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the origins and sources of the materials used by biblical writers. But the actual history of Israel, which, like all other history, must perpetually undergo reconstruction with the advance of historic science, is one thing : quite another thing is the interpretation of the history of Israel made once for all by the sacred writers, and embodied in the finished literature we call the Bible. So, to illustrate from a very different region, our conceptions of primitive Greece must with advancing investigation be perpetually modified: all the while Homer remains one and the same. The critical discussions concern only the Semitic specialist; the interpretation of the Bible is a permanent interest of world literature.
The Modern Reader's Bible has, in whole or in part, been before the public for twelve years, and has met with a most gratifying reception. The only form in which it has hitherto appeared has been based upon the natural principle of a separate volume for each separate work of Scripture. It will continue to appear in this form, which will always be preferred by some readers, and for some purposes. In the present edition the contents of the twenty-one volumes are drawn into a single volume : the same text, the same introductions and notes, except indeed that I have somewhat enlarged those portions of the introductions that bear upon the grouping of individual books into the large divisions of history, poetry, prophecy, wisdom. To many it will be a practical convenience to have the whole work in one volume. But it is not merely a question of convenience: the purpose underlying the arrangement of matter in this edition is to give assistance in catching the unity of all Scripture.
The sacred canon is not a mere Reading List, recommending the sixty Best Books of the Churches. These sixty books, with all their varieties of age, authorship, literary form, are, when properly arranged, felt to draw together with a connectedness like the unity of a dramatic plot. Our first impression of the whole is history: one who has read the Bible from cover to cover has traversed the ages from the beginning of the world to the first century of our era. Yet this is not what is most usually understood by the term history: it is nothing less than a philosophy of world history. Narrative is found to be merely a framework, holding the rest together; while the spirit of the whole is brought out in story, in song, in all varieties of literary form. The basis for this philosophy of history is the conception of a Chosen Nation, - chosen to be the medium for the revelation of their God to the other nations of the world. There are brief conceptions of the primitive world before the chosen people appeared. Then is traced the origin of this nation, its development from a family into an organised state under the migration in the wilderness and the Mosaic constitution. Gradu
heally a secular element appears in conflict with the theocracy; the antagonism
of kings and prophets makes the main history of Israel, until the secular element triumphs with a triumph which is also a fall. In captivity the Chosen Nation comes into contact with other currents of world history, and by the conquests of Cyrus is set free: it resumes its career no longer a
Nation, but a Church, profoundly conscious of its world mission. At first, P !
the literary forms conveying all this were simple story and song; as the 11 nation reaches its maturity, the expanding literature breaks away from the e !
historic framework into independent departments of prophecy, poetry, wisdom. The most splendid of the prophetic works — the Isaiahan rhap
sody - serves as epilogue to Old Testament history: dramatising the coneception of the Servant of Jehovah delivered from bondage, and awakened 2
to the consciousness of a world mission : he waits till the nations shall be gathered into the unity of Israel. The movement settles down to its central pause what is to us the interval between the Old and New Testament: here Wisdom literature, with its sanctification of life and reflection, comes
to the front, while the conception of the world mission of Israel retreats 1 into the background. But with the advent of Jesus Christ a new start is
made in the onward movement: in biblical phrase, the Kingdom of God is at hand. Once more we have the combination of narrative framework and the other literary forms. In the gospels the acts of Jesus and his words, stand side by side. So in what follows we have (in the present arrangement) the acts of the apostles side by side with their words, that is, the epistles: epistles in which are reflected stages in their growing conception of their mission, from that of a new way of Judaism, to that of world evangelisation, theological system, ecclesiastical organisation. A natural end is reached where the apostle of the Gentiles touches Rome, the symbol of world unity, having sent before him his . Epistle to the Romans,' which thus harmonises to a world audience the spirit of the Old and the New Testaments. Yet to the New Testament, as to the Old, there is an epilogue: ere the canon closes there is an outburst of imaginative poetry, which, in the Visions of the Apocalypse, embodies in a new setting the symbolism of all the older prophets, and presents all history - past, present, and to come -- in one final conception: the kingdom of the world becoming the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.
Thus, apart from more sacred considerations, even as a phenomenon of literature the Bible is unique. And the best treatment for this literature is to read it. For those who wish there exists a vast apparatus of all kinds of helps in Bible study. But let us not forget the subtle and besetting danger in all literary study — that the process of studying tends to eclipse the literature itself. Scholarship can do much for the Bible: but imagina tion and literary receptivity can do more. Thus it is above all to the general reader that the present work is addressed; its aim is to enable him, without the obstruction of mediæval arrangement, and with the minimum of the interruption we call annotation, to traverse the connected whole of Scripture from end to end, to think its thoughts, to live through the spiritua evolution which has produced our modern religion.
Yet, if the question be of study, what field has greater claims than this literature of the Bible? Our academic traditions have long recognised in the classical literature a sufficient instrument of culture. But when the content of the Bible is allowed to appear in its full literary form, Hebraic classics will be recognised as not inferior to Hellenic. If the inimitable freshness of primitive life is preserved in Homer, it is not less preserved in the epic stories of the Old Testament; while the still more intangible simplicity of the idyl is found perfect in Ruth and Tobit, and far more attractive than the artificiality of Theocritus. The orations of Deuteronomy are as noble models as the orations of Cicero. Read by the side of the poetry of the psalms the lyrics of Pindar seem almost provincial. The imaginative poetry of the Greeks is perfect in its own sphere: but by the Hebrew prophets as bold an imagination is carried into the mysteries of the spiritual world. If the philosophy of Plato and his successors has a special interest as the starting-point for a progression of thought still going on as modern science, yet the field of Biblical wisdom offers an attraction of a different kind, in a progression of thought which has run its full round and reached a position of rest. Most interesting is it to follow the sagacity of the classic historians as they analyse a dead past : but the historic writings of the New Testament keep us in touch with the coming into being of thoughts and institutions which are with us yet in their full vigour. And in the inner circle of the world's masterpieces, in which all kinds of literary influences meet, the Bible has placed Job, the Isaiahan Rhapsody, the Apocalypse, unsurpassed and unsurpassable. In the varied types of lite are Hebraic is thus as rich as Hellenic: it adds the unique interest of the unity that binds all its various forms into a complete whole. Biblical culture then claims recognition as well as Classical culture. Within the covers of this volume, if it be adequately used, is the material of a liberal education,
RICHARD G. MOULTON. JUNE, 1907.
The text of the Modern Reader's Bible is one constructed specially for this work, for which the Editor is solely responsible. It is based upon the English Revised Version, with choice between the readings of the text and margin, and such slight changes of wording as are involved in the adaptation to modern literary structure. For permission to use the Revised Version as the basis of this text I express my obligations to the University Presses of Oxford and Cambridge.
The Reference Figures in the outer margins of the pages are to the Chapters and Verses of the Revised Version. The corner page headings, immediately over these Reference Figures, are in all cases the names of books as they appear in ordinary bibles.
On pages xii-xiii will be found the names of the Books of Scripture in the order in which they stand in ordinary versions, with the pages at which they will be found in the present edition. The arrangement of the present edition is given on page xiv.