The work of a lifetime
Edwin de Kock became acquainted with the Adventist message at the tender age of 5, when his mother discovered the seventh-day Sabbath while reading the Ten Commandments. A South African native, de Kock graduated with a theology degree from Helderberg College near Cape Town, then went on to obtain a speech teacher’s license, a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in languages, and a degree in education. For more than 40 years he served in both denominational and nondenominational high schools, colleges, and universities in South Africa, Korea, and the United States, where he and his wife became citizens in 2000.
While a student at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, de Kock met Nico van der Merwe, who introduced him to Esperanto—a language developed by Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, a polyglot Polish Jew.
Zamenhof published a booklet in 1887 in which he presented Esperanto grammar, basic vocabulary, exercises, and several poems that he had written in it. It is a constructed language. Its vocabulary was assembled from elements common to English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French, together with classical Greek and Latin. All these elements are tied together with a grammar that, according to de Kock, is a masterpiece of both simplicity and flexibility.
By means of Esperanto, de Kock says, “Zamenhof wanted to enable everybody on earth to communicate with everybody else. It was never intended to take the place of any existing language.” The idea was that if people learned their mother tongues plus Esperanto, it would solve communication problems in the world and promote international unity.
When van der Merwe loaned de Kock an Esperanto Bible, he became intrigued with the language, especially the high-quality writings being produced by those who spoke Esperanto. He worked toward fluency in this rare language, understood by approximately 2 million people.
De Kock wrote his first poem in Esperanto five months after learning it. As he communicated with other authors around the world, his poetry soon found its way into magazines and books. This led to his lifework, an epic titled La Konflikto de la Epokoj (The Conflict of the Ages).
An epic is an ambitious booklength poem, sometimes running hundreds of pages, on a theme of great importance. Often underlying the theme is the worldview of its writer, even of the nation or special people group to which he or she belongs. The epic form is not a new literary device. Some well-known epics include the Iliad and Odyssey, ascribed to Homer, an ancient Greek who lived about 750 B.C. or earlier; the Aeneid, by Virgil (70-19 B.C.), a Roman who wrote in Latin; La Divina Commedia, in Italian by Dante Alighieri (c. 1265-1321); Os Lusíadas, in Portuguese by Luís Vaz de Camōes (c. 1525-1580); and Paradise Lost, in English by John Milton (1608-1674).
De Kock began work on his epic poem in 1959. Because of various interruptions, by 1992 he had finished only a little more than a third of his book. Not until 2015 was he inspired to tackle the daunting task again. He finished it in 2018 at the age of 88.
De Kock’s work, while sharing a name with Ellen White’s The Conflict of the Ages, is not a translation of the five-volume series, but a depiction of the great controversy theme that runs throughout Scripture, meshed with an exposition of several prophecies. Theologically, de Kock asserts, this epic is purely Seventh-day Adventist, containing all its fundamental doctrines.
Strongly influenced by Ellen White’s writings and Scripture, the epic highlights how law and love are reconciled through God’s incomparable gift of His Son to save a fallen world. It also emphasizes the value of even a single human being from the Lord’s point of view.
De Kock is the protagonist in La Konflikto de la Epokoj, but his character represents every person who struggles with a burden of sin and sorrow, doubt and uncertainty. Everyone needs enlightenment, guidance, and salvation.
In his poem de Kock takes readers on an imaginative journey through time and space, beginning with the fall of Lucifer, followed by that of Adam and Eve, and ending with the earth made new, where sin and sinners are no more.
While on his trek he meets four biblical characters who act as his companions and interpreters: Enoch, who never died; Moses, who was resurrected sometime after dying; and Ezra and Isaiah, who are represented as being part of the multitude who were raised from the dead at Christ’s resurrection. De Kock is also accompanied by his guardian angel throughout his expedition.
De Kock aspired to create a poetic masterpiece in Esperanto, but more than that, he wanted to counter the ideological influence of unbelievers such as the Esperanto poet William Auld. Auld wrote La Infana Raso (The Infant Race) in 1956, and in 169 pages seductively presented the worldview of atheist evolution. “As a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, I wanted to stand up for my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, with the hope that some of my readers would be drawn to Him and saved eternally,” de Kock says.
La Konflikto de la Epokoj is, to de Kock’s knowledge, the only printed work in Esperanto that reflects both Ellen White’s ideas and scriptural roots for the great controversy theme. He is considered by some the world’s leading Esperanto poet. De Kock may never know the impact his poem and subsequent works has had on the nearly 2 million Esperanto speakers, but his contribution to Esperanto literature lends a necessary Adventist voice and worldview to this specialized niche.