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HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
FROM THE LIBRARY OF
COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY ALFred Dwight sheffield
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Published November 1910
THIS book offers substantially the entire Old Testament narrative, arranged in its due sequence as a history of Israel from the earliest times to the rededication of the temple by the Maccabees. Passages which in the received text are duplicated it gives but once; parallel versions of the same tradition it gives together, setting the later or less interesting one in a footnote. In editing this narrative for the school and the general reader, I have assumed that two considerations should be uppermost : (1) the translation should do it justice as literature; (2) footnotes should give only such matters of fact as either explain the text or supplement it.
The former consideration almost requires the use of the King James version, which is still unapproached as at once a rendering of an ancient text and an English prose classic. I must disclaim, however, the kind of veneration that seems to take literally Jowett's remark about it as "more inspired than the original." No "literary" study of the Bible is worth considering which does not aim at appreciating what its original writers meant; and what they meant and wrote often does not appear in the King James translation. The traditional Hebrew text from which both the King James and the Revised versions were made, is in scores of passages-especially in the important books of Samuel-obscured by the accumulated copyists' errors of centuries. Where the work of modern textual scholarship has made it possible to remove such errors, it is no longer excusable to pass them on to future readers. I have therefore cut out palpable glosses, restored (in 1 Sam. xiv. 41 and elsewhere) original readings that have dropped out of the Hebrew but are preserved in the Greek, and used corrected renderings where the received version is seriously misleading. Most of these changes, putting, for example, asherah' for 'grove,' Edom' for 'Syria' (Aram), 'oak' for 'plain,' etc., can hardly be said to affect the style, except as they make for clearness; and they give a text which, I hope, will deliver the average reader from his present dilemma between a correct but non-literary translation, and a literary one which requires continual recourse to a commentary.
Two minor passages I have omitted as not of enough value to
offset an objection pudoris causa; but elsewhere I did not feel that anything warranted bowdlerizing. I have followed the Revised version in putting its' for 'his' when not referring to persons, since in several places the change prevents ambiguity; and I have modernized the few obsolete spellings' plaster for 'plaister,' 'basin' for 'bason,' 'assuaged' for 'asswaged,' etc. - which survive in our Bibles largely by the chance of the printing house. The archaic charm of Jacobean idiom is not enhanced by a scattering of merely quaint-looking forms.
The second consideration that footnotes should give such matters of fact as explain or supplement the text requires that the assured results of recent excavations in Bible lands should be briefly subjoined wherever they are pertinent.
In February, 1909, the National Conference on Uniform Entrance Requirements in English placed the chief narratives of the Old Testament at the head of its list for school reading. Its action followed a conviction, still growing, that the ignorance of the Bible common in our schools is not creditable to the community. The Old Testament stories are not only a source of continual allusion in other literature read at school; in the classic King James translation they are an abiding standard of taste and elevated feeling. It is part of the aim of this book to set them at an advantage for school use.
My debt to Haupt's Sacred Books of the Old Testament is greater than appears in the limited scope I have allowed myself for textual changes. Among other authorities I must make special acknowledgment to the following commentaries: Canon Driver's Genesis, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Daniel; A. H. McNeile's Exodus; G. B. Gray's Numbers; G. F. Moore's Judges; H. P. Smith's Samuel; A. R. S. Kennedy's Samuel; Professor Skinner's Kings; L. B. Paton's Esther. I am indebted to Professor Torrey's discussion of the Ezra story in the American Journal of Semitic Languages for July, 1909 (now republished in his Ezra Studies), and repeatedly to C. F. Kent's Student's Old Testament, for help in questions of sequence. In Egyptian names and dates I have followed Breasted's History of the Ancient Egyptians (Scribner's, 1908). I have been able to check a number of my summaries from the reports of Palestine exploration by Canon Driver's Schweich lectures on Modern Research as Illustrating the Bible.
ALFRED DWIGHT SHEFfield.
Birth of Esau and Jacob - Esau Sells his Birthright - The
The Commandments - The Golden Calf-