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THE OLD TESTAMENT holds a unique position in literature. Its English version not only marks the culmination of the language in force and dignity, but its thought and diction have become so interwoven with the very fiber of the language that it must be regarded as one of the sources of our ordinary speech and practical philosophy. Consequently, the OLD TESTAMENT has a double claim on the attention of the student of English literature, and it cannot be neglected in the class-room.
Systematic study of the OLD TESTAMENT in the class-room must necessarily be confined to selected extracts, and, in choosing these specimens of the style and matter of the work attention must be given to the various objections urged against the use of the Bible in mixed schools.
Fortunately, the OLD TESTAMENT contains large number of episodes easily detachable from their context and capable of being read and studied as separate stories. These stories comprise many of the most characteristic and the best known passages in the Bible and can be examined in the same spirit and by the same light as similar stories in other literatures.
There are four versions of the OLD TESTAMENT in common use in the United States :
1. The Douay Version of the Bible, first published by the English College at Douay, 1609; New American Edition, 1899.
II. The English Bible of 1611, commonly known as “The King James Version” and often referred to as the “Authorized Version."
III. The Revised Version of the English Bible, completed in 1885.
IV. The Twenty-four Books of the Scriptures, the Jewish Bible in English.
The first of this list is an independent translation of the Latin Vulgate into Biblical English; for the second, consult Note 2; the third, so far as the OLD TESTAMENT stories are concerned, is practically identical with the King James Version; the fourth is based on the text of the King James Version but makes many verbal changes.
For purposes of elementary literary study, the King James translation is to be preferred; partly because in this version the Biblical language is used somewhat more effectively and smoothly than in the others, but chiefly because it was the only version known to the men who gave the OLD TESTAMENT its place in English Literature,
All the essential characteristics of the Biblical language, may, however, be studied in the other three versions; and, after a preliminary explanation of the differences of phraseology, the outline appended to this text may be used for any one of the four versions of which mention has been made.
THE EDITORS. BOSTON, MASS., July 1, 1910.
I. THE ORIGIN OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
Note 1. The work which we know as the OLD TESTAMENT, had its origin in the Sacred Writings (the ultimate authority in all questions affecting human and national life) of the People Israel, a race which, for about one thousand years—between 1400 and 800 B. C.—had an independent national existence in that district of southwestern Asia now called Palestine, and which, for five hundred years longer, was identified with the same region, in subjection to the surrounding great empires.
How these Sacred Writings were preserved and made use of during the period of Israel's national independence, is not known. Between 400 and 300 B. C., they were codified in their existing form by the Judaeans, an Israelitish community inhabiting the Holy City of Jerusalem, who sought, by an intense cultivation of the old national traditions and laws, to preserve the identity of their race, threatened with destruction by the loss of political independence. Of these Judaeans, the modern Jews are the descendants and representatives.
The original language of these Sacred Writings was Hebrew, the early language of Israel, which, although no longer a spoken language, was carefully cultivated in the Judaean community as the language of religion and learning. For the benefit of less educated Jews, who were already widely dispersed among the commercial cities of Asia and Egypt, the Scriptures were translated into various languages, and about 300 B. C., they were authoritatively translated into Greek, then
the common language of science and philosophy in the civilized world.
The first Christians were Greek-speaking Jews who regarded Christianity as a development of the old faith of Israel. They accordingly retained the Jewish Scriptures, distinguishing them from the distinctively Christian Sacred Books by á name which is rendered in English as the OLD TESTAMENT or revelation of the divine will.
The early Christian Church knew the Jewish Scriptures only in the Greek version, but this version was translated into Latin at a very early period, and in the fifth century a Latin translation of the Old Testament was made directly from the Hebrew. This Latin edition, the Vulgate, as it was called, was the only version of the Scriptures known to European Christians during the Middle Ages. The knowledge of Hebrew and Greek was almost extinct in western Europe during this period and the barbarous jargons which later developed into the modern European languages were regarded as unworthy the attention of anyone who had been instructed in the Latin tongue. The Latin version of the Scriptures now in common use is a revision of the original Vulgate, which was completed and first printed in 1593.
II. THE HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH OLD TESTAMENT
Note 2. The early translations of portions of the Old Testament into the Anglo-Saxon dialects were mere paraphrases of the language of the Vulgate in the rude speech of a barbarous people. The Latin language, however, was, even before the Norman Conquest, disliked in England as the symbol and the effective instrument of a foreign civilization to which Englishmen were forced to submit in many ways but which they always hated; and after the English people had been forcibly brought within the pale of Latin civilization, the opinion became general that foreign ecclesiastics were pur