Sakae Kubo


I am a moderate user of the social media. Until now I have no Twitter account. I am familiar with LinkedIn; my current network stands at just under 500 connections. In addition, I have a Facebook account, but I am not a very active user. Regularly I find in my mailbox announcements that my ‘friends’ have done or have written something, and from time to time I take a bit of time to read some of this.

Earlier this week I saw a few lines written by Sakae Kubo, who is a lot more active on Facebook than I am. From time to time he shares some deep insights, which are well worth noting somewhere. Sometimes he cites others with statements worth pondering.

Recently I saw this quotation about ‘eternity’ on Kubo’s Facebook page. It originated with a certain Henrik Van Loon (a Dutch-American historian and journalist who was born in 1882 in Rotterdam):

“High up in the North in the land called Svithjod, there stands a rock. It is a hundred miles high and a hundred miles wide. Once every thousand years a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak. When the rock has worn away, then a single day of eternity will have gone by.”

I must admit that reading such a statement tends to make me rather jealous. I will never be able to find such marvelous words.

One of Kubo’s most recent notes informed his readers that one of his colleagues had come to collect a quantity of books. Kubo lives in Southern California and has donated a portion of his library to La Sierra University (also in Southern California).  I quote:

Doug Clark with his wife came by from La Sierra University and HMS Richards Divinity School to pick up my books which I had donated to them. I hope the books serve a useful purpose. I had already given a small portion of my library to Newbold College and our school in Thailand. It’s a strange feeling to see my shelves empty, somewhat like being naked. It’s part of my downsizing project. Now I’m working on my files. It’s hard to dump things you’ve collected your whole life but that’s what one has to do.”

Kubo was one of my favorite professors when, in 1965-66, I studied for my Masters at the theological seminary of Andrews University. Since then I have only seen him a few times. He came to see me once or twice during the short time I worked in Friesland as a pastor. At that time he was in charge of the theology section of the university library at Andrews and had come to Franeker to buy books from a well known theological antiquariate.

Kubo is now 86 years old. He is, as far as I can tell from his Facebook presence and from the articles that I see from time to time from his hand, still reasonably active. When I asked him about three years ago to contribute an article for the Festschrif for Jan Paulsen, he immediately responded positively and submitted a very worthwhile chapter.

I have always enjoyed reading his books. Some would say that he is a liberal theologian. I would rather call him ‘progressive-constructive’. Through the years he has certainly experienced that it does not always help one’s career if one is not afraid to say what one thinks. When he was my teacher, he opened my eyes for a way of reading the Bible that differed significantly from what I had been taught before. Through him I discovered that each book of the Bible has its own history, its own Sitz im Leben, and often its own theology. And he helped me (and doubtless many others) to realize that not every question needs an immediate answer.

And so, it appears that Kubo is currently giving away his books and clearing his archives. Realistic as he is, he knows that he does not have all that many years left. And it is good to ensure that things are in order.

I am afraid, I am still buying books rather than getting rid of them. But then, I am not yet 86. Nonetheless, once again Sakae Kubo has given me food for thought.