Pt. 4 A lost book returning?
What exactly does Richardson write about these cultures? Chapter 2 is entitled "Peoples of the Lost Book", which describe tribes whose ancestors had lost "the book" a sacred book from God. “Some of them looked forward to the day when this book would be restored”.
They are “peoples of the Lost Book — The Karen, the Kachin, the Lahu, the Wa, the Shan and Palaung Peoples, the Kui, the Lisu, the Naga, and the Mizo and their legends of a lost book that would return and show the way to restore their peoples to God.” (Eternity in their Hearts)
Richardson introduces a mystery, they all had a book. Throughout his book “Eternity in their Hearts” Richardson says numerous cultures (hundreds actually) knew and worshiped the true supreme God in the past but lost the book and that it would come back to them by “white men.”
Richardson’s slant on the scripture is apparent because of his worldview of inclusivism of cultures.
“One, gains an unmistakable impression that the Sky- God wanted to communicate with people of various folk religions all the time, but for His own mysterious reasons maintained a policy of restraint until the arrival of Yahweh's testimony! This is surely a powerful extra-biblical evidence for the authenticity of the Bible as revelation from the one true and universal God! (Don Richardson Eternity in Their Hearts p. 51: 1981)
Believers do not refer to the God of heaven and earth as the pagans do, a sky god. Mysterious; hardly. Not when you include Israel, then the picture is clear. God worked through this one nation that He formed to reach the others.
Richardson quotes Alonzo Bunker on this particular point:
‘“They once had a " white book," given them by Yuah; that through neglect to read and care for it, they had lost it, just as they had lost Yuah's fellowship; and for this reason they were ignorant and afflicted.
These prophets not only foretold the coming of the Deliverer, but described him, and the manner of his coming. He was to be a "White Foreigner' and was to come from the " west," with " white wings," and bring the " White Book." (P.81 Soo Thah A Tale of the Making of the Karen Nation by Alonzo Bunker)
Richardson instead uses Y'wa' which is not in Bunker's book. Regardless, you can’t have it both ways. The Bible was written by the Hebrews. God gave zero revelation to these other cultures, but the oracles to Israel. He showed his love for the nations by giving their basic needs (Acts 14), not a revelation of himself in a book. Israel spread the message of the true and living God as they would allow anyone, people of any culture to convert and become a Jewish believer unto the true God and learn His ways.
There is no evidence there were 100’s of cultures that believed in a monotheistic God as Israel did. They may have had a supreme god (over or with other gods) but this does not mean their supreme god is the same God of whom God identified himself with, the nation Israel.
The worldview Richardson promotes with these tribal peoples is not a Biblical one but a cultural one. What Richardson applies (rather shrewdly) is what happened 4,000 years ago to the time period AFTER the new covenant was established. Israel’s covenant and Jesus was not just one of the ways God made to himself. When the new covenant was established there was only Jesus Christ as the way, so his theory does not work when one introduces Biblical teaching and history into his theory.
People can believe what they want, but they should not base their beliefs on men’s assumptions on passing on myths, stories without concrete evidence; especially on something this crucial. This theory carries an agenda of making these many culture's gods “inclusive,” as the Father who sent the Son. Richardson is salvaging passed on stories and cultural myths with the intent to make them significant and give us success in reaching the people. As we will see, not all the stories are accurate or even believable.
Many heard of the biblical accounts after travelers or missionaries came through their lands and then incorporated the stories into their own history, after all there were well over a thousand years from when the gospel was first given. Missionaries had been travelling for hundreds of years.
As I read this theory, the first question I (and others) ask is: how did this many people lose a book for centuries that was their life? As Richardson says it is, “A sacred book,” God's “sacred writing.” I can understand one tribe, possibly losing it, but 10 tribes (or more)? This is not believable, but the answer we are looking for are in the records.
Was this book the Bible or one of their own books? We will never know because no one can show any evidence.
Richardson lists 10 cultures losing a book, how is this possible? We hear in the 1880’s, Pu Chan, a Wa tribesman, persuaded several thousand of his people to abandon headhunting and spirit-appeasement. He said the true God was about to send the long-awaited ‘white brother with a copy of the lost book’ that had been part of their folk-lore from time immemorial.”
“Siyeh, the true God, Pu Chan said, was about to send a long-awaited "white brother with a copy of the lost book." If he came close to Wa territory and heard that the Wa were practicing evil things, he might think them unworthy of the true God's book and turn away again! If that happened, Pu Chan warned, surely the Wa would never get another chance to have the lost book restored to them.” (p.87 Eternity in their Hearts)
This does not make sense for the true God offers his way to sinful man by grace; everyone is unworthy. Does God tell people a book is coming or have us bring the gospel?
If God was silent to them all this time after delivering a book how can one consider him the same living God that continually communicated to Israel and wrote about and sent Jesus Christ?
Who are these white men with a book? Clearly, they heard stories of missionaries (mostly European), or travelers speaking of the Bibles God beforehand. No other culture went out to tell others of their God. What does a culture do when they were isolated and hear about this? They become concerned, they know they are in jeopardy. The majority of these cultures life and customs were based on their religious beliefs. They either incorporate what they heard into their beliefs as their own, claiming they once knew of this same God.
This is a story within a greater story. Each missionary repeats what is passed down. But if the natives and they know nothing about this book, how do we believe what they say about the book that was passed on to them?
“In 1795 an English diplomat in Burma received an usually friendly welcome from the Karen people. They asked if he was the ‘white brother’ they had been expecting for countless generations. If he were, he would have with him a book that their forefathers has lost. It was written by Y’wa, the Great God, and it would free them from their oppressors.” (Eternity in their Hearts)
Again, I ask, which book would this be? The only book is the Bible. That began being written 1,500 years before Christ and was developed for over 1,100 years by the Jewish prophets. How did these cultures get this book without direct contact with the Hebrews? There was no printing press only Jewish scribes who copied the book for their own people.
1,500 years before Christ (that is 3,500 years from today) the tabernacle and the priesthood were given to Israel exclusively for true worship. The instructions for sacrifices were specific. God gave man a certain way to approach Him. Richardson disregards that Israel was given the oracles and the covenants. The way the Bible presents things is minimized as he finds a few shreds of similarity to make his claims of inclusivism.
70% of the Karen are Buddhist, Buddhist-animist, or animist (today 20% to 30% are Christian).
They were considered unlettered, having no language, but their oral tradition came from their first convert Ko Thah-byu, who was born about the year 1778.
We read in the book The Karen Apostle, “The Catholics, who preceded Protestants in Burmah several decades.” (Francis Mason, The Karen Apostle (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1861), p. 10.) In fact, before Judson came to Burma, Roman Catholic missionaries have worked there since 1599. So if one wants to understand any influence it would certainly come from them, also the Siamese would take the Karen as slaves. Certainly there was interchange among the various people groups in the area as they heard stories.
Francis Mason in his book The Karen Apostle writes “formerly the Karens had no books, and when they wished to learn to read, they went to the Burmese, or Siamese, or Taling kyoungs.*(The Karen Apostle: or, Memoir of Ko Thah-byu by Francis Mason)
The point is: the book which is to return is the Bible.
“During the 1830s, a Karen named Sau-qua-la gave an address before the English governor-general of Burma. He said that Europeans, the "white foreigners," were originally younger brothers of the Karen people! The Karen, as older brothers (rascals that they were), negligently lost their copy of Y'wa's book. The white brothers, on the other hand, carefully preserved their copy. As a result white people became "righteous" and are known as "guides to God." (p.85 Eternity in their Hearts)
Richardson quotes of their teaching of a white brother, "He's supposed to bring them a book," the guide said. "A book just like one their forefathers lost long ago. They are asking—with bated breath—`hasn't he brought it?'"…"They say the author is Y'wa—the Supreme God. They say also . . . " at this point the Burman's face began to darken with unease, " .. . that the white brother, having given them the lost book, will thereby set them free from all who oppress them." (p.75 Eternity in their Hearts)
Numerous times this book was said to be lost, “And the Kachin, like the Karen. Believed that Karai Kasang once gave their forefathers a book which they lost” Kachin beliefs did not specify how the lost book would be returned to them, but apparently they were open to the possibility that it would one day be restored." (p.85 Eternity in their Hearts). “The Kachin also believed that their forefathers had once possessed Karai Kasang's sacred writing!” (ibid. 97)
Richardson makes the point that it will be brought back and that the Bible fulfills this. So then he is saying they had the Bible, or a portion of it. How? Think about this, don’t just accept any story someone tells us.
To say they all had a book that they all lost is one of the lamest explanations I have ever heard in trying to synthesize a culture's past to know God.
(Ed. Note: Just as Richardson would be considered an expert on the Sawi spending the years there we have Ola Hanson, who is an expert on the Kachin who lived among the Kachin that said they did not worship a supreme being).
Who lost what book?
Why are the details and events so vague, why is there no scripture from numerous cultures who claim to once have the book? God put His word in writing because oral traditions cannot be trusted. But this is what Richardson mostly uses for his proof for these cultures worship.
Who had this book in their tribe? When did they lose this book, when did they receive it? Who was in possession of this book? How can they call it a book if they never saw a book; what language was it written in? Who translated it for them? How did they read it if they had no written language. If the book was in their language why is it that each of these cultures had only one? Were they given only copy, why was it not replaced? We are looking at a story of multiple cultures that all lost this same book? Is it the Bible? Is it Deuteronomy or the gospel of Luke? No one knows because it is lost, everyone lost it.
Do you believe this?
How did they lose a book their culture used to practice? How did this many people lose a book for centuries that was their life?
Where are the quotes from these books. We only hear someone telling a missionary there is a book with some references to creation, a flood etc. But the details when given, are certainly not correct.
How do we know the story was passed on to the missionary accurately? There are far more questions to be answered than answers given.
So lets summarize this-- they had a book about God. What did it say? We don’t know because they lost it. Really! They lose a book and God abandons them? Which book is it? Is the Old Testament, a portion of it; the New Testament, a single book in the New Testament? No details are given, its all general statements. Supposedly passed on and collected by Richardson.
So now let’s look at this logically, how was it lost, who lost it, how do they even know it is lost.
They had a book, know one knows what the book is, or what it says. They don’t even know the name of this book. Richardson using this explanation is Sophomoric.
The word book comes from old English "bōc" which is the Germanic root "bōk." The Latin word codex, meaning a book in the modern sense (bound and with separate leaves), originally meant "block of wood".
When they refer to an ancient book it was before books were made, they were scrolls. Before the invention of the printing press, nearly all scrolls were copied by hand, which made books rare and expensive. Changing a book into another language, one that many did not know would be a very time consuming difficult task. Many of the cultures did not have a set language so how did they have a book and teach their people to read? When contrasted with reality this does not fit.
The book could not be the same book for all these cultures, nor is it likely it was the Bible.
The definition of ignorance is -The condition of being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed. When one is oblivious, unfamiliar. This is applied not just on their part of the deliverers of the story, but to those who believe this myth of a lost book that had them know God.
Richardson is using this as a ploy to explain their culture's gods as the true God, to promote his “inclusive theory,” that God prepared all the cultures for the gospel.
Actual answers for a lost book
Richardson quotes Herman Tegenfeldt several times. Tegenfeldt was an American Baptist missionary who left Burma in 1966 (William Carey Library 1974. Tegenfeldt, A Century of Growth, p. 45.) Tegenfeldt refers to Hanson, the missionary who did the actual work in the 1800’s.
All Richardson has of Hanson is this, “Tegenfeldt quotes a writer named Hanson who claims that the Mizo people also possessed traditions of a sacred book. Pathian originally gave it to their forefathers, but they subsequently lost it.”(p.91 Eternity in their Hearts)
To further complicate matters Hanson does not mention any Pathian or the Mizo people (India) in his book.
Richards opts in quoting someone from our modern era and not the original missionary that was involved who wrote the primary resource. The problem that immediately surfaces is embellishments, making connections that are not rational, historically there to support his unbiblical theory. Ola Hanson a Swedish-American missionary from Minnesota with his wife were appointed by the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society in 1890 to the Kachin people of Upper Burma and they lived among them for over 20 years and wrote the book “The Kachins and their Customs and traditions”.
Another writer gives us the story “They also told of a book that they had lost. The Kachin version states that God gave each race a book. On their way home from their meeting with God, the Kachins became hungry, so they ate their copy. The Karens, a neighboring tribal group, had a prophecy stating that one day a foreigner would bring the copy of the book back to them.”http://mykachin.wordpress.com
Words mean something, and when the stories do not match we have a problem, “The Kachins were 100% illiterate in 1890.” For 28 years Oda Hanson lived among the Kachin people, Hanson completed the New Testament translation 20 years later and the Old Testament translation in1926. Thank God for men who took the time to make a difference.
This next part is crucial and if you do not read anything else consider this from the man who gave the Bible in their language.
“The story of a lost book is universal among the illiterate races of Burma. Just what is behind the tradition is impossible to say, but it may in the case of the Karens, at least, represent a faint echo of a higher form of civilization in days gone by than they now possess. The Kachin rendering of this interesting episode is as follows.
" When the world had been set in order and the different races assigned their respective homes, Ninggawn wa Magam, after having built a house on the Shdjang mountain, and a dancing floor on the Sumhpan plain, and after having propitiated all the fates, called the children of men together and informed them that now he was ready to return to his great central palace. The tribes of men implored him to remain, as without him they would be helpless. This request he could not grant, but he gave to the wild boar his tusks, and to the hornbill its gorgeous plumage. “Likewise for the help of mankind he gave to each race a book. The Chinese received a book on paper; the Shans and Burmans books of palm-leaves, to foreigners he also gave paper books, but the Kachins received a book of parchment. On the return the recipient of the Kachin book prepared and ate it, either to appease his hunger or else because he thought this the best way to preserve it. (This point is not quite clear.) But at all events since that day the Kachins have had no written book” (ibid.p. 117 underline mine)
Hanson writes: “They have never had a written language, even though there is a tradition of a "lost book." This story handed down in various versions seems to be common property among illiterate tribes all over Asia, and so with the legend of the "flood." … Only twenty years ago I published the first book in a Romanized alphabet that had eve been seen in Kachin” (ibid p.97)
“When he heard the story of the lost book, Hanson determined that he would restore the book to the Kachins — he would give the Kachins the Bible in their own tongue.” (The Kachins and their Customs and traditions” by Rev. O. Hanson, 1913)
Eating a book right after receiving it is certainly not the same as losing it. Besides the fact they never got to read it… but then they couldn’t, because according to the early missionaries they were illiterate, they had no language.
Hanson used their myth and gave them the right book, though he questioned their story. As with anything researched, its always good to go back to primary sources for accuracy.
Now we know this story is not true because only Israel had a book and it was written over a span of 1,500 years by many of their own people who were their prophets. So no book which we have today as the Bible could have been given this far back in the past. Therefore, we must categorize this as a myth, a legend probably an adoption of stories heard.
Richardson made some clear statements that are embellished and inaccurate. He does not mention the Karen and Kachin eating their book, instead he mentions the Naga from India having their book eaten not lost.
“At least one of the 24 Naga tribes—the Rengma—specified that the Supreme Being gave His words to their forefathers by writing them on animal skins. But the forefathers did not take good care of the skins. Dogs ate them up!" (p.90 Eternity in their Hearts)
This is more like the story of the Kachin. Except the dogs ate it; sure and they ate my homework too. Real believable. What nonsense, it's hearsay and it’s a myth.
Contrary to this myth, God wrote his words for Israel to Moses, first on the stone, then the book of law that was carefully preserved in the ark of the covenant. Richardson is perpetuating a myth that they (these other tribes) also had sacred words that were mishandled in the past. And the story certainly puts it in the context of the tower of Babel, with the Lord personally delivering it to the tribes.
The real problem is that there was no direct communication to these cultures by God as He continually revealed himself to Israel. This is why Richardson boosts general revelation, giving it an ability it does not have; so it can be sufficient. But general revelation can never be enough to bring one into a relationship, it can only make one aware that God exists.
The possibility of a culture having portions of the Bible passed on to them in our age is somewhat feasible, but to say 10 different cultures had an ancient book (the same one, the Bible) and they all lost it is incredulous to believe. Who in each tribe was in possession of this one book and why was it not copied for others?
Richardson is doing gymnastics to thread the needle, proposing a sacred book which neither he nor they can prove (its hearsay), it means absolutely nothing. If one concedes this, than oral tradition, such as creation or the flood that is far more acceptable than a book on God. But these cultures that apparently had a book had no more accurate revelation on the flood or creation then those without a book. How does one honestly account that they knew God when they don’t even remember what book they had that was given by him?
God gave them books. How does this compare to Israel receiving her books through the prophets over the span of 1,500 years. This story must be categorized as a myth when it is scrutinized along with the Bible that we all cherish. But Richardson sees it as significant, accurate history that fits into his cultural synopsis, so it is used.
A book was given, by the apostles and prophets Rom. 16:25-26 “according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations”
They had no faith, not because the book is gone (what did the first generation do when they found this out?). It's because they never knew God. They didn’t seek Him, they didn’t even know who to seek.
The eternal living God did not speak to these people, he not give them the same revelation He gave to Israel? That may be disturbing to some, but that is what the Bible teaches, so his view is not God’s perspective of the other nations. Psalm 147:19-20 “He declares His word to Jacob, his statutes and His judgments to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation; and as for His judgments, they have not known them.”
Micah 4:5 All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we (Israel) will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever. Acts 14:16: “who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.”
Back to the Karens – their prophet and their revelation
“men called Bukhos, a special kind of teacher representing not demons but Y'wa, the true God—yes, the Karen actually esteemed them as prophets of the true God—kept reminding the Karen that the ways of Y'wa and the ways of nats (evil spirits) were not the same. (p.77 -78 Eternity in their Hearts). These offerings were to be made to his servants the nats [demons] who presided over certain diseases, as well as accidents p.80; bondage of the Nats (evil spirits) (p.100 ibid)
How did their prophets have the Holy Spirit? (Kikawa claims this for the Hawaiians before the missionaries came)
(Satan) Mu-kaw-lee instructed them in the principal offerings to be made [for] various kinds of sickness. These offerings were to be made to his servants the nats [demons] who presided over certain diseases, as well as accidents” (p.8o Eternity in their Hearts) Mu-kaw-lee Is a feminine deity.
It’s not just what Richardson writes, but neglects write, because it does not fit into his presentation.
Richardson left some main points out that change the context. Hanson in his book “The Kachins and their Customs and traditions” (1913) accurately points out, “These nats correspond more closely to our ideas of demons or evil spirits; still they are not all bad, and they are capable of good deeds as well as evil.” (Chapter XII. In Quest of the Unknown). “To obtain riches and prosperity, and to find relief in case of illness. The nats are the guardians of life, property and destiny, and their good will and favor are essential to health, prosperity and happiness.”
The Karen- Israel connection:
The problem, these are stories from 100 plus years ago from tribal people. For example, Richardson says: “Could it be that Karen beliefs about Y'wa predate both Judaism and Christianity? Did such beliefs spring from that ancient root of monotheism which characterized the age of the early patriarchs? The answer is almost certainly—yes! (p.84 Eternity in their Hearts)
Really! He is claiming this whole culture had knowledge from a book, not just a few individuals. In all of history one cannot find this to be true unless it was Israel. Which patriarchs is he referring to? Before Abraham, we have Job (and a few friends), and Melchizedek. Two individuals the Bible mentions as unique. And the Karen people had this knowledge before Israel? How is this even possible when the Bible says otherwise. Richardson gives no proof.
Furthermore, if the Karen had this knowledge before Judaism that means they had it before they existed as a tribe? The Bible tells us from Babylon the nations went into idolatry, this is why God took Abram, to make a nation of true worshipers.
Jeremiah 10:7: “For among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like You.” What nation other than Israel did God make a covenant with? (Heb. 8:8; Jer.31:31)
Richardson states: “But the Karen live 4,000 miles from Jerusalem. Granted, their name for God Y'wa—suggests influence from the Jewish Yahweh, but no equivalents for Abraham and Moses, the second and third most important figures in Judaism, have been reported by compilers of Karen tradition.”
Francis Mason in his book The Karen Apostle: does not mention Y’wa at all, but has the term “God.” The Memoir of Ko Thah-byu, Soo Thah the making of the Karen Nation by Alonzo Bunker (1902) writes his name is Yuah, not Y’wa. Unless these tribes had direct contact with Israel or were Jewish converts they did not have the SAME God or a book. We know this because of what God himself said in His books to the Hebrews by the prophets. A similar name which is Yuah does not mean it is the same; In The Karen Apostle we read, "The Karens were the elder brother, They obtained all the words of God; They did not all believe the word of God, And became enemies to each other” (The Karen Apostle: or, Memoir of Ko Thah-byu)
They had a book before they knew what a book was? With all the words of God? They rejected God, His word, they left God just as the Bible says in Rom.1. The fact is the Karen are not reported to be the elder tribe; “the Karens, Chins, Nagas, Garos, Mishmis and Abors are related tribes to the Kachin.”
Richardson writes a story of an old prophet of the village. . . Saying:
"`O children and grandchildren, formerly Y'wa loved the Karen nation above all others. But they transgressed his commands, and in consequence... We suffer as at present. Because Y'wa cursed us we are in our present afflicted state and have no books.‘
"Then a great hope seemed to light up his face as, looking toward the stars, . . . He exclaimed: 'But Y'wa will again have mercy upon us, and again he will love us above all others. Y’wa will save us again.” (p.78 Eternity in their Hearts, Don Richardson)
If this is what Y’wa said to them, then they were lied to. Because the true God who wrote the Bible said through his true prophets, “Israel is his special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth , the excellence of Jacob whom He loves.”
Deut 14:2 "For you are a holy (separate) people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
Ps. 135:4-5 “For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure. For I know that the LORD is great, and our Lord is above all gods.”
This statement of Y’wa directly challenges the place of Israel among the nations. And these myths being used as confirmation of other cultures knowing God, need to measured by the Bible, not just accepted because of a few similar words in oral traditions.
Deut 10:14-15 "Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it. "The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day.”
Now we see the immediate problem of his theory of a lost book, it challenges God’s revelation to Israel and for the world. Richardson seems to have gotten pertinent facts confused. How can there be this many separate tribes or cultures monotheistic after Babylon, none of this is true.
Richardson has accepted their book stories as true without ever seeing it. This is all Richardson’s opinion, not God’s truth. The Holy Spirit is the one who authored the Scripture through men (prophets). How could they have a book written by God at this time (before Moses). Moses was the one who wrote the first book of the law. If this revelation is after Moses then he has to admit they had some contact with Israel or Jews. Because Logically, if God gave them a book would He not superintend their lives to keep it? He did for Israel. Richardson is claiming numerous tribes had the same monotheistic religion, they all lost the same book before the printing press.
The lost book argument cannot be substantiated since they only have rudimentary comments that are similar before the Bible was written. All scripture is inspired by God. Richardson has endorsed these tribes having books from God without ever seeing them, it's hearsay! Stories like these should not be entertained as valid, there’s no evidence, just hearsay. There is nothing related to the Bible that is accurate in detail. There is no proof their book was the Bible, and there is no other book that is from God.
I’m sorry to say the obvious, some of the American Baptist missionaries reinterpreted the culture's myths (Christianizing them) referring their stories to be near biblical, making their God as the Hebrew Yahweh and Mu Kaw lee as Satan. Then they offered the Christian Bible to them as their lost book. It was the right thing to offer, but it was not truthful in the way they went about it, even though it worked. Today Richardson (like the missionaries) superimposes Christian beliefs into folk religions because of general statements of a supreme being. No religion leads one to the Father without the Son, Jesus Christ.
What Richardson is writing is Biblically problematic. Concerning a lost book; I find this theory to be disingenuous. It challenges the bible where God clearly spoke that He did not give other nations the revelation He gave Israel, the Gentiles did not know him.
Now we can move on to the specifics that contradict his research with a careful, conscious look at the evidence and learn why Don Richardson is Myth Making.