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Thursday, May 22, 2003

Elevation.

Overheard this morning in Boston Common: A tour guide (dressed in three-corner hat and knee breeches), intoning to a group of bored teenage tourists: "The Puritans founded Boston as a 'city set upon a hill.' They believed that the higher up you are, the closer you are to God."

Whoa! Sure, field trips are a great way to encounter historic places. My own experience as a tour guide at King's Chapel on Boston's Freedom Trail for three summers proved that historic places open up all kinds of questions for tourists — sometimes very much to their own surprise — but a tour guide on autopilot is a dangerous thing. Every year or two, a tour guide ought to refresh his memory — say, with an AP review session guide! According to one helpful history teacher, John Winthrop "saw the colony as an experiment in humanity, a 'City Set Upon a Hill' as an example to England and the rest of the world of the way a good society should be run." Simply and accurately put.

Where did Winthrop come up with the phrase? From a close reading of the Geneva Bible (Matthew 5:14): "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill, cannot be hid." (Those of you at universities can compare the Puritans' Geneva Bible with the better-known King James Version here. Sadly, I had to look into the pdf version posted by an amateur.)

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 22 May 2003 at 11:46 AM

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