Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

  • Archives

  • Pages

  • Subscribe

  • Meta

Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Cross To Bear

Posted by Admin on February 5, 2015

Every once in a while, you may hear someone say that a difficult situation is the cross they have to bear.  What they mean by that is that they must accept an unpleasant situation or responsibility because there is no way to avoid dealing with it.  What’s more, it’s a situation or responsibility that can’t be shared or passed along to someone else.  The idiom refers to an emotional or mental burden that brings with it a marked amount of stress and suffering, and, despite its origins, has nothing to do with a physical burden.

The expression, of course, alludes to the crucifixion of Christ who was made to carry his own cross as was the custom during Roman Times.

The idiom was used in the Herald-Journal on January 4, 2007 in an article about the diverse student population and how there were concerns that displaying a cross in the sanctuary in the campus chapel at Virginia’s College of William and Mary might upset some of the non-Christian students attending there.  The second oldest college in America, it was founded at the request of the Anglican Church.  The article by J.R. Labbe was entitled, “Is Tolerating Tolerance A College’s Cross To Bear?

You might wonder if the idiom always has a religious aspect to it.  It doesn’t.  On March 28, 1957 the Milwaukee Sentinel published a news story entitled, “Resemblance to James Dean Riles Actor Dean Stockwell.”  The former child actor was now a striking 20-year-old in film and while his portfolio of performances was impressive, he wasn’t finding himself on easy street.  In fact, the article reported this:

All is not rosy for young Stockwell.  He has a cross to bear:  The late James Dean.  He has the same hair and much the same brooding handsomeness of Dean.

The “Class Leader’s Treasury” by respected Methodist Pastor, Reverend John Bate, was published in March of 1881, and published by the Wesleyan Conference Office in England.  Reverend Bate was also the author of “Cyclopedia of Illustrations of Moral and Religious Truths.”  It’s on page 440 of the “Class Leader’s Treasury” that the following is found:

You would find a heavier cross to bear on turning back than you have to bear in going forward, to say nothing of what you would find when you came to the City of Destruction.

It was undoubtedly a favorite expression of religious men, and it was used in a poem collected by Reverend John Newton, Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth and St. Mary Woolchurch Haw Churches, and included in the “Olney Hymns In Three Books” published on February 15, 1779.  He attributes the poem to the late Dr. Watts. This was part of Hymn 51 in “Book 1 on Select Texts of Scripture.”

Lord, we return thee what we can!
Our heart shall sound abroad,
Salvation, to the dying Man,
And to the rising God!

And while thy bleeding glories here
Engage our wond’ring eyes,
We learn our lighter cross to bear,
And hasten to the skies.

It was used in 1607 to refer to the act of suffering troubles patiently.  It was in the play by John Webster and Thomas Dekker titled, “The Famous Historie of Sir Thomas Wyat” in scene 14 that the term was used.  As you may or may  not know, The Wyatt Rebellion was led by Tudor courtier Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger (his father being English poet and ambassador Sir Thomas Wyatt the Elder) during the reign of Mary I of England.

It was, however, in a letter to Catharine of Aragon (16 December 1485 – 7 January 1536), written by Dutch Renaissance humanist, social critic, and theologian Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (27 October 1466 – 12 July 1536) — also known as Erasmus of Rotterdam — that the idiom is found. The letter was written after her divorce from Henry VIII in 1533.

It is most rare to find a lady born and reared in courts, who binds her hope on acts of devotion, and finding her solace in the word of God. Would that others, more especially widows, would learn to follow your example; and not widows only, but unmarried ladies too, for what so good as the service of Christ? He is the Rock — the Spouse of pious souls — and nearer than the nearest humanitie. A soul devoted to this Husband is at peace alike in good and evil times. He knows what is best for all; and is often kindest when He seems to turn the honey into gall. Every one has his cross to bear; without that cross no soul can enter into rest!”

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of this idiom, and therefore, it’s assumed that the saying, “we all have our cross to bear” is thanks to Erasmus, dating back to 1533.

Posted in Bible, Christian, Idioms from the 16th Century, Religious References | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

Posted by Admin on July 15, 2011

Most people you meet who are nice are genuinely nice.  But every once in a while you meet someone who’s described as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  In other words, they seem nice and charming but looks can be deceiving …. the person is actually very dangerous.

On July 6, 2009 the Bismark Tribune newspaper ran a Letter to the Editor sent in by Ralph Muecke Gladstone.  His opening comments were:

As you should know by now, the U.S. House passed HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.  Better known as the cap and trade bill.  This disastrous and dangerous bill is truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  It supposedly addresses the problem of man-made global warming, which is one of the biggest hoaxes ever conceived.

In Chapter 17 entitled, “The Deadly Peril of Jane Clayton” in Edgar Rice Burrough’s book “Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar” published in 1918, the following passage is found:

Shouldering his way through the crowd he approached the doorway, and had almost reached it when one of the Arabs laid a hand upon his shoulder, crying: “Who is this?” at the same time snatching back the hood from the ape-man’s face.

Tarzan of the Apes in all his savage life had never been accustomed to pause in argument with an antagonist. The primitive instinct of self-preservation acknowledges many arts and wiles; but argument is not one of them, nor did he now waste precious time in an attempt to convince the raiders that he was not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Instead he had his unmasker by the throat ere the man’s words had scarce quitted his lips, and hurling him from side to side brushed away those who would have swarmed upon him.

Center Church in New Haven, Connecticut was founded in 1639 by English Puritans led by Reverend John Davenport, leading the church from April 25, 1638 when it was founded, up until 1668.  Their church was seen as a culture-shaping force as their communities were known as “Bible Commonwealths.”  Records show that revivalist James Davenport, grandson of the founding paster of the Church, accused the Church’s fourth pastor, Reverend Joseph Noyes (pastor from 1716 through to 1758) of being:

… a hypocrite, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a devil incarnate …

Italian poet, Giovanni Maria Verdizotti (1525 – 1600) published his book of fables entitled “Cento favole maroli” in 1570.  One of the stories included was one about a wolf dressed as a shepherd who, upon trying to call the sheep to him, wakes the real shepherd and his dogs who, of course, catch the wolf as he tries to run away now that he has been discovered as being fake as well as dangerous.

The proverb appears in the book “Hecatomythium” by Italian professor, writer and librarian, Laurentius Abstemius (1431 – 1503) and published in 1495.  It should be noted that Laurentius Abstemius was also known by the name of Lorenzo Bevilaqua.  This book is a collection of 100 fables written in Latin, many of which were translated from Greek.  The story of a wolf in sheep’s clothing published in this book is the version that credits Aesop as the author.  The story about the wolf begins with:

A wolf, dressed in a sheep’s skin, blended himself in with the flock of sheep and every day killed one of the sheep.

A second book by Abstemius contained an additional 97 fables and was entitled, “Hecatomythium Secundum” published in 1499. 

Some attribute the saying to Aesop’s “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” fable however there is no record of this fable attributed to Aesop as being written by Aesop prior to the 12th century, casting doubt as to whether it is, indeed, a true Aesop’s fable.  There is, however, a similar story attributed to Greek rhetorician Nikephoros Basilakis in his work “Progymnasmata.”

However, in the end, the spirit of the expression in its original form is found in the Bible in Matthew 7, verses 14 and 15.

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

It was such a well-used and referenced comment that a Latin proverb came into vogue after Jesus’ time, pelle sub agnina latitat mens saepe lupina (under a sheep’s skin often hides a wolfish mind).

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Bible, Christian, Greece, Religious References, Rome | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »