Thomas Franklin Day.

The new Bible-country online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryThomas Franklin DayThe new Bible-country → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


-<^* j ^->^

The New



Thomas Franklin Day

Professor of Old Testament Languages and Literature
in the San Francisco Theological Seminary

JSew York
Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.











SOME there are who still look askance at the
modern view of the Bible, fearing lest it
should result in the shipwreck of faith.

Others, less fearful, are too busy to read exten-
sively in a field that has grown so large as to be
embarrassing to the non-technical reader.

It is hoped that both classes will find help
from the following pages.

T. F. D.

AUGUST 24, 1909.

The New Bible-Country 1

Thine eyes . . . shall behold a land that reacheth afar.
(A. R. V.) ISAIAH xxxiii. 17.

MY reason for choosing this theme will appear
as I proceed. The topic for this evening
in the program for the Week of Prayer calls for a
consideration of the present situation respecting
the Bible.

We are reminded that the Bible has undergone
a "searching inquiry"; that it has passed safely
through "the flame of criticism." Whether the
escape from destruction was due to the efforts
made to put out the fire, or whether it was because
of the indestructibility of the Bible, we are not
informed. We naturally infer that the latter is
the real reason.

I recall certain books published some years
ago which seemed to have been written in the glare
of the conflagration; books hastily put forth by
busy pastors for the purpose of quieting the fears
of laymen who saw the red glow in the sky, and

1 An address delivered in the First Presbyterian Church,
San Rafael, California, January 4, 1909.


The New Bible-Country

who had confused notions as to the extent of the
fire and the seriousness of its ravages.

When a fire has occurred, an official report
from the Fire Department is more informing and
goes farther to confirm or remove our fears than
the first impressions of spectators or the story
told by the "Extra" which is hawked about the
streets while the fire is in progress. But the
report of the Fire Department, or for that matter
any sane and full report of the affair, is not made
till after the fire has spent its fury and the net
loss has been ascertained.

The signs all point to the present as a time
when it is safe to venture into the burnt district
and inquire how the Bible has endured the fire
test, whether there has been any loss, and to what
extent. But lo, we have scarcely arrived on the
scene when the sights and sounds of reconstruc-
tion meet us everywhere. Ignis fuit, the fire is a
thing of the past, and the present is full of plans
for rebuilding on more solid foundations and on
a larger scale than before.

It is time to explain these figures of speech
before we discard them. There has been a fire?
Yes. And the Bible went through it? Yes.
And suffered loss ? Ah ! that 's the point ! Has
the Bible taken hurt ? It will be found, I think,
that the Bible itself has not been injured, but, on

The New Bible-Country

the contrary, that it has been burnished into
rarer beauty by the flame that refined, but could
not destroy, its gold. Yet something was de-
stroyed ? Yes, of a truth, for the fire was fearsome
while it lasted. Certain theories about the Bible,
decisions of earlier critics, higher and lower, who
had vast influence among the Jews and early
Christians, were brought to book by later critics,
lower and higher, whose influence in the world to-
day is great; and it was these theories and deci-
sions, with their corollaries and dependencies,
which the consuming fire converted into smoke
and ashes.

The only reason why the Bible is ever made to
pass through the fire is because the theories re-
garding the Bible get so closely entwined about
the book itself and borrow so lavishly of the sacred-
ness that belongs to the Bible alone that only
fire can separate the one from the other. The
Bible is fire-proof, but our theories respecting it,
even the books we write in defense of it, may not
endure the fiery trial, for men's views concerning
the Bible must suffer revision with every passing
age. Fire is a cleanser, and many who watched
the late conflagration which raged round the
Bible say the net result is a better building spot
for the reconstruction of Bible theory. And the
reconstruction is now in progress; the "burnt

The New Bible-Country

district" is alive with workmen and resonant with
the music of their tools. A working theory olthe
Bible has taken the place of that which the fire
destroyed ; and on the broad lines of its construc-
tive plan structure after structure is rising, in the
departments of historical research, formulation
of doctrine, and practical application of Bible

I am aware that to some of you this may sound
quite cavalier. It looks as if some folks, having
taken it into their heads to have a bonfire, had
gone about gathering materials which were of no
value to them, and tossed them into the blaze
without asking leave of the owners. I wish to re-
move this impression. It cannot be done by
saying there has been no fire. But suppose we
ask where the fire occurred. The answer must
be: Not in any public place. No literal burning
of books was essayed; that method of suppress-
ing error has never been satisfactory. The fire
was real, not imaginary; but it was mental, not
material ; it occurred, and still occurs, only within
the mind and with the mind's full consent.

Our figure of speech, in short, means nothing
more nor less than this: that as a result of the
discussion which has been active in Great Britain
and America for the last third of a century con-
cerning the Bible its origin and nature many

The New Bible-Country

Christian scholars have found it impossible to
accept certain conclusions which time had made
venerable, because in their judgment these con-
clusions are not in harmony with facts which a
discriminating and impartial inquiry has brought
to light; an inquiry pursued under more favor-
able conditions and with better instruments of
research than were possible in any previous age.
This discarding of time-honored theories has
been their own act, and in the first instance for
themselves alone. They have, so to speak, kin-
dled in their own minds the fire to whose flames
they consigned these theories. Christian candor
compelled them so to do; they kept their con-
sciences void of offense in presence of what they
believed to be truth. Sometimes it has cost them
dear to break thus with their own intellectual
past. Some have experienced the anguish of sus-
pense and uncertainty which follows the surren-
der of cherished convictions before the new light
has fully dawned. Others hare felt the expulsive
power of the new truth and have had clear visions
from the first. But when they proclaimed the
new doctrine they were called visionaries; their
views were either thought "impossible" or con-
demned as destructive of Christian faith. The
story in full need not be repeated here ; it belongs
to the history of the progress of thought. Such

The New Bible-Country

struggles resemble the growing pains of child-
hood and youth; they are incident to all intellec-
tual and spiritual advancement.

I spoke of discarding the figure of speech with
which we began. Let us substitute for it one
which has pleasanter associations; one that con-
tains less fire and more land and water. Let us
think of the new view of the Bible as a new coun-
try which men have subdued and made habitable,
and in which they may dwell in peace. This
implies that there is still an old country in which
those who wish to do so may continue to reside,
seeing it is the land of their fathers, the land of
their nativity, dear to affection and memory.

I shall speak then of the old interpretation of
the Bible, which is sanctioned by tradition and
hallowed by ancestral faith, as "the old world,"
"the old country"; and the revised interpreta-
tion, which claims to be in harmony with the
spirit and method of Christ, and to be in direct
line of descent from the best interpreters of the
Christian centuries, I shall call "the new world,"
"the new country." If I depart from the figure
at any time and speak in literal terms, it will be
for our mutual convenience; the truth of the
figure will abide.

It is evident at the outset that when we speak of
the "old world" and the "new world," we do not

The New Bible-Country

mean lands situated on different planets. The
old Bible-country and the new Bible-country
widely separated as they are - are parts of one
and the same Bible-globe. The Bible in each is
practically the same; each contains sixty-six
books; each has an Old Testament and a New
Testament. Just as the soil of Europe is in gen-
eral the same as that of America, so that flora can
be transplanted from one to the other, even so
the soil of the new Bible-country is as favorable
to the growth of spiritual character as is that of
the old Bible-country. And yet, just as the old
world and the new world, between which the
Atlantic rolls, differ from each other in many
important respects, so do these two Bible-countries
exhibit marked differences which the traveller
cannot fail to observe. We may note some of
these differences. If anything that is here said sur-
prises you, remember that it belongs to the story
of a new world. We must expect new countries
to produce marvels of some sort. The new Bible-
country is no exception.

I find myself greatly embarrassed at just this
point, because the field is wide and the time is
short. I must ask you to take a swift overland
journey, with brief stops at the most important
points only. Details must for the most part be
omitted. Suffice it to say that books, large and

The New Bible-Country

small, have been written by many scholars of the
new Bible-country, that treat exhaustively every
phase mentioned in this hurried survey.

I wish in a sentence or two to describe the in-
struments and methods employed by biblical
scholars of the "new land." They believe in God
devoutly, and pray for the guidance of His Holy
Spirit. They also use all the approved appliances
known to men for the study of literary composi-
tions. For example, they employ textual criti-
cism, in order to determine the exact words of
Scripture. They collate manuscripts and ver-
sions, and select the best attested readings. They
employ the higher criticism to fix precisely, if
possible, or at least approximately, the author-
ship, date, and historical environment of every
document of Scripture. These critical methods
are known and used in the "old country" also,
the only difference being this, perhaps, that in the
"new country" the Bible has been subjected to a
more rigid cross-examination than in any pre-
vious period of its history.

The scholars of that land summon the Bible
itself as the chief witness, and base their conclu-
sions mainly upon its testimony. They are un-
willing to affirm anything about the Bible until
the facts which the Bible presents have been dili-
gently scanned. Their method is not a priori but

The New Bible-Country

a posteriori. They do not say beforehand that
God in giving a revelation will proceed thus and
so, and that the book which contains the revela-
tion will be marked by such and such qualities;
they first patiently interrogate the facts, and they
then declare how God has actually revealed Him-
self, and what characteristics the Bible actually

Among the most important conclusions at which
modern scholars have arrived are these :

1. The Bible is a Divine-human book. The
revelation it contains has its fountain-head in
God. But the channels through which its various
streams have flowed are the deep soul-experiences
of men who had intimate fellowship with God.
The Bible, therefore, is the record of human ex-
perience, as elect spirits were illumined, instructed,
and guided by the Spirit of God. It came straight
from God, yet it came from God by way of man's
spiritual insight and deep moral aspirations. It
was not dictated. It grew. Every great litera-
ture is the outgrowth of a rich and varied national
experience. The Bible illustrates this universal
law. The Bible touches human life at every
point, because the life of a God-illumined race
breathes from it through every pore.

2. Revelation, as recorded in the Bible, is pro-
gressive, because it rests upon a progressive


The New Bible-Country

human experience. God deals with men, even
inspired men, as with children; He teaches truth
in the measure in which they are able to receive it.
Their ideas respecting the being and character of
God necessarily changed from age to age. Con-
sequently, the ethical and spiritual ideals which
satisfied the men of one age were often supple-
mented or even supplanted by ideals of a later
age. The Bible faithfully records the various
stages of this spiritual development.

3. The priority and predominance of the pro-
phetic element in Scripture is commonly recognized
by the men of the new school. The Bible is a
preaching book, because its human authors were
for the most part preeminently preachers and
teachers. Prophecy is essentially preaching. It
is preaching with authority, and comes there-
fore with all the force of a divine law. The au-
thority for the preacher's message is, " Thus saith
Jehovah." The teaching and the preaching are
imperative. They constitute the highest form of
law. The prophetic "law" differs from the
ceremonial law as the end differs from the means,
as principle from rule, or sometimes, even more
fundamentally, as substance differs from form, as
spirit from letter. Prophecy sounds the deepest
note in Hebrew religion and ethics. It is the
original strain that differentiates the Hebrews, in

The New Bible-Country

life and thought, from the surrounding nations.
It is "the living wellspring of the divine self-
communication." Prophecy, therefore, is the life-
blood of the Old Testament. Prophecy prepares
the way for Christ, not by uttering verbal pre-
dictions of His coming (for the prophets nowhere
predict the details of His earthly life) , but by doing
its own work in its own day so grandly that Jesus
when He came found a godly remnant, trained in
the school of prophecy, ready to receive Him;
and through the fulfillment in His own person of
their spiritual hopes and desires, He was able to
establish on earth His Heavenly Kingdom.

Keeping in mind these general principles of
interpretation, let us note some of the main con-
clusions of the modern school respecting the com-
position of the books of the Bible. Here I will ask
you to allow me to draw my illustrations chiefly
from the Old Testament, partly because I am
more familiar with it, and partly because the Old
Testament has been the principal battle ground
of opinion during the last half century.

1. It is held in the " new country" that many of
the books of the Old Testament are of composite
structure. Various documents have entered into
their formation. These documents have sometimes
been blended so as to form a single narrative, or
they stand side by side in practically their original

The New Bible-Country

form as separate compositions. The story of the
flood is an illustration of the first method, and the
two stories of the creation in Genesis, chapters
one and two, of the second method.

2. It is held that the biblical writers sometimes
incorporated mythical and legendary materials,
because these served their purpose as preachers of
divine truth. Sometimes the myth stands out in
high relief, as in the fragment found in Genesis
vi. 1-4, which tells of the marriage of the sons of
God with the daughters of men. As an example
of the legend (which, be it remembered, may often
rest on an historical basis) , one may refer to the
genealogical tables in the book of Genesis.

The feeling which sometimes exists in the minds
of Bible readers that the presence of myth and
legend would lessen the value of the Bible has no
place in the minds of these men. They think of
myths as the philosophy and science of peoples
still in their childhood, and of legends as the
primitive man's history, in which the creative
imagination, working on a nucleus of dry fact,
paints imperishable pictures and recites immortal
epics that charm the mind and warm the heart,
and keep the springs of human interest and sym-
pathy from running dry.

Among the Semites, as among other ancient
peoples, myth and legend had a luxuriant growth.

The New Bible-Country

In them the loftiest spiritual truths were en-
shrined. For inquiring and thoughtful minds
they furnished acceptable solutions of the deepest
problems of life. The Hebrews came into posses-
sion of them partly by inheritance, and partly
through contact with other nations. A record of
the ways of God in teaching His chosen people
which should find no place for myth and legend
would be incomplete, for it would leave in the
shadow the most interesting period of Israel's
history, the period of early childhood, when, as
Hosea says, Jehovah taught Ephraim to walk,
taking him up in His arms. If the truth of God
in the early time embodied itself in myth and
legend, the sanctity of the Bible is not desecrated
by the appearance of these on its pages. It should
be said, however, that the forms in which they
appear in the Bible are free from the coarse mate-
rialistic features which characterize the myths of
other peoples. The Hebrew religious spirit, itself
a gift from God, cleansed the vessels into which
it poured its new wine and oil.

3. The facts also show, as the modern school
believes, that the biblical writers sometimes
idealized the past. They reconstructed the his-
tory in the light of present knowledge. Though
conforming in the main to the facts, they assumed
the existence in the remoter past of institutions and

The New Bible-Country

customs in the same developed form to which they
were themselves accustomed. This fact gives no
trouble to Bible readers in the new country. They
recognize it as one of the instinctive tendencies of
human nature; we all idealize the home of our
childhood, the acquaintances of early youth, and
our dearest friends; the farther they recede from
us in time and become enshrined in loving memory,
the more is this the case. Moreover, given the
date of composition, and this idealizing process
furnishes a clew to the ideals which were current
in the time of the writer. Thus what at first sight
might seem a blemish in the book becomes when
more closely studied one of its highest excellences.
Interesting examples of the idealizing process are
afforded by the book of Deuteronomy, which was
written from the prophetic, and by the books of
Chronicles, which were written from the priestly,
standpoint; the former idealizes the time of
Moses, and the latter the period of the early

4. Bible students in the new country believe
also that they have discovered unimpeachable
evidence that many of the books of the Old Tes-
tament have undergone revision at the hands of
later editors. When the conditions under which
the book was originally composed were changed,
its teachings were fitted to the new conditions by

The New Bible-Country

such additions or modifications as the editors
deemed necessary. The work of the editors was
incorporated in the body of the work, or, in the
case of minor changes, simply placed in the margin.
But in the process of copying, these also were
written in as integral parts of the book. The
modern custom of throwing such matter into the
form of foot-notes or of bracketing it with the
editor's name or initials appended, was unknown to
the ancients. Examples of such editorial revision
are found in the books of Kings (revised in the light
of the teachings of Deuteronomy) ; the discourses
of the prophets (revised to bring them into har-
mony with the conditions, or to make them appli-
cable to the needs, of a later age) ; and the psalms,
many of which bear the marks of such editing.

This editorial work is looked upon with equa-
nimity, for it furnishes proof of continuous liter-
ary activity among the Hebrews through many
generations, and helps us to trace the movements
of religious thought along its main channel as
well as its tributary streams. One who has his
eye trained for this kind of work finds little diffi-
culty in separating these later additions from the
original text. Scholars may differ in their judg-
ment as to individual instances, but all agree in
their recognition of the fact that the editors have
been at work on the text.

The New Bible-Country

5. Questions of authorship have engaged a
large share of attention among men of the new
school. It is well known that the Hebrews w r ere
indifferent to the fame of authorship. Their in-
terest was primarily in the truth, and not in their
own literary reputation. They often wrote anony-
mously. The same reluctance, which led some
writers to suppress their names, influenced others
to ascribe their writings to men of ancient renown.
For example: Moses is represented as delivering
farewell speeches to Israel a short time before his
death, just as Thucydides puts speeches into the
mouth of Pericles. The book of Daniel, also, is
pseudonymous. Other instances might be given,
but these will suffice. Some of the prophetical
books were undoubtedly written by the men whose
names they bear, but the writers of most of the
Old Testament books have concealed their iden-
tity beyond possibility of detection. And when
the books are broken up into their constituent
parts, and each is treated separately, the question
becomes much more complicated; but while the
number of authors is necessarily greatly multiplied,
their identification becomes a negligible factor.

Tradition has assigned names to some of the

books and parts of books. For example, Moses*

name is connected with the Pentateuch, David's

with the Psalter, Solomon's with the book of


The New Bible-Country

Proverbs, Isaiah's with the long book which goes
by his name, and so on through the list.

It is held by the new school that tradition is
without authority unless it harmonizes with con-
clusions based upon actual study of the facts. It
is claimed that the facts prove the composite
character of the Pentateuch, its component parts
being separated from each other by centuries of
time, its present form dating from the period
subsequent to the exile. It is held that Isaiah is
the author of certain chapters in the first part of
the book, but that an unknown writer of the exilic
period, living a century and a half after Isaiah,
poured the glowing message of comfort for exiled
Israel, found in chapters forty to fifty-five, out of
a heart that had shared the griefs, and was there-
fore fitted to raise the hopes, of his despairing
countrymen. It is believed that similar con-
vincing evidence compels us to separate other
books into their constituent parts and to assign
these with approximate certainty, not, as already
said, to their individual authors, but to their re-
spective periods of composition.

As regards other Old Testament books, it is
held that Jonah is best interpreted as an allegory,
and Daniel as an apocalypse dating from the
Maccabean period. The Song of Songs is re-
garded either as a collection of independent love

The New Bible-Country

lyrics, or as a semi-dramatic poem, the purpose of
which is to celebrate the triumph of a pure woman's
love under great temptation.

You may now be ready to ask, what value the
inhabitants of this new country place upon the
Bible ? They would answer this question by call-
ing attention to the evident purpose for which the
Bible was given. What is that purpose ? Certainly
the Bible was not intended to be a cyclopaedia of
general information, nor an authoritative text
book of natural science, nor a manual of historical
information, nor yet a book of philosophy. In-
deed, we could keep on indefinitely telling what
the Bible was not intended to be. But how can
we be sure of the correctness of these negative
assertions ? Our appeal is to the facts. A can-
did examination of the Bible results, it is af-
firmed, in the conviction that none of these


Online LibraryThomas Franklin DayThe new Bible-country → online text (page 1 of 2)