The Untold Motivation Behind Columbus’s Voyages


The following is an excerpt from an interview between Bill Heid and John Eidsmoe.  Eidsmoe is a professor of law at the Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and holder of five degrees in law, theology and political science. He has authored over a dozen books, including Christianity & the Constitution, Columbus & Cortez, and the video series titled The Institute on the Constitution.

Bill: Welcome back everybody, we’re talking to John Eidsmoe and we just got done talking about what I think is a very exciting subject that the Christian colonization of North America and John let’s talk a little bit about Columbus. You’ve written a book on Columbus so we’ve got a little time to touch on him before – what was his motivation as he set sail in 1492?

John: To understand Columbus’s motivation I think we need to look to the situation in the old world at that time.  We had just finished an episode of several hundred years of the crusades and there was a great fear of Muslim expansion through the Ottoman Turks at this time.  In fact, when Columbus was a little boy we see in 1453, the year that Constantinople fell to the Turks and we see a fear throughout Europe at that time. There was also a belief that people of far Asia either were Christians or could easily be reached through Christianity and there was a desire by Henry the Navigator of Portugal and others to build a fleet that could sail to Asia and build a worldwide Christian alliance that could stand against the power of Islam. And so Columbus was simply saying to the powers that be in Spain and Portugal and England, look you want to get to Asia with the gospel? The best way to get to Asia is to sail straight West across the Atlantic and you will be there.

And actually, Columbus was wrong on some of his calculations, he had misunderstood what the ancients meant when they spoke about degree of longitude and latitude and he thought the distance from Spain to China was about what the distance actually is from Spain to North America. And no wonder then when he landed he found these darker skinned people and he called them Indians because if his calculations had been correct they would have been people from Asia.

But his goal was to reach them with the gospel and it’s interesting when you read his journal, the regular journal that he kept on ship that he writes an entry for August 12, 1492.  That what we call Columbus Day and that was the first day they sighted land that they came on shore, they called that land San Salvador, which means Holy Savior and it probably was Watling Island off the coast of Florida although they were not sure of that. But he talks about the people there and how friendly the people were. If you look in the Caribbean I might say that there were basically two groups, there were the Arawaks or Tainos as they’re sometimes called who were kind of the older culture, they were dying out and they were friendly.

And then in the southern Caribbean, there were the Carobs or Canubes and from them we get the word cannibal and they were literally eating the Arawaks alive and they were the spreading culture.  But these that he encountered first we’re these peaceful Tiano or Arawaks. And so he writes in his journal that he had met these people that he had given them beads and other things that they seemed to value very much. And he talks about how they seem so much our friends and then he says I believe that they would easily be made Christians for I do not perceive in them any religion.

On that of course he was wrong; they did have a religion of human sacrifice and cannibalism. He writes four days later that I believe that they would easily turn Christian if we can get interpreters to preach the gospel to them for they are very good at understanding. Notice he is not saying these people are dummies and we can fool them, he is saying these are smart people and if we can share the gospel with them they’ll become Christians, but that very clearly was his motivation.

For more information on Christopher Columbus, check out Eidesmoe’s book, Columbus & Cortez, Conquerors for Christ.

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