A Succinct Book Review

6 12 2019

Book reviews do not need to be long to be pointed.  This review of His Apocalypse is from 1924 and by the well-known Greek scholar A. T. Robertson.  It is only three sentences long, but he captures a dry sarcastic critique.  A T Robertson

“It is enough of this fanciful interpretation of the Apocalypse of John to note on the first page this: ‘His Parousia, when he returns for His Bride (probably April 21, 1924).’ This review is written after that date, and the date is wrong.  The other dates are probably equally erroneous.” Review & Expositor, 21, no. 4 (October 1924), p. 471




John Brown: 160 Years

2 12 2019

One hundred and sixty years ago in a newly-harvested cornfield in Charles Town, Virginia, scaffolding was raised and a man was hung. The nation-wide anxiety of this hanging caused the governor of Virginia to call out over 1000 soldiers to surround the gallows and to guard the bridges and roads—all because of a single grey-bearded grandfatherly figure who swung by his neck gently in the breeze of a warm December 2nd day in 1859. The executed man had deep connections to Kansas. In fact, he was nicknamed after a Kansas town, Osawatomie Brown. The 160th anniversary of the death of John Brown will probably go unrecognized by most Americans, and this is unfortunate.

John Brown should be considered one of the most influential figures of the 19th century and a person whose impact is still felt. The 2005 book by David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist, captures three important influences of John Brown in the subtitle: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights. That one person could be such a catalyst is remarkable, but in retrospect, it rings true for anyone who spends time in learning about John Brown.

There is much to admire in John Brown. Perhaps no person in the United States at the midpoint in the 1800s had such a passion for ending slavery and also for the equality of all individuals. Charles Langston speaking at John Brown’s funeral said that he was “a lover of mankind” and “He fully, really and actively believed in the equality and brotherhood of man . . . . He is the only American citizen who has lived fully up to the Declaration of Independence.” John Brown’s war banner against slavery was the belief that all men (and women) were created equal.

Of course, other abolitionists were against slavery, but only John Brown wanted to abolish slavery and also have an inclusive society for people of all colors and genders. He even went so far as to write, while a guest at the home of Frederick Douglas, a provisional constitution. It castigated slavery as “the most barbarous, unprovoked, and unjustified war of one portion of its citizens upon another portion.” What was remarkable for that time was that he considered all individuals as citizens and “fully entitled to protection.”

Admiration of John Brown, however, comes with mixed emotions. He was a terrorist. For those who reject violence as a justifiable means to an end, and that violence can ever be redemptive violence, the bloodshed provoked by Brown at Harper’s Ferry and in Bloody Kansas is repulsive. Yet, John Brown, like a Hebrew prophet, was driven by a biblical vision of liberation for enslaved blacks and by a God-focused sense of justice. But more than visionary, he acted upon his beliefs. As found in his favorite song, “Blow Ye the Trumpet, Blow,” Brown believed that “the year of Jubilee has come,” and he was its appointed apostle. He rejected a passive Christianity of a non-violent approach to end slavery or that it would die out of its own accord. He despised Southern Christianity’s attempted to justify the enslavement of blacks with appeals to Scripture. His deep rooted-Puritan faith was grounded in a holy war for a justice cause.

The execution of John Brown happened on the very day, December 2, that presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in Atchison, KS, an event commemorated by a plaque at the northeast corner of the Atchison County Courthouse lawn. Lincoln, while sympathetic to anti-slavery sentiments, was cautious about John Brown and attempted to distance himself from Brown’s assault on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. When asked in Leavenworth, KS, the day after the execution about John Brown, Lincoln replied “even though [Brown] agreed with us in thinking slavery wrong, that cannot excuse violence, bloodshed, and treason.”

In his time John Brown was hailed both as a saint and the devil. After his death, a multitude of songs from the North deified him and an equal number from the South railed against him. No one was ambivalent about Osawatomie Brown. While few folks today know or perhaps seem to care about him, John Brown’s passionate vision of inclusion and his emphasis upon the worth of all individuals is a tonic for our toxic time. His words continue to speak a word of challenge to those who are suspicion about and hold in contempt (consciously or unconsciously) those who are different from “us.”


In an abolitionist organization John Brown founded called Black Strings, all members had to sign this membership statement: “I believe all mankind are created free and equal, without distinction of color, race, or sex, and are endowed by their Creator with inalienable right.” This statement, when taken to heart and acted upon, is still as radical and as powerful today as it was then.