The Blessings of Almighty God and Liberty Be With You All!

Greetings this Friday, 4 July 2014, the official date of America’s – properly The United States of America – independence from England.  In fact, we – and I use the term hopefully – were not quite independent for another couple years.  The British Army surrendered and ceased hostilities on 19 October 1781; then the Treaty of Paris which formally recorded the British admission of independence for the United States was signed in 1783.  This is the date we recognize as when it ‘officially’ began to happen.

On this date in 1776 the Continent Congress started signing the rather well known document known as the Declaration of Independence.  This year marks two hundred and thirty-eight years.

 

The Constitution of the United States was ratified on 21 June 1788.  The Constitution, comprised of Seven Articles (or Divisions to specify certain functions of the U. S. Government) and twenty-seven amendments is the legal structure upon which the U. S. Government is built.  It is, by way of metaphor, the bone and muscle of the U. S.  The Constitution directs the Office of the Presidency, the two houses of Congress, the Judiciary, separation of powers and provides for national defense.  Again, it is the bone and muscle of the United States.  One notes – and this is constantly repeated by those who really don’t understand the function of the United States – the name or title of God does not appear in the Constitution.  The closest we find is in the Preamble – the introduction – where the word ‘blessings’ is used.  The full phrase is ‘… the Blessings of Liberty…’ (note use of capital letters).  One notes the word ‘bless’, ‘blessing’ or ‘blessings’ have a connotation and historic use associated with Divine Providence.  But admittedly, the word can be used as a synonym for ‘benefit’ in a secular setting.

 

However, the Soul of the United States is the Declaration of Independence.  The Declaration is the mission statement, the justification for existence, the underlying beliefs and moral strength of the United States.

In the introduction and the preamble to the Declaration – the first two paragraphs of the document – the writer speaks of God and God’s Creation several times.  The entire document is based on the idea of God’s natural laws, and that God created men ‘equal’ in terms of human value and legal status.  Note that ‘all men are equal’, not ‘all men are the same’ or all ‘men are interchangeable’.

 

The U. S. Constitution is a most valuable and – at the risk of enraging the leftists – ‘inspired’ work of man on behalf of government.  It is arguably the shortest Constitution of any nation in the world.  Perhaps the framers of the Constitution understood the principle of ‘governing best by governing least’?

But we must never forget the Declaration of Independence that provides life and soul to this country, and in turn demanding such an elegant and functional Constitution.

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From the “You’ve Got to Be Kidding!” file

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/06/23/clinton-im-not-truly-well-off/

Hillary Rodham Clinton, former (annoying)  First Lady, former (mediocre but Liberal) Senator from New York State, former (wretched) Secretary of State – announced she and her husband President William J. “Bill” Clinton were ‘broke’ when they left the White House.  Which may explain why they attempted to steal all the dinner ware and many other items not permanently attached when they left.

Even for a leftist with a by-nature tenuous hold on reality, Madam Secretary shows an amazing ability to deceive herself about her financial status AND the stupidity of the listening public.

What does it mean to a woman with more money than most of us will ever earn in a lifetime to be ‘broke’?  Does that mean she cannot buy a Senate seat without others to pitch in with the purchase price?  How does she keep a straight face saying this sort of stuff?  Stephen Wright keeps a straight face during his monologues, but everyone involved knows he’s presenting ‘humor’, not absolute fact.  The late Buster Keaton was known for his deadpan delivery and acting, but I understand he sometimes laughed on set and had to shoot the same sequence more than once.  But not Madam Secretary.

Seriously, folks; can you believe this?  She charges – according to the article – “… a six figure speaking fee …”  (a minimum of $ 100,000.00 just to be clear) for her speaking engagements.  (In comparison, I get about $36,000 a year from my retirement/Social Insecurity payments.  I collect guns, support a son in university and I’m mostly comfortable.  What the blazes does she do with her money?)  But she’s not “… truly well off …” she says.  AND she claims her income comes from ‘hard work’.  Frankly, I could foul up foreign policy and then lie about it in front of credulous graduates for much less.  What’s so ‘hard work’ about being a protected, pampered, ignorant loser?

Oh.  She wants to be President of the United States.  Does it warm the cockles of your heart knowing she would be a President who identifies with us ‘lesser’ folk?

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Filed under Civilization, General Idiocy, Idiot Politicians, Much Ado About Nothing, Political Correctness, Politics, Silliness

The Ortgies Patent Deutsche Werke Pistol

Another one of the European 7.62mm pistols of the early 20th Century is the Ortgies.  It is named after the designer of the pistol, Heinrich Ortgies.  The pistol was made from 1919 to 1924 or 1926 (depending on source) – a total of five or seven years.  Sources indicate new (manufactured but not sold) pistols were sold for some time after manufacture ended, perhaps into the early 1930s.

The history of the pistol is a bit involved, as Herr Ortgies died soon after production was underway and the design was taken by another manufacturer.  All this is available on line if interested.

My collection currently contains two examples of the Ortgies pistol.  They are both .32 ACP.  From what I can glean from the internet, there are SEVEN variations of the pistol.  All the variations are based on the ‘addresses’ roll-stamped into the slide.  The actual design and interior lock work never changed.  The two I own represent a ‘fourth’ and ‘fifth’ style address marking.

Ortgies Pistol serial no. 59000 series Fourth Address variation

Ortgies Pistol serial no. 59000 series Fourth Address variation

Ortgies pistol serial no. 104000  Fifth style Address line

Ortgies pistol serial no. 104000 series                    Fifth style Address variation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly, I cannot find any information about the dates of manufacture for a specific serial number, nor can I determine the time periods of the various addresses displayed.  However, all of these pistols were manufactured in a fairly short time period.

One of my pistols has a serial number in the 59,000 range.  The other, later production obviously, is in the 104,000 range.  I shall use these numbers to identify the pistols as needed.

In addition to the address changes, the most obvious change – as production carried on – was the change of the manufacturer’s logo.  All the grip panels I have witnessed have been wood.  Rather plain, darker – possibly stained – hardwood with obvious grain patterns.  All of them have a metal insert – a medallion, perhaps – with the manufacturing logo.

Original Heinrich Ortgies grip logo

Original Heinrich Ortgies grip logo

The earlier examples display an intertwined “H. O.” at right angles one to another signifying the designer and original manufacturer, Heinrich Ortgies.

 

 

Ortgies 104 later Deutch Werke logo cat

Deutch Werke logo

 

The later pistols, after Herr Ortgies passed on, were manufactured and controlled by Deutsche Werke of Erfurt, Germany and the medallion logo changed to a stylized “D”, which upon close inspection is a cat in profile with the tail curving up past the head.  (See picture, it makes more sense that way.)  The cat strikes me as having a mystical Egyptian look to it, or perhaps a long necked leopard.  Probably, it’s just ‘artsy’.

I have seen photographs of plastic grips.  They are the rather unimpressive black plastic of the early portion of the 20th Century.  The logo is cast into the plastic in place of a metal medallion inset.  I cannot recall seeing an actual pistol so equipped, but that may speak to my limited range more than anything else.

Ortgies 59719 serial number redacted and country of origin mark

Serial no. marking (partially redacted) and Country of Origin

Ortgies 104 serial number redacted and country of origin mark

Second example of redacted serial no. and Country of Origin markings

The serial number is roll stamped – all the markings seem to be very carefully and properly done – on the frame, forward of the trigger guard, underneath and behind the muzzle.  Both examples I have bear “Germany” in English – as opposed to Deutschland.  This marking is the required ‘country of origin’ marking for importation into the United States.  I’m sure these pistols were both imported into the U. S. and sold commercially here in the 1920s or 1930s.  This would be prior to the leftist hoplophobic mania and anti-gun hysteria of later years, of course.  Ahem; I digress.

 

Ortgies 59719 magazine left side with 9mm (kurz) mark

Early magazine left side, marked 9 m/m with six observation holes.

Ortgies 59719 magazine right side with 7.65mm mark

Early magazine with faint 7.65 m/m and HO logo marking on right side.

Markings on the magazines changed a bit from beginning to end, but the magazine design didn’t change much.  The early magazines would interchange between 9m/m kurz (9 mm short, in English, or .380 ACP for the ‘west-side-of-the-Atlantic’ faction) and 7.65m/m (.32 ACP) without alteration or adjustment.  The early magazines are marked on the left side with “9mm” and have six holes in the side of the magazine, presumably for checking round count; while the right side of the magazine is marked“7.65mm” and has seven holes.

 

 

 

 

Ortgies 104 baseplate of magazine

Later magazine with caliber marking and “D” logo on base plate.

Later magazines – at least those for 7.65mm – have seven holes on either side, the “7.65m/m” and the manufacturing logo (the stylized “D” for Deutsche Werke) marking is on the base plate.  In complete candor, I do not know if the later magazines will function in a 9mm kurz pistol.  The magazines appear identical, but I haven’t had opportunity or reason to check.

The pistol is not a shocking departure in terms of design.  It is a simple blowback action, with a spring driven striker as the igniter.  The standard Ortgies was produced in 7.65mm or .32 ACP, and 9mm Kurz or .380 ACP.  Ortgies also produced a 6.35mm or .25 ACP pistol during the same period, which appears to be a smaller pistol.  Interesting to me, the only safety on the pistol is the ‘grip’ safety which is the moveable ‘bar’ on the rear of the grip.

Ortgies 104 grip safety extended engaged

Grip safety extended; safety engaged.

Ortgies 104 grip safety depressed disengaged

Grip safety depressed, safety disengaged.

When extended – safety engaged – the sear is blocked mechanically by some extension of the safety.  When depressed – safety disengaged – the firearm is free to fire when the trigger is pulled.  Unlike the grip safety on pistols made by Colt and other manufacturers, the safety does is not spring-loaded and does not automatically extend when not manually depressed.  The grip safety stays in the depressed condition until a ‘release’ button is pressed.  This button is mounted on the frame, near the rear of the slide, on the left side.  (That release button is also used to field strip the pistol.

I understand this type of safety is being re-introduced on the new Remington “51” pistol.  I haven’t seen a live example yet, so this may not be fully – or partially – correct.

The Ortgies pistol was designed and sold as a personal defense pistol.  .32 ACP was considered a normal defensive caliber in that time period.  Truth be told, I rather imagine the .32 ACP chambered pistol is still in reasonably popular use today, if for no other reason than many were bought in the past one hundred years, many were brought home from the Second World War – back when our government trusted servicemen to retain firearms as souvenirs of service – and they are all still around.  Also in the mix is the factors the pistols are usually easy to load, handle and fire and the recoil doesn’t intimidate many people.

Ortgies 104 front and rear sight

Rear view of front and rear sight.

Ortgies 104 sight picture

Sight picture. One should focus the eye on the front sight, a skill my camera lacks at present.

 

 

 

The Ortgies is not a perfect defense pistol by any stretch.  The sights are milled from the basic block of steel that forms the slide.  The sights are fixed, and rather small by today’s standards.

Lest anyone think sights were considered a mere obligatory addition, the sights on both Ortgies pistols I own shoot quite close to the sights.

 

 

These pistols were never adopted for use officially by the German military.  However, officers and probably enlisted men could purchase their own sidearm and some Ortgies pistols were so employed.  From the sources I can find, one does NOT find Wehrmacht acceptance stamps normally.  If a family legend has it that one of your forbearers acquired his example from a German soldier, it is quite possible.  (However, it will not usually have the ‘country of origin’ marking which is needed for importation to the U. S.)  For collectors of such items, U. S. soldiers should have had ‘bring back’ documents showing they acquired ‘souvenirs’ legally and properly.  Such documentation trumps any conjecture based on perceived markings or lack of markings.

The trigger pull is not so heavy; I have two Ortgies pistols, one with a trigger weight of just over 4.5 pounds, the other pull weighs in at 6.1 pounds.  Not as heavy as some, but they are long and creepy.  When I say creepy, I mean one can feel the sear sliding out of engagement with the cocking piece.  They are manageable however.  Certainly not the sudden ‘glass rod breaking’ feeling of a top grade target trigger, but capable of discharging the arm while not completely disrupting the sight picture.

Another not often mentioned phenomenon:  They bite.  Not in the sense of operate poorly, but the slide (in recoil when fired) can easily gouge the upper portion of the web of my hand.  I’ve found a number of pistols which share this trait.  Perhaps my hands are too fat.  Lord knows the rest of me is.

The pistols are all single stack type magazines.  These were made for personal defense as concealed carry arms.  They are made to fit into a pocket.  The 7.65mm versions hold eight rounds in the magazine (and one in chamber).  Further, this pistol employs a typical – for the time – European style ‘heel catch’ magazine retainer and release.  It is simple to use and make, but IPSC shooters are horrified at the difficulty of making a ‘quick reload’.  (I feel a rant about “… thirty round bursts …” coming on; I shall endeavor to avoid such.)

The grip length is long enough for a proper grip.  My hands are not huge by any stretch, but reasonably ‘average’, I should think.  (No one has yet said, “Gee Arch, you have little tiny – or great big – hands!”)  I can get a full shooting grip on the arm; at worst, my little finger somewhat straddles the forward lip of the magazine.  Recoil is not great enough to make that a problem.

I purchased these two Orgties designed pistols just over a year apart.  The first in December of 2012 and the second one – which is the earlier manufactured – in April of 2014.  For that reason I test fired them on two separate occasions.  However, I did use ammunition by the same manufacturer – Privi Partizan – and the same lot of ammunition.

I confess I failed to observe the same testing protocols.  I’m already dieting, don’t expect any massive penance in addition.  Feel free to pronounce ‘fie’ upon me; I’ll man up.

On the good side, I did test both pistols at an initial distance of fifteen yards.  Fifteen yards is probably ‘long’ for a personal defense pistol; personal attacks usually are measured in single digits of feet units, but I feel fifteen yards is not a bad distance to evaluate mechanical accuracy of the device, without being distorted by (aging) eyesight and such.  In a burst of confidence, I shot the earlier produced pistol at twenty-five yards with suitable results in terms of accuracy.

The later produced pistol competed in one of our local ‘combat’ matches – with my assistance.  While the pistol did well in terms of accuracy, hitting pretty much everything on the first attempt, the impact of the 71 grain FMJ bullets did NOT dislodge the plates from the ‘Texas Star’ device.  Nor were they impressive on the dueling tree.  How discouraging.

The shooting – as always – was performed (committed?) on the Four Rivers’ Sportsman’s Club near Hastings, Nebraska.  No one was occupying the outdoor range and I made myself at home.

Setting the CED chronograph, I did – on separate occasions, as mentioned – some velocity testing just as a base line for discussion.  Just for the record, from the 3rd Edition of Ammo & Ballistics published by Safari Press and authored by Bob Forker, the SAAMI standards for this round indicate a 71 grain FMJ bullet is ‘expected’ to have a muzzle velocity of 900 feet per second (fps) and an operating pressure of 15,000 copper units of pressure (CUP) or 20,500 pounds per square inch (PSI) by transducer measure.

I cannot measure pressure with my equipment.  However, my chronograph does a fair job of bullet velocity.  The ammunition used in the testing is Prvi Partizan brand.  It bears no particular ‘item’ number but is described as “32 Auto” and “FMJ (full metal jacket) bullet, 4.6 grams/71 grains”.  The box has no printed claim to velocity.  The end flap interior has a stamped number of 1103, which I presume to be the manufacturing lot number.

According to the chronograph, pistol ‘59’ fires the ammunition with an average velocity of 666 fps.

Pistol ‘104’ runs the same lot of ammunition at an average of 701 fps.

So much for the anticipated 900 fps.

Both pistols using the same ammunition work very well.  Ejection and cycling is subjectively positive and regular.  The rounds register on target close to point of aim (where the sights line up according to my eyes).

In shooting, I find this pistol to be rather comfortable and ‘ergonomic’, even if that word was NOT in common use when the pistol was designed and made.  The tiny sights are a bit difficult to obtain rapidly, but the pistol seems to shoot to the sights.  I have complained in the past about the ‘issue’ sights on the Colt Government Model.  They are small.  The Ortgies sights are ‘tiny’.  Plus, as the photos demonstrate, the rear sight on the Ortgies is a narrow ‘V’ shape while the front sight is an inverted ‘V’ or pyramid shape.  (These sight profiles were popular in Europe on rifles as well as pistols.  I have heard them referred to as ‘barleycorn’ sights.  My personal conjecture is they were devised with assistance from “John Barleycorn”.  I could be mistaken.)

The groups derived are indicative of repeatability; that is, the shot holes are in an actual group and not just ‘on target’.  One has confidence the next shot will go in about the same place.  That’s a good feeling in any arm of consequence.

I have attached some photos of the results of the shooting tests.  They pretty much speak for themselves, but since I’m blogging, I’ll explain them anyway.

Ortgies 59 target 15 yards enhanced

Fifteen yard target

The multiple target (six targets) shows a single, ten shot slow fire group; the lower right hand corner.  From the picture, one can see the pistol tends to register on the right side of the target.  This group was fired two handed, deliberate aim and trigger pull.  I was trying to get all the accuracy from the arm possible.

The five targets with single shot holes was a somewhat rapid fire sequence.  I fired one shot at each target in turn, from top left to bottom right (down the left side then down the right side).  I did fire this string one handed, for reasons I cannot recall.  I note the shot holes are much more centered firing one handed.

Ortgies 59 target 25 yards enhanced

Twenty-five yard target

 

 

The twenty-five yard target is nothing remarkable, save it was fired with a .32 ACP pistol with really tiny sights.  The pistol tended toward the right side of the target, but are all on the scoring rings.  I did fire this two handed and as fast as I could get a sight picture and trigger release without moving the sights.   The target shown is NOT a standard NRA B27 target for 50 yards.  It is the reduced size which simulates a 50 yard target at 25 yards.

 

 

These little pistols never fail to amaze me.  All my life I was told how poorly they worked; how impossible they are to fire with any degree of accuracy; and they have no real world use.  Which just goes to show one should ‘trust but verify’ in many areas of life.

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Gloomy Saturday, A. D. 33

It was the ninth year of Tiberius Caesar, Emperor of Rome.  Rome ruled the greater part of the Mediterranean Ocean basin.  The Roman Empire spanned from the Iberian Peninsula in the west, up through France, well into Germany.  In the south, Rome ruled from the eastern portion of Morocco across Northern Libya, most of Egypt and the Levant, east through Syria.

Most of the Roman world was at peace, more or less.

However, in the Roman province of Palestine – in the area called Israel by the inhabitants feelings were mixed.

It was Passover weekend.  It was at the time – and still in many cases – the most Holy Celebration of the Jewish religion and religious people.  This was the anniversary of the escape from Egyptian captivity, the Exodus.  The time when Almighty God, the Lord of the Israelites killed the first born of Egypt and allowed the people of Israel to leave Egypt and bondage to begin their journey to their promised homeland.  It was normally a very joyous occasion.  It was the reminder of the love of the Lord and hope for His assistance.

But not exclusively on this instance.

The day before, the local Roman Governor, Pilate had executed three local men.  Two were unnamed and unlamented – save possibly by their families, no comments noted – and one unusual Jewish carpenter who …

Hard to say.  Some said he was a troublemaker.  He surely upset the ruling Jewish council, the Sanhedrin.  He announced a philosophy of Judaism that sounded rather solid against the teachings of Moses and the Prophets, but struck a sour note with the current religious authorities.  He taught and spoke as a Prophet.  Some took him to be Elijah, or another of the prophets.  He taught with a certainty and fresh delivery that seemed to claim the role of Prophet; of one who spoke God’s message.  He claimed more though.  He said – in so many words – He was God.

That last bit really infuriated the Sanhedrin and others.  It is rumored they were the ones who had Pilate execute the man.  There is no record of this fellow – Jesus, he was called – committing any crimes against the Roman authority.  Indeed, other than that incident in the Temple, he never did anything which harmed or inconvenienced anyone.  Yes, there was that time he healed a man’s withered arm on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees were really upset he ‘worked’ on the Sabbath; but fixing a man’s arm?  Is that such a violation?  And all he did was look at the man and tell him his arm was fixed.  It wasn’t like Jesus lifted a tool or load, or spent several hours sweating and laboring.

But Jesus was indeed executed by a Roman execution party.  The whole city – more or less – went out to watch.  There were still a number of people there – including his mother, poor woman – when he died on that cross.  It was a quick death for a crucifixion.  Still pretty disgusting.

His followers all faded away.  Except for his mother and a couple of her friends who stayed to observe the final preparations for burial.  And a surprise; a fellow named Nicodemus claimed the body for burial.  Another surprise, Nicodemus put the body in a nearby tomb belonging to Nicodemus.  An unused tomb, yet!

 

All his disciples were in hiding.  They were fearful the Sanhedrin would have them arrested and executed as well.  Probably a reasonable fear.  Peter had ventured after Jesus the night before, but hadn’t been able to free Jesus or do much of anything.  This night, he was silent and kept to himself.  Not usual for Peter; typically Peter was the center of attention.  Peter was the first to talk, nearly always.  In the absence of Jesus – the clear leader – Peter was the senior man, so to speak.  But Peter wasn’t himself.  Not at all.  Nor could anyone get him to talk about why.  Peter sat off to one side and nervously fingered a pebble in his hands.

Jesus was dead.  Jesus had been the hope of the little group of men, and of a greater group of other men and women.  They all been convinced he was an important man.  Most had thought him Divinely inspired in one way or other.  Some had thought him the promised Messiah.  Peter – now silent – had once declared belief that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.  All the disciples had agreed with that assessment.  Many of the larger group had agreed as well.

The Messiah, the long awaited Deliverer of Israel was here!  Soon, the Messiah would begin the process of throwing off the Roman oppressors and restoring the glory of Israel.  Soon, the nation would again possess the kingdom of David and be rich and powerful and unbeatable!  Soon!  The Messiah was HERE!

And now he is dead.  So much for the future.  Hope was gone, but gloom they had.

Hard to define or even describe, but there was a ‘yet’.  Not ‘hope’ so much, just a ‘but’…

They talked, desultorily and sporadically.

What had he said?  One offered he missed the details, he had been thinking about his position in the new kingdom.  Others didn’t say much out loud, but had similar thoughts.  They remembered Jesus had said something about dying – which seemed different now than before – and something else… but what?

“He said He would assemble his believers and followers” Peter spat out, the first thing he had said all night.

The others nodded, remembering.  No one wanted to provoke Peter, so they were silent.
“Not much chance of that now” Peter said in a vicious tone and threw the pebble across the room.

Silence again in the room and among the disciples.

Another of the disciples finally said he was going to get some sleep.  So they all began the process of preparing for sleep as best they could.  One of them said, “I’d sure like to remember what else He said.  He spoke about – doing? – something after He was killed.”  The other disciples muttered something all at once and lay down.

Peter spoke one last time, “I don’t think I’ll sleep much tonight”.

But he was wrong.  He – and the rest – slept that night.  And, they dreamed.

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Smuggler

As has been mentioned casually, your humble servant worked for twenty-two years as a uniformed officer of the U. S. Customs Service – and after a governmental re-organization, the U. S. Customs and Border Protection agency.  Part of my duties were to seek out, detect, seize merchandise – including contraband – imported contrary to law and apprehend those responsible.

Obviously I looked for smugglers.

I cannot remember the date anymore.  I should have noted the date and time, but I didn’t.  I remember it was after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  That makes it post 1991 at least.  But it was in the early 90′s as I recall.  It’s been a while.

I was working the day shift at the Port of Entry at Los Angeles World Airport in the Bradley Building.  I had a job ‘floating’, that is, moving from arriving flight to arriving flight, observing and questioning passengers to determine if any required further attention.  Not a serious morning; as I recall most of the flights were from Europe and nothing of consequence.

One young man was approaching and I approached him, asking for his passport and Customs form.  He had it very handy and presented them with a cheerful smile.  I asked him his business and he told me he was a representative of “Open Doors”.  My lightening fast brain started whirring as the memories in my head bubbled forth.  Okay, it might have been a squeal instead of a whir, a minor amount of smoke and one memory fell out of my ear.  But it was a good one.

“You’re one of the smugglers!”  I said with my winning smile.

The young man looked slightly ‘stricken’ for just a moment, then remembered where he was and the smile returned.  “Yes”, he said, shaking my outstretched hand and warming up, “We are.”

I asked the obvious question, “Is he here today?”  My interviewee immediately said, “Oh, yes…” looking about he said, “He’s over there by the front of the [examination belt], heading for the door.”  Oddly, he didn’t point; one acquires habits like that.

I looked where the gentleman directed and saw a very ordinary looking man in a business suit walking purposely toward the exit.  Without breaking stride, he turned and waved.  He knew someone was looking at him.

The man in question is  now identified as Andrew van der Bijl.  However, for many years – I first found out about him in the late 1960s, he worked under an the alias of ‘Brother Andrew’.  I was not then, nor am I now surprised when he made me in the Customs hall.  He was and is the most successful smuggler in the modern world.  (Possibly in the ancient world as well; such things are hard to evaluate.)  For over thirty years – closer to forty – Brother Andrew smuggled Bibles into Communist block countries and delivered to trusted Christian contacts.  He was never caught.

He’s still in the business, by the way.  Check out the website  - http://www.opendoors.org/ – for current details.  He co-wrote an autobiography in the middle 1960′s called God’s Smuggler, detailing his youth and career.  It reads like a James Bond novel, except no one gets killed and he doesn’t sleep with any women, let alone three or four.

Once, I was about thirty-five feet from shaking hands with Brother Andrew and I missed him.  I don’t feel too bad, the Soviets couldn’t get him in nearly forty years.

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Mistakes in the Bible – Not as Awful as One Might Think

I’m getting frustrated again.  Why?  You ask.  (If you don’t ask, I can’t finish this essay – so I’ll presume you did.)  Also, I want to ask the reader to finish this essay; especially if the reader does not agree with the observations, deductions and comments herein.  Seriously, if the reader disagrees, I would like to know – and with some degree of reasoning, not just comments such as ‘Is not!’ or ‘That’s not what my Momma said’.  Accusations of heresy are welcome, as long as the accuser can explain and argue the heresy.

It seems – and I should emphasize the word ‘seems’ – Christians are afraid of what the Bible reports.  There are two embarrassing passages in the Bible that are largely ignored and superficially appears to conflict with current scientific knowledge.

Before I continue, allow me to recommend Second Timothy 1:7  “For God did not give us a Spirit but of power and love and self-control.”  For a Christian, God does not incite fear in the meaning of panic and running away – not to be confused with fear as respect.

The reason they are afraid is that many modern exponents – the ‘experts’ – of the Bible claim the Bible is scientifically reliable and conforms to science – in some cases has superior scientific knowledge to current theories.

The main passage I wish to discuss is in the first part of the 38th Chapter of the book of Isaiah the Prophet.  The King James Version presents as follows:

1.  [new paragraph] In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.

2.  Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD,

3.  And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.

4.  [new paragraph] Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying,

5.  Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.

6.  And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.

7.  And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken;

8.  Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.

 Synopsis of events.

Hezekiah was King of Judah, the southern kingdom of what was once the complete nation of Israel.  He is listed as the thirteenth king of Judah in the span of 715 to 687 B. C.  Hezekiah was king roughly one hundred years prior to the total conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians about 587 B. C.

Hezekiah became ill, seemingly an infection of some sort.  The details are not known, other than God told the prophet Isaiah that Hezekiah would die as a result.  Hezekiah appealed to God and God granted Hezekiah another fifteen years of life.  Additionally, God gave Hezekiah a ‘sign’ as a promise Hezekiah would live and not die immediately.  The ‘sign’ – miracle, wonder, public display – was the shadow of the sun on the ‘steps’ (which seem to indicate a set of stairs in the palace which were built to serve as a sundial, or was perhaps just a sundial) would reverse and ‘go back’ ten ‘steps’ or ‘degrees’.

The last verse shown here says, “So the sun returned ten degrees…” which literally means the sun went backward.  Yes.  It says the sun went backward.  Please feel free to check an interlinear Bible (original Hebrew text shown in one line with English translation on the corresponding line below).  If that isn’t convenient, check out www.blueletterbible.org and look at the passage; use the Strong’s Lexicon to check on the individual words.

Another passage dealing with the arrangement of the solar system is Joshua 10: 12 to 15.  Please look it up and read it.  For best effect, read it in the King James Version.  This passage in Joshua sketches a battle between Israel (after leaving Egypt and prior to setting up in Canaan) and the Amorite forces.  Joshua asks the Lord for help and the Lord extends the hours of daylight; verse 13 says, “So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hastened not to go down about a whole day.”

These Biblical references reinforced the deeply held belief (developed by Aristotle and Ptolemy) the Earth was the center of the solar system and the Sun orbited the Earth.  See, it says so right ‘there’.  This, by the way, was the heresy of Galileo Galilei and Nicolaus Copernicus, about one hundred years prior to Galileo.  Both Copernicus and Galileo discovered by experiment and observation the Sun was the center of the solar system.

Current astronomical observations indicate the Sun is the center of our solar system and the Earth orbits the Sun.  (Nikky and Galileo were right.)  So it isn’t possible with our understanding for the Sun to move backward or just stop.  The Sun really doesn’t move in this sense; the apparent movement of the Sun is due exclusively to the rotation of the Earth.

This is the point at which my Christian colleagues panic.  Especially the ones who heretofore have claimed the infallible nature of the Bible make information in the Bible superior to any science.

This ‘panic’ reveals in one of several ways.

1.  They see that, throw up their hands and give up on the Bible as obviously fraudulent.  This isn’t very common among seasoned believers, but it does happen.  It is really common among non-believers as ‘proof’ of the unreliable nature of the Bible.

2.  They claim the astronomers are wrong and the Earth really is the center of the Universe, the Sun orbits the Earth.  This was the view of most people in Western Civilization since the time of Aristotle.  Christianity was no exception, by the way.  If one remembers as a child, that’s the reasonable observation.  In fact as adults we all use the expressions of ‘sun up’ or ‘when the sun comes up’ and so forth.  (At least in English, I rather imagine the same is true to some degree in other languages as well.)  This is one of the reasons the Roman Catholic Church arrested Galileo; he discovered – and published publicly – the Sun was the center of the solar system, contradicting the Bible and was thereby guilty of heresy.

This view was not confined to the 17th Century or so, either.  There was a very famous sermon preached by a remarkable man named John Jasper in 1882 called “The Sun Do Move!”  That sermon cites the above references and a couple more:  Ecclesiastes 1:5 “The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down…”; Psalms 1:1, 113:3 both refer to the ‘rising and setting’ of the Sun;  Judges 14:18 “Before the sun went down…” also indicates movement on the part of the Sun.

I note the Roman Catholic Church has changed their position.  Pope John Paul II apologized to Galileo Galilei for the Church’s error in 1633.  The Pope made the statement on 1 November 1992.

3.  The commonest response of modern Christians to this information is to simply ignore it.  Pretend it isn’t there.  Don’t see nothing.  Sometimes I get the answer, ‘That doesn’t mean anything’, but the reaction is usually more deceptive than that.  “Let me look into it and get back to you with a studied response rather than an off the cuff answer.”  I always agree and they never ‘get back’ to me.  Never.  Not once.  I don’t know if they ‘look into it’ or not.

This last, commonest response is the one I find the most distressing.  The ‘ignore it’ response is a panic reaction based on total inability to face reality.  The Almighty God who created the Universe from absolutely nothing has nothing to fear.  Not to mention the phrase ‘Fear not!’ is used so very often in the Bible, especially the teachings of Jesus.  (For a long time I’ve felt the phrase rendered in the modern tongue is probably closer to “Don’t Panic”.)

Once again, Second Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  A Christian should not fear the truth – even if it seems uncomfortable.  (Which is not to encourage a foolhardy attitude, but that’s a different discussion.)

Somewhere along here, the typical Christian – if they haven’t run in panic by now – will ask or accuse me of denying the Bible.  I don’t.  I cherish the Bible and trust it as being the message of God that I actually read it and don’t skip over the controversial parts.

I fully believe the events reported were reported exactly as the writer saw and understood them.  Yes, I trust the fact the Sun stayed in the sky for Joshua’s battle with the Amorites.  I have no doubts or qualms about the ‘shadow’ of the Sun ‘moving back’.  But the conclusion of the witnesses regarding the movement of the Sun around the Earth is not justified.  I also know that doesn’t happen.  So do most Christians, actually.

So why do these various passages appear in the Bible? 

As a Christian, I believe in the ‘inspiration’ of the Bible; as well as ‘Divine revelation’ and efficacy, sufficiency and even authority and ‘infallibility’.  So the Bible is exactly what God caused to be written and preserved as a message.  It is exactly what God wanted said.

So, what is the purpose of the Bible?  The Bible explains who is God.  The Bible explains the existence of the Universe and the relationship between God and the Universe.  The Bible then explains who man is, and the relationship between God and man.  The Bible explains the problem of sin and most importantly, what God did to fix the problem of sin, man and the broken relationship between God and man.

However, the Bible is NOT the book of everything.  There are no instructions for repairs or adjustments to automobiles.  No recipes for brownies.  It is NOT a complete history of the Universe or even the Earth (note neither the Chinese nor the Celts are mentioned.)  Finally, to put a fine edge on this, the Bible is NOT a scientific textbook explaining all the workings of the Universe.  Why not?  Because that was not God’s intent in giving the Bible to humanity.

That’s why the confusion between those who claim ‘…the Bible says…’ and Galileo.  At times, ‘…the Bible says…’ faction try to make the Bible into something it is not.  I find that futile and tragic.  Remember the Lord’s comments about ‘…stiff necked Jews…’?  I really think He says the same thing about ‘stiff necked Christians’ as well.

The passages which speak about observations of the Sun ‘moving’ in ways not normally seen are absolutely true from the standpoint of the witnesses.  These are NOT made up stories; they are not fairy-tales or conspiracies.  The only error is the human error of misperception.  So why did God allow this misperception in the inspiration of both writing and assembly of the Bible?  The God who sees all, knows all, and orchestrates all actions of man, beast and nature surely didn’t just let these bit ‘slip by’, did He?  I cannot think so.

I think they are just to remind us – to tell us – the Bible is not other than what He wants it to be; His message to us about how to get along with Him.

You know , of course, this means war.  (Thanks, Bugs.)

Not so much the killing and slashing sort of war, but there are going to be many, many people who won’t agree to any of this, simply because it means they have been (taught) wrong all their life and they are comfortable with the rather minor gaffe.  I expect a period of ‘denial’ and ‘adjustment’.  How long with the ‘denial and adjustment phase go on?  Check with Galileo.

I will no doubt be attacked for ‘heresy’, despite all the evidence in the Bible.  The real offense in this is telling people what they do not want to hear.  So many Christians are ‘comfortable’ in their world of belief.  That’s a good thing, by the way; a Christian needs to be comfortable in God through the power of the Holy Spirit.  It gets to be a bad thing when a Christian limits himself to certain boundaries, the boundaries of comfort.

Acknowledging this slight change in doctrine will NOT result in anyone losing their salvation.  No one will be kicked out of Heaven, no one will be shunted off to Hell.  No Bishops or pastors will be defrocked.  There will probably be a rise in taxes, but that has nothing to do with this.  There will be some books re-printed.  The ‘serious theologians’ will be able to argue about this and write books for years.  And attitudes on the limitation of God’s authority and power will be challenged.

Most Christians limit God by their understanding of God.  Essentially, if I cannot understand how God works according to you, then you are incorrect in your belief.  Or in other words, if I believe God is ‘this big’ and I’m comfortable with it, then you demonstrate God is ‘bigger’, I’m uncomfortable with it.  Hopefully, I’ll adjust and realize God is much bigger than I thought.  (Which He is, and I’ve ‘adjusted’ several times now.)

My late father was a Christian, rather devout and a proud (yes, proud) fundamentalist.  One day while watching something on television about scientific investigations in the history of the Universe, the program was talking about the Big Bang Theory (the Cosmological model, not the comedy show).  As they finished explaining how this theory was derived, and what calculations, observations and ‘stuff’, my father stated it was all “…a bunch of hooey.”  I thought it made sense, so I asked him why he thought as he did.

His explanation was simple and to the point:  They didn’t even mention God.  Which, to my father was denying God’s existence.

So I asked my father, “How much is two and two?”

He looked at me with that expression of “…kid’s gone around the curve again…” and carefully said, “Four”.

I replied, “You didn’t say ‘God says two and two is four’, did you?”

He looked away and said, “That’s different”.  I asked him why it was different.  If we are to give God the credit for the laws of physics, aren’t we to give God the credit for the laws of arithmetic?

My father felt ‘tricked’ of course.  Only his view of God was really valid and counted, certainly not the view of his son, who was a dumb kid anyway and thinks he’s too smart for his own good.  However, I did see a hint of him considering the proposition.  Why is arithmetic so different from the origin of the Universe?  Is it possible we don’t think of God as the reality behind arithmetic because we use arithmetic all the time?  Is it possible that arithmetic is more familiar than the origin of space-time?

Along this line of thought, why is not having sexual relations with a person not one’s spouse part of God’s moral law, and drawing to an inside straight is just good sense?  Isn’t ‘good sense’ part of being created in God’s image?  Or one of the abilities God issued and expects us to use?

Is God big enough to orchestrate the scientific view of the Universe?  Or is God bound by my knowledge?

Is God bound by your knowledge?

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One Never Knows

My name is Yakov. I think you would call me “Jacob”. It’s an odd name; it means ‘heel holder’, but Yakov made good – with the Lord’s help. I am in the hospitality business; a ‘hotelier’, you would say. In my day, we didn’t think of it like that. I owned and operated an inn.

Business was good at the time. As it happened, the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus – may he rest in peace! – had ordered all people to ‘register’ for the Roman taxation. Always in my pocket, he was. This ‘registration’ meant everyone had to return to their ancestral homes. Why Caesar couldn’t have just registered them where they were? Don’t ask me; I’m not a Caesar. But it was good for my business; I was full. And then some.

I ran an inn in a little town called “House of Bread”. Apparently at one time, there were some serious bakers in the area. Or perhaps the town planning commission thought it sounded good. About the only thing ‘famous’ about the area was this was from where came David, King of Israel. His father’s land was just out of town a ways. Where? Hah! There are six different places all claiming to be ‘Ranch Jesse’ within walking distance! My father – who lived here during his life – Bless the Lord! – told me it was the one north east of town. He said his father told him that. I’ll take his word for it.

So the place – my inn, that is – was full. Every room was full, people were sharing rooms, people were sharing sleeping mats, beds, chairs and one hammock. The dining room was so full – how full? Well, fat people had to take turns breathing!

So then the new couple showed up. They were really tired. From Nazareth in the north they came. Probably the better part of a week they had traveled. They were tired. And pregnant. My children are all grown up, but I remember when my Hannah was with child. I could tell when I saw her, she was ready. Some women are ready and some are ready; this girl was READY.

And like I said earlier, I was full. Besides, they – the new couple – did not want to be part of that grumpy bunch in the inn. The people in the inn were out of sorts about the taxation and travel. And the new couple were going to be rather busy later that evening. I could tell the signs; she kept rubbing her stomach and stretching, trying to make the little aches go away. Hah! They only go away when the child is born!

There were two other inns in town. One of them – David’s – had sent ME the last two customers who tried to get a room from him. The other inn – run by a scalawag called Nabul. Nabul was a ganav – a thief – who overcharged and his place was so filthy mules and horses run off.

Beside, I’m going to turn away business? Turning away business is no way to make a profit, is it?

And, I remembered when my first born came. Hannah was so brave, so determined. And so BIG. Just like this young woman of fourteen or fifteen summers. We were hoping, in the fulfillment of the prophesy, that our firstborn would be the promised Messiah; the savior of Israel. Everyone hopes that for their firstborn. He wasn’t. He’s a good son and a decent man; but he’s not the Messiah.

But where? Out, am I supposed to throw someone who came earlier? Which ones? They all paid with good money.
I spoke to Yosaf – I think you call him “Joseph” – and made him an offer.

“Yosaf”, I said, “…trust me when I tell you this; you don’t want to stay inside. It’s full and smelly and loud. I have no place to put you and your wife, even at half a denarius a head – the usual rate. However, you have a donkey who needs fed and shelter for the evening. The rate for your donkey – in the stable area – is one-quarter a denarius. AND, you both can bed down close so he doesn’t wander off.”

He looked at me with suspicious eyes. I quickly said,
“It’s quieter out there than inside. And cleaner.”

Just so you know, I keep my place clean. But with that crowd inside, cleaning was a losing battle. At least for this night.

I motioned to Yosaf, “Come and take a look.”
The hay and straw was fresh and plentiful, the place was mucked out earlier that day. The animals present were quiet and going to sleep. There was a certain ‘earthy’ smell in the air, but truthfully, most of the people inside had traveled hard and in the sun, if you get my meaning.

He looked it over and realized I was telling him the truth. Yosaf finally smiled and said, “Yes. Thank you.”

Yosaf moved his young wife into the stable and made a comfortable place for her in the hay. Her name was Meryam if one retains some Hebrew, or Meria in the common language of the Empire; Yosaf called her “Miri”.

I went back inside – oy! – and had my Hannah take out a meal for them. I’m not sure they ate much. When the uproar in the main room died down to where I could, I went up to my quiet room on the roof and went to sleep. Peaceful, delightful, sleep.

ARE THE PHILISTINES ATTACKING AGAIN???

I looked out from under my bed like a frightened rabbit. What was that noise? But it wasn’t the sound of fighting and anger; it was the sound – a large sound, to be fair – of singing. I carefully went to the door way and peered out, trying to locate the source of the sound. My Hannah was even waking up. (A baby crying will wake her in an instant; the Babylonian invasion? Not so much. Morning will be soon enough.) All I could see was a rather bright light, off to the East a bit. What was puzzling was the light was in the air, not on the ground. I thought I saw some shapes, but nothing really distinct. Then it faded out, leaving only a memory of rather wonderful singing.

Going back to sleep immediately was not inviting. I was awake. Startled out of a sound sleep awake. So I made sure my Hannah was comfortable – she was already sleeping again – dressed and went down to look around the grounds to see if anything needed attention.

There are two times when even a – ahem – less than pretty woman is beautiful. Once when she is a happy bride, and when she successfully gives birth to her firstborn. Miri was a rather pretty girl in her own right, and when I saw her that night, she was not only beautiful, she was glowing. I was right, the baby had already come – as I predicted – and they were all comfortable and well. They had cleaned up the child – a manchild, as is proper for a firstborn – and he was wrapped up in the softest fabric they had. That child was gently sleeping, but as I peeked in through the door, I am absolutely sure he opened one eye, looked right at me, smiled, then went back to sleep.

I walked about the stables and the inn, checking to see all was well and nothing amiss. As I was finishing the rounds, I saw a group of tattered looking men walking toward the stables. Naturally I went to see who they were and what they wanted. I was expecting a problem; they were not decent people, they were obviously working class men and not working at the moment.

“What do you want?” I challenged them in my most impressive voice.

“We’re looking for a baby just born!” One of them said. “Is He here?”

I was taken aback. “How did you hear about a baby?” I asked, wondering if I could get to the rake in the stables.

“The angels sent us!” The rest of the conversation was somewhat chaotic. The men were polite and even quiet, but excited and tense. They all tried to speak at once, in a restrained manner. The gist of what they were saying was they were shepherds and had been watching flocks in the hills to the east of town.

They had been – ‘visited’ – by an angel. The angel was a large and imposing person who scared the men so badly they all thought they were going to die. But they didn’t. The angel told them the Savior of Israel was born this day – in the city of David. Then there were many angels, singing in the sky.

My mind brought up a memory of waking out of a sound sleep.

“So why are you here?” I shouted – them remembered and quieted my voice.
“The angel said the King would be sleeping in a feed trough.” And I remembered the feed trough close to Miri in the stable.

“Are you all right, sir?” one of the shepherds asked me.

I shook myself back into wakefulness and quietly said, “Follow me.” And I showed them what had happened. They took one look and all of them kneeled and bowed.

The baby’s name was – still is – Yehoshua. Those of us who speak Hebrew pronounce it that way, the language of the empire pronounces it “Jesus”.

I’ve got a feeling he will do well.

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