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A GUIDEBOOK TO THE
BIBLICAL LITERATURE For worthy deeds are not often destitute of worthy relaters, as by a certain Fate great Acts and great Eloquence have most commonly gone hand in hand, equalling and honoring each other in the same Ages. — Milton
These people have a secret; ... they have discerned the way the world was going, and therefore they have prevailed. — MATTHEW ARNOLD
A GUIDEBOOK TO THE
A PRELIMINARY SURVEY
FTER a lifelong conversance with literature, in which
field he did the world great service and nobly wore himself out, Sir Walter Scott, in his last illness, requested his son-in-law Lockhart to read to him. When asked from what book, he replied, "Need you ask? There is but one.” And Lockhart read to him from the Bible.
This tribute of a modern author to the venerable volume was not his alone. Nor did it express, as some would read it, either a sudden vivid conviction or a sick man's sense of last resort. It was the world's tribute, rendered long ago and reënforced by ages of ripened experience; expressing the general judgment that here, of all books, is the one supremely great, the one that none others can supplant or emulate, the one embodying the essential values of all the rest. This idea is implicit in the name that soon after its completion was given to it: The Bible, - not a specific title at all, for it means simply The Book. The epithet Holy, which was quite generally added to the name, is of the same implication, expressing as it does its separateness from and superiority to all other books.
The term The Bible, from the Greek ta biblia, meaning originally "the booklets," or "little books" (more strictly What's in
little papers," for biblos was the Greek word for the Name
papyrus), recognizes the volume before us as a body of literature distributed in a collection of smaller works;
which it obviously is. These works, however, though diverse, are not fortuitous or miscellaneous but of a selected and classified character; wherefore the volume, as now made up, is often spoken of as a sacred canon or library. The name "bible" was not given to the collection until the selecting and amassing of the booklets, in both Old and New Testaments, was virtually or quite complete ; and soon thereafter the word, originally a plural, was understood and construed as a singular. Thus out of the sense of diversity grew the sense of unity and comprehensiveness. The name crystallizes the book's history. Beginning with the most unpretending claims, making its way by its intrinsic worth, not compelling assent but winning it, the Bible has established itself by its broad and varied scope, its homogeneity, and its developed unity of theme, as the world's supreme classic.
In such comprehensive scope it calls for appraisal to-day. The Bible is at once, and in equally true sense of all three distinctions: a literature, a library, and a book.
NOTE. Its Designations. It was about the middle of the second century A.D. that the name " Bible” was generally adopted; and the word seems to have changed from plural to singular in its transition from Greek to Latin. The name given in the Bible itself to the collection of sacred writings (comprising the Old Testament series) is s'pharim, books; see for instance, Dan. ix, 2: "I, Daniel, understood by the books,” among which he specifies the prophecy of Jeremiah. The New Testament writers speak of the Old Testament books as hai graphai, the writings (Latin scripturæ); see, for instance, Acts xvii, II: examining the scriptures (tas graphas) daily,” where the body of Old Testament literature is meant.
The Bible as a Literature. As a gradually accumulated deposit of literary works the Bible coincides, in time and in progress of ideas, with the national history of a people of Semitic origin inhabiting the small land of Palestine, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, and called at successive