Americans celebrated Columbus’s discovery of the New World and built numerous monuments to him in the late 19th century. The city of Columbus, Ohio was established in 1812. In addition, cities and towns, streets and health facilities, libraries, universities, schools, and in modern times sport teams bearing his name are symbols of his American stature. Columbus Day is a national holiday in the United States, proclaimed so in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Christopher Columbus wrote a book entitled Book of Prophecies, in which he copied down Scripture pertaining to bringing the gospel to unknown coastlands. The following is an excerpt from his Introduction to the book:
At a very early age I began to sail upon the ocean. For more than forty years, I have sailed everywhere that people go. I prayed to the most merciful Lord about my heart’s great desire, and He gave me the spirit and the intelligence for the task: seafaring, astronomy, geometry, arithmetic, skill in drafting spherical maps and placing correctly the cities, rivers, mountains and ports. I also studied cosmology, history, chronology and philosophy.
It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel His hand upon me) the fact that it would be possible to sail from there to the Indies. All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me. There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because he comforted me with rays of marvelous illumination from the Holy Scriptures … encouraging me to continually to press forward and without ceasing for a moment they now encourage me make haste.
Our Lord Jesus desired to perform a very obvious miracle in the voyage to the Indies, to comfort me and the whole people of God. I spent seven years in the royal court, discussing the matter with many persons of great reputation and wisdom in all the arts; and in the end they concluded that it was all foolishness, so they gave it up. …
It is possible that those who see this book will accuse me of being unlearned in literature, of being a layman and a sailor. I reply with the words of Matt. 11:25, “Lord, because thou has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hath revealed them unto babes. …
For the execution of the journey to the to the Indies I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics or maps. It is simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied. All this is what I desire to write down for you in this book.
No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Savior, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service. The working out of all things has been assigned to each person by our Lord, but it all happens according to His sovereign will even though He gives advice. He lacks nothing that it is in the power of men to give him. Oh what a gracious Lord, who desires that people should perform for Him those things for which He holds Himself responsible! Day and night moment by moment, everyone should express to Him their most devoted gratitude. …
1. What do you know from your American History textbook about Christopher Columbus’ motive for his voyages? How does that contrast with what Columbus himself said?
2. What academic subjects did Columbus study?
3. Which of the following words do you not associate with Christopher Columbus: adventurer, discoverer of the New World, Christian, sailor. Why is this so?
4. What most surprises you about the excerpt from Columbus’ book? Why?
5. Columbus wrote a letter in 1493 to King Ferdinand’s treasurer reporting on his voyage. (To read the letter, go to http://usm.maine.edu/maps/web-document/1/4/sub-/4-translation.)
Re-read paragraph 9 of the letter which begins “Yet when they perceive that they are safe…” Does Columbus’ report differ from what you have learned in your history textbooks? Explain your answer.
6. What did you discover about Christopher Columbus (from the excerpt of his book, his letter to the treasurer, or from the links in “Resources” below) that you didn’t already know?
Read excerpts from Christopher Columbus’ journal during his journey in 1492 www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/columbus1.html.
Read the letter from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to Columbus regarding his first voyage commissioned by the King and Queen at patriotpost.us/historic/documents/11.
Read “The Mission and Faith of Christopher Columbus” and “The Myth about Christoper Columbus” at eagleforum.org.
Read more about Columbus at The Mariners’ Museum website mariner.org/education/christopher-columbus.
Consider reading a biography of Christopher Columbus by Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus.