Today in Christian History

February 1

February 1, 524 (traditional date): Brigit, founder of a monastery at Kildare and considered the "second patron saint of Ireland," dies (see issue 60: How the Irish were saved).

February 1, 1516: Desiderius Erasmus dedicates his "amendment" of Jerome's Latin (Vulgate) translation of the Bible to Pope Leo X. Perhaps because his work was so politically risky, he assured the pontiff, "We do not intend to tear up the old and commonly accepted edition [the Vulgate], but amend it where it is corrupt, and make it clear where it is obscure." Luther, Tyndale and other Protestants based their vernacular versions on the translations and hailed Erasmus's calls for reform (see issue 34: Luther's Early Years).

February 1, 1650: French philosopher Rene Descartes dies. Though more famous for his saying, "Cogito ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am), he followed that statement with a logical argument for the existence of God. In essence, he argued that the idea of God, a perfect being, could only be caused by that perfect God. Though fellow philosopher-mathematician-scientist Blaise Pascal (an avid Christian) considered Descartes a mere Deist, "letting [God] give a tap to set the world in motion," Descartes repeatedly wrote about his devotion to Roman Catholicism.

February 1, 1763: Thomas Campbell, founder of the Disciples of Christ (which flourished under the leadership of his son, Alexander), is born. A popular itinerant preacher, he sought to unite Christians under a common, simple confession of Christ as Lord and immersion baptism (see issue 45: Camp Meetings and Circuit Riders).

February 1, 1810: Charles Lenox Remond, a black abolitionist preacher who supported slave uprisings and the use of violence to end slavery, is born in Salem, Massachusetts (issue 62: Black Christianity before the Civil War).

February 1, 1834: African Methodist Episcopal bishop Henry McNeal Turner is born a free African-American at Newberry Courthouse, South Carolina. One of the denomination's leaders during Reconstruction, he is considered a precursor of later black theology for his statement, "God is a Negro." He was also the first black chaplain in the U.S. Army.

February 1, 1862: Ardent abolitionist Julia Ward Howe publishes "Battle Hymn of the Republic" in The Atlantic Monthly (see issue 33: Christianity and the Civil War).

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July 30, 1718: William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania as a colony for Quakers to enjoy religious liberty, dies.

July 30, 1775: The U.S. Army founds its chaplaincy, making it the Army's oldest division after the infantry.

July 30, 1956: In God We Trust becomes the official motto of the United States by an act of Congress signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower (see the U.S. Treasury website).

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