I love reading college textbooks. Well, that is an exaggeration, as math has few stories about killin' and drinkin' and pillagin', which are very good subjects for an active mind like mine. Anyway, I always ask my teaching friends if they happen to have some old used books that could be tossed my way. The fact is that most old textbooks are quite accurate. However, they do lack colorful pictures to break up the monotony of long and sometimes boring paragraphs. I have always wondered why many of my students ask if they could take my picture to have for their scrapbooks. Hmmm.
My good friend and colleague, Robert Townsend, whose office is next to mine and is always locked for some reason, recently gave me one of his old textbooks about American history. The great thing is that he has already underlined or highlighted the important points he concentrates on in class, and that saves me a lot of hard work. Amazingly, the student — that's me — can get a pot full of good information from the time of old Chris Columbus, "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue ...," to the end of Reconstruction around 1877. That's all we get in 18 chapters and 517 pages. Since a lot of us were born in the 1930s, I guess we know all about the rest of our history, which we learned from our grandparents. We call the next 150 years, "The good old days!" Well, let's say that, for a lot of folks, the good old days ran aground when Ronald Reagan left office.
Here's the rub: After each of the 18 chapters, there is a note which reads, "Further Reading." Are you serious?! Even after I read over 500 pages of history, a hefty glossary of necessary topical definitions, a lengthy appendix and a thorough index, I have further reading? Why, I ask? Well, Bunky, history is a lot more than facts, statistics, maps and side comments. To truly begin — and I mean begin — to understand just a little bit about colonialism, simply read a chapter. To know something about colonialism in depth, grab hold of a few hundred books related to the subject and dig in. Add that to the fact that after a lifetime of research, the interested student can now move on to another interesting moment in time, and the next fact: Learning never stops. Holy mackerel!
Let's jump to a very and absolutely essential moment in our lifetime, and I call that moment, the karios. The Greeks had two great words for time: chronos or wristwatch time, and karios or a life-changing moment. For the biblicist, the chronos time could be, "And the sun stood still ..." The karios time could be, "Behold, the Lamb of God!"
Historically or theologically, I have a history book, and it is unparalleled and authoritative. There is no other. Certainly there are untold thousands of important books which find their origins, their source, in the Bible, but they cannot stand alone or even be considered without the original Word of God.
However, there is one line that could have been added. And please don't toss Revelation 22:18 my way because I don't mean what you may try to think I mean. The words at the end of each of the recognized chapters — 39 in the Old and 27 in the New — could read, "For Further Reading ..." That means for me, "Keep on reading and when you have finished, re-read over and over and over." I could read some pretty clear theology and some great commentaries, but they must be read and examined and approved by how accurately they interpret the source.
I have a special love for the original.