If Christ is the answer
Posted: 14 June 2014 10:38 PM   [ Ignore ]
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...the irreverent may ask what the question is, or the like. But where did the phrase originate? I don’t suppose that it came from James Cleveland’s song (for which I can’t find an actual date, though I can’t say I’ve searched thoroughly).

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Posted: 15 June 2014 03:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’ve found a 1944 song titled Christ is the Answer. That’s the earliest I can find.

Looking at Google Books, the phrase appears to start gaining currency in the early 1980s.

I doubt we’ll be able to find a precise source (if there is even one, single source).

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Posted: 15 June 2014 03:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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FWIW Google ngrams has the first finding of Christ is the answer from 1800 in American English.  then nothing till 1811 and 1812.  British English doesn’t pick up the phrase till 1843.  Even given Google ngrams’ reputation for reliability, this would pre-date James Cleveland by a few years.

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Posted: 15 June 2014 04:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I saw the Google ngrams plot. The thing is, if you actually search Google Books, those hits are nowhere to be found. (There is one spurious hit from 1836, a collocation of the words not a use of the phrase, and nothing until the 1944 song title, and the nothing again until the phrase starts appearing in the 1980s.) This is a prime example of how ngrams is just plain broken and unreliable.

[ Edited: 15 June 2014 04:09 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 15 June 2014 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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From Marlborough Chapel Pulpit: Twelve Sermons, by Joseph Gage Pigg, published by Ward and Co., 1859; in a sermon entitled Hagar In The Desert, “Preached on the Evening of February 7, 1858”, by J. G. Pigg:

...The words of Hagar should unite us all in one common prayer. It is the prayer of David, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” There is an answer to that prayer: an answer beyond any that even David knew. For as the sense of sin has grown upon the race, so has the manifestation of God’s mercy grown along with it. Christ is the answer. I should not know what to say to you next if I could not speak of Him. Driven by ...

books?id=vYUEAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA48&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U03Of814-GIwdiNxuGvXSbdVhYNHQ&ci=144,608,770,158&edge=0

A better instance of the phrase may need to be less specific than this; i.e., not address a specific question.

https://encrypted.google.com/books?pg=PA48&dq="christ+is+the+answer"&ei=T9mdU8mbBob0oATE0oGQAg&id=vYUEAAAAQAAJ#v=onepage&q="christ%20is%20the%20answer"&f=false

[ Edited: 15 June 2014 10:45 AM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 15 June 2014 01:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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More Google weirdness. That hit doesn’t show up when I search. I can see it when I click the link, but it’s invisible to me otherwise. (It’s not a US/Canadian thing, because I can’t see it when I log in through a US-based VPN. Besides, sometimes Canadian Google doesn’t give you the full of the text because of different copyright laws, but I don’t think they restrict the appearance of hits entirely.)

A better instance of the phrase may need to be less specific than this; i.e., not address a specific question.

I agree that this isn’t a use of the generic phrase, rather it’s a response to a stated question. But if there is a pattern of use of these words into the twentieth century, this is likely the tradition the catchphrase arises from.

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