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Copyright, 1906, by 
Charles Scribner'b Sons 

Published, October, 1906 





This book springs from a course of study which 
I have offered for several years at Harvard Uni- 
versity in the Department of English. In this course 
my object has been to make students as familiar as 
possible with the English Bible, and to throw light 
on its literary forms by bringing together facts from 
the history of its sources and from the history of the 
translation into English. For the latter purpose I 
have drawn freely on the larger results of the great 
school of learning which is commonly known as the 
Higher Criticism. This is in itself, as has often 
been pointed out, merely a critical study of the vari- 
ous- books of both Old and New Testaments from 
the historical point of view; it arrives at its results 
by a faithful comparison of the various parts with 
each other, and by bringing to bear on them all per- 
tinent facts from the monuments and other external 
sources of history. I have confined myself almost 
wholly to the larger results of the school, on which 
there is substantial agreement among scholars ■ and 


I have nowhere, I believe, made statements of fact 
which cannot be tested by a knowledge of the English 
Bible. I have not cited authorities, partly for the 
reason just stated, but more because this book does 
not pretend to deal with doubtful questions at first 
hand: it is rather an essay in which conclusions al- 
ready established are used to illuminate purely liter- 
ary characteristics. In an appendix I have named a 
few words which will serve as a guide for any reader 
who may care to go farther with the analytical study 
of the Bible; in those books will be found copious 
citation of the authorities. 

Since this is a study in English literature I have 
confined myself wholly to the Authorised Version. 
If another generation should return to the general 
reading of the Bible the Bevised Version may be- 
come English literature ; but that is a matter for the 
future to determine. For this reason all my quota- 
tions come from the Authorised Version, even where 
the translation is imperfect or incorrect. It is well 
understood that the Bevised Version is a better basis 
for the study of Hebrew literature or of New Testa- 
ment literature. 

In all my discussion I have assumed the fact of 
inspiration, but without attempting to define it or to 
distinguish between religious and literary inspira- 
tion. The two come together in a broad region where 


every one who cares for a delimitation must run his 
line for himself. It is obvious, however, that no 
literary criticism of the Bible could hope for success 
which was not reverent in tone. A critic who should 
approach it superciliously or arrogantly would miss 
all that has given the book its power as literature and 
its lasting and universal appeal. 

A large part of the book was delivered in the 
form of a course of lectures at the Lowell Institute 
during the past winter. The chapter on the poetry, 
and portions of some other chapters, have appeared as 
essays in the Atlantic Montldy; and I am under ob- 
ligations to the editor of that magazine for his kind 
permission to use them. 

To several of my colleagues I owe special thanks 
for their generosity in opening to me their own stores 
of learning and for advising me in my reading. 
Chief among them are Professor Toy, who has shown 
me unwearying kindness in many difficulties, Pro- 
fessor G. F. Moore, Professor Lyon, and Professor 
Ropes, who, besides giving me much valuable advice, 
has been good enough to read some of the manuscript. 

J. H. Gardim.ij. 

18 Grays Hall, Harvard University, 
June 16, 1900. 




Introduction 1 

The English Bible a single book — The historical background. 


The Narrative 34 

The different types of narrative — Their primitive simplicity 
of thought — The simplicity of the Hebrew language — The 
New Testament narrative — The concreteness of Biblical 


The Poetry 88 

The different types of poetry — The form of the poetry — The 
expression of the emotions through concreteness of phrase 
and the music of the style — The intensity and elevation of 
spirit due to the historical background — The poetry always 
the expression of immediate and real emotion. 


The Wisdom Books 137 

The character of the books and the problems they discuss — 
The absence of reasoning and the predominance of emotion 
und intuition. 





The Epistles of the New Testament .... 171 

The first three gospels analogous in form to the Old Testa- 
ment — The epistles show reasoning — St. Paul's exposition 
largely figurative — His reasoning largely mystical. 


The Prophecy 208 

Its general character — Its development and breaking up — Its 
special power. 


The Apocalypse 250 

Its development from the prophecy — The visions of the apoc- 
alypse — Their borrowings from the prophecy — The visions 
impalpable — The message of the apocalypse dependent 
on connotation and the music of the style. Its essential 


The Translation 282 

Introductory — The collection of the separate books into the 
Scriptures — The Septuagint — The Vulgate and its influence 
on the English — The preparation for the translation into 
English — Tindale's work as translator — The completion of 
the translation and the subsequent revisions before 1600 — 
The Authorised Version. 




The King James Bible 355 

The state of the English language and the strength of religious 
feeling in the sixteenth century — The concreteness and 
simplicity of the English of the period — The Bible both 
foreign and native in English literature — The English Bible 
a standard for the literature, both in style and substance. 


INDEX 399 




When* one begins to study the Bible from the 
point of view of English literature, one sees at once 
that though it has grown into the substance of that 
literature nevertheless it has still its own character 
and its own place apart. At first sight sufficient 
explanation for this separateness seems to be found 
in the fact that it always has been and is still ven- 
erated as the word of God. A little further 
consideration, however, shows that though this is 
one cause it is far from being the only cause or even 
the chief cause for this peculiar position of the Bible 
in our literature; for all its literary characteristics 
and the mode of thought and the purpose of its 
writers are demonstrably different from those which 
lie behind any other work in the language. This 
uniqueness of character and of position of the 
Bible in English literature springs from the essen- 


tial character of the book itself, and not merely 
from the attitude of its readers toward it. 

Before we go on, however, to study this unique 
character of this great work of literature we must 
first clearly recognize the closely related fact that in 
English literature the Bible is a single book. Be- 
fore long we shall have to enter into some analysis 
of the parts of the book into their component sources, 
and this analysis may tend to obscure the essential 
unity of the whole. Yet the popular usage which 
speaks of the Bible as a single book in spite of the 
diversity of its parts, and in an equally natural way 
of Biblical style as established fact in literature, is 
a sound usage. In English literature the Bible is 
a single book, and not a " library of books." 

This distinctness and unity of character runs not 
only to the style but to the substance. In substance 
a minute's consideration will show any one how 
naturally he thinks of this book as the sum of the 
actions and sayings of men of another region and 
another age of the world; and whether these men 
of Palestine come from the time of David or from 
the time of St. Paul, they lie together in one's mind 
as belonging to a single land and a single marvellous 
period of the world's history. Moreover, the whole 
substance is imbued with a directness and a fresh- 
ness of inspiration which are unique. It is a right 


instinct, for all that Emerson has said, which puts 
the sayings of Isaiah and of Amos, of St. Paul and 
of St. John on a higher level than the sayings of 
Socrates or of Marcus Aurelius, and puts the words 
of Jesus in a place apart and above them all. The 
older and normal classification is merely a recogni- 
tion of established facts in history and literature. 
Even as between the Old Testament and the Xew 
Testament the differences seem slight and negligible 
when we compare either with anything else in 
English literature. Moreover, the two run together 
through many common characteristics: Christianity 
is deeply rooted in the religion of Israel; and all 
through the book, whether in the Old Testament 
or the Xew, there is the same earnestness and under- 
lying warmth of feeling, even in the stories of 
Samson and his rude jests on the Philistines, or in 
the quite unreligious book of Esther. Everywhere 
one feels the consciousness of the original writers 
that they were telling the story of the chosen people 
of God and setting forth the fulfilment of his 
promises to them. And throughout the whole book 
there is the unswerving and developing sense that 
there is a God in the world whose sway is justice 
and righteousness and love, and whose service is the 
highest duty of mankind. In all these ways the 
substance of the Bible is marked by an essential, 


underlying unity of character, which makes it in a 
very real way a single book. 

This same essential unity of quality is even more 
palpable in the style, which in its directness and its 
simple nobility is the one standard which we have 
in English to control the development of our lan- 
guage. The phrases from the Bible which have 
grown into our everyday speech spring impartially 
from the Old and New Testaments: we use "the 
son of his old age," or " the valley of the shadow 
of death," or " the pure in spirit," or " lilies of the 
•field," without thinking whether they come from 
one part of the book or the other. This unity of style 
is, as we shall see, largely due to the fact that the 
whole book was translated at the same period into 
a language of unsurpassed and unfaded vigor, 
which now has enough tinge of the archaic to give 
it a color of its own. It was Tindale's great achieve- 
ment that once for all he fixed the language of the 
whole Bible: and under the anxious and inspired 
care of the revisers who followed in his steps the 
style has been brought to a point of simplicity and 
dignity, of strong feeling expressed by the rich 
music of the prose, of stateliness and directness, 
which sets it apart from the style of any other book 
in the language. 

Thus whether we consider the substance or the 


style of the Bible, we only reinforce our original 
impression that in English literature it is a single 
book. If we were studying Hebrew literature or 
New Testament literature we should of necessity 
break it up and should find the force of the common 
saying that the Bible is a "library of books"; but 
for our present purpose it is a single book in as 
real a sense, though in a different one, as that in 
which the works of Shakspere constitute a single 
book. In a volume of his works it is a far cry from 
the euphuistic ingenuities of Love's Labours Lost or 
the rant and bombast of some parts of the early 
chronicle histories or the passionate romance of 
Romeo and. Juliet to the intense complication of 
thought in Hamlet or the great-hearted power of 
Antony and Cleopatra, and from them to the placid 
and autumnal charm of The Tempest. But for all 
these differences they have a common underlying 
character; and elusive though it may be, we recog- 
nize that Shakspere's personality hides behind them 
all. So in quite another way with the Eng- 
lish Bible: though there can be no question here of 
personality, yet the unity of character is indis- 
putable; for the religion of which it is the written 
revelation is as distinctly individual as is the char- 
acter which gives consistency to the words and i\w>\< 
of a man. At the end of our study I shall recur 


to this point, and after the analysis and discussion 
of distinctions, try to bring my readers back to this 
natural attitude towards the Bible as a whole and 
single book. 

In the meantime, in the hope of enriching that 
impression by pointing out the immense variety of 
the different parts which blend into the impres- 
sion of the whole, I shall dwell on the diversity of the 
sources from which they spring, both in substance and 
in time. Those of the Old Testament cover in time 
certainly more than a thousand years. The earliest 
materials go back to a period when the people of 
Israel were barely emerging from the wanderings 
of a nomadic life. These stories and songs and laws 
gradually coalesced in the hands of a long series of 
compilers and writers into something like connected 
histories; then in the hands of successive schools of 
prophets and priests, each with a clearer and higher 
perception of the true nature of Jehovah and hia 
relations to his chosen people, these histories were in 
some cases changed in purpose and contents, and ex- 
panded by additions, in part of prophetic exhorta- 
tion, in part of legal and liturgical prescriptions, 
until in the narrow and bitter times of the Persian 
sovereignty they came into their present form. The 
books of poetry, though each incorporates material 
from earlier times, came to be the expression of the 


thought and aspirations of the Jews of this same 
late period, a period when they were struggling for 
their existence both as a nation and as a church with 
a noble and inextinguishable faith. The prophecy, 
the key to the whole literature, first taking written 
form with Amos and Hosea and Isaiah, came to its 
height with them; and then gradually losing its 
power, after the times of the Captivity it dried up or 
ran off into the inspired dreams of the apocalyptic lit- 
erature, which continued on far beyond the apostolic 
age of the New Testament. Then in the New 
Testament, we come to books which were written 
in a modern and Western language, when the Roman 
empire held undisputed sway over the world. 
Thus in point of time the work that we shall be 
studying ranges in origin from some time before 
1200 b.c. to at least as late as the end of the first 
century a.d. 

In material there is a corresponding variety. 
There are scraps of folk-songs of war and victory, 
early legends and myths, histories based on contem- 
porary records and full of the vigor of a most vigor- 
ous time, great bodies of laws which reflect important 
changes in civilization, highly developed schemes of 
liturgy and ecclesiastical law, collections of proverbs 
so pithy and closely wrought that they still hold 
their truth, psalms of pious and connected medita- 


tion or of jubilant ejaculations of faith, the soaring 
messages of the prophecy, the mystical visions of the 
apocalypse, the simple, everlasting stories and teach- 
ings of the gospels, the fiery and soaring arguments 
of St. Paul. 

In the Old Testament all this material is Oriental : 
it springs from the same civilization as the Arabian 
Nights. But it has preserved for us the history, 
the poetry, the wisdom, the religious ideals and 
national hopes of a people whose individuality and 
tenacity of thought are perhaps the strongest known 
in history. The poetry is marked by a singular con- 
creteness and objectivity both of idea and of idiom, 
and by a freedom of form otherwise unknown in 
English. The books of wisdom are shrewd or at 
times soaring, but they never reason in the modern 
sense of the word. The religious ideas develop 
without any break which could make the pious Jew 
of the fourth century b.c. feel himself cut loose from 
ancestors of the tenth or fifteenth century b.c. whose 
religion and worship had close kinship to those of 
other desert tribes. 

In the Xew Testament side by side with the Ori- 
ental simplicity of the first three gospels and of some 
of the later books there is a new element, and an ap- 
proach to modern ways of thought in the fourth gos- 
pel, in the epistles of St. Paul, and in Hebrews. In 


these works we find the first effort to make a theology, 
— to philosophize religion. As a whole, the New Tes- 
tament has its unity in the substance of its doctrines, 
in the fact that in all its books it sets forth the 
same facts, the same doctrines, the same hopes, and 
the same ideals: but the two ways in which it sets 
them forth are as different as the East and the West. 
Yet all this diversity has grown together into the 
unity of our English Bible. The seeds of this unity 
were already sown in Old Testament times in the 
gradual advance of the people of Israel to higher 
and purer ideas of the nature and majesty of 
Jehovah. In each age their books of history were 
subject to a constant revision which selected and 
moulded the material with a strongly governing pur- 
pose. In the times of Ezra and Xehemiah the Law 
in the form of our Pentateuch became a definite 
book, venerated above all other books in existence. 
Then the prophetical books, which for the Jew in- 
cluded the historical books after the Pentateuch, 
followed the Law to a separate and kindred place 
in their esteem; and finally the Old Testament was 
completed by the addition of the other books. All 
this collecting and editing was done by men with 
no sense of literary ownership or of historical de- 
velopment. Thus there was a constant tendency to 
confuse and obliterate the special characteristics of 


different portions of the literature. Moreover, the 
text was still so fluid down to the very beginning 
of our era that the Greek of the Septuagint, which 
was made after 300 B.C., differs in important re- 
spects from the established text of the Hebrew. 

At the same time the books of the Apocrypha 
show that there was no gulf between the Old Testa- 
ment and the New. Even the forms are continuous 
and overlapping: the apocalyptic, which came to its 
full growth in Daniel, is carried on in Revelation 
and in 2 Esdras; some of the psalms almost surely 
come from Maccabean times, less than two hundred 
years before the Christian age ; and the Magnificat 
and Nunc Dimittis in St. Luke are a product of the 
same mode of literature. Moreover, in literary form 
the first three gospels are indistinguishable from 
analogous portions of the Old Testament. Thus the 
books of the Old Testament merge insensibly into 
those of the New. 

The processes of translation still further obliter- 
ated differences and created similarities. The Vul- 
gate, which was the Bible of all Europe down to 
the first half of the sixteenth century, by its strong 
coloring and its beauty and splendor of phrasing to 
some extent stamped its character on our version; 
and long before the fifteenth century men had lost all 
idea of any large differences between the parts of 


the Bible. The versions of the sixteenth century 
still further reinforced the unity of character of the 
whole Bible. When the devoted labors of William 
Tindale, his scholarship and his genius, had set the 
style of the English, the later revisions merely cor- 
rected the detail without altering the strong char- 
acteristics which he had stamped on it. Moreover, 
the language of England in the sixteenth century had 
the vigor which belongs to a vernacular freshly 
turned to purposes of literature ; and its comparative 
poverty in abstract and learned words separate it 
from our language of to-day, and even without what 
is for us a slightly archaic coloring help again to set 
the Bible a little apart from other books. 

Thus the work which we are to consider here came 
to its full growth in the English in a form which, 
in spite of its foreign origins and the diversity of 
its sources, makes it a single book, and the book 
which of all books in English is the most native and 
the most deeply ingrained in our literature and our 
language. The object of this essay will be to throw 
light on this enduring power, and especially on some 
of the causes which enabled its appeal to survive 
so many centuries of time and the translation into 
a language of wholly different genius. In discuss- 
ing the book I shall look at it as the one book 
which in the last three centuries has reached the 


hearts and expressed the deepest feelings of all 
classes of English-speaking people, as the book which 
since the time of the great Puritan uprising of the 
seventeenth century has so worked itself into the 
bone and sinew of English literature and of the 
English language that to-day our common speech is 
full of its phrases. And looking at the book from 
this special and narrow point of view I shall confine 
myself wholly to its characteristics as a work of 
English literature. 


Since the Bible is essentially a national literature, 
however, and the Old Testament especially so, 
to understand how it came to be what it is one must 
have a clearer notion of the actual history of the 
people than can be gained from an uncritical reading 
of its historical books ; and especially one must realize 
the great change which was wrought in the religious 
life of the people of Israel, and by necessary con- 
sequence in their literature, by the revelations 
through the prophets. The messages of Amos, 
Hosea, and Isaiah which preceded and accompanied 
the national disasters of the eighth century B.C., and 
those of their successors in later ages, changed not 


only the substance but the outward form and struc- 
ture of the literature. 

To begin with, one must realize how much the 
course of the history of the tribes of Israel was de- 
termined by the situation and character of the coun- 
try they inhabited. Palestine, constituting as it 
does the narrow strip of habitable land between the 
desert and the Mediterranean, was the bridge over 
which ran the trade routes between the valley of the 
A'ile and the valley of the Euphrates. Accordingly 
the states formed by its changing inhabitants were at 
best little more than buffers between the great empires 
of Egypt and of Assyria and Chaldea : and they 
were constantly subject to the domination of one 
or the other or to the almost incessant wars be- 
tween them. The country itself in the south is 
rough, hilly and mountainous, but in the north 
opens out into the great plain of Esdraelon or 
Megiddo. Thus, though the north was open to in- 
vasion, the line of mountains to the west of Jordan, 
especially in the south, created almost impregnable 
strongholds, such as Samaria and Jerusalem, which 
made possible in the dawn of Israelite history the 
persistence of the Canaanite clans, later the ex- 
ploits of Jonathan and David, and still later, at the 
threshold of the Christian era, the marvellous vic- 
tories of the Maccabees. The greater ruggodness 


and sterility of the south largely account for the 
survival of the kingdom of Judah for more than a 
century after the destruction of the kingdom of 
Samaria by the Assyrians. 

The people of Israel who were to rule this region 
with many vicissitudes for less than a thousand 
years, sprang from the nomadic tribes of the Arabian 
desert, which produced also the Ammonites, the 
Moabites and the Edomites, and probably also the 
Assyrians and Chaldeans. Some time, probably in 
the second half of the second millennium before 
Christ, these clans from the desert seem to have 
settled on the northeast border of Egypt. Their ori- 
gin and early history are very obscure, for the 
stories of the patriarchs are probably largely or 
wholly legendary; and it is not until the Exodus that 
even the outlines of the history become at all dis- 
tinct. At this period, when the Egyptians afflicted 
them with burdens and forced them to build " for 
Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses," they 
broke loose from their masters under the leadership 
of Moses and moved off into the wilderness of Sinai. 
Here the tribes renewed their covenant with Jehovah 
and became thenceforth definitively Jehovah's people. 
This solemn renewal of allegiance to their own God 
stamped Israel with an individual character, which 
in future ages was to separate them from all other na- 


tions. After the death of Moses, under the lead- 
ership of Joshua, they made their entry into 
Canaan, crossing the Jordan at Jericho just above 
the Dead Sea. Their establishment here, as can be 
seen from a careful reading of Joshua and Judges, 
was slow and their advance irregular. Some of the 
natives of the country maintained themselves in 
their strongholds for a long period: Jerusalem, for 
example, was not taken imtil the reign of David. 
Then gradually, as they fought their way to su- 
premacy in Palestine, they became transformed 
from a more or less incoherent league into a people 
settled in cities and engaged in agriculture. 

The completion of this slow process came just 
before 1000 B.C., when Saul, after beating back the 
Philistines, the neighbors of Israel on the sea-coast 
of the Mediterranean, established a kingdom which 
included all the tribes of Israel. When he died 
fighting the Philistines at Gilboa, David, succeed- 
ing at first to the leadership of Judah, presently by 
shrewd and conciliatory statesmanship, by prowess 
as a warrior, and with the aid of such relentless 
leaders as Amasa and Joab, established his rule over 
all the tribes. He not only consolidated the king- 
dom, but he widened its borders to Damascus on 
the northeast and to Elath on the Red Sea. Under 
Solomon the kingdom must have taken on the 


features of an Oriental despotism. His wisdom was 
a wisdom of peace: and he made leagues with his 
neighbors and enriched himself through trade. He 
hired mercenaries, he built fortresses by forced la- 
bor, and he introduced into his capital at Jerusalem 
all those luxuries which we are told filled the Queen 
of Sheba with such wonder that " there was no more 
speech left in her." The luxury and the oppres- 
siveness of his reign, however, broke up the king- 
dom. On his death Jeroboam led all the tribes of 
the north in a rebellion against the dynasty of 
David, and established the kingdom of North Israel, 
which until the disaster of 722 B.C. was to be the 
leader of the two kingdoms. 

Then for a couple of centuries these two little 
kingdoms stood side by side, sometimes in warfare 
against each other, sometimes in coalition against 
their neighbors, always overshadowed by the great 
power of Assyria. In Judah the dynasty of David 
maintained itself: in North Israel the ruling family 
changed four times before the final anarchy which 
preceded the annihilation of the kingdom. "When 
the power of Assyria again strengthened itself after 
the middle of the eighth century the beginning of 
the end was at hand. Pekah, the king of Israel, and 
Rezon, the king of Damascus, " those two tails of 
smoking firebrands," as Isaiah calls them, formed a 


coalition which attempted to stem the tide. "When 
they made war on Ahaz of Jndah to force him into 
the coalition, he bribed Tiglath-Pilezer to help him. 
The latter put an end to the kingdom of Damascus 
and devastated the northern and eastern frontiers 
of Xorth Israel. Then after a long siege Sargon 
took the city of Samaria in 722 B.C., and deported 
much of the population of the northern kingdom to 
the far East, putting in their place foreigners from 
the Euphrates. So ends the first chapter in the 
history of Israel. Henceforth Judah is left stand- 
ing as a vassal of the great power of Assyria for 
another century, but its extinction was merely a 
question of time. 

Down to this period it is probable that the people 
of Israel differed not very much from the kindred 
nations across the Jordan, Moab and Amnion, who 
were of the same Semitic stem. The Moabites 
served Chemosh, and the Ammonites Milcom in 
much the same manner that Israel served Jehovah; 
and there is every reason to believe that down to 
the middle of the eighth century B.C., a century after 
the time of Elijah, Israel thought of Jehovah as a 
god of the same general nature as the gods of their 
neighbors. He was to them their special tribal god, 
their champion against Chemosh or Milcom or the 
special god of any other nation with which they 


might clash. Probably the religion of Israel was in 
essence purer and simpler than those of their neigh- 
bors; but Judges and Kings show how continually 
the religion of Jehovah was in danger of contamina- 
tion by these other religions. The merciless ex- 
termination of the worshippers of Baal under the 
leadership of Elijah and Elisha in the ninth century 
B.C. was a successful reaction against the inroads 
of foreign gods on the allegiance of Israel to Je- 
hovah; but we must suppose that down to this time 
the religion of Israel differed only in degree of 
purity from the worship of the surrounding nations, 
and that often the service of the heathen gods went 
on side by side with the worship of Jehovah. 

With the eighth century, however, a new light 
breaks for the religion of Israel. If the doctrine 
which had hitherto been accepted by all the Semitic 
peoples were true, that the god of each nation would 
protect it against other gods and their nations, then 
obviously the power of Jehovah had become weak 
and limited, for Assyria had overrun and destroyed 
the kingdom of North Israel. In this crisis we 
see the saving power of the religion of Israel. As 
the cloud was approaching, and before it broke, 
Amos and Hosea had proclaimed a new doctrine. 
They announced to the people that Jehovah would 
punish Israel for its unrighteousness, and that he 


would use the hosts of the heathen for his own 
purposes : 

But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, 
O house of Israel, saith the Lord the God of hosts: 
and they shall afflict you from the entering in of 
Hemath unto the river of the wilderness. 1 

And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest 
thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the 
Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst 
of my people Israel : I will not again pass them by 
any more: 

And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, 
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; 
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with 
the sword. 2 

And in the next generation Isaiah reinforced this 
doctrine to Judah: 

Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up 
upon them the waters of the river, strong and 
many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: 
and he shall come up over all his channels, and go 
over all his banks: 

And he shall pass through Judah ; he shall over- 
flow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; 
and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the 
breadth of thy land. O Immanuel. 3 
1 Amos vi. 14. J lb., vii. 8. 9. 3 Isa. viii. 7-8. 


This was a new and unwelcome doctrine to the 
people of Israel and of Judah. Heretofore their re- 
ligion had meant largely a cheerful round of festi- 
vals and the observance of the ritual purity by which 
Jehovah was to be propitiated. 1 This new message 
declared that Jehovah no longer shielded them from 
disaster; but that it was he, their own God, who 
was bringing the disaster on them, to punish them 
for their unrighteousness and their evil-doing. It 
was probably a long time before the people as a 
whole rose to the acceptance of this high doctrine; 
but its proclamation at just this time is a striking 
example of the way in which the religion of Israel 
was to be again and again lifted above what seemed 
a nullification by events through the revelation of a 
wider and more spiritual conception of the nature 
of Jehovah and of his relation to his chosen people. 
It is this new idea which gives to the earlier editing 
of the books of history the touch of awe and won- 
der for the continuous and loving care of Jehovah 
for his chosen people, and which makes these books 
as wholes so different from the materials out of which 
they were built. Henceforward the religion of Israel 
differs not merely in degree but in kind from the 
religion of its neighbors. 

The outward history of Judah, left alone on its 
1 Cf. Isa. i. 10-20. 


hills from the beginning of the seventh century, is 
obscure. Almost all we know is that it remained a 
vassal of the Assyrians until the destruction of 
Nineveh and the overthrow of the Assyrian power 
in 607 b.c, and that then it passed helplessly into the 
hands of the Chaldeans, who had succeeded to the 
empire of Assyria. The weak and foolish kings of 
the time of Jeremiah intrigued with Egypt against 
Nebuchadnezzar, and in 597 b.c. the latter oc- 
cupied Jerusalem and carried away the flower of 
the people, with most of the priests, to Chaldea, 
where he settled them in the neighborhood of 
Babylon. AVhen the intrigues were renewed he re- 
turned, and in 586 sacked the city, destroyed the 
temple and carried away all of the population of 
Judah except a handful of peasants, whom he left to 
keep the land from reverting entirely into wilderness. 
So passed away the kingdom of Judah. 

In the meantime, about a generation before this 
final catastrophe, the discovery of Deuteronomy in 
the temple and its acceptance by Josiah and the 
people of Judah as the basis on which to renew their 
covenant with Jehovah worked a revolution in the 
religious observances, and ultimately in the whole 
constitution, of the Jewish people. The great un- 
known prophet who wrote the work, recognizing 
that so long as each village and town had its own 


priest and its own high place just so long would 
the unclean rites of the heathen gods creep in to 
contaminate the pure worship of Jehovah, ordained 
that henceforward all sacrifices should be offered at 
Jerusalem : 

But unto the place which the Lord your God 
shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name 
there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and 
thither thou shalt come: 

And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, 
and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave 
offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your 
freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds 
and of your flocks: 

And there ye shall eat before the Lord your God, 
and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand 
unto, ye and your households, wherein the Lord 
thy God hath blessed thee. 

Ye shall not do after all the things that we do 
here this day, every man whatsoever is right in 
his own eyes. 1 

Though Deuteronomy provided that the Levites 
from the rest of the country should minister in the 
temple at Jerusalem, in practice the priests of Jeru- 
salem maintained their exclusive rights, and the other 
Levites became doorkeepers and servants. Thus came 
about the distinction between priests and Levites 
1 Deut. xii. 5-8. 


which was to continue till the final destruction of 
the temple. At the same time this concentration of 
the worship at one place enormously increased the 
influence and the professional feeling of the priests 
and so paved the way for the establishment of the 
hierarchy ; and out of this hierarchy grew the eccle- 
siastical organization which kept the Jews from 
slowly sifting away into the nations among which 
they were scattered. 

On the literature the influence of Deuteronomy 
and of the priestly ideas which grew out of it was 
no less dominant than on the organization of the 
nation. From now on the records of the race were 
rewritten from " history with a moral " into " his- 
tory for the moral." This reconstruction at first in 
the hands of writers full of the Deuteronomic idea 
of the covenant between Jehovah and his people 
brought Judges, Samuel, and Kings into their pres- 
ent form. Then as it passed into the hands of men 
of narrower professional interests it led to the work- 
ing out of the great body of laws and liturgical and 
ritual prescriptions found in the middle books of the 
Pentateuch. At the same time, as we shall see, the 
problems produced by a literal application of Deu- 
teronomy to the later condition of the Jews brought 
forth the great book of Job and many of the psalms. 

Outwardly the history of the Jews who lived in 


Palestine for the six centuries or less from the time 
of the exile to the final destruction of Jerusalem 
is chiefly a history of oppression and distress. From 
this period dates also the Dispersal, which had its be- 
ginning in conquest and deportation, but soon became 
dependent on the instinct for commerce. The Jews 
who spread in all directions through the known world 
became in point of numbers and prosperity of more 
consequence than the Jews who still lived in Pales- 
tine. But wherever they lived, whether in Persia or 
in Egypt, or on the borders of the Mediterranean, 
they held together as a nation through their passion- 
ate devotion to their religion and their unquenchable 
faith in Jehovah. The history of the Jews in Pal- 
estine during this period is extremely obscure : in the 
fourth century B.C., we have hardly a single fact of 
their history. It is known that the struggle of the 
Egyptians for freedom from Persian rule was in part 
fought over the territory of Palestine, and it is al- 
most certain that the Jews must have suffered bit- 
terly from the armies of the Persians. In the next 
century, after the conquest of Alexander the Great, 
the Jews probably had for eighty years a period of 
some peace and quiet under the rule of the first 
three Ptolemies. We know that they were in high 
favor at the Egyptian court, and prosperous in Alex- 
andria. All through this period they must have 


been gaining the larger experience of the world 
which appears in the later literature of the Old 
Testament and even more in the Apocrypha. With 
the renewed war between Egypt and the Seleucidan 
kings of Syria, the Jews found themselves in their 
old unhappy position of inhabiting the bridge over 
which the hostile forces must fight. The balance 
swung to the Syrians under Antiochus III., who in 
the first years of the second century b.c. wrested 
Palestine from the Ptolemy of the time. His son, 
Antiochus IV. Epiphanes, who came to the throne 
in 175 B.C., made a determined and deliberate at- 
tempt to stamp out the religion of the troublesome 
nation which inhabited the highlands in the south of 
his kingdom. He desecrated the temple by setting 
up an image of Zeus in the Holy of Holies, — the 
abomination of desolations, as Daniel calls it, — 
he gave orders for the destruction of all copies of 
the law, he forbade circumcision and the observance 
of the sabbath, and started an active and bloody per- 
secution against all Jews who resisted his commands. 
At first it seemed as if the end were come. Then 
at last an aged priest, Mattathias, in the little moun- 
tain village of Modin, in desperation struck down 
a Jew who was offering the unclean sacrifice and the 
Syrian officer who was enforcing it. With his five 
sons he fled to the mountains, and there with a 


little band as desperate as himself be beat back the 
party sent by the Syrians against him. Then in suc- 
cessive marvellous victories his son, Judas Macca- 
beus, beat back one expedition after another until 
finally in 165 he defeated the viceroy Lysias him- 
self. After the death of Antiochus in 164 Judas 
and the two brothers who successively followed him 
in the leadership were able in 143 by military valor 
and by shrewd intrigues with the claimants for the 
throne of the Seleucidse to establish the Jews once 
more as an independent kingdom, a kingdom which 
was to last eighty years. During this time the sons 
and descendants of Mattathias became more and more 
merely civil rulers, and the high priesthood, which 
they held hereditarily, became almost a civil office. 

AVith the coming of the Romans came the begin- 
ning of the end. Pompey in 63 B.C. took Jeru- 
salem and plundered the temple, though he did not 
disturb the daily sacrifice. Syria, including Pales- 
tine, was now a Roman province. In 37 b.c. Herod, 
the ruler of the little Idumean kingdom, succeeded 
in having himself made by the Romans king over 
the Jews. His reign was marked by magnificent 
building of cities with fortresses, temples and the- 
atres; the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem 
lasted till 4 b.c With his death his kingdom was 
divided, and Judea was henceforth shifted by the 


Romans from one political division and one ruler to 
another. All through this time the Jews had been 
turbulent. They were bitterly divided against each 
other and continually intriguing. Finally in 66 a.d. 
the country blazed out into a war which forced 
the Romans to bring large reinforcements to Pales- 
tine. Vespasian came to the gates of Jerusalem, 
where the parties of the Jews had been fighting 
against each other, but the final capture of the 
city, whose garrison was divided against itself, 
was delayed until the coming of Titus in Septem- 
ber, 70 a.d. This time the Romans did the work 
thoroughly. The city was sacked, and the inhabi- 
tants sold as slaves or used in the combats in the 
public games ; and the plunder of the temple was ex- 
hibited in the triumph of Vespasian and Titus in 
Rome. So came the final end of the Jews as a nation 
with a local and settled home. 

Meantime their religion, starting from the impetus 
given by the great prophets of the eighth century, 
Amos, Hosea and Isaiah, soared to constantly higher 
planes. The great writer who wrote the original 
Deuteronomy, besides concentrating the worship at 
Jerusalem, formulated in the 7th century B.C. the 
doctrine of the dependence of the outward fortunes 
of Israel on its faithfulness to the covenant with 


The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor 
choose you, because ye were more in number 
than any people: for ye were the fewest of all 
people : 

But because the Lord loved you, and because 
he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto 
your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with 
a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house 
of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of 

Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is 
God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant 
and mercy with them that love him and keep his 
commandments to a thousand generations; 

And repayeth them that hate him to their face, 
to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that 
hateth him, he will repay him to his face. 

Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, 
and the statutes, and the judgments, which I com- 
mand thee this day, to do them. 1 

In the next century, during the Exile, another 
great unknown prophet, whom we may call the 
Isaiah of the Exile, advanced to a new and higher 
doctrine. Through his mouth Jehovah proclaimed: 

I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no 
God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast 
not known me: 

That they may know from the rising of the sun, 

1 Deut. vii. 7-11. 


and from the west, that there is none beside me. 
I am the Lord, and there is none else. 

I form the light, and create darkness: I make 
peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these 
things. 1 

And he sets forth as the corollary of this doc- 
trine the futility of idol-worship. The notable pas- 
sage of grim humor in Isaiah describes how a man, 
after hewing down an ash, 

burnetii part thereof in the fire; with part thereof 
he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: 
yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am 
warm, I have seen the fire: 

And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even 
his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and 
worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, 
Deliver me; for thou art my God. 2 

"When one remembers that these mighty doctrines 
were uttered by the prophet of a people whom the 
Chaldeans must have looked on as one of the least 
important of their captive nations, one sees how far 
the religion of Israel had risen. In the succeeding 
centuries the Jews rose to still further heights. 
Clinging as they did with a passionate earnestness 
to the promises of the prophets and at the same time 
driven by the coercive weight of circumstances to 

1 Isa. xlv. 5-7. 3 lb. xliv. 1G-17. 


see that these promises could not be fulfilled in their 
own day, gradually they came to realize that their 
faith would be rewarded in a future life; and in 
Daniel and the other apocalyptic writings, the doc- 
trine of immortality is set forth clearly and specifi- 

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the 
earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and 
some to shame and everlasting contempt. 

And they that be wise shall shine as the bright- 
ness of the firmament; and they that turn many 
to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. 1 

From this period between the Captivity and the 
period of the Maccabees come probably many of the 
psalms, and the great poem of Job. Meditation on 
the meaning of the world had come, but it was 
guided by men whose faith in their God was un- 

Thus in the thousand years or less in which the 
history of the people of Israel can be traced, we find 
them changed from a small and loosely bound league 
of nomadic tribes to a congregation widely scat- 
tered through the world, and bound together only 
by their allegiance to a law understood and followed 
in the most scrupulously literal way. In their re- 
ligion they have passed from the simple, unthinking 

1 Dan. xii. 2-3. 


devotion of a desert tribe to its tribal god to a 
realization that Jehovah is the God of all the earth, 
and that though his chosen people may for a time 
seem to be oppressed and helpless, yet it is in his 
power to set them above all the heathen who sur- 
round them. It is the history of a people who in 
spite of disasters which often brought it to the 
verge of annihilation, yet by its inextinguishable 
faith rose superior to the events of this life and 
attained to an elevation of religious thought which 
has made it for all its small numbers and its 
helplessness one of the great powers in the shaping 
of the modern world. 

The books of the Xew Testament are hardly 
affected by external history, for the Christian Church 
accepted the empire of Rome as a matter of course. 
The spread of Christianity to the Jews of the Dis- 
persal and then to the Gentiles led to the translation 
of the gospel into terms of Western thought under 
the leadership of St. Paul, and Revelation was written 
under the stress of the early persecutions against the 
Christians; but otherwise the books written to aid 
the spread of the gospel were little influenced by 
external history. The Christian Church in the apos- 
tolic days was in no way a political organization, 
and was only indirectly influenced by the political 


events of the time. Most of the epistles of the New 
Testament and the Fourth Gospel reflect the back- 
ground of modern thought from the Greek-speaking 
world to which they were addressed: but it is only 
in this indirect way that the books of the New Testa- 
ment are affected by the permanent shift in the 
mastership of the world from the long succession of 
Oriental powers to the Greeks and Romans. 

Such then is the background of country and of 
history from which the various materials of our 
English Bible sprang. For the most part the region 
was even more Oriental than Cairo or Damascus 
and the rest of the great Mohammedan world of to- 
day ; but it was the home of a people of extraordinary 
individuality, and endowed moreover with a religious 
and moral sense which rose constantly to higher levels 
of spiritual elevation. Without this vitality of their 
religion there is no reason to suppose that the people 
of Israel would have survived the incessant warfares 
and conquests which they underwent any more than 
did their kindred, the people of Moab or of Ammon ; 
but through it their great men brought forth books 
which have turned the history of the world. Inci- 
dentally, translated into English, and grown into a 
single book, these books have become the greatest 
single monument of our own literature. 


For convenience of study I will first discuss the 
several literary types into which the books may be 
classified, roughly following the order in which they 
come in our English Bible; then I will set forth 
the processes of translation and revision which led 
up to the Authorised Version of 1611 ; and finally 
I will discuss the qualities and characteristics of that 
version as we read it to-day. 



In any adequate study of the narrative of the 
Bible there must be a considerable amount of 
analysis and discrimination ; for the narrative of the 
!New Testament differs from that of the Old Testa- 
ment, and within the Old Testament itself there is 
great variety of type. Nevertheless, one can say that 
all the narrative of the Bible shows a combination of 
two sets of qualities: on the one hand it has a sim- 
plicity and a limpid and vivid clearness which make 
it appeal to all sorts and conditions of men; on the 
other hand through its whole range it has an under- 
current of earnestness and strong feeling. Thus the 
style clothes and transfigures even homely event8 
with beauty and spiritual power; and the concrete- 
ness and clearness crystallize the deep feeling ex- 
pressed by the strong rhythm and the varied music 
of the style. These two sets of characteristics, then, 
the simplicity and vivid clearness on the one hand, 



and the earnestness and rich depth of feeling on the 
other, we may take as the most characteristic at- 
tributes of these narratives. 

By a discussion of these attributes in the light 
thrown on the various books by modern scholarship 
we shall be able partly to trace some of the causes 
from which they proceed. "We shall find that from 
the substance and ideas of the Hebrew books of 
history and from the nature of their language spring 
the causes of the directness and the concreteness of 
the Old Testament narratives: and we shall see that 
the history of the Jews helps to explain the in- 
creasingly deeper and more spiritual insight into the 
meaning of their history which produced the solem- 
nity and elevation of these works. At the same 
time, the way in which the various types of nar- 
rative have been put together has produced a literary 
effect different from anything else that, we have in 
English literature. A final consideration which I 
shall put off to the chapter on the translation is the 
fact that in the English this narrative, though a 
translation, has a freshness and vigor of motion 
above all other narratives in the language. Here 
again, we shall find some explanation in the history 
of the period when the translation was made, and 
in the character and the circumstances of the men 
who made it. 


In our ordinary speech the phrase " Biblical nar- 
rative " seems to express a definite enough fact for 
our present purpose; yet when one thinks over the 
various books of the Bible, their differences begin 
to stand out and give us pause. The contrast be- 
tween the two opening chapters of Genesis, or 
between the simple, primitive stories of Judges and 
Samuel and the intensity and earnestness of Deuter- 
onomy, or between the pastoral and limpid simplicity 
of Ruth and the repetitious and ponderous narrative 
of Daniel, stare one in the face, and seem to make 
it impossible to generalize. In the end, as I have 
said, we shall find that all these narratives agree 
in combining concrete simplicity and deep earnest- 
ness of feeling to a degree which sets them apart 
from anything else in English literature; in the 
meantime we shall gain a deeper understanding of 
all the Biblical narrative by briefly examining these 
contrasts as they appear in three important types of 
it in the Old Testament. The Xew Testament nar- 
rative I will touch on later. We shall find that these 
three types of Old Testament narrative spring from 
three different ages of the history and the religious 
thought of the Jews, and that the contrasting quali- 
ties of the different types are to a large extent ex- 
plicable by the different circumstances under which 
they were produced. I will discuss first that which 


is earliest in time, then for the sake of contrast that 
which is latest, and finally that which is intermediate. 
The type of narrative that springs most readily 
to one's mind when one speaks of the Biblical nar- 
rative is the vivid kind of story which for the most 
part fills Genesis, Samuel, and Kings. For swift- 
ness, for the unerring sense of effective detail, these 
stories are our standard in English. The story of 
the Garden of Eden, and the fall of man, and the 
stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob show us this 
vivid narrative at its clearest and simplest. Even in 
this vivid and simple narrative, however, there is 
considerable variety. The stories of this type in 
Genesis are pastoral, almost idyllic, in contrast to the 
histories of the bloody Joab and his slaughter of 
Amasa and Absalom, or of the primitive feuds of 
Gideon and Jephthah in Judges, or of Elisha and 
Jehu and their merciless extermination of the wor- 
shippers of Baal. These later stories produce an 
effect of a stern reality, beside which the stories of 
the patriarchs have, as lias been said, " the freshness 
of the elder world." Nevertheless all of them are 
separated from the other types of which I shall speak, 
by their vividness, by their intense interest in human 
life, by their being told primarily for the interest 
in the events and in the people. One thinks first 
of all of their simplicity, clearness, and vividness. 


These characteristics can be made more palpable 
by putting an example from the earliest type be- 
side one from the latest type. If one begins to read 
Genesis with one's critical sense alert, the transition 
from the first to the second chapter shows a sur- 
prising change of style and of atmosphere. The first 
chapter is a solemn epitome of the whole process of 
the creation which tends to fall into a series of for- 
mulas, and which has many repetitions. 

And God said, Let there be lights in the firma- 
ment of the heaven to divide the day from the 
night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, 
and for days, and years: 

And let them be for lights in the firmament of 
the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it 
was so. 

And God made two great lights; the greater light 
to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the 
night: he made the stars also. 

And God set them in the firmament of the heaven 
to give light upon the earth, 

And to rule over the day and over the night, 
and to divide the light from the darkness: and 
God saw that it was good. 

And the evening and the morning were the fourth 
day. 1 

"What is more significant even than the formal pre- 
cision of this chapter is the fact that the belief un- 
1 Gen. i. 14-19. 


deriving it is an austere monotheism: the God who 
performs these great wonders of creation is a remote 
and omnipotent being. 

In the second chapter, after the fourth verse, all 
this is changed. The creation of man fills the centre 
of interest: the creation of plants and animals is 
incidental; the creation of the heavens and the earth 
is assumed. The style throughout is that of the first 
type of which I have spoken, simple, direct, vivid to 
the point of homeliness in its details. 

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the 
man should be alone; I will make him an help 
meet for him. 

And out of the ground the Lord God formed 
every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; 
and brought them unto Adam to see what he would 
call them: and whatsoever Adam called every 
living creature, that was the name thereof. 

And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the 
fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but 
for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. 

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall 
upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his 
ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 

And the rib, which the Lord God had taken 
from man, made he a woman, and brought her 
unto the man. 

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, 
and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, 
because she was taken out of Man. 


Therefore shall a man leave his father and his 
mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they 
shall be one flesh. 

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, 
and were not ashamed. 1 

Here, in contrast to the first chapter, God is on 
familiar terms with the man whom he has created: 
he brings the beasts of the fields and the fowls of 
the air to Adam " to see what he would call them " ; 
and in the third chapter he walks in the garden " in 
the cool of the day." One does not need much 
scrutiny to see the great difference not only in the 
manner of writing but in the mode of conceiving 
the act of creation : where the first chapter is stately, 
abstract, and reverent, the second is vivid, simple, 
and na'ive. 

Two more examples will make clearer the differ- 
ence in thought and substance between these different 
types of narrative. Of the two accounts of the 
promise to Abraham the first one begins as follows: 

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, 
the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, 
I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be 
thou perfect. 

And I will make my covenant between me and 
thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 

And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with 

him saying, 

1 Gen. ii. 18-25. 


As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, 
and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 

Neither shall thy name any more be called 
Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a 
father of many nations have I made thee. 1 

The second account begins with the story of how 
Abraham entertained the angels unawares: 

And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains 
of Mamre; and he sat in the tent door in the heat 
of the day; 

And he lift up his eyes and looked, and lo, three 
men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran 
to meet them from the tent door, and bowed him- 
self towards the ground, 

And said, My Lord, if now I have found favor in 
thy sight pass not away, I pray thee, from thy 
servant : 

Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and 
wash your feet and rest yourselves under the 

And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort 
ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for 
therefore are ye come to your servant. And they 
said, So do, as thou hast said. 

And Abraham hastened into the tent unto 
Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures 
of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the 

And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a 

1 Gen. xvii. 1-5. 


calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young 
man; and he hasted to dress it. 1 

And it even tells how the Lord disputes with Sarah : 

Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she 
was afraid. And he said, Nay ; but thou didst laugh. 

In the simplicity of this story, even the actions of 
God are conceived with the same homely concrete- 
ness as are the dealings of the patriarchs with each 
other. Again, as in the case of the first two chapters 
of the book, we find in contiguous passages strongly 
contrasted types of narrative, the one naive, concrete, 
and vivid, the other in comparison abstract, stately, 
and reverent. 

Let us consider more carefully the simple and vivid 
narrative. It is characterized by a lively and naive 
interest in the affairs of human life, and by natural 
and unpremeditated story-telling. Such are the sim- 
pler of the stories of the patriarchs, the story of 
Rebecca at the well, of Jacob and his tortuous deal- 
ings with his brother Esau and his father-in-law 
Laban, and the stories of Joseph, with that most 
touching scene of all where he could no longer re- 
frain from disclosing himself to his brethren. In 
other books of the Bible we come to examples of this 
style with its full human interest in the stories of 
1 Gen. xviii. 1-7. 


Jephthah and of Samson, in the story of Saul seek- 
ing his father's asses, in the various stories of David 
and Saul, in the story of David and Bathsheba, 
and of the rebellion of the arrogant Absalom and his 
wretched death at the hands of Joab, in the stories 
of Elijah and Ahab, and in that of Elisha, Naaman, 
and Gehazi. In all these stories the interest lies 
almost wholly in the actions and in the people. They 
show no evidence of any pondering on the meaning 
of history; the events and the actors in them are 
sufficient for the narrators. The narrative moves 
directly and rapidly, yet with extraordinary vivid- 
ness of characterization. The contrast between 
Jacob and Esau is perhaps the best example of this 
compact portrayal of character: Jacob farsighted 
and wily in a peculiarly Oriental way, yet withal 
sobered and deepened by his foresight of the great 
future which the promises of Jehovah had laid out 
for his race; Esau bluff and honest, but reckless of 
any good beyond that of the present moment. So 
in the stories of David and his troubles with his 
sons: the few chapters give us a most vivid glimpse 
of this Oriental court of David, the great warrior 
and the farsighted statesman, yet soft as a woman 
in dealing with the fractious and unruly Absalom. 
And consider the little glimpse of the bloody and 
treacherous Joab and his assassination of Ainasa: 


And Joab said to Amasa, Art thou in health, my 
brother? And Joab took Amasa by the beard with 
the right hand to kiss him. 

But Amasa took no heed to the sword that was 
in Joab's hand: so he smote him therewith in the 
fifth rib, and shed out his bowels to the ground, 
and struck him not again; and he died. So Joab 
and Abishai his brother pursued after Sheba the 
son of Bichri. 1 

It is difficult to see how narrative style can have 
more of the essential virtues than we find in such 
stories as these. 

Yet if we knew only these stories in the Old Testa- 
ment, we should miss a notable element of what 
makes up our impression of the Biblical narrative. 
For after all, that narrative is not merely a standard 
for vividness; it is also a standard for depth of mean- 
ing and a solemn stateliness of style. For these 
qualities one must turn to the other two of these 
three types of narrative. The latest of these, which 
is found chiefly in the Pentateuch, and which we 
may call the priestly, is bare of vivifying detail. The 
first chapter of Genesis in comparison with the sec- 
ond is austere and abstract: by itself and beside the 
warm human interest of the other stories it seems 
lacking in life. It does not scintillate with the words 
1 2 Sam. xx. 9-10. 


and the movement of living beings ; it sets forth the 
newly created universe and the world of the patri- 
archs as an empty expanse in which the Lord God 
of Israel stands at a remote and awful distance. 
And if one follows out the passages in which this 
type of narrative occurs through the Pentateuch one 
gets only an outline of the history, and an outline 
in which religious institutions and ceremonies over- 
shadow the individuals of the race. Examples of 
this bare but solemn narrative are the story of the 
creation in Genesis i } of God's covenant with Xoah 
after the Flood, of the covenant and promise to 
Abraham in Genesis xvii, of Abraham's purchase of 
the field of Ephron the Hittite at Machpelah for a 
buryingplace in Genesis xxiii, and of the Lord's 
commission to Moses to lead the children of Israel 
out of Egypt in Exodus vi. Besides these and many 
other passages of narrative, the great mass of laws 
and liturgical prescriptions and the exhaustive gene- 
alogies and chronology scattered through these books 
of the Pentateuch belong to the same priestly source, 
and add their solemn precision and formality to 
the general effect. Yet throughout this bare and 
unimaginative type of narrative is marked by a 
dignity and elevation which go a long way to color 
one's impression of the Biblical narrative as a whole. 
The very austerity of its conception of creation and 


of history lifts one above the petty concerns of daily 

At the same time the repetitiousness of style, which 
is one of its characteristics, establishes a strength of 
rhythm which deepens and emphasizes the meaning 
of the history. 

And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, and 
every one of the princes gave him a rod apiece, 
for each prince one, according to their fathers' 
houses, even twelve rods : and the rod of Aaron was 
among their rods. 

And Moses laid up the rods before the Lord in 
the tabernacle of witness. 

And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses 
went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, 
the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, 
and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, 
and yielded almonds. 

And Moses brought out all the rods from before 
the Lord unto all the children of Israel: and they 
looked, and took every man his rod. 1 

If this solemn rhythm colors and deepens even such 
a simple narrative as this, when it appears in a 
statement of the promises to the chosen people of 
God, it adds indefinitely to the impressiveness and 
weight of the narrative. Here is part of the passage 
in Exodus where the Lord gives to Moses the formal 
1 Num. xvii. 6-9. 


commission to lead the people out of the house of 
bondage : 

And I have also heard the groaning of the chil- 
dren of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bond- 
age; and I have remembered my covenant. 

Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I 
am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under 
the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you 
out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a 
stretched out arm, and with great judgments: 

And I will take you to me for a people, and 1 will 
be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the 
Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under 
the burdens of the Egyptians. 

And I will bring you in unto the land concerning 
the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to 
Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it to you for 
an heritage: I am the Lord. 1 

In the English the portions of the histories which 
come from this source have always this sonorousness 
and fullness of sound. It is a curious fact that in 
the lists of words and phrases which are given in the 
manuals as being characteristic of this source there 
is a larger proportion of Latinate words than else- 
where in the Bible. Here are a few of them from 
the list in Driver's Introduction to the Literature of 
the Old Testament, which, it may be noted, is based 
on a study of the Hebrew: to be fruitful, to multiply, 
• Ex. vi. 5-8. 


according to their generations, everlasting covenant, 
princes of the congregation, according to the com- 
mand of the Lord. Where there are many such words 
the large proportion of open vowels and liquid con- 
sonants makes the language almost intone itself. 
This rich coloring of this priestly type of narrative 
is an important part of one's total impression of the 
style of the Bible: for a necessary element in that 
impression is dignity and solemnity. The great 
stretches of ecclesiastical law in Exodus, Leviticus, 
and Numbers are arid so far as any literary interest 
is concerned ; yet even in the dry details of the sacri- 
fices and of the clothing of the priests the style has 
often a richness of coloring and a consequent glow of 
feeling which are curiously out of keeping with the 
character of the substance. 

The third type of narrative which must be taken 
into account in forming an estimate of the Biblical 
narrative as a whole is that of Deuteronomy and 
the analogous passages in the other histories; in time 
of origin this is intermediate between the other two. 
The amount of narrative in Deuteronomy itself is 
comparatively small, but the influence of its very 
individual style has spread through other books. 
This influence is analogous to that of the priestly 
type of narrative in deepening and strengthening the 
feeling. Here, however, the style has a power of 


sustaining periods and a sonorous and flowing elo- 
quence, unlike that of any other writing of the Old 
Testament : 

But the Lord hath taken you, and brought you 
forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, 
to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are 
this day. 

Furthermore the Lord was angry with me for 
your sakes, and sware that I should not go over 
Jordan, and that I should not go in unto that good 
land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an 

But I must die in this land, I must not go over 
Jordan: but ye shall go over, and possess that good 

Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the 
covenant of the Lord your God, which he made 
with you, and make you a graven image, or the 
likeness of any thing, which the Lord thy God 
hath forbidden thee. 

For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a 
jealous God. 1 

Such a style as this clearly adds an important ele- 
ment to the great work in which it is contained. 
Here are freedom and a vivid instinct for fact, joined 
with a sonorous and elevated diction to give expres- 
sion to a high and austere conception of religion. 
There is no writer in the Bible whose style is more 
1 Deut. iv. 20-24. 


individual and distinct than the great unknown 
prophet who wrote the original Deuteronomy; and 
both his lofty conceptions of the obligations of Israel 
to Jehovah and his rolling and eloquent style made 
a deep impression on the Jews of the generations 
immediately before the Exile and during the next 
two or three centuries. Writers eager to impress his 
teachings on their contemporaries recomposed the his- 
tory for the period covered by our books of Judges, 
Samuel, and Kings in order to illustrate and burn 
in this theory of history, that the prosperity or dis- 
tress of the children of Israel sprang immediately 
from their obedience or disobedience to the com- 
mandments of the just and merciful God who had 
brought them out of the land of Egypt into a land 
flowing with milk and honey: and in recomposing 
the history they added many short passages to make 
the lesson unmistakable. After the manner of all 
writers of antiquity such passages are apt to take the 
form of speeches put into the mouths of the chief 
actors in the history, as, for example, the first fare- 
well of Joshua, in Joshua xxiii, the farewell of 
Samuel in 1 Samuel xii, and the prayer of Solo- 
mon at the dedication of the temple. All such pas- 
sages, and there are many of them besides such 
speeches, by their sonorous phrasing and their roll- 
ing periods add to the earnestness and elevation of 


the books in which they are imbedded. Like the 
narrative of the priestly type with its austere dig- 
nity and abstract and stately elevation, Deuteronomy 
and the analogous passages in the other books help 
to deepen and enrich the impression made by the 
narrative books as a whole. 

I hope that this very brief review of so huge a 
field will have sufficed to make clear the fact that 
these stories of the Bible, in spite of their general 
effect of simple and vivid clearness suffused and en- 
riched by a singular depth and earnestness of feel- 
ing, are made up of distinct elements which can be 
discovered and isolated by analysis. This analysis 
has been one of the chief results of the great school 
of modern scholarship which is commonly known as 
the Higher Criticism: and it has shown in the most 
interesting way that not only deep and essential 
differences in religious thought but purely literary 
differences in style in the English Bible can be ex- 
plained by the diverse historical circumstances which 
produced the original books. The clear and unpre- 
meditated directness of the simpler stories of the 
Old Testament, the eager and rolling eloquence of 
Deuteronomy, and the formal and stately austerity 
of the priestly narrative all are explicable, in part 
at any rate, by the conditions from which they 
sprang. For in their origins these three types of 


narrative represent three different stages of the his- 
tory and of the religious thought of the people of 
Israel. Almost all of the simple and vivid narra- 
tive has come down from the early times, before the 
great prophets Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah had set 
forth the deeper meaning of the religion of Jehovah. 
In these stories, God seems to be thought of almost 
as an elder brother walking on the earth and guard- 
ing his chosen people. The idea which these early 
generations held of Jehovah and of their relation 
to him is illustrated by the speech of Rab-shakeh 
to the men of Hezekiah when the former was be- 
sieging Jerusalem: 

. . . Hearken not unto Hezekiah, when he 
persuadeth you, saying, The Lord will deliver us. 

Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered at 
all his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? 

Where are the gods of Hamath, and of Arpad? 
where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and 
Ivah? have they delivered Samaria out of mine 

Who are they among all the gods of the countries, 
that have delivered their country out of mine 
hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out 
of mine hand? l 

This whole region, as we have seen, held that the god 

of each nation was charged with the protection of 

1 2 Kings xviii. 32-35. 


that nation against other nations and their gods : and 
there is every reason to suppose that this was still the 
controlling idea of the religion of Israel down to 
the eighth century b.c. Thus the religion from 
which most of this simplest type of narrative sprang 
was that of a people in its childhood, and of a people 
who in spiritual insight had not yet risen above their 
neighbors. Then in the eighth century B.C., when 
the shadow of the great empire of Assyria began to 
darken the horizon of Israel, the new light came ; 
and it brought as one of its consequences a change in 
the character of the literature of Israel. Now it was 
revealed to the prophets that their people were the 
servants of a God who controlled the nations of the 
earth, and who used the heathen to chastise Israel 
for its unrighteousness and its backsliding; and in 
the next century Deuteronomy brought this new and 
inspiring ideal to an almost legal formulation. Each 
of these stages of revelation had its effects on the 
form and even on the style of the narrative. 

An even greater change followed the revelation 
made in the sixth century b.c. that the God of the 
Jews was the one God, who had made the heavens 
and the earth, and all that therein is. This high 
thought stimulated Ezekiel to propound an ideal 
scheme for the rebuilding of the temple and the re- 
constitution of its services in a manner befitting the 


God of the whole earth. He was also a priest, prob- 
ably a chief founder of that school of priestly writing 
which produced the latest of the three types of narra- 
tive we have been considering; and his prophecies 
and visions witness to the immense stimulus given to 
the priests as a class by this consciousness that they 
were the special servants of the one God. The vision 
which occupies the last nine chapters of his book is 
proof of the enthusiasm with which they entered into 
the work and the spiritual elevation with which they 
undertook it: 

Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the 
gate that looketh toward the east: 

And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel 
came from the way of the east: and his voice was 
like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined 
with his glory. 

And it was according to the appearance of 
the vision which I saw, even according to the 
vision that I saw when I came to destroy the 
city: and the visions were like the vision that 
I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my 

And the glory of the Lord came into the house 
by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward 
the east. 

So the spirit took me up, and brought me into 
the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the Lord 
filled the house. 


And I heard him speaking to me out of the house; 
and the man stood by me. 

And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of 
my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, 
where I will dwell in the midst of the children of 
Israel forever, and my holy name, shall the house 
of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their 
kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases 
of their kings in their high places. 1 

In estimating the legal and historical writing of the 
school of the priests during the Exile and the 
century succeeding, one must not leave out of ac- 
count this fact that they were filled with this new 
and uplifting conception of their religion and of the 
unique place which their nation in consequence oc- 
cupied among the peoples of the earth. It is this 
great idea which fills the set formulas of the first 
chapter of Genesis with such nobility and which im- 
parts depth and richness of feeling to what is other- 
wise bare and formal throughout this priestly type 
of the narrative. Thus it came about that a style 
of writing which seems so remote from the warmth 
and living vividness of the stories of the patriarchs 
or the history of David had a peculiar rich depth 
of expressiveness; for the later generations of the 
Jews were able to feel the power of their God in a 
way impossible to their forefathers, who had not 
1 Ezek. xliii. 1-7. 


passed through the fiery furnace of affliction to so 
noble a conception of his nature. 

Speaking very broadly, then, we may say that the 
limpid simplicity and the instinct for living and 
vivifying detail in the first of our three types of 
narrative reflect the habits of thought of a people 
whose interests lay in the present, whose religious 
life was simple and primitive; that the broader view 
of Deuteronomy and its intensity of feeling reflect 
a time when Judah in times of bitter and seemingly 
hopeless distress rose to a view of history and a con- 
ception of religion that were both more spiritual and 
intellectually far in advance of the writers of the 
simpler stories; and that finally, in the latest type 
of narrative we have the still nobler and more spir- 
itual thought of a generation which has soared above 
the mythology of the great nations that held them 
captive and the unthinking anthropomorphism of 
their own ancestors to the austere and uplifting con- 
ception of Jehovah as the one and only God who 
had made the heavens and the earth. The spirit and 
ideas of each of these periods are preserved in the 
rich mosaic of the historical books of our Old Tes- 

Yet in the end we must remember that analysis 
is not literature: and that although this analysis is 
worth making since it helps one to see perspective 


instead of a flat surface, yet in the end the natural 
way of reading is the true way for literature. I may 
compare one's original way of reading these stories 
to the effect of a Chinese picture, where there are 
rich colors and strongly outlined figures, but no dis- 
tinction of foreground and background, since there 
is no perspective. But after following out the 
analysis, one's reading is like a picture which, keep- 
ing the rich color and the sharp outline, now has 
depth and distance, so that one sees the thought 
of age before age of the people of Israel, reaching 
back into the mists of antiquity, as blue mountains 
peer over one another's shoulders off to the dim 
horizon. Thus the clear and vivid simplicity of the 
earlier narratives is deepened and ennobled by the 
searching earnestness of the later ones; and the 
austere bareness of the latter is vivified by the warm 
human interest of the former. 


Beside any other narrative in English literature, 
however, the differences between these three types 
of narrative become insignificant. In the first place 
they are separated from us by a great gulf in the 
manner of thought. That difference I shall discuss 
more fully in the chapter on the wisdom books of 


the Old Testament: but one can feel it if one realizes 
that the first two chapters of Genesis are, each in 
its own way, statements of what we should call 
theories of the universe. It seems a far cry from the 
story of the Garden of Eden and the serpent tempt- 
ing Eve to the nebular hypothesis and the theory 
of evolution; yet in purpose they are alike: each is 
an effort which men have made to explain to them- 
selves how the universe in which they live came into 
being. Yet though these theories of Genesis are sep- 
arated by a gulf from modern science, nevertheless 
the writer of the first chapter of Genesis reached an 
intellectual height far above that of the contem- 
porary writers of Babylonia, for whom the creation 
of the world sprang from the tangle of an elaborate 
pantheon. There is no more striking proof of the 
spiritual power of the religion of Israel than the 
way in which the priests of this small and oppressed 
people rose above the fogs of mythology and re- 
duced its confusion to the terms of a pure and simple 
monotheism. They still had to phrase their under- 
standing of the creation in the form of a narrative, 
for as we shall see they had no other way either of 
thinking or of expressing it ; but even intellectually 
this simplification is a large advance on the mytho- 
logical confusion of other Semitic nations of the 


In the same way these Hebrew writers had also 
to phrase what we should call theories of history in 
the narrative form. When they wished to set forth 
their understanding of the meaning of history they 
inserted a compact retrospect, generally putting it 
into the mouth of one of the actors. The character 
of these additions depends on the age from which 
they come, and reflects the successive advances which, 
as we have just seen, the Jews made in their under- 
standing of the nature of Jehovah and of their re- 
lation to him. The earliest of them go back to the 
century after the great prophets Amos, Hosea, and 
Isaiah had declared that the God of Israel ruled all 
the nations of the earth, and that he demanded 
righteousness from his people. The destruction of 
Samaria by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. came as an 
overwhelming proof of this doctrine ; and the more 
enlightened among the Jews, beginning to meditate 
on the history of their race, saw the events of their 
own times bound up with the purposes of Jehovah 
in past and in future ages. In consequence their 
history took on for them a fresh and inspiring mean- 
ing. Examples of this new conception may be found 
in the promises added to the story of Abraham 
and his sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis xxii, ami 
in the commission given to Moses at the burning 
bush in Exodus Hi) it is set forth most distinctly 


in the second farewell of Joshua to the people of 

And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith 
the Lord God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the 
other side of the flood in old times, even Terah, 
the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: 
and they served other gods. 

And I took your father Abraham from the other 
side of the flood, and led him throughout all the 
land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave 
him Isaac. 

And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I 
gave unto Esau Mount Seir, to possess it ; but Jacob 
and his children went down into Egypt. 

I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued 
Egypt, according to that which I did among them: 
and afterward I brought you out. 

And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and 
ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued 
after your fathers with chariots and horsemen 
unto the Red sea. 

And when they cried unto the Lord, he put 
darkness between you and the Egyptians, and 
brought the sea upon them, and covered them; 
and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt : 
and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season. 

And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, 
which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they 
fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, 
that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed 
them from before you. 


Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, 
arose and warred against Israel, and sent and 
called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you: 

But I would not hearken unto Balaam; there- 
fore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of 
his hand. 

And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: 
and the men of Jericho fought against you, the 
Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, 
and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, 
and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your 

And I sent the hornet before you, which drave 
them out from before you, even the two kings 
of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with 
thy bow. 

And I have given you a land for which ye did 
not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye 
dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards 
which ye planted not do ye eat. 

Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in 
sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods 
which your fathers served on the other side of the 
flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. 

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, 
choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether 
the gods which your fathers served that were on 
the other side of the flood, or the gods of the 
Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me 
and my house, we will serve the Lord. 

And the people answered and said, God forbid 


that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other 

And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot 
serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous 
God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor 
your sins. 

And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but 
we will serve the Lord. 1 

In all the passages of this type and period there is 
a peculiar freshness of thought and feeling: it is as 
if the writers were standing awestruck in the light 
of a new dawn which had made for them a new 
heaven and a new earth ; or as if they had struggled 
to a Pisgah height from which they saw history 
stretched out before them and behind with a new 
inspiring significance. 

A century later these explanatory additions to the 
history come almost wholly from Deuteronomist 
writers. The conception is in general the same as 
that of the passage which I have just quoted; but 
the statement of it shows a certain definiteness and 
crystallizing, and the phrasing generally has a tend- 
ency towards fixed and regular formulas. This 
developed and established theory of history is set 
forth compactly in 2 Kings xvii, where the Deuter- 
1 Josh. xxiv. 2-16, 19, 21. 


onomist editors of the book pass judgment on North 
Israel after the fall of Samaria: 

In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria 
took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, 
and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the 
river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. 

For so it was, that the children of Israel had 
sinned against the Lord their God, which had 
brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from 
under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had 
feared other gods, 

And walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom 
the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel, 
and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. 

And the children of Israel did secretly those 
things that were not right against the Lord their 
God, and they built them high places in all their 
cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the 
fenced city. 

And they set them up images and groves in every 
high hill, and under every green tree: 

And there they burnt incense in all the high 
places, as did the heathen whom the Lord carried 
away before them; and wrought wicked things to 
provoke the Lord to anger: 

For they 6erved idols, whereof the Lord had said 
unto them, Ye shall not do this thing. 

Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against 
Juduh, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, 
saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my 
commandments and my statutes, according to all 


the law which I commanded your fathers, and 
which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. 

Notwithstanding they would not hear, but 
hardened their necks, like to the neck of their 
fathers, that did not believe in the Lord their 

And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant 
that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies 
which he testified against them; and they followed 
vanity, and became vain, and went after the 
heathen that were round about them, concerning 
whom the Lord had charged them, that they should 
not do like them. 

And they left all the commandments of the Lord 
their God, and made them molten images, even 
two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all 
the host of heaven, and served Baal. 

And they caused their sons and their daughters 
to pass through the fire, and used divination and 
enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in 
the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger. 

Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, 
and removed them out of his sight: there was none 
left but the tribe of Judah only. 1 

The book of Judges, in its original form, was com- 
posed to illustrate and prove this conception of 
history, which is set forth compactly at the begin- 
ning of the book in chapter iii; and it is also the 
substance of many of the speeches put into the mouths 
1 2 Kings xvii. 6-18. 


of the great men of Israel. The first farewell of 
Joshua, the farewell of Samuel, the prayer of Sol- 
omon at the dedication of the temple, all, as we have 
seen, sum up the way in which this school of writers 
understood their history. All of these passages, it 
will be noticed, are put in narrative form. 

The additions made by the priestly writers after 
the Exile, though still narrative in form, reduce the 
narrative to its simplest terms. The covenant of 
God with Abraham in Genesis xvii, which I have 
already quoted, as in a case in point: 

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, 
the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, 
I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be 
thou perfect. 

And I will make my covenant between me and 
thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 

And Abram fell on his face : and God talked with 

Here the ascription to God of actual talk with men 
is reduced to the simplest form ; it is not amplified 
with vivifying detail as in the case of the earlier 
stories; and the writer seems to use it almost as a 
formula. Even nearer to an actual abstraction is 
the solemn commission to Moses: 

And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, 
I am the Lord: 

And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, 


and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, 
but by my name Jehovah was I not known to 

And I have also established my covenant with 
them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land 
of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers. 

And I have also heard the groaning of the chil- 
dren of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bond- 
age; and I have remembered my covenant. 

Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am 
the Lord, and I will bring you out from under 
the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you 
out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with 
a stretched out arm, and with great judgments. 1 

In the earlier sources the angel of the Lord appears 
to Moses out of the burning bush; and in another 
chapter of the same origin the Lord turns Moses' rod 
into a serpent, and then makes his hand leprous and 
turns it again as his other flesh. In comparison with 
such passages, this which I have quoted is as ab- 
stract as it can be and still remain narrative. Like 
Genesis i this passage approaches the very edge of 
complete abstraction, but it does not pass over it. 
In such a place the writer of a modern history would 
abandon narrative and take to exposition or argument 
or some kindred mode of philosophizing. These an- 
cient writers had no such resource : and in this lack 
1 Ex. vi. 2-6. 


is to be scon a profound and essential difference in 
the literature of the Old Testament from our litera- 
ture of to-day. The Hebrew language had, as we 
shall see directly, no forms to express analysis and 
generalization; and when these ancient writers tried 
to set forth the way in which the universe came into 
being and history developed, of necessity they told 
of it in a story. Some of these stories are primitive 
to the extent of anthropomorphism ; and looking at 
them as explanations of the universe, one feels what 
a long way back we must go to reach the frame of 
mind of the people who made them ; yet such stories 
are only extreme examples of the primitive simplicity 
of thought which shows even in the priestly writings 
after the Exile, and which helps to explain both the 
difference of this literature from our modern writ- 
ing and its perennial power. 


I shall recur to this subject in each of the next two 
chapters: in the meantime we can get light on the 
distinctive simplicity of these narratives and of all 
the Old Testament literature by a brief consideration 
of the nature of the Hebrew language. In this chap- 


ter I shall speak of the general structure of the lan- 
guage ; the character of the vocabulary I shall discuss 
in the chapter on the poetry. 

Renan summed up the essential difference in the 
structure of the Hebrew from our modern languages 
when he pointed out that Hebrew " lacked one of 
the degrees of combination which we hold necessary 
for the complete expression of the thought. To join 
the words in a proposition is as far as they go ; they 
made no effort to apply the same operation to the 
propositions." * In other words, the old Hebrew lan- 
guage never reached the point at which it was able to 
construct sustained periods or closely linked chains 
of thought. Their only means of joining facts and 
ideas together was the conjunction vav, which was in 
itself hardly more definite than a gesture to indicate 
that things somehow belonged together. In the King 
James Version it is translated indifferently and, but, 
or so ; and sometimes incorrectly when. Thus we get 
the constant succession of ands which are so familiar 
a characteristic of the Biblical style. In consequence 
of this poverty in connectives the Hebrew language 
could not express swiftly and compactly the rela- 
tions of facts and ideas to each other; and it was 
wholly incapable of expressing most of the subtle 

1 E. Renan: Histoire Gentrale des Langues Stmitiques, 1858. 
Chap. I. 


modulations which give variety and flexibility to 
modern writings. It was a language in which solid 
fact followed solid fact in hardly changing sequence. 
Indeed in the Hebrew, sentences could be complete 
without a verb. There is one verse in our transla- 
tion of the book of Proverbs which has maintained 
the form: to the Hebrew mind, u A whip for the 
horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's 
back," 1 was a complete sentence ; the mere juxta- 
position of the ideas sufficiently expressed its sense 
of the relation between them. Furthermore the 
language had very few inflections. The verb had 
only two tenses, and those did not express time; the 
one set forth the set as still going on, whether in 
the past, the present, or the future, and the other 
as completed at some time in the past, the present, 
or the future. Nor were there any moods to ex- 
press sbsolutenesa or dependence oi the action. T<> 
quote Kenan again: u Perspective IS almost entirely 
lacking in the Semitic style. One geeks in vain for 
the half lights which give to the Aryan tongues, as 
it were, the double power of expression. One must 
even allow that the idea of style as we understand 
it was wlmllv lacking among the Semitic people. 
Their period 18 very short; the extent oi' discourse 
which they embrace at a time never psSSSS one or 
1 Trov. xxvi. 3. 


two lines. Wholly preoccupied with the present 
thought they do not construct in advance the 
mechanism of the phrase and take no thought of 
what has gone before or of what is coming. One 
would say that their style was like the freest con- 
versation caught in its flight and fixed directly by 

We shall see later how this character of the lan- 
guage blocked the way to anything like reasoning 
in our modern sense. Obviously it goes a long 
way to fix the character of the narrative. Stories 
in which the writer could indicate no shades of 
meaning, and none of the subtler, underlying re- 
lations which would set forth his individual infer- 
ence and judgments about the facts, would seem 
irrationally primitive to readers of Pater and Conrad 
and Henry James; and even beside such old- 
fashioned directness as that of Thackeray or Jane 
Austen a style so limited would seem helpless. But 
without coming down to our own times we can find 
within the covers of the Bible a contrast which will 
bring out this essential simplicity of what we look 
on as the typical Biblical narrative. Down to the 
end of the third gospel there is no narrative in the 
Bible which departs from the types we have been 
considering: in the latter part of the Acts of the 
Apostles the style becomes radically different. Let 


me quote short passages first from the Old Testa- 
ment, then from Acts: 

And Saul armed David with his armour, and he 
put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he 
armed him with a coat of mail. 

And David girded his sword upon his armour, 
and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. 
And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; 
for I have not proved them. And David put them 
off him. 

And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him 
five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them 
in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; 
and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to 
the Philistine. 

And the Philistine came on and drew near unto 
David; and the man that bare the shield went 
before him. 

And when the Philistine looked about, and saw 
David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, 
and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. 

And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a 
dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And 
the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 1 

In this passage, in which there are both narrative and 
speeches, there are no connectives but and between 
theseparate clauses and sentences, except for twice, 
and no clause which goes beyond two lines in length. 

1 1 Sam. xvii. 38-43. 


With it compare this passage from the latter part 
of the Acts of the Apostles, where the influence of 
the Greek shows plainly in the style : 

And when they were escaped, then they knew 
that the island was called Melita. 

And the barbarous people shewed us no little 
kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us 
every one, because of the present rain, and because 
of the cold. 

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of 
sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came 
a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his 

And when the barbarians saw the venomous 
beast hang on his hand, they said among them- 
selves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, 
though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance 
suffereth not to live. 

And he shook off the beast into the fire, and 
felt no harm. 

Howbeit they looked when he should have 
swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly; but after 
they had looked a great while, and saw no harm 
come to him, they changed their minds, and said 
that he was a god. 1 

Here there are hardly two sentences alike: the 
clauses show great variety in length; and for con- 
nectives we find when, but, though, howbeit, after; 

1 Acts xxviii. 1-6. 


the ands are comparatively insignificant. One feels 
immediately the difference between the two styles. 
In contrast with the Acts of the Apostles the passage 
from Samuel sounds, as Kenan has suggested, almost 
like the writing of a child. On the other hand, in 
contrast to the vivid and unpremeditated simplicity 
of the Old Testament, the passage from Acts has a 
touch of art: one feels that it was written by a man 
who knew rhetoric, who had some acquaintance with 
the value of style as style, and who was intent not 
merely on setting forth the facts but who also took 
pleasure in the finished beauty of the writing. An- 
other even more accentuated example of this full- 
fledged rhetorical narrative of the latter chapters of 
Acts may be found in the speeches which are given 
to St. Paul. Here is a portion of his answer before 

Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned 
unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know 
that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this 
nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for 

Because that thou mayest understand, that there 
are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jeru- 
salem for to worship. 

And they neither found me in the temple dis- 
puting with any man, neither raising up the people, 
neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: 


Neither can they prove the things whereof they 
now accuse me. 

But this I confess unto thee, that after the way 
which they call heresy, so worship I the God of 
my fathers, believing all things which are written 
in the law and in the prophets: 

And have hoped toward God, which they them- 
selves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection 
of the dead, both of the just and unjust. 

And herein do I exercise myself, to have always 
a conscience void of offence toward God, and 
toward men. 

Now after many years I came to bring alms to 
my nation, and offerings. 

Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me 
purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor 
with tumult. 

Who ought to have been here before thee, and 
object, if they had ought against me. 

Or else let these same here say, if they have 
found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the 

Except it be for this one voice, that I cried 
standing among them, Touching the resurrection 
of the dead I am called in question by you this 
day. 1 

Tn this little speech are to be found most of the de- 
vices by which a highly developed oratory reaches 
its effects. Less important facts are so subordinated 

1 Acts xxiv. 10-21. 


a? to modify the more important in a variety of ways, 
the order is inverted so as to bring striking ideas into 
relief, and the thought is elaborately bound together 
by connectives. Clearly this was written by a writer 
who belongs to the same world as Xenophon and 
Herodotus, as Csesar and Cicero, writers whose faces 
are westward and towards our modern world. 

Let me cite one more example, this time from 
modern English, to bring into higher relief this ob- 
jectivity and simplicity of the Bible narrative. One 
thinks of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress as an example 
of an extremely simple style. Here is a short pas- 
sage from the First Part : 

I looked then after Christian to see him go up 
the hill, where I perceived he fell from running to 
going, and from going to clambering upon his 
hands and his knees, because of the steepness of the 
place. Now about midway to the top of the hill 
was a pleasant arbor, made by the Lord of the hill 
for the refreshing of weary travellers; thither 
therefore Christian got, where also he sat down 
to rest him. Then he pulled his roll out of his 
bosom, and read therein to his comfort; he also 
now began afresh to take a review of the coat or 
garment that was given him as he stood by the 
cross. Thus pleasing himself awhile, he at last fell 
into a slumber, and thence into a fast sleep, which 
detained him in that place until it was almost night; 


and in his sleep the roll fell out of his hand. Now 
as he was sleeping, there came one to him, and 
awaked him, saying, Go to the Ant, thou sluggard; 
consider her ways, and be wise. And with that Chris- 
tian suddenly started up, and sped him on his way, 
and went apace till he came to the top of the hill. 

In this passage the clauses run to three and four and 
even five lines; and instead of all the clauses being 
co-ordinate and of equal value, every sentence shows 
subordination of one idea to another by where, by 
relatives, by participles and other devices of a mod- 
ern language. Such writing as this is of another 
kind than that of the Bible narrative. The sim- 
plicity of Pilgrim's Progress expresses far more 
ratiocination and consciousness of the finer relations 
between ideas than does even the most advanced 
style in the Biblical narrative. Like the speeches 
ascribed to St. Paul in Acts Bunyan's writing be- 
longs to a mode of thought and of style which are 
unknown in the Old Testament. 


In the New Testament, the most common type 
of narrative stands between the unbroken co-ordina- 
tion and simplicity of the Old Testament and the 
fully developed Greek style of the latter chapters of 


Acts. It is almost certain that the first three Gospels 
consist of material which was originally composed 
in Aramaic, the Semitic dialect which gradually took 
the place of Hebrew in Palestine after the exile. 
The general character of this Aramaic language, 
being the same as that of Hebrew, tended to fix 
on the narrative portions of these gospels the same 
general style that we find in the Old Testament: and 
though the influence of the Greek in which they were 
finally written shows in the frequency of participles 
and when clauses, yet there are almost no sustained 
periods. In consequence these gospels and the early 
part of Acts seem almost as foreign beside the later 
part of Acts as does the Old Testament itself. Be- 
side the Gospels, on the other hand, Judges and 
Samuel and Kings seem to belong to a world of the 
past: and this effect may in part be ascribed to the 
fact that their style is actually archaic in a way that 
the style of the gospels is not. In the last-named 
we have simplicity, but it is not a primitive sim- 

A good example of the average style of the New 
Testament narrative may be taken from the account 
of the death of John the Baptist in the Gospel Ac- 
cording to St. Mark. This gospel is the simplest 
of the four, and at the same time is especially full 
of little touches of vivifying and convincing detail. 



For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold 
upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' 
sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married 

For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful 
for thee to have thy brother's wife. 

Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, 
and would have killed him; but she could not: 

For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a 
just man and an holy, and observed him; and when 
he heard him, he did many things, and heard him 

And when a convenient day was come, that 
Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, 
high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; 

And when the daughter of the said Herodias 
came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them 
that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, 
Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it 

And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt 
ask of me, I will give it thee unto the half of my 

And she went forth, and said unto her mother, 
What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John 
the Baptist. 

And she came in straightway with haste unto the 
king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me 
by and by in a charger the head of John the 

And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his 


oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with 
him, he would not reject her. 

And immediately the king sent an executioner, 
and commanded his head to be brought: and he 
went and beheaded him in the prison, 

And brought his head in a charger, and gave it 
to the damsel : and the damsel gave it to her mother. 

And when his disciples heard of it, they came 
and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb. 1 

Here the subordination of subsidiary to principal 
facts helps to add swiftness to the narrative; and at 
the same time the absence of all subtleties keeps the 
story real and solid. In such passages the art of 
story-telling, without losing any of its substantial 
power, is brought to a still higher degree of per- 
fection than in the Old Testament. This variety 
and modulation of the style makes possible the 
ethereal power of the description in St. Luke of the 
shepherds watching in the field by night, perhaps 
the most beautiful short piece of narrative in the 
whole Bible: 

And there were in the same country shepherds 
abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock 
by night. 

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, 
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: 
and they were sore afraid. 

1 Mark vi. 17-29 


And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, 
behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, 
which shall be to all people. 

For unto you is born this day in the city of 
David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find 
the babe wapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a 

And suddenly there was with the angel a multi- 
tude of the heavenly host praising God, and 

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, 
good will toward men. 

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone 
away from them into heaven, the shepherds said 
one to another, Let us now go even unto Beth- 
lehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, 
which the Lord hath made known unto us. 

And they came with haste, and found Mary, 
and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 

And when they had seen it, they made known 
abroad the saying which was told them concerning 
this child. 

And all they that heard it wondered at those 
things which were told them by the shepherds. 

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered 
them in her heart. 

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and 
praising God for all the things that they had heard 
and seen, as it was told unto them. 1 

1 Luke ii. 8-20. 


Here St. Luke's trained sense for style reaches its 
highest point; in recording the tradition which had 
come to him, he keeps its absolute simplicity; and 
at the same time his knowledge of the art of writing 
makes it possible for him to touch it with a sheer 
beauty of style which expresses feelings hardly 
known to the Old Testament. Thus without any 
suggestion of the somewhat palpable art which we 
feel in the latter part of Acts, the gospels seem the 
work of writers who lived in our half of the world 
and on the hither side of antiquity. 

Yet when one turns from the style to the sub- 
stance one feels again that all these narratives be- 
long to another world. For these ancient writers, 
whether in the Old Testament or the Xew, there 
were no subtleties: they took note only of the solid 
facts of life ; they had no interest in inferences 
and modifications and other complications of thought 
which might be built upon them. I can bring out 
this difference more concretely by an example from 
Browning's Saul. Here the compact narrative of 
Sainucl is expanded to a poem of seven pages of close 
print. Let me quote first a few verses of the original : 


But the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, 
and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him. 

And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, 
an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. 

Let our lord now command thy servants, which 
are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning 
player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when 
the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall 
play with his hand, and thou shalt be well. 

And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me 
now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. 

And David came to Saul, and stood before him: 
and he loved him greatly; and he became his 
armour bearer. 

And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I 
pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found 
favour in my sight. 

And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from 
God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, 
and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, 
and was well, and the evil spirit departed from 
him. 1 

This is almost the whole of the passage on which 
Browning builds. Compare a small part of Brown- 
ing's development of part of the last verse ; the mere 
expansion, however, is the least of the differences 
between the two stories. 

1 1 Sam. xvi. 14-17; 21-23. 


Then I, as was meet, 
Knelt down to the God of my fathers, and rose 

on my feet, 
And ran o'er the sand burnt to powder. The 

tent was unlooped; 
I pulled up the spear that obstructed, and under 

I stooped; 
Hands and knees on the slippery grass-patch, 

all withered and gone, 
That extends to the second enclosure, I groped 

my way on 
Till I felt where the foldskirts fly open. Then 

once more I prayed, 
And opened the foldskirts and entered, and was 

not afraid, 
But spoke, Here is David, thy servant! And 

no voice replied. 
At first I saw naught but the blackness: but 

soon I descried 
A something more black than the blackness — 

the vast, the upright 
Main prop which sustains the pavilion: and 

slow into sight 
Grew a figure against it, gigantic and blackest 

of all. 
Then a sunbeam, that burst thro' the tent-roof, 

showed Saul. 

Then I tuned my harp, — took off the lilies we 
twine round its chords 


Lest they snap 'neath the stress of the noontide 

— those sunbeams like swords! 
And I first played the tune all our sheep know, 

as one after one, 
So docile they came to the pen-door till folding 

be done. 
They are white and untorn by the bushes, for 

lo, they have fed 
Where the long grasses stifle the water within 

the stream's bed; 
And now one after one seeks its lodging as star 

follows star 
Into eve and the blue far above us, — so blue 

and so far. 

Browning chose, we may assume, wholly to neglect 
the spirit of the Biblical narrative. Leaving out of 
account the ambling measure, itself so incongruous 
beside the stately march of the Bible story, one sees 
that in place of the grave restraint, and the absorp- 
tion in the solid realities of life, he lets his thought 
spin itself out into a network of subtleties; and the 
imaginations which he puts into the mouth of David 
are those of the modern day, not of the East, and 
of the ancient past. 

Oh, our manhood's prime vigor! No 
spirit feels waste 
Not a muscle is stopped in its playing, nor sinew 


Oh, the wild joys of living! the leaping from 

rock up to rock, 
The strong rending of boughs from the fir-tree, 

the cool silver shock 
Of the plunge in a pool's living water, the hunt 

of the bear 
And the sultriness showing the lion is crouched 

in his lair. 
And the meal, the rich dates yellowed over with 

with gold dust divine, 
And the locust-flesh steeped in the pitcher, 

the full draught of wine, 
And the sleep in the dried river-channel where 

bulrushes tell 
That the water is wont to go warbling so softly 

and well. 
How good is man's life, the mere living! how 

fit to employ 
All the heart and the soul and the senses forever 

in joy! 

This David of Browning's imagination could not 
have lived before the Italian renaissance. The pleas- 
ures of these men of the East from whom the Old 
Testament sprang were grave ; and though they en- 
joyed their sensations, they did not know that they 
had them. There is a phrase in one of Mr. Kip- 
ling's stories which describes the difference. In 
Her Majesty's Servants, the animals get to talk- 
ing about the things each is afraid of, and the bul- 


locks cannot understand why at the flight of the 
bullets the elephant stampedes, while they graze in 
peace. Then the elephant explains to them the dif- 
ference : " You can only see out of your heads, I 
can see into mine." That phrase sums up the dif- 
ference between the Oriental and ancient world from 
which come these stories of the Bible, and the 
modern world from which springs Browning's poem. 
The thought of the East was essentially simple. It 
knew only the objective and solid facts of which man 
has direct sensation, and the simple and primitive 
emotions which are his reaction to them. It has 
no perception of the subtler shades and shadows of 
feeling in which modern writers delight, nor of the 
complicated webs of thought which grow from men's 
efforts to reason out the universe. Nothing will 
more accentuate the chasm which stands between us 
and that ancient world than an attempt to imagine 
Browning's Saul written in the style of these 
Biblical narratives. The writers of the book of 
Samuel could not have conceived the subtleties and 
arabesques of this poem; and if they had been able 
to do so, their language would have provided no 
means of expressing them. 

Yet to this very limitation we must ascribe much 
of the permanent expressive power of the Bible nar- 
ratives. They are an unbroken stream of objective 


realities. Their whole texture is composed of the 
things which men can feel and see and hear. The 
very lack of the means for subordinating ideas took 
away from the writers the power of coloring the 
facts with their own personality. In Browning's 
poem the simple realities of the original story of 
David are overlaid and obscured by his own imag- 
inings. These imaginations, though in themselves 
interesting to many people, are individual and per- 
sonal and therefore of limited appeal, where the Old 
Testament story is impersonal and universal and 
therefore permanent. Our more elaborate art may 
build more complicated structures, and carry its 
chiselling of detail to a higher degree of subtlety; 
but in so far as it loses its hold on the qualities 
which belong to the Biblical narrative it loses power. 
For, after all, swiftness of movement, sparing but 
vivifying use of background, unflagging earnestness 
of purpose, and depth of feeling are the qualities 
which give to narrative the surest hold on the human 



In the preceding chapter on the narratives of the 
Bible, we have found that their most essential and 
distinctive characteristic is the transfiguring of a 
limpid and simple vividness by deep earnestness and 
elevation of feeling ; so that stories of the rough and 
homely life of the early days of Israel are made 
worthy to stand by the narratives of the gospel. In 
this chapter I am to discuss the poetry of the Bible ; 
and here again we shall find the same combination 
of a primitive simplicity and concreteness of expres- 
sion with the profound and ennobling emotion that 
transfigures the experience of man into an expression 
of permanent verities. The distinguishing charac- 
teristic of the poetry of the Bible is its absolute ob- 
jectivity: it knew only facts which are concrete and 
which mean always the same to all men. This com- 
plete objectivity and concreteness joined to the strong 
rhythm and the rich coloring of the style give pal- 



pable form to feelings which are too large and too 
deep-seated to be explained by articulate language. 

Let us begin with a brief survey of the poetry 
in something like chronological order. Here, even 
more than with the rest of the literature, we must 
remember that we have only a portion of all the 
poetry of Israel, and that perhaps a small portion. 
Whole classes of it must have disappeared. The 
literature was collected during and after the Exile 
by men who were passionately and wholly devoted 
to preserving the religion of Jehovah from the at- 
tacks of the heathen and to making it a living force 
for righteousness among the remnant of their own 
nation. They were thinking of higher matters than 
beauty of expression: they were concerned with the 
revelations of God to man, not with the imagina- 
tions of men's hearts. For them no writing was 
of value which did not bear on the history of God's 
chosen people and on the revelation to them of his 
will. The Pentateuch, as containing the Law, set 
the standard of admission to the Old Testament: to 
that were added first the other books of history and 
the books of the prophets, as supplementing and il- 
lustrating the Law, then these books of poetry and 
the rest of the Old Testament as in one way or an- 
other sacred through their relations to the religion 
of Israel as set furth in the Law. That there must 


have been other poetry than that which we have 
admits of no doubt: there must have been other 
songs of victory than those of Deborah, other dirges 
than those of David on Saul and Jonathan and on 
Abner, other poems of manners than those in Prov- 
erbs on the drunkard and the sluggard, other love 
and wedding songs than those in the Song of Solo- 
mon. What we have left merely shows how large 
and rich was the art of poetry among the people of 
Israel from the earliest times. Moreover, the 
dominance of the psalms and the wisdom poems in 
our Old Testament can hardly represent the original 
range of the old Hebrew poetry. During the 
troubled times of the Exile and the succeeding cen- 
turies, when the Jews were tossed from one con- 
querer to another, and harried and spoiled in the 
unceasing wars for the control of Palestine, all but 
their most essential writings must have disappeared. 
In the desperate struggle to keep themselves and the 
religion of Jehovah from being crushed and an- 
nihilated by the heathen they had no time to think 
of songs of love and feasting and the making and 
copying of poetry which served no more substantial 
purpose than beauty. We must remember, then, that 
in the poetry of the Old Testament we have only 
a portion of Hebrew literature, and that rigidly 
selected for a direct and practical religious purpose. 


Now when we look at these remnants of the 
poetry, and especially when we arrange it in what is 
probably chronological order, we find great changes in 
form from the early poetry to the later. The early 
poetry we may take in a large sense as that which 
comes from before the eighth century B.C., when the 
revelations of the great prophets Amos, Hosea, and 
Isaiah made the turning point both in the history 
and in the literature of Israel. Of this early poetry 
we have few examples. The Song of Deborah in 
Judges is held to be the earliest of all : it is undoubt- 
edly the song of triumph which was composed and 
uttered by Deborah herself to celebrate the great 
victory won by her people. A couple of centuries 
later than this perhaps would be the dirge which 
David sang at the death of Saul and Jonathan, the 
" Song of the Bow," as it is called in our version, 
in 2 Samuel i. Probably from about the same period 
comes the Blessing of Jacob in Genesis xlix; and 
from a somewhat liter time the Blessing of Moses in 
Deuteronomy xxxiii, the oracles of Balaam in Num- 
bers xxlii xxiv, and a few smaller fragments. These 
poems, except the Song of Deborah and David's 
lamentation, in the course of transmission became 
separated from the occasions which gave them birth; 
and the composers of our books inserted them in 
places which seemed to them appropriate. All these 


poems we may accept as having been written before 
the middle of the eighth century b.c. 

Reading these early poems together one finds that 
they have in common a stirring rush and vigor of 
expression and an abrupt and swiftly changing dic- 
tion. Here is a portion of the Song of Deborah: 

The kings came and fought; then fought the 
kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of 
Megiddo; they took no gain of money. 

They fought from heaven; the stars in their 
courses fought against Sisera. 

The river of Kishon swept them away, that 
ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou 
hast trodden down strength. 

Then were the horsehoofs broken by the means 
of the pransings, the pransings of their mighty ones. 

Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord; curse 
ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they 
came not to the help of the Lord against the 
mighty. 1 

Here every verse has a new figure; and one feels 
the freshness and opulence of resource of the singer. 
For comparison let me cite the last psalm of the 
Psalter : 

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary : 
praise him in the firmament of his power. 

Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him 
according to his excellent greatness. 
1 Judges v. 19-23. 


Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: 
praise him with the psaltery and harp. 

Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise 
him with stringed instruments and organs. 

Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him 
upon the high sounding cymbals. 

Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. 
Praise ye the Lord. 1 

The contrast is exaggerated, for in these liturgical 
psalms, as in many of our modern hymns, the words 
are of importance chiefly as affording a continuous 
medium for music; but the poverty and convention- 
ality of the thought and the formal regularity of 
the verse throw into relief the spontaneity and 
variety of the earlier poem. The change is from 
a poetry in which the words and imagery spring 
freshly from the immediate occasion to a poetry 
which is the handmaid of music. 

Let me cite another pair of examples in which 
the contrast is less extreme, a few verses from one 
of the oracles of Balaam and about as many from 
Psalm xxxiv. Here is the third oracle which Balaam 
uttered at the behest of Balak : 

And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam 
the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes 
are open hath said: 

He hath said, which heard the words of God, 
1 Ps. cl. 


which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into 
a trance, but having his eyes open: 

How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy 
tabernacles, O Israel! 

As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens 
by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which 
the Lord hath planted, and as cedar trees beside 
the waters. 

He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and 
his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall 
be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be 

God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath 
as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat 
up the nations his enemies, and shall break their 
bones, and pierce them through with his arrows. 

He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great 
lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that 
blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee. 1 

With this consider the familiar passage from Psalm 
xxxiv : 

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, 
and saved him out of all his troubles. 

The angel of the Lord encampeth round about 
them that fear him, and delivereth them. 

O taste and see that the Lord is good : blessed is 
the man that trusteth in him. 

O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no 
want to them that fear him. 

Num. xxiv. 3-9. 


The young lions do lack and suffer hunger: but 
they that seek the Lord shall not want any good 
thing. 1 

Between these two passages there are the same dif- 
ferences as between the other two, though in less 
exaggerated form. The oracle of Balaam is prob- 
ably an early poem inserted here by some editor who 
saw its appropriateness to the place. The profusion 
and the constant change of figure are the instinctive 
and spontaneous response to the vivid intensity of 
the feeling: one feels that the imagery is struck out 
fresh from the mint of the imagination for the 
special occasion. In the psalm, on the other hand, 
for all the beauty and the expressiveness of its 
phrasing, one feels a background of familiar litera- 
ture: it is as if this poet found his imagery in the 
great storehouse of earnest and pious expression 
which had come down to him as a heritage from 
earlier generations, and as if this literature were a 
more living fact to him than the life behind it from 
which its imagery was drawn. I can put the dis- 
tinction more concretely and not too whimsically 
perhaps by suggesting that the lions who " lack and 
suffer hunger " in the psalm were probably known 
to this later poet chiefly through literature: but that 
the earlier poet in his figure, " He couched, he lay 
1 Pa. xxxiv. 6-10. 


down as a lion, and as a great lion," may have been 

writing of a danger which he had himself known. 

Certainly the difference in vividness seems to carry 

/^Vcr, /4-y*^ us nearer the realities of life: in the psalm the lion 

seems not much more than a fine figure of speech. 

\A-~j*JihCU Very few early poems have survived in their original 

oZltyfaM form; but these examples will serve to bring out the 

iJLrL*^ difference between the spontaneity and freshness of 

the early poetry and the finished and deliberate art 

of the later. The early poetry gives the impression 

of being born in the very heat of joy or grief or 

triumph: the later poems seem in comparison the 

work of an art which has been brought by long 

growth and study to a high degree of finish. 

The Psalms, however, we must remember, were 
poems which were used as hymns in the musical ser- 
vices of the temple; and we may suppose that their 
adaptation to this purpose to some extent smoothed 
their freedom of structure to a somewhat more formal 
regularity. It is dangerous to put too much argu- 
ment on a single example, especially when we know 
so little about the principles that governed Hebrew 
poetry: but the poem which stands as the third 
chapter of Habakkuk, which by its superscription 
" upon Shigionoth " seems to have been written for 
music, is somewhat less fixed and regular in its form 
than the psalms. Here is a part of it: 


God came from Teman, and the Holy One 
from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered 
the heavens, and the earth was full of his 

And his brightness was as the light; he had 
horns coming out of his hand: and there was the 
hiding of his power. 

Before him went the pestilence, and burning 
coals went forth at his feet. 

He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, 
and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting 
mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did 
bow: his ways are everlasting. 

I saw the tent of Cushan in affliction: and the 
curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. 

Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? 
was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath 
against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine 
horses and thy chariots of salvation? 

Thy bow was made quite naked, according to 
the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. 
Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers. 

The mountains saw thee, and they trembled: 
the overflowing of the water passed by: the deep 
uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on 

The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: 
at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the 
shining of thy glittering spear. 

Thou didst march through the land in indig- 
nation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger. 1 
1 Hab. iii. 3-12. 


As compared with the regular stanzas of Psalm xviii 
this poem seems what the musicians would call a 
free composition. Here is one stanza of the psalm: 

Then the earth shook and trembled ; the founda- 
tions also of the hills moved and were shaken, 
because he was wroth. 

There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and 
fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled 
by it. 

He bowed the heavens also, and came down: 
and darkness was under his feet. 

And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly : yea, he 
did fly upon the wings of the wind. 

He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion 
round about him were dark waters and thick 
clouds of the skies. 

At the brightness that was before him his thick 
clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. 

The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the 
Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of 
fire. 1 

Beside the poem the psalm seems evenly, and as it 
were deliberately, wrought out, with due and artistic 
regard for the regular forms of a recognized poetic 
literature : it seems to owe more to the polishing and 
the orderly arrangement which are the heritage of 
poets who come late in the history of their art. The 
change, however, is merely from one form of beauty 
1 Ps. xviii. 7-13. 


to another. The early poems have a certain freedom 
and wildness which carry back one's imagination to 
the youth of the kingdom of Israel; the later poems 
are the product of a developed civilization: both are 
the outpouring of earnest and deep feeling. 

How highly developed in form this poetry of the 
Old Testament came to be in the later days may be 
seen from the number of alphabetic or acrostic 
poems which we have left. In the four chapters of 
Lamentations and in certain of the psalms the verses 
or groups of verses in the Hebrew begin with the suc- 
cessive letters of the alphabet. Of these alphabetic 
poems Psalm cxix is the most familiar example, for 
in the Authorised Version the names of the Hebrew 
letters are set at the head of each of the sections. 
This psalm as one reads it section by section seems a 
somewhat deliberate exercise; and noting its artificial 
form one is inclined to let it go with a passing 
comparison to the poems in the form of altars or 
wings which make George Herbert's Temple seem 
so far from our simpler taste of to-day. But let me 
cite a few verses from the first, chapter of Lamen- 

Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, 
and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, 
which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath 
afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger. 


From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and 
it prevaileth against them: he hath spread a net 
for my feet, he hath turned me back: he hath made 
me desolate and faint all the day. 

The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his 
hand: they are wreathed, and come up upon my 
neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the Lord 
hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I 
am not able to rise up. 1 

Any one who reads this passage for the first time 
will agree, I think, that it has no suggestion that the 
poet was tied to any artificial form. Not only has 
this Hebrew poetry advanced to the invention of 
elaborate forms of art, but it has gone to the further 
point of complete mastery of them; so that the in- 
tense thought and feeling of the poet flows freely 
and naturally into moulds which one would expect 
to be intolerable bonds. One thinks of Milton's 
great sonnets as examples in English of this mas- 
terful acceptance of seemingly impossible bondage. 
Here is that on The Late Massacre in Piemont : 

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughter'd saints, whose 

Lie scatter'd on the Alpine mountains cold; 
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old, 
When all our fathers worshipp'd stocks and stones. 
Forget not: in thy book record their groans 

1 Lam. i. 12-15. 


Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold 
Slain by the bloody Piemontese, that roll'd 
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans 
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they 
To Heaven. Their martyr 'd blood and ashes 

O'er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway 
The triple Tyrant, that from these may grow 
A hundred-fold, who, having learnt thy way, 
Early may fly the Babylonian woe. 

Here as in Lamentations, and in most of the 
alphabetic psalms, the feeling of the poet is wrought 
to such heat that it fuses the barriers of form and 
pours itself forth with its freedom endowed with new 
force and weight. "When men can utter their feel- 
ings with so little let and hindrance from forms as 
artificial as the sonnet or the alphabetic poem, we 
may assume that the art of poetry has reached a 
high degree of perfection. But in such poetry we 
have come a long way from the undeliberate and 
spontaneous outburst of triumph which we find in 
the Song of Deborah, though that in itself speaks 
of long ages of practice and development. 

So far I have spoken chiefly of the early poetry, 
and of Psalms and Lamentations. Besides these, and 
coming like them from the later period, is the great 
series of poems which make up the book of Job: all 
the early chapters of this great book deal with the 


problem which of all others in these days of bitter 
despair brought even blacker depths of distress to 
the soul of the pious Jew: how could he reconcile 
it with the promises of Jehovah that the heathen and 
the wicked were obviously prosperous, while he who 
served him so faithfully suffered such bitter misery \ 
In chapter xxviii comes the poem in praise of wis- 
dom, and after the somewhat unnecessary piety of 
Elihu, the splendid poems of the later chapters with 
the answer of Jehovah from the whirlwind and the 
stirring descriptions of the horse, of behemoth, and 
of leviathan. 

In Proverbs, besides the great mass of shrewd and 
penetrating apothegms there are several series of 
short poems in praise of wisdom, and mingled in 
with these certain little poems of manners, of which 
the following is an example: 

Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath 
contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds 
without cause? who hath redness of eyes? 

They that tarry long at the wine; they that go 
to seek mixed wine. 

Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, 
when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth 
itself aright. 

At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth 
like an adder. 1 

1 Prov. andii. 29-32. 


And at the end of the book there is the alphabetic 
poem in praise of the virtuous woman. 

Besides all these poems there is the book which 
we know as the Song of Solomon. For many ages 
it has been the custom of the Church to interpret 
this book symbolically; and the headings of the 
chapters in our Authorised Version follow this cus- 
tom. Of more recent years, however, scholars have 
rocognized that these warm and vigorous lyrics are 
the expression of a more earthly love, and that the 
book is probably a collection of folk songs sung at 
wedding festivals. At first under this view the book 
was supposed to be a drama, in which Solomon 
makes love to the Shulamite maiden. There are 
many difficulties with this theory of the book, how- 
ever, not the least among which is the fact that the 
scholars who hold it cannot agree whether there are 
two or three actors, nor on the limits of the acts. 
"When to this difficulty is added the fact that if the 
book be a drama it stands unique not only in Hebrew 
literature, but also, I believe, in Semitic literature, 
we may fairly turn to some less exacting theory. 
That may be found in the idea which is constantly 
gaining ground that the book preserves a collection 
of fragments of wedding songs sung at a ceremony 
which still persists in Syria to-day, in which the 
bride and groom are feasted for a week under the 


guise of queen and king, with many songs in praise 
of their beauty and prowess. Thus this book would 
save for us a fragment from a whole field of poetry 
otherwise lost. The theory certainly explains the 
unrestrained fervor of these poems. 

Finally, no consideration of the nature of Hebrew 
poetry can leave out of account the fact that, at any 
rate in the earlier times, the prophets delivered their 
messages, whether of reproof or of comfort, of new 
and uplifting conceptions of religion, or of guidance 
for political action, in a form which was as much 
poetical as is that of Job, though it is not so regular. 
It may be closely compared to the Song of Deborah 
or to David's Lament over Saul and Jonathan. Here 
is an example from the prophet Amos, and one from 
Isaiah : 

Can two walk together, except they be agreed? 
Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no 

prey? will a young lion cry out of his den, if he 

have taken nothing? 

Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where 

no gin is for him? shall one take up a snare from 

the earth, and have taken nothing at all? 

Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the 

people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, 

and the Lord hath not done it? 

The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord 
God hath spoken, who can but prophesy? 1 
1 Amos iii. 3-6, 8. 


Hear, O heavens; and give ear, earth: for the 
Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought 
up children, and they have rebelled against me. 

The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his 
master's crib : but Israel doth not know, my people 
doth not consider. 

Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, 
a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupters: 
they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked 
the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone 
away backward. 

Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will 
revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and 
the whole heart faint. 

From the sole of the foot even unto the head 
there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, 
and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, 
neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. 

Your country is desolate, your cities are burned 
with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your 
presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by 

And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a 
vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as 
a besieged city. 

Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very 
small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and 
we should have been like unto Gomorrah. 1 

In some cases the prophet adopted not only the 

verses of poetry but also more extended forms. In 

1 Isaiah i. 2-9. 


Isaiah ix-x there are four strophes or stanzas, each 
ending with the refrain: "For all this his anger is 
not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." 
Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel have several examples of 
the Qinah or Lamentation measure, one of the recog- 
nized modes of Hebrew poetry, in which the second 
member being shorter than the first produces a fall- 
ing cadence. It is the measure of all the chapters 
of Lamentations. The origin of the poetical form of 
the prophecies is, in part at any rate, due to the 
fact that the prophets uttered their oracles in a state 
of high emotional tension, when the ordinary beat 
of prose would have been inadequate to give expres- 
sion to the prophet's superheated imagination. The 
poetical form was thus a necessity of expression for 

The art of poetry does not come to an end, how- 
ever, with the Old Testament times. In the New 
Testament the canticles in the early chapters of St. 
Luke show what beautiful poems could be written 
at the very beginning of our era. The Magnificat 
and the Nunc Dimittis and the Benedictus, as they 
are called in the Book of Common Prayer, are of the 
nature of the psalms, but not restricted by being 
adapted to the temple service. Their golden and 
mature beauty brings the psalm-writing to a close 
for us at almost its highest point. In language 


these poems are saturated with the idioms and fig- 
ures of the Old Testament poetry, but adapted with 
a new vividness of imagination to the occasions which 
give them birth ; in them the passionate distress and 
jubilation of Job and of the Psalms give way to a 
confident and settled hope. In place of the fierce 
workings of the soul of a nation in anguish these 
poems declare the serenity and peace which herald 
the dawn of the new era. 


Let us now turn to a more specific consideration of 
this poetry as we read it in our English Bible: we 
must begin, however, by looking at the principles 
which governed Hebrew verse. These principles can 
be recovered only in part, but fortunately the one 
principle which really affects the form of the English 
has been clearly made out, the principle of parallel 
structure: in the Hebrew poetry the line was the 
unit, and the second line balanced the first, com- 
pleting or supplementing its meaning. The first 
verse of Psalm cl is a good example : " Praise God 
in his sanctuary; praise him in the firmament of his 
power." This principle could be applied to produce 
considerable variety. The second member of the 
verse might be synonymous with the first, as in the 


example I have just quoted. It might be in antithe- 
sis, as " A soft answer turneth away wrath : but griev- 
ous words stir up anger." It might add something to 
complete the thought : " By the rivers of Babylon, 
there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remem- 
bered Zion." Or it might be the application of a 
figure: " A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold 
in pictures of silver," or " As the door turneth upon 
its hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed." Some- 
times the first member of one line took its thought 
from a word in the last member of the line before. 

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from 
whence cometh my help. 

My help cometh from the Lord, which made 
heaven and earth. 1 

There might be more than two lines to complete the 
verse : the normal form of the colloquies in Job con- 
sists in a balance of couplets: 

My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, 
and as the stream of brooks they pass away; 

Which are blackish by reason of the ice, and 
wherein the snow is hid: 

What time they wax warm, they vanish: when 
it is hot they are consumed out of their place. 

The paths of their way are turned aside; they 
go to nothing, and perish. 2 

1 Ps. cxxi. 1-2. 2 Job vi. 15-18. 


In the Qinah or Lamentation measure, as I have said, 
the second member of the line was shorter than the 
first. Even in the translation the effect can be felt, 
as in Lamentations, of a falling cadence which makes 
the poem almost seem as if it were written in a minor 
key. But whatever the variety of form, the unvary- 
ing element in the Hebrew poetry is the constant 
balance of lines of about equal length. 

This principle, however, was not rediscovered 
until a century after our translation was made. 
Therefore the men who made our translation did 
not attempt to arrange the lines in a different form 
from the prose of the rest of the book. The result 
has been in the English to produce a kind of writing 
which is unique in our literature, since it is neither 
regular prose nor regular poetry, but shares the 
power of both. It has the strong balance and 
regularity which result from this underlying paral- 
lel structure of the Hebrew, and at the same time 
all the freedom and naturalness of prose. "When 
in reading the historical books one comes across a 
poem the difference in effect is striking: without 
one's realizing why the style suddenly seems as it 
were to take on energy and movement. I cite an 
example from Joshua: 

Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when 
the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the 


children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, 
Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, 
in the valley of Ajalon. 

And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, 
until the people had avenged themselves upon 
their enemies. Is not this written in the book of 
Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of the 
heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole 
day. 1 

Here the strong balance of the lines of the poem 
strengthens the rhythm, so that as the poem stands 
imbedded in the prose it seems almost excited in 

On the other hand, since in the English this bal- 
ance and strong rhythm are always united to entire 
freedom this Biblical poetry is quite clear of any sug- 
gestion of artificiality or sophistication. For us to- 
day verse and poetry are a mode of utterance apart 
from the speech of every-day life. They are art, and 
art carries always for us the implication of an atten- 
tion to form which makes impossible an entirely 
unstudied spontaneity. Even blank verse, the freest 
of all our forms of poetry, is lacking in the natural- 
ness of prose. Consider this passage from the fourth 
act of Richard II : 

Many a time hath banish 'd Norfolk fought 
For Jesu Christ in glorious Christian field, 

' Josh. x. 12-13. 


Streaming the ensign of the Christian cross 
Against black pagans, Turks, and Saracens; 
And toil'd with works of war, retired himself 
To Italy; and there at Venice gave 
His body to that pleasant country's earth, 
And his pure soul unto his captain Christ, 
Under whose colors he had fought so long. 

This is as simple as it can be; there are only two 
adjectives which are not a necessary part of the 
meaning, and no other attempt to adorn or beautify 
the facts than comes from the verse itself. Yet as 
compared with the earnest solemnity of the Psalms 
or of Job it is the writing of a man who is playing 
at life: it is the efflorescence of feeling rather than 
an irrepressible and inevitable expression of it. 
Even the great soliloquies in Hamlet produce some- 
thing of the same effect: for all their searching into 
the foundations of the human soul they are still 
play-acting, a noble blossoming out of the imagina- 
tion in a noble time, if you like, but still flowers 
from a " garden of pleasant delights," to modify the 
title of one of the Elizabethan poetry books. The 
noble sonnet in which Milton poured out his 
prophetic indignation which I have quoted seems to 
be an exception, and there are a few great poems of 
our own day, such as Tennyson's Crossing the Bar 
and !Mr. Kipling's Recessional and White Man's 


Burden, which sum up in burning phrase the feel- 
ing of a race. But even these, beside the poetry 
of the Old Testament, only emphasize the fact that 
the poet is for us a man apart, a seer looking 
on at life and penetrating its mysteries by the 
flash of genius: whereas these psalms are part of 
the bone and sinew of the Jewish life. In them 
there are no rules of art between us and the soul 
of the nation. In this Old Testament poetry as we 
read it in the Authorised Version we find the 
heightened beat of the rhythm, which expresses 
strength of emotion, and which is the peculiar virtue 
of poetry; and we have it combined with an entire 
freedom and naturalness which forestall any stray- 
ing of our attention from the message to the form 
in which it is couched. It is in large part because 
of this unique form that the poetry of the Old Testa- 
ment seems so much a universal and unstudied 
expression of the deepest feeling. Thus the very 
fact that our translators made no attempt to re- 
produce the exact form of the verse in English has 
added to its power; and I am inclined to suspect that 
the modern fashion of printing the poetry of the 
Old Testament in broken lines is quite as much of 
a hindrance as a help to the reader who wishes to 
get the full feeling which it contains. One hears 
grumbling to-day at the difficulty imposed on our 


reading of the Bible by the division into verses. "We 
may well remember that when the Bible was known 
thoroughly and universally, it was always so read. 
"We may assume, then, that the Hebrew poetry when 
translated into an English which knew nothing of 
its technical rules created for us a new kind of 
writing, which, standing between our verse and our 
prose, shared in the especial virtues and expressive- 
ness of each. 


Let us now go a step further and see how the 
language itself affected this poetry which we are 
studying. "We have seen in the last chapter how 
little apparatus the Hebrew language had for ex- 
pressing any complication of thought through vari- 
ety and modification of sentences and their structure: 
it is a closely related fact that its vocabulary had no 
words except for the concrete objects of the external 
world. All the words of the old Hebrew went back 
immediately to things of sense, and in consequence 
even their every-day language was figurative in a 
way which we can hardly imagine. The verb to be 
jealous was a regular form of the verb to glow; the 
noun truth was derived from the verb meaning to 
prop, to build, or to make firm. The word for self 


was also the word for bone. To quote Renan again: 
" Anger is expressed in Hebrew in a throng of ways, 
each picturesque, and each borrowed from physio- 
logical facts. Now the metaphor is taken from the 
rapid and animated breathing which accompanies the 
passion, now from heat or from boiling, now from 
the act of a noisy breaking, now from shivering. 
Discouragement and despair are expressed by the 
melting of the heart, fear by the loosening of the 
reins. Pride is portrayed by the holding high of 
the head, with the figure straight and stiff. Pa- 
tience is a long breathing, impatience short breathing, 
desire is thirst or paleness. Pardon is expressed by 
a throng of metaphors borrowed from the idea of 
covering, of hiding, of coating over the fault. In 
Job God sews up sins in a sack, seals it, then 
throws it behind him: all to signify that he forgets 
them. . . . Other more or less abstract ideas have 
found their symbol in the Semitic languages in a 
like manner. The idea of truth is drawn from 
solidity, or stability; that of beauty from splendor, 
that of good from straightness, that of evil from 
swerving or the curved line, or from stench. To 
create is primitively to mould, to decide is to cut, 
to think is to speak. Bone signifies the substance, the 
essence of a thing, and serves in Hebrew for our 
pronoun self. "What distinguishes the Semitic Ian- 


guages from the Aryan is that this primitive union 
of sensation and idea persists, — so that in each word 
one still hears the echo of the primitive sensations 
which determined the choice of the first makers of 
the language." 

This characteristic of the iiebrew language and 
one of the accepted doctrines of modern psychology, 
— the theory commonly known as the James-Lange 
theory of the emotions, — fit together like the two 
parts of a puzzle. According to this theory emotion 
is inseparable from sensation, or rather, emotion 
consists of a mass or complex of bodily sensations. 
Professor James sums it up in the following ques- 
tions : " What kind of an emotion of fear would be 
left if the feeling neither of quickened heart-beats 
nor of shallow breathing, neither of trembling lips 
nor of weakened limbs, neither of goose-flesh nor 
of visceral stirrings, were present, it is quite im- 
possible for me to think. Can one fancy the state 
of rage and picture no ebullition in the chest, no 
flushing of the face, no dilatation of the nostrils, no 
clenching of the teeth, no impulse to vigorous action, 
but in their stead limp muscles, calm breathing, and 
a placid face? The present writer for one, certainly 
cannot. — In like manner of grief: what would it be 
without its tears, its sobs, its suffocation of the heart, 
its pangs in the breastbone? A feelingless cognition 


that certain circumstances are deplorable, and noth- 
ing more. Every passion in turn tells the same 
story. A purely disembodied human emotion is a 
nonentity." * 

The Hebrew language is an unfailing illustration 
of this theory: it expressed emotion always by nam- 
ing the sensations of which the emotion consists. 
Here is an expression from the Psalms of helpless 

Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto 
my soul. 

I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: 
I am come into deep waters, where the floods 
overflow me. 

I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: 
mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. 2 

Notice the number of sensations which are named; 
" my throat is dried," " mine eyes fail," and the 
sensation of sinking in deep mire, with all its im- 
plication of spasmodic and desperate struggling. 
Another example may be found in the following pas- 
sage in Job ; and here again notice how many actual 
sensations are named : 

Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and 
mine ear received a little thereof. 

In thoughts from the visions of the night, when 
deep sleep falleth on men, 
1 W. James, Psychology, vol. ii., p. 452. } Ps. lxix. 1-3. 


Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made 
all my bones to shake. 

Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of 
my flesh stood up: 

It stood still, but I could not discern the form 
thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was 
silence and I heard a voice, saying, 

Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall 
a man be more pure than his Maker? 1 

The shaking of the bones, the hair of the flesh 
standing up, the sense of an object indistinctly pres- 
ent, the silence, all go together to make a most vivid 
description of the terror that flies by night; and here 
again the emotion is set forth by means of the con- 
crete sensations of which it consists. For a somewhat 
different example, let me cite another passage from 
the Psalms, the first few verses of what is known as 
the Yenite in the Book of Common Prayer; here the 
emotion of joyful worship is expressed by the acts 
in which it is expressed : 

O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make 
a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. 

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiv- 
ing, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. 

For the Lord is a great God, and a great King 
above all gods. 

In his hand are the deep places of the earth: 
the strength of the hills is his also. 
1 Job iv. 12-17. 


The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands 
formed the dry land. 

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us 
kneel before the Lord our Maker. 1 

Here though the emotion is more spiritual than in 
the other cases, yet it is still phrased in terms of 
bodily sensation, the singing, the joyful noise, the 
bowing down and kneeling. Often the emotion, in- 
stead of being set forth by the bodily sensation that 
constitutes it, is indirectly portrayed by naming the 
concrete objects which inevitably produce these 

Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou 
greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which 
is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when 
thou hast so provided for it. 

Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: 
thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it 
soft with showers: thou blessest the springing 

Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and 
thy paths drop fatness. 

They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: 
and the little hills rejoice on every side. 

The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys 
also are covered over with corn; they shout for 
joy, they also sing. 2 

1 Ps. xcv. 1-6. 
a Ps. lxv. 9-13. 


Such a passage arouses all the sensations of a warm 
day in spring when a man walks with head erect, 
his lungs filled with the warm, rich air, and his 
nostrils opened to the manifold sweet smells of 
the earth and of the growing things about him. 
The deep emotion of content and happiness is thus 
expressed not by naming the sensations but by 
naming the objects which inevitably produce them, 
a mode of expression which is just as powerful as 
the other. 

Comparatively simple cases like these will show, 
I think, how the principle works out: that the nam- 
ing of two or three specific sensations or of a few 
concrete objects carries with it a large and com- 
plex mental state which taken all together is the 
emotion of fear, of reverence, or of joy. And seeing 
this truth clearly for the simpler cases one can un- 
derstand how it explains the less palpable and more 
complex cases, and how the concrete imagery of 
such a passage as the following has the power to 
express feelings and thoughts which lie still deeper 
within the soul: 

Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, 
thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour 
and majesty. 

Who coverest thyself with light as with a gar- 
ment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: 


Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the 
waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who 
walketh upon the wings of the wind: 

Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a 
flaming fire : 

Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it 
should not be removed for ever. 

Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a gar- 
ment: the waters stood above the mountains. 1 

The means employed are the same, but the emotions 
to be expressed being larger and more diffused one 
cannot follow out the mechanism of the expression 
so definitely. Nevertheless the unsurpassed vivid- 
ness of the Hebrew poetry and its unfailing hold on 
our imagination may be ascribed to this fact, that 
it always expressed emotions directly and concretely 
through sensations instead of describing them by 
words which are abstract and therefore pale. 

We can go even further, and find in this special 
characteristic of the Hebrew language the cause for 
the permanent appeal of these ancient poems. The 
great body of our sensations and feelings does not 
change from generation to generation. The horror 
of despair at sinking in deep mire, the dread at the 
creeping mysteries of the night, or the delight in 
uttering forth our joy in song, all are the same thing 
for us to-day that they were for these ancient 
1 Ps. civ. 1-6. 


Hebrews two thousand years ago and for their an- 
cestors a thousand years before them; and the sight 
of the stars in the great field of heaven lifts us out 
of ourselves in the same way that it has moved our 
ancestors for innumerable generations. We mod- 
erns have built up a superstructure of abstract 
reasoning which they did not have; but all the great 
mass of our consciousness is the same that it has 
been for ages and, so far as we can see, as it will 
be for ages to come. Thus a literature which is able 
to express itself through these inalterable sensations 
has a permanence of power impossible to any litera- 
ture which is phrased largely in abstractions and in 
inferences from these sensations. In this primitive 
simplicity of thought, therefore, we can find one 
reason at any rate for the permanent power of the 
Hebrew poetry. 

Emotion and feeling, however, have other modes 
of expression than through the connotation of words 
of sensation: their most typical and highest expres- 
sion is through music. Every one knows that music 
can give bodily form to moods far too impalpable 
and evanescent for articulate language. Even the 
man who has no ear for music knows what it is to 
have his flesh stirred and his feet set moving by the 
playing of a military band ; and to music-lovers the 
full rhythms and harmonies of a great orchestra 


reach feelings which lie so deep in the soul that no 
words can find them. Herein lies the other side 
of the power of literature: since it stands for the 
spoken word it can borrow some of this power of 
music to express disembodied emotion. In this 
power our Authorised Version sets the standard for 
the English language: it is throbbing with the ear- 
nestness of the great men who in the stress of the 
Reformation, when England was struggling free 
from the power of the Pope, wrought out their trans- 
lation of the Scriptures. It was a time when all 
writing was musical: I have yet to meet a work 
of the sixteenth century written in the bare and jolt- 
ing style of so many of our books to-day. To the 
original translators and to the revisers who followed 
them we owe the strong and moving rhythm and 
the rich but subdued music which gives our Bible 
its capacity of uttering forth the deep things of the 

One source of this rich music we must not neg- 
lect: that is the Latin of the Vulgate. Later on 
I must discuss its influence more fully; here I will 
merely point out that all the men who made our 
version were intimately acquainted with it: and that 
its most notable qualities to us are its strong rhythm 
and its rich sonorousness of tone, qualities which 
more than all others express earnestness and rever- 


ence of feeling. A short psalm, " Behold, how good 
and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together 
in unity ! " will show for the present the mar- 
vellous power of this language to enrich its words 
with ringing music. Notice how full it is of open 
vowels and liquid consonants, sounds on which the 
voice insensibly dwells. 

Ecce, quam bonum et quam jucundum habitare 
f rat res in unum: 

Sicut unguentum in capite, quod descendit in 
barbam, barbam Aaron. 

Quod descendit in oram vestimenti ejus: 

Sicut ros Hermon, qui descendit in montem 

Quoniam illic mandavit Dominus benedictionem 
et vitam usque in saeculum. 

The deepest and strongest feelings which are ex- 
pressed in the psalms are the feelings of awe in 
the presence of the omnipotent God, feelings which 
are naturally expressed in worship. Xow music is 
an inseparable part of worship; and we may well 
hold that this music of the Biblical poetry was de- 
rived in part by reflection from the Yulgate. Thus 
we may feel that wo have in our English some share 
of the passionate earnestness of St. Jerome, ringing 
down through the centuries to deepen and enrich the 
meaning of the English. 



'Now let us turn from the essential questions of 
style which concern the translation, and search be- 
hind them into the intensity and elevation of feel- 
ing which made this marvellous style a necessity of 
expression. Here explanation can make but a short 
step; for we are in a realm where the only ultimate 
explanation is the fact of inspiration; and that is 
only another way of saying that we are in the 
presence of forces above and beyond our present 
human understanding. We can see a little further 
into the power of these poems, however, if we take 
into account the times in which they were probably 
written and consider the experiences which called 
them forth. I will speak here only of the Psalter 
and Job. 

It is now generally held by scholars of the modern 
school that the Psalter is the hymn book of the 
second temple; and most scholars who accept the new 
views of the Bible at all agree that some of the 
psalms at any rate were composed as late as the time 
of the Maccabean revolution, 165 b.c. The dates of 
the separate psalms may be very divergent. Some of 
them may have been originally composed before the 
Exile, some of them perhaps by King David himself ; 


but as the Psalter is a hymn book the date of the orig- 
inal composition of any given psalm is a matter of 
small importance. For since a hymn book is a collec- 
tion of poems made for a very practical purpose, it 
has no reason for existence if it does not express 
the feelings and aspirations of the generation which 
uses it. Therefore if the Psalter as we have it comes 
from the latest period of Jewish history it must 
embody the sufferings and aspirations, the faith and 
the passionate zeal of the Jews of the third and 
the second centuries before Christ. It would come, 
therefore, from nearly the most critical period of 
their history, a time full of bitter suffering and dis- 
tress, when they were harassed by enemies from 
without, and torn by dissensions from within. In 
Psalms Ixxiv and Ixxix Jerusalem is described as 
sacked and the temple profaned ; and the outburst of 
bitter indignation in Psalm Iv, 

But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide 
and mine acquaintance. 

We took sweet counsel together, and walked 
unto the house of God in company. 

Let death seize upon them, and let them go down 
quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, 
and among them, 

is probably aimed at the party among the Jews in 
these centuries which was ready to compromise with 


the heathen, perhaps even to contaminate the wor- 
ship of Jehovah by the assimilation of heathen rites. 
The depths of this misery is sounded by many of the 
psalms, as the faith by force of which they won their 
way through the furnace of affliction is measured by 
such glowing words as those of Psalm Ixviii : 

Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let 
them also that hate him flee before him. 

As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: 
as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked 
perish at the presence of God. 

But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice 
before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice. 

Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol 
him that rideth upon the heavens by his name 
JAH, and rejoice before him. 

A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the 
widows, is God in his holy habitation. 

God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth 
out those which are bound with chains: but the 
rebellious dwell in a dry land. 

O God, when thou wentest forth before thy 
people, when thou didst march through the wilder- 
ness; Selah: 

The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at 
the presence of God : even Sinai itself was moved 
at the presence of God, the God of Israel. 

The jubilant triumph of some of the psalms, too, 
seems to reflect such an unexpected and miraculous 


escape as came to the Jews through the victories of 
Judas Maccaba?us: 

It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put con- 
fidence in man: 

It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put con- 
fidence in princes. 

All nations compassed me about: but in the 
name of the Lord will I destroy them. 

They compassed me about; yea, they compassed 
me about: but in the name of the Lord will I 
destroy them. 

They compassed me about like bees; they are 
quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of 
the Lord I will destroy them. 

Thou has thrust sore at me, that I might fall: 
but the Lord helped me. 

The Lord is my strength and song, and is become 
my salvation. 1 

Certainly there is no time before the Exile which 
will furnish the background of hopeless misery and 
depression, suddenly interrupted by unbounded joy 
and thanksgiving, which lies behind the Psalter as 
a whole. The very intensity and desperateness of 
the suffering and the suddenness of the reaction help 
us to understand the intensity of feeling uttered 
forth in these marvellous poems. 

Job also comes probably from the Exile or the 
succeeding century, the time when, as we have seen, 
1 Ps. cxviii. 8-14. 


the problem of the origin of evil came home to the 
Jews with such bitter poignancy. Deuteronomy 
taught them that Jehovah would reward their faith- 
fulness to the statutes and ordinances which he had 
commanded them, and that he would punish whoever 
disobeyed ; and in the manner of their age and coun- 
try they looked for an immediate reward or an im- 
mediate punishment. Yet they who were striving 
with the most anxious care to fulfil every jot and 
tittle of the law were crushed by poverty and oppres- 
sion, while their heathen conquerors, living in open 
defiance of the laws of Jehovah, grew old in wealth 
and happiness. For them, and especially for those 
whose faith was strongest, the dilemma must have 
been critical. This noble poem witnesses to the ear- 
nestness with which they attacked the problem and the 
triumphant faith with which they came back to the 
solution that the ways of God are too great for man 
to understand, that the fear of the Lord is the be- 
ginning and the end of wisdom. Job utters not only 
the whole bitterness of their despair, but also the 
faith in the omnipotence of their God which rose 
untouched by difficulties and sufferings. 

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirl- 
wind, and said, 

Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words 
without knowledge? 


Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will de- 
mand of thee, and answer thou me. 

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of 
the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 

Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou 
knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? 

Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? 
or who laid the corner stone thereof; 

When the morning stars sang together, and all 
the sons of God shouted for joy? * 

This truth, that the Psalter and Job are the em- 
bodiment of intensely real emotions, must not be left 
out of account in reading them. The way in which 
Job solves the problems it discusses I must consider 
at greater length in the next chapter; here we can 
recognize that the intensity and elevation of spirit 
which give it its nobility spring from the triumph 
of an inextinguishable faith in a desperate crisis. 

Finally, the distinctive character of Hebrew 
poetry appears in a significant limitation, which is 
especially illustrated by Job. To use a technical 
term, Hebrew poetry never reached the point of rep- 
resentation: in other words, it never passed beyond 
the point of expressing the writer's own emotions to 

1 Job xxxviii. 1-7. 


the point where he could imagine himself into the 
feelings of other persons, whether real or invented. 
The same limitation appears in the historical books 
in the speeches which the writers, after the man- 
ner of all historians of antiquity, whether Orien- 
tal or classical, put into the mouths of the chief 
persons of the history. The Deuteronomist writers 
of Kings, for example, composing a prayer which 
would be fitting for Solomon at the dedication of the 
temple, put into his mouth words and ideas of which 
the people of Israel had no knowledge until three 
hundred years after his death. They made him 
speak in the language and thought of Deuteronomy, 
a book which was called forth by the great change 
in the fortunes of Israel after the destruction of 
Samaria. They could not imagine to themselves how 
Solomon would really have felt; all they could do 
was to put their own hopes and yearnings into his 
mouth. This lack of the faculty of constructive 
imagination is a chief note of the Hebrew literature. 
In the poetry this limitation resulted in the ab- 
sence from our Old Testament of all poetry which 
cannot be roughly classified as lyrical. The Hebrew 
mind had no apparatus for inventing characters, or 
for understanding the thoughts and feelings of other 
men. Ostensibly Job is either a drama or a de- 
bate ; yet though Satan is a protagonist in the prose 


introduction, he is not mentioned at all in the poem ; 
in the colloquies the speeches of the three friends can 
be interchanged without injury to the book, and in 
Chapter xxvii, as it stands, Job shifts over and occu- 
pies the ground which has been held by his friends 
against him. Clearly the authors of this great book 
came into no clear imagination or understanding of 
Job as an individual and consistent character. They 
made no effort to get into the point of view and 
temperament of the ostensible hero of the poem: 
as we say nowadays they made no attempt to create 
a character. He is best understood as a generalized 
figure of suffering Israel, a conception which was 
apparently dear to the hearts of the Jews at this 
period; it was set forth by the Isaiah of the Exile 
in several passages of which the following is one: 

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he 
opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to 
the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers 
is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 

He was taken from prison and from judgment: 
and who shall declare his generation? for he was 
cut off out of the land of the living: for the trans- 
gression of my people was he stricken. 

And he made his grave with the wicked, and 
with the rich in his death; because he had done no 
violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath 


put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an 
offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall 
prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall 
prosper in his hand. 1 

The same idea appears in certain of the psalms: 

For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease : 
and there is no soundness in my flesh. 

I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by 
reason of the disquietness of my heart. 

Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groan- 
ing is not hid from thee. 

My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as 
for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me. 

My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my 
sore; and my kinsmen stand afar off. 

They also that seek after my life lay snares for 
me : and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous 
things, and imagine deceits all the day long. 

But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a 
dumb man that openeth not his mouth. 

Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in 
whose mouth are no reproofs. 2 

During the bitter times of the Exile, and the cen- 
tury or two succeeding, the Jews seem to have found 
comfort in thus figuring themselves as a nation 
which was suffering because of its very faithfulness 
to Jehovah, and to have had a melancholy pleasure 
1 Isa. liii. 7-10. ■ Ps. xxxviii. 7-15. 


in describing these sufferings at length, always with 
the expression of the hope in the mercy and power 
of their God. It is probable that Job can thus be 
best understood. In a sense he is individualized, 
but no more so than is the suffering servant of 
Jehovah by the Isaiah of the Exile, or than the 
suffering Israel described in the Psalms. If one 
reads the poem carefully, one will see that it could 
be applied to many men of a considerable variety 
of temperaments; indeed, the further fact that the 
piety of the Job of the prologue, which consists so 
much in offering sacrifices, is different from the 
larger-minded piety of the Job of the colloquies, 
seems a pretty strong proof that the authors had 
little idea of what we mean by consistent character- 
ization. They made no effort to make Job indi- 
vidual in the sense that Hamlet and Henry Esmond 
are individuals; furthermore, there is no evidence 
that the men of their race were ever conscious of the 
possibility of such an effort. 

This unconsciousness of the possibilities of the 
creative Imagination marks the abyss which lies be- 
tween the Old Testament literature and our modern 
literature. From the time of the Greeks down rep- 
resentative art is the largest and most important part 
of pnre literature. All the drama, all story-writing, 
and all poetry except lyrical are representative, in that 


their effort is to set forth the actions and feelings of 
persons whom their writers know only indirectly and 
by force of the creative imagination. In the Bible 
there is no such literature. If one remembers that 
the only other work with which English-speaking 
people are familiar, which comes from the same 
Oriental background as the Bible, is the Arabian 
Nights, one will realize better the distance from us 
of this Old Testament literature. R. L. Stevenson 
pointed out in his essay A Gossip on Romance that 
the people of the Arabian Nights are mere puppets ; 
that their stories are a pure succession of incident 
and event, unbroken and undiluted by any under- 
standing of character on the part of the authors, or 
attempt to make the people real. These Israelite 
writers are on a somewhat higher plane, for they 
could tell a simple story in terms of the most vivid 
detail ; and, as we have seen, they could in a simple, 
unconscious sort of way make the different actors in 
their stories seem like distinct people ; but their crea- 
tive imagination did not go so far as to enable them 
to invent a character, or even so far to detach them- 
selves from their own experiences as to imagine con- 
sistently and convincingly the mental workings of 
anyone whose circumstances or temperament differed 
much from their own. We shall see in the next 
chapter that Hebrew thought never attained to ab- 


stract reasoning. Here I wish only to make clear 
that the thought of Hebrew authors was primitively 
simple ; it was never able to push beyond its own 
experience in order to create that of other men. 

In this limitation, on the other hand, we may find 
part of the power of this literature. The Hebrew 
poetry has power over our feelings because it is al- 
ways in dead earnest. There is no play-acting here. 
AVhen we see or read Hamlet, or Macbeth, or King 
Lear, we are absorbed in the distress and suffering 
pictured before us; but always we have behind our 
absorption the sense of detachment from real affairs. 
Unconsciously we feel that we can afford to take 
part by imagination in the suffering, because after 
all it is not real. To understand and appreciate the 
poetry of the Old Testament one must remember 
that it always is real. The sufferings, or the joy, 
or the faith are the personal experience of real men. 
Their poetry had always the direct and practical 
purpose of unburdening real feeling: there is no 
" make-believe " in these poems of the Old Testament 
Even in Job the apparent form of a drama is the 
thinnest of masks for the deep feelings which lie un- 
derneath. The book is not an effort of the author 
to imagine how such a man as Job would have felt 
under such trials, but rather the expression of actual 
distress over the hopeless plight of his people. The 


mental tortures under which Job writhes are there- 
fore those of real people in real and harrowing per- 
plexity; and the overwhelming power of the answer 
of the Almighty is the direct witness of a faith which 
could not be daunted by the most grievous trials. 

Thus we may bring this brief survey of the poetry 
of the Bible to an end. In form and style it has 
power which springs from the unblurred concrete- 
ness and directness of the old Hebrew language, and 
from the strong but unconscious rhythm and the 
richness of music. Behind the manifold variety of 
the imagery and the deep music of the style, we can 
see, and not too vaguely, the intensity of faith which 
soared above all earthly troubles to the highest con- 
ception of God yet reached by man, the faith which 
we shall trace in the constantly wider and more 
spiritual messages of the prophets, rising during the 
period which produced the psalms to a clear grasp 
of immortality and the blessings of paradise. 



I have already pointed out that since the Hebrew 
language had no apparatus for embodying any com- 
plication of thought, all the narrative of the Old 
Testament is extremely simple in form. In like man- 
ner we have seen that the poetry embodies only man's 
immediate experience and the deep emotions which 
are his reaction to that experience, and that the Jews 
never reached the point of figuring to themselves 
the feelings of fictitious persons. As in the narra- 
tive, the mental habit behind the poetry is of extreme 

In this chapter and in the next I shall discuss 
those parts of the Bible which contain the nearest 
approach to what we call philosophising: in the Old 
Testament, the books of wisdom — Proverbs, Ecclesi- 
astes and Job ; and in the New Testament the Fourth 
Gospel and the Epistles. I shall confine the dis- 
cussion of them almost entirely to a single point, 



the habit of mind and the manner of thought which 
the j reveal to us; for we shall gain much light on 
the literature of the Bible as a whole if we can see 
wherein- the mode of thought of these ancient 
writers was similar to ours and wherein it was dis- 
similar; moreover, by understanding this point we 
shall see better in the end how this literature which 
is so foreign could weave itself so deeply into the 
texture of English thought and speech. 

Proverbs is a somewhat miscellaneous collection, 
in part of short poems on various subjects, in still 
larger part of the shrewd and pithy apothegms in 
which the Oriental mind delighted to sum up its ob- 
servations on man and his life. It begins with nine 
chapters in which are contained a number of short 
poems generally in praise of wisdom, though some 
contain particular admonitions and warnings. Then 
comes the main portion of the book, which is also 
the most typical: its character is summed up in the 
heading of the tenth chapter in the Authorised Ver- 
sion, " From this chapter to the five and twentieth 
are sundry observations of moral virtues, and their 
contrary vices." This classification, however, is 
somewhat too sweeping, for at verse 17 of Chapter 
xxii begins a new section, the so-called Words of 
the Wise. Here instead of separated and isolated 
proverbs we have brief poems on various subjects, 


sometimes only a couple of verses long, sometimes 
six or eight verses, such as the poem on the drunkard 
which I have already cited, and the following poem 
on the sluggard : 

I went by the field of the slothful, and by the 
vineyard of the man void of understanding; 

And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and 
nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone 
wall thereof was broken down. 

Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked 
upon it, and received instruction. 

Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding 
of the hands to sleep: 

So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; 
and thy want as an armed man. 1 

Then follows another collection of separate proverbs 
and axioms, " proverbs of Solomon, which the men 
of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out " ; these, how- 
ever, are somewhat classified, as is recognized by such 
a heading as that of Chapter xxvi in the Authorised 
Version, " Observations about fools, about sluggards, 
and about contentious busybodies." The rest of the 
book is thoroughly miscellaneous; Chapter xxx be- 
gins with a very obscure passage denominated " the 
words of Agur," and runs on into a series of numer- 
ical proverbs, such as: 

1 Prov. xxiv. 30-34. 


There be four things which are little upon the 
earth, but they are exceeding wise: 

The ants are a people not strong, yet they pre- 
pare their meat in the summer; 

The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they 
their houses in the rocks; 

The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all 
of them by bands; 

The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in 
kings' palaces. 1 

The last chapter begins with the " words of king 
Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him," 
and concludes with an alphabetical poem which de- 
scribes the virtuous woman. Between these very 
different parts there are no transitions and no at- 
tempt on the part of the authors or compilers to 
create the possibility of continuous thought. The 
canons of Hebrew authorship never demanded the 
welding together of dissimilar parts into a single 

The exact date both of the individual proverbs 
and poems and of the book as a whole is indetermi- 
nable ; but in its present state the book like the other 
wisdom books, though incorporating material which 
in ultimate origin may be early, comes most probably 
from the later period after the Exile when the ex- 
perience of the Jews became so much widened. To 
1 Prov. xxx. 24-28. 


this conclusion point the tacit assumption of mono- 
theism, the absence of any definite national traits, 
the predominant interest in urban life, the somewhat 
technical use of the words wisdom and the wise, and 
the general unity of the group of wisdom books. But 
after all, the settlement of dates in works of such 
character can never be very exact, especially when 
one takes into account the unbroken and slow-chang- 
ing tradition of ideas among Eastern peoples: if the 
customs of Syrian peasants in our own day throw 
light on the nature of the Song of Solomon one can 
hardly look for much difference in ways of thought 
between the days of Jeremiah and those of Alex- 
ander. In view of such facts, and also of the fact 
that much Hebrew authorship consisted in compila- 
tion and amplification of existing materials we may 
fairly suppose that Proverbs gives us materials which 
were originally produced by many writers of very 
different ages: and that Jews of times as far apart 
as the seventh century and the third held in gen- 
eral about the same views of life, and thought in 
about the same way. 

Thus we may look on the book as offering us the 
reflections on life of sages who lived in an indefinite 
past and with the restricted experience of the Orien- 
tal world. Yet it is indubitably stimulating to u.s 
to-day, and it impresses one at each new reading by 


the soundness and shrewdness of its conclusions. As 
one turns over its pages one's eye catches observa- 
tion after observation that has established itself 
in our everyday thought. In Bartlett's Familiar 
Quotations there are sixty-nine quotations from 
Proverbs, far more than from any other book in the 
Bible except Psalms, and we must remember that 
the latter has become especially familiar through 
its almost universal use in church services. Such 
an adhesion to modern thought attests the fact that 
the single proverbs are terse in the strict sense of 
the word: all but the very essence of the thought 
is polished away, and the phrasing reduced to the 
least possible number of words. As one reads them 
one cannot help thinking of the gravity and delib- 
eration of the East, where men have time to ruminate 
on the meaning of life, and where the absence of 
science and analytical philosophy confines the atten- 
tion of wise men to the affairs of daily life. More- 
over, one feels the scorn for the garrulousness of the 
fool in a region where rulers are despots who seize 
every opening for extortion, and punish ruthlessly 
every insult or offense; in such a world it behooves 
a man to think out his thoughts and not to utter 
them rashly. 

"With the terseness goes the shrewd insight into 
human nature. Here insight is better than reason- 


ing, since reasoning cannot more than begin to state 
all the premises. One's judgment of men and affairs 
is built on a multitude of facts and feelings, of in- 
stincts and prejudices good and bad, many of them 
so subtle or so vague that it is impossible to phrase 
them; yet they all go into the scale and help to settle 
our likings and our acts. It is the accuracy and 
justice with which Proverbs sums up these intuitive 
judgments that gives it its lasting hold on our in- 
terest. In a way things intellectual are the super- 
ficial parts of humanity : the great mass of man- 
kind has no share in them, since in the long run 
men are governed by their feelings and their in- 
stincts and intuitions. It is this portion of our 
mental life which is summed up so compactly and 
with such aptness of expression in this book. 

Ecclesiastes, though in subject of much less range 
than Proverbs, is hardly less orderly: quite as much 
as the latter it reads like a notebook in which the 
sage set down his meditations and observations on 
life as they happened to come to him. Though there 
are some connected poems in the book, as a whole it 
is brought together with no more method than we 
should put to the filling of a scrapbook. Indeed one 
scholar in his effort to compel chaos into order has 
proposed the theory that in some ancient copy of the 
book the sheets became transposed, so that the mid- 


die part became the end and the two ends the middle 
part. This is only the wildest of the many efforts 
to find a continuous structure in the book. All such 
efforts are based on the mistaken assumption that a 
book of wisdom would of necessity have order, a 
necessity which the Hebrew mind never felt. There 
is no more striking evidence of the difference of the 
Hebrew thought from our own than this oblivious- 
ness to all that we mean by the word " composition." 
The teachings of Ecclesiastes, its despairing, cyni- 
cal acceptance of the vanity of all man's endeavor, 
I will refer to presently. Though it seems to show 
some acquaintance with the Greek philosophy, in its 
mode of thought it does not differ from Proverbs. 
In one respect, however, it is in contrast to both 
Proverbs and Job, and indeed to all the other books 
of the Old Testament except Nehemiah and the books 
of the prophets: here we seem to come into touch 
with the individuality of the author, for he quotes 
proverbs and then adds his own comment. 

The wise man's eyes are in his head; but the fool 
walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also 
that one event happeneth to them all. 

Then said I in my heart, as it happeneth to the 
fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I 
then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this 
also is vanity. 

For there is no remembrance of the wise more 


than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is 
in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And 
how dieth the wise man? as the fool. 

Therefore I hated life; because the work that is 
wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for 
all is vanity and vexation of spirit. 1 

It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than 
for a man to hear the song of fools. 

For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is 
the laughter of the fool-' this also is vanity. 2 

Each of these passages begins with a proverb which 
might have been found in either Proverbs or Eccle- 
siasticus] but there it would have been merely re- 
corded. The author of Ecclesiastes, on the other 
hand, seems to use the proverb as the text or start- 
ing point of his own thought ; and the latter is the 
more important. It is this habit of pointing the tra- 
ditional wisdom of the sages in a new direction that 
makes the work of the Preacher seem so individual 
and so modem beside the impersonal aphorisms of 
the shadowy and legendary Solomon to whom Prov- 
erbs is ascribed. 

Job stands by itself in the wisdom literature, since, 

as we have already seen, it is a great series of 

poems dealing with a single problem, the origin of 

suffering and the doctrine of retribution. Its solu- 

1 Ecclee. ii. 14-17. ■ Ibid., vii. .5-6. 


tion of this problem I will consider presently: in the 
mean time let us consider its outward form. The 
structure of the book is of the loosest. The prose 
prologue and epilogue with which it begins and ends 
have only a superficial connection with the poems: 
the three friends seem to know nothing of the 
specific nature of the sufferings which have brought 
Job to the dust, or of the explanation of his suffer- 
ings which is offered by the prologue. Moreover, 
Satan, who is protagonist in the prologue, is ignored 
in the epilogue. In the colloquies, which occupy 
Chapters iii-xxvi, the regular cycle of answers to 
Job's complaints by each of the three friends in turn 
is disturbed at the end : the last speech of Bildad is 
only six verses, and that of Zophar is omitted. 
Furthermore, in Chapter xxvii, as we have seen, 
Job shifts his ground to the position so far occupied 
by his friends, and Chapter xxviii consists of a poem 
in praise of wisdom which is closely like that in 
Proverbs viii and which is in no way connected with 
the rest of Job. Then after Job's bitter description 
of his sufferings in Chapters xxix-xxxi, we come in 
Chapters xxxii-xxxvii to the speeches of Elihu which 
seem to be a pious and less forcible iteration of the 
doctrine already relentlessly enforced by the three 
friends. Moreover, the description of behemoth and 
leviathan in Chapters xl and xli are to our modern 


ideas too detailed and too remote from the purpose 
of the book to fall smoothly into place in it. Here, 
as in the case of Ecclesiastes, the effort to reduce 
such irregularities to order must not tempt us into 
an uncritical ascription to a past age of the world 
of an instinct which it did not possess. Even if the 
book were at one time more orderly and consecu- 
tive, which is perhaps doubtful, we must recognize 
that the present disturbances and dislocations would 
have offended no one in these simple and uncritical 

I have already pointed out that in substance Job 
ultimately owes its origin to a literal interpretation 
of the doctrines of Deuteronomy. The original 
writer of that book formulated the teachings of the 
great prophets into a covenant between Jehovah and 
his people, with promises of reward if they should 
obey the statutes and ordinances which he set before 
them and warnings of bitter punishment if they 
should disobey. As time went on both promises and 
rewards were applied to the individual, and, being 
taken literally, were understood as of immediate ful- 
filment ; or else, where they were still applied to the 
people as a whole, they led the prophecy on, as we 
shall see, into the apocalypse. Applied to the indi- 
vidual this doctrine produced the idea which is the 
basis of many of the psalms, as well as of Job, that 


suffering and distress of necessity imply sin on the 
part of the sufferer, and that righteousness is surely 
and immediately rewarded by happiness and pros- 

Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be 
thou envious against the workers of iniquity. 

For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, 
and wither as the green herb. 

Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou 
dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. 

Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall 
give thee the desires of thine heart. 1 

It is this doctrine that Jesus controverts in the pas- 
sage in St. Luke concerning " the Galileans, whose 
blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices," and 
the "eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell 
and slew them." 2 It seems to have been a cardinal 
doctrine in the thought of the Jews in the last cen- 
turies of the old era. 

The relation of Job to this doctrine is illuminating 
as to its character. The school of wise men or sages 
from which it is probable that all the wisdom books 
proceeded seems to have set itself to scrutinize the 
world in a temper approaching what we should call 
the scientific. It looked at facts in a cool and dis- 
passionate way which is in strong contrast to the 
1 Ps. xxxvii. 1-4. 2 Luke xiii. 1-5. 


intensity and beated imagination of the prophets; 
and looking thus at the facts of their time, these 
sages could not help seeing the contradiction between 
this traditional doctrine and the facts which faced 
them. They, who were the chosen people of Jeho- 
vah, whose persistence as a people was now deter- 
mined wholly by their faithfulness to his law, were 
the prey of heathen conquerors, and subject to such 
scorn and oppression as is so vividly described by 
^"cliemiah. Job shows us one of the ways in which 
these sages met this crucial dilemma. 

It is a significant fact that the author discusses 
the problem in a series of poems, and that these 
poems show hardly any progress. Eliphaz and Bil- 
dad and Zophar start from the same point in each of 
the three cycles of speeches, and Job in his replies 
meets them always in almost the same way: they 
assume that since he is suffering, therefore he has 
sinned; he protests that he has not sinned, and sets 
forth his helplessness in the hands of Jehovah. 
Only in Chapter xxi does he come to the point of 
questioning this universal doctrine of his race, and 
then with horror at his own presumption: 

Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand 
upon your mouth. 

Even when I remember I am afraid, and trem- 
bling takcth hold on my flesh. 


Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, 
are mighty in power? 

One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at 
ease and quiet. 

His breasts are full of milk, and his bones are 
moistened with marrow. 

And another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, 
and never eateth with pleasure. 

They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the 
worms shall cover them. 

How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your 
answers there remaineth falsehood? l 

The final solution of the problem in the answer of 
the Lord from the whirlwind in Chapter xxxviii is 
merely a declaration of the impotence of man : 

Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words 
without knowledge? 

Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will de- 
mand of thee, and answer thou me. 

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of 
the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 

Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? 
or hast thou walked in the search of the depth? 

Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? 
or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death? 

Hast thou perceived the breath of the earth? de- 
clare if thou knowest it all. 2 
1 Job xxi. 5-7; 23-26; 34. 2 Ibid., xxxviii. 2-4; 16-18. 


And Job, overwhelmed and in the dust, declares: 

Who is he that hideth counsel without knowl- 
edge? therefore have I uttered that I understood 
not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. 

Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will 
demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. 

I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: 
but now mine eye seeth thee. 

Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust 
and ashes. 1 

This is the final word of Job', the acknowledgment 
that the ways of God are past man's understanding; 
and that the fear of the Lord is the begimiing and 
the end of wisdom. 

Judged by the canons of strict logic or of our 
modern conception of God as supremely just, this 
treatment of the problem is incoherent and inconse- 
quent. We must not lose sight, however, of the faet 
that we are dealing with the Oriental world. It has 
been pointed out that " the doctrine of retribution 
in the present life which [the author of Job] finds 
inadequate is common to the friends and to the relig- 
ion which has in all ages been that of the genuine 
Arab — the so-called din Ibrahim (or 'religion of 
Abraham '). The Eloah and Shaddai of Job are the 
irresponsible Allah who has all power in heaven and 
• Job xlii. 3-6. 


on earth, and before whom, when mysteries occur in 
human life which the retribution-doctrine cannot 
solve, the Arab and every true Moslem bows his head 
with settled, sad resignation." * This conception of 
God as an inscrutable, omnipotent Being who justi- 
fies His actions to no man, before whom mankind is 
as the dust of the earth, is chiefly familiar to us to- 
day through Fitzgerald's rendering of the Rubdiydt 
of Omar Khayyam: 

We are no other than a moving row 

Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go 

Round with the Sun-illumin'd lantern held 
In Midnight by the Master of the Show; 

But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays 
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days; 
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and 
And one by one back in the Closet lays. 

The Ball no question makes of Ayes and Noes, 
But Here or There as strikes the Player goes; 
And He that toss'd you down into the Field, 
He knows about it all — he knows — HE knows. 

This is not far from the doctrine of Ecclesiastes ; but 

in Job God is assumed to act through love of his 

people; he is not wholly irresponsible. The book 

1 Cheyne, Job and Solomon, p. 98 


breathes the settled conviction that God has chosen 
his people Israel and that he has a special care over 
them. Moreover, the author is not, as he has some- 
times been held, a sceptic. Though Job cries out 
against the injustice of his sufferings and breaks 
through the settled tradition of his people by declar- 
ing that the righteous do suffer and the wicked do 
prosper, yet underneath he has always the faith in 
God : the cry " though he slay me yet will I trust 
him " is a necessary element in any just understand- 
ing of the book. Its force lies in its capacity to 
bring home even to us to-day the pressing and cru- 
cial nature of the problem, and to make us feel the 
puny and ephemeral weakness of mankind before the 
eternal purposes of God. There is no other work 
in English literature which approaches this power of 
Job to hold us face to face with the overwhelm- 
ing forces of nature, and to marshal them into a 
means of setting forth deep and ideal truths. Its ap- 
peal is to the highest emotions of which man is ca- 
pable ; and, except perhaps for the Elihu speeches, it 
maintains itself without flagging at this high pitch 
of feeling. 

Ecclesiastes struggles with the same problem, and 
comes in a way to the same conclusion, but in so dif- 
ferent a spirit that the similarity is only superficial. 
In spite of the fragiiu'iitariness and disarray of the 


book it strikes a single note, the futility of all man's 
struggles to understand and justify the universe. 

I said in mine heart concerning the estate of 
the sons of men, that God might manifest them, 
and that they might see that they themselves 
are beasts. 

For that which befalleth the sons of men be- 
falleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as 
the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have 
all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence 
above a beast: for all is vanity. 

All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and 
all turn to dust again. 

Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth 
upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth 
downward to the earth? 

Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, 
than that a man should rejoice in his own works; 
for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to 
see what shall be after him? * 

Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it 
is for the eyes to behold the sun: 

But if a man live many years, and rejoice in 
them all; yet let him remember the days of dark- 
ness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is 
vanity. 2 

This mood is familiar to all men at one time or 

another, and it is the prevailing mood with the 

weaker brother; the weariness of the flesh easily 

1 Eccles. iii. 18-22. 2 Ibid., xi. 7-8. 


passes over into weariness of spirit ; and at such 
times the conventions and the apparent universality 
of Ecclesiastes sweep over the field of thought like 
the face of night over a troubled country. The sim- 
plicity and conclusiveness of the solution are sooth- 
ing; the Preacher is easier to follow than is Job, 
for even intellectually idealism and optimism are 
harder doctrines to cling to and need a robuster frame 
of mind. The shady side of experience is the more 
obvious, since we take the good of life as our right 
and without notice, whereas its disappointments 
come to us as a personal grievance. It is far easier 
to hold that things are going to the dogs than to ex- 
tend one's view over a long enough stretch of time 
to see that they are improving. Moreover, all the de- 
lights of the world, even innocent indulgence in the 
pleasures of the flesh, pull one away from the higher 
view; the only possible philosophy for the man who 
chooses the things of this life and turns his back on 
the things of the spirit is an irresponsible agnosti- 
cism ; for such men Ecclesiastes is the whole of the 
law and the prophets. 

This mood of almost luxurious hopelessness marks 
the great gap between Ecclesiastes and Job. Out of 
the depths of suffering and mental torture the latter 
still raises a voice of praise and acknowledgment to 
the Almighty. The author of Ecclesiastes lies down 


before his difficulties, and draws over his eyes the 
veil of present creature comforts. 


Now turning to look at all these books of wisdom 
as a class of literature, the first fact that I wish to 
emphasize is that they are poetical in. form. From 
that fact it follows as a corollary that they are com- 
posed of the simplest kinds of sentences; for we 
have seen that in Hebrew poetry, since the line is trie 
unit and the lines must be strictly balanced, there 
can be no sustained periods. In the second place, as 
I pointed out at some length in the last chapter, the 
vocabulary of Hebrew is uniformly concrete, and 
that to a degree which it would be impossible to match 
in modern books, even in those on the simplest sub- 
jects. A page of Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress has 
more abstract words than the whole of Job. Besides 
this simplicity of structure and this unfailing con- 
creteness of diction, which follow from the nature of 
Hebrew poetry, there are in these books no con- 
nectives or other devices for building the discourses 
together into sustained and continuous thought. 
Proverbs is a collection of diverse material with no 
attempt to bind the parts together. In Job, Satan, 
who is the protagonist of the prologue, does not ap- 


pear in the poems, nor in the epilogue; nor do the 
poems refer to the specific griefs and trials of the flesh 
from which Job suffers in the story. Even in the 
poems, the joining of issue between Job and his com- 
forters is very uncertain: and in Chapter xxvii he 
shifts over to their side of the argument. The answer 
of the Lord from the whirlwind loses itself in the 
descriptions of behemoth and of leviathan ; and it is 
nowhere summed up to a specific conclusion. Thus 
Job is a discussion of a metaphysical question in 
which there are no abstract words, no logical struct- 
ure, and not even an attempt at an unbroken chain of 
reasoning. If one tries to imagine writing today 
on even the simplest subject in science or philosophy 
without such necessities of style one will see how 
far away from us is this poetical wisdom of the Old 
Testament. Even Ecclesiastes, which reflects an ac- 
quaintance with Greek philosophy, constantly falls 
back into the poetical aphorisms of the Hebrew 
wisdom : 

Again, I considered all travail, and every right 
work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. 
This is also vanity and vexation of spirit. 

The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth 
his own flesh. 

Better is an handful with quietness, than both 
the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit. 1 
1 Eccles. iv. 4-G. 


In the strictest sense of the word these Hebrew books 
of wisdom are literature, for they are always poeti- 
cal and therefore concerned more with feeling than 
with thought. 

Furthermore, when one compares the contents of 
these Hebrew books of wisdom with those of our 
modern philosophy and science one very soon notices 
that those contents were drawn always and wholly 
from experience, never from inference and specula- 
tion. These books are concerned with such things 
as the hatred that stirs up strife, pride, the light of 
the righteous, the fountains of the deep, the doors 
of the shadow of death. It is such wisdom as might 
have been gathered by a sage sitting at the gateway 
of a town, shrewdly observing and ruminating on the 
affairs of the men who pass him, but never pushing 
his thought beyond such matters of immediate ob- 
servation. It is the wisdom of the market place and 
the highway rather than the wisdom of the study. 

So completely is this true that this homely and 
concrete wisdom of the Jewish sages would not make 
even a starting point for our science and philosophy. 
The latter go to sensation and experience only for 
confirmation of results already reached by abstrac- 
tion. Astronomy, abstracting from its direct ob- 
servations of the heavenly bodies their motions in 
relation to each other, and making great leaps by in- 


ference, arrived at the law of universal gravitation. 
Then bj means of pure calculation based on observed 
deviations of Uranus it pointed its telescopes to the 
exact place where the faint light of Neptune would 
strike the eye. So in practical matters. A civil engi- 
neer plans a bridge without knowing who will manu- 
facture the steel or who will put it together. He 
works out in the quiet of his office abstractions which 
give him mastery over the inert matter and forces 
of nature ; and without the abstraction and inference 
he would be helpless. Moreover, science uses these 
abstractions as ultimate and absolute facts, with the 
same confidence that the Eastern sage had in his 
shrewd observations in the market place. The force 
of gravity, electricity, evolution and adaptation 
to environment, are all figments of inference which 
we know only by putting together attributes or ef- 
fects abstracted from a host of concrete inferences of 
the most diverse kind. Our forms of language dif- 
fer from those of the Hebrew sages chiefly from the 
necessary consequences of this difference of thought. 
We reason by analysis and abstraction, and they did 
not Therefore our language has abstract words and 
a full and increasing apparatus for transitions and 
for summarizing great reaches of thought: theirs 
had none. 

This difference in mental constitution goes so deep 


to the essence of this Biblical literature that I will 
venture to examine it somewhat more deeply. Let 
us to turn to psychology and see how the process of 
reasoning is understood today. Professor James in 
the chapter on Reasoning in his Psychology sums up 
its essence in these words : " The great difference, in 
fact, between that simpler kind of rational thinking 
which consists in the concrete objects of past experi- 
ence merely suggesting each other, and reasoning 
distinctively so called, is this, that whilst the empiri- 
cal thinking is only reproductive, reasoning is pro- 
ductive. An empirical, or ' rule-of-thumb ' thinker 
can deduce nothing from data with whose behavior 
and associates in the concrete he is unfamiliar." . . . 
Reasoning " contains analysis and abstraction. 
Whereas the merely empirical thinker stares at a fact 
in its entirety, . . . the reasoner breaks it up and no- 
tices some one of its separate attributes. This attri- 
bute he takes to be the essential part of the whole fact 
before him. This attribute has properties or conse- 
quences which the fact until then was not known to 
have, but which now it is noticed to contain the at- 
tribute it must have." . . . And further on, " The 
first thing is to have seen that every possible case 
of reasoning involves the abstraction of a particular 
partial aspect of the phenomena thought about, and 
that whilst Empirical Thought simply associates 


phenomena in their entirety, Reasoned Thought 
couples them by the conscious use of this extract." * 

Socrates, who was possibly a contemporary of the 
author of Job, gives in the Republic in his search for 
the nature of justice an admirable example of this 
process of reasoning by abstraction. " First," he 
suggested, " let us investigate its character in cities ; 
afterwards let us apply the same inquiry to the in- 
dividual, looking for a counterpart of the greater as 
it exists in the form of the less." In other words, 
he proposed to break up the concrete cases in which 
justice and injustice appear, in order to separate out 
or u extract " the single attribute of justice or in- 
justice. The individual and concrete case was of no 
interest to him once it had yielded up the attribute 
which he was trying to abstract from it This analy- 
sis which makes possible the extraction of a single 
attribute is the engine by which our philosophy and 
science have made all their gains. 

In the books of Hebrew wisdom there is no case of 
reasoning analogous to this discussion between Socra- 
tes and his friends. The Hebrew mind proceeded en- 
tirely by empirical processes. In such passages as, 
" A wise man feareth and departeth from evil ; but 
the fool rageth and is confident," or " A soft answer 
turneth away wrath ; but grievous words stir up an- 
1 William James, Psychology, II, 329 ss. 



ger," or " A wicked man travaileth with pain all the 
days of his life," — in all such assertions, each case 
is seen only in its entirety: it is not broken up by 
analysis in order that a single attribute, — of folly, of 
conciliation, of wickedness, — may be picked out and 
followed to its consequences. In these books of wis- 
dom there is no trace of that patient comparison and 
analysis of the separate concrete cases which are the 
substance of direct experience, none of the sagacious 
and deliberate stripping away of the unlike attributes 
and qualities in order to reach a clear perception and 
definition of the single quality or attribute of folly 
or prudence or wisdom. In Proverbs the fool is 
characterized by a number of Hebrew words: the 
most common is that which describes him as dense 
and headstrong; another conveys the idea of his de- 
generateness and corruptness, another that he is 
merely a simpleton. The words seem to be used as 
synonyms ; but there is never an attempt to compare 
them, and by analysing typical cases under each to 
define the common attribute which makes us think 
and speak of such different varieties of fools all un- 
der the same general term. The like cases are 
grouped together empirically and with such shrewd- 
ness that the empirical conclusions are as true to-day 
as when they were written, two thousand years ago; 
but neither here nor elsewhere in the Old Testament 


is there any case of the further step which would 
make reasoning possible. We pass into a wholly 
new realm of intellectual life, I am tempted to say 
into a new stage of the evolution of man, when we 
pass from the Old Testament wisdom to the debates of 
Socrates and his friends and the intellectual life of 
the modern world. 

An immediate result of this lack of the reasoning 
faculty appears in the absence from these books of all 
ideas about the universe and of all secondary causes. 
To their thought every fact and every action in the 
universe proceeded direct from God: In J oh such 
diverse things as these are brought together: 

Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, 
or loose the bands of Orion? 

Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? 
or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? 

Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst 
thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? 

Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, 
and say unto thee, Here we are? 

Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the 
appetite of the young lions, 

When they couch in their dens, and abide in the 
covert to lie in wait? 

Who provideth for the raven his food? when his 
young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of 
meat. 1 

' Job xxxviii. 31-33, 35, 39-41. 


For the Hebrew thought, all things, small and great, 
rested immediately on the providence of God. Our 
modern thought has built up between the power of the 
Almighty and the phenomena so splendidly described 
in the later chapters of Job a structure of general 
laws and theories, such as the nebular hypothesis and 
the law of adaptation to environment, by which, as 
we say, we explain the phenomena. The Hebrew 
sage felt no need of such explanation, for he had no 
faculty for reasoning by which he could construct 
such secondary causes. We rest our universe on this 
structure of natural laws, just as the Indian cosmog- 
ony made the world rest on an elephant, which stood 
on a turtle : and just as this turtle was left standing 
on space, so in the end do our systems and natural 
laws leave the universe unexplained. The simpler 
thought of the Hebrew accepted the inscrutability of 
life in the first instance : for them the universe lay 
directly in the hand of the omnipotent God who had 
created it. 

Now this absence of abstract reasoning had a de- 
termining effect on the character of all the Hebrew 
literature : and joined to the uniform concreteness of 
the language it explains the fact that the Hebrew 
wisdom was never free from emotional elements. In 
a language in which the words, as we saw in the last 
chapter, always carried the suggestion of physical 


sensation, the thought for which they were symbols 
could never have attained those clear and colorless 
reaches of mental life where emotion and personal 
affection give way to impersonal and abstract gen- 
eralizations. Tied to such a language the Hebrew 
wisdom could never have disentangled itself from 
emotion. Our learning makes no real stop until it 
has reached objects of thought which are unperturbed 
by feeling: for them such objects had no existence. 
Whether it be in the proverb, " A merry heart doeth 
good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the 
bones," or in the passionate outcry of Job, " They 
shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall 
cover them " — their wisdom was always a wisdom 
that touched the personal life and therefore involved 
the feelings. 

This essentially emotional character of the He- 
brow wisdom is further heightened by the poetical 
form of all the wisdom books of the Old Testament. 
For poetry, rising to a more heightened and figura- 
tive diction than prose, utters forth directly the po- 
tent feelings and intuitions which arc the deepest 
springs of our thought and action. Still further, by 
means of its heightened and regular rhythm it can 
body forth some of those indefinable feelings which 
lie beyond the power of words in the realm of music. 
Poetry is thus of necessity more richly clothed with 


feeling than is prose: indeed, poetry without feel- 
ing and emotion is inconceivable. This poetical form 
of the Hebrew wisdom therefore still further empha- 
sizes its difference from our science and philosophy. 
In a wisdom which because of its very form must be 
shot through and through with elements of sense and 
emotion there is little application for Bacon's favor- 
ite apothegm, " Dry light is ever the best " ; it could 
never contemplate the facts of experience solely in 
the colorless light of the intellect ; and having no ab- 
stract reasoning its literature could have neither sci- 
ence nor philosophy nor theology. 

The best summary that I know of the habit of 
mind which lies behind these books of wisdom is con- 
tained in a letter of a Turkish Cadi to a friend of 
Layard, the explorer of Xineveh. 

My illustrious Friend, and Joy of my Liver! 

The thing you ask of me is both difficult and use- 
less ! Although I have passed all my days in this 
place, I have neither counted the houses nor have I 
inquired into the number of the inhabitants; and as 
to what one person loads on his mules and the other 
stows away in the bottom of his ship, that is no 
business of mine. But, above all, as to the previous 
historj' of this city, God only knows the amount of 
dirt and confusion that the infidels may have eaten 
before the coming of the sword of Islam. It were 
unprofitable for us to inquire into it. 


O my soul! O my lamb! seek not after things 
which concern thee not. Thou earnest unto us 
and we welcomed thee: go in peace. 

Of a truth thou hast spoken many words; and 
there is no harm done, for the speaker is one and 
the listener is another. After the fashion of thy 
people thou hast wandered from one place to 
another, until thou art happy and content in none. 
We (praise be to God) were born here, and never 
desire to quit it. Is it possible, then, that the idea 
of a general intercourse between mankind should 
make any impression on our understandings? God 
forbid ! 

Listen, my son! There is no wisdom equal 
unto the belief in God! He created the world, 
and shall we liken ourselves unto him in seeking 
to penetrate into the mysteries of his creation? 
Shall we say, behold this star spinneth round that 
star, and this other star with a tail goeth and 
cometh in so many years! Let it go! He from 
whose hand it came will guide and direct it. 

But thou wilt say unto me, Stand aside, O man, 
for I am more learned than thou art, and have seen 
more things. If thou thinkest that thou art better 
in this respect than I am, thou art welcome. I 
praise God, I seek not that which I require not. 
Thou art learned in the things I care not for: and 
as for that which thou hast seen I defile it. Will 
much knowledge create thee a double belly, or wilt 
thou seek Paradise with thine eyes? 

O my friend! if thou wilt be happy, say, There 


is no God but God! Do no evil, and thus wilt thou 
fear neither man nor death; for surely thine hour 
will come! 

The meek in spirit (El Fakir), 
Imaum Ali Zade 1 

This is merely a modern rendering of the conclusion 
of Ecclesiastes : 

When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, 
and to see the business that is done upon the earth : 
(for also there is that neither day nor night seeth 
sleep with his eyes:) 

Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man 
cannot find out the work that is done under the 
sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, 
yet he shall not find it; yea farther; though a wise 
man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to 
find it. 2 

For the modern Oriental as for the ancient the be- 
ginning and the end of wisdom is the fear of God. 

Yet one must not forget the other aspect of this 
literature we are studying, that these books have 
maintained their hold on men of all degrees of educa- 
tion through more than two thousand years, and that 
they have stood the test of translation into languages 
of totally different genius and structure — perhaps 

1 A. H. Layard, Discoveries in Nineveh and Babylon, N. Y., 1853, 
p. 663. 

J Eccles: viii. 16-17. 


the most striking case of persistence in all the history 
of literature. Assuming, as always, the fact of in- 
spiration, we may wonder how any medium of ex- 
pression can be capable of conveying the same ideas 
to men of such different ages and stages of culture. 
The seeming paradox of the permanence of such 
works as these books of Hebrew wisdom may remind 
us that, after all, the power of abstract reasoning is 
only a small part of the faculties of our minds. To 
quote Professor James again : " Over immense de- 
partments of our thought we are still, all of us, in 
the savage state. Similarity operates in us, but ab- 
straction has not taken place. We know what the 
present case is like, we know what it reminds us of, 
we have an intuition of the right course to take, if 
it be a practical matter. I3ut analytic thought has 
made no tracks, and we cannot justify ourselves to 
others. In ethical, psychological, and aesthetic mat- 
ters, to give a clear reason for one's judgment is 
universally recognized as a mark of rare genius." l 
In other words, underneath the purely intellectual 
faculties on which we moderns plume ourselves 
there lies the far greater and richer mass of our 
emotional and instinctive faculties. Even in the 
most highly civilized races instinct and emotion con- 
stitute all the deeper parts of the mental life; and it 
1 James, Psychology, II, 3G5. 


is in this larger and fuller realm of consciousness 
that the Hebrew wisdom has its roots. By putting 
its thoughts in concrete words, which name always 
palpable things, and by clothing its words with poet- 
ical form, it gained the same permanence of mean- 
ing that the sensations and emotions themselves have, 
and will have until many ages have evolved man into 
an animal very different from us. The permanent 
place of these books in our literature would be proof 
enough, if proof were needed, that intuition without 
reasoning reaches deeper and more permanent truths 
than does reasoning alone, and of the further truth 
that if such deep and permanent truths are to be bod- 
ied forth in any language it must be concrete in its 
terms and endowed first of all with the power of 
expressing emotion. We read these books with the 
constant sense of the justness with which they sum 
up experience even for us to-day; but they do not 
even tend to inosculate with our modern efforts to 
unravel the mysteries of the universe. They trust 
wholly to intuition, and through this trust arrive at 
glimpses of the verities which lie behind the mask of 



If one, after reading in the Old Testament, passes 
on directly into the first three gospels one finds al- 
most no change of literary atmosphere : in their mode 
of thought and of expression they belong to the Ori- 
ental world. The narrative, as we have seen, has al- 
most the same concreteness of vocabulary and simplic- 
ity of sentence structure; and the apparatus of con- 
nectives between the parts is almost as limited. Even 
the literary form of the teachings of Jesus is closely 
like that of kindred forms in the Old Testament. 
If we make a rough classification of these teachings 
into aphorisms, practical injunctions, prophetic say- 
ings, and parables we shall find each of these four 
forms paralleled in the Old Testament. For the 
aphorisms compare a passage from » s 7. Matthew, 

No man can serve two masters: for either he 
will hate the one, and love the other; or else he 


will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye 
cannot serve God and mammon. 1 

with one from Proverbs, 

But the path of the just is as the shining light, 
that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. 

The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know 
not at what they stumble. 2 

For the practical injunctions compare 

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, 
neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they 
trample them under their feet, and turn again and 
rend you, 3 

with that saying in Proverbs which was quoted by St. 
Paul in Romans : 

If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to 
eat ; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink : 

For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, 
and the Lord shall reward thee. 4 

For the prophetic denunciations compare these ut- 
terances of Jesus, 

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypo- 
crites ! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against 
men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer 
ye them that are entering to go in. 

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypo- 

1 Matt. vi. 24. 2 Prov. iv. 18-19. 

3 Matt. vii. 6. * Prov. xxv. 21-22. Cf. Rom. xii. 20. 


crites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a 
pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall re- 
ceive the greater damnation. 

with the following from Isaiah: 

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good 
evil; that put darkness for light, and light for 
darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for 

Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, 
and prudent in their own sight! 

Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, 
and men of strength to mingle strong drink: 

Which justify the wicked for reward, and take 
away the righteousness of the righteous from him ! 2 

Finally, in using the parables as the vehicle of his 
teaching, Jesus was again making use of a form 
already familiar to the Jews from their own script- 
ures. Everyone knows the parable of the one ewe 
lamb which the prophet Xathan told to David. 3 Here 
are two more examples : the first is the little apologue 
of Jotham in the story of Abimelech : 

And when they told it to Jotham, he went and 
stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up 
his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken 
unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken 
unto you. 

The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king 

1 Matt, xxiii. 13-14. ' Iaa. V. 20-23. »2Sam. xii. 


over them; and they said unto the olive tree, 
Reign thou over us. 

But the olive tree said unto them, Should I 
leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour 
God and man, and go to be promoted over the 

And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, 
and reign over us. 

But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake 
my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be 
promoted over the trees? 

Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, 
and reign over us. 

And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my 
wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be 
promoted over the trees? 

Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come 
thou, and reign over us. 

And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth 
ye anoint me king over you, then come and put 
your trust in my shadow; and if not, let fire come 
out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of 
Lebanon. 1 

This second one is from the prophet Isaiah: 

Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my 
beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved 
hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: 

And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones 
thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and 
built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a 
1 Judges ix. 7-15. 


winepress therein: and he looked that it should 
bring forth grapes, and it brought forth -wild grapes. 

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men 
of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my 

What could have been done more to my vine- 
yard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when 
I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought 
it forth wild grapes? 

And now, go to; I will tell you what I will do to 
my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, 
and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall 
thereof, and it shall be trodden down: 

And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned 
nor digged; but there shall come up briers and 
thorns: I will also command the clouds that they 
rain no rain upon it. 

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the 
house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant 
plant: and he looked for judgment, and behold 
oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry. 1 

Thus all of these forms of discourse which Jesus 
made use of in his teaching are closely akin to forms 
found in the Old Testament. So far as literary 
classification goes these teachings of the Gospel can- 
not be separated from the Old Testament literature. 
This likeness of the externa] form springs from a 
likeness in the forms of thought In these sayings of 
Jesus we may trace the characteristics which I have 
1 Isa. v. 1-7. 



already pointed out in the wisdom literature of the 
Old Testament. He states a fact or declares a pre- 
cept, and leaves it with no attempt to develop its rela- 
tions or draw out its implications. His discourses, 
like the poetical wisdom of the Old Testament, deal 
only with the solid and unanalysed facts of existence ; 
consequently they have the same entire objectivity 
which we have found to be a trait of the Hebrew wis- 
dom. In these teachings there are no secondary 
causes : God watches over the fall of a sparrow just 
as he created the universe and established laws and 
ordinances for men to obey. Therefore, though the 
language from which we get these teachings is Greek, 
the forms and the thought which they express are 
those of the Oriental world. 


When we pass on, however, to the Fourth Gospel 
and to the epistles of St. Paul, we find a striking 
change. In the Fourth Gospel, though the sentences 
are almost as simple as in the first three, the thought 
is continuous through long passages. For example, in 
the story of the healing of the blind man the miracle, 
simply and briefly told, leads on to the examination 
of the man and his parents by the Pharisees, at the 
end of which 


The man answered and said unto them, Why 
herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not 
from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine 

Now we know that God heareth not sinners: 
but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth 
his will, him he heareth. 

Since the world began was it not heard that any 
man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 

If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. 

Then after Jesus has sought him out, and has 
spoken the discourse on the True Shepherd, the story 
comes back to its original starting point : 

There was a division therefore again among the 
Jews for these sayings. 

And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is 
mad; why hear ye him? 

Others said, These are not the words of him that 
hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the 
blind? 1 

The author of this gospel shows here as elsewhere a 
sense of structure and development for which one 
may look in vain in the first three gospels. 

In the epistles of St. Paul and in Hebrews we get 

still farther away from the merely agglutinative 

coherence of the Old Testament, for here we find a 

rich and varied apparatus of words, phrases, and 

' John ix-x. 


clauses to express the reasoned sense of the transition 
from one subject to another, and of the relations be- 
tween them. Romans is full of such passages as, 
" Therefore being justified by faith," or " Likewise 
the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities " ; and in He- 
brews occurs such a passage as this : 

Now of the things which we have spoken this is 
the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set 
on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty 
in the heavens; 

A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true 
tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. 1 

Here the author consciously and explicitly brings to 
an end a considerable stretch of reasoning by sum- 
ming it up into an abstraction; and he uses his con- 
nective clause, " Now of the things which we have 
spoken this is the sum/' to give notice of his purpose. 
Such phrases and clauses express states of mind and 
acts of thought which are not expressed at all in the 
Old Testament. This conscious, defined sense of the 
relations between ideas is as necessary and almost as 
palpable a part of the stream of thought for us as are 
our sensations of light or our perceptions of men and 
animals ; and the particles and phrases which express 
them are therefore an inseparable part of our modern 
language. To write on science or history or philos- 
1 Heb. viii. 1-2. 


ophy without them would be like building a wall of 
brick without mortar ; and their presence in these 
epistles is in itself enough to put the latter into 
another region of literature from that of the Old 
Testament and the first three gospels. 

In the same way we find that the sentences of the 
Fourth Gospel and of the epistles are more complex 
and longer than those of the other gospels. In St. 
John one finds such sentences as this: 

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilder- 
ness even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 

That whosoever believeth in him may have 
eternal life. 1 

In St. Paul, especially in the somewhat imperfect 
translation of the Authorised Version, the complex- 
ity of sentences is sometimes so great that the main 
thought is lost in its modifications and amplifica- 
tions : 

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, 
is this grace given, that I should preach among the 
Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of 
the mystery, which from the beginning of the world 
hath been hid in God, who created all things by 
Jesus Christ: 

To the intent that now unto the principalities 

'John iii. 14-16. 


and powers in heavenly places might be known 
by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 

According to the eternal purpose which he 
purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: 

In whom we have boldness and access with con- 
fidence bv the faith of him. 1 

Such sentences body forth a far more complex state 
of mind than the simple sentences of the Old Tes- 
tament. Even in the simpler sentence which I have 
just quoted from St. John the objective facts — 
Moses, and the serpent in the wilderness, and Christ 
crucified — are subordinated to the perception, now 
clearly defined and abstracted, of the faith which 
leads to salvation. This is a kind of writing, there- 
fore, whose chief aim is to express not the solid re- 
alities of the external world, but to bring out the re- 
lations set up between them by thought; and such 
sentences as these which we are considering com- 
bine and recombine these facts in an endless variety 
of ways in order to make clear these relations. We 
have seen that in Hebrew a sentence could some- 
times be complete without a verb: in this kind of 
writing the verb and the grammatical structure of 
the sentence may be the most important part of the 
. In like manner as one passes on from St. Luke 

1 Ephes. iii. 8-12. 


into St. John one sees that the words are used with 
a new kind of significance: 

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 
And the light shineth in darkness; and the dark- 
ness comprehended it not. 1 

Here life and light and darkness obviously have 
meanings far beyond their mere literal denotation: 
their force now is no longer merely in their physical 
signification; it is rather in their suggestions and im- 
plications. Their objective and every-day meaning is 
lost in their indefinably suggestive power. So all 
through this gospel, in the •well of water springing 
vp into everlasting life, the good shepherd, the bread 
of life, the unstudied similitudes of the other gos- 
pels have given place to suggestions of illimitable 
thoughts which trail clouds of mystical glory through 
the pages. In the epistles we meet still another class 
of words, which have even less counterpart in the 
Old Testament. Such words as predestination, con- 
cupiscence, heresy, immutability did not exist in the 
old Hebrew; yet in these writings of the New Testa- 
ment such abstract words, like the complex sentences, 
are a necessity of expression. The epistles of St. 
Paul and Hebrews could not have been written in 
the vocabulary of Proverbs and Job. 
1 John i. 4-5. 


Thus in the case of the words as in that of the 
structure of the chapters and of the sentences, the 
meaning is no longer, as in the Old Testament, lim- 
ited to the statement of single propositions and in- 
junctions resting on objective fact: the language is 
now pregnant with intellectual meanings, and it is 
used by writers who must strive to set forth these 
meanings clearly and exhaustively. 

This difference between these epistles and the rest 
of the Bible is so essential that I will venture fur- 
ther to illustrate it. Proverbs has the verse: 

He that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he 
that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. 1 

St. Paul uses a closely related idea as follows: 

Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, 
differeth nothing from a servant, though he be 
lord of all; 

But is under tutors and governors until the time 
appointed of the father. 

Even so we, when we were children, were in 
bondage under the elements of the world: 

But when the fulness of the time was come, 
God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made 
under the law, 

To redeem them that were under the law, that 
we might receive the adoption of sons. 

1 Prov. xiii. 24. 


And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the 
Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, 

Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a 
son; and if a son, then an heir of God through 
Christ, 1 

When we compare the two passages we see that the 
Hebrew sage stopped short with the utterance of 
the obvious truth, without searching out its conse- 
quences. St. Paul, on the other hand, had to search 
out and extract what is for his present purpose the 
essential attribute of the heirship, the state of de- 
pendence before the full inheritance. This sharp 
and controlling sense of the relation between the 
facts, distinct from the facts themselves, he could not 
have expressed in the downright directness of the Old 
Testament style. 

For a second example we may consider the man- 
ner in which the author of Hebreivs uses the ordi- 
nances of Exodus and Leviticus about the sacrifice 
and the building of the tabernacle. The priestly 
writers who filled in these portions of the Pentateuch 
with their great mass of precise and minute details 
were wholly preoccupied with the proper ordering of 
present realities. The reason for all their careful- 
ness they assumed : they were planning a ritual which 

1 Gal. iv. 1-7 


should be worthy of the Lord God of Hosts. The 
writer of Hebrews, on the other hand, must find in 
these services a deeper and hidden meaning. 

Then verily the first covenant had also or- 
dinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 

For there was a tabernacle made; the first, 
wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and 
the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. 

And after the second veil, the tabernacle which 
is called the Holiest of all; 

Which had the golden censer, and the ark of 
the covenant overlaid round about with gold, 
wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and 
Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the 

And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing 
the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak 

Now when these things were thus ordained, the 
priests went always into the first tabernacle, 
accomplishing the service of God. 

But into the second went the high priest alone 
once every year, not without blood, which he offered 
for himself, and for the errors of the people: 

The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way 
into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, 
while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 

Which was a figure for the time then present, 
in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, 
that could not make him that did the service 
perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 


Which stood only in meats and drinks, and 
divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on 
them until the time of reformation. 1 

For such a thinker the external ordinances were 
overshadowed by the meaning of the symbols. His 
object of thought was no longer confined to the exact 
fulfillment of certain prescribed forms: he was con- 
cerned rather with implications, conclusions, and 
inferences drawn from a study of the objective facts 
of the old dispensation by abstraction and general- 

It is the dominance in these epistles of the New 
Testament of this whole new range of thought and 
mental action that makes the wisdom literature of 
the Old Testament seem by comparison so remote 
and so primitive. Two fields of literature could 
hardly be more different; and the difference is due 
to the difference in interests, in thought, and in out- 
look between two ages of the world. In a word, 
when we pass from Proverbs and Job to St. John and 
Romans and Hebrews we have passed from the world 
of Solomon to the world of Socrates. 

St. Paul himself summed up this whole difference 
in mental constitution between the Jews and the 
world of Western thought when he wrote in 1 Cor- 

1 Heb. be. 1-10. 


For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek 
after wisdom: 

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews 
a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness. 1 

To the Jews the crucifixion was a stumbling block 
because it destroyed all supernatural sanction of the 
new law. For their minds the new law which Jesus 
proclaimed could draw its authority only from his 
own personal authority and from the mighty works 
with which it was accompanied: as is said in St. 
John ii. 23, " many believed in his name when they 
saw the miracles which he did." When what had 
seemed to some of them such a supernatural sanction 
was shattered by the miserable death of Jesus on 
the cross they could see no reason to accept him as 
the Messiah. To the Greeks, on the other hand, the 
crucifixion was foolishness because it led nowhere; 
because in itself it gave them no new understand- 
ing of the nature of this new dispensation which 
should illuminate it and make it its own sanction. 
To them the death of Jesus was merely futile, for 
it gave them no new insight into the secrets of the 
universe, and brought no new means of understand- 
ing life. St. Paul's special mission was the transla- 
tion of a gospel which had been first delivered in 
terms of Jewish and Oriental thought into terms of 
1 1 Cor. i. 22-23. 


Greek and modern thought; and to fulfil this mis- 
sion he had to write in a manner very different from 
that of Proverbs and Job: men trained in the phi- 
losophy of Socrates would never have accepted as 
an explanation of the world such a collection of ran- 
dom and heterogeneous aphorisms as that contained 
in the former, or a series of hardly connected poems 
like the latter. Such a wisdom could give no aid to 
men who were trying to define the nature of good- 
ness, for it offered no new means of harmonizing the 
universe and ordering the welter of experience into 
an intellectual system. The Greek mind there- 
fore would have little interest in the new religion 
unless it offered a new and deeper understanding 
of the world and so carried its own sanction for the 
new and revolutionary laws of conduct which fol- 
lowed from it. 

Thus these epistles had something of the universal 
aim of philosophy. St. Paul, especially in polemic 
passages where ho is defending and justifying the 
gospel of Christ, felt the necessity of harmonizing 
the old dispensation with the now. lie must show 
that there was no " catastrophe," as the geologists 
would Bay, in the way the old faith had been swal- 
lowed up to make place for the new. His effort was 
to prove that the new dispensation was an outgrowth 
and fulfillment of the old. 


Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith, 
the same are the children of Abraham. 

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would 
justify the heathen through faith, preached before 
the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall 
all nations be blessed. 

So then they which be of faith are blessed with 
faithful Abraham. 

For as many as are of the works of the law, are 
under the curse : for it is written, Cursed is every 
one that continueth not in all things which are 
written in the book of the law to do them. 

But that no man is justified by the law in the 
sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live 
by faith. 

And the law is not of faith: but, The man that 
doeth them shall live in them. 

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the 
law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, 
Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 

That the blessing of Abraham might come on 
the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might 
receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 1 

His mode of reasoning he took over from the 
somewhat literal allegorizing of the Jewish rabbis 
and the mystical allegorizing of the Hellenistic Jews, 
for he was a Jew to the core; but where they al- 
legorized the past history of Israel to find fantastic 
similitudes for present facts, or for doctrines which 
1 Gal. iii. 7-14. 


were already formulated (as Philo found in the Pen- 
tateuch an allegorical statement of all the achieve- 
ments of Greek philosophy), St. Paul uses such simil- 
itudes as a means of symbolizing and bodying forth 
glimpses of larger and pregnant truths which can be 
suggested but not defined: 

Which things are an allegory: for these are the 
two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, 
which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. 

For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and 
answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in 
bondage with her children. 

But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is 
the mother of us all. 1 

The difference is similar to that between metaphysics 
and poetry: the former strives to define absolute 
principles of the universe and of existence; the latter 
stirs the imagination to seeing them by intuition. 
The rabbinical learning was occupied with establish- 
ing and justifying doctrines which -were already 
known: St, Paul sets forth new truths in the terms 
of the history of Israel. Always, however, his aim 
was to find a way in which the new and the old 
might be brought together into a single principle 
which would unify and harmonize them. He had, 
in part at any rate, the instinct for understanding 
1 Gal. iv. 24-26. 


his universe which is so distinct from being satisfied 
with mere obedience to the law and the prophets. 

This spontaneous desire to bring diverse facts into 
a single system of thought, and to show an inher- 
ent connection between the objects of experience 
through an underlying unity of idea, appears even 
more clearly in the Gospel According to St. John and 
Hebrews, works which show the deep influence of 
St. Paul and of his ways of thought. Hebrews shows 
the way in which the new covenant given through 
the Son superseded the old: 

But now hath he obtained a more excellent 
ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a 
better covenant, which was established upon better 

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then 
should no place have been sought for the second. 

For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, 
the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a 
new covenant with the house of Israel and with 
the house of Judah: 

In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made 
the first old. Now that which decayeth and 
waxeth old is ready to vanish away. 1 

And every priest standeth daily ministering and 
offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can 
never take away sins: 

1 Heb. viii. 6-8. 13. 


But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice 
for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of 

From henceforth expecting till his enemies be 
made his footstool. 

For by one offering he hath perfected for ever 
them that are sanctified. 1 

Here theology has definitely begun, for this writer is 
consciously expounding a system in which the rela- 
tions of the old and the new shall be made clear and 
rational, and in which both the teachings of the law 
and the prophets and the new revelation through 
Jesus shall have their ordered and recognisable 

The same impelling need to make the gospel bring 
order out of an otherwise unintelligible universe ap- 
pears in the prologue to St. John: 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word 
was with God, and the Word was God. 

The same was in the beginning with God. 

All things were made by him; and without him 
was not any thing made that was made. 

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 2 

Here the universal principle by which the whole uni- 
verse could be thought into a single system is found 
in the mystical idea of Christ as the Word. This 
is a philosophical and metaphysical operation of 

1 Heb. x. 11-14. 'John i. 1-4. 


thought; and this step taken, Christian thinkers are 
on the same ground as the philosophers of Greece, 
for now they can apprehend the universe as a single 

When we turn to the moral teachings of St. Paul 
we see that as a necessary consequence of this dif- 
ference in thought they differ in form from the 
teachings in the first three gospels and those of the 
Epistle of St. James. In these the teachings take 
the form of independent precepts, ordinarily not 
based on any other reason than the obvious sanction 
of the divine command. St. Paul, on the other hand, 
always shows that the new rules of life which he is 
enforcing are necessary results of the new concep- 
tion of the world which underlies the gospel. In 
Colossians he declares: 

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things 
which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right 
hand of God. 

Set your affection on things above, not on 
things on the earth. 

For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ 
in God. 1 

In the first three gospels peace and forgiveness are 

a matter of divine injunction. " If • thy brother 

trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent 

1 Col. iii. 1-3. 


forgive him." St. Paul, summing up in Galatians 
the practical and positive side of Christianity, de- 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, 
longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 

Meekness, temperance: against such there is no 

And they that are Christ's have crucified the 
flesh with the affections and lusts. 

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the 
Spirit. 1 

Everywhere in his epistles he shows that the new 
life of the Christian follows of necessity from the 
now truths which he has accepted. In other words 
his writings show the mental workings of the ab- 
stract reasoner, not merely that of the intuitive 


Nevertheless, one would never put St. Paul's writ- 
ings in the same class with those of modern phi- 
losophy or theology, and this not merely because he 
was a Jew, or because of the difference in power 
of inspiration and of the freshness and importance 
of the message; for though he uses the forms of 
speech which belong to modern thought he uses them 
1 Gal. v. 22-25. 


in a very different way. His epistles, exeept per- 
haps Roman,, show little predetermined plan: their 
progress from one idea to another seems often to 
follow the impulse of the moment rather than a 
smgle and firmly grasped idea. His sentences, as 
we have seen, frequently run away with themselves 
and end m a manner that he could hardly have fore- 
seen when he started them; and the vocabulary 
though containing many abstract words, is even 
more generally characterized by the figurative use 
of concrete words. Indeed, the most striking char- 
acter^ of his style is the way in which passages 
of reasoning soar away into bursts of splendid elo- 
quence which have far more of the nature of 
poetry than of scientific precision. Thus in Romans 
after the careful exposition of the life of the flesh 
and the hfe of the spirit and predestination, he sud- 
denly breaks away into the triumphant declaration 
of faith: 

^I h ? -l h f SGParate US fr ° m the Iove of Christ? 
shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or 
famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 

As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all 
slau hter ng; ^ ** aCC0Unted as shee P *» the 

Nay, in all these things we are more than con- 
querors through him that loved us. 
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life 


nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor 
things present, nor things to come, 

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, 
shall be able to separate us from the love of God, 
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 1 

Again in 1 Corinthians, after the exposition of the 
church as the mystical body of Christ, his style rises 
unconsciously to the more poetical and heightened 
diction of the chapter on charity: 

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of 
angels, and have not charity, I am become as 
sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and 
understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and 
though I have all faith, so that I could remove 
mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the 
poor, and though I give my body to be burned, 
and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity 
envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not 

puffed up, 

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her 
own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rcjoiceth in the 


Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopetn 
all things, endureth all things. 2 

■ Rom. viii. 35-39. ' 1 C° r - xiii " l ' 7 ' 


And in the most eloquent passage in all his writ- 
ings, the great proof of immortality, the style, be- 
ginning at a level which even for St. Paul is distin- 
guished by a certain restrained intensity of feeling, 
rises gradually until it breaks forth into the sheer 
cry of exultation at the end : 

So when this corruptible shall have put on in- 
corruption, and this mortal shall have put on 
immortality, then shall be brought to pass the 
saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in 

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is 
thy victory? 

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of 
sin is the law. 

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the 
victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 

If theology be a science this constant falling back 
on the figurative to express his ideas removes St. 
Paul from the ranks of the theologians ; for it shows 
that he was setting forth glimpses of truths too great 
and transcendent to be reduced to system. He trusts 
to the emotional implications of things rather than 
to the cool and abstract inferences drawn from them 
by rigidly logical processes. We have seen that the 
use of concrete words carries with it inevitably some 
appeal to the emotions, and it is only as abstraction 
1 Cor. xv. 54-57. 


approaches the rarefaction of mathematics or of pure 
logic that all element of the emotional is stripped 
away. With St. Paul so much of the expression 
lies in the marvellous power of the figures of speech, 
that we seem to be turning our backs on modern 
thought, and reverting to the methods of thought 
and of expression of the Old Testament. In this 
same great chapter of 1 Corinthians he makes no 
pause to sum up his thought in abstractions: 

But some man will say, How are the dead raised 
up? and with what body do they come? 

Thou fool, that which thou so west is not quick- 
ened, except it die: 

And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not 
that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may 
chance of wheat, or of some other grain: 

But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased 
him, and to every seed his own body. 

There is one glory of the sun, and another glory 
of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for 
one star differeth from another star in glory. 

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is 
sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 

It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: 
it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 

It is sown a natural body: it is raised a spiritual 
body. There is a natural body; and there is a 
spiritual body. 



And so it is written, the first man Adam was 
made a living soul; the last Adam was made a 
quickening spirit. 1 

Here the great truths lie rather in the connotation 
of the words, in their implications, associations and 
uplifting suggestions, than in their literal meaning; 
and if these clouds of feeling were stripped away the 
value and stimulating power of the passage would 
fall dead. 


All this is merely another way of saying that the 
language of St. Paul is largely mystical; and in this 
respect his writings go with portions of Hebrews, and 
especially with the Gospel according to St. John and 
the Epistles of St. John. The word mystical, how- 
ever, is so vague a description that we must come to 
a closer understanding of its significance. And a 
clearer understanding and definition of the mystical 
habit of thought and expression will help us to define 
more exactly the literary character of these portions 
of the Xew Testament and so to appreciate better 
their place and importance in English literature. 
Here, as in the last chapter, we shall get light on 
our problem from the modern understanding of the 
faculty of reasoning. 

1 1 Cor. xv. 35-38, 41-45. 


I have shown that reasoning rests on the ability 
first to break up the concrete facts of experience into 
the various attributes and qualities by which we know 
them, and then to see that a similarity which has 
been vaguely apprehended by intuition springs from 
the necessary concomitants of some one of these at- 
tributes. To take a simple example from our own 
subject, reasoning about the composition of the Pen- 
tateuch proceeded first by the extraction of certain 
common attributes and qualities, such as abstractness, 
formal precision, and an interest narrowed to matters 
of ecclesiastical organization and chronology; these 
attributes once extracted led to the assumption of 
a document marked throughout by these attributes 
which could be separated from the rest of the work ; 
then by following up the consequences of these attrib- 
utes it became evident that this document must come 
from a school of priests late in the history of Israel. 
The final inference depends on the ability to do two 
things : first, to single out and define the attributes in 
such a way that they can be referred to without am- 
biguity wherever they occur; and second, the ability 
to follow out their consequences without allowing 
feeling or other extraneous considerations to creep 
in and confuse the result. 

When we apply this test to these semi-mystical 
writings of the New Testament we shall find that 


they are not the products of a strictly defined reason- 
ing. At most they show the ability to see that the 
similarity between ideas is significant and pregnant, 
and to make a partial analysis and a vague applica- 
tion of its results and further consequences. In this 
partial power of reasoning they show a more devel- 
oped form of thought than that reflected by the wis- 
dom books of the Old Testament : but still a form of 
thought which stops short of the precision and defi- 
niteness of modern scientific reasoning. 

A comparison of a passage from St. Matthew with 
one from St. John based on a similar figure will 
make clearer what I mean. In St. Matthew we read : 

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set 
on an hill cannot be hid. 

Neither do men light a candle, and put it under 
a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light 
unto all that are in the house. 

Let your light so shine before men, that they 
may see your good works, and glorify your father 
which is in heaven. 1 

With this consider the following from the prologue 
to St. John: 

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 
And the light shineth in darkness; and the dark- 
ness comprehended it not. 2 

1 Matt. v. 14-16. J John i. 4-5. 


And also the following: 

Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is 
the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, 
lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh 
in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. 

While ye have light, believe in the light, that 
ye may be the children of light. 1 

In these two passages though the figure is the same, 
the treatment is entirely different: in the former we 
have a simple form of the parable, in the latter a 
typical case of the symbolism by which the mystical 
way of thought proceeds, but also simple. In the for- 
mer the similarity between the light of the candle 
and the example of the righteous man is felt intui- 
tively, but not analysed at all: both sides of the sim- 
ilarity consist of concrete experience, of experience 
in the round, as it were. In the other case the con- 
crete fact of the candle has disappeared and given 
place to a single attribute, the light. This attribute 
leads directly to further consequences ; following this 
attribute, light, one is pointed on to the way in which 
Christ has in like manner altered the world by his 
coming; and this aspect of his manifestation is in 
part explained and made clearer by the train of 
thought. To put the matter in another way, in the 
parable the similarity between diverse things which is 
1 John xii. 35-3G. 


the substance of most thought is assumed as a simple 
and obvious fact; there is no effort to analyse it, to 
see the nature of the likeness, no effort to develop it 
in order to see what further consequences are in- 
volved in the likeness. In the symbolic use of St. 
John, on the other hand, the points of likeness seem 
to be detached from the total sensation and stated as 
a single attribute; on this attribute the attention is 
then fixed, so that the resemblance is seen to go 
deeper and farther. The latter represents, then, a 
more developed form of thought, one which sees more 
points differentiated in its objects, as it were, more 
perspective, more consequences in them. And get- 
ting a glimpse of these further resemblances and con- 
sequences it comes to a more or less vague feeling of 
the nature of the similarity which binds the facts to- 
gether, and a more or less vague feeling of the 
further results which follow on that special nature. 
It differs from the older, Oriental mode of thought 
in that it has a partial idea of the nature of the 
single character which it analyses out, and a partially 
defined idea of the directions in which it leads. It 
differs from modern, Western thought in that neither 
the exact nature of the attribute nor the exact nature 
of its consequences is reached. If we should recur to 
Socrates's search for the essential nature of justice 
we should see how deeply this mystical thought dif- 


fers from really abstract reasoning. It may be con- 
ceived as lying half-way, as it were, between the 
Oriental, purely intuitive habit of thought and the 
modern, thoroughly analytical. It is by no means 
isolated: St. Paul's contemporary, Philo Judaeus, 
carried the mysticism to fantastic results ; and some 
of the works of Plato and even of Aristotle run off 
into such figurative forms as to be hardly distinguish- 
able from myths or allegories. Such cases probably 
mean that intuition ran away from reasoning, and 
gave glimpses of deep underlying truths too vast or 
too nebulous to be seized and made definite by the an- 
alytic reason. 

The kind of scientific man whose chief boast is 
his hard-headedness would probably compare mysti- 
cism and all its works to the rumored feat of the 
Hindoo magicians, who, we are told, standing on the 
bare and packed earth of a market place throw an end 
of rope into the air, and then climbing up it hand 
over hand disappear into the void of heaven: so mys- 
ticism, starting from the similitudes of real things, 
in a moment eludes our grasp and lose- it-. If in 
clouds where it is vain to try to follow it. The figure 
would have much truth, especially if we recognize 
its inadequacy to suggest the whole truth. The ap- 
peal of mysticism is of necessity limited, and for most 
of us very narrowly so; in this respect, as I shall 


point out in the chapter on the apocalypses, it is like 
the appeal of music. Sooner or later it loses itself in 
a region which is for almost everyone an unprofit- 
able void. On the other hand, as Professor James 
has shown in his Varieties of Religious Experience, 
the hither borders of this region are also those of 
all religious and spiritual experience ; and what value 
mysticism has it derives from its ability to lift the 
soul to the certitude of such experiences. The capac- 
ity of men for such spiritual experiences differs ; and 
in consequence each one of us sets a different esti- 
mate on the profitableness of mysticism. But these 
writings of the New Testament will be a witness, ex- 
cept to the kind of man of science who swallows his 
Herbert Spencer whole, that the things of the spirit 
lie part way at any rate within the confines of another 
order of experience. 

Coming back to a somewhat more sober way of 
looking at the subject, and considering it from the 
side of the style, we can see that the chief distinc- 
tion between this mystical reason and the modern 
analytical reasoning is that in the former there 
is a large and inseparable element of the emotional. 
Psychologists to-day, as we have seen, hold that 
feeling is inseparable from the sensations ; and it is 
a truth in literature that the appeal to the emotions 
must be made through the concrete. It is only as the 


abstract approaches the rarefaction of the mathemat- 
ical or of pure logic that all element of the emotional 
is stripped away. Now since the mystical reasoning 
is so largely figurative, it is couched in terms of the 
concrete, and therefore retains the strong emotional 
coloring which goes with the concrete. In the end it 
is still bound to terms which are more than half con- 
stituted of the non-rational element of feeling. In 
the figure of the light which is so dear to the author 
of the Fourth Gospel one feels that the connotation of 
the figure, — all the cloud of feelings and associations 
which throng about our idea of light, — is more im- 
portant than the actual denotation. If the idea were 
made really abstract its value and stimulating power 
would fade away. Mysticism is like poetry in that 
without emotion it would be a contradiction in terms. 
I lore again, then, we get back to the same truth 
which lies behind the wisdom books of the Old Tes- 
tament: from the point of view of literature power 
lies in the capacity of the written word to stir up 
feeling. Therefore in literature Bacon's apothegm, 
" Dry light is ever the best," has no place. The 
sensations and emotions of man, which do not change 
with the ages, are the permanent foundation of the 
mental life: the glory of the sun and the moon and 
the stars affects us in the same way that it did St. 
Paul; and we to-day at the call of his words rise 


on similar uprushes of feeling to a region above the 
dust and turmoil of the present life. He had the 
genius for expressing these inexpressible thoughts; 
and he does so now by the pregnant figure of the sow- 
ing of the grain, now by a pure ejaculation of the 
triumph of the soul over matter, as in the cry, " O 
death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy 
victory ? " 

We can go a step farther, I think, without step- 
ping out of a strictly literary study of these great 
masterpieces of expression into the field of theology : 
we can say that St. Paul was compelled to be partly 
mystical in the sense in which I have used the word 
here. If the message which was burned into his soul 
on the road to Damascus was of eternal significance, 
if it concerned the inscrutable things of God, it could 
not be reduced to the definiteness which some philos- 
ophers vainly hope to reach. At best man can attain 
only to glimpses of such truths, and then necessarily 
by intuition, not by reasoning; and such glimpses of 
supernatural truths can be communicated to other 
men through words only by such nobly figurative 
language as St. Paul had the genius to use : for by 
such language alone can the imagination be set soar- 
ing. The history of all literature will bear out the 
conclusion that follows from the study of the Bible, 
its greatest monument in English, that reasoning is 


here impotent. It is only by virtue of the deep in- 
fusion of feeling which always goes with knowledge 
attained by intuition that the human mind can soar 
to the eternal and the infinite. St. Paul himself has 
said it once for all : " Now we see as in a glass, 
darkly " : and these shadowy glimpses of the tran- 
scendent realities can be brought within the powers of 
language only by the adumbrations and kindling fig- 
ures of a half-poetic speech. 



We have seen in discussing the other forms of 
the Biblical literature that the narrative, except for 
a small portion of the Acts of the Apostles, is ex- 
tremely simple in style, and that it has neither com- 
plications nor subtleties of construction ; that the po- 
etry, with an equal simplicity, sets forth directly, 
through powerful and concrete imagery, the funda- 
mental and lasting emotions of mankind, but that, 
like the narrative, it never arrived at the point of 
creating characters and situations; that the wisdom 
literature of the Old Testament, limited like the nar- 
rative and the poetry by the nature of the Hebrew 
language, never arrived at reasoning in the modern 
sense, but stopped content with the truths which can 
be reached by intuition: and that it is not until we 
reach the Fourth Gospel and the epistles of St. Paul 

that we pass over to the mental life of the modern 



world. Even here, however, we found that the most 
stirring passages revert to intuition, since they deal 
with matters where man's reason flags helpless. With 
the prophecy we come back to the Old Testament, 
and to a form which as literature is the most typically 
and distinctively Biblical of all. 

Of all the writings in the English Bible these 
oracles of the prophets are the most foreign and the 
least like anything that we have in modern litera- 
ture: as they appear here they belong to a vanished 
past. Men are still born who have glimpses of the 
everlasting verities to communicate to other men ; but 
they deliver them in forms wholly different. The 
prophet of the Old Testament was at once preacher 
and statesman, seer of visions and guide in the affairs 
of the nation, reformer of religion, moralist, and 
poet. The prophecies contain deliverances on all sub- 
jects, from new revelations of the nature of Jehovah 
to the practical questions of tithes or the keeping of 
the Sabbath. Yet through them all, as we have seen, 
the normal form is poetical, and they all show the 
parallelism of the Hebrew poetry. At the very be- 
ginning of Isaiah there is a good example : 

Hear, O heavens; and give ear, O earth: for the 
Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought 
up children, and they have rebelled against 


The ox knoweth his master, and the ass his 
master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people 
doth not consider. 

Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, 
a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: 
they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked 
the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone 
away backward. 1 

A statesman nowadays in public utterances betakes 
himself to extended and orderly exposition: the 
statesman-prophets of Israel often saw their messages 
as a vision, and they summed up the pith of the sit- 
uation in a brief oracle in highly poetic form. Now- 
adays poets are men apart from the multitude, whose 
writings rarely touch public opinion. To understand 
the position of Amos and Isaiah and Jeremiah we 
must think of them as poets whose words had practi- 
cal force on the life of their times, whose utterances 
swayed public opinion, and guided the action of 

The prophets themselves as they appear in differ- 
ent parts of the Old Testament were of the greatest 
variety of character. The highest type were farsee- 
ing statesmen; yet they passed under the same name 
as the " sons of prophets " who were sometimes, so 
far as we can tell, not very different from the der- 
1 Isa. i. 2-4. 


vishes of to-day. An incident in the story of Saul 
shows the range of the word in these ancient times: 

And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and 
the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went 
on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in 

And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophe- 
sied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down 
naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore 
they say, Is Saul also among the prophets? 1 

This is a long way from the dignity of Isaiah before 
Hezekiah. We know directly very little about the 
prophets; but it is significant that the same word is 
used for so dervish-like an action as this and for the 
lofty utterances of the greatest statesmen and think- 
ers of Israel. It seems to have implied some sort of 
abnormal or supernormal state of mind. The phrase 
which the prophets use themselves is perhaps as defi- 
nite a description of this state of mind as we can get : 
" the hand of the Lord was upon me." I do not 
know that modern psychology adds much by explain- 
ing that the message must have surged up from the 
subliminal portion of the consciousness, and that it 
took the form of automatic speech. Such a descrip- 
tion only says in a more elaborate way that the mes- 

1 1 Sam. xix. 23-24. 


sage came to the prophet through no volition of his 
own, and that in the moulding of the message his con- 
scious thought played no part. In the New Testa- 
ment the visions of St. Paul belong to the same class 
of phenomena : 

It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I 
will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 

I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, 
(whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out 
of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an 
one caught up to the third heaven. 

And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, 
or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 

How that he was caught up into paradise, and 
heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for 
a man to utter. 1 

We may suppose that the prophets of the Old Testa- 
ment received their messages in a like state of exal- 
tation, when the depths of the soul overflowed the 
ordinary bounds of consciousness and floated them 
into a higher region of illumination. 

We have seen that the wisdom of the Hebrews 
never passed beyond the stage of intuition to that 
of abstract reasoning. This prophecy is therefore 
an even more typical part of the Old Testament 
literature, since here the conscious effort of the 
prophet contributed nothing. In the prophecies we 
1 2 Cor. xii. 1-4. 


meet a form of literature which has no kindred in 
our modern world. The self-induced trances of the 
dervishes are modern examples of a phenomenon 
which has come down unchanged from a remote an- 
tiquity in the East; and though such inarticulate 
trances are a long way from the inspired utterances 
with which we are dealing, they help us to understand 
the broken utterance and the incoherence of thought 
in a prophet like Ilosea. Xowadays and in our West- 
ern world we have an instinctive distrust of a man 
whose mental equilibrium is uncertain. We forget 
too much perhaps that such great geniuses of our 
modern world as Ca?sar and Xapoleon I were subject 
to emotional upsets of a form which doctors describe 
as epileptoid. And in the Xew Testament the writ- 
ings of St. Paul, which seem so near our own day, 
are the work of a man who, as we have just seen by 
his own testimony, was subject to trances. Like the 
prophets of the Old Testament he saw visions and 
was wrapt out of himself into a state in which his 
mind was opened wide to the messages from the un- 
seen world. In this matter of the prophecy he may 
furnish for us the connecting link between the Old 
Testament and the Xew. 

At the same time it must be borne in mind that 
though the prophecy is the most Oriental and foreign 
of all the forms of literature with which we deal, 


yet it is the portion of the literature through which 
the Jewish nation had its strongest influence on the 
thought of the world. Through the prophets were 
delivered the great messages by which this small and 
forlorn nation changed the course of civilization. 
Amos and Hosea and Isaiah first proclaimed the doc- 
trine that Jehovah, the God of Israel, was the God 
who ruled all the nations of the earth ; and two centu- 
ries later by a direct and necessary development of 
this teaching, the great unknown prophet whom we 
may call the Isaiah of the Exile, advancing to a 
higher plane of truth, proclaimed Jehovah as the one 
God, Avho made the heavens and the earth, beside 
whom the gods of the heathen were silly stocks and 
stones. And in the apocalypse, which developed nat- 
urally out of the prophecy, the Jews advanced to the 
doctrine of the future life and of the immortality of 
the soul. Thus in these forms which we are consider- 
ing in this chapter we are dealing with the form of 
utterance in which more than in any other was 
uttered forth the heart and the soul of the Jewish 


The prophecy is, however, harder to study than 
any other portion of the Bible since as it stands in our 
Bible it is Avholly disordered. The Jews of the Exile 


and of the next centuries gathered the fragments of 
the prophecy which remained to them into four great 
books, which came to have the names Isaiah, Jere- 
miah, Ezckicl, and the Twelve. Of these Ezekiel is 
the only book which is confined to the prophecies of a 
single prophet. Isaiah is almost more miscellaneous 
in contents than is the book of the Twelve ; into it 
wore gathered fragments of prophecy and prophetic 
writing which dated from a generation before Isaiah, 
before 750 B.C., to the end of the Persian period 
and the beginning of the Greek, about 300 B.C. : and 
these are all thrown together without regard to 
chronology or authorship. Any thorough under- 
standing of the books of the prophets is therefore de- 
pendent on a careful study of them with the help 
of some manual of Biblical introduction. In this 
way only can one sort out the different fragments 
and arrange them in something like a chronological 
order. The study is worth the effort, for the oracles 
of these ancient prophets have a rugged grandeur 
and elevation which set them apart as almost the 
highest peak in all the writings of men ; and the in- 
dividual prophets have characteristics which can only 
be brought out by recognizing the period from which 
their utterances spring. At the same time there is 
no more inspiring passage in all history than the way 
in which the prophets of this small people, a helpless 


buffer state between the great empires of the Nile and 
the Euphrates, at each crisis in their history rose tri- 
umphant above the limitations of temporal weakness 
and distress. In such a study as this, however, I 
must assume the fruits of this study and discuss only 
the larger outlines of its results. 

With the chronological order of the prophecies 
once restored, one can see a regular development of 
the literary forms which is curiously analogous to 
that of other literatures. It seems to be a general 
law that any school of literature rises to its climax 
when the power of thought and the power of feeling 
are justly balanced, when the writer has a clear and 
firm perception of facts and their meaning, and at 
the same time when this perception of fact is fired and 
fused by the heat of feeling and imagination ; when 
the intellectual faculties, cooler and more controlled, 
study the facts and formulate their meaning, and the 
emotional faculties, warmer and more impulsive, add 
momentum and intense feeling to this understanding 
and by the spontaneous and unforeseen leap of in- 
tuition rise to the apprehension of new truths and to 
the feeling for overtones of meaning often only im- 
perfectly articulate. As such a school breaks up, 
these two forces tend to split apart and to produce 
two schools, in one of which the intellectual faculties 
predominate and in the other the emotional. The 


Shakspere period is the most notable example in Eng- 
lish literature. Shakspere beyond any other writer 
in English joined to the grasp on the solid and con- 
crete facts of life and the keenest and most penetrat- 
ing perception of their meaning a power of feeling 
and a charm of form which fused and transfigured 
the facts into a stream of living beauty. It is hard to 
say whether one thinks first of the firm and definite 
outline of his characters or of the glowing beauty of 
his poetry and its rich halo of suggestiveness. In 
the generation succeeding him these two constituents 
of the poetic power fall apart. On the one hand 
there is the school of Drayton, of Brown, of Wither 
and the Fletchers, and the other mellifluous poets of 
the post-Elizabethan time, whose verse has the flow- 
ing and gracious beauty that belongs to a golden age, 
yet whose thought is so thin and reflected as to leave 
little lasting impression on one's mind. On the 
other hand there is the school of Donne and the so- 
called metaphysicians, whose intensity of thought lost 
itself in subtle intricacies and involution and who 
lacked the power of clothing their thought with clear 
and beautiful words. A like differentiation might be 
made out for the poets of the nineteenth century, start- 
ing with the great school of Wordsworth, Coleridge, 
Shelley, Keats, and Byron, which splits in our own 
time into the two tendencies shown by Tennyson and 


Browning, of flowing beauty of form on the one hand, 
and rugged and whimsical intricacy of thought on the 
other. We are too near these latter poets to work out 
the parallel in detail ; but the history of English lit- 
erature clearly establishes the law. In a school of 
poetry the decay and breaking up come as the forces 
of thought and of feeling separate from each other. 

A development closely akin to this appears in the 
external form of these books of the prophecy. The 
first great prophets show the penetrating and states- 
manlike understanding of fact fused by the intensity 
of their emotion and transfigured to words of glowing 
fire. Two hundred years later, in the prophets of the 
time of the Exile one finds the firm and earnest per- 
ception of fact on the one hand in Ezekiel, Haggai 
and Malachi, and on the other the soaring imag- 
ination and emotion of the Isaiah of the Exile, and 
the mystical visions of Zechariah; but by this time 
we find no example of the two forces fused into one. 

This change in the outward manifestation of the 
gift I will set forth at some little length, then I will 
return to the general characteristics of all the proph- 
ets and discuss what seems to be the essence of their 
character in our literature. In the next chapter we 
shall see how the prophecy developed naturally into 
another form of literature, known as the apocalypse, 
which gave to the New Testament its climax in Rev- 


elation. It is significant of the character of all the 
literature we are studying that the element of the 
prophecy which thus rose up into new life is that 
which embodies emotion and intuition, and that as it 
soared to its highest reaches, more and more it cut 
loose from the trammels of fact and the limitations 
of time and space. 

The writings of the prophets as we have them be- 
gin with Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah, in the middle of 
the eighth century B.C., the time when under Jero- 
boam II of Northern Israel and Azariah of Judah, 
the two little kingdoms flickered up into a final 
period of prosperity and apparent independence be- 
fore the great power of the Euphrates aroused itself 
and extended its borders once more to meet those of 
Egypt. Of these we may take the prophecies of 
Amos and Isaiah as examples of the prophecy at its 
strongest and noblest. 

The first appearance of Amos, a rough herdsman 
from the hills of Judah, before the wealthy and cul- 
tivated nobles of Samaria, men grown fat with riches 
and luxury, is a most dramatic incident. He begins 
with a series of denunciations against their heredi- 
tary enemies : 

Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions 
of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away 
the punishment thereof ; because they have 


threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of 

But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, 
which shall devour the palaces of Ben-hadad. 

I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut 
off the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and 
him that holdeth the sceptre from the house of 
Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into cap- 
tivity unto Kir, saith the Lord. 1 

Then he follows with denunciations of Gaza and Ash- 
dod, of Tyrus, of Edom because " he did pursue his 
brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and 
his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath 
for ever ", of Amnion, and of Moab, " because he 
burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime." 
Then when his hearers are lulled by these satisfying 
denunciations of their enemies, suddenly and with- 
out warning he turns on them : 

Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions 
of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the 
punishment thereof; because they sold the right- 
eous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes; 

That pant after the dust of the earth on the 
head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the 

And they lay themselves down upon clothes 
laid to pledge by every altar, and they drink the 
1 Amos i. 3-5. 


wine of the condemned in the house of their 
god. 1 

Here we have the prophecy at its best ; the sharp per- 
ception of the concrete facts is fused by imagination 
into a message of the deeper meaning which under- 
lies it. Amos always shows this combination : both 
his descriptions of the oppressive luxury of the 
nobles and the imagery in which he denounces the 
punishment of them are extraordinarily vivid : 

Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the 
seat of violence to come near; 

That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch them- 
selves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out 
of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the 

That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent 
to themselves instruments of music, like David; 

That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves 
with the chief ointments; but they are not grieved 
for the affliction of Joseph. 2 

And for the punishment: 

And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in 
all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: 
yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. 

And also I have withholden the rain from you, 
when there were yet three months to the harvest: 
and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused 

1 Amos ii. 6-8. 2 Ibid., vi. 3-6. 


it not to rain upon another city: one piece was 
rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained 
not withered. 

So two or three cities wandered unto one city, 
to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet 
have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. 1 

And again: 

Thus saith the Lord; As the shepherd taketh 
out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece 
of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be taken 
out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, 
and in Damascus in a couch. 

Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob, 
saith the Lord God, the God of hosts, 

That in the day that I shall visit the transgres- 
sions of Israel upon him I will also visit the altars 
of Beth-el: and the horns of the altar shall be cut 
off, and fall to the ground. 

And I will smite the winter house with the 
summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, 
and the great houses shall have an end, saith the 
Lord. 2 

In all his declaration of the new and unwelcome 
truth, that Jehovah would punish his chosen people 
for their unrighteousness as well as reward them for 
their good deeds, Amos has the sharpest and strong- 
est sense of the actual evil for which the punishment 
1 Amos iv. 6-8. 2 Ibid., iii. 12-15. 


would come and the imagination and feeling which 
clothed those facts with spiritual power. 

So in the same way with Isaiah, a younger and 
greater contemporary of Amos. He is the most 
notable of all the prophets, for he more than any 
of them shows this complete balance of the unfail- 
ing grasp of fact and the power of the imagination 
which fuses the fact into an expression of the higher 
truths which lie behind. In all his prophecies one 
feels the statesmanship of a man who, looking be- 
yond the mountains of Judah to the movements of 
the great world outside, recognized that Assyria was 
irresistible and that the only hope for Judah was 
to bow before the storm and trust in the Lord God. 
Moreover, one finds in Isaiah's prophecies what one 
does not find in those of the other prophets, a firm 
confidence that they will have weight: one recog- 
nizes that here is a man who impressed his own high 
and inspired purpose on the actions of weak and un- 
willing kings. 

"What I wish to emphasize now, however, is the 
solid and vivid appreciation of fact and the high 
imagination of his messages. Of the grasp of fact 
one can find many instances. His warning to Heze- 
kiah not to intrigue with Egypt, not only shows the 
statesman's insight into the situation, but recreates 
the situation for us: 


Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, 
that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover 
with a covering, but not of my Spirit, that they 
may add sin to sin: 

That walk to go down into Egypt, and have not 
asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in 
the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow 
of Egypt! 

Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your 
shame, and the trust in the shadow of Egypt your 

For his princes were at Zoan, and his ambas- 
sadors came to Hanes. 

They were all ashamed of a people that could not 
profit them, nor be an help nor profit, but a shame, 
and also a reproach. 

The burden of the beasts of the south: into the 
land of trouble and anguish, from whence come 
the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying 
serpent, they will carry their riches upon the 
shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon 
the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not 
profit them. 

For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no 
purpose: therefore, have I cried concerning this, 
Their strength is to sit still. 1 

And he describes the state of Judah as follows: 

Your country is desolate, your cities are burned 
with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your 

1 Isa. xxx. 1-7. 


presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by 

And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in 
a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, 
as a besieged city. 1 

Indeed, all the great prophets of the earlier time 
described the conditions under which they lived so 
definitely that modern historians find in their utter- 
ances much of the material from which to recon- 
struct the history of the period. 

The imagery of Isaiah's prophecies shows this 
same vivid consciousness of actual fact. Before the 
war against Pekah and Rczin he declares: 

And in that day it shall come to pass, that the 
glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness 
of his flesh shall wax lean. 

And it shall be as when the harvest man gathereth 
the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; and 
it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of 

Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the 
shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the 
top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the 
outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the Lord 
God of Israel. 2 

When Judah is threatened by Assyria, he declares: 

And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of 
the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are 
1 Isa. i. 7-8. 2 Ibid., xvii. 4-6. 


left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was 
none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, 
or peeped. 

Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth 
therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against 
him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake 
itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff 
should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. 

Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send 
among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory 
he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. x 

And in an undated prophecy there is the well-known 
passage : 

Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall 
he make to understand doctrine? them that are 
weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon 
precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little 
and there a little: 

For with stammering lips and another tongue 
will he speak to this people. 

To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye 
may cause the weary to rest; and this is the re- 
freshing: yet they would not hear. 

But the word of the Lord was unto them precept 
upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, 
line upon line; here a little and there a little; that 
they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, 
and snared, and taken. 2 
1 Isa. x. 14-16. 2 Ibid., xxviii. 9-13. 


Such examples illustrate the unfailing concreteness 
of Isaiah: whatever the message which came to him 
to express he had figures of speech sometimes of 
almost startling homeliness by which to stamp it into 
the hearts of his people. Yet no matter how homely 
the figure his earnestness and his elevation of 
thought and the power of his message forestall any 
effect of triviality. 

Even more characteristic of Isaiah's style, how- 
ever, are the figures of speech which he draws from 
the great forces of nature; and here again the lan- 
guage is vividly concrete: 

Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and 
the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall 
be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as 
dust: because they have cast away the law of the 
Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy 
One of Israel. 

Therefore is the anger of the Lord kindled 
against his people, and he hath stretched forth his 
hand against them, and hath smitten them: and 
the hills did tremble, and their carcasses were torn 
in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is 
not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. 1 

Woe to the multitude of many people, which 
make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the 
rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the 
rushing of mighty waters ! 

1 Isa. v. 24-25. 


The nations shall rush like the rushing of many 
waters; but God shall rebuke them, and they shall 
flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the 
mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing 
before the whirlwind. 

And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before 
the morning he is not. This is the portion of 
them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob 
us. 1 

Anyone can pile up figures of speech drawn from 
floods and fire and lightning and thunder ; but Isaiah 
applied them so that a single phrase expresses all 
the terrors that lie in these mighty forces; and, 
what is more, he used them in a way which always 
justified the superlative. In the later writers who 
filled in the prophetic books with imaginations of 
their own the effort to wield these resounding phrases 
is painfully apparent. But with Isaiah whether the 
figure be homely or remote, it is always concrete, 
and so apt that each time one comes back to the 
reading one is struck with fresh surprise at the 
power. Always one feels with Isaiah, as with the 
earlier poets of Israel, that he is drawing his imagery 
from things which he himself has felt and seen and 
heard, and not from a store-house of inherited lit- 
erature. His speech springs from the experiences of 

1 Isa. xvii. 12-14. 


his own life ; it never suggests that its phrasing comes 
second or third hand from reality. 1 

On the other hand, the quality which is even more 
characteristic of Isaiah than his solid consciousness 
of fact is the high moral and spiritual elevation of 
his prophecies. The keynote of his message by some 
shrewd instinct of the compiler is set at the very 
beginning of the book: 

Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, 
a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupters: 
they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked 
the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone 
away backward. 

To what purpose is the multitude of your sac- 
rifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the 
burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; 
and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of 
lambs, or of he goats. 

When ye come to appear before me, who hath 
required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 

Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an 
abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, 
the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it 
is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 

Your new moons and your appointed feasts 
my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am 
weary to bear them. 

'See Isa. xxiv. 16-23; Jere. 1-li., both very late additions to 
the prophetical books. 


And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide 
mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many 
prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil 
of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do 

Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the 
oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the 
widow. 1 

And the essence of his warning to Judah against the 
power of Samaria and Damascus is the following 
passage : 

For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong 
hand, and instructed me that I should not walk 
in the way of this people, saying, 

Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom 
this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear 
ye their fear, nor be afraid. 

Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him 
be your fear, and let him be your dread. 2 

This is the lesson which gives grandeur to the 
prophecies of this period. Amos and Hosea had al- 
ready in the generations before Isaiah declared that 
the power of Jehovah transcended the little boun- 
daries of Israel; Isaiah reinforced the lesson and 
lifted it to even a higher plane. Everywhere his 
understanding of the fate of his people is fused and 
> Isa. i. 4; 11-17. ' Ibid., viii. 11-13. 


transfigured by his intense and soaring imagination. 
His message was of surpassing grandeur; and he 
clothed it with a language marked by profusion and 
splendor of imagery, and by compression and inten- 
sity of feeling. Thus his prophecy everywhere shows 
the combination which I have spoken of, the com- 
bination of vividness and concreteness of thought 
and clear insight into fact, with the burning and 
inspired earnestness of feeling which transmutes the 
facts and endows them with an instant and lasting 
effect on the imagination. Isaiah, more than any 
other of the prophets, shows in the highest degree 
these two qualities and the perfect balance between 

Let us now, passing down a century into the bitter 
time during which Judah followed the kingdom of 
Xorth Israel to political extinction, come to the 
utterances of Jeremiah, the " weeping prophet." 
This very name " weeping prophet " indicates the 
direction in which the prophetic literature is passing. 
The emotion is already surging to the front, though 
with Jeremiah not so much so as to obscure the sense 
of fact. He describes the conditions of the Judah of 
his day as distinctly as does Isaiah the conditions of 
a century before. One of his prophecies against the 
weak and silly kings of Judah in his day may serve 
as an example. Here is that against Jehoiakim : 


Woe unto him that buildeth his house by un- 
righteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that 
useth his neighbour's service without wages, and 
giveth him not for his work; 

That saith, I will build me a wide house and 
large chambers, and cutteth him out windows; 
and it is cieled with cedar, and painted with ver- 

Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself 
in cedar? did not thy father eat and drink, and do 
judgment and justice, and then it was well with 

He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then 
it was well with him; was not this to know me? 
saith the Lord. 

But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for 
thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, 
and for oppression, and for violence, to do it. 

Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoi- 
akim, the son of Josiah king of Judah; They shall 
not lament for him, saying, Ah, my brother! or, 
Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, 
Ah, Lord! or, Ah his glory! 

He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn 
and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem. 1 

Jeremiah had as strongly as had Isaiah the unblurred 
insight into the facts and the conditions of his day. 
In his case the word " Jeremiad " does not mean a 
vague and unthinking abuse of conditions which he 
1 Jere. xxii. 13-19. 


did not himself grasp. He was a preacher of repent- 
ance and of the wrath to come ; but he recognized his 
impotence in the councils of the kings, and he knew 
that his efforts to rouse the people to their desperate 
state were vain. With him the sense of fact has not 
begun to decay. 

On the other hand, as I have said, the name which 
is given to him of the " weeping prophet " points to 
the change which is coming over the prophecy. With 
him the emotion is more noticeable than the grasp of 
fact. One of his own utterances points to this break- 
ing down of the equilibrium. " I am full of the fury 
of the Lord, I am weary with holding in " ; and the 
following passage shows how his feeling was get- 
ting to the verge of control : 

Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a 
fountain of tears, that I might weep day and 
night for the slain of the daughter of my 

Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging place of 
wayfaring men; that I might leave my people and 
go from them! for they be all adulterers, an assem- 
bly of treacherous men. 

And they bend their tongues like their bow for 
lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the 
earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they 
know not me, saith the Lord. 1 
1 Jere. ix. 1-3. 


Indeed the keynote to his message may be found in 
tbe words : 

A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in 
the land; 

The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests 
bear rule by their means; and my people love to 
have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? 1 

The vehemence and distress of the prophet has risen 
to a point in which words begin to be impotent. We 
no longer feel with him as with Isaiah that the vivid 
sense of fact is in perfect balance with the power of 
feeling and imagination. Now the feeling and emo- 
tion tend to reduce the prophet to helpless despair. 
Both elements of the prophecy still exist, but the feel- 
ing is beginning to overshadow the intellectual grasp. 
As we pass on into the next generation, the two 
great prophets of the Exile show the differentiation al- 
ready well begun. On the one hand Ezekiel's proph- 
ecies have earnestness and sincerity, but in form they 
are painstaking rather than inspired. With the great 
unknown prophet, the Isaiah of the Exile, on the 
other hand, facts become vague and uncertain: from 
him we get no help for the reconstruction of the his- 
tory; but his imagination soars on the wings of his 
spiritual emotion to heights where the vision of man 
loses itself in the clouds of heaven. 
1 Jere. v. 30-31. 


Let us consider Ezekiel first. His style at times 
has almost a legal precision and rcpetitiousness. In 
Chapter xviii the proverb, " The fathers have eaten 
sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge," 
is elaborated into a series of formal and detailed judg- 
ments on the fate of a just man's son that is a robber 
and a shedder of blood, and of the robber's son " that 
seeth all his father's sins which he hath done, and 
considereth, and doeth not such like." In such writ- 
ing we have come far from the impassioned oracles of 
Amos, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah. It has little rela- 
tion to poetry, but belongs rather to the formal elab- 
orations of doctrine by the later writers of the Deu- 
teronomic and priestly schools. 

Ezekiel's visions at first sight seem to break up our 
classification. The description of " the appearance 
of the likeness of the glory of the Lord " at the be- 
ginning of the book seems at first sight to be purely 
mystical ; but it has been pointed out that the figures 
of the cherubim and of the wheels are borrowed 
somewhat literally from the sculptures of the Baby- 
lonian temples; as compared with the vision of 
Isaiah in Isaiah vi this vision of Ezekiel has a 
painstaking literalness that points rather to poverty 
of imagination than to a superabundance of it. Eze- 
kiel was by no means destitute of poetic power, as is 
sufficiently shown in the lamentations inserted in his 


prophecies. The vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, 
one of the most striking passages in all the Bible, 
will give a fair idea both of his power and of his 
limitations : 

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried 
me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down 
in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, 

And caused me to pass by them round about: 
and, behold, there were very many in the open 
valley; and, lo, they were very dry. 

And he said unto me, Son of man, can these 
bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou 

Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these 
bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear 
the word of the Lord. 

Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; 
Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and 
ye shall live: 

And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring 
up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and 
put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall 
know that I am the Lord. 

So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I 
prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, 
and the bones came together, bone to his bone. 

And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh 
came up upon them, and the skin covered them 
above: but there was no breath in them. 

Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, 


prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus 
saith the Lord God, Come from the four winds, O 
breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they 
may live. 

So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the 
breath came into them, and they lived, and stood 
upon their feet, an exceeding great army. 1 

Here is imaginative power of a high order: but the 
imagination flags and becomes pedestrian in the ap- 
plication of the vision: 

Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones 
are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, 
Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are 
cut off for our parts. 

Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus 
saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will 
open your graves, and cause you to come up out 
of your graves, and bring you into the land of 

And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I 
have opened your graves, O my people, and brought 
you up out of your graves. 

And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live; 
and I shall place you in your own land: then shall 
ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and per- 
formed it, saith the Lord. 2 

Such an ending hardly justifies the indefinitely sug- 
gestive power of the vision : nor has it the overwhelm- 
1 Ezek. xxxvii. 1-10. 2 Ibid., 11-14. 



ing rush of feeling of the earlier prophets. One no 
longer feels one's self in the presence of a man who 
was impelled by the very intensity of his feeling to 
the utterance of his message ; one no longer feels that 
the message surged up, spontaneously and inevitably, 
from the depth of the prophet's consciousness. Be- 
side Amos and Elijah, the wild prophets of the des- 
ert, Ezekiel seems a cultivated man of the study with 
high moral insight, reasoning out the words which 
he is called upon to deliver. It is as if he were writ- 
ing out ordinances with a careful, almost scholarly 
scrutiny of the form which they would take, and a 
painstaking care for the exact statement of fact. The 
long vision at the end of the book is in substance, 
and at times in manner, closely akin to the later 
chapters of Exodus and the earlier chapters of Leviti- 
cus and of Numbers. It shows Ezekiel as the stu- 
dent of the law, absorbed in working out and codi- 
fying the prescriptions for the liturgy and ritual of 
the temple. He brings the prophecy into close rela- 
tions with the legal portions of the Pentateuch ; 
though with him the absorption in details is always 
relieved by imaginative insight into their symbolic 
meaning. There is much in his prophecy in which 
the poetic form seems an outer shell rather than an 
organic part of the message. In Ezekiel, in con- 
trast to the earlier prophets, the sense of fact is no 


longer fused and transfigured by the tense heat of 
the imagination and feeling. 

With Ezekiel's younger and greater contemporary, 
the Isaiah of the Exile, the case is just the opposite. 
The very fact that his name is lost seems sym- 
bolic of the relative unimportance of specific facts 
in his writing. His message is a message of comfort 
and of spiritual uplifting. His people are hopelessly 
subdued and political action has no meaning for them 
or for him. We know from his prophecy that Judah 
is captive in Babylon ; but his prophecies contain al- 
most no description of the condition under which the 
people lived ; and the promises of comfort to them are 
vaguely large and figurative. The promises of unal- 
loyed bliss in the later chapters of the book made to 
the people apparently after the return to Jerusalem, 
when their miserable state must have been a bitter 
contrast to their jubilant hopes, seem to be heightened 
almost in proportion to their present despair. We 
shall see later what a long step this soaring into 
visions of a vague and unfixed future is toward the 
apocalyptic literature which succeeded the prophecy 
in the next century or two. 

On the other hand no portion of the literature of 
the Old Testament is more individual in style and 
thought or more gloriously uplifting in expression 
than the oracles of this great prophet of the Exile. 


He rises to a new level of faith with the indomitable 
buoyancy which was the genius of Israel at each crisis 
of its religion. The ancestral idea that Jehovah 
would protect them in all events against the gods of 
the heathen was finally shattered ; but this new seer 
boldly declares that Jehovah is the God of the whole 
earth : 

Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it 
not been told you from the beginning? have ye 
not understood from the foundations of the earth? 

It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, 
and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; 
that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and 
spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in. 1 

I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is 
no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast 
not known me: 

That they may know from the rising of the sun, 
and from the west, that there is none beside me. 
I am the Lord, and. there is none else. 

I form the light, and create darkness: I make 
peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these 

Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the 
skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, 
and let them bring forth salvation, and let right- 
eousness spring up together; I the Lord have 
created it. 2 

1 Isa. xl. 21-22. 2 Ibid., xlv. 5-8. 


This triumphant exultation in the omnipotent power 
of Jehovah is the keynote of his message. 

Nevertheless this characteristic and jubilant eleva- 
tion only emphasizes the disturbance of the equilib- 
rium which we found in Amos and Isaiah. The 
Isaiah of the Exile is not a statesman charged with 
the responsibility for the political actions of his na- 
tion. He bears a message of comfort and of hope ; 
but he proclaims a future whose details are not un- 
veiled. Isaiah always had his feeling in firm con- 
trol ; and though it rise to white heat, it only gives 
the words of his oracle a stronger motion without 
changing their character. The Isaiah of the Exile 
in contrast is carried away into lyrical utterances 
which almost become pure rhapsody. 

Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and 
break forth into singing, O mountains: for the 
Lord hath comforted his people, and will have 
mercy upon his afflicted. 1 

Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put 
on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy 
city: for henceforth there shall no more come into 
thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. 

Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, 
O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy 
neck, O captive daughter of Zion. 

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet 
1 Isa. xlix. 13. 


of him that bringeth good tidings ; that publisheth 
peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that 
publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy 
God reigneth! 

Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the 
voice together shall they sing: for they shall see 
eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion. 

Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste 
places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted 
his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. 

The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the 
eyes of all the nations ; and all the ends of the earth 
shall see the salvation of our God. 1 

Such passages are wholly different from the grave 
and terse utterances of Isaiah and his stern conscious- 
ness of fact. By the side of the prophet of the exile, 
Isaiah seems more austere and more remote, a figure 
isolated in antiquity: and beside Isaiah the prophet 
of the Exile seems carried away by emotion and im- 
agination, and uncontrolled by the stern sense of fact. 
An even more striking example of this tendency of 
one school of the later prophecy to break over into 
rhapsodical utterance may be found in the striking 
passage in Isaiah xxi which comes from some other 
unknown prophet of the Exile : 

My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: 
the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear 
unto me. 

1 lea. lii. 1-2, 7-10. 


Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, 
drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield. 

For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a 
watchman, let him declare what he seeth. 

And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, 
a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he 
hearkened diligently with much heed: 

And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually 
upon the watchtower in the day time, and I am 
set in my ward whole nights: 

And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, 
with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and 
said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven 
images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground. 

O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that 
which I have heard of the Lord of hosts, the God 
of Israel, have I declared unto you. 1 

Here the wild incoherence of the message and the 
swift flashing of its imagery seem to point to an in- 
tensity of feeling which has broken away from any 
sober control and consideration of facts. Here, even 
more than in the Isaiah of the Exile, the emotional 
power predominates. 

Thus the prophecy has lost its perfect balance and 
fusion. In the Isaiah of the Exile the messages show 
a dominance of emotion and a relaxing grasp of fact; 
his utterances tend to rhapsody ; the promises of 
hope have become vague, and though they are more 

1 Isa. xxi. 4-10. 


soaring they tend in the direction of the mystical. 
With Ezekiel on the other hand we found that the 
sense of fact was in the dominant and that the emo- 
tional force had lost its momentum. Thus in these 
two prophets of the Exile, who were almost contem- 
poraneous, we may see the breaking down begun. 
This process I have not space to trace out. Suffice it 
to say that with Haggai and Malachi, earnest and 
sincere as they were, one feels the limitation to the 
perception of a narrow range of fact, and a corre- 
sponding weakening of the imaginative power. In 
Zechariah an increasing interest in the vision and in- 
creasing reliance on vague and mystical suggestions 
go with a corresponding insignificance of fact. So 
the prophecy gradually passed away. On the one 
hand, it was drying up, as it were, in the words of 
earnest men whose feeling and imagination were too 
weak to burn their words into the life of their con- 
temporaries; on the other hand, it was floating off 
into the clouds of the mystical kingdom of God and 
losing its hold on the realities of human life. 


If after this brief sketch of the gradual change 
in the character of the prophetic literature, we at- 
tempt to define its chief characteristics as part of the 


English Bible we shall find its determining attribute 
in the fact that the prophet spoke always as the 
mouthpiece of Jehovah : he was possessed by the 
hand of the Lord, and the words which emerged 
from his lips were the immediate utterance of God. 
Sometimes Jehovah speaks directly in the first 
person : 

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and 
called my son out of Egypt. 

As they called them, so they went from them: 
they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to 
graven images. 

I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by 
their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. 

I drew them with cords of a man, with bands 
of love: and I was to them as they that take off 
the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them. 1 

Sometimes the prophecy passes from such direct dis- 
course to a description of the message which is com- 
mitted to the prophet, as in the case of the fine dia- 
logue which has been incorporated in the book of the 
prophet Micah : 

Hear ye now what the Lord saith; Arise, contend 
thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear 
thy voice. 

Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord's controversy, 
and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the 
1 Hosea xi. 1-4. 


Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he 
will plead with Israel. 

O my people, what have I done unto thee? and 
wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me. 

For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, 
and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; 
and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 

O my people remember now what Balak king of 
Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor 
answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal; that ye 
may know the righteousness of the Lord. 

Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and 
bow myself before the high God? shall I come before 
him mth burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? 

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of 
rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I 
give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit 
of my body for the sin of my soul? 

He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; 
and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to 
do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly 
with thy God? l 

But always these oracles of the prophets differ from 
anything else in the Old Testament in the fact that 
the man who utters them feels that the words spring 
from his lips completely formed, without volition of 
his own. This consciousness of detachment appears 
strikingly in the account of how Amaziah, the priest 
of the sanctuary at Beth-el, tried to silence Amos : 
1 Micah vi. 1-8. 


Also Amaziah said unto Amos. O thou seer, go 
flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat 
bread, and prophesy there: 

But prophesy not again any more at Beth-el: 
for it is the king's chapel, and it is the king's court. 

Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I 
was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but 
I was an herdman and a gatherer of sycomore 

And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, 
and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my 
people Israel. 1 

Here Amos, unlike Isaiah and Jeremiah and most 
of the other prophets, seems to feel little responsibil- 
ity for results : it is as if he felt his function to be 
fulfilled when he had thrust his message on the un- 
willing attention of his hearers. In the Psalms and 
in Job the passionate faith or distress of the individ- 
ual Jew rings through the verses and imparts the 
note of poignant feeling which makes them kin to the 
whole world. In the prophets, even in the yearning 
love which shines through the messages of Hosea 
or the bitter and burning despair of Jeremiah, there 
are always a larger thought and a majesty which 
befit the words of the Lord God of Hosts. 

As a result of this sense of possession by the hand 
of Jehovah the prophetic writings show a feeling for 
'Amos vii. 1-2-15. 


the proportions of things which makes them the best 
possible foundation for a study of modern literature. 
It is easy for a student of any form of art to get 
into the frame of mind of Walter Pater, that subli- 
mated sentimentalist, and feel that the only effort 
worth a refined man's attention is to free himself from 
the turmoil and dust of life, and dwell in a half-as- 
cetic, half-aesthetic Olympus of beautiful words and 
beautiful things. To a student of these books of the 
prophets such an attitude is impossible, for they con- 
tinually occupy themselves with the solid realities of 
history and human fate. With them it is not a ques- 
tion of whether an individual man shall taste the last 
drop of sweetness or wisdom from this world's cup, 
or even, as with Shakspere at his highest, of how the 
tangle of character and circumstance in man's fate 
shall work itself out into clear portrayal : the prophets 
are concerned with the fulfillment of the will of God, 
and with bringing his chosen people to a compelling 
sense of the righteousness that shall regenerate the 
world. And their indomitable faith in the enduring 
purpose of Jehovah makes the controlled hedonism 
and agnosticism of Ecclesiastes seem pusillanimous. 
Even in the case of Haggai this absorption in the 
service of the God of the whole earth lends dignity 
and power to the narrowing interest of the message. 
This largeness of interest is reinforced by the spe- 


cial virtues of the Old Testament poetry. We have 
seen that the Hebrew language was limited to the 
solid and concrete realities of life, and that the He- 
brew poetry as it is translated in the English of our 
Bible added to the higher expressiveness of poetry 
the freedom and the undisturbed naturalness of prose. 
These virtues are shared by the prophecies ; and they 
in consequence reinforce the high seriousness and the 
large and noble sense of proportion by a robustness 
and weighty power which again distinguishes them 
in our literature. Finally, the inmost essence of 
their power lies in its spiritual elevation. To these 
prophets, to Amos and Hosea and Isaiah, to Jere- 
miah, Ezekiel and the Isaiah of the Exile, to Joel 
and Malachi and Zechariah, with all their unknown 
contemporaries and coworkers, it was given to touch 
the realities of the world of this life with the vivify- 
ing force of the unseen. Their oracles were phrased 
in the words of the things which men can see and 
hear and feel, but they are filled with the palpable 
breath of the things which lie beyond our present 
capacities to comprehend. More than the other writ- 
ings of the Old Testament they spring from what, 
because it is inexplicable, we call genius. 



The prophecy did not pass away, however, without 
sowing the seeds of a type of writing, which in 
thought was to rise still higher, and finally to bear 
fruit in one of the books of the New Testament ; this 
was the work of the apocalyptic writers, who grad- 
ually succeeded to the place of the prophets in the 
last centuries of the old era, and who in the first cen- 
tury of the new produced the book of Revelation. 
The outward form of the apocalypses is sometimes 
fantastic, almost trivial; but the faith which pro- 
duced them ennobled this outward form into the 
vehicle of the most elevated thought yet attained by 
the Jewish race. 

The apocalyptic writing sprang naturally out of 
the prophecies; for the Jews of the Exile and of 
the succeeding wretched centuries took literally the 
many promises of the restoration of power and hap- 
piness to Israel and of punishment for their enemies 



which they read in the books of the prophets. The 
Isaiah of the Exile has many such passages of hope 
as the following: 

Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, 
and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to 
him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of 
rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall 
worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and 
the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee. 

Thus saith the Lord, in an acceptable time have 
I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I 
helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give 
thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the 
earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; 

That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; 
to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. 
They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures 
shall be in all high places. 

They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall 
the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath 
mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs 
of water shall he guide them. 

And I will make all my mountains a way, and 
my highways shall be exalted. 

Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these 
from the north and from the west; and these from 
the land of Sinim. 1 

With such promises of restoration for Israel go cor- 
1 Isa. xlix 7-12. 


responding denunciations of the woe to come for the 
enemies of Israel: 

Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the 
lawful captive delivered? 

But thus saith the Lord, Even the captives of the 
mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the 
terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with 
him that contendeth with thee, and I will save 
thy children. 

And I will feed them that oppress thee with their 
own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own 
blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know 
that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, 
the Mighty One of Jacob. 1 

From these and similar prophecies had developed the 
idea of a day of the Lord when the heathen should be 
brought to judgment and confusion, and the way 
prepared for the return of Israel. 

As time went on and the Jews became hopelessly 
insignificant as a nation, instead of letting go their 
hope of the fulfillment of these prophecies they merely 
postponed it to a vaguer and more distant future. 
The later prophetic writings show a corresponding 
largeness and vagueness of outline, of which ex- 
amples may be found in Joel: 

Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the 
valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge 
all the heathen round about. 

1 Isa. xlix. 24-26. 


Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, 
get you down; for the press is full, the fats over- 
flow; for their wickedness is great. 

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: 
for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of 

The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the 
stars shall withdraw their shining. 

The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter 
his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the 
earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of 
his people, and the strength of the children of 

So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God 
dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall 
Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass 
through her any more. 1 

Scattered through the books of the prophets there is 
a considerable body of writing of this large and 
vague character which unveils the destiny of Israel 
and its enemies in an undetermined future. The 
considerable passage in Isaiah xxiv-x.ciii, which 
comes probably from the end of the fourth century 
b.c. or later, is an example. Here are two specimens 
from it : 

And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts 
make unto all people a feast of fat things, :i feast 
of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, 
of wines on the lees well refined. 

1 Joel iii. 12-17. 


And he will destroy in this mountain the face of 
the covering cast over all people, and the vail that 
is spread over all nations. 

He will swallow up death in victory; and the 
Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; 
and the rebuke of his people shall he take away 
from off all the earth : for the Lord hath spoken it. 1 

In that day the Lord, with his sore and great 
and strong sword shall punish leviathan the pierc- 
ing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; 
and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea. 

In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red 

I the Lord do keep it: I will water it every 
moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and 

Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and 
thorns against me in battle? I would go through 
them, I would burn them together. 

Or let him take hold of my strength, that he 
may make peace with me; and he shall make peace 
with me. 

He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take 
root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the 
face of the world with fruit. 2 

This type of the apocalyptic writing is little different 
in external form from the prophecy of the earlier 
centuries. It is not often as sustained as Joel, which 
is the finest example of it ; and it is not infrequently 
1 Isa. xxv. 6-8. 2 Ibid., xxvii. 1-6. 


broken by passages which cannot be distinguished 
from psalms, as in Isaiah x.riv-.vxvii. In subject 
matter it is often characterized by a revelling in grim 
pictures of the annihilation of the heathen, after the 
manner of Ezekiel in his prophecies against the semi- 
mystical " Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince 
of Meshech and Tubal " : 

For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath 
have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be 
a great shaking in the land of Israel ; 

So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of 
the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creep- 
ing things that creep upon the earth, and all the 
men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake 
at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown 
down, and the steep places shall fall, and every 
wall shall fall to the ground. 

And 1 will fall for a sword against him through- 
out all my mountains, saith the Lord God: every 
man's sword shall be against his brother. 

And I will plead against him with pestilence and 
with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his 
bands, and upon the many people that are with him, 
an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and 

Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; 
and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, 
and they shall know that I am the Lord. 1 

1 Ezek. xxxviii. 19-23. 


And, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God; 
Speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast 
of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come; gather 
yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do 
sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the 
mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh, and 
drink blood. 

Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink 
the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of 
lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fat- 
lings of Bashan. 

And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink 
blood till ye be drunken, of my sacrifice which I 
have sacrificed for you. 

Thus ye shall be filled at my table with horses 
and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men 
of war, saith the Lord God. 

And I will set my glory among the heathen, and 
all the heathen shall see my judgment that I have 
executed, and my hand that I have laid upon them. 

So the house of Israel shall know that I am the 
Lord their God from that day and forward. 1 

This idea of the great and dreadful day of the Lord 
is repeated with many slight variations in Joel and 
in a number of late additions to the books of the 
prophets, such as Jeremiah l-li, Isaiah xxiv-xxvii, 
Zechariah ix-xiv. Where the imagination of the 
writer was weak and dependent as in Jeremiah l-li 
the denunciation and promise are labored and repeti- 
1 Ezck. xxxix. 17-22. 


tious ; where it was strong and soaring the message is 
eloquent and stirring. Always its source and its 
support lay in the inextinguishable confidence of 
these later generations of Jews that the promises of 
Jehovah through his prophets could not pass unful- 
filled. Postponement of the fulfilment has only the 
effect of heightening the colors of the final retribution 
and adding grandeur to its scope. 


It was in another direction, however, that this late, 
post-prophetic writing brought forth the type of the 
apocalypse which is most commonly thought of as 
such, that which appears full fledged in the visions 
of Daniel and comes to its culmination in Revela- 
tion, and in the Apocrypha in 2 Esdras. Outwardly 
this type of the apocalypse may be described as a kind 
of writing in which the events of the immediate past 
and of the present are set forth in elaborate imagery 
as the visions of a seer of a time long past. Daniel, 
which can be dated more definitely than any other 
book of the Old Testament, comes from the year 1G4: 
b.c. when the Jews had been saved from total ex- 
tinction by the miraculous victories of Judas Macca- 
ba?us and the temple had just been rededicated after 
the desecrations of Antiochus Epiphanes. It sums up 


the history of the preceding centuries in the vision of 
the four beasts, which stand for the empires of As- 
syria, Chaldea, Persia, and Greece, and symbolises 
the war between the Ptolemies and the kings of 
Syria and the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes 
in the vision of the ram and the he-goat and the 
little horn of the he-goat which 

waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it 
cast down some of the host and of the stars to 
the ground, and stamped upon them. 

Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of 
the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken 
away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. 

And an host was given him against the daily 
sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast 
down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and 
prospered. 1 

In 2 Esdras this imagery is developed in a some- 
what different way in the form of the feathers of the 
eagle which is declared to be the " kingdom which 
was seen in the vision of thy brother Daniel." 

Then I beheld, and, lo, in process of time the 
feathers that followed stood up upon the right side, 
that they might rule also; and some of them ruled, 
but within a while they appeared no more: 

For some of them were set up, but ruled not. 

After this I looked, and, behold, the twelve 
1 Dan. viii. 10-12. 


feathers appeared no more, nor the two little 
feathers : 

And there was no more upon the eagle's body, 
but three heads that rested, and six little wings. 

Then saw I also that two little feathers divided 
themselves from the six, and remained under the 
head that was upon the right side: for the four 
continued in their place. 

And I beheld, and, lo, the feathers that were 
under the wing thought to set up themselves, and 
to have the rule. 

And I beheld, and, lo, there was one set up, but 
shortly it appeared no more. 1 

In Revelation the same machinery appears in the 
beast with seven heads and ten horns : 

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw 
a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads 
and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and 
upon his heads the name of blasphemy. 

And they beast which I saw was like unto a leop- 
ard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and 
his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon 
gave him his power, and his seat, and great author- 

And I saw one of his heads, as it were wounded 
to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and 
all the world wondered after the beast. 

And they worshipped the dragon which gave power 
unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, 
1 2 Esdras xi. 20-26. 


saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to 
make war with him? 1 

It is to be noted, however, that the author of Reve- 
lation subordinates this special type of imagery. It 
is hardly more than an incident in a very great pro- 
fusion of images of many kinds. In comparison, 
Daniel and even 2 Esdras seem to dwell on the some- 
what cumbrous machinery of their visions to the 
point almost of weariness. It is as if, especially in 
the case of Daniel, the imagination of the writer had 
not power and heat enough to burn away the dross of 
the form. In all three of these apocalypses, how- 
ever, the device is so transparent that it is wholly 
innocent ; and scholars have found much exercise for 
learning and ingenuity in unravelling the puzzle so 
artfully constructed in order to get at the exact date 
of the given apocalypse. 

Xor is there anything essentially new in the ma- 
chinery. Ezekiel, whose influence on later writers 
was so great, used elaborate figures to describe pres- 
ent conditions in a way which needed only a mod- 
erate extension to provide all the machinery of the 
apocalypses. He sets forth the fate of Assyria, then 
recently accomplished, in the figure of a parable 
spoken to Pharaoh, king of Egypt: 

1 Rev. xiii. 1-4. 


Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon 
with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, 
and of an high stature; and his top was among 
the thick boughs. 

The waters made him groat, the deep set him up 
on high with her rivers running round about his 
plants, and sent out her little rivers unto all the 
trees of the field. 

Therefore his height was exalted above all the 
trees of the field, and his boughs were multiplied, 
and his branches became long because of the mul- 
titude of waters, when he shot forth. 

All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his 
boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts 
of the field bring forth their young, and under his 
shadow dwelt all great nations. 

Thus was he fair in his greatness, in the length 
of his branches: for his root was by great waters. 

The cedars in the garden of God could not hide 
him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the 
chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any 
tree in the garden of God was like unto him in 
his beauty. 

I have made him fair by the multitude of his 
branches: so that all the trees of Eden, that were in 
the garden of God, envied him. 

Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because thou 
hast lifted up thyself in height, and he hath shot 
up his top among the thick boughs, and his heart 
is lifted up in his height ; 

I have therefore delivered him into the hand 
of the mighty one of the heathen; he shall surely 


deal with him: I have driven him out for his 

And strangers, the terrible of the nations, have 
cut him off, and have left him: upon the moun- 
tains and in all the valleys his branches are fallen, 
and his boughs are broken by all the rivers of the 
land; and all the people of the earth are gone 
down from his shadow, and have left him. 

I made the nations to shake at the sound of his 
fall, when I cast him down to hell with them that 
descend into the pit: and all the trees of Eden, the 
choice and best of Lebanon, all that drink water, 
shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth. 1 

Here though the description is still of the nature of 
a laboriously expanded figure of speech, it borders 
on the nature of conscious allegory. 

In Zechariah i-^viii also the preponderant impor- 
tance of the visions points to an increasing elaboration 
in the outward form of the prophecy, which must 
have helped to prepare the way for the visions of the 
apocalypses : 

And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and 
looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out 
from between two mountains; and the mountains 
were mountains of brass. 

In the first chariot were red horses; and in the 
second chariot black horses; 

Ezek. xxxi. 3-12, 16. 


And in the third chariot white horses; and in the 
fourth chariot grisled and bay horses. 

Then I answered and said unto the angel that 
talked with me, What are these, my lord? 

And the angel answered and said unto me, 
These are the four spirits of the heavens, which 
go forth from standing before the Lord of all the 

The black horses which are therein go forth 
into the north country; and the white go forth 
after them; and the grisled go forth toward the 
south country. 

And the bay went forth, and sought to go that 
they might walk to and fro through the earth: 
and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through 
the earth. So they walked to and fro through the 

Then cried he upon me, and spake unto me, 
saying, Behold, these that go toward the north 
country have quieted my spirit in the north 
country. 1 

Here though the vision itself has great suggestive 
power, the message conveyed through it is disappoint- 
ing, for it is concerned only with the choice of a 
high priest and his aides for the rebuilding of the 
Temple. So also the great vision of Ezekiel of the 
rebuilding of the Temple shows how deliberately the 
form of the vision can be used for a purely expository 

• Zech. vi. 1-8. 


purpose. It is only a short step from these half 
consciously elaborated visions from the time when 
the prophecy was fading away to the laboriously 
invented visions of Daniel and Esdras. 


On the other hand the apocalypses in their purpose 
and in the ideas which they brought into effective 
bearing on the life of the Jews kept alight the torch 
of faith handed down by the prophets. As a class 
the apocalypses sprang from persecution. They 
brought comfort to Jews, and in later times to 
Christians, in the bitter throes of distress, strengthen- 
ing their spirit by the promise of recompense in the 
everlasting bliss of paradise. This background of 
suffering is more explicitly outlined in 2 Esdras than 
in either Daniel or Revelation : 

And after seven days so it was, that the thoughts 
of my heart were very grievous unto me again, 

And my soul recovered the spirit of understand- 
ing, and I began to talk with the most High again, 

And said, O Lord that bearest rule, of every 
wood of the earth, and of all the trees thereof, 
thou hast chosen thee one only vine: 

And of all lands of the whole world thou hast 
chosen thee one pit: and of all the flowers thereof 
one lily: 


And of all the depths of the sea thou hast filled 
thee one river: and of all builded cities thou hast 
hallowed Sion unto thyself: 

And of all the fowls that are created thou hast 
named thee one dove : and of all the cattle that are 
made thou hast provided thee one sheep: 

And among all the multitudes of people thou 
has gotten thee one people: and unto this people, 
whom thou lovedst, thou gavest a law that is ap- 
proved of all. 

And now, O Lord, why hast thou given this one 
people over unto many? and upon the one root 
hast thou prepared others, and why hast thou 
scattered thy only one people among many? 

And they which did gainsay thy promises, and 
believed not thy covenants, have trodden them 

If thou didst so much hate thy people, yet 
shouldest thou punish them with thine own hands. 1 

For thou seest that our sanctuary is laid waste, 
our altar broken down, our temple destroyed; 

Our psaltery is laid on the ground, our song is 
put to silence, our rejoicing is at an end, the light 
of our candlestick is put out, the ark of our cove- 
nant is spoiled, our holy things are defiled, and 
the name that is called upon us is almost pro- 
faned: our children are put to shame, our priests 
are burnt, our Levitea have gone into captivity, 
our virgins are defiled, and our wives ravished; 
our righteous men carried away, our little ones 
1 2 Esdru-s v. -'1-30. 


destroyed, our young men are brought in bondage, 
and our strong men are become weak; 

And, which is the greatest of all, the seal of 
Sion, hath now lost her honour; for she is delivered 
into the hands of them that hate us. 1 

Such a situation of apparent despair for their re- 
ligion all these seers of the later time faced in the 
same manner as Amos and Hosea and Isaiah faced 
the overwhelming of Israel by the Assyrians, and 
as the Isaiah of the Exile faced the casting down 
of the hope of Judah by the Babylonians. Just 
as they rose above the dilemma on which their re- 
ligion seemed inevitably wrecked to a higher and 
larger truth, so did these seers of the later time 
rise to the perception of immortality and the bless- 
ing of paradise. Daniel declares: 

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the 
earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and 
some to shame and everlasting contempt. 

And they that be wise shall shine as the bright- 
ness of the firmament; and they that turn many 
to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. 2 

And the book describes in terms of mystical splendor 
the glories of the kingdom of heaven : 

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the 
Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white 

1 2 Esdras x. 21-23. 2 Dan. xii. 2-3. 


as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure 
wool; his throne was like the fiery flame, and his 
wheels as burning fire. 

A fiery stream issued and came forth from before 
him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, 
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before 
him: the judgment was set, and the books were 

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like 
the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, 
and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought 
him near before him. 

And there was given him dominion, and glory, 
and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and 
languages, should serve him: his dominion is an 
everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, 
and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. 1 

Here the full organ music of such words as " his 
throne was like the fiery flame " and the " thousand 
times ten thousand," and the half apprehensible im- 
agery stir the imagination with intimations of the 
immortal world. 

That Revelation belongs to the same class of lit- 
erature as Daniel, is obvious, but as I have already 
pointed out, though it has in part the same imagery, 
it shows greater richness of imaginative power and 
less literal prolixity in the use of the machinery of the 
1 Dan. vii. 9-10, 13-14. 


visions. The general scheme of the unfolding of the 
seventh seal into the seven trumpets, and of the seven 
trumpets preparing the way for the seven vials, in 
spite of a certain superficial confusion resulting from 
the rush of the -writer's feeling, is carried out to a 
conclusion. At each stage the author, before passing 
on to the judgment on the powers of evil, pauses to 
declare a glorious vision of God and the blessedness of 
the saints and martyrs ; and the seventh seal and the 
seventh trumpet involve all that follows them. Into 
this structure the author has worked earlier oracles 
and visions, and their diversity accounts for the effect 
of overwhelming confusion that is apt to be one's 
first impression of the book. The dominant idea, 
however, is the final blessedness and reward of the 
saints and martyrs; and the description of the Xew 
Jerusalem is the actual climax towards which the 
whole book leads. 

In language Bevelation is clothed with associations 
gathered from almost all parts of the Old Testament, 
and especially from the largest and most suggestive 
passages of the prophets. The vision of God in 
Chapter iv is based on the visions of Isaiah vi and 
Ezehiel i and x; the four living beings are taken 
over directly from Ezekiel i; the four horsemen in 
the first four seals in Chapter vi lead back to the 
four chariots in the passage which I have just 


quoted from Zechariah ; and the judgment in Chap- 
ter vi described in terms of storm, earthquake and 
volcano, recalls many passages like Isaiali ii and 
Zephaniah and Joel. Again, the language and the 
imagery of Chapter xiv are almost wholly taken from 
the prophets: " Babylon is fallen" from Isaiali xxi, 
the cup of the wrath of the Lord from Jeremiah xxv, 
the putting in of the sickle from Joel Hi ; and much 
of the imagery of the New Jerusalem is drawn from 
Ezekiel and from the Isaiah of the Exile. In spite of 
all these borrowings, however, the author of Revela- 
tion welds all that he has taken into the expression of 
his own purpose ; he has his own vision of the strug- 
gle of the powers of this world against the Lord of 
hosts; and though he uses the words and figures of 
other men to shadow it forth, he does so without let- 
ting their words draw him aside from his own pur- 
pose. Accordingly there is no effect of patchwork, of 
a man of a less power using the work of greater men 
than himself; the greater power is here and the bor- 
rowings are fused by the heat of the writer's own 
thought. On the other hand, the connotation of this 
imagery for all Jewish Christian readers would have 
included all the holiest associations of their religion, 
just as for us it helps to fuse Old Testament and 
Xew into a single memory. Thus the power of the 
most exalted and spiritual parts of the Old Testa- 


ment clothes as with a halo of richly colored light 
these new hopes and promises of the Christian faith ; 
and Revelation becomes, as it were, a summary of 
the spiritual force of the Old Testament, brought to- 
gether into a single book with a new and even more 
exalted meaning. 


Yet when one considers these descriptions of 
Heaven and of the Almighty carefully and tries to 
visualize what is described, one sees that there is 
no real hold on concrete and present fact: all that 
most touches one's imagination resolves itself into a 
vague blaze of glory which defies every effort to dis- 
tinguish its outlines. Even the great Italian 
painters failed when they put such descriptions as 
these into visual form. Daniel itself asserts the inef- 
fableness of this glory: 

And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men 
that were with me saw not the vision; but a great 
quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide 

Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great 
vision, and there remained no strength in me: for 
my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, 
and I retained no strength. 1 
1 Dan. x. 7-9. 


So in Revelation, though the descriptions seem so 
specific, yet it is impossible to visualize them. The 
picture of the Xew Jerusalem, which is seemingly 
phrased in terms of sight, cannot be put together : 

And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every 
several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the 
city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. 

And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God 
Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. 

And the city had no need ot the sun, neither of 
the moon, to shine in it : for the glory of God did 
lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. 1 

And he showed me a pure river of water of life, 
clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of 
God and of the Lamb. 

In the midst of the street of it, and on either 
side of the river, was there the tree of life, which 
bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit 
every month: and the leaves of the tree were for 
the healing of the nations. 

And there shall be no night there; and they need 
no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord 
God giveth them light: and they shall reign for 
ever and ever. 2 

N > effort to make a mental picture of these splendors 

will leave any definite impression: the effect is only 

of an overwhelming glory and of a blessedness which 

1 Rev. xxi. 21-23. J Ibid., xxii. 1-2, 5. 


passes man's understanding. In spite of the fact 
that the imagery is material, the effect is wholly im- 
material and ideal. 

In this power of the prophecies and the apocalypse 
to communicate the sense of glories which are real, 
and yet impalpable, to give us a fleeting glimpse of 
unseen realities beyond the apprehension of our pres- 
ent faculties, we come, I think, to the inner essence 
and power of this biblical literature of which the 
prophecy and the apocalypse are the most typical por- 
tion. When one thinks of the serenity of the Greek 
representations of the gods beside these visions of 
the Hebrew and Christian seers, the latter at first 
may seem confused and turgid. Then as one thinks 
it over the very clarity and definiteness of outline in 
those wonderful marbles stand out as a limitation: 
in comparison with these vague and mystical imagin- 
ings of the Christian seers the representations of 
Greek art are impotent. In the end the Greek statue 
of a god, for all its gracious beauty, is only a glori- 
fied and idealized man. The visions of the apoca- 
lypse, on the other hand, transcend once for all the 
limitations of human nature : and frankly soar- 
ing away from the capacities of human thought, they 
are enabled to give such glimpses of the other world 
as are possible for beings who must for the present 
see through a glass darkly. Thus even in literature 


one feels that the prohibition, " Thou shalt not make 
unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any- 
thing that is in heaven above or that is in the earth 
beneath, or that is in the water under the earth," 
produced unique results; for the Jewish mind and 
the Christian mind have never limited the godhead 
to visible form. 

A student of literature cannot go far in the 
explanation of such inimitably suggestive power of 
infinite things as has made these visions of Revela- 
tion so fitting a climax to our Bible; but I may recall 
the fact that I pointed out in my discussion of the 
poetry of the Old Testament, that the expression of 
emotion depends largely on a concrete vocabulary, 
and still more on the rhythmical and musical attri- 
butes of style. This conclusion is borne out by the 
most eloquent parts of St. Paul's epistles, where as 
we have seen he rises spontaneously and inevitably 
into figurative language, and thus is enabled to record 
the glimpses of ineffable truths and blessedness which 
are so characteristic of him. Xow when we examine 
the language of these passages of Revelation, we find 
that they also are full of words for the great forces 
of nature before which man is impotent : 


And the temple of God was opened in heaven, 
and there was seen in his temple the ark of his 
testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, 
and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great 

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his 
name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed 
with him. And power was given unto them over 
the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, 
and with hunger, and with death, and with the 
beasts of the earth. 

And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and 
them that sat on them, having breastplates of 
fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads 
of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out 
of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brim- 

By these three was the third part of men killed, 
by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brim- 
stone, which issued out of their mouths. 1 

All the explanations of science cannot raise mankind 
above the terrors of such powers as these: reason is 
futile in the presence of sudden death ; and the words 
which bring it vividly before us meet a response 
which is all the more powerful in that it is in- 

In another class of words used in both Revelation 
1 Rev. xi. 19; vi. S; ix. 17-18. 


and by St. Paul the force depends even less on any 
definable meaning. Consider the following passages : 

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies 
terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and 
the glory of the terrestrial is another. 

There is one glory of the sun, and another glory 
of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for 
one star differeth from another star in glory. 

So also is the resurrection of the dead. 1 

And all the angels stood round about the throne, 
and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell 
before the throne on their faces, and worshipped 

Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, 
and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and 
might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. 2 

That part of the meaning of the words which counts 
in such bursts of eloquence cannot be set forth in a 
dictionary, for their denotation, — their absolute and 
tangible meaning, — is as nothing beside their conno- 
tation, — the cloud of implications, associations, sug- 
gestions, which float through our minds at their call. 
They stand for purely emotional affections of the 
mind, for large and deep stirrings of the soul which 
are as real and as indefinable as the soul itself. If 
there be a man whose soul does not respond to such 
1 1 Cor. xv. 40-42. : Rev. vii. 11-12. 


words as honor, noble, glory, one can do nothing to 
help him: such emotions are even less rational than 
other emotions, and therefore less susceptible of ex- 
planation or proof; and being so they lie at the 
roots of human nature. 

This illimitably suggestive power of the words is 
made even more deeply and largely expressive by the 
music of the style ; not only in the English but also 
in the Greek and in the Latin, the most impressive 
passages of Revelation are dominated by the same 
general sounds, the long, open vowels and the liquid, 
singing consonants. Here is an example from Reve- 
lation, in the English and in the Latin: 

And the four beasts had each of them six wings 
about him; and they were full of eyes within: and 
they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, 
holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and 
is to come. 

And when those beasts give glory and honour and 
thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth 
for ever and ever, 

The four and twenty elders fall down before him 
that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth 
for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the 
throne, saying, 

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and 
honour and power: for thou hast created all things, 
and for thy pleasure they are and were created. 1 

1 Rev. iv. 8-11. 


Et quatuor animalia, singula eorum, habebant 
alas senas, et in circuitu et intus plena sunt oculis; 
et requiem non habebant die ac nocte, dicentia: 
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus omnip- 
otens, qui erat, et qui est, et qui venturus est. 

Et cum darent ilia animalia gloriam et honorem, 
et benedictionem sedenti super thronum, viventi 
in saecula saeculorum, 

Procidebant viginti quatuor seniores ante seden- 
tem in throno, et adorabant viventem in saecula 
saeculorum, et mittebant coronas suas ante 
thronum dicentes: 

Dignus es, Domine Deus noster, accipere gloriam, 
et honorem et virtutem, quia tu creasti omnia, et 
propter voluntatem tuam erant, et creata sunt. 

These passages, with many others like them in the 
prophets, in Daniel and in Revelation, illustrate the 
truth of literature which has been set forth by Pro- 
fessor James in his discussion of mysticism : 

" In mystical literature such self-contradictory 
phrases as 'dazzling obscurity/ 'whispering silence/ 
' teeming desert/ are continually met with. They prove 
that not conceptual speech, but music rather, is the 
element through which we are best spoken to by mys- 
tical truth. Many mystical scriptures are indeed little 
more than musical compositions." Then after quoting 
an unintelligible passage from Madame Blavatsky he 
goes on, " These words, if they do not awaken laughter 
as you receive them, probably stir chords within you 
which music and language touch in common. Music 


gives us ontological messages which non-musical criti- 
cism is unable to contradict, though it may laugh at our 
foolishness in minding them. There is a verge of the 
mind which these things haunt; and whispers therefrom 
mingle with the operations of our understanding, even 
as the waters of the infinite ocean send their waves to 
break among the pebbles that lie upon our shores." i 


With these fine words we may take our leave of 
the different types of literature in the Bible, before 
passing on to consider how such large and noble qual- 
ities as we have been considering not only survived 
the process of translation, but in our English Bible 
almost gained new power. But before so passing on 
it is worth while to stop for a moment to point out in 
how real a way Revelation embodies and exemplifies 
the attributes and qualities which in English litera- 
ture are peculiarly biblical. 

We have seen that in the narrative the especial 
virtues, which have been so marvellous a preservative 
against the inroads of oblivion, are the simplicity and 
the concreteness ; that in these stories solid fact fol- 
lows solid fact with no intrusion of the writer's inter- 
pretation of their meaning. So likewise with the po- 
1 W. James, Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 421. 


etry: what distinguishes that from everything else 
in English literature is the undiluted concreteness 
which it took from the Hebrew, and which makes it 
the immediate expression of the emotions ; and this 
expressiveness is reinforced by the strong rhythm 
and music, which are an even more direct expression 
of emotion. The wisdom of the Old Testament we 
have seen to be wholly intuitive, and therefore 
dependent on feeling rather than on intellectual 
processes ; and even in the epistles of the Xew Testa- 
ment, where we come nearest to the rigorously ab- 
stract reasoning of the modern world, the most mem- 
orable parts, for literature at any rate, are the bursts 
of eloquence which soar off in impassioned figures to 
regions where reason must give place to intuition. 
The prophecy at its height shows the complete fusion 
of understanding and feeling, the latter expressed in 
the strong rhythm of the poetical form and in the 
nobly figurative language of the oracles. Then as 
the outward form of the prophecy broke up, where 
the element of feeling faded out the gift of prophecy 
itself seems to have failed : where the feeling prepon- 
derated prophecy merged insensibly into the apoca- 
lypse, through which its spirit was perpetuated into 
Christianity. In all these forms, therefore, the ap- 
peal is through the feelings and by way of intuition 
to our perception of the deeper and larger truths 


which defy delimitation by the intellectual processes 
of reasoning. 

Revelation surpasses all the other books of the 
Bible in its frank self-abandonment to the great 
realms of feeling and instinctive reactions which 
surround on every side the little region of experi- 
ence which has been mapped by the intellect. Its 
language has no meaning to the type of mind which 
must find a literal and consistent meaning in all 
it reads. Scholars find in the beast with the seven 
head and ten horns data which enable them to set- 
tle with some certainty the period of the book ; and in 
the great red dragon and in some other parts of the 
imagery a transfiguration of the mythology of As- 
syria and Chaldea and the primitive ancestors of the 
Jews. But a minute's consideration will show that 
the cool and dispassionate study which has rescued 
such facts as these from so tumultuous a rush of 
mystical emotion is a very different frame of mind 
from that of the reader who, abandoning all idea 
that the book is explicable in the terms of this pres- 
ent world, bathes his soul in its portrayal of the glo- 
ries of the new heavens and the new earth. To take 
the book and all its imagery literally, on the other 
hand, would be like attempting to recite in a literal 
sense such a hymn as " There is a fountain filled 
with blood," or even " Onward, Christian soldiers " : 


religious emotion is not expressed by the denotation 
of words, but by their higher connotations, and by the 
purely sensuous qualities of music. Undoubtedly 
there are people, and deeply religious people, whom 
Revelation leaves cold and unmoved ; for there are 
many people whose temperaments incline them toward 
the cooler services of the Puritan churches rather 
than to the rich and luxuriant liturgies of the medie- 
val church and of the Church of Rome to-day. Even 
such people, however, can intellectually apprehend 
how the deepest appeal of the Bible, from the side 
of literature at any rate, is through the super-rational 
feelings of awe and reverence. The hold of all great 
religious literature is on the emotional side of hu- 
man nature, and the exclusively religious tempera- 
ment seems always to have a large strain of mysti- 
cism. Our English Bible would not be what it is 
if it did not in all its parts through the large sug- 
gestions and associations of its vocabulary and the 
surging music of its style enrich its message with 
these overtones of meaning; and in Revelation for 
those who have ears to hear these illimitable mean- 
ings dominate all others. 



So far we have been considering the distinct types 
of literature which are to be found in the English 
Bible ; in discussing them I have tried to throw light 
on their form and other characteristics by some of the 
facts that have been gathered concerning their prob- 
able source and history. These facts, which have 
been collected and arranged by the science which is 
technically known as the Introduction to the Old Tes- 
tament and the New Testament or as the Higher 
Criticism, show that the various books of the Bible, 
especially those of the Old Testament, are of various 
origin, and sometimes of a kind of compilation un- 
known to us to-day. To understand how much per- 
spective there is in these books and how illuminating 
that perspective is one must follow out a considerable 
course of study in this subject : in such an essay as this 
I have been able only to refer to results which scholars 

have reached after long and devoted labor. Now, in 



order to lead on to a study and understanding of 
the literary character of the English Bible as a 
whole I must sketch first the processes by which 
all these separate books became one book; and then 
the various stages of translation and revision which 
ended in the Authorised Version, otherwise known as 
the King James Bible. This is for English litera- 
ture, in our times at any rate, the form in which the 
Bible stands as the great monument of English 

To understand the literary character of this great 
translation we must not forget that it is a translation, 
and that at the same time it has, what one hardly 
looks for in a translation made to-day, unequalled 
vitality and freshness of expression. It is one of the 
few examples in English of a translation which is 
complete on both sides; for it renders not only the 
meaning of the single words and sentences, for the 
most part with great accuracy, but it communicates 
to us also the spirit and vigor of the original. In 
other words, it not only gives us the denotation of 
the books which it translates, but it clothes its own 
language with the rich connotation of the original 
and with the less definable but no less potent expres- 
sive power of sound. Our study of the power of the 
Bible in English literature would bo incomplete if 
wo did not at least make an effort to find some of 


the causes for this especial success of the Authorised 

I will begin the consideration of this part of the 
subject by bringing together a few facts about the col- 
lection of the original books into a single book, and 
then, before going on to discuss the actual translation 
into English, consider briefly two intermediate trans- 
lations which have had some influence on the pres- 
ent form of the English. 


The collection of the books of the Old Testament 
and of the New Testament, which were so varied in 
origin and date and character, into a single book 
thought of as " the Scriptures " occupied a consider- 
able length of time and was the result of processes 
which can be traced only vaguely. We know that by 
the end of the first century a.d. the Jews of Pales- 
tine accepted the books of the Old Testament as we 
read them in the English Bible, and that by the end 
of the second century a.d. the books of the New 
Testament, nearly as we have them, were accepted by 
the Christians. In the case of the Old Testament 
the Greek-speaking Jews admitted more books into 
the Scriptures than did the Jews of Palestine, and 
in the case of the New Testament the Eastern and 


Western Churches differed on the acceptance of Rev- 
elation and some of the Catholic Epistles. But the 
idea of a closed list of books which alone should be 
considered the inspired word of God, and in the main 
the list of the books which were to be so accepted, 
were established at these dates. 

In the case of the Old Testament this acceptance 
of a definite set of books to the exclusion of all others 
came about in three stages of growth which are re- 
flected in the well-known phrase " The Law, the 
Prophets, and the Writings." The first stage in this 
acceptance of certain books as an authoritative state- 
ment of the will of Jehovah above and beyond all 
other books goes back ultimately to the discovery and 
promulgation of the original Deuteronomy by Josiah 
in 621 b.c. When that book was once accepted as 
authoritatively stating the covenant between Jehovah 
and his people, it undoubtedly acquired a veneration 
different from that of all other books. It was now 
thought of as " the Law." During the Exile this idea 
of a definite statement by Jehovah of the Law which 
his chosen people were to fulfil was developed and 
crystallized by the priests ; and after the reforms of 
Ezra and Nehemiah Deuteronomy was merged in the 
larger, more comprehensive, and more fully developed 
book of law and history which we know as the Pen- 
tateuch. Henceforth the Law became the central and 


dominant fact in the religion of the Jews and in their 
Scriptures. The Pentateuch, which arose from the 
amalgamation of the history of the world and of the 
people of Israel down to the final giving of the Law 
through Moses, was known to the Jews as the " five- 
fifths of the Law " ; and it maintained a sanctity and 
authority above all other parts of the Scriptures. 

The other two layers of the canon, as the technical 
term is, gradually came into existence through a 
process of growth which we can understand only by 
inference from a few scattered facts. We know that 
by the second century b.c. the Jews were accustomed 
to speak of " the Law and the Prophets," and that the 
books of the prophets were quoted by a formula which 
implied that they were now recognised as part of the 
Scriptures. These books of the prophets included 
for the Jews the Former Prophets, which are our 
books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, and 
the Latter Prophets, which are our books of the 
prophets — Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezehiel, and The 
Twelve. The reason that these historical books were 
included in " The Prophets " lay in the fact that 
their composition was controlled by the prophetic the- 
ory of history set forth by Deuteronomy. All these 
books must have assumed their place beside the Law 
because they were looked on either as illustrations of 
the working of the Law in the history of Israel or 


else as parallel and equally direct declarations of the 
will of Jehovah. Thus they too came to be consid- 
ered as standing apart from all other books and pos- 
sessed of a peculiar and sacred authority. 

The final stage in the building up of the Old Testa- 
ment is even more obscure in its history : we know 
little more than the fact that by the time the New 
Testament books were written the Jews commonly 
used the phrase " the Law, the Prophets and the 
Writings." It is probable that the addition of this 
third layer to the canon was quite as informal and 
natural a process as that which put the Former and 
the Latter Prophets beside the Law. Certain books, 
such as Psalms and Proverbs, were venerated because 
of their traditional association with David and with 
Solomon, the founder of the kingdom and the builder 
of the temple ; and for the inclusion of Psalms there 
was the added reason of their daily use in the serv- 
ices of the temple. The inclusion of other books, 
such as Esther, the Song of Solomon, and Ecclesi- 
astes, was disputed until the end of the first century 
a.d. Soon after that time, however, the leading 
rabbis seem to have united on the list of the books 
which should be included in the Scriptures, and the 
canon of the Old Testament was complete so far as 
the Hebrew was concerned. Even then, however, the 
Greek translation of the Scriptures, commonly known 


as the Septuagint, which was the Bible of Greek- 
speaking Jews and Christians in the first Christian 
centuries, included a number of books which were 
not accepted by the Jews of Palestine. The growth 
of the Old Testament canon must therefore have been 
gradual and by no means uniform. One can under- 
stand why pious men among the Jews should have 
felt that such books as Esther, the Song of Solomon, 
and Ecclesiasies had no place in the sacred script- 
ures, but we know vaguely only the reasons which 
finally caused their inclusion, — in the case of the two 
latter pretty clearly the traditional association with 
Solomon, in the case of Esther through a supposed 
explanation of the feast of Purim. 

The canon of the New Testament seems to have 
been formed by an analogous process of natural se- 
lection. The epistles of St. Paul were probably the 
first of the ISTew Testament books to be known and 
read in their present form. While the original 
apostles were still living it is probable that the stories 
and teachings of the gospel were largely transmitted 
by word of mouth. When these first disciples gave 
place to the second generation, however, and as the 
gospel, enlarging its field, was spread more and more 
through the catechists who had learned the stories 
and teachings from them, oral transmission must 
have tended to give way to written. The common 


material in the first three gospels points, it is now 
generally held, to the existence of two documents or 
perhaps sets of documents, one of which contained a 
life of Jesus in a form very much like our St. Marl-, 
the other the body of his sayings, but in a form not 
yet wholly fixed, as can be seen by the differing use 
of them in St. Matthew and St. Luke. The existence 
of extra-canonical gospels such as those of The He- 
brews and of St. Peter seems to show that these 
materials were brought together in still other com- 
binations than those which we have in the canonical 
gospels. If the first three gospels had come into 
their present shape not later than ten or fifteen years 
after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 a.d., it 
is probable that for something less than a century 
they were more or less in competition with other 
gospels based on the same or like materials com- 
bined in a somewhat different way ; and that our 
three gospels finally established themselves by their 
own superiority to the others. The Gospel accord- 
ing to St. John, which is in intention much more an 
interpretation of the facts than a statement of them, 
probably was written by the end of the first century. 
The Acts of the Apostles, which is by the same au- 
thor as St. Luke, must have been written about the 
same time as that gospel. The Epistles of St. Joint, 
like the gospel, would have come before the end of 


the first century; the other epistles, even the pseu- 
donymous epistle of 2 Peter ; must have been written 
not later than the middle of the second century ; and 
by the last quarter of the second century we know 
that the fathers of the church were making lists of 
the ~New Testament books which should be authori- 
tatively accepted. 

In the meantime the Old Testament had been the 
scriptures of the Christian church as well as of the 
Jewish church. Thus by the beginning of the third 
century the term " Scriptures " had a fixed denota- 
tion. For the Jews of Palestine it meant the books 
which are now included in our Old Testament; and 
all other Jews must soon have accepted this limita- 
tion. For the Greek-speaking Jews and for most 
of the Christians the Scriptures included not only the 
books of our Old Testament but also those of our 
Apocrypha and the books of the Xew Testament as 
we have them. Thus early in the first Christian- 
centuries " the Scriptures " meant a limited number 
of books, on which the faith of the church could be 
based. The first stage, therefore, in the creation of 
our Bible was now complete. The processes which 
we have to trace henceforward have to do first with 
certain versions which were the forerunners of the 
translation into English and then with that transla- 
tion itself. 



The first translation which bears in any important 
way on our English. Bible was the translation into 
Greek made for the use of the Alexandrian Jews 
during the last three centuries of the old era: it is 
commonly known as the Septuagint. The bearing of 
this version on the English is chiefly through the 
Vulgate and therefore indirect. It gave some of the 
books the names which we use to-day; and it estab- 
lished the order of the books of the Old Testament 
as we have them in the English. As it was in some 
sense a collection of national literature it included 
such pious tales as Tobit and Judith, 2 Esdras, 
a Jewish apocalypse written after the destruction 
of Jerusalem in 70 a.d., later books of wisdom like 
Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon, the latter 
of which could not have been expressed in Hebrew, 
such legendary matter as the stories of Susanna and 
of Bel and the Dragon, which were added to Daniel, 
and finally such later history as the two books of Mac- 
cabees. Though all these were more or less closely 
analogous to kindred books of the Palestinian canon 
they were not accepted as authoritative by the Jews 
of Palestine. The order of the books also was al- 
tered. Where the Hebrew canon arranged the books 
according to the chronological growth of the canon, 


" the Law, the Prophets and the Writings," the Sep- 
tuagint rearranged them by a literary classification, 
putting the books of history in the chronological 
order of the events which they narrate, then the 
books of poetry and wisdom, then the Prophets. 
This arrangement was followed by the English trans- 
lators in the sixteenth century, though they translated 
from the original Hebrew. 

More important, however, than this change in the 
order of the books and the giving of a few names 
was the influence of the language of this Greek ver- 
sion on the Greek of the New Testament. Since 
the Septuagint was the Bible of Greek-speaking Jews 
and Christians, the effect of its language on the 
writers of the New Testament may be compared to 
the effect of our English Bible on Bunyan's Pilgrim's 
Progress. Out of one hundred and sixty direct quo- 
tations from the Old Testament in the New Testa- 
ment almost all come from the Septuagint; and 
many familiar phrases came into the New Testament 
by quotation from this Greek version of the Old Tes- 
tament. Such phrases as " a day of darkness," " the 
day of the Lord," " the birds of heaven," " enter 
into thy closet," " where their worm dieth not and 
their fire is not quenched," in the Greek New Testa- 
ment were all direct quotations from this Greek Old 
Testament. Its influence has been summed up in 


these words : " Not the Old Testament only, but the 
Alexandrian version of the Old Testament, has left 
its mark on every part of the New Testament, even 
in chapters and books where it is not directly cited. 
It is not too much to say that in its literary form 
and expression the New Testament would have been 
a widely different book had it been written by authors 
who knew the Old Testament only in the original, 
or who knew it in a Greek version other than that 
of the Septuagint." * 

Though this version was not the basis for the 
translation of any of the canonical books in our Eng- 
lish Bible, its influence cannot be left out of account. 
Not only did it strongly affect the phrasing of the 
Greek New Testament, but it also furnished us with 
the books of the Apocrypha, and they are for literary 
purposes nearly as important as the regular books of 
the Bible Moreover it was in large part the basis 
of the Latin Bible of the Middle Ages, commonly 
known as the Vulgate. 


The Vulgate again is a version of the Bible which, 
like the Septuagint, is not in the direct line of an- 
cestry of our English Bible. Nevertheless, unlike the 

1 II B.Swete, I 'nlroduct ton to the Old Testament in G 'reel \ p. 404. 


Septuagint, it had direct influence on the language of 
the English version; and indirectly it contributed a 
good deal which helped to make the English Bible a 
great work of literature as well as the foundation of 
religion. The first translators of our English Bible, 
Tindale, Coverdale, Rogers and the rest, were church- 
men who grew up in a time when the Scriptures 
could be known only in the Latin. They must have 
known their Vulgate Bible in the way that our 
fathers knew their English Bible ; and from the 
freedom with which the Vulgate is quoted all through 
the sixteenth century and even to the time of Francis 
Bacon we may feel confident that the minds of these 
first translators were saturated with its phrases and 
their ears ringing with its rhythms and tones. On 
the other hand, when the original Greek was first 
made generally accessible by Erasmus' New Testa- 
ment, the Novum Instrumentum of 1516, the obvious 
corruptness of the text of the Vulgate helped to send 
Luther and Tindale to the preparation of new and 
accurate translations from the original. This in- 
centive was strengthened by the fact that the words 
and phrases of the Vulgate had been overlaid with 
fantastic allegorical interpretations, and even more 
by the fact that on the ecclesiastical connotations of 
such words as pamitentia, ecclesia, presbyter, and 
the like were based many of the most oppressive and 


unspiritual practices of the church of that period. 
Moreover, in the history of literature the Vulgate is 
of great importance for its own sake. It was the 
Bible for all Europe down to the Reformation, and 
the only source of knowledge of the Scriptures ; and 
all references to the Bible in mediaeval and Renais- 
sance literature to go back to it. In itself, besides 
being one of the two or three best translations ever 
made of the Scriptures, it is a work of extraordinary 
vigor, beauty, and individuality of character. A 
modern writer says of it, " we may gladly echo the 
words of the ' translator ' to the readers in our own 
Authorised Version that Jerome performed his task 
' with that evidence of great learning, judgment, in- 
dustry, and faithfulness, that he hath for ever bound 
the Church unto him in a debt of special remem- 
brance and thankfulness.' " 1 

In text the Vulgate is a curious conglomerate of 
fresh translation from the Hebrew and the Greek and 
thorough or partial revision of what is known as 
the Old Latin text. When Latin gradually became 
the language of the Western civilized world, trim — 
lations of the Septuagint were made into Latin, so 
that by the middle of the third century a.d. there 
was a complete Latin Bible, though not necessarily in 

1 H. J. White, Article "Vulgate," Hastings' Dictionary of the 


a single text. In 383 a.d. Damasus, who was then 
Pope, commissioned Jerome to prepare a revised and 
authoritative version of the New Testament in Latin. 

Jerome was singularly well qualified for the work. 
Beginning life with the hest education the time af- 
forded in literature, rhetoric, and Greek, he was con- 
verted from worldly things when a little past thirty 
years old and gave the rest of his life to asceticism 
and study. He was an excellent Latin scholar, with 
a pure and vigorous Latin style of his own, a good 
Greek scholar, and later in life a good Hebrew 
scholar. He seems to have had the rare combination 
of thorough and laborious scholarship with ardor of 
temperament and command of style, a combination 
that we shall find also in William Tindale. He was 
thus able to fuse the products of his learning and 
give to the style of his version a flow and rhythm 
which translations usually lack. 

Jerome began his work with a thorough revision 
of the gospels. The rest of the New Testament 
he revised also from the Greek, but much less thor- 
oughly. After this he turned his attention to the 
Old Testament, beginning with the Psalter and re- 
vising this and some other books from the Septuagint. 
By this time it became apparent to him, however, that 
he must go to the Hebrew ; and accordingly through 
the instruction of a Jew who came secretly to him 


at night, he perfected his knowledge of that language. 
Then in irregular order he translated most of the 
books of the Old Testament from the Hebrew and 
certain of the apocryphal books from the Chaldee. 
The Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus and probably 
1 and 2 Maccabees he did not revise ; they stand in the 
Vulgate in the form which they held in the Old Latin. 
Thus this work, which was to have so potent an in- 
fluence, left its maker in a curiously composite form. 
It came into general circulation in the place of the 
Old Latin only very gradually ; and like all other 
works of the Middle Ages, being handed down by 
copying, its text gradually became corrupted, at first 
by familiar phrases from the Old Latin which were 
written in by sleepy copyists, later on by carelessness 
and the invasion of marginal notes. Various efforts 
were made to restore the original text, notably by 
Alcuin on the commission of Charlemagne, but it was 
not until printing was invented in the fifteenth cen- 
tury that the text became anything like settled. Even 
then there were notorious divergencies in reading in 
many places; and when, in 1590, Pope Sixtus Quin- 
tus issued an edition which he decreed should be 
accepted as the " true, lawful, authentic, and indu- 
bitable " Vulgate, as prescribed by the Council of 
Trent for use in all the churches of the Christian 
world, it was found to have so many errors that 


a revised edition was issued by authority in 1592. 
Some of the divergencies of the Vulgate from the 
Hebrew and the accepted Greek text it should be 
said, however, go back to variant readings in early 
manuscripts which are of considerable importance 
for the restoration of the text. 

In his discussion of the canon in his various pref- 
aces Jerome pointed out explicitly that the books 
which appear in our English Bible in the Apocrypha 
were not found in the Hebrew ; and he made the dis- 
tinction, which was taken up by the English Church, 
that " the Church doth read these books for example 
of life and instruction of manners ; but yet doth it 
not apply them to establish any doctrine," as it is 
put in the Thirty-Nine Articles. Nevertheless the 
Council of Trent in 1547 included these books as 
part of the sacred and canonical scriptures ; and until 
the time that Luther had gone back to Jerome's 
declaration, no one seems to have thought of dis- 
tinguishing between these books and the others. 

The direct influence of the Vulgate on the text and 
vocabulary of the English Bible I will refer to later. 
For the present I will confine myself to pointing out 
certain qualities and attributes which it possesses in 
common with our English Bible and which it seems 
not unreasonable to think the latter gained in part at 
any rate by reflection from the Vulgate. This indi- 


rect influence on the style and general expressiveness 
of our English Bible is a difficult matter to estimate, 
and it can never be weighed with any exactness. 
Nevertheless, as I have said, Tindale and his suc- 
cessors must have been steeped in the language of the 
Vulgate; and since its style has strongly marked qual- 
ities which fit it for expressing spiritual truths and 
deep and earnest feeling, we may reasonably suppose 
that it had considerable influence on the style of our 
English versions. 

To begin with, the Latin of the Vulgate is very far 
from the finished and rhetorical language of Cicero 
or even of Ca?sar. The Latin of Jerome's time was 
more or less broken down in syntax, and like all lan- 
guages in their decay its vocabulary was much con- 
taminated by local and colloquial forms, some of 
which went back to the Latin of several centuries be- 
fore. As a matter of fact, this Latin of the Vulgate 
is nearer to English in its constructions and order 
of words than it is to the classical Latin. It shows 
the direct influence of the Hebrew in the Old Testa- 
ment and of Greek considerably affected by the He- 
brew in the New Testament. A few examples will 
make clear the comparative resemblance of this Latin 
of the Vulgate to our modern English: 

Adae vero dixit : Quia audisti vocem uxoris tuae, 
et comedisti de ligno, ex quo preceperam tibi, ne 


comederes, maledicta terra in opere tuo: in labori- 
bus comedes ex ea cunctis diebus vitse tuse. 

Spinas et tribulos germinabit tibi, et comedes 
herbam terrse. 

In sudore vultus tui vesceris pane, donee rever- 
taris in terram de qua sumtus es: quia pulvis es, 
et in pulverem reverteris. 

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast 
harkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast 
eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, 
saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the 
ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it 
all the days of thy life; 

Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to 
thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, 
till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast 
thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt 
thou return. 1 

Ubi eras, quando ponebam fundamenta terrae? 
indica mihi, si habes intelligentiam. 

Quis posuit mensuras ejus, si nosti? vel quis 
tetendit super earn lineam? 

Super quo bases illius solidatae sunt? aut quis 
demisit lapidem angularem ejus, 

Cum me laudarent simul astra matutina, et 
jubilarent omnes filii Dei? 

Where wast thou, when I laid the foundations 
of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 
1 Gen. iii. 17-19. 


Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou 
knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? 

Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? 
or who laid the corner stone thereof; 

When the morning stars sang together, and all 
the sons of God shouted for joy? 1 

Alia claritas solis, alia claritas lunae, et alia 
claritas stellarum. Stella enim a Stella differt in 

Sic et resurrectio mortuorum. Seminatur in 
corruptione, surget in incorruptione. 

Seminatur in ignobilitate, surget in gloria; 
seminatur in infirmitate, surget in virtute; 

Seminatur corpus animale, surget corpus spiritale. 
Si est corpus animale, est et spiritale, sicut scrip- 
turn est: 

Factus est primus homo Adam in animam 
viventem; novissimus Adam in spirit um vivifi- 

Sed non prius, quod spiritale est, sed quod 
animale; deinde quod spiritale. 

Primus homo de terra, terrenus; secundus homo 
de coelo, ccelestis. 

There is one glory of the sun, and another glory 
of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for 
one star differeth from another star in glory. 

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is 
sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 

It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: 
it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 
i Job xxxviii. 4-7. 


It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual 
body. There is a natural body, and there is a 
spiritual body. 

And so it is written, The first man Adam was 
made a living soul; the last Adam was made a 
quickening spirit. 

Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but 
that which is natural ; and afterward that which is 

The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second 
man is the Lord from heaven. 1 

This close resemblance in the order of the Latin to 
the natural order of the words in English helps to 
make it probable that its language affected the trans- 
lation made by Tindale and Coverdale. 

When we turn to the sensuous qualities and attri- 
butes which the English has in common with the Vul- 
gate the richness of the music and the expressive beat 
of the rhythm stand out preeminent. A notable 
characteristic of our English Bible, as I have pointed 
out in the chapter on the poetry, is its power to ex- 
press strong and earnest feeling through the pure 
sound of the style: through its rhythm and the har- 
mony and mingling of tones its language gives ex- 
pression to those deeper and diffused moods which 
for lack of more exact expression we call stirrings of 
the soul. Since the symbols of style are in the first 
1 1 Cor. xv. 41-47. 


place symbols for the sounds of the human voice, style 
shares to some degree the power of music to body forth 
by direct appeal to the ear these feelings which must 
always elude articulate expression through the mean- 
ings of the words. How far this power of music and 
of the musical sound of language lies in the qualities 
and successions of the sound and how far in the beat 
of the rhythm cannot be said, even if it were neces- 
sary for our present purpose to know ; but it is im- 
portant to recognise that the sensuous attributes of 
style are in themselves an expression of an impor- 
tant part of man's consciousness ; and that in them 
style finds much of its power to express the deep and 
noble emotions which are so large a part of religion. 
Unconsciously Tindale and his successors recognised 
this fact, as did all writers of the sixteenth century. 
In the Vulgate this music was so rich that it could 
clothe even the bare, unlovely details of the sacrifices 
with a beauty of coloring that would make them in 
the Latin a fit basis for an anthem. 

Idcirco ubi immolabitur holocaustum, macta- 
bitur et victima pro delicto: sanguis ejus per 
gyrum altaris fundetur. 

Offerent ex ea caudam et adipem qui operit 

Duos renunculos, et pinguedinem quae juxta 
ilia est, reticulumque jecoris cum renunculis. 


Et adolebit ea sacerdos super altare: incensum 
est Domini pro delicto. 

In the place where they kill the burnt offering 
shall they kill the trespass offering: and the blood 
thereof shall he sprinkle round about upon the altar. 

And he shall offer of it all the fat thereof; the 
rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards, 

And the two kidneys, and the fat that is on them, 
which is by the flanks, and the caul that is above 
the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away: 

And the priest shall burn them upon the altar 
for an offering made by fire unto the Lord: it is a 
trespass offering. 

In more inspiring passages the Latin indefinitely 
deepens and enriches the expression and clothes it as 
with the strong but subdued harmonies of a great or- 
gan, as in the psalm I have quoted on p. 123, and in 
the following passage from Revelation : 

Et vidi, et audivi vocem Angelorum multorum 
in circuitu throni, et animalium et seniorum; et 
erat numerus eorum millia millium, 

Dicentium voce magna: Dignus est Agnus, qui 
occisus est, accipere virtutem et divinitatem, et 
sapientiam et fortitudinem, et honorem et gloriam, 
et benedictionem. 

Et omnem creaturam, quae in ccelo est, et super 
terram et sub terra, et quae sunt in mari, et quae 
1 Lev. vii. 2-5. 


in eo, omnes audivi dicentes: Sedenti in throno, ct 
Agno: Benedictio et honor, et gloria et potestas in 
saecula saeculorum. 

Et quatuor animalia dicebant: Amen. Et 
viginti quatuor seniores ceciderunt in facies suas 
et adoraverunt viventem in saecula ssBcnlorum. 

And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many 
angels round about the throne and the beasts and 
the elders: and the number of them was ten thou- 
sand times ten thousand, and thousands of thou- 

Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb 
that was slain to receive power, and riches, and 
wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and 

And every creature which is in heaven, and on 
the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in 
the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, 
Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be 
unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto 
the Lamb for ever and ever. 

And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four 
and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him 
that liveth for ever and ever. 1 

The prevalence of such resonant phrases as vocem 
angelorum muliorum, honorem at gloriam, in scecula 
saeculorum,, makes this passage almost an anthem as 
it stands ; and its grave sonorousness is a palpable 
1 Rev. v. 11-11. 


utterance of the awe and reverence which man feels 
in the presence of an almighty God. The more that 
one reads in this splendid Latin Bible the more sure 
does one become that men who were brought up on it 
and who knew the Scriptures first in its noble tones 
must have been deeply influenced in their own trans- 
lation by its stateliness and music. 

That writers of the sixteenth century were able, as 
we are not to-day, to carry over into English these 
deeply expressive qualities of the mediaeval Latin the 
Booh of Common Prayer of the English Church is an 
even more tangible proof. Cranmer took over most 
of its collects and prayers from the old service books 
of the Roman Church, which in turn had gathered 
them from the writings of the ancient fathers of the 
Church back to the time of St. Jerome, St. Augustine, 
and St. Chrysostom. With the genius of his century 
for translation he transferred to the English not only 
the meaning of the words, but also the rich sound and 
rhythm of the mediaeval Latin; and that without the 
use of Latinate words. Here are two examples, — the 
first the collect for the Fifth Sunday after Easter, 
the other that for the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trin- 
ity. I give first the English, then the Latin of each. 

O Lord, from whom all good things do come; 
Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy 
inspiration we may think those things that be 


good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the 

Deus, a quo bona cuncta procedunt, largire 
supplicibus tuis, ut cogitemus te inspirante quae 
recta sunt et te gubernante eadem faciamus. 

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of 
thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing 
forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be 
plenteously rewarded. 

Excita, quaesumus, Domine, tuorum fidelium 
voluntates ut, divini operis fructum propensius 
exequentes, pietatis tuae remedia majora per- 
cipiant. 1 

In these cases, as in so many others in the book, in 
spite of the small number of Latinate words, one is 
struck by the similarity of the rhythm and coloring 
between the English and the Latin. Merely as an 
achievement in translation this clothing of a non- 
Latinate style with the organ-like richness of the 
Latin originals has never been surpassed in English. 
What is important for us here is the fact that it 
shows how readily and how fully men of the six- 
teenth century could transfer to English not only 
the meaning of the words, but also the rich coloring 
of the Latin style. 

1 From Campion and Beamont : The Prayer Book Interleaved : 
London, 1888. 


In the case of the Bible these same qualities of 
sound, the subdued richness, the strong beat of the 
rhythm and all the other subtler attributes which 
clothe the style with its simple and unconscious ear- 
nestness are found both in the Vulgate and in the 
English translation. This mediaeval Latin, as I have 
said, was a language of very different qualities from 
the language of Cicero and Caesar. With the greater 
simplicity of structure which it owed ultimately in 
the case of the Bible to the simplicity of the Hebrew, 
it took over from the Hebrew a certain swiftness and 
momentum also ; and at the same time through the 
dominance of the singing qualities which I have 
already referred to in the chapter on the poetry of 
the Bible, it had a richness and coloring which have 
perhaps never been surpassed, and which suffuse its 
words with deep reverence and earnestness. This 
earnest reverence is one of the most notable qualities 
of our English Bible, and that which most lifts it 
above all other books of our literature. Since the 
capacity of language to express these ennobling emo- 
tions depends largely on its purely musical resources, 
and since, as we have seen, Tindale and his succes- 
sors when they thought of a text of the Bible would 
have thought of it first in the richly sonorous form 
of the Vulgate, we may safely assume that some 
part of the sober earnestness and reverence of our 


English Bible is to be ascribed to unconscious reflec- 
tion from the Latin. 

At the same time these intermediate translations 
into Greek and Latin must have had another, though 
a more remote and less tangible consequence on the 
style of the English. We have seen that the original 
books of the Old Testament came from very different 
ages and circumstances in the history of the people 
of Israel, and that this difference is still reflected in 
the style of the English. So far as the style of the 
Latin had influence it must have helped to blur and 
obliterate these differences between the various books 
and parts of books and brought them nearer to a com- 
mon type of style. Since none of the translators 
whether into English or into Greek or Latin had any 
suspicion of these differences of origin every fresh 
translation and revision would have helped towards 
making a single book out of writings which had come 
into existence in such a variety of way-. 

For all these reasons, then, if we would under- 
stand the nature and power of the English Bible as a 
work of literature we must take into account the Vul- 
gate, and even to some extent its forerunner, the 
Septuagint. We shall find later that the Vulgate 
made some direct contribution to the phrasing of 
the Authorised Version, especially through the use 
made of it by (overdale both fur his own Bible 


of 1535 and for the Great Bible of 1539-41, and 
also through the labors of Gregory Martin on the 
Jthemish ISTew Testament of 1582, on which King 
James's revisers drew so freely. But besides this di- 
rect contribution there is, as I trust that I have made 
clear, the larger contribution of musical expressive- 
ness, which is even more important from the point of 
view of literature, since it goes farther towards fix- 
ing the individuality and strengthening the power of 
the book. As in the case of a man the set of the 
mouth, the carriage of the head, the tones of the voice 
and the decisiveness or slackness of utterance mould 
our idea of his character, so with a book : rhythm and 
harmony can no more be reduced to notation than such 
indications of character in a man can be recorded by 
anthropometry; yet they are the ultimate means of 
expression of feelings and emotions which in the book 
as in the man are in the deepest sense the essentials 
of character. Though criticism can make no analy- 
sis of such facts, it cannot ignore them ; for if they 
cannot be defined they can in part be described ; and 
even as here a little light can be thrown on their 
origin and causes. And since in the case of the Bible 
it is even more true than with most books that the 
spirit is the life, anything that in any way helps to 
illuminate these deep-lying realities is worthy of 
study and record. 


The first complete translation into English was 
that of John Wyclif. This, however, it is almost 
certain, contributed nothing to our present English 
Bible. In the first place it was a translation of the 
Vulgate : and one of the reasons which stirred Tin- 
dale to his work was the fact that had been made clear 
by the labors of Erasmus, that the text of the Vulgate 
was in many places corrupt and untrustworthy. In 
the second place the English of "Wyclif's version in 
the sixteenth century was already archaic. And 
finally we have Tindale's express declaration in the 
Epistle to the Reader subjoined to his first edition 
of the Xew Testament, " I had no man to counterfet, 
nether was holpe with englysshe of eny that had in- 
terpreted the same, or soche lyke thinge in the script- 
ure before tyme." Wyclifa version was undoubtedly 
of importance in preparing the way for the reception 
of the gospel in English, for many manuscripts of 
the whole or parts of it persist until to-day; and Foxe 
in his Book of Martyrs cites many cases of prosecu- 
tions in the early part of the sixteenth century for 
owning and reading portions of the Scriptures in 
English, which must have been copies of Wyclif's 
translation. It is not clear how widespread this 
reading was. Foxe's extracts come chiefly from the 


registers of the dioceses of London and of Lincoln, 
and it is doubtful if this spirit had spread through 
many other parts of England. Wyclif 's doctrines had 
become so closely associated with the political and so- 
cial aberrations of Lollardy, that his translation of 
the Bible must have become discredited by such dan- 
gerous associations. 

The impulse which led to Tindale's translation of 
the Bible into English came with the return of John 
Colet from Italy shortly before the end of the fif- 
teenth century. He had gone to Italy to study 
Greek, and he had devoted his study to equipping 
himself with a knowledge of the New Testament in 
the original language. Coming back to England, he 
swept away the monstrous superstructure of subtle- 
ties which the ecclesiastical philosophy had built on 
the text of the Vulgate, and declared that the Script- 
ure was to be understood in its plain and simple sense 
by anyone who could read the language in which it 
was written. This treatment of the Scriptures was 
revolutionary to most men of the times, but enor- 
mously stimulating to the men whose minds had been 
opened to the light of the new learning of the Renais- 
sance. These ideas of Colet's came to their full 
fruition in the scholarly labors of Erasmus. 

The latter had come to England in 1498, already 
skilled in all the learning of the schoolmen, but now 


eager to study Greek. From the first his intercourse 
with Colet seems to have swept away his interest in 
the hairsplitting of the scholastic fathers; and he 
gave himself with his whole heart to the study of 
Greek and the propagation of Colet's reasonable 
view of religion and of learning. His Enchiridion 
Mil His (liristiani, or Dagger of the Christian Sol- 
dier, as the title may be translated, took up the idea 
already declared by Colet that Christianity was not a 
matter of the acceptance of dogma or the performance 
of outward rites and ceremonies so much as a pure, 
righteous, and self-sacrificing life. Moreover, in his 
first edition of the Greek Xew Testament, the Novum 
Instrumentum of 1516, he made a declaration which 
we know Tindale must have read and which we may 
suppose helped to start the latter on his life's work: 

" I totally dissent from those who are unwilling 
that the Sacred Scriptures, translated into the 
vulgar tongue, should be read by private indi- 
viduals, as if Christ had taught such subtle 
doctrines that they can with difliculty be under- 
stood by a very few theologians, or as if the 
strength of the Christian religion lay in men's ig- 
norance of it. The mysteries of kings it were 
perhaps better to conceal, but Christ wishes His 
mysteries to be published as widely as possible. 
I would wish even all women to read the Gospel 
and the Epistles of St. Paul. And I wish they 


were translated into all languages of all people, 
that they might be read and known, not merely 
by the Scotch and the Irish, but even by the 
Turks and the Saracens. I wish that the hus- 
bandman may sing parts of them at his plough, 
that the weaver may warble them at his shuttle, 
that the traveller may with their narratives beguile 
the weariness of the way." 1 

Thus Erasmus passed on with renewed strength the 
enlightened view of Colet that the Scriptures were 
simple and clear writings which should be put be- 
fore the whole people; and he helped forward the 
work by preparing an edition of the New Testament 
with a fresh Latin translation which made the origi- 
nal text generally accessible. The force which made 
inevitable the translation into English seems there- 
fore to have had two sources : on the one hand there 
was this declaration of a few of the most intelligent 
and enlightened men of the day that the gospels 
should be freely opened to all the people of England ; 
on the other hand there was the eager faith of certain 
of the poorer classes of the people, who, clinging to 
the teachings of Wyclif and reading fragments of his 
translation in barns and behind hedges at the risk of 
persecution, kept alive the desire for the Scriptures 
and prepared the way for a ready dissemination of 

1 Translated by Rev. R. Demaus in William Tyndale, p. 45. 


Tindale's New Testaments when they came to Eng- 
land in 1526. The history of the beginnings of the 
English Reformation is obscure, and it has not yet 
been made out how widely this latter movement was 
spread in England. It seems clear, however, that at 
this time a large part of England would have opposed 
it, and that it was chiefly confined to the larger towns 
and to the eastern counties. The history is further 
complicated by the mingling of religion with politics 
and personal ambitions ; but the desire of English- 
men to read the Scriptures for themselves and to de- 
cide each man for himself on its meaning, was one 
of the chief forces which finally ranged England on 
the Protestant side. 


The actual beginnings of our Authorised Version 
go back to the printing at Worms in 1525 of Tin- 
dale's first edition of the Xew Testament. As we 
look back now, we can see that the times and the man 
met in an agreement hardly possible in English his- 
tory before or since. 

Of William Tindale 1 himself, one of the great 

*I follow the spelling of the name in the only known signa- 
ture of the great tran.- hi tor. A facsimile of the letter in which 
it is found is given in Demaus, William Tyndale, a Biography, 
2nd edition, p. 437. 


heroes of the English race, we have grievously little 
definite information outside his published works. 
Born probably in Gloucestershire, he graduated B.A. 
from Oxford in 1512, only a few years after Colet 
had been delivering his lectures on the Epistles of 
St. Paul, and while he was still preaching in Lon- 
don. From Oxford he went to Cambridge, probably 
just missing Erasmus there. But Cambridge must 
have been as much roused by the ferment brought 
by Erasmus as Oxford had been a few years before 
by that brought by Colet. Then Tindale returned 
to Gloucestershire as tutor in the family of a Sir 
John Walsh; and we have reports through Foxe of 
the disturbance he created by his disputes with the 
unenlightened clergy who came to the table of his pa- 
tron. It is of this time that Foxe tells the following 
story of Tindale : " Communing and disputing with a 
certain learned man in whose company he happened 
to be, he drove him to that issue that the learned man 
said we were better be without God's laws than the 
Pope's. Master Tindale, hearing that, answered him, 
' I defy the Pope and all his laws.' And said, ' If 
God spare my life many years, I will cause a boy that 
driveth the plough shall know more of the Scripture 
than thou doest.' " 

In this frame of mind he went to London in 1523 
for the special purpose of making a translation of 


the Scriptures into English, and in the hope of doing 
the work under the patronage of the Bishop of Lon- 
don; but, to quote his own words, he " understood at 
the last not only that then- was no room in my Lord 
of London's palace to translate the New Testament, 
but also that there was no place to do it in all Eng- 
land, as experience doth now openly declare." Ac- 
cordingly departing for the Continent in 1523 or 
1524, he soon had his New Testament ready for the 
press. The first attempt at printing it at Cologne 
was broken up by the enemies of the Reformation; 
but he escaped with the printed sheets to Worms, and 
there, towards the end of the year, finished the first 
printing of the New Testament in English. 

His further work in the publication of the Script- 
ures was a translation of the Pentateuch from the He- 
brew, published in 1530, and a careful revision of this 
and of his New Testament in 1 "> : i 4 and 1 535. Besides 
these he wrote several polemical works, one of which 
especially, The Obedience of a Christian Man, was a 
treasured work among the English reformers. He 
met his death in 1536 at the hands of the authorities 
of Antwerp, after being betrayed into their hands by 
an Englishman. Foxe's story brings out most touch- 
ingly the simple earnestness and good faith of the 
man, which made him so easy a prey for treachery. 
This is the conclusion of the story of his arrest: 


"Such was the power of his doctrine and the 
sincerity of his life that during the time of his 
imprisonment (which endured a year and a half) it 
is said he converted his keeper, the keeper's daugh- 
ter, and others of his household. Also the rest 
that were with Tyndale conversant in the castle, 
reported of him that if he were not a good Chris- 
tian man, they could not tell whom to trust. 

"The procurator-general, the Emperor's at- 
torney, left this testimony of him, that he was 
'homo doctus, pius, et bonus' — a learned, a good, 
and a godly man." 1 

Everything that we know of Tindale tells the 
same story : his whole life was devoted to his mission, 
but when he was not called on to testify, he was re- 
tiring and deeply humble. Simple-minded, trustful, 
full of the warmest feelings and affections, earnest in 
his service of God, he clung with a faith which was 
both broad-minded and single to the simplest and 
highest truths of the gospel ; and the strength and 
depth of his belief carried him unflinchingly to his 
death at the stake. In his polemical discussions with 
Sir Thomas More, he stands out in contrast even 
with that gentlest and most humorous man of the 
times for his good sense, for his self-control, for his 
broad spirit of tolerance and love. For prototypes of 
him we must go back to the days of the apostles. 

1 Foxe: Acts and Monuments, London, 1838, Vol. V, p. 127. 


There is a striking resemblance between the temper 
of Tindale's own writings and that of the epistles 
of St. Paul, a likeness in the habit of thought, in the 
swift passage from argument to exhortation, in the 
unconscious personal references, in the eagerness to 
impress the truth upon the minds of his readers : and 
on the other hand, nowhere does the style of the Bible 
attain a higher earnestness and pitch of feeling than 
in the translation of these epistles. It is not fan- 
tastic, I think, to argue that this likeness in style 
is based upon a likeness of character : both were edu- 
cated men, both were filled with the spirit of God, 
both were impelled to spread the word of God beyond 
the limits which had been set by the authorities of 
the day, both in the end gave their lives for their 
mission. If there have been apostles since St. Paul's 
time, Tindale is surely one of them ; for he had the 
single love for mankind, the consuming faith, the in- 
sight through accidents to the essentials, that fitted 
him to be the pioneer in bringing back the power of 
the gospel to England. Not every man with a love 
for his fellow-men can do them all the good he would 
wish ; nor do a perfect faith and an insight that can- 
not be baffied carry with them always the power of 
bringing light to other men's minds: it was Tindale's 
endowment for his mission that he added to zeal love, 
— the quality which in some ways is better expressed 


by our broader word charity, — and to them both a 
scholarship and soundness of judgment that gave a 
new life among his own people to the truths by which 
he was himself so deeply moved. 

Of Tindale's scholarship we have ample testimony 
from his contemporaries. He met Sir Thomas More, 
the type of the best cultivation of the age, on more 
than even terms; and More himself wrote of him, 
" Before he fell into these frenzies he was taken for 
full prettily learned." And the enemy who inter- 
rupted the printing at Cologne spoke of Tindale as 
" learned, skilful in languages and eloquent." The 
best proof of his scholarship, however, is in his trans- 
lations, and especially in the fact that we to-day read 
by far the greater part of our New Testament and 
of the historical books of the Old in his words. 

At the same time, to the zeal of an apostle and the 
instinct and training of the scholar he added a notable 
mastery of English style. Here is an example from 
his prologue to Exodus of the lucidity and simplic- 
ity, transfused with contagious energy and warmth 
of feeling, which characterized his own writing : 

If any man ask me, seeing that faith justifieth 
me, Why I work? I answer, Love compelleth me. 
For as long as my soul feeleth what love God hath 
shewed me in Christ, I cannot but love God again, 
and his will and commandments, and of love work 


them, nor can they seem hard unto me. I think 
myself not better for my working, nor seek heaven 
nor an higher place in heaven, because of it. For 
a Christian worketh to make his weak brother per- 
fecter, and not to seek an higher place in heaven. 
I compare not myself unto him that worketh not. 
No, he that worketh not to-day, shall have grace 
to turn, and to work to-morrow; and in the mean 
season I pity him, and pray for him. If I had 
wrought the will of God these thousand years, and 
another had wrought the will of the devil as long, 
and this day turn and be as well willing to suffer 
with Christ as I, he hath this day overtaken me, 
and is as far come as I, and shall have as much 
reward as I. And I envy him not, but rejoice most 
of all as of lost treasure found. For if I be of God, 
I have this thousand year suffered to win him for 
to come and praise the name of God with me. This 
thousand years have I prayed, sorrowed, longed, 
sighed, and sought for that which I have this day 
found; and therefore I rejoice with all my might, 
and praise God for his grace and mercy. 

The best single example that we have, however, of 
what Tindale was both as a man and as a writer is 
to be found in a letter which he wrote from Antwerp 
to his friend Frith when the latter was in prison in 
England, voluntarily awaiting martyrdom for the 
truth : I know of no more noble or beautiful piece of 
English prose. Here is a portion of it : 


Brother Jacob, beloved in my heart ! there liveth 
not in whom I have so good hope and trust, and in 
whom my heart rejoiceth, and my soul comforteth 
herself, as in you; not the thousandth part so much 
for your learning, and what other giftselse you have, 
as because you will creep alow by the ground, 
and walk in those things that the conscience may 
feel, and not in the imaginations of the brain; in 
fear, and not in boldness; in open necessary things, 
and not to pronounce or define of hid secrets, or 
things that neither help nor hinder, whether it be 
so or no; in unity, and not in seditious opinions: 
insomuch that if you be sure you know, yet in 
things that may abide leisure, you will defer, and 
say (till others agree with you), 'Methinks the 
text requireth this sense or understanding.' Yea, 
and if you be sure that if your part be good, and 
another hold the contrary, yet if it be a thing 
that maketh no matter, you will laugh and let it 
pass, and refer the thing to other men, and stick 
you stiff and stubbornly in earnest and necessary 
things. And I trust you be persuaded even so of 
me: for I call God to record against the day we 
shall all appear before our Lord Jesus, to give a 
reckoning of our doings, that I never altered one 
syllable of God's word against my conscience, nor 
would this day, if all that is in the earth, whether 
it be pleasure, honour, or riches, might be given 
me. Moreover, I take God to record to my con- 
science, that I desire of God to myself in this world 
no more than that without which I cannot keep 
his laws. 


Finally, if there were in me any gift that could 
help at hand, and aid you if need required, I promise 
you I would not be far off, and commit the end to 
God. My soul is not faint, though my body be 
weary. But God hath made me evil favoured in 
this world, and without grace in the sight of men, 
speechless and rude, dull and slow witted; your 
part shall be to supply what lacketh in me; remem- 
bering that as lowliness of heart shall make you 
high with God, even so meekness of words shall 
make you to sink into the hearts of men. Nature 
giveth age authority, but meekness is the glory 
of youth, and giveth them honour. Abundance 
of love maketh me exceed in babbling. 

The mighty God of Jacob be with you to sup- 
plant his enemies and give you the favour of 
Joseph: and the wisdom and the spirit of Stephen 
be with your heart and with your mouth, and teach 
your lips what they shall say, and how to answer to 
all things. He is our God, if we despair in our- 
selves, and trust in him: and his is the glory. Amen. 

I hope our redemption is nigh. 

William Tixdale. 1 

After such words, one can add little. I have 
shown, I hope, that Tindale's own style at its best 
rose to the level of that of the English Bible ; and his 
own purpose and character were so noble and devoted 
that they help to explain the splendid style of his 
1 Foxe: op. cit., Vol. V, p. 133. 


translation. His achievement for English prose style 
reminds one of the passage in The Virginians in 
which Thackeray, speaking of Washington, points 
out that in the war which began in the backwoods of 
America, and spread thence over two continents ; 
which divided Europe ; which deprived France of all 
her American possessions, and in the end England of 
most of hers, — that in all this great war the man who 
came out with the highest fame and the most glory 
was the man who fired the first shot. So in the case 
of Tindale and the art of writing in English prose: 
after nearly four centuries and all the action and 
the reaction of time it is still true that the type of 
prose style which no good writer can forget, and 
about which all varieties of prose style centre, is the 
style of the first man who ever made printed Eng- 
lish speak to the whole nation. For Tindale fixed 
the style of the English Bible. The subdued rich- 
ness, the strong beat of the rhythm, and all the other 
subtler qualities which clothe the style with its simple 
and unconscious earnestness, we owe to him, the first 
translator. His scholarship, his genius for language, 
fused by the heat of his devotion to his mission and 
his deep piety, and guided by his passionate desire 
to bring the gospel into the hands of the common 
people, wrought out a style which was worthy of the 
message it was to carry. Though he did not complete 


the translation of the Old Testament, yet the New 
Testament and the historical books of the Old Testa- 
ment which came from him, needed only revision in 
details. And it is the crowning merit of the line of 
revisers down to and including- King James's com- 
panies, that they were wise enough not to attempt to 
alter the character of the style. 

That Tindale did fix the style for the narrative 
books of the Old Testament and for the Xew Testa- 
ment I can make clear by quoting from his Penta- 
teuch of 1530 and his Xew Testament of 1534 three 
familiar passages — the first from the story of Joseph 
and his brethren, the second from St. Luke, the 
third from 1 Corinthians. For the sake of con- 
venience I modernize the spelling; and to make the 
comparison clearer I italicize the words that are 
changed in the Authorised Version. 

And Joseph could no longer refrain [A. V. himself] 
before all them that stood about him, but commanded 
that they should go all out from him, and that there 
should be no man with him, while he uttered hitnself 
unto his brethren. And he wept aloud, so that 
the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it. 
And he said unto his brethren: I am Joseph: doth 
my father yet live? But his brethren eonld not 
answer him, for they were abashed at his presence. 

And Joseph said unto his brethren: come near to 
me [A. V. I pray you], and they came near. And 


he said: I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold 
into Egypt. And now be not grieved therewith, 
neither let it seem a cruel thing in your eyes, that ye 
sold me hither. For God did send me before you 
to save life. For this is the second year of dearth in 
the land, and five more are behind in which there 
shall neither be caring nor harvest. 1 

And there were in the same region shepherds 
abiding in the field and watching their flock by night. 
And lo, the angel of the Lord stood hard by them 
and the brightness of the Lord shone round about 
them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel 
said unto them, Be not afraid. [A. V. For] behold I 
bring you [A. V. good] tidings of great joy that shall 
come to all the people; for unto you is born this day 
in the city of David a saviour which is Christ the 
Lord. And take this for el sign: ye shall find the 
child swaddled and laid in a manger. And straight- 
way there was with the angel a multitude of heav- 
enly soldiers lauding God, and saying, Glory to God 
on high, and peace on the earth: and unto men rejoic- 
ing. 2 

But now is Christ risen from death and is become 
the first-fruits of them that slept. For [A. V. since] 
by a man came death and by a man came [A. V. 
also the] resurrection from death. For as by Adam 
all die, even so by Christ shall all be made alive, 
and every man in his own order. The first is 
Christ, then they that are Christ's at his coming. 

1 Gen. xlv. 1-6. ' Luke ii. 8-14. 


Then cometh the end when he hath delivered up 
the kingdom to God [A. V. even] the father, when 
he hath put down all rule, [A. V. and all] authority 
and power. For he must rule till he have put all 
his enemies under his feet. 

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 
For he hath put all things under his feet. But 
when he saith, all things are put under him, it is 
manifest that he is excepted, which did put all 
things under him. [A. V. And] When all things 
are subdued unto him: then shall the son also him- 
self be subject unto him that put all things under 
him, that God may be all in all things. 1 

Examples like these may be found almost anywhere 
in the Xew Testament or in what Tindale trans- 
lated of the Old Testament. They show that the 
style which he set in the beginning all the revisers 
after him had the discretion to preserve. By one of 
the curious unfathered traditions which make up so 
much of the literary history of the sixteenth cen- 
tury Coverdale has been credited with adding the 
" grace " of style which is said to mark the Author- 
ised Version. " Grace " is not a very happy term for 
any style so robust and earnest, and Coverdale may 
well share with the other men who worked over Tin- 
dale's words some of the praise for the perfect flex- 
ibility and smoothness attained by the final version: 
1 1 Cor. xv 20-28. 


but it is enough credit to their discretion and literary 
sense that they did not blunt the clearness and force 
which Tindale left as the crowning virtues of his 
noble prose. To him we may safely ascribe all the 
most important qualities of the translation, — the en- 
ergy, the contagious earnestness, the unassuming dig- 
nity and the vividness, — by which it holds its place 
in our literature. He once for all in his version de- 
termined the style of the English Bible. 


Tindale, however, did not complete the work of the 
translation. After he had prepared his ISTew Testa- 
ment and his Pentateuch he turned aside from the 
work of rendering the Scriptures into English, to 
take his part in other ways in advancing the Refor- 
mation. Besides these, however, it is practically cer- 
tain that the other historical books through 2 Chron- 
icles in Matthew's Bible of 1537 came from his 
hands. The evidence may be found in any manual of 
the history of the English Bible. A large and impor- 
tant part of the Old Testament, therefore, still 
waited for a translator. The lack was supplied in 
Coverdale's Bible of 1535. 

Miles Coverdale, to whom we owe the first com- 
plete translation of the Bible in English, had a long 


and varied career. Beginning under the patronage 
of Thomas Cromwell as a useful and willing laborer 
in the establishment of the liberal principles which 
were Cromwell's political stock in trade, he was at 
this period of his life, as his work on the Bible shows, 
of a conciliatory temper ; in his old age he had so far 
advanced in Puritan principles that he was unwilling 
to wear a surplice in order to take up again the see 
of Exeter, of which he had been deprived in the 
reign of Mary. He was entirely humble about his 
own capacities as a translator. His Bible, so far as 
it is independent of Tindale, is frankly a translation 
from secondary sources. The title page of the first 
issue declares the book to be " faithfully and truly 
translated out of Dutch and Latin into English," 
<4 Dutch " being the usage of the time for German ; 
his dedication to the king declares that he had " with 
a clear conscience purely and faithfully translated 
this out of five sundry interpreters, having only the 
manifest truth of the Scripture before mine eyes " ; 
and in his preface to " the Christian Header," he 
adds : " And to help me herein I have had sundry 
translations, not only in Latin, but also of the Dutch 
interpreters, whom, because of their singular gifts 
and special diligence in the Bible, I have been the 
more glad to follow for the most part, according as I 
was required." These five sundry interpreters have 


been proved to be the Swiss-German or Ziiricli version 
of 1524—29, the Latin translation of Pagninus, Lu- 
ther's German Bible, the Vulgate, and Tindale so far 
as he was available. In the Pentateuch and the New 
Testament Coverdale followed Tindale pretty closely, 
but with revision by aid of the German versions; 
elsewhere his chief dependence was the Swiss-German 
Bible. In the Old Testament he had the Vulgate 
constantly before him and reproduced in the Eng- 
lish text many additions which had crept into its 
text in the course of the Middle Ages. An example 
of these may be found in verses 5-7 of Psalm xiv in 
the Booh of Common Prayer. The Psalter here is 
from Coverdale's translation in the Great Bible : and 
these verses are found in the Septuagint and the Vul- 
gate but not in the Hebrew. In all his work on the 
Bible Coverdale treated the Latin text of the Vul- 
gate in this spirit of liberal hospitality. The line 
between the Protestants and the Roman Catholics 
had not yet been drawn with the subsequent bitter 
sharpness: Henry VIII and Cromwell still hoped 
that the Church of England, though it was cut loose 
from the Pope, might remain a part of the great 
Church Catholic; and in matters of minor impor- 
tance, as were most of these inflations of the text, 
Coverdale was ready to follow their lead. Indeed 
he went further than this, for in 1538 he published 


a New Testament in which he printed in parallel 
columns the Latin of the Vulgate and a version 
of the English in which Tindale's language was 
brought still further into conformity with the text of 
the Vulgate. His first purpose seems to have been 
like that of the Zurich version, to reproduce the sub- 
stance and the spirit of his originals without burden- 
ing himself with too much care for scrupulous ac- 
curacy of detail. The character of his work may be 
judged by the Psalter of the Booh of Common 
Prayer, which is his version as he finally left it in 
the Great Bible. 

Unquestionably Coverdale had an ear for rhythm 
and for the subtle turn of the phrase, which add the 
expressive power of music to the words ; and the very 
fact that he did not hold himself closely bound to the 
letter of the original gave this gift freer play. From 
him we get many felicitous turns of phrase, such 
as the following: "Thou canst not make one hair 
white or black," in place of Tindale's " Thou canst 
not make one white hair or black " ; " she brought 
forth her first-born son " for Tindale's " first 
son " ; in the account of the transfiguration, " a bright 
cloud overshadowed them " for Tindale's " shadowed 
them " ; and, for a final example, " is become the 
headstone in the corner," where Tindale had trans- 
lated " is set in the principal part of the corner." 


In the last case Coverdale himself in the Great Bible 
brought the passage to the form in which we read it 

A still more important contribution of Coverdale 
to the translation of the Bible was his service in 
confirming the principle already asserted by Tindale, 
that the English Bible should be translated into the 
language of everyday life and that it should not be 
cumbered and obscured by learned words. In some 
places his version seems even more homely than that 
of Tindale, almost as if he had gone out of his way 
to keep in touch with the speech of everyday life. 
For example, in the account of the anointing of Saul 
to be king he translates, " Then took Samuel a glass 
of oil and poured it upon his head " ; and there is a 
phrase in Jeremiah which has given a popular name 
to his Bible: " There is no treacle in Gilead." 

In general we may consider that Coverdale's spe- 
cial contribution to our English Bible lay in the di- 
rection of freedom and of the musical smoothness 
and flow through which alone language is able to ex- 
press some of our deepest feelings. In point of ac- 
curacy of translation he had little to add, though 
he undoubtedly made available some renderings in 
which the Swiss-German and the Vulgate had an ad- 
vantage, and thus added to the stock of phrasings 
from which the revisers of 1G11 drew. Though the 


part of the Bible which came from him needed much 
revision, his influence in strengthening the rhythm 
and other musical qualities of the English Bible is 
important. Tindale's work being that of a pioneer, 
is at times a little abrupt ; and the Geneva version of 
1560, the next important revision in the history of 
our Bible, tended to insist on literalism of rendering, 
sometimes to the injury of the sound. Coverdale's 
work, both in his own version and in the Great Bible, 
was a counterbalancing influence in favor of expres- 
siveness in English rather than a slavish rendering 
of the literal words and order of the Hebrew and 
Greek. Since the deep and thorough permeation of 
the English Bible and its language into our literature 
and our everyday speech is largely due to this ex- 
quisite happiness and expressiveness of phrase, Cov- 
erdale too must have his niche in the temple of Eng- 
lish literature. 

The next two versions of the English Bible — that 
known as Matthew's, published in 1537, and the 
Great Bible, of which the first two editions are fre- 
quently spoken of as Cromwell's and Cranmer's, made 
no great change in the text. Matthew's Bible was ed- 
ited by the John Rogers who was the first martyr in 
Mary's reign. The importance of this version is 
that in it appears for the first time a new transla- 
tion of the books from Joshua through 2 Chronicles 


which it is almost certain was the work of Tindale. 
John Rogers, who was chaplain to the Merchant Ad- 
venturers in Antwerp at the time of Tindale's ar- 
rest and trial, was his literary executor and received 
from him, probably at this time, the manuscript of 
this translation, which he incorporated in the Bible 
that he carried through the press the year after 
Tindale's death. Otherwise the changes made in 
this version are small and unimportant. 

The Great Bible was the first version of the Bible 
to be made with the open authority of the govern- 
ment. In 1538 Cromwell sent Coverdale to Paris, 
where there were better printers, to put through the 
press a version of the Bible which should be officially 
recognised by the English Church. Coverdale under- 
took the work in the same spirit in which he had pre- 
pared his own version. His scholarship was ade- 
quate to enable him to use the Latin and German 
translations intelligently, but apparently not full 
enough to send him to the Hebrew and Greek for 
himself. Nevertheless, with the aid of a new Latin 
version of the Old Testament made from the Hebrew 
by Sebastian Miinster, Coverdale revised the text of 
Matthew's Bible, and the result was a version appar- 
ently as good as could have been produced without 
going direct to the originals. 

These three versions of the complete Bible, — Cov- 


erdale's, Matthew's and the Great Bible, — were pro- 
duced at a time when feeling on the subject of relig- 
ion was strong and eager, but before it had risen to 
the withering heat and bitterness of Elizabeth's reign, 
when the Church of England stood between the 
Roman Catholic Church, with the Inquisition loom- 
ing behind it, on the one side, and the uncompromis- 
ing doctrinal zeal of the Calvinists on the other. For 
about twenty years after the appearance of the Great 
Bible the churchmen of England were too much oc- 
cupied with other matters to go farther with the 
translation of the Bible. The latter part of Henry's 
reign was a period on the whole of reaction, in 
which the free reading of the Bible by all the people 
was not an object very dear to the hearts of the 
authorities. In Edward's reign the Reformation was 
pushed forward ; but especially under Northumber- 
land it was more a device of politics and a cloak for 
personal greed than the expression of any high spirit 
of religion. Cranmer, conciliatory in temper and 
anxious to find a path which all men could follow, 
was occupied with the government of the Church and 
with the preparing of the Booh of Common Prayer 
from the ancient service books of the church cath- 
olic. The printing of the Bible, however, went for- 
ward during this period at an immense rate. In the 
six and a half years of Edward's reign it is said that 


thirty-five editions of the New Testament and thir- 
teen of the whole Bible were printed in England; 
but these were all reprints of former versions, with- 
out any attempt to remove their imperfections. It 
was not until the persecution of Mary's reign drove 
the Protestants out of England and kept them in ex- 
ile on the Continent that they found time to turn 
their attention to the preparation of a more accurate 
version of the Bible. 


Their version was made at Geneva under the in- 
spiration of the strong church of Calvin, and it was 
made by members of the extreme Calvinist party 
among the English. In the twenty years which had 
elapsed since Coverdale's labors, much study had 
been given to the Bible. A new Latin version of the 
Old Testament, made from the Hebrew, had been 
completed by German and French scholars; and the 
Greek text of the New Testament had been improved 
by the labors of Robert Stephens, who also for the 
first time divided the New Testament into verses in 
his Greek-Latin version of 1551. From Stephens' 
Greek text Theodore Beza, the friend and successor 
of Calvin, had made a new Latin version which af- 
fected all subsequent revisions of the New Testament. 


With these aids a small company of exiles under 
the leadership of William Whittingham set to work 
at Geneva in the last years of Mary's reign to pre- 
pare a version of the Bible which should be before 
all things rigorously accurate. To this strict accu- 
racy the Calvinists gave an importance which it did 
not have for the broader principles of the English 
Church, for they held that the Bible contained within 
its covers the whole body of the revelation of God 
to man, from which in turn could be deduced every 
principle and rule necessary for the guidance of life. 
An accurate rendering of the strict letter of the law 
was to them therefore of supreme importance. The 
position of English churchmen was fairly repre- 
sented by ( 'overdale ; for to them the will of God 
was also known through the acts of his church, and 
the Scriptures were to be interpreted and understood 
through the teachings of the church. In their eyes 
an anxiously literal translation was of less impor- 
tance than one which should convey the essential 
spirit. The principle of the Genevan revisers is to 
our modern views the better, Educe a version which 
only comes somewhere near giving the meaning of 
the original cannot become final ; and their contribu- 
tion of laborious accuracy is not to be underestimated. 
In this spirit the Genevan revisers went through 
both Old and New Testaments word by word and 


verse by verse; and, especially in the poetical books 
of the Old Testament and in the prophets, their labors 
brought the text far nearer to the form in which 
we read it to-day than it had been before. In the 
jSTew Testament the changes, though numerous, were 
generally less important; for Tindale's genius had 
brought the translation of the Kew Testament very 
much nearer to perfection than had Coverdale's 
labors on the Old Testament. Here again a study of 
the history of the English Bible makes clear the 
amount of patient scholarship which went to the 
perfection of our Bible. 

The Genevan version, one must remember, like 
Tindale's version, was produced in exile by men who 
were driven out of their homes and brought into peril 
of their lives by their devotion to their view of relig- 
ion and their desire to see the Bible read freely by 
all their countrymen. This fervor and devotion of 
spirit we may well suppose was enough to prevent 
their version from being dominated by too literal an 
attention to the single words. The Bible was to them 
far more than a collection of difficult passages and 
words whose idiom did not exactly fit with that of 
English : to them it was the living word of God and 
the one guide for the upright man in the conduct 
of his everyday life. And their labors in bringing 
the text of the Bible to greater accuracy set a new 


standard: after them no Bible could hold its own 
which did not render the original language with the 
greatest possible approach to literalness. They es- 
tablished the principle of going direct to the Hebrew 
for the text of the Old Testament and to the Greek 
for that of the Xew ; and so far as Protestants were 
concerned, they removed the corruptions and the di- 
versities of readings which make the Vulgate an 
unsafe guide for popular understanding of the 

The next version of the Bible in chronological or- 
der, the Bishops' Bible, though it was nominally the 
basis of the King James Bible, is in reality of less 
importance than any of the versions of the sixteenth 
century, since its changes made few improvements on 
the readings of the Great Bible, and most of these 
improvements were taken over from the Genevan 
version. Indeed the latter made the Bishops' Bible 
necessary by its immediate and wide circulation 
which called attention to the many inaccuracies and 
imperfections of the Great Bible. Archbishop Parker, 
who directed and shared in the revision, committed 
different books to various of his colleagues on the 
bench and to a few other scholars. The work was 
unevenly done and the version never had wide cir- 
culation. The eagerness of the publishers to recoup 
themselves for the printing of the large and handsome 


folio in which most editions of it appeared sufficed to 
set it up in a good many churches; but it never at- 
tained the popularity of the Genevan version, which 
for the rest of the sixteenth century and even for 
a dozen or fifteen years after the appearance of the 
King James version was the Bible of the great mass 
of English people. 

The last version which we must consider before 
we come to the King James Bible itself is the edition 
of the New Testament commonly known as the Rhe- 
mish Testament, from the fact that it was made by 
members of the Roman Catholic seminary at Rheims. 
In the controversies between the Protestants and the 
Catholics in Queen Elizabeth's reign the Catholics 
had been at a disadvantage because they had had no 
version of the Scriptures which they could quote to 
the confusion of their opponents. Accordingly Car- 
dinal Allen, as part of his campaign for the recovery 
of England to the old church, authorised Gregory 
Martin, who had been a Fellow of St. John's Col- 
lege at Oxford, and who was a distinguished scholar 
in both Hebrew and Greek, to undertake a transla- 
tion of the Bible. It was to be from the Vulgate, 
which the Roman Catholic Church had declared to 
be the only true text of the Scriptures, and it was to 
be translated into a language which should in no way 
be stripped of the rich burden of doctrine found by 


the Roman Catholic Church in almost every phrase 
and sentence both of the Old Testament and the Xew. 
The result is at first glance monstrous. It contains 
such examples as the following : in the Lord's prayer, 
" Give us to-day our supersubstantial bread " ; in 
Acts i. 2, Until the day wherein " he was assumpted " ; 
in Hebrews xiii. 16, " Beneficence and communication 
do not forget, for with such hosts God is promerited " 
(" to do good and communicate forget not, for with 
such sacrifices God is well pleased "). The Latin of 
the last passage will show the principle on which 
Martin worked: Benefic entice autem, et communi- 
oitis nolite oblivisci: talibus enim Jtostiis promeretur 
Deus. His purpose was, though making a trans- 
lation into English, to reproduce slavishly every 
word which in the course of the Middle Ages had 
acquired any ecclesiastical or theological connotation 
or even a suspicion of such connotation. He ami his 
superiors intended to send the layman continually to 
the priest for the interpretation of the Scriptures and 
to guard in every possible way against spreading the 
opinion that a layman was as competent to under- 
stand the Scriptures as was the Church. 

If this grotesqueness were all that distinguished 
this version from others, we should never have heard 
of it except as a literary curiosity. Martin, however, 
was not only zealous for the doctrines of his church, 


but he was also an admirable scholar in Greek; and 
where his principle of translation allowed him to 
be so, he w T as exquisitely sensitive to the shades of 
meaning in the English words and the expressiveness 
of English style. In many cases he found a more 
exact translation for the Greek word, as in the Par- 
able of the Sower, " and some fell upon a rock " in 
place of " stones " and " pleasures of this life " for 
" voluptuous living " ; in the Sermon on the Mount, 
" thy whole body shall be full of darkness," for " all 
thy body " ; in Hebrews xii. 23, " and to the spirits 
of just men made perfect," for " of just and perfect 
men " ; and in the Sermon on the Mount again, " but 
thou, when thou prayest " for " when thou prayest." 
In each of these cases the Greek is rendered more 
accurately or more sensitively. In many other cases 
Martin by a slight change in the order of the words 
gave a final fitness to the phrase : for example, " What 
therefore God hath joined together let not man put 
asunder," in place of " let not therefore man put 
asunder that which God hath coupled together " ; 
" the rich he hath sent empty away," for " hath sent 
away the rich empty " ; and in 1 Corinthians xi 
" the head of Christ is God," for " God is Christ's 

Furthermore since this Rhemish New Testament 
was a translation from the Vulgate, and since it 


aimed to keep the vocabulary of the Vulgate as far 
as possible, it brought into the English Bible a con- 
siderable number of Latinate words, a good many 
of which were taken over from this version by the 
revisers of 1611. Thirty words from the Vulgate 
which are found in the Authorised Version appear 
first in the Iihemish Xew Testament; and in nearly 
two hundred places words from the Vulgate which 
took the place of other words, generally not Latin- 
ate, have been retained in the Authorised Version. 
A few such words are founded, derided, malefactor, 
clemency, conformed to, contemptible, illuminated, 
sobriety. The effect of such words in enriching the 
tones of our Bible is obvious. If this version had 
not been made and had not been used so freely by 
the revisers of 1611, it is certain that our English 
Bible would have lacked something of its richness 
of sound. 

In itself and for the purpose which it was sent out 
this Rhemish Xew Testament accomplished only 
evil for its makers. Its monstrous obscuration of the 
plain text of the Scriptures was a strong weapon for 
the Protestants, and it was almost immediately re- 
printed by them in parallel columns with the New 
Testament of the Bishops' Bible, to be used as a 
patent demonstration of the purpose of the Roman 
Catholic Church to obscure and obstruct the reading 


of the Scriptures. Its only permanent result is thus 
a pretty bit of the irony of history. Gregory Martin, 
who made the translation, had given himself, in 
singleness of mind, in exile, and in hardships com- 
parable to those suffered by Tindale, to this work of 
making a translation which should help to recover 
his fellow-countrymen to what he conceived to be the 
true faith ; and, like Tindale, he gave up his life to 
his work, for he died of consumption at Paris in 
October of the year in which his New Testament was 
published. Yet the only result of his toil was to im- 
prove the version which rendered all his efforts fu- 
tile ; for all that was valuable of his labors was taken 
over by the Authorised Version. Practically, then, 
the fruits of Gregory Martin's toil and self-sacri- 
fice were the furtherance of the cause which he ab- 


The origin of the Authorised Version seems to go 
back to an incidental remark made by King James 
at a conference of the two wings of the English 
Church, called in June, 1604, to consider a petition 
of the Puritans against the rights and ceremonies 
of the Established Church. Dr. Reynolds, one of 
the leaders of the Puritan party, objected to the 


inaccuracies of the Bishops' Bible, whereupon the 
King suggested a new revision, made by authority, 
which could be accepted by all parties. For some 
months little was done; but by the end of June a 
list of scholars who should take part in the revision 
was ready for submission to James. The revision 
itself, however, does not seem to have been seriously 
undertaken till 1G07. The rules set for the revisers 
contemplated six companies of nine scholars each, 
working at Westminster, Oxford, and Cambridge, 
one company at each place taking the Old Testament 
and another the Xew. The rules prescribed that the 
basis of the revision should be the Bishops' Bible, 
but Tindale's, Matthew's, Coverdale's, Whitchurch's 
(the Great Bible), the Genevan, "to be used when 
they agree better with the text than the Bishops' 
Bible " ; that each scholar should bring his private 
notes to a meeting of the company to which he be- 
longed ; and that the companies should exchange the 
results on which each of them had been agreed. The 
revisers, however, as we have seen, treated their in- 
structions liberally enough to include the Rhemish 
Xew Testament among the sources which they nsecL 
The spirit of their work • have been large- 

minded and catholic. There were moderate Puritans 
engaged in the work with Sigh Churchmen, and all 
seem to have performed their labors in a sincere de- 


sire to reach a conclusion which would be acceptable 
to all parties of the Church. They went at their 
work seriously and spared no labor to make it per- 
fect. Their own quaint description of their labors 
in the address to the Reader is worth quoting: 

Neither did we run over the work with that post- 
ing haste that the Septuagint did, if that be true 
which is reported of them, that they finished it in 
seventy two days; neither were we barred or hin- 
dered from going over it again, having once done 
it, like St. Hierome, if that be true which himself 
reporteth, that he could no sooner write anything, 
but presently it was caught from him, and published, 
and he could not have leave to mend it : neither, to 
be short, were we the first that fell in hand with 
translating the Scripture into English, and con- 
sequently destitute of former helps, as it is written 
of Origen, that he was the first in a manner, that 
put his hand to write commentaries upon the 
Scriptures, and therefore no marvel if he overshot 
himself many times. None of these things: the 
work hath not been huddled up in seventy two days, 
but hath cost the workmen, as light as it seemeth, 
the pains of twice seven times seventy two days, 
and more. Matters of such weight and conse- 
quence are to be speeded with maturity: for in a 
business of moment a man feareth not the blame 
of convenient slackness. Neither did we think 
much to consult the translators or commentators, 
Chaldee, Hebrew, Syrian, Greek, or Latin; no, nor 


the Spcnrish, French, Italian, or Dutch; neither did 
we disdain to revise that which we had done, and 
to bring back to the anvil that which we had ham- 
mered: but having and using as great helps as were 
needful, and fearing no reproach for slowness, nor 
coveting praise for expedition, we have at the 
length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, 
brought the work to that pass that you see. 

So far as can be judged from this quaintly learned 
address of " the Translators to the Reader," they 
seem to have been more affected by the attacks of the 
Catholics on the English versions, especially as set 
forth in the prefaces and notes of the Rhemish Xew 
Testament, than by the scruples of the Puritans. 
Certainly a much larger portion of their space is 
given to meeting the arguments of the Roman Catho- 
lics. This strong opposition to the principles of 
translation of the Roman Catholics, however, though 
important at that time, in the end did not contribute 
to exactness and uniformity of phrasing. The Ro- 
man Catholic Church insisted with all its authority 
on the literal text of the Vulgate, for on such words 
as po nif( -nh'a, hostia, online*, and ecclesia were built 
many of its most important doctrines and dogmas; 
and it held this principle BO important that the 
makers of the Rheinisli version marred their work 
as we have seen by barbarous transliterations of the 


Latin words into English. The revisers of 1611, to 
avoid any danger of such a slavish dependence on the 
letter of the translation growing up to obscure its 
real meaning, went out of their way, where variety 
was not misleading, to use different English words 
for the same Hebrew or Greek word ; and half mock- 
ingly they defended their principle in the address 
to the Reader : 

Another thing we think good to admonish thee 
of, gentle Reader, that we have not tied ourselves 
to an uniformity of phrasing, or to an identity of 
words, as some perad venture would wish that we 
had done, because they observe, that some learned 
men somewhere have been as exact as they could 
that way. Truly, that we might not vary from 
the sense of that which we had translated before, if 
the word signified the same thing in both places, 
(for there be some words that be not of the same 
sense every where) we were especially careful, and 
made a conscience according to our duty. But 
that we should express the same notion in the same 
particular word; as for example, if we translate the 
Hebrew or Greek word once by purpose, never to 
call it intent; if one where journeying, never travel- 
ling; if one where think, never suppose; if one where 
pain, never ache; if one where joy, never gladness, 
&c, thus to mince the matter, we thought to 
savour more of curiosity than wisdom, and that 
rather it would breed scorn in the atheist, than 


bring pi ofit to the godly reader. For is the king- 
dom of God become words or syllables? Why 
should we be in bondage to them, if we may be 
free? use one precisely, when we may use another 
no less fit as commodiously? A godly Father in 
the primitive time shewed himself greatly moved, 
that one of newfangleness called KpaPfiarov, cr»a/x- 
ttous, 1 though the difference be little or none; and 
another reporteth, that he was much abused for 
turning cucurbita (to which reading the people had 
been used) into hederar Now if this happen in bet- 
ter times, and upon so small occasions, we might 
justly fear hard censure, if generally we should 
make verbal and unnecessary changings. We might 
also be charged (by scoffers) with some unequal 
dealing towards a great number of good English 
words. For as it is written of a certain great 
Philosopher, that he should say, that those logs 
were happy that were made images to be wor- 
shipped; for their fellows, as good as they, lay for 
blocks behind the fire: so if we should say, as it 
were, unto certain words, Stand up higher, have a 
place in the Bible always; and to others of like 
quality, Get ye hence, be banished for ever; 
we might be taxed peradventure with St. James's 
words, namely, To be partial in ourselves, and judges 
of evil thoughts. Add hereunto, that niceness in 
words was always counted the next step to trifling; 
and so was to be curious about names too: also 

1 Both words mean bed. 

7 Cucurbita means a gourd: hedera means ivy. The reference 
is to the vine in Jonah iv. 7. 


that we cannot follow a better pattern for elocution 
than God himself; therefore he using divers words 
in his holy writ, and indifferently for one thing 
in nature; we, if we will not be superstitious, may 
use the same liberty in our English versions out of 
Hebrew and Greek, for that copy or store that he 
hath given us. Lastly, we have on the one side 
avoided the scrupulosity of the Puritans, who 
leave the old Ecclesiastical words, and betake 
them to other, as when they put washing for Bap- 
tism, and Congregation instead of Church: as also on 
the other side we have shunned the obscurity of the 
Papists, in their Azimes, Tunike, Rational, Holo- 
causts, Prcepuce, Pasche, and a number of such like, 
whereof their late translation is full, and that of 
purpose to darken the sense, that since they must 
needs translate the Bible, yet by the language 
thereof it may be kept from being understood. 
But we desire that the Scripture may speak like 
itself, as in the language of Canaan, that it may 
be understood even of the very vulgar. 

This principle in most cases had no serious effect. 
It is responsible for the difference between a leath- 
ern girdle in St. Matthew's account of John the Bap- 
tist and a girdle of a skin in St. Mark's*}; between 
eternal life in John Hi. 15 and everlasting life in the 
next verse ; between counted unto him for righteous- 
ness in one verse of Romans iv and reckoned to Abra- 
ham for righteousness in another verse. An ex- 
treme case is in James ii. 2-3: " For if there come 


into your assembly a man with a gold ring, in 
goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man 
in vile raiment ; and ye shall have respect to him 
that weareth the gay clothing . . .": here apparel, 
raiment, and clothing all stand for a single noun in 
the Greek. In most cases such variations are of prac- 
tically no importance so far as accuracy of render- 
ing is concerned. They tend slightly to obscure the 
close resemblances in phrasing between corresponding 
parts of the first three gospels; and in a few cases 
they may suggest a difference of meaning in the Eng- 
lish where there is none in the Greek or Hebrew. On 
the whole, however, though the principle is departed 
from in the Revised Version, and rightfully so, 
purely from the point of view of literature we may 
hold that the revisers of 1611 showed good judgment. 
Certainly this freedom in using synonyms must have 
contributed to greater flexibility of rhythm ; for there 
are innumerable cases where one can see that of two 
synonyms one would fit more smoothly into the sen- 
tence than the other; and in an age when there was 
so much feeling for euphony and expressiveness of 
style, such freedom of choice was within its limits 
an important consideration. 

Whether one looks on this principle as conducing to 
freedom or to license, however, t la-re can be no doubt 
that this final revision of 1G11 was undertaken seri- 


ously and according to what were for the time high 
standards of accuracy and thoroughness. The final 
printing, as has been shown by Dr. Scrivener, 1 was 
hurried and careless, so much so that the two issues 
of 1611 have distinct sets of errors in matters of 
proof-reading. The preparation of the text for the 
printers, on the other hand, though uneven,was on the 
whole thorough and careful. The corrections of the 
Revised Version bear testimony rather to the birth 
of the science of textual criticism and to a great ad- 
vance in the knowledge of Hebrew and Greek than 
to carelessness or incompetence on the part of the re- 
visers of 1611. The latter used all the sources that 
were open to them with independence and discretion. 
The substitution of the exquisite phrase, a man of 
sorrows and acquainted ivith grief, 2 drawn from vir 
dolorum, et expertus infirmitatem of Pagninus' Latin 
translation, for he is such a man as hath good experi- 
ence of sorrows and infirmities of the Bishops' Bible, 
and a man of sorrows and hath experience of infirm- 
ities of the Genevan version, is a strong example, 
though not an exceptional one, of the success of 
their search for the phrase which should be most 
expressive in English as well as a close representa- 
tive of the original. And the fact that in the climax 

1 F. H. A. Scrivener, The Authorised Edition of the English 
Bible, 1884. 2 Isa. liii. 3. 


of 1 Corinthians xv, in the verse, death, where is 
thy sting, grave, where is thy victory, the which 
is called for by the vocative in the Greek, appears for 
the first time in their version, is high testimony not 
only to the accuracy of their scholarship but to their 
fine sense for the purely musical expressiveness of 
language. Such an essay as this is not the place 
for a detailed examination of the methods and re- 
sults of the separate versions: whoever is interested 
should consult the handbooks on the history of the 
English Bible. But the result of such study has been 
to confirm the high estimate of the labors of this band 
of scholars. Their work was done perhaps at the 
latest time in which it could represent the hopes and 
ideas of both the Puritans and the High Church 
men; and the fact that the two versions from which 
they drew the greatest number of their improvements 
on the Bishops' Bible were the Genevan Bible and 
the Roman Catholic New Testament of Rheims, 
shows the catholicity of their spirit. All that I shall 
have to say in the next chapter of the excellencies of 
our Authorised Version, both as a translation and as 
a work of literature, will be direct testimony to the 
value of this latest revision. 

So much for the history of the English versions. 
Even so brief a sketch as this will have made clear 
the amount of painstaking scholarship and the variety 


of sources from which it drew. Beginning with the 
devoted and inspired labors of Tindale, through him 
it drew on the translations of Jerome, of Erasmus, of 
Luther, and through Coverdale and his successors, it 
drew on the Swiss-German version of Zurich, on the 
Latin translations of Pagninus, of Minister, of Tre- 
mellius, of Leo Juda, of Castalio, and of Theodore 
Beza, and on the French translations of Lefevre and 
Olivetan, and of the " venerable company of pastors 
at Geneva," besides occasional phrases from new 
translations into Spanish and Italian. It gathered 
its materials wherever they could be found, adopting 
here a word and there a phrase in order to arrive 
at the closest and most expressive English within 
their power. Nothing is more remarkable in the his- 
tory of our English Bible than this large-minded 
and eager search, to which I shall presently recur, 
through all the possible sources for anything that 
would help towards the best translation into English ; 
and we may well suppose that this careful scrutiny 
of so large a variety of sources, which is not par- 
alleled in the history of any other Bible, did much to 
give its permanence to the work of the translators. 



In" a final summing up of the literary characteris- 
tics of the Authorised Version there are two aspects 
in which it must be considered. In the first place we 
must make some estimate of it as a translation and 
consider how far the characteristics of the original 
languages still color the English work, and what skill 
the translators have showed in rendering the idiom 
of one language into that of another. In the second 
place we must try to define the characteristics of the 
English Bible as a work in English literature apart 
from its merits or shortcomings as a translation. 

Looking at it first as a translation, one must begin 
by recognising that there are two elements which an 
adequate translation must render into the new lan- 
guage, on the one hand the literal meanings of the 
words, — their exact denotation, — on the other hand, 
the feeling and emotion which suffuses the single 
words and gives them power. To render the former is 
a question in part of proper equipment in dictionaries 



and grammars, in part of patient and enlightened 
industry in the use of such apparatus. To render the 
spirit, which is the life, on the other hand, is a ques- 
tion of finding words with apt connotations, associa- 
tions, and implications, and of so putting them to- 
gether as to add the expressiveness of sound to the 
style. For the scholarship and the apparatus of 
scholarship England in the sixteenth century was 
well equipped for the time. All manuscripts of the 
Hebrew are practically identical, and already by the 
sixteenth century the dictionaries and grammars were 
so good that Tindale's translation of the clearer parts 
of the Old Testament stands with little change to-day. 
The great advance in scholarship has made possible 
larger improvements in the other books where the 
original text is more obscure. In the case of the 
New Testament the foundation work had been laid 
by Erasmus, and his work was continued by scholars 
like Robert Stephens and Beza. The science of criti- 
cism, however, was not to be born till the beginning 
of the eighteenth century, and there were many 
questions of text and preferable readings which it 
was impossible for the best scholars of the sixteenth 
century to solve. Hence, as the Revised Version 
makes clear, in details the Authorised Version needed 

On the other hand the infusing of the words of 


the translation with the spirit, which gave it its 
place as the crowning monument of English litera- 
ture, could be better accomplished in the sixteenth 
century than at any time before or since in English 
history. In the first place the state of the language 
was at its very best for the purpose. I have pointed 
out in the chapter on poetry that the rich coloring of 
the Old Testament is largely derived from the fact 
that the Hebrew had no words which had not a physi- 
cal signification, and that they were thus of necessity 
clothed with a strength of feeling which can never 
be attained by abstract words. The English of the 
sixteenth century was more fit to reproduce this char- 
acter of the Hebrew than it has ever been again. 
Since that time English has been enriched chiefly by 
the addition of abstract and general words, mostly 
from the Latin and Greek, to express the constantly 
enlarging range of scientific and philosophical 
thought ; and we write naturally and necessarily 
nowadays in abstract terms from which the figura- 
tive force has long since faded out. Xo one who 
has read in the writings of the sixteenth century can 
fail to be struck by the picturesqueness which comes 
from a figurativeness of language unlike anything 
in our language to-day. Even in the statute books 
one finds such lively and figurative language as, 
" But their vicious living shamelessly increaseth and 


augmenteth, and by a cursed custom so rooted and 
infected that a great multitude of the religious per- 
sons in such small houses do rather choose to rove 
abroad in apostasy than to conform themselves to 
the true religion " ; 1 or in another statute : " With- 
out providing wherefore too great a scope of unrea- 
sonable liberty should be given to all cankered and 
traitorous hearts, willers, and workers of the same." 2 
If such language gives color to the legal phraseology 
of the statute book, one is not surprised to find the 
language of ordinary books full of vivid and vigorous 
figures of speech. Tindale himself in his Epistle to 
the Header promises a revision in these words, " and 
will endeavor ourselves as it were to seethe it better 
and to make it more apt for the weak stomachs " ; 
and in another place he speaks of " sucking out the 
sweet pith of the Scriptures." In the latter case we 
to-day should probably have written " extract the es- 
sence " ; and thereby with what is to us the quaint- 
ness we should have lost also the eagerness and de- 
light which color Tindale's words with their halo of 
feeling. The language of this sixteenth century was 
lacking in many of our commonest general words, 
and as a result men used figures of speech more nat- 
urally. Even when we take into account the love of 
picturesque phrases which effervesced into the affec- 
1 27 Henry VIII, c. 28. 2 26 Henry VIII, c. 13. 


tations of euphuism in the latter half of the century 
and clothed itself in soberer colors in the style of 
Thomas Fuller a couple of generations later, we must 
still recognise that all the men who worked on our 
English Bible, from Tindale to King James's com- 
panies of revisers in 1611, must sometimes have 
adopted figurative forms of expression for the rea- 
son that the abstract word had not yet been assim- 
ilated in the language. The same change in the 
character of the everyday language shows in the 
richer colors of Sir Thomas North's translation of 
Plutarch as compared with Langhorne's or Clough's, 
or the liveliness of Shelton's Don Quixote and in 
the warmth and spirit of Florio's translation of 
Montaigne. The difference lies in each case in the 
emotional richness of the expression : and that goes 
back directly to the greater or less degree of con- 
creteness in the vocabulary. 

There is still another fact to take into account 
here. Along with the enrichment of the language 
through the constant acquisition of new abstract 
words, and the conseqnenl gain in range and preci- 
sion of thought, there has gone a considerable in- 
crease in the number of words which we use vaguely 
and lazily. Every general word will for an indolent 
thinker take the place of several specific words: 
move, for example, in an abstract but vague way, 


covers the meaning of run, hop, slide, roll, tumble, 
and a host of other specific words. In many cases 
such abstract words are hardly more definite than 
gestures: we use such counters of speech as element, 
relation, result, effect, without ever stopping to come 
to close quarters with their meaning. For several 
years I have set a class of sophomores to study a 
textbook in which elements of style, qualities of 
style, and principles of composition are used as 
technical terms; and not three students in a hun- 
dred get them straight in their minds on the first 
reading. This is no doubt an extreme case : but it is 
safe to say that the general careless use of common 
abstract terms has largely dulled their expressiveness. 
Our modern use of language, therefore, tends not 
only to be less concrete, but also to be vaguer and 
duller than that of our fathers. This danger obvi- 
ously makes more difficult the task of modern re- 
visers of the Bible. Unless their scholarship is mated 
to a keen sense of the expressiveness of words, their 
revisions will lose both in color and in precision ; and 
even where a writer himself uses these commoner ab- 
stract words with entire precision, he cannot always 
forestall laziness of attention in his readers. We 
may conclude, therefore, that in so far as any modern 
version substitutes abstract and general words for 
concrete, that version misses an essential and invalu- 


able part of the message which the Bible has to bring 
to us. To use Tindale's phrase, it substitutes " the 
imaginations of the brain " for " those things that 
the conscience may feel." 

Besides the connotation of words we must also 
take into account the musical or sensuous qualities 
of style. This power it is quite impossible to re- 
duce to notation or to any accurate estimate. We 
know that rhythm and a fit sequence of sounds do ex- 
press feeling, though why or exactly how we cannot 
say. The expressive power of rhythm probably has 
something to do with the alternate activity and 
strength of the attention through which we insensibly 
reduce all continuous regularity to alternations. In 
all art it means life and feeling. The expressive 
power of the pure melody of sounds is even less tan- 
gible : yet certain sounds serve to express certain feel- 
ings. Ruskin in his description of an English cathe- 
dral and of St. Mark's in The Stones of Venice used 
words in which by actual count one can note that 
short vowels and the clicking consonants like g, k, p, 
and t express coolness and austerity, and that the 
open vowels and the singing consonants, I, m, n, and 
r express luxuriant feeling. Why this is so we can 
no more explain than we can say why the notes of 
the flute can be made to suggest moonlight. We are 
here dealing with ultimate facts of experience. The 


fact, however, that such ultimate facts are inexplic- 
able does not make them any less potent a force in 
literature and in human intercourse; and we may 
suppose that just as a cheerful frame of mind some- 
times betrays the most sedate of men into the hum- 
ming of strange and uncouth sounds, so here in the 
case of these noblest and most searching of all emo- 
tions, the strong coloring of the sounds is at least as 
important a part of the power of expression as is the 
use of the single words. Music is a spontaneous and 
almost universal part of worship ; and the power of 
language to express religious feeling is inseparably 
bound up with rich coloring of tone and strong beat 
of rhythm. 

Yet unless there be sincere and intense feeling to 
express, strength of rhythm and rich coloring merely 
imparts preciosity and affectation to language. In the 
case of our English translation we have seen that the 
translators and revisers were stirred to an intensity 
of feeling on the subject with which they were deal- 
ing which has not since been equalled in the history 
of England. The English Bible was one of the first 
fruits of the English Reformation, and the history 
of the successive revisions leading up to the version 
of 1611 is largely a history of the fluctuations of 
the Reformation. Tindale gave up his life for the 
share he had in translating the Bible and in advan- 


ring the Reformation ; John Rogers, the editor of 
Matthew's Bible of 1537, was the first martyr under 
the persecution of Mary ; the Geneva version was 
made by exiles from England during the same perse- 
cution, men who belonged to a party for whom the re- 
ligion of their special sect was the one dominant rule 
of life; and the version of 1G11 was made at the 
beginning of James's reign amidst all the intensity 
of feeling aroused by the Gunpowder Plot and the 
attempts of the Roman Catholics on the one hand 
to reestablish themselves, and of the Puritans on the 
other to assert the domination of their peculiar doc- 
trines. Throughout the three generations in which 
the Authorised Version was growing to completion 
religious belief was a matter of life and death. And 
through a large part of that period men wore suffer- 
ing death and torture even in England for beliefs 
which ultimately rested on the language of the Bible. 
This intensity of feeling is reflected in the vigorous 
rhythm and strong coloring of our English Bible. 
The weakness of all modern translations, in spite of 
their many advantages in the way of scholarship, is 
that they lack this intensity of feeling which is the life 
of the Authorised Version. Men in our piping times 
of peace cannot have, and therefore cannot impart, 
the same burning earnestness which belonged to all 
matters of religion in the sixteenth century. 




Going now beyond the qualities of sixteenth cen- 
tury English, we can ascribe much of the striking 
picturesqueness of phrase which especially in the Old 
Testament and in the first three gospels gives the lan- 
guage its vividness to the characteristic concreteness 
of the Hebrew language. We have seen that in He- 
brew every word retains the physical connotation of 
the original, so that their language had no such ab- 
stract words as principle, relation, contents, explicit, 
from which the force of the original figure of speech 
is wholly evaporated. In consequence Hebrew is a 
language full of bold figures. The margin of the 
Authorised Version preserves a few examples of fig- 
ures which the translators thought too bold for the 
text. In Genesis xxxvii. 36 the literal rendering for 
captain of the guard is given in the margin as the 
chief of the slaughter-men. In Judges xix. S the 
margin gives till the day declined, for until afternoon ; 
and in verse 9 for the day groweth to an end, it is the 
pitching time of day; in other places wringer for 
extortioner; treaders down for oppressors; the fields 
of desire for the pleasant fields; with one shoulder 
for with one consent. These are only a few extreme 
examples of the boldness of figure which has given 
many familiar phrases to our everyday language: 


the fat of the land, the valley of the shadow of death, 
the end of all flesh, seed of evildoers, a soft answer, 
son of perdition, all are examples of the necessary 
and characteristic figurativeness of the Hebrew lan- 
guage. It is hard to estimate the influence of such 
figures on our everyday English speech, but there can 
be no doubt that it has helped to keep alive a certain 
picturesqueness and vividness of phrase which one 
finds in the great masters of English style. 

This picturesqueness of the Hebrew fitted in well 
with constant figurativeness of English in the six- 
teenth century of which I have just spoken. In the 
short passage from the address of the Translators to 
the Reader which I quoted a few pages back there are 
such picturesque phrases as neither did we run over 
the work with that posting haste, the work hath not 
been huddled up in seventy two days, bring back to 
the anvil that which we had hammered; and the whole 
address is marked by this simple quaintness of style. 
One must take into account that the author of this ad- 
dress had grown up in the days of euphuism and must 
remember also that deliberate picturesqueness of lan- 
guage which characterised Thomas Fuller in the next 
generation; but apart from any such external influ- 
ences making for picturesqueness, we must recognise 
also that the English language of the sixteenth century 
had more figures of speech and fewer abstract words 


than our language of to-day. In this respect also it 
was considerably nearer to the Hebrew. 

This natural picturesqueness of language which 
goes back to the special characteristics of the Hebrew 
and of sixteenth century English, is undoubtedly 
somewhat heightened for us by the fact that in some 
small degree the language of the Authorised Version 
is now archaic. Apart from such forms as saith 
and prayeth there are a good many words which, 
though still entirely intelligible, are no longer used in 
the way that they were used three centuries ago. 
Meat no longer means food ; we no longer use naughty 
in the sense of Jeremiah xxiv. 2, " the other basket 
had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they 
were so bad " ; prevent no longer means to go before 
nor expect merely waiting ; wist for knew has passed 
out of usage ; and many other forms to a less degree 
have dropped out of current speech. Very few of 
these words are actually unintelligible, but the forms 
are unfamiliar enough to add a certain coloring of 
quaintness and remoteness to the language of the 
Bible, so that it stands apart from all other works 
which are current with us to-day by this difference 
in the character of its vocabulary. Part of its lit- 
erary character is undoubtedly to be ascribed to this 
slight flavor of another world which clings to its 


It should always be remembered, however, that the 
concreteness and figurative character of the Bible 
vocabulary have contributed to maintain the appeal 
of the Bible not because of their picturesqueness but 
because such a mode of expression is the only way in 
which many of the deepest and noblest emotions can 
be expressed. I have explained at length in the chap- 
ter on the poetry how inseparably the expression of 
the emotions depends on concreteness of phrasing. It 
is a chief source of strength in our Authorised Ver- 
sion that it has carried over into the English the con- 
creteness of this unfailingly apt imagery and its 
power to express spiritual truths. The book deals 
with truths which lie in a region deeper and more uni- 
versal than can be fathomed by human reason, and 
which can be expressed only by expressing the sensa- 
tions which stir up such emotions; and the fact that 
the sixteenth century English was comparatively so 
much poorer in words of abstraction, and therefore 
comparatively so much richer in words which directly 
expressed emotion, made that period the fittest time 
for the translation. 

Along with this unfailing concreteness and figura- 
tive character of the language goes its entire simplic- 
ity: of all the books in the language it is the one 
which can be read with profit and comfort by people 
of all degrees of intelligence and education. The 


original books, being written either in the Hebrew 
language which had no expression for anything but 
objective facts, or else in Greek which was addressed 
to a church where the learned were a small minor- 
ity, were simple in vocabulary and expression. Tin- 
dale, taking his inspiration probably from Colet 
and Erasmus, maintained this simplicity in his own 
translation and established it as a principle for his 
successors. The Bible was translated with the pur- 
pose of bringing the gospel back to the plain people 
of England. This principle, joined to the fact that 
the English of the sixteenth century had not yet been 
enriched by the great mass of learned words from 
the Latin, has made the vocabulary of the English 
Bible very different from the ordinary vocabulary 
of our own day. A concordance shows in a very 
striking way how little need the translators of the 
Bible had for the Latinate words. Among words 
which appear only once in the Bible are such com- 
mon words as the following: amiable, commodi- 
ous, conquer, constraint, debase, discipline, disgrace, 
enable, intelligence, modest, quantity, reformation, 
severity, transferred. All these words, and they are 
a small part of the complete list, are among the most 
familiar in our everyday vocabulary. 

It is probable that this principle of keeping ink- 
horn terms out of the Bible was strengthened by the 


contention of the Roman Catholic Church, as de- 
clared by the Council of Trent, that the Vulgate was 
the only authentic text of the Scriptures, and the 
complementary principle that the Scriptures could be 
understood only by the initiate. This principle is 
set forth in the preface to the Rhemish Xew Testa- 
ment in the following words : " Whereupon, the order 
which many a wise man wished for before, was taken 
by the deputies of the late famous Council of Trent 
in this behalf, and confirmed by supreme authority, 
that the Holy Scriptures, though truly and catholicly 
translated into the vulgar tongues, yet may not be in- 
differently read of all men, nor any other exeept such 
as have the express license thereunto of their lawful 
ordinaries, with good testimony from their curates or 
confessors, that they be humble, discreet and devout 
persons, and like to take much good, and no harm 
thereby." We have seen that the revisers of 1611 
were deeply affected by the efforts of the Roman 
Catholic Church to recover England to the old faith, 
and it seems clear from the address of the Trans- 
lators to the Readers in the Authorised Version that 
these revisers somewhat overestimated the impor- 
tance of the Roman Catholic efforts. Men who are 
much given to finding reasons for their actions are 
apt to lag behind events. But in their reaction 
from this principle of the old church they were 


strengthened in their intention to keep the Scriptures 
in a language which could be understood by all men. 
Though there is a slightly greater infusion of Latin- 
ate and learned words in the Authorised Version 
than in any previous version except the Rhemish 
New Testament, yet it is to be remembered that since 
the time of Tindale there had been three-quarters of 
a century of animated and widespread theological 
discussion, so that some of the Latinate words which 
would have been unfamiliar to the men of his day 
would have been generally known in the time of King 

A comparison of the Bible with almost any other 
work in the English language will bring out this pre- 
vailingly simple character of its vocabulary. Since 
the concrete things of sensation in which it is so 
largely phrased are generally expressed in English 
by words derived ultimately from the Anglo-Saxon, 
the language of the Bible is far less Latinate than 
any other work in English. Even Pilgrim's Prog- 
ress seems learned in its vocabulary by the side of 
the Bible. The influence of this fact in keeping the 
general style of English simple cannot be overesti- 
mated. The fashion of style which we generally 
think of as Johnsonian is far removed from the vo- 
cabulary of the English Bible, but this very remote- 
ness marks its weakness and made certain the reac- 


tion which was sure to come to a simpler mode of 
speech ; and the ideals of style of the nineteenth cen- 
tury stand much nearer to the standard set by the 
Bible than did those of the eighteenth century. 

Yet in spite of this comparative narrowness in the 
range of its vocabulary, the aptness and flexibility 
of the style are extraordinary. The revisers of 1611 
had a very great stock of readings from which to 
draw, not only in English but in Latin, German, 
French, and even in Italian and Spanish. Tindale 
had set the example of using what aids existed in 
his time: he drew with independence and instinctive 
sense of style from the Latin of the Vulgate, the 
Latin of Erasmus, and the German of Luther; and 
we have seen how faithfully later translators and re- 
visers followed his example. Every familiar phrase 
in the Bible can be traced to its source, sometimes in 
the inspired instinct of one or another of these Eng- 
lish translators or revisers, sometimes in one of the 
foreign translations which they used. In Isaiah 
liii. '>, the chastisement of our peace comes directly 
from the castigatio pads nostra? of Miinster's Latin 
translation : the curious rendering in Job xix. 26, and 
though after my skin worms destroy this body goes 
back to the et post pellem meam contritam vermes 
coniriveruni hane camem of Pagninus; and we have 
seen how freely the valuable results of the Rhemish 


Version were appropriated. A study of the constant 
little changes in the choice and order of words all 
through the versions of the sixteenth century makes 
one realise what an immense amount of devoted 
scholarship, and of weighing words and phrases with 
a delicate ear for their full expressiveness went into 
the making of our English Bible. Every chapter of 
it witnesses to the long and anxious care for both ac- 
curacy and expressiveness of rendering. 

With this free use of the labors of this great com- 
pany of translators, whether English or foreign, the 
English translation shows extraordinary resource in 
dealing with the idioms of the original literature, es- 
pecially of the Hebrew. The best example of this 
swift instinct for finding an English idiom which 
would come nearest to some wholly foreign one is 
shown in their rendering of a characteristic Hebrew 
construction. One mode of expressing emphasis in 
Hebrew is to repeat the infinitive of the verb with 
some finite form, as if we should say in English 
" to see I saw." This construction, which may be 
used with any verb, is rendered in the Authorised 
Version in the greatest variety of ways : We saw cer- 
tainly that the Lord was with thee; I have surely 
seen; Ye shall not surely die; that my grief were 
throughly weighed; If thou altogether holdest thy 
peace; The earth shall reel to and fro; He shall 


mightily roar; I do earnestly remember. In Isaiah 
xxiv. 19 the translators find three different English 
idioms for this construction: The earth is utterly 
broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth 
is moved exceedingly. In each of these cases, it will 
be remembered, the Hebrew is merely a repetition of 
the break or dissolve or move in the infinitive with 
the finite form of the verb. Another Hebrew idiom 
is the repetition of a noun or a numeral. Here again 
they find excellent English renderings. Two-two in 
the story of Noah is rendered by two and two ; in the 
description of the cherubim six icings six wings is ren- 
dered each had six wings. A heart and a heart is 
rendered a double heart; peace peace is rendered per- 
fect peace. In the story of the solemn anointing of 
Saul by Samuel, where the people shouted according 
to the Hebrew, Let the king live, our Bible boldly 
substituted the English cry, God save the king. In 
Ezekiel xxx. 2, where the literal translation would 
be, Howl ye, woe to the day, it translates Howl ye, 
woe worfli the day. The phrase God forbid, which 
is so familiar in St. Paul's epistles, especially in 
Romans, is a rendering of a Greek construction 
which means literally may it not be. In the Old 
Testament God forbid is used for a word which 
means originally unconsecrated or profane or abhor- 
rent ; the Septuagint uses for it the same Greek 


phrase which is translated in the New Testament 
God forbid. The rendering of this Hebrew word in 
the English appears in various forms ; in the story of 
Joseph's brethren, it is God forbid that thy servants 
should do according to this thing. Where Abra- 
ham expostulates with the Lord against the destruc- 
tion of Sodom, it is That be far from thee to do 
after this manner. Where David spares Saul, it is 
The Lord forbid that I should do this thing unto 
my master. This comparative freedom from scruples 
about a literal and uniform rendering of the words 
of the original unquestionably made it possible for 
the translation to have a spirit and vigor impossible 
to scholars who are oppressed by a greater burden 
of learning. The chief principle of all translators 
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries seems to 
have been to produce in lively and vigorous Eng- 
lish the spirit of the original language. In some 
cases the literalness of their rendering suffered; but 
they produced translations which are independent 
contributions to literature, where modern translators 
give us works which are at best an imperfect means 
of getting at the meanings of the originals. 

An even deeper source of power than this aptness 
in fitting the English idiom to that of the Hebrew or 
the Greek and giving a new and richer life to the 
rendering is the strong rhythm and the rich music 


of the style, of which I have already spoken so often. 
In the case of the Old Testament the rhythm may 
be largely ascribed to the character of the Hebrew 
language. We have seen that in poetry the principle 
of parallelism established a strongly marked balance : 
in the case of the prose the balance is nearly as per- 
vasive from the fact that sentences in Hebrew varied 
little in length; except in Deuteronomy they rarely 
go beyond a single clause, and in the narrative they 
are constantly of about the same length. Indeed, if 
they were printed in broken lines, as is the poetry in 
the Revised Version, the effect would be not far from 
the same. As a result of this regularity of balance 
the rhythm of the narrative passages is almost as 
strong as that of the poetry. Thus especially in the 
case of the Old Testament and of the Synoptic Gos- 
pels almost any translation would be more rhythmical 
than ordinary English prose of to-day. Another 
cause, as we have seen, reinforced this probability of 
a strong rhythm and gave it vitality. In part at any 
rate it reflects and expresses the intensity of feeling 
which accompanied all questions of religion in six- 
teenth century England. All through the period 
which saw the formation of our English Bible feel- 
ings on the subject of the lawfulness and the necessity 
of a translation were at fever heat. Adherence to 
one side or the other might be a matter of life or 


death. Nowadays scholars work at their translations 
in quiet and peace, walled in by their great apparatus 
of scholarship from the concerns of the world about 
them : in those days men undertook to prove the law- 
fulness and righteousness of the government of Eng- 
land by the quotation of texts of Scripture. Thus es- 
pecially to men of the Puritan way of thinking the 
turn of every phrase in the Bible was a matter not 
only of the larger doctrines of the faith but also 
of immediate concern in this world's affairs. To 
some degree at any rate this earnestness wrought it- 
self into the texture of our English Bible, expressing 
itself, as such feelings must, largely in a quickened 
and richer sound. 


Before coming to an end, let us consider very 
briefly the character and place of the Bible in the 
great body of English literature and its contribution 
to that literature. Here again we must assume the 
fact of inspiration without attempting to define it or 
to draw a line between what is called literary in- 
spiration and the higher and deeper inspiration which 
creates a religion. There can be no question that the 
two run into each other, and also that both are active 
in a region of the nature of man where there is little 
probability that he will ever have any accurate knowl- 


edge. We are driven by the existence of literature no 
less than by the existence of religion to acknowledge 
that there are forces inscrutable to us in our present 
state of knowledge which are instructive, potent, and 
constant in their influence on human life and action. 
When we have said that there are certain forms of 
speech and of writing which move men's imaginations 
and stir their souls, we have expressed the fact of in- 
spiration and have gone nearly as far as it is possible 
to go in analyzing it. 

Xow there can be no doubt that above all other 
books in English the Bible has this power of stirring 
the imagination and moving the soul. Moreover, it 
has this power almost apart from religious belief: 
men who belong to no church, and who profess no 
religious belief, go to it with the same certainty of 
being stimulated and uplifted as do members of 
Christian churches ; and it is not the disagreement of 
the churches as to its meaning which has led them to 
less dependence on its teachings. The power of the 
book to stir the imagination to a sense of realitirs 
which are on a higher plane than the affairs of every- 
day life is not limited to its use as a source of relig- 
ious belief. 

Yet this most native of all books is by origin 
wholly foreign, and in the case of the Old Testament 
it is as foreign as anything can be. The stories of 


Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers were first gathered at 
the little local shrines of Palestine at a time when 
the children of Israel were just shedding their wild 
nomadic habits; and the stories of Judges with the 
glimpses they give us of bloody raids and tribal 
feuds, — Gideon " teaching " the men of Succoth 
with thorns of the wilderness and briars and with his 
own hand slaying Zebah and Zalmunna, the lawless 
foray of Dan, the sacrifice of Jephthah, — show how 
little the settling down tamed their wild and bloody 
temper. Even the histories of Kings, — of David 
hewing out his kingdom with the help of the bloody 
Joab, of Solomon putting his brother Adonijah to 
the sword, or of the remorseless extirpation of the 
worshippers of Baal by Jehu under the direction of 
the prophet Elisha, — all such stories reflect a state 
of civilisation which we look on as wholly Asiatic. 
Even in the case of the New Testament the surround- 
ings were not much less foreign. The Synoptic 
Gospels and Revelation sprang from a life which 
had not much more than a veneer of Roman civilisa- 
tion. The first disciples were Syrian peasants and 
fishermen, of a people whose descendants to-day seem 
almost unassimilable to us. St. Paul was a man of 
education, but of an education which probably had 
little tincture of the Greek and Latin. 

After all, however, one can feel the foreignness of 


the Bible best by putting it alongside other works of 
English literature, and noting how in almost every 
way, it seems to contrast with them. Milton has used 
the story of Samson in his Samson Agonistes, treat- 
ing it in the manner of a Greek tragedy. But Sam- 
son Agonistes beside the original story seems like a 
stage-play : for all Milton's grim austerity and ear- 
nestness his poem is artificial. Samson becomes an 
introspective, seventeenth century Puritan, instead of 
the hearty, inconstant giant who in the ancient cycle 
of stories played his rough jokes on the Philistines. 
Here is the way Milton conceives him: 

Unwillingly this rest 
Their superstition yields me; hence with leave 
Retiring from the popular noise, I seek 
This unfrequented place to find some ease; 
Ease to the body some, none to the mind 
From restless thoughts, that, like a deadly swarm 
Of hornets arm'd, no sooner found alone 
But rush upon me thronging, and present 
Times past, what once I was, and what am now. 

But what is strength without a double share 

Of wisdom? vast, unwieldly, burdensome, 

Proudly secure, yet liable to fall 

By weakest subtleties; not made to rule, 

But to subserve where wisdom beais coinmand. 

God, when he gave me strength, to show withal 

How slight the gift was, hung it in my hair. 



Even apart from the frank anachronism of the char- 
acterising, and the substitution of Milton himself for 
Samson, the whole conception seems almost sophisti- 
cated beside the simple directness of the Old Testa- 
ment. Milton, the man of our own race, must imag- 
ine motives and thoughts and feelings in an elaborate 
structure between the events and the mind of the 
reader : the Israelite story-teller left the facts to speak 
for themselves, as they have for all the centuries 
since. The quiet self-confidence of this method makes 
modern story telling, even in the restrained mechan- 
ism of the Greek drama, seem to labor and strive for 

I have already in the chapter on the narrative 
used Browning's Saul for purposes of contrast. 
It is so good an example of almost everything 
that the Bible is not that I will venture to quote a 
few more lines from it in order to put them beside a 
passage from the climax of Job : 

See the king — I would help him but cannot, the 

wishes fall through, 
Could I wrestle to raise him from sorrow, grow 

poor to enrich, 
To fill up his life, starve my own out, I would — 

knowing which, 
I know that my service is perfect. — Oh, speak 

through me now! 


Would I suffer for him that I love? So wouldst 

thou— so wilt thou! 
So shall crown thee the topmost, ineffablest, 

uttermost crown — 
And thy love fill infinitude wholly, nor leave 

up nor down 
One spot for the creature to stand in! It is 

by no breath, 
Turn of eye, wave of hand, that salvation joins 

issue with death! 
As thy Love is discovered almighty, almighty 

be proved 
Thy power, that exists with and for it, of being 


After that read the following: 

Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, 
or loose the bands of Orion? 

Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? 
or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? 

Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? canst 
thou set the dominion thereof in the earth? 

Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that 
abundance of waters may cover thee? 

Canst thou send lightnings that they may go, 
and say unto thee, Here we are? 1 

Beside Browning's straining for superlatives and his 
dancing whirlwind of words the grave, austere re- 
straint of the East soars quietly to its portrayal of 

1 Job xxxviii. 31-35. 


omnipotence. There is no effort in the prophets or 
in Job or the Psalms. The expression of emotion is 
often violent and overwrought; yet it has always at 
the same time a certain repose which comes from the 
effect of reserve power, and from the sense that the 
poet is not struggling with forces which are too 
mighty for him. This combination of extreme and 
excited intensity of emotion with a general gravity 
and soberness of tone is peculiarly Oriental. 

Again, if one tries to imagine a play by Shakspere 
on a Biblical subject one will understand how en- 
tirely he belonged to the Renaissance, and how en- 
tirely the Renaissance was absorbed with the life of 
man and of this world. The mere fact that in such 
a play David and Solomon, or Jacob and Laban, 
would have appeared in a doublet and hose empha- 
sizes the great gulf between Shakspere and this 
ancient literature. His interest would have been in 
the characters of the play, in their humanity, in 
the tangled web of their fate, and in the tragedies 
wrought by their weaknesses and their conflicting de- 
sires. It is only in the most shadowy way that the 
great forces which dominate Job and the Psalms and 
St. Paul's epistles and Revelation come into his pages. 
And when one puts even his greatest plays beside 
these books of the Bible one finds the modern writing 
almost trivial and ephemeral beside the old. Much 


reading in the Bible will soon bring one to an under- 
standing of the mood in which all art seems a juggling 
with trifles, and an attempt to catch the unessential 
when the everlasting verities are slipping by. The 
silent, unhurrying rumination of the East makes our 
modern flood of literature seem garrulous and chatter- 
ing : even the great literature of the Greeks loses beside 
the compression and massiveness of the Old Testa- 
ment. It is this cool solidity of poise, this grave and 
weighty compression of speech, that makes the Old 
Testament literature so foreign. It has no pride of 
art, no interest in the subjective impressions of the 
writer, no care even for the preservation of his name. 
It is austerely preoccupied with the lasting and the 
real, and above all, unceasingly possessed with the 
sense of the immediate presence of a God who is 
omnipotent and inscrutable. This constant preoccu- 
pation with the eternal and the superhuman gives 
to this literature a sense of proportion which again 
separates it from other literature. Beside the will 
of the Almighty the joys and griefs and ambitions of 
any single writer are a vanity of vanities, a vexa- 
tion of spirit, or as the Hebrew is more closely trans- 
lated in the Revised Version, " a striving after wind." 
It is as if, in the words of the marginal reading of 
Ecclesiastes Hi, God had " set eternity in their 
heart" In our modern literature it is hardly pos- 


sible to find an author who has not some touch of the 
restless egotism that is the curse of the artistic tem- 
perament: in the Bible there is no author who was 
not free from it. 

In this art which is not art, then, in this absorp- 
tion with the solid facts of reality and the neglect of 
man's comment and interpretation, in the unswerv- 
ing instinct for the lasting, and the sense of the con- 
stant and immediate presence of an omnipotent God, 
the Bible stands apart in our literature. 

Yet on the other hand, the Bible is of all books 
the most thoroughly woven into the thought and 
language of English-speaking people. There is no 
other book of which it can be said that for many gen- 
erations all classes of the people were equally famil- 
iar with it. Moreover, this familiarity was at its 
greatest when the language was taking on its perma- 
nent forms : the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 
largely settled the character of the English tongue; 
and it was in those centuries that the Bible was the 
household book. To the simple and uneducated its 
messages and stories are as intelligible and as up- 
lifting as to the most highly educated; indeed it is 
only when cultivation luxuriates into sophistication 
and decadence that the Bible loses its hold on the im- 
agination. Bunyan and Ruskin, at the two extremes 
both in time and in position in life, show the univer- 


sal power of the book. Banyan, taking it in the ut- 
most literalness, found in every exigency of his self- 
torturings comfort or despair in the texts which 
flashed in on him. In the Grace Abounding I open 
at random, and find such passages as these: 

But when I had been long vexed with this fear, 
and was scarce able to take one step more, just 
about the place where I received my other en- 
couragement, these words broke in on my mind: 
"Compel them to come in, that my house may be 
filled; and yet there is room." (Luke xiv. 22, 23.) 

I should often also think on Nebuchadnezzar, 
of whom 'tis said, " He had given him all the king- 
doms of the earth." (Dan. v. 18, 19.) Yet, 
thought I, if this great man had all his portion in 
this world, one hour in hell-fire would make him 
forget all. Which consideration was a great help 
to me. 

How lovely now was every one in my eyes, that 
I thought to be converted men and women! They 
shone, they walked like a people that carried the 
broad seal of heaven about them. Oh! I saw 
the lot was fallen to them in pleasant places, and 
they had a goodly heritage. (Ps. xvi.) But that 
which made me sick was that of Christ, in Mark: 
"He went up into a mountain, and called unto 
him whom he would, and they came unto him." 
(Mark iii. 13.) 

This scripture made me faint and fear, yet it 
kindled fire in my soul. 



Pilgrim's Progress likewise can almost be resolved 
into a collection of texts from all over the Bible, put 
together to form the allegory. 

Buskin was almost as thoroughly saturated with 
the Bible; he gives us in the Preterita a list of the 
passages he learned by heart; and the allusions 
throughout his writings show how familiar the book 
was to him. These two men may stand as examples 
of what was true of all makers of English literature 
since the beginning of the seventeenth century, and 
of almost all speakers of the English language down 
to our own generation. Even to-day where you find 
a touch of the grand style in a piece of writing, you 
are almost sure to detect reminiscences of the Bible. 
Lincoln not only among Americans but among all 
English-speaking people of the nineteenth century 
is the man who most surely attained the great style, 
and we all know how naturally in his most solemn 
moments his style became infused with the phrases 
and the virtues of the English Bible. Here is a short 
passage from the Second Inaugural Address: 

The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe 
unto the world because of offenses! for it must 
needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man 
by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose 
that American slavery is one of those offenses 
which, in the providence of God, must needs come, 


but which, having continued through his appointed 
time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to 
both North and South this terrible war, as the 
woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall 
we discern therein any departure from those divine 
attributes which the believers in a living God al- 
ways ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope — fer- 
vently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of 
war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills 
that it continue until all the wealth piled by the 
bondman's two hundred and fifty years of un- 
requited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of 
blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another 
drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand 
years ago, so still it must be said, "The judgments 
of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." 

One can find no better example, and one needs none, 
of the certainty with which this Biblical style ex- 
presses the deepest and strongest feelings of men of 
our race. Much of the Bible, especially of the Old 
Testament, can be described as primitive in thought; 
but only if " primitive " be taken to mean that such 
writings go down to the common roots of all human 
nature, and are grounded in feelings and ideas which 
are the common heritage of all men, and which are 
therefore perennial and universal. Thus this Bibli- 
cal literature and this Biblical style in spite of their 
foreign origin are in a still deeper sense native, since 


their appeal reaches down below feelings and instincts 
which are peculiar to one age or to one country to 
those which belong to all. 


One does not need to say that the English Bible 
has had an enormous influence on the English lan- 
guage and literature. Not the least of its contribu- 
tions is the standard which it has set for all writing 
in English that has an ambition to belong to litera- 
ture. One can say that if any writing departs very 
far in any way from the characteristics of the Eng- 
lish Bible it is not good English writing. In style 
it has been an axiom long accepted without question 
that the ultimate standard of English prose is set by 
the style of the Bible. For examples of limpid, con- 
vincing narrative we go to Genesis, to the story of 
Ruth, to the quiet earnestness of the gospels; for 
the mingled argument and explanation and exhorta- 
tion in which lies the highest power of the other side 
of literature, we go to the prophets, and even more 
to the epistles of the New Testament; and for the 
glow of vehemence and feeling which burn away the 
limits between poetry and prose, and make pr «se 
style at its highest pitch able to stand beside the stir- 
ring vibrations of verse, we go to the Psalms or to 


Job, or to the prophecies of Isaiah, or the triumphant 
declaration of immortality in 1 Corinthians. If the 
whole range of English prose style were figured in 
the form of an arch, the style of the Bible would 
be the keystone ; and it would be there not only be- 
cause it is the highest point and culmination of prose 
writing, but also because it binds the whole structure 
together. On the one side would be the writing that 
tends more and more to the colloquial, which, begin- 
ning with such finished and exquisite talk as Dryden 
crystallised in his writings, runs off into the slack 
and hasty style of journalism ; on the other side, such 
more splendidly and artfully colored prose as Sir 
Thomas Browne's or the ponderous weight of Dr. 
Johnson, that degenerate in the hands of lesser men 
into preciosity or pedantry. To bring the two sides 
into bearing on each other, we have the common 
standard ; and the further any writing on either side 
falls away from that standard, the less it will have of 
the typical excellence of the national style 

In general. I suppose that in thua Betting the Eng- 
lish Bible as the measure of English prose style, one 
would name as the general qualities of that style sim- 
plicity and earnestness. In defining French prose 
e, one would think first, perhaps, of lucidity, 
:i<]ded to keenness and subtlety; in defining German 
pr i*e style, rather of thoroughness and the capacity 


for carrying strangely complicated burdens of 
thought; but in the case of English prose, since we 
have had neither an academy nor a cloistered body 
of learned men for whom books have been chiefly 
written, if there is to be a standard which shall be 
a common measure for Dryden, Swift, Goldsmith, 
and Burke, or in our own period for Macaulay, New- 
man, Ruskin, Thackeray, and Lincoln, we must find 
for that common measure a style which will be read 
by all classes of men, and which will carry the weight 
of high and earnest ideas. In France there is a gulf 
between literature and the peasants whom Millet 
painted; in England, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, 
one of the monuments of the literature, was the work 
of a tinker; and one might recall, too, Stevenson's 
story of the Welsh blacksmith who learned to read 
in order to add Robinson Crusoe to his possibilities 
of experience. It is a striking fact that, as the gen- 
erations pass by, the books which are still regularly 
and constantly reprinted are those like Robinson 
Crusoe and Gulliver s Travels and The Pilgrim's 
Progress, which appeal not only to a highly educated 
upper class, but to the moderately educated middle 
and lower classes : in literature, as in everything else 
in England and America, the final appeal is to the 
broad democracy. In the second place, it is notable 
that the books which do survive, at any rate in the 


case of prose, — for in the case of poetry final causes 
are deeper and more complex, — are almost all written 
by men with a purpose, men who have a mission to 
make the world better. There is something in the 
genius of the people which brings the language to its 
noblest heights when it carries a message that is to 
lift the people above themselves ; and something in 
the genius of the language which makes it inevitable 
that when the language reaches these high points it 
shall show most strongly these two qualities of sim- 
plicity and earnestness. 

With these qualities the style of the Bible is also 
notable for directness of statement, which gives to 
the style an unsurpassed power of carrying its read- 
ers with it; the books of the Bible are set forth as 
statements of facts, never a9 an apology or justifi- 
cation of the facts ; and the effect of this confidence is 
to give to the Bible a virility and robustness which 
in themselves make it a worthy model of a great 
national style. The constant use of figurative lan- 
guage to expound hard doctrines, too, as in the dis- 
cussion of faith in Hebrews, or in the first verses of 
St. John, explains the power that the Bible has had 
to speak to all generations, and to set each generation 
puzzling out for itself an interpretation in abstrac- 
tions which inevitably pass with the particular stage 
of knowledge and thought for which they were made. 


The mere fact that the words are Anglo-Saxon, rather 
than French or Latin, means nothing; the signifi- 
cance lies in the fact that Anglo-Saxon words still 
stand for the concrete, tangible objects of life, and 
that our words of theorising and abstraction we have 
drawn from the Latin; it is the difference between 
such phrases as " this is my body which is given for 
you " of the gospel, and " not only in quality of ex- 
ternal signs and sacramental representations, but in 
their essential properties and substantial reality " of 
the theologians. In the Bible, the way in which the 
words carry to all men, whether learned or ignorant, 
the same sense of reality, of the actual things of life, 
depends on the fact that they are words of the sim- 
plest kind, naming the things which are the stuff of 
everyday experience. Their simplicity not only 
makes them sure of being understood by all men, but 
also of meaning always the same things to all men. 
With this simplicity of language goes always the dig- 
nity of the style : whether it be in the domestic details 
of Jacob's family life, or in the love of David for his 
son Absalom, or in the world-sweeping imagery of 
Job or of Isaiah, there is the same unstudied, un- 
forced heightening of the substance by the form. 
At times, as in the prophets or in St. Paul's epistles, 
the style has a fire and a vehemence which leave no 
line between prose and poetry; but even in the nar- 


rative the earnestness and glowing faith of the 
writers and translators, needing a stronger medium 
than the subdued rhythm of ordinary prose, have 
produced an intenser vibration which brings the style 
near to the stronger and more rapid movement of 

Such, then, we may consider the general char- 
acteristics of the style of the Bible. Obviously such 
a style can be, for ordinary writers with ordinary 
purposes, only a standard: it is not often that there 
arises a man like Lincoln who has the weight of char- 
acter and the sustained enthusiasm or a subject of 
the grave and dominant interest that such a style de- 
mands. To go back to the figure, the style of the 
Bible is at the apex of the arch, the most necessary, 
yet, as the highest, a unique example of English 
prose. Nevertheless, though the days of the apostles, 
as of the giants, have passed by, yet the standard re- 
mains; and directness of statement, lasting power of 
convincing, simplicity of words, earnestness and dig- 
nity, and a moving rhythm have been the qualities of 
every prose style which has become classical in Eng- 
lish literature. 

Furthermore, since style, when it approaches any 
adequacy of expression, reflects the character of its 
substance, one can say that in substance also the 
Bible is in a sense the norm and standard of our 


English literature. Leaving out of consideration 
Shakspere, whom it is so hard to bring into any gen- 
eralisation, one may roughly say that the spirit of 
English literature at its best is prophetic, that the 
essential characteristics of the books which are the 
record of the thoughts and feelings of the English 
race are virility, directness, unconsciousness, prepos- 
session with the higher sides of life, and a noble and 
uplifting purpose. Spenser's Faerie Queene is a 
glorification of purity and the virtues of chivalry; 
Addison aimed to reform the licentious manners of 
his day; the one constant motive of Swift's morbid 
genius was to castigate the vices and follies of men; 
and Dr. Johnson, the stoutest Englishman of them 
all, was a conscious force for righteousness. The 
nineteenth century opened with the aspiring dreams 
of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley ; and its great 
prose writers, Thackeray, Dickens, Carlyle, Emerson, 
and the rest, were all consciously preachers. The 
ideal of art merely for the sake of beauty has never 
taken a deep hold on the men of our race. Keats, 
who above all English poets revelled in sheer beauty 
and sensuousness of form, is commonly and naturally 
thought of as a poet's poet. It remains true, there- 
fore, in a broad way with the substance of English 
literature as with the style, that the English Bible 
stands as the norm about which all the rest can be 


arranged and as the standard by which it is not un- 
reasonable to estimate it. 

Certainly an intimate acquaintance with the Eng- 
lish Bible is the best possible preparation for a study 
of English literature, or for the matter of that, of any 
literature. A chief difficulty in coming to any abso- 
lute and permanent judgment in such matters is the 
variety and the instability of taste. Few of the per- 
sons who own sets of Shakspere read much in his 
plays; for the character of his speech is far enough 
away from us to make it for most people something of 
an effort to acquire the taste for reading him. The 
fashions of the eighteenth century, moulded by Dry- 
den and ossified by the followers of Dr. Johnson, are 
a weariness of the flesh to most readers to-day; and 
the only thing certain about our current literature is 
that much of its conscious simplicity and naturalness 
of expression will seem slipshod to the people of two 
or three generations from now, when the pendulum 
shall have swung back to other tendencies. Yet in all 
this incessant change of tastes and fashions the Bible 
holds its own. Indeed men were more familiar with 
it in the days of the Johnsonian supremacy, when all 
standards of style were almost diametrically opposed 
to it, than they are to-day. Men of all classes and all 
degrees of education have found equal delight in its 
stories and its teachings, from John Bunyan, the 


tinker, and the peasant father of Robert Burns to 
Scott and Browning and even the supercilious genius 
of Matthew Arnold.; and to-day, when it is so little 
read even by church-going people, one can be certain 
of one thing, and that is that its effect will be in no 
way limited by station or education. Here, then, is 
a work which it seems safe to say is of something 
like universal appeal to men of our race, a book 
which one may therefore look on as touching the soul 
of the race as a whole. For this reason, therefore, 
if for no other, one must hope to see the study of 
the Bible begin to take a place in the study of Eng- 
lish literature. 


The following books will prove useful to persons 
who desire further knowledge of the problems dis- 
cussed and the results attained by the Higher Criti- 
cism through a historical study of both the Old and 
the Xew Testament, or of the history of the English 
Bible. The copious references which they contain 
will lead a student as far as he cares to go. I have se- 
lected for mention books which are moderate in tone, 
cautious in judgment, and copious in their statement 
of evidence. 

For a general introduction to the Higher Criticism 
of the Old Testament: W. Robertson Smith, The 
Old Testament in the Jewish Church, 2d edition, 

For the background of the Xew Testament: A. C. 
McGiffert, A History of Christianity in the Apos- 
tolic Age, Revised edition, 1900. 

For the Old Testament: S. R. Driver, An Introduc- 
tion to the Literature of the Old Testament, 8th 

edition, 1898. 



For the New Testament: Part II of A Biblical In- 
troduction, by Bennett and Adeney, 2d edition, 

For the English Bible: B. F. Westcott, A General 
View of the History of the English Bible, 3d 
edition (W. A. Wright), 1905; and R. Lovett, 
The Printed English Bible, in Present Day 
Primers, n.d. 

For general reference Hastings' Dictionary of the 


Abstract words in New Testa- 
ment, 181. 

Acts, rhetorical style in, 72. 

Alphabetic poems, 99. 

Amalgamation of the sources 
of the Bible, 9, 309. 

Amos, 18,219,246. 

Apocalypses, a development 
from the prophecy, 250; the 
visions of, 257 ; originated in 
persecutions, 2G4; their im- 
agery immaterial, 270. 

Authorised Version is the Bible 
in English literature, 283; 
the origin of, 344; the prin- 
ciples followed by the trans- 
lators, 347; the simplicity of 
its vocabulary, 368; the skill 
showed by the translators, 
352, 372; the rhythm of, 

Bible, the unity of the, 1; in 
English literature, 376; the 
foreignness of, 8, 377; woven 
into English language and 
literature, 384. 

Bishops' Bible, the, 339. 

Browning's Saul, 82, 380. 

Banyan's Pilgrim's Progress, 
75; Grace Abounding, 385. 

Canon, the growth of, 284. 
Canticles oi St. Luke, 106. 
Colet, John, 312. 
Coverdale, his version, 328. 

Daniel, the declaration of im- 
mortality in, 30, 266; the 
visions of, 258, 267. 

Deuteronomy, the reforms of, 
21; the influence of on the 
literature, 23,62; the teach- 
ing of, 27. 

Diversity of the sources of the 
Bible, 6. 

Ecclesiastes, the general char- 
acter of, 143; the personal 
note in, 144; its failure to 
solve the problem of retribu- 
tion, 153. 

Emotion, the expression of, 
115, 121. 

English language in the six- 
teenth century, 357. 

English literature, the spirit of, 




Epistles show abstract reason- 
ing, 177. 

Erasmus, his edition of the 
Greek New Testament, 312. 

2 Esdras, the visions in, 258; 
the background of suffering 
in, 264. 

Ezekiel, his influence on the 
priestly writing, 53; the 
prophecies of, 235; the 
allegorical visions of, 260. 

Genevan Bible, the, 336. 
Great Bible, the, 334. 

Hebrew language, its simplic- 
ity of structure, 68; the 
concreteness of its vocabu- 
lary, 113. 

Historical background of the 
Bible, 12. 

Hosea, 245. 

Jerome, 296. 

Jesus, the literary form of His 
teachings, 171. 

Jews, the late history of, 23. 

Job, a series of poems, 101 ; the 
origin and date of, 127; the 
incoherence of, 145, 157; 
based on the doctrine of re- 
tribution, 147; its solution 
of the problem of retribution, 

Job, a figure for suffering Israel, 

John, connected in structure, 

Judah, the overthrow of, 21. 

Lamentations, 99. 
Lamentation measure, 106, 109. 
Lincoln, Abraham, 386. 
Literature, normal develop- 
ment of, 216. 

Isaiah, the teaching of, 19; the 
prophecies of, 223. 

Isaiah xxiv-xxvii, 253. 

Isaiah of the Exile, the teach- 
ing of, 28; the prophecies 
of, 239. 

Israel, the early history of, 
14; the early religion of, 17. 

James, William, on the nature 
of reasoning, 160; The Vari- 
ties of Religious Experience, 
204, 277. 

Jeremiah, the prophecies of, 

Martin, Gregory, the chiei 
worker in the Rhemish Testa- 
ment, 340. 

Matthew's Bible, 333. 

Micah, 245. 

Milton, sonnet On the Late 
Massacre in Piemont, 100; 
Samson Agonisles, 379. 

Mysticism, the nature of, 199; 
reasoning through the emo- 
tions, 204. 

Narrative, the general attri- 
butes of, 34; three types of, 
in Old Testament, 36; their 



origin, 51 ; the early, 42; the 
priestly, 44; the Deutcro- 
nomic, 48; explanatory pas- 
sages in, 59; in the gospels, 
76; the lasting power of, B6. 

New Testament, the origin of 
as a collection, 288. 

North Israel, the destruction 
of, 17. 

Old Testament, the origin of 
as a collection, 285. 

Paul, St., his reasoning in part 
rabbinical, 188; his moral 
teachings, 192; his reasoning 
figurative, 193; and in part 
mystical, 198. 

Picturesqueness of bibical lan- 
guage, 364. 

Poems, alphabetic, 99. 

Poetry, only a portion extant, 
89; early and late, 91; the 
principles of its structure, 
107; its form in the Eng- 
lish, 109 ; never represent- 
ative, 129. 

Prophecy poetical in form, 
104, 209; the foreignness of, 
209; the most typical pari 
of Hebrew Literature, 213; 
the chronological develop- 
ment of, 214. 

Prophet, the position and char- 
acter of, 210; the mouth- 
piece of Jehovah, 245. 

Proverbs, poetical in form, 102; 
the contents of, 138; the 

date of, 110; the general 
character of, 141. 
Psalms, origin and date of, 

Reasoning, the nature of, 
160; the absence of in the 
Old Testament. 163; in the 
Epistles and John, 178, 185. 

Revelation, the visions in, 250; 
in form an apocalypse, 267; 
its imagery drawn from the 
Old Testament, 268; the sug- 
gestive power of, 273; the 
power of sound in, 27fi; its 
appeal to the religious emo- 
tions, 280. 

Ethemiah New Testament, the, 
340, 369. 

Shakspere, 110. 

Septuagint, the oripin and con- 
tent- of, 201 ; the influence 
of on the English Bible, 202. 

Sonrj of Solomon, 103. 

Style, the sensuous expressive- 
ness of , 361. 

Style, the Biblical, a standard 
in English, :<ss. 

ring Israel, the figure of in 
Job, Isaiah and the Pas/ins, 

Theolopy in the Epistles, 190. 
Theories of history, early pro- 

photic, 50; Deuten mist, 

82; priestly, 85. 
Tindale, William, the life of, 



315; the style of, 320; fixed 
the style of the English 
Bible, 324. 
Translation in the sixteenth 
century, 306. 

Vulgate, its influence on Eng- 
lish, 122, 294, 298, 308; its 
origin, 295; its likeness to the 
style of the English, 299; its 
musical qualities, 302. 

Wisdom books, poetical in 
form, 156; empirical in con- 
tents, 158; always emotion- 
al in character, 164; their 
permanent power, 168. 

Words, general and concrete, 

Wyclif's translation, 311. 

Zechariah, the visions of, 262.