By Dale Smelser
Dr. Arthur Custance has produced four volumes of a proposed ten-volume set of books. The set is a study of the Bible in relation to extra biblical sources such as anthropology, the physical sciences and oriental languages, intended to heighten our appreciation for the times and circumstances of biblical history. His information substantiates a literal interpretation of the Bible, thus is evidential and apologetic in nature.
Dr. Custance is another of a growing number of bona fide scientists expressing faith in the scriptural account concerning the origin of man and God’s dealings with him. He is an anthropologist whose studies indicate a knowledge of a broad spectrum of the sciences. He is a member of the Canadian Physiological Society, a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and a member of the New York Academy of Science. He is also a Calvinist, even entertaining aspects of particular predestination. More will be said about this in reviews of specific material.
Some of the material in the Doorway Papers series obviously has been written as separate articles some time in the past. Some is obviously recent. Dr. Custance does not dodge or ignore evidence difficult to interpret while giving only evidence which readily harmonizes with the scriptural account. The reader will find some fresh approaches. In his studies on creation and evolution, the reader will find some very old and controversial approaches. Some explanations will seem like oversimplification, but it comes off as justified while waiting for further verification from our growing knowledge. It is not a perfect work. There is repetition. It is often interesting. Sometimes information is just cataloged. It is tedious when trying to sift through his Calvinism to come up with material that is satisfying. His work is not a harangue. It bears the stamp of a scientist; a kindly one. But there are moments when the sparks fly and the unbeliever will feel the sting.
Volume I: Noah’s Three Sons
In Noah’s Three Sons, Arthur Custance, as an anthropologist, takes off from Genesis 9:24-27 and the table of nations in Genesis 10 to explain a predetermined course for the history of the nations. In the implications of this text he shows how he believes God has been in control of the settling of the earth and the development of history, or, how God has determined the appointed seasons and bounds of man’s habitation (Acts 17:26).
He sees human history in three dimensions, with Noah’s three sons and their respective posterity making their own unique and respective contributions, and that by God’s design. Japheth has contributed to thought and understanding, and thus philosophy. Shem has contributed spiritual qualities and thus religion. Ham has contributed practical solutions to elementary problems and thus technology. Their descendants have generally been typified by the same respective qualities.
In this, Custance rejects the classification of mankind into Saucasian, Mongoloid, and Negroid types, citing anatomical reasons for the difficulty of such classification. He classifies men as Japhethites (the IndoEuropean peoples), the Shemites (Jews and Arabs), and Hamites (all colored peoples, including Longoloid).
If one thinks he finds an exception to the principle of spiritual thought deriving from the Shemites, noting that Buddhism and Confucianism came from colored and Mongoloid peoples and thus Hamites, Custance answers that such are not true religions in the spiritual sense, but are really practical concepts of living, and thus in harmony with his concept of the practical qualities of the Hamites. One the other hand, the Jewish, Christian, and Moslem religions came through Semitic peoples.
Custance notes that for secure civilization and progress, there is required contribution from all of these three dimensions, and that the exclusion of any has been detrimental. The practical qualities of Ham did not improve man intellectually or spiritually. The thought of the Japhethites without Ham’s contribution could become stagnant as in Greece. And exclusive spirituality did not fit man well to live here and subdue the earth as God decreed.
How all this came about, Custance concludes, was the prophecy concerning Noah’s three sons. Canaan, a son of Ham, was cursed because of Ham’s irreverence toward his father. Yet, Custance explains, ancient relations were such that if a man’s son were cursed, he himself was so considered. THUS FOR Noah to have cursed Ham, who was the culprit, would have been to curse himself. So the curse on Canaan was actually a curse upon Ham and all his descendants.
The consequent prophecy was that Canaan was to be a servant of servants, a not necessarily demeaning role. The term could signify a servant par excellence, in harmony with the significance of king of kings or heaven of heavens. Thus the practical role of Ham is decreed. This, Custance believed, was not fulfilled in ISRAEL’S SUBJUGATION OF Canaanites in making them hewers of wood and drawers of water, for Cannaan was also to serve Japheth.
Custance takes pain not to appear racist. He does not propose superiority for any race, or inferiority. He does however propose difference. Jehovah, described as the God of Shem, emphasizes the spiritual role Shem and his descendants were to play. Japheth was to be enlarged (eventually), following the opening of frontiers by Ham, and was subsequently to dwell in the tents of Shem. In Custances scheme, the latter circumstance would obviously refer to the role of the Gentiles in taking over the spread of the gospel in place of the Jews (Shemites) to whom it first came. By separating or mingling these peoples God could achieve any desired results, as an artist can paint whatever picture he chooses by mixing his colors.
A part of the book reads like a good detective story as the descendants of Japheth are traced to the British Isles, Germany, Scandinavia, and Russia. Custance has an interesting theory as to what happened to the Hittites. Noting their high cheekbones, pigtails, oblique eyes and pointed shoes, he observes similarity to the Chinese. The Hittites were known also in Cuneiform as the Khittae (note the similarity to Cathay). Driven from near Asia they joined their “cousins” in China and dropped from history as a distinct people. He details other information relating the Hittites and Chinese.
Of course, the original dispersal of mankind was determined by the confusion of languages at Babel. By Custance’s hypothesis, language similarity must have occurred by family, creating small inbreeding populations. This would intensify already shared characteristics, i.e., skin pigmentation, personality traits, skills, etc. He also presents quite a study showing how language itself can limit or expand the character of a people.
All of this is argued at length. Much is admittedly hypothetical and exceptions are found. For instance Esau, being a descendant of Shem, was not in the spiritual mold, as he is declared to be a “profane” man. Yet, where substantive proof is lacking, the scheme is intriguing, and one can sympathize with the devout evolutionist’s enthusiasm for such expressions as, “It may well have been.”
Nevertheless, the Canadian Government was interested enough in the theory to have a study prepared of Custance’s ideas. If he is right, one way God has kept his hand on history is dividing people as it has pleased him, limiting or enlarging by the use of language, and intermixing to achieve any variety of results. And all of this foretold in the prophecies of the sons of Noah and detailed in the table of nations, as history records their dispersals.
There is more in the book. Some Calvinism, a different view of creation, which will not please the evolutionist or many religious conservatives, and some information that will principally interest the historian and anthropologist. The reader will find many enlightening details whether or not he agrees with the over all thesis.
Truth Magazine XXII: 25, pp. 406-407
June 22, 1978