"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 14, Number 10, October 2011

 

“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

 

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 upon request.]

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Is Mormonism a “Cult”?

 

A media “firestorm” (mostly a “manufactured” controversy, I have little doubt) arose recently when Robert Jeffress, pastor of historic First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas and a strong supporter of Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry, declared that Mormonism, the religion of rival candidate Mitt Romney, was a cult.  Some in and out of the media expressed concern, disdain, even outrage at this insensitive, even, some said, bigoted remark.  Regardless of the response to Pastor Jeffress’ words, the real question is--did he speak the truth?  Is Mormonism in fact a non-Christian cult?

 

The first issue in settling such a question is the matter of definitions.  What is a “cult”?  I have seen various definitions, but have settled on my own, which is more of a characterization than strictly a definition--

 

First, cults claim to be “real” or “restored” Christianity, which had somehow been “lost” somewhere between the first century and the time of the founding of the cult.

 

Second, cults are all but uniformly non-Trinitarian (most are Unitarian, but some are polytheistic)

 

Third, cults teach de facto or de jure the inadequacy and incompleteness of the revelation in Scripture, and hence the need for--

1. a new inspired prophet or prophets (usually beginning with if not limited to the founder of the cult); and

2. further Divine revelations, which are communicated through that prophet.

 

Fourth, cults, as with all false religions, teach salvation by means of human religious works.

 

Fifth, there is no salvation outside the cult.

 

I have studied the various major cults over four decades of ministry and have taught general survey courses on the subject more than once, and have written extensively about some of them.  I acknowledge that my special expertise in this area is in Seventh-day Adventism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Moonies (Unification Church) and not in Mormonism, but I have sufficient knowledge to say beyond any doubt that Mormonism has ALL the ear-marks of a cult noted above.

 

First, Joseph Smith’s (1805-1844) “testimony” includes alleged divine instructions not to join any church but to start his own and restore lost Christianity.

 

Second, while Mormons talk about “the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” and will claim that they believe in the same God as evangelical Christians, they are either ignorant or disingenuous in this claim.  Mormonism is polytheistic, teaching that there are many gods, and that you yourself can become a god with your own universe to tinker with (compare Satan’s promise in Genesis 3:5).  In fact, Mormonism teaches that God was once a man but attained to Divine status.  They also somehow teach that Adam is God--who then made him and to whom did he talk in Eden?  Mormonism also teaches that Christ and Satan are brothers, and that Jesus was conceived by actual physical sexual relations between God and Mary--vile blasphemy, to say the least.

 

Third, Mormons are outspoken about the need--and provision--of new inspired Scriptures, first The Book of Mormon, allegedly translated by Joseph Smith using magic glasses, from a “reformed Egyptian” text written on golden plates (the plates being discovered after Smith allegedly received angelic communication as to their whereabouts).  The true origin of The Book of Mormon is likely much more mundane.  It is credibly affirmed that it was a novel written by a Rev. Spalding, which Smith (or someone else) found in manuscript in a printer’s office and claimed as his own. (For a telling expose of this widespread genre of fictional religious literature, in which The Book of Mormon fits perfectly, see Modern Apocrypha: Modern “Biblical” Hoaxes by Edgar J. Goodspeed [Boston: Beacon Press, 1931, 1956]).  Strangely, the book teaches NO distinctive Mormon doctrine, makes no claim of being a divine revelation, and has some howlers among its legion of factual errors (including the claim that Jesus was born in Jerusalem!!!).  The real leading light of Mormonism, the man who shaped it into full-fledged cult status was Brigham Young (1801-1871), husband of 27 wives and father of more than 50 children.  The works that actually shaped Mormon doctrine were the other two “inspired” Mormon books--Doctrines and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.  These three new “Scriptures” are often bound together with the Bible.

 

Fourth, salvation by works is a hallmark of Mormonism--going on “mission,” doing “temple work” (including proxy baptism to save the dead), a secretive temple marriage ritual, and much else.

 

Fifth, while non-Mormons may have a place in eternity, only faithful Mormons will attain to the highest heavenly status, becoming gods with their own personal universe to control.

 

Mormonism, then, does have every characteristic of a cult, and in nothing does it conform to historic, Biblical Christianity.  It is indeed, as Pastor Jeffress stated, a non-Christian cult.

---Doug Kutilek

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The Napoleonic School of Pastoral “Leadership”

 

“I like only those people who are useful to me, and only so long as they are useful.”

Quoted in The Age of Napoleon

by Will and Ariel Durant, p. 251,

citing J. Christopher Herold, ed.,

The Mind of Napoleon, p. 9

 

[A thank you to Major Kevin Whitman, USAF (ret.) for locating the documentation on the above quotation for me]

 

The essence of this attitude of using others for one’s own self-glorifying ends is also expressed in the unfortunate (and unfortunate because true) aphorism about the present state of the Gospel ministry--

 

“There are some preachers who use their ministry to build people, and there are others who use people to build their ministry.”

 

The paradigm of “pastor as autocrat” or ruler of a hand-picked oligarchy of lackey trustees or deacons who do his bidding is not unique to our present day, but is as old as the church age.  Even so, one would think, or at least hope, that those who profess to believe and practice the Bible would be quick to renounce and reject such consolidation of power in the churches in the hands of one man, or a small cadre of men; indeed, don’t Baptists and other conservative Protestants object to the structure of Roman Catholicism because of its power-usurping, top-heavy organization, focused in the Pope and his college of cardinals?  Yet just such a power structure, on a smaller scale, is precisely what some self-absorbed, self-important pastors of the present hour seek to create for themselves.

 

And just such people-using, self-arrogating potentates (and whose ministry “mission statement” was coined millennia ago, namely, “Let us make us a name”), while trying to build an earthly “legacy” for themselves, have  left another, darker legacy, one highly predictable because it has been repeated so often--the legacy of a financially bankrupt congregation, an inevitable consequence of the pastor’s grandiose schemes (to say nothing of funding his “living large” and in high style), his “edifice” complex so to speak, in which massive mortgaged buildings are his visible monument.  But far worse is the human wreckage of once-zealous and faithful believers who are left spiritually broken, disillusioned, bitter and angry, --people who had served faithfully and sacrificially from no motive other than sincere service to God for His glory, not knowing that they were in fact mere disposable “pawns” in a carnal man’s quest for notoriety.  One man actually gave voice in my hearing to his own practice in ministry building: “Get yourself some people, use them up, and then go get some more.”

 

The simplest attentive reading of the NT exposes the great evil of this whole approach.  What did Paul, the Apostle and author of nearly half the books of the NT, say of himself?  He was but a servant (I Corinthians 4:1), not a czar.  And what did Peter, the natural leader of the twelve Apostles say of himself?  He was but a “fellow-elder” with the other pastors (I Peter 5:1), and he expressly taught against autocratic rule by the leaders in the churches: “Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely according to God’s will, not for money but eagerly, not domineering those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (I Peter 5:2-3).  “God’s flock”--not your own private domain.  Reminiscent of Jesus’ three-fold admonition: “Feed MY sheep”--His, not yours.  Always remember that. 

 

The rebuke of Jesus is even more scathing:

 

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them.  It must not be like that among you.  On the contrary, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants  to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many,”

Matthew 20:25-28; italics added

 

No honorable man wants tyrannical power over others.

 

Real Biblical pastoral leadership is not on a “command and demand” basis, but leadership by spiritual example and force of character, moral leadership and respect that is earned and merited by time and conduct.  Paul admonished young Timothy: “Be an example to the believers in what you say, in how you live, in how you love, in faithfulness, in personal purity,” (I Timothy 4:12).  That is the sure and proper path to moral authority in the ministry.  Much more difficult, but much more enduring, and infinitely more beneficial to those you serve.

 

Some people love freedom; others love power.  There are far too many of the latter in politics and government--and pulpits.

---Doug Kutilek

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The Best Thing Martin Luther Never Said

 

Famous German Reformer Martin Luther, as with many historically notable figures (Spurgeon, Augustine, Lincoln, and many others), not infrequently has had quotes and quips ascribed to him which he in fact did NOT say.  Or as Yogi Berra famously put it: “I really didn’t say everything I said” (The Yogi Book, p. 9).  Perhaps the best non-Luther “Luther “ quote is the following:

 

“If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every

portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the

world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing

Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity.  Where the battle

rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the

battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at

that one point.”

 

Excellent words and an excellent perspective, indeed.  I first came across this quote a decade or more ago, and was misinformed by that source (whoever or whatever it was) that the words were Luther’s.  Just recently a friend was looking for this quote, and after I fruitlessly looked through the index of back issues of As I See It (thinking that I might have quoted it sometime in the past 14 years), followed by a search of several books by or about Luther, then a search of printed Spurgeonic material (thinking I might have been mistaken as to who said it originally), I finally did a web search where I discovered almost immediately the quote in full and the actual original source.  Creationist scholar Carl Wieland at: http://creation.com/battle-quote-not-luther discussed and documented the fact that the quote is not from Luther at all, but is from an 1864 novel by Elizabeth Rundle Charles called The Chronicles of the Schoenberg Cotta Family (Thomas Nelson, 1864).  So--not Luther, but a great quote it is, nevertheless.

---Doug Kutilek

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The Peshitta Syriac NT

--VERSUS--

The Textus Receptus and the King James Version

 

The most commonly met with assertions in pro “King James Only” literature regarding the Peshitta Syriac translation of the NT are:

 

1. that the Peshitta is the earliest translation of the Greek NT, dating to the middle of the second century A.D., nearly two centuries before those most-hated-by-them of Greek manuscripts, the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, were written, and therefore much more likely to give the original form of the NT than they; and,

 

2. that the Peshitta agrees closely  (or is even identical) with the “textus receptus” and therefore also with the KJV in the disputes over the precise original form of the text of the NT.

 

(A third claim, that Syriac often preserves the exact original words spoken by Jesus in Aramaic, rather than translating them as the Greek Gospels do, is readily discredited, but will be left out of this present discussion).

 

These very claims in part were the motivation behind my taking 9 hours of Syriac (along with 13 hours of the closely related Aramaic language) in graduate school.  I wanted to be able to independently verify--or discredit--claims I heard about “the Syriac says this” and “the Syriac reads that.”  I have acquired over the years several different editions of the Peshitta Bible, OT, NT, Gospels, and editions of some other ancient Syriac versions of the Gospels and Revelation.  When relevant, I regularly consult the Syriac versions on questions regarding the text or translation of passages in both testaments (as numerous articles in As I See It attest).  And, while I have not given the Syriac translations or the Syriac language the attention I have wanted to, I still can sight read a fair amount of it, and can, with lexicon and grammar in hand, work through whatever I cannot immediately read.  I say this to note that I have in each case either directly discovered or personally verified every variant reading I mention in the body of this article.  Nothing is accepted “second hand” on the basis of the “critical apparatus” --footnotes--of the Nestle or United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testaments (though I will say that I have never yet discovered a place where they erroneously gave the evidence regarding the Peshitta, and I do recommend the critical apparatus of those Greek texts as a good place to glean the readings of the Peshitta, even if you cannot read Syriac).

 

The Peshitta Syriac translation is indeed among the most important Bible translations ever made (ranking only behind the Latin Vulgate).  However, the claims for a mid-second century date for the Peshitta NT, popular in mid-19th century literature, have been wholly discredited.  Discoveries in the 19th century compelled this change in view.  The oldest form of the Gospels in Syriac historically attested was Tatian’s Diatessaron, a “harmony” of the Gospels, not in parallel columns like the harmonies used today, but with the four texts interwoven into a continuous narrative.  Dating to circa 170 A.D., the Diatessaron in Syriac has disappeared, except for some few fragments (due to deliberate suppression by ecclesiastical authorities) and is largely known today through translations into Arabic, Armenian, Dutch and other languages. 

 

In the 1840s, a 5th century manuscript of the “divided” (i.e., un-“Tatianized”) Gospels in an early Syriac translation was discovered and published by William Cureton.  The translation in this fragmentary manuscript is clearly earlier than the Peshitta and a lineal predecessor of the Peshitta (that is, the Peshitta is a revision of the version found in the Curetonian manuscript).  Then, in the 1890s, a second, earlier manuscript (4th century) containing the old Syriac version of the Gospels in a somewhat different form was discovered at St. Catherine’s Monastery at the base of Mount Sinai.  Incomplete due to the ravages of time, this Sinaitic Syriac manuscript in conjunction with the Curetonian manuscript contain nearly the complete text of the old Syriac version of the Gospels.  (There are references to an old Syriac--i.e. pre-Peshitta--version of the rest of the NT epistles, but no manuscript of these is known to exist today).

 

The study and comparison of Tatian’s Diatessaron, the two old Syriac Gospel manuscripts, the Peshitta Syriac version and the quotations from the Gospels in the two most important and pre-Peshitta Syrian church fathers, Ephraim and Aphraates, led to the certain conclusion that the Peshitta version of the NT did not exist until around 420 A.D., rather than in the 2nd century (see my review in As I See It 3:4 of S. Ephraim's Quotations from the Gospel collected and arranged by F. Crawford Burkitt.  vol. VII, no. 2 of Texts and Studies: Contributions to Biblical and Patristic Literature, ed. by J. Armitage Robinson).  The former opinion of the extreme antiquity of the Peshitta NT is abandoned today.

 

Furthermore, the claim that the Peshitta Syriac NT, regardless of its date of origin, regularly lines up with the textus receptus Greek text and therefore the KJV is a claim that can only be made on the basis of ignorance of the facts.  In truth, the Peshitta NT differs from the TR / KJV in hundreds of details, many of them of just the sort where the Alexandrian text of Vaticanus and / or Sinaiticus also differ from the TR / KJV.  I have not compiled a complete catalog of these Peshitta differences from the TR / KJV, but among those of particular note are:

 

Matthew 27:46-- Peshitta omits, “that is, my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

 

Matthew 28:18-- adds, from John 20:21, “As my father sent me, thus I send you.”

 

Mark 1:2-- reads “Isaiah the prophet” (vs. “the prophets”)

 

John 1:18--reads “God” (vs. “Son”)

 

John 7:53-8:11--lacks this famous incident (which is also absent from all known Greek mss. before the 8th century A. D., except “D”)

 

Acts 8:37--does not insert this addition to the text (which is also absent from a strong majority of Greek manuscripts)

 

Acts 9:5b-6a--does not have this insertion made by Erasmus against all Greek manuscript evidence

 

Romans 1:16--does not insert the words “of Christ” after the word “Gospel”

 

Romans 8:1--does not insert the phrase ”but after the spirit”

 

Colossians 1:14--does not insert “through his blood” (absent also from nearly all Greek manuscripts)

 

I Timothy 3:16--has a relative pronoun (vs. “God” in TR)

 

I John 3:2--retains phrase “and we are” omitted by TR

 

I John 5:7--does not insert this comma (which is not found in the precise TR form in any known Greek manuscript)

 

(Revelation 22:19 the Syriac version--here the Harclean/Philoxenian, there being no Peshitta version of this book--reads “tree of life” (vs. “book’), along with all known Greek manuscripts

 

I could GREATLY expand this list.  If all the differences between the TR and the Peshitta NT were catalogued, I suspect the list would run to many hundreds, perhaps a couple of thousand differences, perhaps more.  There are of course many differences between the Peshitta Syriac and the Masoretic Hebrew text in the OT as well.  Therefore let all KJVO advocates cease and desist in their false--demonstrably false--claims that the Peshitta NT dates to the 2nd century and is therefore earlier in attestation that the Alexandrian text; and the equally erroneous claim that the Peshitta regularly sides with the TR / KJV against the Alexandrian text from.

 

(Let me say a word about the Peshitta Syriac OT.  It is widely held by those who have studied the evidence 1) that the Pentateuch of the Syriac OT version in its oldest form dates from the mid-1st century A. D.; 2) that it, like the rest of the Peshitta OT, was made directly from the Hebrew text but is strongly influenced by targumic traditions (the targums, or targumim, are Aramaic translations / interpretations and in some cases expansive paraphrases); 3) that this translation of the Pentateuch was in the century or so that followed supplemented so as to include the whole OT; and 4) that the whole was revised under the influence of the Septuagint Greek version.  And let it be noted that the vowel points which the Hebrew Masoretic scribes added to their consonantal text during the Middles Ages were “inspired” by the prior example of Syrian Christian scribes who employed sub- and supra-linear forms of borrowed Greek vowels to indicate the pronunciation of their previously all-consonant Syriac text).

---Doug Kutilek

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Selected and Annotated Bibliography

Regarding the Syriac Language and Syriac Bible Versions

 

(We offer a very limited, basic bibliography.  Works cited will give the reader all the additional bibliography his heart could desire.  The usual internet new and used book services can help to readily locate these sometimes hard-to-find volumes)

 

Texts

 

There is, apparently, a much greater uniformity in text among the 600 or so extant ancient Peshitta NT manuscripts than is true of Greek NT manuscripts, and subsequently fewer intra-Syriac variants.

 

The earliest forms of the printed Syriac NT text, dating to the 16th and 17th centuries, were often “doctored” texts, that is, the editors / publishers did not conform strictly to the texts as found in the manuscripts, but freely altered them to make the printed form conform to the then-current form of the printed Greek NT.  For this reason, it is possible to find early printed Syriac NTs which contain John 7:53-8:11, I John 5:7, etc., but they do so contrary to ALL Peshitta manuscript evidence, and are in fact the editor’s own translation from Greek into Syriac.

 

The most readily obtainable editions of the Syriac NT and Syriac Bible are from the American Bible Society--

 

Syriac New Testament and Psalms.  Published by United Bible Societies, 1986.

 

A reprint, in the NT portion, of the text of the 1905 edition of the Gospels by G. H. Gwilliam, the text in Acts and the Epistles of Paul, James, I Peter and I John as prepared by Gwilliam with the assistance of J. Pinkerton for the Clarendon Press (thus completing the Peshitta NT proper), and the Philoxenian Syriac text of 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation (books outside the official Syrian Orthodox NT canon) as published by John Gwynn (Revelation, 1898, others 1909).  The Psalms in this edition is the Peshitta Psalter according to the West Syrian Text edited by W. E. Barnes, 1904.  The NT portion of this edition was first published in 1919, and reprinted in 1950; the 1950 edition, at least, has a different order in the NT books than the 1986 edition and a different system of numbering the pages, but the same text.

 

While small, the type face in this edition is clear and legible and the words are all fully pointed with vowels.

 

Syriac Bible.  Published by United Bible Societies, 1979; reprinted 1987.  ISBN 0-564-03212-3.

 

This edition contains the OT from an unspecified 19th century edition.  Only a limited few proper names are pointed with vowels; all the rest of the text is consonants only--a bit of a challenge for the beginner.  The books are in a distinctive Syrian order.  Then, the Apocrypha, in an unpointed, hand-written text follows (I know of no other edition of the Apocrypha in Syriac).  Finally, the NT (including the books outside the Syrian canon) follow, in a clear-fonted, fully pointed text.

 

KTB’ QDYSH ’: DYTQ’ ‘TYQT’ [Holy Bible: Old Covenant].  Published by the Trinitarian Bible Society, 1954. 

 

Apparently a reprint of an 1852 edition published at Urmia in Persia.  OT only.  The font is quite small and rather difficult to read, and the vowels are even harder to read.  The books of Chronicles have significant gaps in the printed text (due to lacunae in the manuscripts used).  While the text presented in this edition is reported to be important and authoritative, it is extremely difficult to read.

 

The New Covenant Aramaic Peshitta Text, with Hebrew Translation.  Published by The Bible Society in Israel, 1986.

 

What is claimed to be the Peshitta NT is published on very low grade paper in a fully-pointed Hebrew type font (in the Reformation and Post-Reformation centuries, it was common to print the Syriac text in Hebrew rather than Syriac type, since the former was readily available and the latter was not, and frankly, the Hebrew type is much easier to read than the Syriac, at least to me).  The parallel contemporary Israeli Hebrew translation is also of interest (noted in my detailed study, “Hebrew New Testament Translations: A Comprehensive History, part III,” AISI 9:5) but, the Syriac text presented is of no authority or importance.  It has been repeatedly altered, with numerous readings and passages altered or inserted, against all manuscript evidence for the Peshitta version (see my article for some specifics).

 

(A detailed edition of the Peshitta Gospels citing the readings of numerous manuscripts was edited by P. E. Pusey and G. H. Gwilliam and published in 1901.  A critical edition of the Peshitta OT has been in the process of preparation for several decades by the Leiden Peshitta Institute with several slim but hyper-expensive volumes issued; the last I heard, this edition is far from complete).

 

Translations

 

The Syriac New Testament: Translated into English from the Syriac Peshitto Version by James Murdock.  Gorgias Press, 2001 reprint.  ISBN 0-9715986-8-1

 

Originally dating to circa 1849, this version, with valuable introduction, appendix and marginalia, is a good, close and accurate English translation of the Peshitta NT.  This publisher has produced or reprinted numerous works relating to the Syriac Bible and the Syrian Church.

 

Holy Bible: From Ancient Eastern Manuscripts by George Lamsa (Holman 1957).

 

While this publication claims to be a close and accurate translation of the Peshitta OT and NT, it is fact so inaccurate and unreliable that no one should quote it with confidence as though it actually does, in any particular place, correctly present the contents of the Peshitta.  Lamsa was associated with the Way International Arian cult.

 

Grammar and Lexicons

 

Paradigms and Exercises in Syriac Grammar, by Theodore H. Robinson.  Fourth edition revised by L. H. Brockington.  Oxford, 1975.

 

A standard beginning grammar.  Useful and readily obtainable.

 

A Compendious Syriac Dictionary edited by J. Payne Smith.  Oxford, 1903.

 

The standard Syriac lexicon, based on a much larger work in Latin.

 

Lexicon to the Syriac New Testament (Peshitta) by William Jennings, revised by Ulric Gantillon.  Oxford, 1926.

 

Limited to NT.  Out of copyright, readily borrowed and photocopied.

 

Reference Works

 

The Early Versions of the New Testament by Bruce M. Metzger.  Oxford, 1977.  “The Syriac Versions,” pp. 3-98.  Excellent, thorough.

 

“Versions Ancient (Syriac),” by S. P. Brock, in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman (New York, 1992), vol. VI, pp. 794-799.  Succinct, with extensive bibliography.

 

Lexical Tools to the Syriac New Testament by George Anton Kiraz.  Gorgias Press: Piscataway, NJ, 2002.  Second edition.

 

A worthwhile basic tool, with word frequency lists, verb charts, basic grammar, and extensive bibliography.

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BOOK REVIEW

           

Spectacular Career of Rev. Billy Sunday, Famous Baseball Evangelist by Theodore Thomas Frankenberg.  Columbus, Ohio: McClelland & co., 1913.  231 pp., hardback.

 

The 1910s were THE decade of national fame, notoriety and influence for evangelist William Ashley Sunday (1862-1935), as he transitioned from a small-town revivalist in the American Midwest to a big-city coast-to-coast crusader.  Paralleling his rise to prominence was a flood of “timely” (I almost wrote opportunistic) biographies, of which there were many, collectively published in more than a million copies.  This present volume is almost the first of these (the author mentions one earlier biography, Life and Labors of Rev. W. A. (Billy) Sunday, the Great Modern Evangelist; With Selected Sermons, a 360-page book, copyrighted by S. T. Herman and E. E. Poole of Decatur, Illinois, and published in Chicago in 1908, while Sunday had not yet entered the national stage; only four pages of this book are said to be biographical, the rest being sermons.  Frankenberg says that this book was so inaccurate in its presentation of facts and so incorrect in presentation of Sunday’s sermons, that he, Sunday, bought the rights to the book and had all accessible copies destroyed; pp. 200-201).  A second biography of Sunday was written by Frankenberg in 1917, Billy Sunday, His Tabernacles and Sawdust Trails; we have not seen that book and cannot say for sure whether it is merely a re-issue, extension, or revision of the present volume, or a completely new work. 

 

The author of this book is identified on the title page as on the staff of the Ohio State Journal.  The sources for the book are chiefly contemporary newspaper accounts in the towns and cities where Sunday’s meetings occurred as well as correspondence with newspaper people and co-operating preachers in those same places.  The author was apparently an eye-witness of the Columbus, Ohio meeting of 1913, Sunday’s then-most recent and most successful crusade.  Early on, the book serves as an “apologetic” for Sunday, answering his critics who challenged his name (some accused him of fabricating it!), his education, ordination, methods and even his conversion.  There are of course the usual accounts of Sunday’s boyhood, baseball days, conversion, marriage and entrance into Christian work.

 

Accounts of many of Sunday’s revivals are given here in greater detail--or simply listed at all--than in other biographies from the same decade (I became interested in this book because it gives information, albeit limited, about his November/December 1911 crusade in Wichita, information not given in any of the other Sunday biographies I own).  An anecdotal chapter about Sunday’s home life is fuller than in other accounts. 

 

Frankenberg also details the “controversy” that erupted in Columbus, Ohio during Sunday’s crusade there, when a leading Congregationalist pastor, the now-forgotten Washington Gladden (1836-1918; see the Wikipedia entry for a brief biography and photo), a fervent Darwinist, modernist, and social Gospel advocate, denounced Sunday for his preaching fundamentalist doctrine (an infallible Bible, substitutionary atonement, a literal hell, etc.) and rejection of evolution (the author displays his naiveté or lack of discernment in this chapter by claiming that differences between Sunday and Gladden were matters of style rather than of substance, and that both men had done Columbus much good!!!  See pp. 168-9).

 

 We previously reviewed three biographies of Sunday: Lyle Dorsett, Billy Sunday and the Redemption of Urban America [1991], in AISI 4:8; and Elijah P. Brown’s The Real Billy Sunday [1914], and Lee Thomas’ The Billy Sunday Story [1961] in AISI 14:7

---Doug Kutilek

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[Note: the Wikipedia article on “Billy Sunday” is a good, fair, sympathetic and well-documented brief summary of the evangelist’s life, and can be read, with footnotes, in 10-15 minutes]

---

A quote from Spectacular Career of Rev. Billy Sunday by Theodore Thomas Frankenberg--

 

“There is nothing better in men than Billy Sunday himself, and few things worse than his imitators.”  (Quoting plow manufacturer Joseph D. Oliver; p. 158)

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