Arnold Toynbee and the Jews -- By: Frank E. Gaebelein

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 113:452 (Oct 1956)
Article: Arnold Toynbee and the Jews
Author: Frank E. Gaebelein


Arnold Toynbee and the Jews

Frank E. Gaebelein

[The substance of an address delivered at The International Congress on Prophecy, Calvary Baptist Church, New York, November 11, 1955. Published with permission of the American Association for Jewish Evangelism.]

[Frank E. Gaebelein is Headmaster of the Stony Brook School for Boys, Stony Brook, Long Island, New York, and a recognized authority on the philosophy of Christian education.]

Arnold Toynbee is unquestionably one of the major figures in the intellectual life of our time. The leading historian of the day, in 1954 he completed his gigantic work, entitled A Study of History. It is doubtful whether any other historian, not even Gibbon excepted, has ever approached the dimensions of this achievement. In sheer scope it is staggering. Toynbee identifies, surveys, compares, and analyzes twenty-six civilizations that have arisen since the dawn of history, and seeks to understand their origin, growth, and decay. With awe-inspiring learning, such as few, if any, other living scholar possesses, he ranges over the whole history of mankind in practically all the nations of the earth—from the Eskimos in the north to the Polynesians in the south. All this, and much more, is put down in ten massive volumes, totalling 6,289 pages of closely-knit argument and exposition.

Toynbee writes with endless embellishment, and is partial to obscure polysyllabic adjectives. Witness the following sentence: “However, the most popular of the racial theories of civilization is that which sets upon a pedestal the xanthotrichous, glaucopian, dolichocephalic variety of homo leucodermaticus, called by some the Nordic man and by Nietzsche ‘the blond beast’; and it is worth while inquiring into the credentials of this idol of the Teutonic market-place.” At this point, his editor, D. C. Somervell, comments in a footnote: “‘Is’t not possible to understand in another tongue?’ asks Horatio. It is: to wit, ‘yellow-haired, grey-eyed,

long-headed variety of white-skinned man’“ (A Study of History, Abridgement of Vols. I-VI by D. C. Somervell, 1947, p. 52). It is only fair to say that at other times Toynbee writes beautifully and with moving power.

This tremendous work is, of course, thoroughly indexed. Moreover, there is D. C. Somervell’s one-volume abridgment of Toynbee’s first six volumes, this in itself being a volume of some six hundred closely printed pages. But, there is as yet no abridgment of the last four volumes. And indeed, it is hardly just to a writer of Toynbee’s stature simply to look up references in an index and to draw conclusions from passages taken out of context. ...

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