This Introduction does not pretend to offer anything to specialists. It is written for theological students, ministers, and laymen, who desire to understand the modern attitude to the Old Testament as a whole, but who either do not have the time or the inclination to follow the details on which all thorough study of it must ultimately rest. These details are intricate, often perplexing, and all but innumerable, and the student is in danger of failing to see the wood for the trees. This Introduction, therefore, concentrates attention only on the more salient features of the discussion. No attempt has been made, for example, to relegate every verse in the Pentateuch[1] to its documentary source; but the method of attacking the Pentateuchal problem has been presented, and the larger documentary divisions indicated.
[Footnote 1: Pentateuch and Hexateuch are used in this volume to indicate the first five and the first six books of the Old Testament respectively, without reference to any critical theory. As the first five books form a natural division by themselves, and as their literary sources are continued not only into Joshua, but probably beyond it, it is as legitimate to speak of the Pentateuch as of the Hexateuch.]

It is obvious, therefore, that the discussions can in no case be exhaustive; such treatment can only be expected in commentaries to the individual books. While carefully considering all the more important alternatives, I have usually contented myself with presenting the conclusion which seemed to me most probable; and I have thought it better to discuss each case on its merits, without referring expressly and continually to the opinions of English and foreign scholars.

In order to bring the discussion within the range of those who have no special linguistic equipment, I have hardly ever cited Greek or Hebrew words, and never in the original alphabets. For a similar reason, the verses are numbered, not as in the Hebrew, but as in the English Bible. I have sought to make the discussion read continuously, without distracting the attention -- excepting very occasionally-by foot-notes or other devices.

Above all things, I have tried to be interesting. Critical discussions are too apt to divert those who pursue them from the absorbing human interest of the Old Testament. Its writers were men of like hopes and fears and passions with ourselves, and not the least important task of a sympathetic scholarship is to recover that humanity which speaks to us in so many portions and so many ways from the pages of the Old Testament. While we must never allow ourselves to forget that the Old Testament is a voice from the ancient and the Semitic world, not a few parts of it -- books, for example, like Job and Ecclesiastes -- are as modern as the book that was written yesterday.

But, first and last, the Old Testament is a religious book; and an Introduction to it should, in my opinion, introduce us not only to its literary problems, but to its religious content. I have therefore usually attempted -- briefly, and not in any homiletic spirit -- to indicate the religious value and significance of its several books.

There may be readers who would here and there have desiderated a more confident tone, but I have deliberately refrained from going further than the facts seemed to warrant. The cause of truth is not served by unwarranted assertions; and the facts are often so difficult to concatenate that dogmatism becomes an impertinence. Those who know the ground best walk the most warily. But if the old confidence has been lost, a new confidence has been won. Traditional opinions on questions of date and authorship may have been shaken or overturned, but other and greater things abide; and not the least precious is that confidence, which can now justify itself at the bar of the most rigorous scientific investigation, that, in a sense altogether unique, the religion of Israel is touched by the finger of God.



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