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Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Orderly Product of a Disordered Mind

I have a soft place in my heart for people of special needs, including children. One reason is I have seen literally dozens of inventions, discoveries, and cultural change agents come from the realm of people who have severe developmental problems—be it mental, physical, or emotional.

A case in point is Alexander Cruden. Both Julia Keay and Timothy Larsen wrote about Cruden, a few years ago, calling attention to this forgotten man. Chances are your life continues to be impacted by his product.

Alexander Cruden was a man, who a few centuries ago, faced demons so severe that he—take your pick:

A. battled insanity off and on throughout his life,

B. was an eccentric genius, or

C. was severely disabled mentally and emotionally.

We do know Cruden was institutionalized in an insane asylum as an adult and, from time to time, guilty of aberrant and anti-social behavior.

In what may have been the greatest indicator of his unfitness for this world, in the 1720s, Cruden made the decision to compile the ultimate concordance of the King James Version of the Bible. Moreover, to achieve his objective, Cruden would have to moonlight. He needed the money from his day job as a proofreader for a local printer.

Working alone at night, writing by hand, Cruden categorized all 777, 746 words of the King James Version. He even explained many of the entries, deploying 4000 words just to define and describe the entry “Synagogue.”

Night by night, this man whose life and mind was total chaos, methodically plotted words from Scripture, consulted from the tens of thousands of papers he had previously noted, and documented the proper location for each word.

Cruden’s masterpiece was first published in 1739. CRUDEN’S COMPLETE CONCORDANCE has never been out of print. Through the centuries, this work has influenced thousands, if not millions, of sermons and Bible classes. I marvel at both this man’s giftedness and God’s creation. Timothy Larson’s words have correctly pegged the majestic irony: one of the most organized and well-administrated works ever known came from one of the most disorganized and chaotic minds.

I personally believe this achievement extends beyond good genes and random chance. To what extent God was involved, I cannot calculate. Yet, His hand, however hidden, was still present. Indeed, God’s light shines more brilliantly with the dark background of human weakness.

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