If we wish to be just judges of all things, let us first persuade ourselves of this: that there is not one of us without fault; no man is found who can acquit himself; and he who calls himself innocent does so with reference to a witness, and not to his conscience.
—Letters of Seneca
True Americans and patriotic, who live in York State, often refer you to the life of Red Jacket as proof that “Seneca” is an Iroquois Indian word. The Indians, however, whom we call the Senecas never called themselves thus until they took to strong water and became civilized. Before that they were the Tsonnundawaonas. The Dutch traders, intent on pelts and pelf, called them the Sinnekaas, meaning the valiant or the beautiful. Then came that fateful day when the Reverend Peleg Spooner, the discoverer of the Erie Canal, journeyed to Niagara Falls, and having influence with the authorities at Washington, gave to towns along the way these names: Troy, Rome, Ithaca, Syracuse, Ilion, Manlius, Homer, Corfu, Palmyra, Utica, Delhi, Memphis and Marathon. He really exhausted Grote’s “History of Greece” and Gibbon’s “Rome,” revealing a most depressing lack of humor. This classic flavor of the map of New York is as surprising to English tourists as was the discovery to Hendrik Hudson when, on sailing up the North River, he found on nearing Albany that the river bore the same name as himself.
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In the eighteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we read of Paul being brought before Gallio, Proconsul of Achaia. And the accusers, clutching the bald and bow-legged bachelor by the collar, bawl out to the Judge, “This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to law!”
And the little man is about to make reply, when Gallio says, with a touch of impatience: “If indeed it were a matter of wrong or of wicked villainy, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you: but if they are questions about words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; I am not minded to be a judge of these matters!” And the account concludes, “And he drove them from the judgment-seat.”
That is to say, he gave Saint Paul a “nolle pros.” Had Gallio wished to be severe, he might have put the quietus on Christianity for all time, for Saint Paul had all there was of it stowed in his valiant head and heart.
Gallio was the elder brother of Seneca; his right name was Annaeus Seneca, but he changed it to Junius Gallio, in honor of a patron who had especially befriended him in youth.
Gallio seems to have been a man of good, sturdy commonsense–he could distinguish between right living and a mumble of words, man-made rules, laws such as heresy, blasphemy, Sabbath-breaking and marrying one’s deceased wife’s sister. The Moqui Indians believe that if any one is allowed to have a photograph taken of himself he will dry up in a month and blow away. Moreover, lists of names are not wanting with memoranda of times and places. In America there are yet people who hotly argue as to what mode of baptism is correct; who talk earnestly about the “saved” and the “lost”; and who will tell you of the “heathen” and those who are “without the pale.” They seem to think that the promise, “Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you,” applies only to the Caucasian race.
In the earlier translations of Seneca there were printed various letters that were supposed to have passed between Saint Paul and Seneca. Later editors have dropped them out for lack of authenticity. But the fact that Saint Paul met Seneca’s brother face to face, as well as the fact that the brother was willing to discuss right living, but had no time to waste on the Gemara and theological quibbles, is undisputed.