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THE

LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE

AN ACCOUNT OF THE

LEADING FORMS OF LITERATURE REPRESENTED

IN THE SACRED WRITINGS

INTENDED FOR ENGLISH READERS

BY

RICHARD G. MOULTON, M.A. (CAMBR.), Ph.D. (PENNA.)

PROFESSOR OF LITERATURE IN ENGLISH IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

LATE UNIVERSITY EXTENSION LECTURER (CAMBRIDGE AND LONDON)

BOSTON, U.S.A.: D. C. HEATH & CO.
LONDON: ISBISTER & CO., LIMITED

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PREFACE

the poems

An author falls naturally into an apologetic tone if he is proposing to add yet one more to the number of books on the Bible. Yet I believe the number is few of those to whom the Bible appeals as literature. In part, no doubt, this is due to the fort' iding form in which we allow the Bible to be presented to us. Let the reader imagine the poems of Wordsworth, the plays of Shakespeare, the essays of Bacon, and the histories of Motley to be bound together in a single volume ; let him suppose the titles of

and essays cut out and the names of speakers and divisions of speeches removed, the whole divided up into sentences of a convenient length for parsing, and again into lessons containing a larger or smaller number of these sentences. If the reader can carry his imagination through these processes he will have before him a fair parallel to the literary form in which the Bible has come to the modern reader; it is true that the purpose for which it has been split into chapters and verses is something higher than instruction in parsing, but the injury to literary form remains the same.

Of course earnest students of Scripture get below the surface of isolated verses. Yet even in the case of deep students the literary element is in danger of being overpowered by other interests. The devout reader, following the Bible as the divine authority for his spiritual life, feels it a distraction to notice literary questions. And thereby he often impedes his own purpose : poring over a passage of Job to discover the message it has for him, and forgetting all the while the dramatic form of the book, as a result of which the speaker of the very passage he is studying is in the end

pronounced by God himself to have said the thing that is “not right.” Another has been led by his studies to cast off the authority of the Bible, and he will not look for literary pleasure to that which has for him associations with a yoke from which he has been delivered. A third approaches Scripture with equal reverence and scholarship. Yet even for him there is a danger at the present moment, when the very bulk of the discussion tends to crowd out the thing discussed, and but one person is willing to read the Bible for every ten who are ready to read about it.

Now for all these types of readers the literary study of the Bible is a common meeting-ground. One who recognises that God has been pleased to put his revelation of himself in the form of literature, must surely go on to see that literary form is a thing worthy of study. The agnostic will not deny that, if every particle of authority and supernatural character be taken from the Bible, it will remain one of the world's great literatures, second to none. And the most polemic of all investigators must admit that appreciation is the end, and polemics only the means.

The term literary study of the Bible' describes a wide field of which the present work attempts to cover only a limited part. In particular, the term will include the most prominent of all types of Bible study, that which is now universally called the * Higher Criticism. There is no longer any need to speak of the splendid processes of modern Biblical Criticism, nor of the magnitude even of its undisputed results. I mention the Higher Criticism only to say that its province is distinct from that which I lay down for myself in this book. The Higher Criticism is mainly an historical analysis; I confine myself to literary investigation. By the literary treatment I understand the discussion of what we have in the books of Scripture ; the historical analysis goes behind this to the further question how these books have reached their present form. I think the distinction of the two treatments is of considerable practical importance ; since the historical analysis must, in the nature of things, divide students into hostile camps,

while, as it appears to me, the literary appreciation of Scripture is a common ground upon which opposing schools may meet. The conservative thinker maintains that Deuteronomy is the personal composition of Moses; the opposite school regard the book as a pious fiction of the age of Josiah. But I do not see how either of these opinions, if true, or a third intermediate opinion, can possibly affect the question with which I desire to interest the reader, - namely, the structure of Deuteronomy as it stands, whoever may be responsible for that structure. And yet the structural analysis of our Deuteronomy, and the connection of its successive parts, are by no means clearly understood by the ordinary reader of the Bible.

The historical and the literary treatments are then distinct : yet sometimes they seem to clash. There are two points in particular as to which I find myself at variance with the accepted Higher Criticism. Historic analysis, investigating dates, sometimes finds itself obliged to discriminate between different parts of the same literary composition, and to assign to them different periods; haying accomplished this upon sound evidence, it then often proceeds, no longer upon evidence, but by tacit assumption, by unconscious insinuations rather than by distinct statement, to treat the earlier parts of such a composition as 'genuine' or 'original,' while the portions of later date are made interpolations,' or 'accretions,' – in fact, are alluded to as something illegitimate. Thus, in the case of Job, few will hesitate to accept the theory that there is an earlier nucleus (to speak roughly) in the dialogue, while the speeches of Elihu and the Divine Intervention have come from another source. But nearly all commentators who hold this view seem to treat these later portions as if they were on a lower literary plane, and sensitive is taste to external considerations — they soon find them in a literary sense inferior. This whole attitude of mind seems to me unscientific: it is the intrusion of the modern conception of a fixed book and an individual author into a totally different literary age. The phenomena of floating poetry, with community of authorship and the perpetual revision that goes with oral tradition, are not only accepted but insisted upon by biblical scholars. But

SO

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