Arthur C. Custance (1910–1985) was a Canadian scientist and lay theologian. He may remind you of a medieval polymath for his breadth of knowledge. After receiving a M.A. in “Middle Eastern Languages” (the course of study included Greek, Hebrew, and cuneiform) in 1941, he completed a Ph.D. in Anthropology, but was denied graduation after his thesis approval because he believed in a literal Adam and Eve. He later obtained another Ph.D. in Education (1959). You can read more of his fascinating biography here.
Because of his broad interests, Custance’s writings are a wholly unique cocktail of theology, biology, philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, and archaeology. Even though these works are decades old, the quality of his erudition lends lasting value to most of his works. Most were part of “The Doorway Papers” series of monographs (1957–1972). These monographs are collected in loosely related volumes. Those who are studying creationism will find a treasure trove here!
I recommend in particular two books: The Seed of the Woman (his magnum opus) and The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation (“The Trinity in the Old Testament” and “How Did Jesus Die?” are both extremely interesting).
Does Science Transcend Culture? (PhD Thesis)
Evolution or Creation? (Doorway Papers #4)
The Flood: Local or Global? (Doorway Papers #9)
Genesis and Early Man (Doorway Papers #2)
Hidden Things of God’s Revelation (Doorway Papers #7)
Journey out of Time: A Study of the Interval Between Death and the Resurrection of the Body
Man in Adam and in Christ (Doorway Papers #3)
The Mysterious Matter of Mind
Noah’s Three Sons (Doorway Papers #1)
Science and Faith (Doorway Papers #8)
The Seed of the Woman: What God Had To Do To Make Our Salvation Possible
Sovereignty of Grace: A Study of Election and Predestination
Time and Eternity (Doorway Papers #6)
Two Men Called Adam
The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation (Doorway Papers #5)
Without Form and Void: A Study of the Meaning of the Hebrew Words of Genesis 1:1 and 2
For those interested, the ACOL website does list a few short articles that are not available online:
How to Evaluate Commentaries on Genesis (1957) [Wow, this would be cool to have.]
Some Hebrew Word Studies (1972)
When the Earth Was Divided: An Imaginative Reconstruction of Early History (1962)
Author: Arthur C. Custance was a research scientist with an overflowing interest in anthropology, biology, theology, and biblical languages. He obtained his M.A. in Middle Eastern Languages in 1941, and completed his Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1954, though his degree was delayed five years by prejudice against Custance caused by his literal understanding of biblical creation. He conducted research in physiology for Canada’s Defence Research Board and wrote sixteen unique books, mainly on the intersection of biblical theology and modern science.
The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation (1976) is Book 5 of 10 in The Doorway Papers, a series of studies fusing biblical study with scientific research. Much of the series explores aspects of the Creation, Fall, and Flood in Genesis, but many other themes are included.
It is divided into essays, so the topics are related but you can easily read and enjoy any essay without the others. The individual essays are themselves divided into chapters, and some of them are quite long.
The essays in this volume are:
- Longevity in Antiquity and its Bearing on Chronology: This is a great study of the genealogy of Genesis 5, with statistical and historical data to back up the claims of human longevity. While many claim that there is some numerical or scribal anomaly in the years of Genesis 5, Custance supports a literal reading.
- The Nature of the Forbidden Fruit: It was probably not an apple—so what was the forbidden fruit? And how did it affect Adam and Eve when they ate it? Custance shows the effects that certain foods can have on humans.
- If Adam Had Not Died: This essay reviews scientific concepts connected to the Incarnation of Christ. Included here are several intriguing and strange ideas about the physiology of Adam himself. Custance is looking at the immortal physiology of Adam as a precursor of the immortal life of Christ.
- The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation: The titular essay connects the concepts of “the seed of the woman” in Genesis 3, the virgin conception of Christ, and the immortality found in Christ. This is one of the most important of the entire Doorway Papers series as it presents ideas related to core Christian doctrines (as opposed to, for instance, whether the flood was local or global).
- The Trinity in the Old Testament: This is probably the best thing I’ve read on the Trinity. Custance shows that it was not a new idea to God, although maybe it was to man. Many great Bible references will show you that the Trinity is not a foreign concept to the Old Testament.
- A Fresh Look at the Meaning of the
Word ‘Soul’: Body, soul, spirit? It is not always clear in modern thought whether there is a difference between soul and spirit, but in the Old Testament there is a clear distinction. Custance offers a solid biblical study of how these terms are connected with bearings on the creation of Adam and the death of Christ. I don’t believe that Custance’s explanation differs too far from the detailed explanations offered, for instance, by Watchman Nee. For an interesting perspective from the Old Testament, look into the work of Robert Alter on this.
- How Did Jesus Die?: This essay is a study of the physical causes of the death of Christ, centering on the possibility that Jesus died of a burst heart, an idea promulgated in 1871 by William Stroud. (Pioneer Library published Stroud’s book as an ebook.)
- The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: In three chapters, Custance treats the “historical”, “theological”, and “experiential” aspects of the bodily Resurrection of Christ. This study is mainly theological.
- The Unique Relationship between the First and Last Adam: This essay continues to develop some themes from the titular essay about Adam and Christ.
The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation is an important volume within The Doorway Papers, and in many ways it is a predecessor to Custance’s magnum opus, The Seed of the Woman.
Read: You can read The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation and Arthur Custance’s other works for free over at custance.org.
I read this book in 2006 and finished this review in 2021. I guess that tells you how memorable and unique the book was.