, and was austere and Spartan in his lifestyle.  He had worked under contract for OUP for many years before anyone at the press ever met him, and there was considerable speculation at the press (and in the public) as to who these Fowlers might be.  He had a very wry and dry sense of humor.  He was highly self-motivated worker, who set very high standards for himself and regularly attained them.  He remained a bachelor until age 50 (his wife was an old maid of 46; brother Frank married at 40 to a woman just 21).  He had a lifelong practice as an adult of making in all seasons a daily morning run of a mile or so, followed by a swim in whatever body of water was handy--a pond, a river, or the ocean--regardless of how frigid the waters might be.  He was in excellent physical condition into his 70s, and when 56, lied about his age (claiming to be 44) so that he could enlist as a private in the British army during World War I.  He spent more than a year in the army, much of that in France, though only once came under fire.

 

Those who love and study the English language will find much of interest in this biography of Henry W. Fowler.

---Doug Kutilek

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The Oxford University Press: an Informal History by Peter Sutcliffe.  Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1978.  303 pp., hardback.

 

To anyone at all familiar with scholarly literature, the current form of the publisher’s “device” (the symbol, escutcheon, logo, or trademark, as it were) on the spine of books from Oxford University Press (more specifically, the Clarendon Press) is a familiar sight: a rather ornate shield or wreath, enclosing an oval, in which in turn are enclosed three crowns and an open book which reads: “Dominus illuminatio mea” [Latin for “The Lord is my light”--from Psalm 26:1 (27:1) in the Latin Vulgate translation].  Oxford University Press has long had a reputation for publishing superb editions of very scholarly works--including Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Syriac lexicons and grammars to note only a narrow range of such works.  While OUP books do not make up a very large percentage of the books in my library, they are among the most valuable and useful to me in my study and research, and I would be severely handicapped if I did not have them, and in truth some of my work simply could not be done.

 

The press was founded as an adjunct to Oxford University in 1478 (just a quarter century after Gutenberg’s famous pioneer work in the field of printing); Sutcliffe’s history was written to coincide with the OUP’s 500th anniversary in 1978.  From the beginning until the early 19th century, it seemed as if those who ran the press were largely indifferent as to whether it published anything or not.  Seventeen books were published in 1478-1486, but nothing more in the following century, except for eight volumes in the two years 1517-1518.  Things did pick up a bit in the 17th century.  But because the press was viewed by those who controlled and administered it as an entirely non-commercial venture, there was virtually no interest in publishing popular books that might sell well and generate revenue; rather, scholarly works, which are notoriously expensive to produce and poor sellers as well, were the focus.  When in the early 17th century, OUP, along with Cambridge University Press, was granted exclusive authority by the British monarch to publish Bibles and prayer books, a steady and massive amount of revenue began to flow into the press’s coffers.  For centuries, large profits from the sale of the Bible (the King James Version, in particular) provided the funds to subsidize the publication of scholarly works which could not pay their own way.  Eventually (late 19th and into the 20th centuries), the press divided up its works under “academic” and “commercial” classifications (Bible publishing going under the former heading), and began to operate more like a commercial publisher.

 

The “Delegates” of the Press, made up of professors and other officials of the Oxford University, function as a board of directors or trustees, setting policy, hiring the Secretary (=CEO) who actually runs things, and similar functions. Unlike most “presses” and “publishers” today, OUP historically has done its own printing in-house, and even made its own paper to order (creating a great deal of water pollution around Oxford in the process).  For a long period, it hired an external publisher (usually in London) to handle the actual sale and distribution of its titles.  Today, OUP has branches and offices in many locations around the world.

 

OUP is famous for its long-term publishing projects which no commercial firm could fund--the huge folio edition of the Septuagint edited by Holmes and Parsons in five volumes, whose publication spanned nearly 30 years (1798-1827); Payne-Smith’s massive Syriac lexicon which took 33 years just to set up in type (and during which time 31 different type-setters working on the project died!); and most famously, the massive Oxford English Dictionary (OED) whose 15,488 pages were published over a period of 44 years (1884-1928).  One of the OED typesetters worked on it from start to finish, spending his entire career at OUP on this one title!  And if that is not remarkable enough, one J. C. Pembrey began working for the press as a proof-reader (of works in oriental languages--Sanskrit, Syriac, Hebrew, and more) at age 14 in 1846, and finally retired more than 70 years later in 1918!!!  Sutcliffe says of him: “how he retained his health and sanity through so many years of awful labours is not recorded, nor the extent to which he acquired some working knowledge of the languages he read, eyes moving unerringly from manuscript copy to proof sheets, back and forth, in quest of an error the discovery of which was perhaps its own reward.” (p. 45)

 

Some of OUP’s scholarly works were very s-l-o-w sellers.   Wilkins’ Coptic Gospels was issued in a press run of just 500 copies in 1716; 100 copies had sold by 1760, and the last copy went out the door in 1907, just short of 200 years later!!!

 

The various characters, often rather eccentric, introduced in the account --delegates, secretaries, printers, publishers and authors--make for an interesting narrative, a narrative which the author has laced with numerous puns and a great deal of tongue-in-cheek humor. 

 

Not the casual novel reader’s cup of tea, but the bibliophile’s true element.

---Doug Kutilek

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Lost Histories: in Search of Vanished Places, Treasures, and People, by Joel Levy.  New York: Barnes & Noble, 2006.  245 pp., hardback.

 

In the study of history, there are numerous cases where the “other shoe” has yet to drop, that is, where the origin or fate of certain persons, places or events is as yet unresolved, leaving the conclusion of the matter hanging, an altogether unsatisfactory state of affairs.  Books written about one or more of these unresolved issues are commonplace, and are very often much more sensational than enlightening.  To his credit, Joel Levy’s contribution is at once sane, balanced and readable, aiming at a “popular” rather than the scholarly audience (though including enough bibliography at the end, much of it accessible via the internet, to direct the curious to further information).

 

Some 24 unresolved mysteries are examined, with the various relevant theories examined, and rejected as needed.  Among the mysteries are the origin of the Atlantis legend; the precise location of Solomon’s temple (of which we have but one tiny known artifact at present); Britain’s “Camelot”; the storied “El Dorado”--city of gold in South America; the fate of the ark of the covenant; the question regarding the existence and nature of the Holy grail; whether Shakespeare wrote any now lost plays, the fate of the Dead Sea treasures described in the famous copper scroll; the Oak Island money pit; the lost colony of Roanoke, Amelia Earhart’s fate; and more.  There are of course some statements in this brief work that I disagree with, and some assertions I find dubious, but on the whole, this is a sane, sensible and reasonable approach to the extant evidence in each case.  I found it a worthwhile diversion.

---Doug Kutilek

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