Monday, January 9, 2012

My father's bibles

Many years ago, my mother gave me the bible she originally gave to my father when he attended seminary.  It is a simple bible made more useful by my father's hand written notes in the margins and end pages.  Additionally, he had marked up the book in various places with colored lines or letters.  Most of his shorthand notes eluded my understanding of what he was trying to note.  I figured out some of them:  P stood for "priestly code", E for "Elohist", etc.  However, the one thing I could not decipher of his shorthand was his color-coded underlines and margin lines.  Until today.

Several times over the past year, my mother has mentioned one of my father's bibles she has been reluctant to give away.  It is a parallel bible my father acquired.  That, along with the fact it was very old, is all I knew about it.  Hoping it would be more of a polyglot, as asked my mother if I could borrow it for a short period of time.  Sometimes a physical book in front of you is better than electronic text.  She consented and I drove over to her house to pick it up.

It is a large book, many inches thick.  There is a note typed onto a card and taped a couple pages in.  The book was found in the attic of the superintendent's home at Eldridge when Dr. and Mrs. Fred O. Butler retired January 30, 1949.  It is presumed that this bible was moved from Santa Clara to Eldridge when the "HOME" was moved on November 24, 1891.  The card may have been typed up before 1953 because the place was originally called "California Home for the Care and Training of Feeble Minded Children".  In 1909, it changed its name to the "Sonoma State Home".  In 1953, it changed its name again to "Sonoma State Hospital".  As an interesting side note, my research included a quick romp through Wikipedia.  A search there for "Sonoma Development Center" brings up identical information as what is found on the card (names and dates).  It also includes the following line:  "More than 5,000 patients were involuntarily sterilized at this facility during the period 1918 to 1949. The medical director at that time was Frederick Otis Butler, MD."

But I digress.

The book in not a polyglot, but simply a parallel bible between two English bibles.  The title page states it is The Peerless edition of the Holy Bible containing the authorized and revised versions of the old and new testaments arranged in parallel columns; the text conformable to that of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.  It contains a complete concordance and was published by the Historical Publishing Company.  The two bible version it parallels are the Authorized version and the Revised version.  This, to me, is not that impressive.  I suppose, back in 1885 when the book was printed, it was important to show the variations between these two versions.  Personally, today, I'm not that impressed.

The book is not entirely useless.  Before the parallel portion, there is some extensive information.  The materials in this section are diverse and detailed.  Sections include:

  • Introductory History of the Holy Bible
  • The Earliest Editions of the Bible published in America
  • A table of contents of each book of the bible, broken down to title of the story/narrative
  • Revisers' Preface with a detailed description of why/how the Bible version was revised.
  • Religious Denominations, their history and creeds (including heretical denominations)
  • Science and Revelation; or the triumph of the Bible over criticism
  • Scripture Difficulties
  • List of special prayers
  • Valuable Chronological and Miscellaneous Tables (such as empires of biblical times with their kings/rulers)
  • Modern chronology from A.D. 102 to 1877.
  • Prophetic warnings and promises of our Lord and Saviour
  • Analytical Table and Harmony of the Mosaic Law
  • Harmony of the four Gospels (identifying each story/event and where they are found in each Gospel)
  • Biographical sketches of the translators and reformers and other eminent biblical scholars describing the fate of these learned men who rendered the Bible into the English Language (with woodcuts of each)

The list goes on and on.  There is even a section where the book contains reprints of the first page of each book of the bible: reprinted from an beautifully illustrated Bible.  There are even maps of the holy land and other places of interest.

The "extra" material in this book is beyond extensive.  But the real prize was not printed in this Bible.  Just inside the front cover were some mimeographed pages from my father's June 23 1963 bulletin with the day's order of worship.  Right behind it were four typed pages.  The four stapled pages was my father's syllabus for his six week class on the "Life of Christ: Fiction, Fantasy and Fact".   On the fourth page, at the very bottom was his "Using Gospel Synopsis for Class" where he described his use of color coding and underlining to address specific Gospel issues.

With this description, I finally understand the meaning of the final mystery of my father's shorthand.  I cannot wait to start using my new understanding of my father's research and study.  It is the greatest find I have discovered in many years.  For now, I can clearly understand what my father saw and learned.  I have repeatedly learned how brilliant his mind was.  Now I have the final key to understanding his thoughts.

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