HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
October 23, 2006, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

What a discovery

Robert Rupprecht, St. John Lutheran Church, Hollywood

This past week we observed a very important day, and most of us didn’t even know it, or forgot about it. Yes, last week was Columbus Day. On Oct. 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus made landfall on some unidentified island in the Bahamas after forty plus days of sailing into uncharted waters of the Atlantic. Or were they uncharted?

In my college years I was advised to read a book by Charles Hapgood entitled “Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings.”

This book proposed the theory that the earth had been fully navigated well before the time of Christ. The book had an ancient map of the eastern coast of North and South America to an accuracy of one half degree.

Its origin was several thousand years BC. That same book had a copy of an ancient map of Antarctica, consisting of two islands, rivers, and ice-free coastlines.

In 1958, the “Geophysical Year” verified the existence the true coastlines by ice sounding, thus proving the map’s authenticity and verifying everything the map showed.

The book also presented an ancient map of Scandinavia covered by a continental glacier. What this book proved was that there was an early civilization that knew an awful lot more of this world and navigation than we do now.

Actually, there are evidences of artifacts throughout the new world that discoveries were accomplished by the Norsemen, Japanese, and Phoenicians. Even the Chinese carried out their own exploration in 1421 by Zheng He with a 450 foot ocean-faring junk.

There is even evidence that Solomon, with the help of King Hiram of Tyre, might have mined gold from Ophir, the biblical name given for Peru.

Ships were built on the Red Sea, journeyed for three years, and returned in the Mediterranean Sea at Tyre. (1Kings 9:26-28; 10:22) These ships would return over 400 talents of gold every three years.

Solomon’s ships circumnavigated the continent of Africa over a thousand years before Vasco da Gama. Artifacts in South America show that the Phoenician/Hebrew fleets were concentrating more on South America than India.

By the time of Columbus, the main objective of reaching the Orient was for the trade of spices, silk, jade, ivory, precious stones, and incense. To think that the sea merchants had the concept of a flat world is just is not true.

Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) already accepted a spherical world. Eratosthenes (276 – 194 BC), a mathematician and curator of the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt, even calculated the circumference of the earth at just under 25,000 miles (within 1 percent of accuracy of the earth’s actual circumference).

The problem that Columbus faced was one of miscalculation. More contemporary geographers of Columbus’ time recalculated the earth’s circumference at 15,700 miles, which was the figure Columbus used, just enough to fit in the Pacific Ocean.

According to Columbus’ calculations, the continent of Asia was to be about 3,600 miles to the west of Europe. That was just about the distance that Columbus traveled when he reached the Bahamas; right distance, wrong place.

Let’s give Columbus the credit that he does deserve. How many of you would take off on an ocean journey of 3,600 miles in two ships ( “Nina” & “Pinta”) that were 50 feet long, and a third ship (“Santa Maria”) at 75 feet? New cabin cruisers and yachts of today may exceed those dimensions.

Was Columbus a kook? No. He was just misinformed. What we can say is that none of the previous explorations of the new world brought about the flow of exploration and settlement that came about as a result of Columbus’ accomplishment.

One other thing that he was; he was a Christian. Columbus has been given a bad rap on the matters of slavery and poor treatment of the native dwellers. These were false claims against Columbus. When he received any reports of poor treatment by his men, there was extreme discipline for the offenders. His relationship with his Christ was most important.

Sad to say, not all the explorers who followed after Columbus were as concerned about the native population, or the expansion of Christian evangelism in the new world.

It is ironic that this month celebrates another misunderstood man who was a contemporary of Columbus.

At the time Columbus rediscovered the new world, this other gentleman was but a nine-year-old boy. Later in his life, this young man would also experience a great discovery; a discovery of God’s salvation for all mankind by God’s Grace, not by works or indulgences. I will write more about this person’s life at another time.

By the way, his day of celebration is Oct. 31; his name is Martin Luther.

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