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VODERN READER'S BIBLE
THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE WITH THREE BOOKS OF THE APOCRYPHA
PRESENTED IN MODERN LITERARY FORM
EDITED, WITH INTRODUCTIONS AND NOTES,
LICHARD G. MOULTON, M.A. (Camb.), Ph.D. (Penn.)
PROFESSOR OF LITERARY THEORY AND INTERPRETATION
IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.
Al rights reserved
COPYRIGHT, 1895, 1896, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1907,
BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1907. Reprinted
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
The Bible is its own best interpreter. When however we approach the practical application of this sound principle, we are met by an obstacle of an unusual kind. We are all agreed to speak of the Bible as a supremely great literature. Yet, when we open our ordinary versions, we look in vain for the lyrics, epics, dramas, essays, sonnets, treatises, which make the other great literatures of the world; instead of these the eye catches nothing but a monotonous uniformity of numbered sentences, more suggestive of an itemised legal instrument than of what we understand as literature.
Now it is clear that this strange form of our bibles was not given to them by the sacred writers themselves. The Bible goes back to a remote antiquity, when literature indeed was at its highest development, but when there was no corresponding development in the art of writing such as would enable manuscripts to reflect differences of literary form. The most ancient manuscripts are unable to distinguish verse and prose; in prose they make no distinctions of sentences, still less of paragraphs; in verse they have no distinctions of metre, nor can they discriminate speeches in drama or suggest the names of speakers. Many of them have not even divisions of words; and as a whole they are as barren of form as a stenographer's note book. Not then the original authors of the books of Scripture, but their successors at the time when manuscripts began to discriminate literary form, must be held responsible for the arrangement of our bibles. Now those who intervene between ourselves and the sacred authors — scribes, rabbis, mediæval doctors — may all be summed up under the one description of commentators. They have rendered infinite service to the world by the care with which they have preserved the words of Scripture; but its literary character would have been the last thing they would have considered. When therefore the advance in the art of writing enabled manuscripts to distinguish varieties of literature, the form these commentators gave to Scripture was, naturally, that of texts' for comment. And in this mediæval form of numbered texts the Bible has come down to our own day.
I instance a very simple passage : more adequate illustrations would be too long to cite. Such a passage as Hosea, chapter xiv, verses 5-8, would in an ancient manuscript (if we assume the language to be English) have appeared thus:
I WILL BE AS THE DEW U N TOIS R A E L H
This the mediæval commentators broke up into short masses sentences, texts, propositions — of what they considered a convenient length for discussion, and numbered them for reference.
5. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall blossom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
6. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon.
7. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and blossom as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
8. Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have answered, and will regard him: I am like a green fir tree; from me is thy fruit found.
Yet a brief examination of the passage is sufficient to show that it is a portion of a dramatic scene; and its structure ought to be exhibited as that of dramatic dialogue.
THE LORD I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall blossom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and blossom as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.
I am like a green fir tree
It appears then that the ordinary versions of Scripture, however accurate may be the translation of the words, yet present a double divergence from the sacred original: first, that they give no indication of the varieties of literary form and structure that distinguish different parts of the Bible ; secondly, that they impress upon the whole another structure that does not belong to it, but was the creation of mediæval commentators. In the face of obstacles like these it is indeed difficult to apply the principle that the Bible should be its own interpreter.
To give assistance in meeting this difficulty has been the purpose of The Modern Reader's Bible. Its scheme has been, accepting for translation the results of our Revisers, to investigate, from internal evidence of the writings themselves, and by principles of comparative literature, the exact literary form and detailed structure of the books of Scripture; and then to use all the devices of modern printing for the purpose of indicating such structure to the eye of the reader. Introductions to the books, and notes, have been added, but these are secondary; the page setting, if only it is correct, is itself the best of commentaries.
The spirit of this work is bounded by the idea of literature. I have no claim to speak as a theologian, and do not attempt doctrinal discussion. The revelation which is the basis of our modern religion has been made in the form of literature: grasp of its literary structure is the true startingpoint for spiritual interpretation, and the literary study of the Bible is the common ground on which varying theologies may meet. It is equally a principle of The Modern Reader's Bible to exclude another class of questions, which have absorbed immense attention at the present time, and are popularly known as the Higher Criticism. These discussions are of great importance in their own sphere; but that sphere is history, not literature; it should be described, not by the term 'biblical,' but 'Semitic.' For those whose interest is the evolution of Semitic institutions it is important to know the exact authorship and dates of various parts of Scripture, to inquire into