History Book


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, February 4th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It:  the WORLD Radio History Book. Today, 100—

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: Uh, hang on, Mary, Nick. Hey, guys, just a second.

EICHER: Paul, what’s up?

BUTLER: Well, before we get started, I just need to ‘fess up. Last week I made a mistake.

You know, one of the things I love about working here is I get to learn so many different things about historical events, cultural movements, and scientific discoveries.

But sometimes I am reminded of things I should have already known… like the past tense of the word sing.

Last week, when I should’ve said “sang,” I said “sung.”

EICHER: Well, Paul if it makes you feel any better, I not even a good sanger.

BUTLER: Ah, I feel so much better.

It’s mea culpa.

Okay, well, today, 160 years ago, a Biblical scholar discovers a Christian Bible from the 4th century in Egypt. Plus, the beginning of the end for communism in Eastern Europe.

EICHER: But first, 230 years ago, the electoral college selects America’s first president. Here again is Paul Butler.

SONG: [If Washington Should Come to Life]

BUTLER: Well, let’s begin with February 4th, 1789. The U.S. Electoral College convenes to elect the country’s first president:

Ten states send representatives to vote for president on their behalf. The constitution granted each elector two votes—the candidate receiving the most became president, and the second closest candidate, vice president. All 69 electors voted for Washington on the first ballot, making him an unanimous president.

Washington served two terms then stepped down—a tradition that every president continued until President Franklin Roosevelt. More than 200 years after his election, Washington still consistently ranks in the top 2 or 3 most significant U.S. presidents in American history.

SONG: [If Washington Should Come to Life]

Next, February 4th, 1859. After years of negotiations, Bible scholar Constantin von Tischendorf gains access to the Codex Sinaiticus at Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt. The handwritten Greek text from the 4th century is one of the oldest, and most complete copies of the Christian Bible. Tischendorf believed it was one of the 50 copies of the Bible commissioned by Roman Emperor Constantine after his conversion.

The monastery grants Tischendorf permission to take the manuscript to Cairo for detailed analysis and study. He eventually moves it to St. Petersburg, Russia, to make a skillful facsimile of the more than 4 million characters. The project takes three years to complete.

The Codex Sinaiticus sheds important details on the development of the Christian scriptures, but most scholars acknowledge the text is not authoritative.

WECHSLER: Oldness doesn’t mean that it’s more trustworthy or better…

Michael Wechsler is a Bible professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

WECHSLER: There’s many factors that go into determining whether something is a good witness, is accurate. The readings within it are definitely not the best.

Audio from a 2009 interview on Moody Radio. Scribal errors and many textual variations, interpolations, and omissions make other ancient texts and fragments more reliable than the Codex Sinaiticus.

The Codex Sinaiticus never returned to Egypt. Today, the British Library in London holds 347 leaves of it. Much smaller portions are held at the Leipzig University Library, Russian National Library, and Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt.

All four collaborated 10 years ago to make a complete digital copy of the codex available online.

AUDIO: [Round table talks]

And finally, February 6th, 1989—the Round Table Talks begin in Warsaw, Poland. Officials sit down for what turns into two months of negotiations between communist and opposition leaders.

For decades, illegal worker groups monitored and resisted communist control in Poland. In 1980, communists approved the formation of a recognized workers union. Many of the previously underground associations joined forces, calling themselves: “Solidarity.” The government soon changed its mind and tried forcing the democratic union to disband, but Solidarity’s influence grew rapidly—leading to a stalemate between workers and communist leaders.

AUDIO: [Round table talks]

In early 1989, both sides sat down around a large round table in the Presidential Palace. Catholic journalist Tadeusz Mazowiecki was one of 30 opposition representatives: He played a large part in crafting the agreement between the parties. Audio here from a 2009 AFP report:

MAZOWIECKI: Both sides were conscious that Poland needed to do something and end the paralysis.

In the end, communist leaders agreed to create a new government with Solidarity as a junior partner. But the historic June elections forced the government to give them a much larger seat at the table, and Mazowiecki became prime minister.

WALESA: [Speaking before Congress in Polish]

A few months later, Polish Solidarity leader and future president of the country Lech Walesa addressed a joint session of Congress. Audio courtesy of C-SPAN:

WALESA: We were being locked up in prisons, deprived of our jobs, beaten and sometimes killed, but we were stubborn. We knew what we wanted. And our power prevailed in the end. [APPLAUSE]

The rise of democracy in Poland set the stage for the eventual fall of the entire European communist bloc.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.


(Photo/Erazm Ciołek) Polish Round Table Talks in Warsaw, Poland, on February 6, 1989.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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