"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 16, Number 4, April 2013

 

“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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Christian Faith the Great Guardian of Human Freedom

 

"FAITH, faith and the American individual.  Yes, it is on these two pillars that our future rests.  It was Thomas Edison who said, 'Be courageous; be brave as your fathers before you.  Have faith.  Go forward.'  Seventy-five years ago this very week, Thomas Edison--a humble, typical sort of American--put this credo into action and gave a new light to the world.  It is faith that has made our nation--has made it, and kept it free.  Atheism substitutes men for the supreme creator and this leads inevitably to domination and dictatorship [note--the dictators Mussolini and Hitler had died less than a decade earlier, and Stalin had died the previous year.  Mao had come to power in China 5 years earlier--Editor]. But we believe--and it is because we believe that God intends all men to be free and equal that we demand free government.  Our government is servant, not master, our chosen representative are our equals, not our czars or commissars.  We must jealously guard our foundation in faith.  For on it rests the ability of the American individual to live and thrive in this blessed land--and to be able to help other less fortunate people to achieve freedom and individual opportunity.  These we take for granted, but to others they are often only a wistful dream.  “In God we trust.”  Often have we heard the words of this wonderful American motto.  Let us make sure that familiarity has not made them meaningless for us.  We carry the torch of freedom as a sacred trust for all mankind.  We do not believe that God intended the light that He created to be put out by men. . . .for God has made us strong and faith has made and kept us free. Good night."

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)

34th President of the United States

 

(#305. “Remarks Recorded for Program Marking the 75th Anniversary of the Incandescent Lamp. October 24, 1954.” The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States. Dwight D. Eisenhower: 1954: containing the public messages, speeches and statements of the president, January 1 to December 31, 1954. pp. 947, 948)

[a big thank you to Jim Regions for drawing my attention to this quote and providing the documentation--Editor]

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A Biblical Perspective on Environmentalism: Part IV

 

Man’s Rule over the Beasts of the Earth,

the Birds of the Air and the Fish of the Sea

 

In the scale of relative value, a man--a human being--is of considerably more worth than any of the animals.  Jesus said, “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a copper coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. . . . So, don’t be afraid.  You are of more value than many sparrows,” (Matthew 10:29, 31; see also Luke 12:6-7).  The ubiquitous and commonplace sparrows are of only minuscule economic and other value individually, very much less than a man (and, incidentally, have no “rights” per se).  And yet they are not altogether “worthless.”  As God’s direct creation, they, like man, have inherent worth and purpose in their existence.  So there is this “tension” in man’s relationship with the animals--at one and the same time, they are worth less than he, yet they are not completely worthless.

 

This principle of valuing human life over animal life is found in the Law given at Sinai: “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned,” (Exodus 21:28a).  An animal--a creature subservient to man by God’s design and appointment (Genesis 1:26-28)--that harms its superior in God’s order of subordination, is to be exterminated (see also Genesis 9:4).  This same principle may have been involved in the judgment meted out on the literal snake in Eden which was used by--possessed by--Satan (Genesis 3:14) to bring harm to mankind, the crown of God’s creation.  It is common practice even in India, where animal life is excessively venerated due to Hindu religious teaching, to kill man-eating tigers, and rightly so.  We commonly and entirely reasonably kill animals that pose a real and immediate danger to human life and health--poisonous spiders and poisonous snakes, rabid skunks, feral pigs, dogs and cats, grizzlies and mountain lions, disease-carrying mosquitoes and rats, sharks and more that intrude into human habitat.

 

On the basis of this principle, we conclude that a human life is always of greater value than an animal’s life.  If we must choose between rescuing a child or rescuing an animal (a hypothetical dilemma rarely faced in real life), even if it is part of a seriously “endangered” species--whether whale, owl, rhino, or turtle--the human always gets first place.  If the choice should be between starvation and eating a bald eagle’s egg, of right, the egg should be eaten (whether it is legal to do so or not is another matter; man-made laws are often flawed).

 

On the other hand, the mere wanton slaughter of animals for “sport” or torturing them on purpose to inflict pain on them violates Christ’s declaration that even the sparrows have worth in the over-all scheme of things.  Decades ago, one of my college roommates told of going out in the woods of his native Tennessee and killing more than 20 squirrels in an afternoon, not for food, or because they had become over-populated and pestilent, but simply because he could.  The 19th century slaughter on the Great Plains of the vast bison herds by train-riding tourists shooting from the trains in many cases--not for meat or hides, but merely killing for the sake of killing--is simply wrong (and extremely wasteful).  And the once-famous practice of “going on Safari” in Africa simply to acquire trophy heads for the wall also comes to mind as the worst kind of abuse.  Once as boy, maybe twelve years old, I shot a bird off an electric wire with a borrowed bb-gun.  I immediately felt terrible about this mindless act, and have not repeated it since.

 

And of course, we could mention other cases of needlessly inflicting harm on animals--dog and cock fighting, bull fighting, and more.

 

Adam named all the kinds of animals he encountered in Eden (Genesis 2:19-20).  Contrary to the carping critics of Genesis, this need not have included every earthly species of animal (a still undefinable term), but only those there locally present, and may have only extended to very general categories; man’s naming of animals since that first instance has continued apace, given greatest impetus by Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Swedish botanist / naturalist (and pastor’s son), who devised the current Latin two-name system for identifying all animals--and plants. 

 

When did the employment of animals for human use--our “rule over the beasts of the earth, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea”-- begin?  It actually began in Eden, and its first practitioner was God Himself.  “For Adam and his wife, the LORD God made tunics of animal skin and clothed them,” (Genesis 3:22).  To provide leather garments for Adam and Eve required the death of the original “owners” of the skins whether, sheep, goats, cattle, deer or whatever species it might be (unless, as one might argue, God directly created the skins, a rather gratuitous suggestion, I think).

 

By Genesis 4, mankind is already engaging in animal husbandry.  We find Abel tending sheep.  Although no permission had yet been given by God to man to eat animals at this stage (that would come after the Flood, Genesis 9:3-4), it is a faulty deduction to conclude that killing of animals was not permitted or practiced either.  After all, Abel brought one of the animals from his flock in sacrifice to God (Genesis 4:4)--and God accepted it.  Noah also offered animal sacrifice to God, and God accepted that as well (Genesis 8:20-22).  Furthermore, as there was an obvious and continuing need for clothing for the expanding human populace, the precedent set by God of using animal hides for human clothing may have been continued.  It is not possible to say if or when the making of cloth from wool before the flood began; the use of plants for clothing had initially proven “inadequate” (Genesis 3:7)!

 

And though mankind was not permitted to eat meat until after the Flood, this does not exclude the use of animal milk as food, either as liquid or processed into cheese and other products.  The ante-diluvian society that developed musical instruments and metallurgy (Genesis 4:21, 22), could easily have developed both textile manufacture and dairying.  The text is silent and so being dogmatic is not warranted, though the possibility of dairy herds and flocks before the Flood must be allowed.  It also appears that the original natural docility of animals in the presence of man continued until after the Flood, when “the fear of man” became a part of the instincts animals (Genesis 9:2).

 

Man, as the Divinely-designated steward of the creation, served as the means of protecting and preserving representatives of all species of air-breathing terrestrial animals from the consequences of the Flood, and ensuring their continuing existence (Genesis 6:17-21) in the post-Flood world.  In short, Noah’s obedience to God’s command prevented their wholesale extinction.

 

For whatever reason (perhaps human nutritional needs), after the Flood, God changed the basic relationship of man and the animals.  God now made the animals naturally fearful of people (for their sakes; otherwise we would have already hunted most species to extinction), and man was now permitted to eat their flesh (but not their blood).  No distinctions were then made as to which animals were “fair game” and which were not; the “kosher” regulations in the Law of Moses are part of the distinctive legislation given to Israel, not the Gentiles.  In the NT era, even the dietary regulations governing Israel were rescinded (Mark 7:19; I Timothy 4:3). 

 

Of course, eating meat, though expressly allowed, was not required (unless, under the Law, consuming part of the annual Passover lamb be deemed compulsory); vegetarianism and veganism are personal options for all (Romans 14:1-4).  Jesus, like the patriarchs, was a meat-eater (Like 22:15).  I, too, opt to be partly carnivorous.  “Let each be persuaded in his own mind.”

 

There are two means of obtaining animal flesh for human consumption--hunting / fishing, and domestication.  Hunting, an essential widespread practice in the first years of European settlement in the New World, and the universal practice of the native American populace, has been given a bad rap in contemporary American society, in part fueled by such emotionally inflammatory propagandistic fare as the Disney movie Bambi in which the helpless fawn is orphaned by a hunter’s bullet (see similarly the book The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings).  In reality, modern hunting laws commonly prevent taking game during the rearing season before the offspring are capable of surviving on their own, so the story has an essentially faulty premise.  Not only so, but in fact, hunting has become essential in our day to maintain the over-all health of several species.

 

In truth, because the original top-of-the-food-chain carnivorous predators--bears, pumas, wolves and such--have been eliminated or greatly reduced in numbers over the range of deer in America, without the regular harvesting of surplus numbers of deer, they would soon over-populate, degrade their habitat, become mal-nourished, diseased, and subject to widespread death.  And then there is the consideration of deer-vehicle collisions on the roadways.  My state, Kansas, has some 10,000 reported collisions each year, and almost always at least a few human fatalities.  If hunters did not harvest many thousands of deer each year, the number of collisions would increase dramatically.  The other option--reintroducing the old predators in sufficiently large numbers (a task requiring decades to achieve),--would immediately prove unpopular as pets, livestock, and school children became the menu choices for pumas and wolves and bears.  Oh my.

 

Other, non-game pestilent animals also merit individual extermination for humans’ sake.  It is common practice in rural areas to shoot any skunks seen in daylight hours since this aberrant behavior is often a sign of rabies (skunks are otherwise almost entirely nocturnal).  I have trapped or shot other animals that threaten my food supply (garden) or property: melon stealing-possums, cabbage-eating rabbits, corn-stripping raccoons (rather, I tried to eliminate the raccoons, which are also a common rabies carrier), and more.  While I take no joy in killing such animals, neither do I lose sleep over it.  Controlling large warm-blooded furry or feathered pests is essentially no different than controlling smaller man-afflicting pests--grasshoppers, corn earworms, grubs, aphids, malaria-carrying mosquitoes, fire ants, flies, gnats, and on and on.

 

It is evident from Genesis 4 that animal husbandry--domestication of livestock--is actually an older practice than hunting (contrary to the standard picture of primitive man as first a hunter-gatherer, who only later developed farming and domestication.  Genesis shows that the reverse was actually the case).  Man has domesticated numerous animals--larger animals such as horses, cattle, donkeys, pigs, sheep, goats, even elephants and camels, and more (James 3:7)--as both beasts of burden and sources of concentrated animal protein (milk, meat) as well as leather and wool.  Smaller animals--chiefly fowl, but also rabbits, dogs (domesticated wolves) and cats--have been domesticated as sources of food, for pest control (cats and dogs which eat rodents, birds which eat insect pests, etc.) and even for companionship.  Man and the animals in such cases have a symbiotic relationship.  These animals, which would either perish or suffer greatly in the wild, are fed, protected and cared for by man, and in turn provide man with valuable, even essential products and services.

 

Many--I suspect most, by a large margin--of those who own animals treat them with kindness and care.  Naturally, those who derive their livelihood from animal husbandry--cattlemen, horse breeders, hog farmers, dog breeders, shepherds and the like--have a vested interest in the well-being of their animals, as their neglect or abuse will adversely affect them financially.  The Bible encourages conscientious animal husbandry: “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds,” (Proverbs 27:23), and strongly enjoins humane treatment of animals: “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal,” (Proverbs 12:10a).

 

Man has not always acted wisely in his stewardship of the animal kingdom.  On the one hand, he has hunted some (relatively few) animals to extinction (we will address this emotion-laden subject later).  On the other hand, he has introduced animals (and plants) into new places where they did had not historically existed or been part of the ecosystem.  Sometimes this has worked out just fine--the domestic cattle that escaped from early Spanish exploring parties in the American Southwest quickly increased to number in the millions, and became another component integrated into the grazing economy of the southern Great Plains, which included bison, elk, antelope and deer.  Likewise, the ring-necked pheasant that was introduced from China into the Great Plains in the late 1800s has prospered and become a valued member of the bird community.  Besides serving, in part, as a check on the proliferation of insects, it is highly prized as a game bird, more than filling the gap left by the numerical decline of the native prairie chickens.  Its numbers are kept from growing to pestilent levels by weather (cold, damp springs limit reproduction, as do droughty, hot summers) and predators.  And there is a long list of imported domesticated animals--cattle, horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, swine, and more exotic species such as llamas, vicuñas, ostriches and emus.  Of these, only rapidly-breeding, disease carrying, plant-destroying feral pigs have developed into a significant problem. Wild horses, which have badly over-populated the range in the West and as a consequence seriously degraded their adopted habitat, could and should be easily controlled by the round-up and sale of surplus live animals for human consumption (horse meat is commonly eaten by the French, Belgians and Russians--and in a recent case, unsuspecting Brits who bought made-in-Romania “beef” lasagna!) and pet food, but emotion-driven obstruction to these wise practices long-hindered this obvious remedy to horse over-population (and instead, hundreds of millions of dollars of tax-payer money has been paid to ranchers to provide grazing land for these surplus animals).

 

Some of man’s efforts at introducing non-native species have proven decidedly negative.  Starlings, with their oil-on-water iridescent foliage, were imported to Central Park in New York City in the 1890s, and have exploded in numbers, out-competing many much more desirable song birds, and have become a serious nuisance everywhere.  Then there is the somewhat less troublesome English sparrow, now found just about everywhere in America.  And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the now-ubiquitous (in both America and Europe, at least) South African Rock Dove, more commonly known as pigeons (also known, less appreciatively, as “statue rats” and “flying carp”).  Our American hawks do hunt these pigeons, but their numbers are inadequate to control the over-supply.

 

Some well-meaning individual(s) introduced European carp (and in another case, Asian carp) into American rivers and lakes.  The aggressive, fish-egg-eating carp have suppressed the numbers of other, much more desirable species.  Into the Everglades, irresponsible pet owners have released numerous Burmese pythons, which are having a devastating effect on the populations of ground-nesting birds and other ground-dwelling creatures.

 

And it is not just here in America that man has been a bit too clever for his own good in introducing new species.  Domestic rabbits were brought to Australia a couple centuries ago, and having virtually no predators, their population exploded and they soon numbered in the multiplied millions.  This hopping horde soon devastated the native vegetation of huge swaths of the continent.  Round-ups of rabbits were organized in hope of suppressing their numbers; millions were herded into enclosures and clubbed to death, but with little long-term effect.  A rabbit-proof fence has been erected which spans the continent to limit the damage from this man-introduced plague.  In Guam, they have an out-of-control population explosion of imported brown snakes (non-poisonous) which apparently arrived on the island from elsewhere as stowaways in the wheel wells of aircraft.  Most of the native Guam wildlife has been destroyed by these slithering foreign invaders.  Similar and perhaps in some case worse examples could be multiplied.

---Doug Kutilek

 

[Next issue: “The Extinction of Animal Species”]

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The Canon of Scripture:

Some Recommended Resources

“Sir:

In your opinion what are the best 2 or 3 books on the background / history of the canonization of the Bible?

Thanks

R--“

---

“R--:

 

Of course, not knowing how much background knowledge you have in Biblical studies, church history and Bible languages, it is more difficult to make specific recommendations.  In those that follow, I focus on readily available and generally reliable resources.

 

First, I would recommend A General Introduction to the Bible by Norman Geisler and William Nix (Moody Press, revised edition, 1986).  They have a lengthy section on the canon in general and the OT and NT canons in particular, along with treatments of the apocryphal books (pp. 221-317).  They recommend other works in their discussion.

 

On the OT in particular, the book that stands head and shoulders above all others is The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church by Roger Beckwith (Eerdmans, 1985).  It gets my highest praise; among other things, he completely discredits the notion that the Septuagint’s canon originally included the apocrypha.

  

For the NT canon, Everett Harrison in his Introduction to the New Testament (Eerdmans 1971), pp. 97-133 has a discussion of the canon (not entirely satisfactory, to my mind, but adequate), with a selected bibliography.  Then there is B. F. Westcott's highly praised A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament (Macmillan, 1889, 6th ed.), which I regret to say I have consulted only sparingly.

 

I have read through F. F. Bruce's The Canon of Scripture (IVP, 1988) which though it brings together a great deal of information, nevertheless makes no apparent original contribution, and frankly is repeatedly marred by higher critical assumptions and an at times heterodox perspective.

 

Naturally, consultation of the articles on the "canon" in several Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias will yield additional information, perspectives, and bibliography.  These should include some older works (and I like to consult several 19th and early 20th century works, since the scholars who produced them were regularly better-versed in early church history as well as classical Greek and Latin studies than those of later times, and often more orthodox in theology as well)--

--Smith's Dictionary of the Bible in 4 vols., not the nearly worthless one-volume edition;

--M'Clintock-Strong Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature;

--Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible;

--The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge;

--the original International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) edited by James Orr;

 

Among newer works to consult are--

--The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible edited by M. Tenney;

--the revised International Standard Bible Encyclopedia edited by Geoffrey Bromiley;

--The New Unger's Bible Dictionary; edited by R. K. Harrison;

--the New Bible Dictionary edited by J. D. Douglas. 

 

This list could be extended considerably, but I suspect that little additional information can be found beyond these.  By design I have left off the list several reference works that take a purely “naturalistic” (that is, anti-supernaturalistic) view of the Bible and the canon.

 

The OT introductions of K. F. Keil, Gleason Archer, and R. K. Harrison all have treatments of the OT canon.

 

Volume 1 of the Expositor's Bible Commentary has articles on both the OT and NT canons, the former markedly better than the latter.

 

But all in all, I would start with Geisler and Nix, then Everett Harrison on the NT and Beckwith on the OT, and go from there.

 

Doug Kutilek 

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The Forger Simonides and the Sinaiticus Manuscript

 

“Dear Doug,

Sir, I recently saw a documentary which is the sequel (part 2 of 3) of a fairly high-budget set of clearly King James Onlyist films.  They are created by Chris Pinto and the second is called Tares Among the Wheat.  This video focuses mostly on the controversy surrounding Codex Sinaiticus and a character called Constantine Simonides.  I had no idea regarding the background of this controversy and that this man, who was a famous paleographer in his time, claimed to have made it himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgpa76F2flk (start watching from 45 minutes onwards to avoid a lot of waffle and ridiculous attempts to link Higher Criticism and Textual Criticism as the same thing).


Despite the fact that often Sinaiticus is falsely said to have been found in a waste basket, the claims and quotes from the newspapers of that time etc. seem to construct a robust case for Simonides' claims.  I cannot find much information about this on the internet and, knowing the popularity of Pinto's films, I feel that someone learned from the opposite camp needs to take a stand against these claims.

Are you aware of this argument?  What are your thoughts?  Would you consider writing a piece in response?

Sincere Christian regards,
R-- S-----“

 

---

 

“Mr. S-----

 

On reading your letter, I immediately recalled something deep in the recesses of my mind about this, and in short order found in my library a brief summary of the matter involving Constantine Simonides and the Sinaiticus manuscript.

 

Sir Frederick Kenyon (1863-1952) was likely the leading expert on the text of the New Testament in the first half of the 20th century.  In his book Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1941.  Fourth edition), p. 130, he writes--

 

"Since the year 1856 an ingenious Greek, named Constantine Simonides, had been creating a considerable sensation by producing quantities of Greek manuscripts professing to be of fabulous antiquity--such as a Homer in almost prehistoric style of writing, a lost Egyptian historian, a copy of St. Matthew's Gospel on papyrus, written fifteen years after the Ascension (!), and other portions of the New Testament dating from the first century.  These productions enjoyed a short period of notoriety, and were then exposed as forgeries.  Among the scholars concerned in the exposure was [Constantine] Tischendorf [the discoverer of the Sinaiticus manuscript--Editor]; and the revenge taken by Simonides was distinctly humorous.  While stoutly maintaining the genuineness of his own wares, he admitted that he had written one manuscript which passed as being very ancient, and that was the Codex Sinaiticus, the discovery of which had been so triumphantly proclaimed by Tischendorf!  The idea was ingenious, but it would not bear investigation.  Apart from the internal evidence of the text itself, the variation in which no forger, however clever, could have invented, it was shown that Simonides could not have completed the task in the time which he professed to have taken, and that there was no such edition of the Greek Bible as that from which he professed to have copied it.  This little cloud on the credit of the newly-discovered manuscript therefore rapidly passed away, . . ."

 

F. H. A. Scrivener, in his A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (Cambridge: Deighton, bell and Co, 1883.  Third edition), pp. 24 n. 2; 91-93 has additional information about the exposure and discrediting of Simonides' wholly bogus claims.

 

That KJV-Only advocates would be driven to bolster their views by appealing to the claims of a known and long-discredited forger is strong commentary on the desperate straits they find themselves in in trying to support their views with actual facts.

 

Doug Kutilek

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BOOK REVIEW

 

A History of the German Language by John T. Waterman.  Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1966 [2nd ed., 1976]).  266 pp., hardback.

 

No doubt, some are asking themselves--“Why in the world would he review this book here in a Bible-oriented monthly cyber-magazine?”  I assure you, it is not merely because I may be somewhat eccentric (in fact, maybe I am perfectly normal and the readership is out of kilter; did you ever consider that?  Hmmmm?!).  In truth, it is actually entirely explicable.

 

For those who regularly communicate formally with others--as a teacher and lecturer, a preacher, or a writer (and I do all these things)--the key to effective communication (besides actually having something to say that is worthwhile to hear or read) is the proper use of words individually and in combination, what we call “language.”  And one great aid to the proper use of language is some understanding of the history and background of the words in a language individually and of the language in general. 

 

Modern English is a hybrid tongue that developed from the mixture of, on the one hand, Anglo-Saxon (a Germanic language akin to Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic and German), which was brought to Great Britain in the 5th century A.D. by the Jute, Angle and Saxon invaders, and 11th century Norman French on the other, which was brought to Britain in the Norman Conquest of 1066 A. D.  There is also a heavy admixture of Latin and Greek terms in English, along with borrowings from a hundred other languages.  So, because at base English is a Germanic language akin to German, a knowledge of the history of the Germanic group of languages in general and of German in particular cannot but cast some light on English grammar, vocabulary and such.

 

Further, some very significant events in Christian history involve Germanic languages--the 4th century Gothic Bible version, and the 16th century “German Reformation,” especially including Martin Luther’s German Bible translation (NT 1522; Bible 1534; second edition, 1545).  Luther’s translation directly influenced the English translations of Tyndale, Coverdale, and others later, as well as translations into many other European languages (Low German, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, etc.).  I expected to find something here of note on these subjects here and was not disappointed.  Zum Beispiel (German for “for example”), the author makes this statement about Luther’s version:

 

The Lutherbibel still stands as the most magnificent literary monument in the German language. . . . His was not the first German Bible; there had been fourteen such translations into High German, four into Low German.  The first of these--that of Johann Mentel in 1461 (written in das Gemeine Deutsch [“the common German”])--had gone through seventeen editions.  But it was Luther’s translation that was destined to become the German Bible.  As evidence of its unprecedented popularity, it is estimated that the printing house of Hans Lufft in Wittenberg sold something over one hundred thousand copies during the years 1534 to 1584, an extraordinarily high figure for that time.

p. 130

 

Beyond such general considerations, I have for some while been looking for something that discusses Latin words borrowed into German (of which there are literally thousands, though the Germans are loathe today to borrow foreign words, preferring instead to translate them; even so common and nearly universal a word as “television” is translated as Fernsehen, rather than borrowed).  When I saw that this book does discuss the matter, I immediately bought it (at the lofty price of $1.00!).  In fact, I learned that there were two major periods of common borrowing of Latin words into German--beginning in the 8th century and thereafter, as a consequence of missionary and monastic activity.   The monks were the chief scribes of the day, and among the limited number of literate people in medieval Germany.  They were of course familiar with the Latin of church literature, the Vulgate Bible, and the Latin church fathers, in as much as they spent their days and years copying manuscripts in that language.  Through their activity as scribes, numerous Latin words were borrowed into German.

 

The second period of extensive borrowing of Latin words into German was from about 1450 to 1600, the period of the Renaissance and Reformation, when thousands of Latin words in the fields of law, medicine, theology and philosophy were “naturalized” into German.  Another Latin feature that entered German about this time was the practice of placing the verb last in the clause, one of the “strange” features of German in comparison to English (“I’m waiting for the verb,” as Samuel Clemens famously quipped about his delay in leaving a German theater after the performance ended).

 

A “nativist” movement arose in the 17th and 18th centuries (and revived in the 19th and 20th), which sought to “purge” the written language and common speech of foreign words, returning to the use of older German words, or creating new ones.  Yet at the same time, the German royal court employed as its primary language French (or sometimes Spanish or Italian!).  One fact that the author scarcely notices is that during the colonial period, the German language was far less successful than most of the other major Western and Central European languages in being transplanted to colonies, falling far behind English, Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese or even Italian.  And even in places, such as America, where about a quarter of the population is of German ancestry, German is scarcely used at all, except by the Amish, and perhaps surprisingly, very few German loanwords entered English.

 

Some detailed account is given of literary movements in Germany during the 16th and later centuries, with summary discussions of style, imagery, and on and on, with selections in German from various authors of note.  Uh, boy.

 

Not surprisingly, there is a German equivalent of the famous Oxford English Dictionary, titled Deutsches Worterbuch, which was begun by the famous Grimm brothers (of fairy tale, but more so linguistic fame), with publication of the 33 volumes extending (with some interruption for a couple of world wars, and no doubt lesser skirmishes) from 1854 to 1960. 

 

To be sure, a considerable portion of this volume is taken up with such linguistic tedium as vowel and consonant shifts, isoglosses, dialects, diphthongs, sibilants, voiced and unvoiced stops and all that (all of utmost importance to technical linguistics), but amidst this there is still a goodly amount that is of interest.  Then there is the 30+ pages of classified, selected(!) bibliography which includes about 700 items--books, articles, essays--mostly in German.  Yeah--something of a specialized intended audience, I think, but even so, inter alia, I discovered there is a dictionary of the vocabulary of Luther’s Bible translation.  Since the great majority of my “German” reading is from Luther’s version, I might just look into securing a copy).

 

(Another, more recent book that also treats of the history of the development of the Germanic family of languages is Old English and Its Closest Relatives: A Survey of the Earliest Germanic Languages by Orrin W. Robinson.  Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1992.  292 pp.  Definitely worthwhile reading on its topic).

---Doug Kutilek

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