While the article by Dr. Cyrus H. Gordon in this issue is too technical for the average reader, its importance lies in the possibility that the suggested kinship of Minoan and Semitic languages may open up an era of Old Testament studies no less exciting than the New Testament inquiries prodded by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Dr. Gordon presents an exposition and defense of his theory that the language of the script known as Minoan Linear A is Semitic. He is obviously impatient because many scholars regard the decipherment of this script as still in the tentative or speculative stage. T. C. Mitchell, research assistant in the Department of Western Asiatic Antiquities, The British Museum, notes that Gordon’s suggestion that Linear A was used to write Akkadian has not been widely accepted (cf. the essay on “Crete” in The New Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas, organizing editor). Paul MacKendrick of the University of Wisconsin, in his book The Greek Stones Speak (1962), discusses Furumark’s theory that the language of Linear A is “of Anatolian origin.” He mentions Gordon’s theory and says: “Both cannot be right so the question remains open, but another large find of Linear A tablets would probably settle the matter.”
CHRISTIANITY TODAY is not technically endowed to make a final appraisal of these issues. Its contributing editors skilled in linguistic matters are themselves divided. One of them says bluntly that this magazine is “not the place for the airing of unproved theories.” Professor Charles Pfeiffer of Gordon Divinity School remarks: “Many of us have found that we can understand our Bibles better if we know something of the history and literature of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and Syria-Palestine (ancient Canaan). Dr. Gordon reminds us now that the Greek world must be considered part of a cultural complex comprising the Eastern Mediterranean. Details will be argued for a long time, and no simple formula will answer the multitude of problems that arise from the study of the Biblical text, but Gordon’s concept of an Eastern Mediterranean cultural continuum seems irrefutable.”
Professor Gleason L. Archer of Fuller Theological Seminary considers “the field of new discovery in the area of early Semitic-Cretan linguistics and cultural interrelationships one of the most exciting developments of this century. The establishment of the West Semitic character of the Minoan inscriptions … will shed light upon many an obscurity which has hitherto baffled Biblical historians. The prominence accorded to the bull-cult by the idolatrous wing of ancient Israel becomes even more understandable than before, in the light of the centrality of this element in Cretan culture of the same period. It seems to me,” he adds, “that Dr. Gordon is in a fair way to carry the day against all scholarly opposition before this decade is over. Even if some Eteocretan inscriptions turn out to represent much earlier languages entirely distinct from those which have now been established as Semitic (as, for example, in the case of Hittite and Proto-Hittite), it will nevertheless remain true that the Semitic contribution was decisively dominant in Crete for at least a portion of the Second Millennium.”
But Dr. Archer pleads for caution in this new field of Cretan-Palestinian interrelationship: “From the linguistic standpoint it will be necessary to cope with some features of Philistine nomenclature which do not appear to be Semitic, so far as our present knowledge goes; such as the term seren applied to Philistine lords in Joshua, Judges and I Samuel, which Albright plausibly connects with the Greek tyrannos. City-names like Ashkelon and Ashdod seem to have a non-Semitic ring to them, although others like Gaza and Gath are well known in Hebrew. Caution in interpretation is of great importance for this investigation. In regard to the shophetim of the Book of Judges, Gordon suggests these leaders ‘always came from the ruling class’ or from the ‘aristocracy.’ Personally I fail to discover any significant trace of stratification in early Israelite society. But despite such minor questions of detail, I feel that the main thesis is adequately sustained, and the analogy drawn between the shield of Achilles described in the Iliad and the many-faceted record in the Pentateuch is of decisive significance in demonstrating the artificiality of Wellhausian Source-division.”
Dr. Gordon approaches the Old Testament writings with a respect and reverence that is characteristic also of Dr. William F. Albright, whom Gordon criticizes beyond the point of scholarly debate in this essay. It is this approach, in contrast to the critical temper of the Wellhausen theorists, that has endeared both teachers to many evangelical students pursuing doctorates in the Old Testament field. This does not mean, of course, that theological positions represented by Dr. Gordon or by Dr. Albright serve adequately as a dependable ally for evangelical Christianity. Both scholars are brilliant and gifted with creative ideas—some good, some bad. Gordon’s theory of the “inspiration” of the Judges is defective on any evangelical assessment, and his-comparison of Samson with Achilles as a warlord may be farfetched.
Dr. Gordon insists that certain cultural elements common to Greek and Semite had an origin which long antedates Alexander. He recognizes, of course, that Hebraism and Hellenism developed along different lines, and that the Maccabean conflict was real and violent. His underlying thesis, that the language of the script known as Minoan Linear A is Semitic, if true, opens a new frontier in Old Testament studies. We publish the essay in order to prod the linguists to serious assessment of a claim they cannot afford to ignore.
A Call For Social Action: The Dignity Of The Body
A strange byproduct of Protestantism’s infatuation with social action is its preoccupation with doubtful pursuits to the neglect of far more proper concerns. At one time the conscience of Protestant churchmen was extremely sensitive to the matters of drinking alcoholic beverages and smoking; in fact, support of the Prohibition amendment even became a test of Christian vitality.
Today things are rather different. Major denominations lobby for specific political objectives of quite another sort; the Church ventures partnership with state social welfare projects, and wholly neglects personal concerns of moral welfare.
As everyone knows, the liquor traffic and its evils have multiplied almost beyond computation. The link between smoking and lung cancer, moreover, ought to stir anyone who maintains Christian views of the dignity and destiny of the body. But it is government and not the Church which today initiates and sponsors research to establish the baneful consequences of alcoholism and cigarette addiction. The clergy themselves often set a poor example. A leading New York clergyman commented recently that at certain ministerial functions he found only one other person who abstained from alcoholic drinks. And anyone who wants protection from the lethal billows of tobacco smoke at many ministerial meetings is often tempted to carry a portable oxygen tent.
It would be heartening to see the churches catch up with government researchers in such areas of physical, social, and, yes, spiritual concern. Churches that once identified the cause of Christianity with abstinence or temperance are hardly complimented by the fact that Alcoholics Anonymous is a basically secular movement, or by the fact that in many communities the agencies now promoting break-the-smoking-habit seminars are non-religious. If the churches want to get into social action, they have a wide open field right in the areas of alcoholism and cigarette addiction.
Southern Baptists Are Now Bigger Than Anybody
Congratulations are in order. The Southern Baptist Convention is now the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. It has a membership of 10,193,052, compared to the second largest denomination, the Methodists, with a latest reported membership of 10,153,003. An increase of 2.2 per cent last year enabled it to displace The Methodist Church, which increased its membership last year by only 1 per cent.
Although congratulations are in order, few will be officially extended. Southern Baptists can scarcely congratulate themselves, and most religious publications—being house organs of a particular denomination—will feel too inhibited to do so. The spirit of ecumenical fellowship has not yet gone that far. We want, however, to join those who extend hearty congratulations to the biggest United States denomination.
Although the Calvinistic tradition regnant in the United States until about 100 years ago was most consistently embodied in the Anglican-Presbyterian-Reformed churches, it is not these which have become the big churches of this country. They were far surpassed by the Baptists (and Methodists). That the greatest growth has gone to the Baptists is due in part to the fact that they so thoroughly embodied the typical individualist American spirit, to the adaptability of their loose organization to the conditions of the American frontier, and certainly to a lively spirit of evangelism. Their contribution to the American tradition of separation of church and state has been unequaled. Theological and cultural impact has been considerably less.
One can only get dizzy attempting to assess the potential impact of more than 10 million Christians upon the life of our nation. Thankfully there are indications that, at this high point in its history, this great segment of the body of Christ is awakening to America’s larger challenges.
Visser ’T Hooft Indicates Tests Of Vatican’S Ecumenical Spirit
Is the Roman Catholic Church prepared in its dialogue with other churches to approve concrete changes of policy in the aftermath of the refreshing first session of the Vatican Council?
The Vatican Council shows that the Catholic Church “has a greater capacity for renewal than had been considered possible,” Dr. W. A. Visser ’t Hooft, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, recently told an executive committee meeting. The Catholic Church has emerged from its “purely monologic and self-centered period” and “has come to realize there are other Christian churches,” he added.
But Visser ’t Hooft singled out Rome’s attitude toward mixed marriages and religious liberty as “test cases of the reality and depth of the ecumenical attitude.” And, in truth, a revision of Roman Catholic discriminatory attitudes in these areas is long overdue, and of prime importance for improved inter-church relationships. Protestants are indeed hopefully awaiting future Vatican Council commitments touching these concerns.
Ongoing Newspaper Strikes Attest Labor Bosses’ Power
For many of us breakfast without a good newspaper seems like a night’s sleep without a bed. New York and Cleveland residents are still deprived of local papers while union strikes stretch on and on. The vast injury done by the labor leaders’ tie-up of these communications media becomes increasingly apparent. Great newspapers are forced temporarily or permanently to suspend publication by labor bosses desirous of special economic objectives. The effective survival of publications with long records of community service is thus conditioned on the whim of union leaders who advance their partisan goals even when a strike lacks the sympathy of most of the employees and of the community as a whole.
The total news blackout in New York is doubtless the responsibility of the publishers. Four papers were struck; five others (including the Herald Tribune) could still be publishing if they so chose. Time points an accusing finger: “The N. Y. publishers themselves share the blame.… The publishers dillydallied around, waited almost until the strike deadline before they laid down their own terms—from which they have barely budged since.” But the strike initiative lay with the typographical union.
During early American history repressive government was the villain that most often threatened the right to a free press. Today, as The Washington Post observes, that right is just as seriously threatened by the arbitrary action of labor bosses, who exalt their prerogatives as labor leaders above those of the community and do not hesitate to topple giant enterprises largely engaged in the domain of public service.
Ten Tricky Clichés On The Washington Frontier
A searching look at the past decade of American history alerts us to many clever clichés aimed to promote the special interests of politically ambitious and favor-currying groups. Ten objectionable clichés current on the Washington frontier ought to be closely scrutinized and openly repudiated.
1. Religious bigotry is the only reason people will not vote for a Roman Catholic candidate. This is sheer propaganda.
2. All Roman Catholic politicians adopt the political positions favored by the church hierarchy. This, too, is raw propaganda.
3. All Protestant politicians can be counted on to protect the historic concept of separation of church and state. This is mere propaganda.
4. Not to give sectarian schools the same access to public funds as the public schools is unjust if not immoral. This is a clever propaganda ruse.
5. The early American colonists, because they constantly needed spiritual revival, should be regarded as heathen rather than Christian. This is objectionable propaganda that minimizes our Christian heritage.
6. Because its citizens represent divergent religious affiliations, the United States in national life and in its public institutions should avoid any reflection of theistic affirmations made by the founding fathers in the country’s official documents. This is secular propaganda that serves to moderate our national distinctives.
7. Minor changes in the American Constitution in regard to separation of church and state signify progressivism instead of favoritism. This is sheer propaganda promoted by special-interest groups seeking to establish partisan precedents.
8. Violations of church-state separation cannot really be opposed on moral grounds if they are ventured on the smallest tolerable basis. This is a device of propaganda forces.
9. Religious freedom implies the right of atheistic minorities to conform public institutions to their own prejudices at the expense of the majority milieu. This is unabashed propaganda.
10. Protestants and Other Americans United is an ugly movement more interested in embarrassing Roman Catholics, or in destroying religious factors in American life, than in preserving our national tradition. This, too, is propaganda of the worst kind: it is a lie.
Federal Aid And Control Are Like Love And Marriage
The President’s federal aid to education program is quite encyclopedic. It does not include everything from A to Z, however, and the absence of “RC” in this enumeration is especially displeasing to the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
The bill, of course, ought not to be favored just because the hierarchy disapproves it. Federal aid and federal control are, after all, like love and marriage. Free love may seem attractive for the moment, but in the long run Uncle Sam will want a wedding; nobody provides room, board, and research grants for long these days without wanting the marital due also.
But if the government is going to distribute public funds, the principle of public funds for public schools is still the only sound one. Neither Roman Catholicism nor any other ism has a right to expect the general taxpayer to support sectarian schools.
Newspapers report that because the federal aid program does not dole out public funds to their sectarian schools, Roman Catholic leaders call the program discriminatory against parochial schools and view it as punishing or penalizing Roman Catholic parents. But most Protestants gladly pay for whatever sectarian education their children get, and do not expect to assess the general taxpayer for this private rather than public education. If public funds are used to subsidize sectarian schools, the program will discriminate against public education and penalize the citizenry in general.
A Whisper To Be Muted—A Destiny To Be Fulfilled
Surveying the long sweep of the history of Christendom, one cannot fail to be impressed by the remarkable contribution of America to the missionary enterprise. On the other hand, America has had the wealth to devote to it, and it goes without saying that she could and should have done much better than she has. And these days you hear the whisper among Christians that, well, we just can’t give as much for missions because of the tax burden.
Assuming special significance in this connection are some facts, which were drawn from government statistics, presented by the Wall Street Journal. The average American family (setting aside for the moment the problems of low-income families) is doing better than ten years ago in terms of real income. In the last eight years, per capita disposable income—money after personal taxes, in constant dollars—has risen 16 percent. The average income for a family of four in 1939 was $2,148, or $4,848 in 1961 dollars. By 1961 the figure had soared to $8,120.
If Americans have not fully comprehended these facts, their spending habits have. We need but to compare current expenditures with those of 1955. There are twice as many once-a-week bowlers (36 million), and golfers are up 25 per cent. Population has increased 12 per cent while motor vehicles in use have mushroomed 24 per cent. Homes having television have increased from seven in ten to nine in ten. Individual consumption of beef rose from 55 pounds to 67 pounds. Married couples living with relatives are down from a million and a half to 900,000. New single family homes have about a third more floor space. Expenditures for health care are up also—hospital admissions are 40 per cent greater than they were in the middle ’50s.
The escalating process is accompanied by the rapid transfer of commodities from luxury to necessity status.
Someone has said that God’s manifest blessing has rested on America in large part for her devotion to world missions, and that if we fail here, we forfeit a divine calling and void a high purpose and destiny for the nation. Christians may disagree on their assessment of the Peace Corps, but there can be no differing on the stubborn fact that the Corps is no substitute for missions.
It is well to remember that the torch may be removed from the Statue of Liberty just as surely as Ephesus lost her candlestick through the waning of her church’s first love for the Son of man, whose voice of judgment was as the sound of many waters.
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