I lately discovered to my happy surprise that our new printer/copier/fax/scanner -- a Christmas gift from one of our kids -- has a feature that even someone at the local office supply store didn't know about: OCR. Optical character recognition is a scanner option which captures print content in character form (not a photo image) which can then be formatted and managed like any other print content. It's not an easy process because the program doesn't recognize all fonts accurately. Upper case "i" comes in as the numeral "1," for example, as well as a host of broken words, page headings, numbers and page breaks. It's probably easier and certainly less time-consuming to simply type a copy, but I'm not that good a typist so OCR is for me a technological marvel.
That's a poor introduction for this post, but since I am lifting someone else's content directly from the printed page of a book it seems important. I'm not in violation of copyright laws since the book was published in 1936 and the author was my maternal grandfather. It may not be one of the great books of the Twentieth Century, but The Man Invincible, written and published nearly a decade before I was born, has been an important part of my personal heritage and intellectual development.
Charles Melvin Chumbley was a Presbyterian minister who would have been about my age as he wrote this, the first chapter of his only published book. According to Mom her mother, who outlived him by nearly a decade, "never really approved of his book," so we never discussed it around her. But Mom's view of the world and The Word tended to be more pliable than those of her mother. Consequently she came to terms with the social and theological changes of her lifetime more gracefully than many of her peers. She understood, for example, that when I had a falling out with the Southern Baptist Church in the Sixties over the matter of desegregation, that rift reflected her own conflicted spiritual life. Until my father's death she was obliged to be a closet Presbyterian, forced to keep her opinions to herself all the years she was married with my Dad, whose bonds with the Southern Baptist church were unbendable and unquestioned.
As this first chapter of his book illustrates he was a man ahead of his time. His book is one man's attempt to stir interest in the Bible among those who for whatever reason had none. The chapters unfold in story form with Prince Satan and God as the main characters. He delights in making up scenes to underscore a point, like a meeting of the United Dames of the House of Israel the morning after a radio address by Prince Satan announcing the pregnancy of Mary, whom they had all heard about, and they fell to gossiping about "poor, dear old Joseph...old enough to be her father." So with that scant introduction, here is Chapter One of his book, "Fundamental Facts."
Today's reader must be patient with a slower, more formal writing style now called florid, but which readers of old books will recognize as everyday courtesy. (As we see clearly in today's world, simple politeness is especially important when someone is apt to be easily offended. The turmoils of the last week would never have occurred if old-fashioned rules of politeness were still alive.)
SOME years ago a brilliant writer published a treatise on the Bible under the catchy title The Book Nobody Knows. These words constitute a challenge! Is it true that nobody knows the Bible? If so, is it knowable? Or is it an inexplicable riddle after all the centuries of study expended upon it?
Certainly a great deal is known about the Bible, as Mr. Barton himself shows in presenting his case and as attested by the countless volumes that have been written about it Certainly, also, a great deal of its contents is familiar to every intelligent person, as Mr. Barton shows in his discussion, in spite of the lamentable ignorance concerning its simplest statements That author’s story of God’s tempering the wind to the shorn lamb can be matched - by scores of like incidents.
Even preachers are not exempt. It is related—on unimpeachable testimony—that a certain parson, whose zeal no doubt, exceeded his knowledge upon one occasion, announced that his text was recorded in the Book of First Clover. An interested hearer challenged the statement, asking “In what book did you say?" The preacher replied “I said the Book of First Clover, but it don't sound jist right. Anyhow, I know it's one of the long grasses." For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with the names of the various long grasses, it may be suggested that the preacher had in mind the Book of First Timothy.
On the other band, no intelligent person has ever claimed to have mastered the Book nor will it ever be mastered, any more than the secrets of nature will all be learned, for the simple reason that infinite truth is concealed within its pages. And herein lies the perennial interest in this Book. For, however familiar one may be with any passage, he may go to it again and again, and each time find new and richer meanings. We may, therefore, fairly conclude that while the Book is not known in its fullness, it still is knowable, and ever, invites further and more earnest study. And such study is richly alluring, as is probing for some secret of nature or excavating some historic ruin; for one, never knows just when the break will come that will bring to light some rare and hidden treasure.
However, in discussing the question "What is it all about?" the writer does not come as a faddist with some fantastic claim of new discovery, but rather as one who has sat beside the highway of life and watched the crowds go by, and recorded somewhat of the things he has heard and seen.
The individual ideas herein presented, except perhaps in the manner of their presentation, may be old and commonplace; but when brought to the touchstone of our theme they are seen to glow with light and beauty. It is in the relationship of these facts and ideas, rather than in new discoveries, that the writer hopes to make a book worthwhile; one that will be read with interest and profit, and that will lead to new interest in the old Bock, the truths of which are ever fresh and new.
The material has been gathered, not with the purpose of writing a book, nor in special research for the purpose of elaborating our thesis; but in listening to the talk of all sorts of people in all sorts of places over a period of a good many years. A few preachers have said some things in such a way that they have stuck in memory; lecturers have made their contributions; ponderous tomes of orthodoxy and flippant heretical pamphlets have been laid under tribute; street preachers, gypsies, and blatant iconoclasts, who were not conscious of mingling words of worth with their strident verbosity, have added their meager contribution; especially, to be mentioned, are some humble saints and pious shut-ins who have yielded up many nuggets of pure gold. This heterogeneous material has been sifted and assorted, and is here presented in an effort to show what this Bock, which we call the Bible, is all about.
Perhaps we should tarry to say clearly what our title implies, namely, that the Bible is a book, not a collection of kindred book that it has a beginning, is occupied with a central theme, of which sight is never lost, and in the end comes to a logical conclusion. Special characteristics of the Book, making it different all other books, will be mentioned as they occur, so need not be noticed here.
A man of wide culture was visiting a hermit philosopher, who was noted for his eccentricities. Noticing a number of well-worn Bibles in a case to themselves, he said to his host, "You must make much use of the Bible, judging from the number you have worn out."
The hermit answered, "Yes, my vocation is studying the new discoveries and inventions in the light of the Word of God."
"What course do you follow when science contradicts the Bible?" inquired the visitor.
"I just wait till science discovers her mistakes," he answered complacently.
"You are a fundamentalist then, I judge?"
"No," answered the hermit, "a rank modernist -- as modern as the Book itself I insist, as every earnest scientist does, upon the right to assemble facts, weigh testimony; and then upon drawing honest conclusions."
"How do you deal with the claims of geology and astronomy that the earth is many millions of years old, while the Bible says it is only a few thousand years at most?" asked the visitor.
"Does your Bible say that?" he asked gently—far more gently than his visitor had imagined he could speak.
"Well, er- er- er," he hesitated, "that's what I've been taught."
"Too bad," he answered, still speaking gently, "that a man of your intelligence should not have seen the error of such teaching. Why not go to the Book and get firsthand information?"
"I do not now recall any statement touching the case."
'Yet you charge the Bible with error" rasped the hermit with biting sarcasm.
"I admit your charge," the visitor answered, "and if there is anything in the Bible on this subject I should like to know it, for I confess that my sympathy with the findings of science has brought me to doubt the truth of many things I was taught to revere." For answer the recluse handed him a Bible, and pointing to its opening verse said, "Read."
Curiously he read the words that as a child he had learned by heart, "In the beginning God created the haven and the earth."
"'Well?" asked the hermit, and waited for an answer.
"Well countered the other, "that doesn't seem to me to touch the subject."
"No?" and there was a question in his tone. Then he continued, "When was 'In the beginning?' What followed? How long did it last?"
"I don't seem able to catch your meaning," he-replied.
"Well," he answered, 'In the beginning' is as far back as thought can go, is it not?"
"Yes," the visitor conceded cautiously, "but it also may mean only a few thousand years, as the Bible says."
"That's a libel on the Bible," roared the hermit. "The Bible says no such thing."
"Of course it says it," persisted the visitor stubbornly. "The statement is in close connection and a part of the account of the first day's creative 'work."
"Certain?"—and his tone awed the other into silence.
After a moment the recluse said, "I think there is a period, marking a full stop, at the end of that verse, is there not?"
"Yes," replied the other.
"It is properly there, I think," answered the hermit, "though the original text was without points of any kind. So we’ll leave the period stand, and call this verse, 'The first chapter in all this first chapter in all history’”
“'The first chapter in all this first chapter in all history!’” exclaimed the other incredulously.
“Yes,” he replied, "this one detached statement of ten words – seven of them monosyllables—settles three vital issues for one who is going to study the Bible in order to find out what it is all about, or who purposes intelligently to follow the development science. First of all, it assumes the existence of an almighty God. The Bible offers no proof of His being, but assumes it as essential and necessary fact. As the writing of a letter implies writer, so the Book implies an Author. Both are axioms. What folly to suggest proving an axiom! This God is beyond doubt knowing, all-powerful, all-good; and His will the supreme law of His universe. As will be seen later, righteousness is conformity to His will; sin is defiance of His will. The second statement of the Verse is that He 'created the heaven'; that is, He is Maker of the visible universe—sun and moon and all the Stars. This verse also asserts that the same God, who created the heaven, created the earth also. Of the millions of worlds that science says swing ceaselessly about their several suns the name of one only -- little Earth upon which we dwell—is recorded here in the Bible story of the creation. This statement puts us on notice that especial concern of the Bock is the Earth—its origin, its history, its destiny."
The speaker paused as if expecting some response, but his visitor was speechless, realizing that be had discovered an iconoclast -- hating convention and form, but warmly interested in his search for truth. When the recluse saw his visitor had no reply, he added whimsically, "In fact, the Bible is a very earthly book. lt speaks only incidentally of heaven and of other worlds."
As his guest made no reply, the hermit asked, a bit sharply, “Have you an imagination?" “Of a sort," the other answered.
"Then this ten-word chapter, at which we have been looking, has boundless possibilities. God; what is He like? Where did He come from? Why is He especially interested in the Earth? The heaven: what its extent? How many suns and how many worlds swinging around these suns? Is the Earth like other worlds? What was the Earth like when it was created?"
The speaker hesitated, as if feeling that this was unfamiliar ground to his visitor, and the latter broke in cockily, "The earth was without form and void, and.. .
"Not so fast, please," begged the hermit. "We have not yet finished with the first chapter of our story. lt's a good plan to finish one chapter before going into another; and you are quoting from another. Great misunderstanding of the Bible has come about by disregarding this simple principle. So let's not leave verse one just yet."
"Now," he continued, "as God is all-powerful and all-wise, I think He must have made a perfectly beautiful and lovely world which He 'created the heaven and the earth.' In imagination I can see it in its pristine beauty; full of trees and grass and flowers; great herds and flocks of living things roaming fields and forests; flying reptiles and birds of resplendent plumage; and crowning all, a race of beings, very godlike and beautiful, which for the want of a -better name we'll call "men."
"Now," charged the visitor, "you are getting away from the story."
"Perhaps from the meager record here," he conceded, "but not from the record written in the strata of the earth's formation; in the remains of those ancient times as revealed by the fragments found in the rocks and coal, and in other fossiliferous deposits."
"Of course there were great forests and giant monsters inhabiting the earth in some bug past age," conceded the other, "but I cannot agree with you that there ever existed a race of human beings before our own race came into existence by the word of God, or possibly by the process of evolution. I grant the possibility of, the latter, in case some man wishes to claim kin with a far-off simian ancestry,' and he looked quite well pleased with himself for his advanced and liberal attitude
"We'll not drag in the question of evolution until we have to do so," replied his host, "and as to the existence of a prehistoric human race upon the Earth we may hold that in abeyance for the present.. The ten words in the first verse of the Bok have sufficient suggestions to keep one busy for a lifetime."
Bruce Barton, mentioned as "Mr. Barton" in the second paragraph, has a Wikipedia link for those who are interested. The Wikipedia article does not mention the book cited, but it can be found at ABE Books which has a database of out-of-print books. Unless they keep livestock, city folk will not make the connection between Timothy and Clover, something I knew without thinking, probably because I was reared in the rural South. Timothy grass is a widely-used field cover providing good grazing during the growing season and hay in the fall. Clover is another field cover, also widely used for grazing.
My thanks to Ruchira for providing a forum where I can indulge myself in this obscure exercise. I'm sure a few family members will find it "interesting" while others from the Creationist camp may call it heresy. For me what he said and the impact it has had on me is as much a part of my being as midriff bulge and male pattern baldness, qualities over which I have no control anyway. And come to think of it, I rather like it a lot.