BW Encyclopedia Coverage

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The best encyclopedia article on the Brethren is to be found in the Hastings' Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. This article contains also the best bibliography of their literature, but, of course, only such titles as pertain to the history and distinctives of the movement.

The New Schaff-Herzog article has a fair bibliography following a good, but brief, article. In this bibliography we learn that in the British Museum Catalogue there is a list of Brethren writings under the heading "Plymouth Brethren." This turns out to be a list of a dozen or so writings, mostly anonymous, and largely antagonistic and controversial. Some are signed with initials, and some of these are identified. In this list, there is a cross reference to "Darby Sect," where we find another title, and under Darby's name there are six items not identified as to author. At the first location there is also a cross reference to "Liturgies" (horrors... Plymouth Brethren liturgies!), but nothing appears there so far as I could find. I mention these things to emphasize the fact that information is sometimes found in unexpected places, as every librarian knows.

McClintock & Strong's Cyclopaedia mentions six of Darby's titles and two histories in its 23-inh article. Blunt's Theological Dictionary leaves out Darby and the movement entirely. The old Catholic Encyclopedia has a fairly good article, and some bibliography, although it misspells Mackintosh (as McIntosh) and contains the following astonishing observation: "... their theological literature has not produced any work of value, and though voluminous, has already passed into oblivion" (199 ed.)! This statement has not been modified or corrected in the supplements.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia of 1967 apparently did not research the subject, as they make the astonishing statement, "Most Plymouth Brethren congregations meet for worship in private homes or rented halls and include only 35 or 40 people." The facts are that there are congregations in the Southeastern United States, the Caribbean, and even in the Faroe Islands, with hundreds, and even a thousand or more, in attendance. The Stewards Foundation in Chicago is a multi-million dollar organization that loans money for the purchase of property and the erection of chapels and halls for assemblies.

Encyclopedia Cattolica (Vatican City) is the only general encyclopedia I have found that mentions their mission work. It lists two missionary periodicals. In its bibliography it misspells Veitch (as Weitch). The old Encyclopedia of Missions does not mention the movement, but the revised edition gives some statistics. Most of the European encyclopedias have something under Darby or Darbyists. Herder's Lexicon fur Theologie und Kirche (2 Aufl., 1936) in their article under Plymouth Bruder lists erroneously J.C.L. Carson as Larson (The Heresies of the Plymouth Brethren), but in their article on Darby he is listed correctly.

The Americana article has no bibliography. The Britannica mentions two of Darby's French titles and Neatby's History. Here, as in other theological articles concerning which I have some bibliographical knowledge, the latter two encyclopedias again demonstrate their bibliographic inadequacy. (Doubtless errors will be detected in the present work, but we mention the above only in the interest of accuracy.)

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