Bible - Other Writings
( Originally Published 1906 )
In a similar way we must revise the traditional opinion of many of the other Old Testament books. Limits of space forbid a treatment of all these, and, indeed, allow only the briefest remarks concerning a few of them. The reader who cares to pursue his inquiries further may obtain instruction from some of the works already mentioned, and it is hoped that sufficient interest will have been awakened by this cursory chapter to prompt to such more extensive and particular study. The whole subject is engaging, enlightening, and wonderfully profitable.
1. Following the Hexateuch is the book of Judges, consisting of narratives that vividly depict the social conditions prevailing in Palestine between the Conquest and the days of Samuel. The work is believed to have been drawn from some of the same sources, oral and written, which entered into the earlier documents of the Hexateuch, and to have been compiled by an unknown writer shortly before or in the time of the Exile (650–55o B. C.). It contains later editorial additions, and gives a strongly religious interpretation of the history of the remote period which it covers.
2. The two books of Samuel (they were only one originally; the Septuagint divided them) take up the history of Israel where the Hexateuch leaves it, and carry forward the account nearly through the reign of David. They partake largely of the character of Judges, but are thought to have been composed somewhat earlier.
3. The two books of Kings, constituting a single work, like I and II Samuel, bring the history down to the Babylonian Captivity. They refer frequently to other writings not known to us, such as the Book of the Acts of Solomon, the Books of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel, and the Books of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah. The work is Deuteronomic in character, and was substantially completed before the end of the Exile, only a few portions being subsequently added. Like all the preceding works, it is composite in structure.
4. I and II Chronicles are a duplicate and inferior history, originally constituting, with Ezra and Nehemiah, a single work. It undertakes to cover the history from Adam to the end of Nehemiah's reign, is compiled of extracts from earlier documents, and is dominated by the priestly spirit. Dr. Driver dates all these writings not earlier than 332 B.C. Professor Toy dates them about 300; while Bennett and Adeney say 300-250.
5. The remaining portions of the Old Testament, especially the great Prophets, the Psalms, and Job, are altogether too important to be considered in a few pages; and this chapter is already long enough to have served its main purpose, which has been merely to afford a glimpse of the new view of the Old Testament resulting from modern scholarship. The salient features of this view which have been thus far presented may be taken as a hint of the changed aspects that the other books, just mentioned, may be expected to assume upon due study. The reader will learn that there were earlier and later prophets in Israel; that the prophetical writings, as they have come down to us, are more or less composite; that the Psalms are mostly late productions, originating in the period after the Exile, and are religious poems or hymns voicing the spiritual aspiration and struggle of the Jewish nation; that the Proverbs are collections of wise sayings, belonging to what is called the Wisdom Literature of Israel, and necessarily written by different authors at different times ; while Job is a sublime poem grappling. with the great problem of the suffering of the just man, and produced by some unknown writer, with probably later additions, shortly before the Exile, or possibly as late as 300 B. C.—it is impossible to determine the exact date of such a work. Each of these subjects, in itself, is a large and instructive topic, of profound interest and importance to one who really cares to know something of the history and character of this sacred, noble, inspiring literature. Happily, much information respecting each is now available, and those who have read this chapter to the present point are urged to go on with their study by consulting other works, more learned as well as more particular and complete.
It is to be remembered that many matters of detail are still unsettled, many problems are still unsolved. The analysis of the Hexateuch, as well as that of the other composite works, is by no means perfect or fully agreed upon by scholars, especially in its minute phases ; quite likely, such entire agreement may never be attained, and the precise dates of many portions of the Old Testament may never be absolutely fixed. But enough has been demonstrated beyond question, in the broader aspects of the case, to call for a reconstruction of the traditional conception both of Hebrew history and of the origin of the Hebrew Scriptures. As this reconstruction comes gradually to be wrought out, and shall at length become clear and familiar, first among university professors and ministers, then among Sunday-school teachers, and at last in the popular mind, it will be the means of a great education regarding the place which Israel has filled in the world, regarding the works and ways of Divine Providence among the nations, and regarding the peculiar excellences of those ancient writings which have served to convey to mankind the Word of Life, and which constitute so large a part of what we justly call our Holy Bible.
If, under this new view of the Old Testament, the individual writer of Scripture seems to be of less importance than hitherto, the importance of the nation increases ; so that the Old Testament, for almost any given book in it, becomes not merely the voice of a single soul, but rather the voice of a people, expressing its deep longing, its expanding life, its growing ethical and religious faith, and its intensifying devotion to the one living and true God, whose mighty providence is forever its refuge and strength.