A Revised Standard Version of a Translation of a Fragment from the Cedar Creek Scrolls
John J. Ketterer
TRANSLATOR’S PREFATORY NOTE
In 1952 an ancient cannon, a relic of the Late Unpleasantness of 1861-1865, was discovered embedded in the bank of Cedar Creek near Monmouth, Illinois. This relic now may be seen on the campus of Monmouth College close by the Science Building.1 Such an archeological find naturally whet the appetite of those interested in diverse aged memorabilia2 and led to further excavations near the scene of the original discovery. It was during this search that the hitherto unknown, and even now not well known, Cedar Creek Scrolls were found.
The scrolls, some half dozen in number, were found inside an ancient beer barrel which has been traced as having come from the cave of an old brewery which occupied a site now known as Brewery Hill in Monmouth.3 The scrolls were of cowhide and were well preserved considering their great age. One small fragment, and whether it represents a complete text or merely a fragment of a larger text cannot, at this moment, be stated with any degree of accuracy, lent itself to easy deciphering and, as it turned out, provided the essential clues to the translation of the larger scrolls. It seems obvious, however, that this fragment clearly predates other texts translated up to this point in time. Because of this it is worth quoting here:
"So it came to pass that there were committees.
One on,"What is Man?"
And one on,"What is grass?"
And,"How is it better than Manna?"
And,"The Validity or Invalidity of Faith as a Basic Force in the Constitution of the Universe."
And thirteen other committees on equally pertinent phases of universe building,
With subcommittees, very naturally, to work out tentative solutions for each separate subproblem,
To make recommendations to the full committees,
To make recommendations to the Heavenly Host."
This quote is not original with the translator but rather appeared side by side with the original text. The importance of this may be properly compared to that of the famous Rosetta Stone for it gave the necessary clues to permit translation into idiomatic Bible Belt English, in which context, only, the remainder of the scrolls may be understood.
The translation appearing in the following pages represents one large scroll composed of a single, entire cowhide. It is being made public at this time because it naturally follows the earlier quote appearing above and also because of its impact upon the daily trials of mid-twentieth century man.
One further remark is in order here. About two years ago a preliminary translation of this scroll, authored by the translator of this current version, was circulated among a select group of scholars conversant in the subject matter and history of committees. It was offered, quite candidly, with the full realization of its preliminary nature and with the hope that a more accurate translation would be forthcoming in the not too distant future. This present offering is the fruit of that hope. While a comparison with the preliminary translation will show some obvious refinements in form and phraseology, it should be emphasized that in no way are the two versions incompatible with one another, either in general textual content or theological interpretation.
John J. Ketterer
Monmouth, Illinois 1964
And lo, the day came when all the committees were gathered in one place,
And they were held in bondage by Pharaoh.4
Now in those days Pharaoh was not committee minded
For he was a despot who took upon himself the mantle of Deity,
And he kept his own counsel seeking not the wisdom of committees.
So it came to pass that the committees, the subcommittees,
And the committee chiefs and subchiefs and scribes became restless and idle,
And grievous was their state.
For there was weeping and gnashing of teeth among them
And they were jealous of each other’s wisdom.
Then it was that the committee chiefs and the subchiefs and the scribes
Came together and decreed that one from among them go up to Pharaoh
And seek succor for them in their hour of great need.
And so the Chief of Committees was appointed and given all authority.
And he went up to Pharaoh and spoke to him in this wise:
O, Pharaoh, these committees that you have so long held in bond age,
And whose wisdom you seek not,
They grow restless and they grieve and wither for want of toil;
They clash amongst themselves and love not one another
For want of a listener to their words;
They thirst to put words upon scrolls and tablets
So that all may know of their wisdom.
O, Pharaoh, seek their wisdom and know what is upon their tablets and scrolls.
But if that be not your favor,
Let my people go!
But Pharaoh turned deaf ears and blind eyes upon their plight
And was not moved.
So it came to pass in the days that followed
That Pharaoh was overrun by a great plague
Of memos, progress reports, final reports and recommendations.
And so great was the flood and store of scrolls and tablets
That the rooms of the palace became full with them
And they flowed over into the passageways
And even into the dungeons and the camel yards.
It so being, Pharaoh summoned his chief ministers and captains
To appear before him.
And when the multitude had forgathered, he spoke to them saying:
Get these clowns outta my hair,
They’re beginning to crowd out the dancing girls with their crummy tablets.
Let those people go!
And so it was that the committees were set free.
And for forty years they roamed the earth
Setting down rough drafts,
And meeting day upon day.
The sun rose and the sun set.
And with the setting of the sun on the last day of the fortieth year
The committees set the last words upon the tablets and scrolls,
And gave them over to the Chief of Committees.
On the morning of the first day after the last day of the fortieth year
The committees set out toward a mountain whereof they knew.
And when, in the middle of the day,
The sun stood high in the heavens,
The Chief of Committees bade his people to wait upon him.
And he went up into the mountain
And was swallowed up in a great dark cloud.
And when he had gained the summit of the mountain,
He came upon the Heavenly Host,
And there was crashing of thunder and the flashing of lightning
And earth and the heavens were rent with horrendous sounds.
And after two days and two nights
The Heavenly Host spoke as with one voice saying:
We receive these tablets and scrolls
And accept your report in principle
And recommend its further study.
Go ye, therefore, and seek a quiet place
That you may continue your work,
And in due season report back to us again.
Whereupon the Chief of Committees turned from the Heavenly Host
And descended from the summit of the mountain
And came out of the great cloud upon the flanks of the mountain
And into the sight of his people.
He looked upon them and raising his arms outward,
And then dropping them to his side,
He spoke to them saying:
Well, by God, here we go again.
And so it was that the committees and subcommittees
With their chiefs and subchiefs and scribes
And the Chief chief,
Took up once more their wanderings and their deliberations,
Seeking out a quiet place according to the command of the Heavenly Host.
And on the first day of the first week of each month
They gathered together in one place
And clothed themselves in fine robes and garments.
And they smote upon their breasts
And lifted their voices in wails and great shouts,
And in small mutterings,
And so reported upon their labors to the Heavenly Host.
The sun rose and the sun set.
The seasons came and passed.
The years became one and then ten and then a hundred.
And so the days of wandering rolled on.
The millenia came, one upon the other.
But still the committees and the subcommittees,
The chiefs and scribes and the Chief chief
Wandered over the earth and across the face of the deep.
Searched they the wilderness and the forest;
The plains and the mountains.
Great deserts and waters
Crossed they them;
Roaring rivers and quiet streams they conquered,
Keeping the command of the Heavenly Host
To search out a quiet place.
And on the first Sabbath of every month,
As the sun set beneath the land’s edge,
Reported they back to the Heavenly Host.
And so generation begat generation,
And committees begat other committees;
And they in their turn appointed chiefs and subchiefs and scribes.
And Chief chiefs succeeded one upon the other as the days passed.
Then it came to pass that they came out upon a great plain
Near a great river.
And they saw in the distance a small city
With spires pointed toward heaven
And cannon pointed toward hell.
And in the midst of the city they beheld a shining palace
Painted yellow as gold.
And deep within the palace walls they came upon a chamber
Richly appointed with soft carpets and couches,
And polished tables and chairs covered with the hides of beasts.
And the room was filled with a great light.
Seeing all this, the Chief chief spread out his arms
And turned his face toward his people and spoke to them saying:
We have crossed our Jordan.
Our wandering is at an end.
Let us, therefore, sit quietly and complete our work,
For the day is fulfilled and the command is kept.
For this is our quiet place
And its name shall be called Palace Lounge.
And so saying the Chief chief took his appointed place at the table
And the scribes arranged their scrolls and tablets
And they set about putting the last words thereon.
So it was that when the work was finished
The Chief chief went up into a high place in the palace
And gave to the Heavenly Host the tablets and the scrolls
And all that they held thereon.
And receiving the tablets and the scrolls the Heavenly Host
With as one tongue spoke to the Chief chief saying:
We receive these tablets and these scrolls
And accept your report in principle
And recommend and charge you with its further study.
Go ye, therefore, to your quiet place
And continue your work.
Whereupon the Chief chief turned from the Heavenly Host
And went again to the quiet place
And stood before his people.
And he raised his arms and dropped them to his side
And said to his people:
Well, by God, here we go again.
Then a soft wind filled the Palace Lounge.
And in the wind they heard the whisper of the Lord on High saying:
By the summit of Mount Sinai
They still haven’t learned to fish or cut bait.
And the Wind passed and all was quiet
Save the soft scratching of tile scribes upon the scrolls and the tablets.
1 Now McMichael Academic. In the intervening years this cannon was first moved to a place of honor in front of Haldeman-Thiessen Hall, still buried muzzle down, with a ring of concrete to discourage pranksters from stealing it again. In 1996 the cannon was restored and placed in the foyer of H-T. "The Late Unpleasantness" was Biology professor Milton Bowman's favorite term for what he might grudgingly call the War Between the States (but never the Civil War). Bowman was a native of Kentucky and proud of it.
2 A reference to his friend, Charles Speel, professor of religion, who had located in the basement of Austin Hall the college's plaster cast of the Canopus Stone, badly damaged in the 1907 fire that destroyed Old Main. (The Canopus Stone is today on display in the Hewes Library.) In fact, this entire satire may be seen as a good-natured spoof of Professor Speel as well as of the equally unnamed chief administrator.
3 On Eighth Street, across Euclid from the athletic fields, the first house on the right. The college was "dry", of course, right down to private faculty gatherings (except for Prof. Davenport's famous all male "seminars." He lived in the next house on the right).
4 It cannot be determined which pharoah was meant, since 1964 was a year of two pharoahs. However, most likely it was the second, since he moved his office from Carniege Library (now the dean of students' office in Poling Hall) to the new administration building (his office is now the Rankin Room). The expensively redecorated building was long referred to as "the palace."