Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Boreham and this Photograph

This photograph was valuable in tracking down one of the Hobart homes in which the Boreham family lived. The Hobart church initially lleased at house in Elizabeth Street, just over from the church. This home has since been demolished and has been replaced by a petrol station.

I visited Tasmania (about 1996), with Frank Boreham (Junior) and his wife Betty, to look up the F. W. Boreham sites. During the visit we looked up and down a road to spot the second Boreham family home in Hobart but we did not have the street number. We looked in vain.

About two hours before we had to be at the airport we decided to have another try at finding the home. Walking up and down the street, this photograph and another one taken on these steps and against this wooden paneling provided us with the clue.

I knocked on the door and told them of our mission. They said, “When we purchased this home we were told that it once belonged to a famous author.”

They welcomed us in and we discovered that they were New Zealanders who had previously lived in Mosgiel! The old kitchen table and other furniture that came with the home had been made from beautiful New Zealand kauri wood.

Geoff Pound

Image: Family photo in Hobart.

F.W. Boreham Blogged

Google offers a useful facility if you want to know what other bloggers are writing about F.W. Boreham or the people who are quoting him. It is called Google Blog Search.

By entering F.W. Boreham’s name you are able to discover the most relevant results and you are given the option of searching by date. Sometimes you will find flogs (a place for selling Boreham books) rather than blogs.

If you really want to be advanced you can search for the postings that have been posted in the last hour, 12 hrs, day, week etc.

If you are writing about F.W. Boreham (or any topic) and your postings are not being listed in the Search or you have other questions, the answer might be discovered in the page entitled About Google Blog Search.

FWB would have been amazed!

Geoff Pound

Image: Google Blog Search logo.

Boreham the Editor

F W Boreham was the sixth editor of the New Zealand Baptist and he served from 1899 until he left for Australia in 1906.[1]

New Zealand Baptists were proud of their newspaper. Writing at the time of the NZ Baptist Union’s Jubilee, Dr. J. J. North said:

“No Church has been more consistently served by its denominational organ than has ours. The New Zealand Baptist is the oldest religious paper in this country, with the possible exception of the Catholic Tablet. Every other Church has seen its paper rise and fall and rise again. Ours has kept steadily on.”[2]

Editorial Rating
F.W. Boreham’s contemporaries judged that he maintained and increased the high standard of this publication. Stanley Jenkin said:

“When the century was yet very young, F. W. Boreham, with his journalistic flair and his wealth of literary illustration began to make the "Baptist" conspicuous.[3]

J. J.North wrote of the contribution that the editorial role made to Boreham’s career when he said, “That very brilliant journalist, F. W. Boreham, then of Mosgiel, succeeded to the chair in 1899, and carried his duties with entire success till 1906. He began to find himself as a writer by writing leaders for the New Zealand Baptist.”

“He had a new and novel touch. We remember how he shocked some sober brows by making test cricket a subject for a "leader." "Ipecacuanha" was another. As "Wrox" he wrote the cleverest description of Conference that we have ever had. Some entirely important articles written for the paper by ministers and laymen during his and Dewdney's reigns have their value still.”

“In 1906 F. W. B. went to Australia, to our lasting loss, and the editorial pen was entrusted to H. H. Driver.”

Boreham’s Self-Evaluation
It is interesting to note that in retrospect F. W. Boreham did not think he did a very good job as an editor. He shares his reflections in this published essay (1916) entitled, ‘The Editor.’

THE EDITOR by F. W. Boreham

I APPROACH my present theme with considerable diffidence, for reasons obvious and for reasons obscure. For one thing, I was for some years an editor myself, and I cannot satisfy myself that the experiment was even a moderate success. Everything went splendidly, so far as I was concerned, as long as I wrote everything myself; but I was terribly pestered by other people. They worried me year in and year oat, morning noon, and night. They would insist on sending me manuscripts that I had neither the grace to accept nor the courage to decline. They wrote the most learned treatises, the most pathetic stories, and the most affecting little sonnets. The latter, they explained, were for Poet's Corner. They actually deluged me with letters, intended for publication, dealing with all sorts of subjects in which I took not the slightest glimmer of interest. They sometimes even presumed, in some carping or captious way, to criticize or review things that I had myself written-as though such things were open to question! At other times they wrote to applaud the sentiments I had expressed—as though I needed their corroboration! They were an awful nuisance. The stupid thing was only a monthly, and how they imagined that there would be any room for their contributions, by the time I had been a whole month writing, passes my comprehension. Then came the awakening, and it was a rude one. I suddenly realized that I was a fraud, a delusion, and a snare. I was not an editor at all. I was simply masquerading, playing a great game of bluff and make-believe. As a matter of fact, I was nothing more than an objectionably garrulous contributor who had gained possession of the editor's sanctum, usurped the editor's authority, and commandeered the editor's chair. I felt so ashamed of myself that I precipitately fled, and, although I have several times since been invited to assume editorial responsibilities, I have shown my profound respect for journalism by politely but firmly declining. It does not at all follow that, because a man can make a few bricks, he can therefore build a mansion. A chemist may be very clever at making up prescriptions, but that does not prove his ability to prescribe.

During the years to which I have referred, that paper really had no editor. An editor would have done three things. He would have written a few wise words himself. He would have pitilessly repressed my unconscionable volubility. And he would have given the public the benefit of some of those carefully prepared contributions which I, with savage satisfaction, hurled into the waste-paper basket. It would have been a good thing for the paper if the editorials had been so few and so brief that people could have been reasonably expected to read them. They would then have attached to them the gravity and authority that such contributions should normally carry. And it would have been good for the world in general, and for me in particular, if liberal quantities of my manuscript had been substitutionally sacrificed in redemption of some of those rolls of paper, whose destruction I now deplore, which I consigned to limbo with so light a heart. Since then I have had a fairly wide experience of editors, and the years have increased my respect. `O Lord,' an up-country suppliant once exclaimed at the week-night prayer-meeting, 'O Lord, the more I sees of other people the more I likes myself!' I do not quite share the good man's feeling, at any rate so far as editors are concerned. The more I have seen of the ways of other editors the less am I pleased with the memory of my own attempt. The way in which these other editors have treated my own manuscript makes me blush for very shame as I remember my editorial intolerance of such packages. Very occasionally an editor has found it necessary to delete some portion of my contribution, and, nine times out of ten, I have admired the perspicacity which detected the excrescence and strengthened the whole by removing the part. I say nine times out of ten; but I hint at the tenth case in no spirit of resentment or bitterness. I am young yet, and the years may easily teach me that, even in the instances that still seem doubtful to me, I am under a deep and lasting obligation to the editorial surgery.

The editor is the emblem of all those potent, elusive, invisible forces that control our human destinies. We are clearly living in an edited world. We may not always agree with the editor; it would be passing strange if we did. We may see lots of things admitted that we, had we been editor, would have vigorously excluded. The venom of the cobra, the cruelty of the wolf, the anguish of a sickly babe, and the flaunting shame of the street corner; had I been editor I should have ruthlessly suppressed all these contributions. But my earlier experience of editorship haunts my memory to warn me. I was too fond of rejecting things in those days. I was too much attached to the waste-paper basket. And I have been sorry for it ever since. And perhaps when I have lived a few eons longer, and have had experience of more worlds than one, I shall feel ashamed of my present inclination to doubt the editor's wisdom. Knowing as little as I know, I should certainly have rejected these contributions with scorn and impatience. The fangs of the viper, the teeth of the crocodile, and all things hideous and hateful, I should have intolerantly excluded. And, some ages later, with the experience of a few millenniums and the knowledge of many worlds to guide me, I should have lamented my folly, even as I now deplore my old editorial exclusiveness.

And, on the other hand, we sometimes catch a glimpse of the editor's waste-paper basket, and the revelation is an astounding one. The waste of the world is terrific. And among these rejected manuscripts I see some most exquisitely beautiful things. The other day, not far from here, a snake bit a little girl and killed her. Now here was a curious freak of editorship! On the editor's table there lay two manuscripts. There was the snake—a loathsome, scaly brute, with wicked little eyes and venomous fangs, a thing that made your flesh creep to look at it. And there was the little girl, a sweet little thing with curly hair and soft blue eyes, a thing that you could not see without loving. Had I been there, I should have tried to kill the snake and save the child. That is to say, I should have accepted the child-manuscript, and rejected the snake-manuscript.

But the editor does exactly the opposite. The snake-manuscript is accepted; the horrid thing glides through the bush at this moment as a recognized part of the scheme of the universe. The child-manuscript is rejected; it is thrown away; have we not seen it, like a crumpled poem, in the editor's waste-paper basket? How differently I should have acted had I been editor! And then, when I afterwards reviewed my editorship, as I today review that other editorship of mine, I should have seen that I was wrong. And that reflection makes me very thankful that I am not the editor. We shall yet come to see, in spite of all present appearances to the contrary, that the editor adopted the kindest, wisest, best course with each of the manuscripts presented. We shall see

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroyed,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivelled in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another's gain.

Everybody feels at liberty to criticize the Editor; but, depend upon it, when all the information is before us that is before Him, we shall see that our paltry judgement was very blind. And we shall recognize with profound admiration that we have been living in a most skilfully edited world. For, after all, that is the point. The Editor knows so much more than I do. He has eyes and ears in the ends of the earth. His sanctum seems so remote from everything, and yet it is an observatory from which He beholds all the drama of the world's great throbbing life.

When I was a boy I was very fond of a contrivance that was called a camera-obscura. I usually found it among the attractions of a seaside town. You paid a penny, entered a room, and sat down beside a round white table. The operator followed, and closed the door. The place was then in total darkness; you could not see your hand before you. It seemed incredible that in this black, hole one could get a clearer view of all that was happening in the neighbourhood than was possible out in the sunlight. Yet, as soon as the lens above you was opened, the whole scene appeared like a moving coloured photograph on the white table. The waves breaking on the beach; the people strolling on the promenade; everything was faithfully depicted there. Not a dog could wag his tail but there, in the darkness, you saw him do it. An observer who watched you enter, and saw the door close after you, could be certain that now, for awhile, you were cut off from everything. And yet, as a fact, you only went into the darkness that you might see the whole scene in the more perfect perspective. What is this but the editor's sanctum? He enters it and, to all appearances, he leaves the world behind him as he does so. But it is a mere illusion. He enters it that he may see the whole world more clearly from its quiet seclusion.

In the same way, when I look round upon the world, and see the things that are allowed to happen, the Editor seems fearfully aloof. He seems to have gone into His heaven and closed the door behind Him. `Clouds and darkness are round about Him,' says the psalmist. And if clouds and darkness are round about Him, is it any wonder that His vision is obscure? If clouds and darkness are round about Him, is it any wonder that He acts so strangely? If clouds and darkness are round about Him, is it any wonder that He rejects the child-manuscript and accepts the snake-manuscript? And yet, and yet; what if the darkness that envelops Him be the darkness of the camera-obscura? The psalmist declares that it is just because clouds and darkness are round about Him that righteousness and judgement are the habitation of His throne. It is a darkness that obscures Him from me without in the slightest degree concealing me from Him.

So there the editor sits in his seclusion. Nobody is so unobtrusive. You may read your paper, day after day, year in and year out, without even discovering the editor's name. You would not recognize him if you met him on the street. He may be young or old, tall or short, stout or slim, dark or fair, shabby or genteel-you have no idea. There is something strangely mysterious about the elusive individuality of that potent personage who every day draws so near to you, and yet of whom you know so little.

One of these days I shall be invited to preach a special sermon to editors, and, in view of so dazzling an opportunity, I have already selected my text. I shall speak of that Ideal Servant of Humanity of whom the prophet tells. `He shall not scream, nor be loud, nor advertise Himself,' Isaiah says, `but He shall never break a bruised reed nor quench a smouldering wick.' That would make a great theme for a sermon to editors. "There He is, so mysterious and yet so mighty; so remote and yet so omniscient, so invisible and yet so eloquent; so slow to obtrude Himself and yet so swift to discern any flickering spark of genius in others. He shall not advertise Himself nor quench a single smouldering wick.

There are two great moments in the history of a manuscript. The first is the moment of its preparation; the second is the moment of its appearance. And in between the two comes the editor's censorship and revision. I said just now that I had noticed that editorial emendations are almost invariably distinct improvements. The article as it appears is better than the article as it left my hands. Now let me think. I spoke a moment ago of the child-manuscript and the snake-manuscript; but what about myself? Am not I too a manuscript, and shall I not also fall into the Editor's hands? What about all the blots, and the smudges, and the erasures, and the alterations? Will they all be seen when I appear, when I appear? The Editor sees to that. The Editor will take care that none of the smudges on this poor manuscript shall be seen when I appear. 'For we know,' says one of the Editor's most intimate friends, 'we know that when we appear we shall be like Him—without spot or wrinkle or any such thing!' It is a great thing to know that, before I appear, I shall undergo the Editor's revision.

Charlie was very excited. His father was a sailor. The ship was homeward bound, and dad would soon be home. Thinking so intently and exclusively of his father's coming, Charlie determined to carve out a ship of his own. He took a block of wood, and set to work. But the wood was hard, and the knife was blunt, and Charlie's fingers were very small.
`Dad may be here when you wake up in the morning, Charlie!' his mother said to him one night.

That night Charlie took his ship and his knife to bed with him. When his father came at midnight, Charlie was fast asleep, the blistered hand on the counterpane not far from the knife and the ship. The father took the ship, and, with his own strong hand, and his own sharp knife, it was soon a trim and shapely vessel. Charlie awoke with the lark next morning, and, proudly seizing his ship, he ran to greet his father; and it is difficult to say which of the two was the more proud of it. It is an infinite comfort to know that, however blotted and blurred this poor manuscript may be when I lay down my pen at night, the Editor will see to it that I have nothing to be ashamed of when I appear in the morning.

F.W. Boreham, ‘The Editor,’ Faces in the Fire (London: The Epworth Press, 1916), 57-67.

[1] The editors of the New Zealand Baptist who preceded F. W. Boreham were: Rev. W. C. Spencer (1881-82); Rev. C. Bright (1883,-84); Rev. A. North (1883-87); Rev. L. Shackleford (1887-89); Rev. A. Dewdney (1889-99) in L. A. North, ‘We Editorial Succession,’ New Zealand Baptist, August 1966, 201.
[2] J. J. North, ‘The New Zealand Baptist: Jubilee Retrospect,’ New Zealand Baptist, October 1932, 304-305.
[3] Stanley Jenkin, ‘A Bit from the Heart of a Friend and Fellow-Worker,’ New Zealand Baptist, January 1949, 3.

Image: One editor under pressure and still looking for a story.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Boreham and the Lamplighter

The following is the text of an essay by F W Boreham that appeared in a brochure distributed by the British and Foreign Bible Society [now The Bible Society].


By the Rev. F. W. Boreham, D.D.

How heartily and incredulously Harry Walsh would have laughed if some little bird had whispered in his ear that, in centuries to come, men would speak of William Tindale as a grave and austere scholar, a stern and gloomy reformer, a severe and unbending controversialist! And Humphrey Monmouth would have felt very similarly. For Harry Walsh, a sunny little fellow of six, living at Little Sodbury, and Humphrey Monmouth, an alderman and well-known merchant of the city of London, knew Mr. Tindale as one of the most winsome, one of the most genial and one of the most lovable of men. Their happiest hours were spent in his society. Harry was the elder son of Sir John Walsh, a knight of Gloucestershire, and Mr. Tindale was his private tutor. Here they are, sitting together beside a stile under a giant chestnut tree, surveying from this green and graceful hillside the quaint little hamlet nestling in the hollow! Harry, in all the bravery of his trim velvet suit, with silk stockings and silver buckles, is perched on the top of the stile. His tutor, a young man of thirty, of well-knit frame and thoughtful but pleasant face, with nut-brown hair and deep-set hazel eyes, is seated on the foot-step below him. A little brown squirrel eyes them suspiciously from a branch overhead and a cuckoo is calling from the copse near by. Harry carries an armful of bluebells.

"What wonderful times we are living in" exclaims Mr. Tindale, his eyes sparkling with enthusiasm. "Why, you and I ought to thank God every day, Harry, that he has sent us into the world just now! Every morning brings news of some fresh wonder!"

It was no exaggeration. The air literally tingled with sensation and romance. The world was being made all over again. The very planet was assuming a fresh shape. It was an age of thrills! One day Bartholomew Diaz gave Africa to the world; the next, Columbus presented it with America, and then Vasco da Gama unveiled India! Continents were springing up like mushrooms! And, whilst Columbus was discovering a new world in the West, Copernicus was discovering a new universe in the skies, and William Caxton was introducing a new age with his printing presses! It was the age, too, of the Renaissance and the Reformation!

"What wonderful times we are living in!" exclaimed Mr. Tindale, partly to himself and partly to his young charge perched on the rustic stile. Harry's golden hours are the hours that he spends rambling across the fields or through the woods in Mr. Tindale's delightful company. For he knows that, as soon as they warm to their stride, his tutor will tell him the latest wonder of which the coach from London had brought word.

He goes to London
All things come to an end, however, as Harry discovers to his sorrow. As long as he lived he always declared that the deepest shadow that darkened his happy boyhood was his tutor's resignation. He never forgot the evening on which Mr. Tindale told him that he must leave Little Sodbury.

The candles having been lit, Mr. Tindale, as is his custom, read to the two boys—Harry and Richard—a few verses from his Greek Testament, translating and commenting as he goes along.

"We must read our favourite verses tonight," he had said, with a smile of singular sweetness in which, however, a suspicion of sadness seemed to linger. The boys know exactly the passage to which he refers. They know how dear to him are the verses that he has taught them, too, to love.
"You are of God, little children," he begins, and reads on till he comes to the words We love Him because He first loved us." Those words, he used to tell the boys, were the pearly gate through which be entered the kingdom.
"I used to think," he said, "that salvation was not for me, since I did not love God; but those precious words showed me that God does not love us because we first loved Him. No, no; we love Him because He first loved us. It makes all the difference!"
The familiar passage having been read once more, Mr. Tindale tells them that he is leaving them. The boys are soon in tears and the tutor's voice is husky.

“But why,” demands Richard, in a passion of childish grief, "why must you go?" He draws them to him and attempts to explain.
“I must go," he says quietly, "because I have found the work that God has sent me into the world to do. You have heard the things that have been said at dinner. Great and wise men, even preachers and prelates of the Church, come to dine with your father and mother, and say things that they could not possibly say if they knew aught of the Scriptures. If learned doctors and eloquent preachers are so ignorant of the Divine Word, is it any wonder that the people are it in darkness? A new day is dawning, the people are reading and thinking , it is time they had the Bible in their own tongue; and so, as I told your father and Doctor Hampton at dinner last night, I have resolved that, if God spare my life, I will cause every ploughboy in England to know the Scriptures better than the priests and prelates know them now; but it cannot be done here. I must go to London, and there, I trust, Bishop Tunstall will counsel and assist me." And so, after taking a sorrowful farewell of the household at Little Sodhury, Mr. Tindale turns his face towards London.

He becomes an Exile
But London receives him with a scowl. He soon discovers that he has poked his hand into a hornet's nest. On his first appearance at the palace, the Bishop gives him the cold shoulder; and, when he persists in his overtures, he is threatened with all the thunderbolts that the Church can hurl. By every ship that glides up the Thames, the writings of Martin Luther are being surreptitiously imported into England, and men are being hurried to prison and to death for reading them. The disappointed young tutor never dreams that, in centuries to come, his statue will hold a place of honour on the Victoria Embankment, and that, at its unveiling, princes and peers will bare their heads in reverence to his illustrious memory

And yet, while Church and State frown upon his project and eye him with suspicion, those who come into intimate touch with him are captivated by his charm. From his old employer at Little Sodbury he brings letters of introduction to some of the merchant princes of the metropolis, and in their homes he soon becomes a loved and honoured guest. With Alderman Humphrey Monmouth he stayed for more than six months. On week days he worked quietly at his translation. "But," as an old chronicler says, "when Sunday came, then went he to some merchant's house or other, whither came many other merchants, and unto them would he read some one parcel of Scripture, the which proceeded so sweetly, gently and fruitfully from him that it was a heavenly comfort to the audience to hear him read the Scriptures. He particularly loved the writings of St. John." Harry and Richard Walsh must have smiled knowingly if that last sentence ever came under their notice: "He particularly loved the writings of St. John." They would see again the glowing face of their old tutor and hear him repeat with rapture the words: We love Him because He first loved us.

Two things, however, are now clear. The first is that the people of England are hungry for the Word of God in their mother tongue; the second is that it is out of the question to attempt such a publication in London. This being so, he must brace himself for another painful wrench. Tearing himself from the homes in which so many delightful hours have been spent, he sets sail for the Continent.

He Translates the Scriptures into English
And on the Continent he knows of at least one kindred spirit. Martin Luther is hard at work translating the Scriptures. "Would to God," Luther cried, "that this book were in every language and in every home!" Mr. Tindale decides to hasten to Wittenberg and talk things over with the man who was shaking the very foundations of Europe. It is a pity that we have no classical painting of their historic meeting.

Luther and Tindale! The German Bible of today is the most enduring and most glorious monument to Martin Luther; the English Bible of today is the most enduring and most glorious monument to William Tindale! And here, in 1524, we see the two men spending a few memorable days together!

The rest of the story is well known. We have all chuckled over the way in which Tindale outwitted his old antagonist, the Bishop of London. The New Testament in English is at last complete. But how is it to reach England? The ports are closed against it! The book is contraband! Yet, in crates and casks and cases, in boxes and barrels and bales, in rolls of cloth and sacks of flour and bundles of merchandise, the Testaments come pouring into the country!

“Very well!" retorts the Bishop, "if we cannot ban the books, we'll buy the books and burn them!" He does so, only to discover, as soon as the flames of his famous fire have died down, that, in buying them, he has provided Tindale with the wherewithal to print a larger and better edition!

We have all experienced the thrill of this brave adventurous career. He was harassed; he was excommunicated; he was driven from pillar to post; he was hunted from country to country; he was shipwrecked he was betrayed; he was imprisoned; he was tortured; and, at last, he was sentenced to a shameful death.

And we have all felt the pathos of that last letter of his. He is still in the prime of life; but he is worn out and decrepit. Lying in his damp cell at Vilvorde, awaiting the stroke that is to emancipate his soul for ever, he reminds his friends that the date of his execution has not been fixed and that winter is coming on. "Bring me," he begs, "a warmer cap, something to patch my leggings, a woollen shirt, and, above all, my Hebrew Bible!"
"Above all, my Bible!

The words are eminently characteristic. He lived for the Bible; he died for the Bible; and he mounted the scaffold, and, looking forward into the future, he saw the time when the Bible would be read in every city, town and village throughout the land.

Tindale died a martyr's death on 6th October, 1536, and at the four hundredth anniversary of his passing we do well to honour his glorious memory.

No. 686 June 1938

Source: This essay is a slight adaptation of F. W. Boreham's ‘William Tyndale’s Text’, A Temple of Topaz (London: The Epworth Press, 1928), 262-272. [Tyndale is the spelling used in this essay while the brochure uses Tindale].

Image on pamphlet: The Manor House, Little Sodbury, where Tindale was tutor.

Thanks to Michael Dalton for sending me a copy of this pamphlet.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Boreham Book Contest

Your Chance
Here’s you chance to win a free, postage-paid copy of Lover of Life: F. W. Boreham’s Tribute to His Mentor. This is the new book published by John Broadbanks Publishing.

John Broadbanks publisher, Michael Dalton says: “The word “romance” comes to mind when I think of Boreham’s writings. He has such a wonderful and fanciful way of expressing himself. Though this might be considered a religious book, I think that anyone could appreciate the winsome spirit in which he writes.”

“This is a story of how one man played a pivotal role in the life of a young minister starting out. There are lessons here for everyone.”

Your Task
All you have to do to win a copy is tell the publisher in your own words what books or authors have meant the most to you and why. If you are familiar with Boreham’s writings, let us know what they have meant to you. Anyone can enter.

The entry (or entries) we like the most get a free copy of the new Boreham book.

Just submit your entry by the end of March. Our favorite entries may be posted on line along with the name of the winner (or winners) at The Official F. W. Boreham Blog Site:

You can send your entries directly to:

Mike Dalton
2163 Fern Street
Eureka, CA 95503
Email address:

Boreham and The Total Eclipse

I am grateful to Jeff Cranston who has sent me his reflection on a recent television program which recalled for him, F. W. Boreham’s essay on The Total Eclipse [this follows].

The Discovery Channel recently stepped into the realm of the fantastic, claiming through its recent broadcast, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, that the graves of Jesus Christ and his family have been uncovered.

The program was watched by over four million viewers, the highest ratings for the network since September 2005.[1] The New York Times stated in a review entitled, Leaning on Theory, Colliding with Faith:

“The documentary, which carries the seal of approval from its executive producer James Cameron (‘Titanic’), has already caused some ado, however, with bold assertions that clash with conventional Christian doctrine. Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had a son, Judah, according to the filmmakers. And all three were laid to rest in a family tomb that is now buried deep beneath a Jerusalem apartment complex. And, of course, the filmmakers’ claim that they identified the burial remains of Jesus of Nazareth — including traces of DNA — suggests that he was not bodily resurrected, after all.”[2]

In recent days the propositions of these claims have been met with skepticism and opposition from scholars of all stripes. Historians and archeologists, Christian and non-Christian, have called into question everything surrounding the fanciful assertions of the producers.

Dr. Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA), expressed irritation that the claims were made at a news conference rather than in a peer-reviewed scientific article. By going directly to the media, she said, the filmmakers "have set it up as if it's a legitimate academic debate, when the vast majority of scholars who specialize in archaeology of this period have flatly rejected this," she said.[3]

This reminds me of F. W. Boreham’s essay, “A Total Eclipse” in his book Dreams at Sunset. He relates a fictional story about a man caught in a web of financial bondage who treks off to the Middle East, purportedly discovering a tomb containing the words of Joseph of Arimathea which relate that he took Jesus' body and hid it in the tomb. In a matter of weeks, the resurrection of Christ is soon pronounced a hoax. The indebted man has created this hoax to pay off his debt to a powerful man who wanted to destroy Christianity. As the news spread around the world, Boreham wrote, "Those whose religion is of the formal, superficial kind abandon it; the bubble has burst; they feel ashamed of their gullibility.”

Similar sentiments have been echoed in recent days as many read about the find of the ossuary supposedly containing the bones of Christ. Someone once said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” As we face yet another heresy storming the gates of Faith, Boreham’s essay reminds us that the Scriptural account of Christ’s’ resurrection is an anvil that has worn our yet another hammer.

A Total Eclipse by F. W. Boreham

AMONG the minor sensations of the nineteenth century were the thrillers of Guy Thorne. His most dynamic and explosive production, When It Was Dark, was proclaimed as the most daring and original novel of the period, and enjoyed the distinction of being glowingly commended by the Bishop of London from the pulpit of Westminster Abbey.


It tells how Constantine Schuabe, a millionaire, loathing Christianity with a venomous hatred, resolves, at any cost, to destroy it. Discovering that Professor Sir Robert Llwellyn, the most brilliant antiquarian and archaeologist of his day, is leading a double life and is up to his ears in debt, Schuabe cultivates his acquaintance, lends him fourteen thousand pounds, and, shortly afterwards, demands repayment under penalty of having the whole vile story of Llwellyn's private life exposed.

Whilst Llwellyn is grovelling at the feet of the plutocrat, begging for time, Schuabe startles him by remarking that it would be easy for him to wipe out the debt and become a wealthy man. How? Schuabe tells Llwellyn that he must, on the excuse of ill-health, get a year's leave from the British Museum; he must then go to Palestine and discover that the record of the Resurrection is just a pious fraud.

Backed by his unimpeachable reputation, his verdict will be readily accepted, and Christianity will be an exploded myth. What could be more simple?


A few months later the world learns with speechless amazement that a new cave has been unearthed in the Holy Land. It contains a slab inscribed, 'I, Joseph of Arimathea, took the body of Jesus from the tomb and hid it in this place.' On a ledge nearby a slight mould is spread, probably all that remains of a decomposed body.

The announcement creates a sensation such as the nation has never previously known. Llwellyn's name carries weight. Press, Parliament and people are alike dumbfounded. Stocks and shares collapse. With the decline of public confidence, commerce is reduced to stagnation and industry is paralysed. Bankruptcy and unemployment become the order of the day. Depression reigns everywhere.

When Cyril Hands, whom Llwellyn had employed to do the spadework of the expedition, returns to England, he is overwhelmed by remorse. A servant finds his body on the hearth rug: a newspaper, with its terrifying columns of wretchedness, desolation and ruin, is clutched in his dead hand.

Those whose religion is of the formal, superficial kind, abandon it: the bubble has burst: they feel ashamed of their own gullibility. But there are others. In churches, chapels and mission—halls up and down the country, there are thousands of simple souls whose personal experience of the Saviour's transforming grace has been so vivid, so profound and so convincing that the wave of unbelief fails to affect them.

Among these immovable optimists is Gertrude Hunt, the pretty dancing-girl with whom Sir Robert Llwellyn had become involved. Just before Llwellyn's departure for Palestine, she was taken ill. To Sir Robert Llwellyn's ineffable disgust, Basil Gortre, a young curate visited her, leading her to repentance and faith.

Later on, her sickness having taken a more serious turn, she confronts the bombshell in the newspaper. But it makes no difference. How, with a life as radically changed as hers had been, can she possibly doubt?

Later still, strange thoughts occur to her. Llwellyn was given leave to go to Palestine on the grounds of failing health; yet she, who knew him so intimately, saw no signs of weakness. Why, too, did he brag, before going, that he would startle the world by his discoveries? And why, instead of worrying about his debts, as he used to do, was he now so affluent and reckless of expense?

Moved by a sudden inspiration, she goes to him, pretends that she is tired of being good, and wants everything to be as it once was.

In the surprise of this unexpected denouement, he flings to the winds the forebodings that have increasingly oppressed him, and, in a burst of half-drunken confidence, tells her everything.

As soon as Gertrude leaves him, Llwellyn realizes the enormity of his indiscretion. To relieve his own mind of the intolerable agony, he rushes to Schuabe, the millionaire, and confesses his incredible folly. The two men stare aghast at one another. What is to be done? Nothing can be done: for Gertrude has gone straight to Basil Gortre, the curate who had been the instrument of her regeneration, and put it in his power to hurl into the world a second bombshell.

The general relief is indescribable. Humanity is emancipated. But in the universal rejoicing the principal actors in the drama have no share. Gertrude dies of the malady that has so long afflicted her. Llwellyn, wretched beyond words, completely collapses and passes away whilst confessing to his wife his sordid infidelity. And Schuabe, his immense fortune wrecked by the depression that he has himself created, loses his reason and vanishes from sight. But the world at large is once more bathed in the brightness of the Easter triumph.

F. W. Boreham, ‘A Total Eclipse,’ Dreams at Sunset (London: The Epworth Press, 1954), 27-30.

Image: Total eclipse of the sun.

[1] TV, James Hibberd, March 8, 2007.
[2] The New York Times, Alessandra Stanley, March 3, 2007.
[3] The Washington Post, Alan Cooperman, February 28, 2007.