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1900. This school of Biblical interpretation may be termed modern, because it has come into existence in England and America during the present century ; it may be termed scientific, because in the study of the Bible it assumes nothing respecting the origin, character, and authority of the Bible, but expects to determine by such study what are its origin, character, and authority ; it may be termed literary, because it applies to the study of Hebrew literature the same canons of literary criticism which are applied by students of other world-literature; it may be termed evolutionary, because it assumes that the laws, institutions, and literature of the ancient Hebrews were a gradual development in the life of the nation, not an instantaneous creation nor a series of instantaneous creations. The other school may be termed the ancient school, because it prevailed in the church from a very ancient period until the latter half of the nineteenth century; the theological school, because it assumes as settled that the Bible is a revelation from God and consequently possesses certain characteristics which it thinks such a revelation must be assumed to possess; the traditional school, because it accepts as presumptively, if not conclusively true, certain opinions respecting the date, authorship, and character of different books in the Bible which have been traditionally held in the church from a very early period.
I accept frankly, fully, and without reserve the first of these schools, and have written this book for a double purpose: first, to tell the general reader what is the spirit and what the methods and the general conclusions of this school respecting the Bible; and second, to show that these do not imperil spiritual faith, - that, on the contrary, they enhance the value of the Bible as an instrument for the cultivation of the spiritual faith.
What will the New Criticism do with the Bible, is a fair question to ask, and the time has come to give it at least a partial answer. The believer in the New Criticism replies that it has already brought back into the Bible some books which had almost dropped out of it, such as the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Job; that it has relieved from some ethical difficulties some other books, such as Joshua and Leviticus; that it has made credible as fiction some passages which had been incredible as history, such as the legend of the Fall and the satire of Jonah; that it has made practically applicable to our own time other portions of the Bible, such as the civil laws contained in Exodus and Deuteronomy; that it has given a new and deeper spiritual significance to still other portions, as to some of the Psalms and to the latter half of the Book of Isaiah. The end is not yet; but enough has been accomplished to satisfy the believer in the New Criticism that its effect will be to destroy that faith in the letter which killeth, and to promote that faith in the spirit which maketh alive; to lead the Christian to see in the Bible a means for the development of faith in the God of the Bible, not an object which faith may accept in lieu of God's living presence; to regard the Bible, not as a book of philosophy about religion, but as a book of religious experiences, the more inspiring to the religious life of man because frankly recognized as a book simply, naively, divinely human.
I am indebted to so many authors of whose original investigations I have made free use that I attempt no acknowledgment to them here. Recognition of my obligations to them will be found in the notes scattered through the volume.
It should be added that in the preparation of this volume I have followed the lines and used freely the material employed on the course of Sunday evening lectures on the Old Testament given in Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, N. Y., in the winter of 1896–97, and the subsequent course of lectures given before the Lowell Institute of Boston on the same theme, in the winter of 1899–1900; but that the book is not a reproduction of either
CORNWALL-ON-THE-HUDSON, N. Y.