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Rethinking Columbus on his day

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By The Staff

Christopher Columbus was also known as Cristobal Colon and as Cristoforo Columbo.

I want to tell you something that is not taught in public schools. Nor is this taught even in most Christian schools.

(By the way, did you know that the Santa Maria at 97 feet long was only 27 feet longer than a Peterbilt tractor-trailer rig?)

After five centuries, Columbus remains a mysterious and controversial figure who has been variously described as one of the greatest seamen in history, a genius, a man of faith, a national hero, an administrative failure and a ruthless and greedy imperialist. It all depends on who you talk to.

Columbus' effort to find a westward route to Asia grew out of the practical experience of a long maritime career, as well as out of his considerable knowledge in geographical, cartographical and theological literature. It must also be remembered that this journey to sail, discover new lands and improve commerce with India and the Far East took place on the eve of the Spaniards’ expulsion of the Moors (Muslims) and Jews from Spain and Portugal.

At the time, all the old maps of the world showed that the Earth was round. Columbus had studied cartography with his brother in Spain. In ancient times sailors knew that the Earth was round, and the scientists not only suspected it was a sphere but even (incorrectly) estimated the world’s size. So when Christopher Columbus proposed to reach India by sailing west from Spain, he was no dummy – he knew that the Earth was round. He just didn’t know of a significant feature called the Western Hemisphere.

But the Church is the authority that persuaded most of the world that the earth was flat. Remember: the Bible talks about “the four corners of the Earth," and the church simply wanted people to accept the Bible. An example is that of Isaiah 11:12. “And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the Earth.” (“Four corners” simply denotes “all”, or “entire”, but does not apply to the Four Corners area of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.)

So the church threatened to excommunicate or kill anyone who disagreed with it. The rule was, that since the Bible says that there are four corners to the Earth and that the sun circles the Earth, you have no recourse except to agree. But that is why we must study Scripture for what it means as well as for what it says (II Timothy 2:15).

Further examination of Columbus's writings and related sources reveal that there was another very important reason for Columbus' desire to sail across the oceans. Christoferens (Christ-bearer) was another version of his name. Christopher believed that he was divinely ordained by God to carry Christianity across the westward ocean to what he presumed were the pagans of the Orient. Columbus knew that God called him to be a global evangelist. His stated desire was that, "the Indian nations might become dwellers in the triumphant Church of Heaven."

What happened to this missionary, this visionary? He got side-tracked. He became corrupted with Gold Fever. Because of his loss of vision, he lost everything that had been reserved for him.

He lost all the riches that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella promised him. He lost the fleet of ships that the king and queen promised him. He lost all the titles of nobility that were promised him. And he lost the privilege of having the new lands named after him.

Whereas Columbus thought he had reached the East (therefore calling the indigenous people “Indians”), a contemporary (Amerigo Vespucci) revealed that the new lands were not the far east, but rather new lands not heretofore known to Europeans. Because Columbus had lost imperial favor, the lands were named after Amerigo Vespucci. Of course, we know the continent as North, Central, and South America.

Columbus’ first trip was in 1492, his fourth trip was in 1504, and he died in 1506. To his dying day, he tried to rebuild his fortune, his reputation, and his status in life. But he died a broken man just two years after his fourthth trip.

Let’s not allow greed to destroy our lives as it did Christopher Columbus.