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MORE than three years have elapsed since I undertook to prepare an Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament. Although the more important parts of the ground were already familiar to me, other occupations prevented my being able to complete it until now. I ought, in the first instance, to guard against any misapprehension as to the scope of the work. It is not an Introduction to the Theology, or to the History, or even to the Study, of the Old Testament: in any of these cases, the treatment and contents would both have been very different. It is an Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament; and what I conceived this to include was an account of the contents and structure of the several books, together with such an indication of their general character and aim as I could find room for in the space at my disposal.1 For it is not more than just to myself that I should state that by the terms of my agreement I was limited in space: I had to do the best that I could within an average, for the longer books, of 20-25 pages. There have been many matters on which I would gladly have given fuller párticulars there have been opinions which I should often have been glad to notice, or discuss more fully than I have done, if only out of respect for those who held them but my limits have forbidden this, and I have repeatedly omitted, or abbreviated, what I had originally written-sometimes, no doubt, to the reader's advantage, though not perhaps always so. Hence, while I am prepared to accept full responsibility for what I have said, for what I have not said I must put in a plea to be judged leniently.
1 The Theology of the Old Testament forms the subject of a separate volume in the present series, which has been entrusted to the competent hands of Professor A. B. Davidson, of the New College, Edinburgh.
A perfectly uniform treatment of the material has not been aimed at. The treatment has varied with the character of the different books. The contents of the prophetical and poetical books, for instance, which are less generally known than the history, properly so called, have been stated more fully than those of the historical books: the legislative parts of the Pentateuch have also been described with tolerable fulness. The relation to one another of the parallel parts of the Old Testament has been explained in some detail, as these have often an important bearing upon the structure and authorship of the books concerned. Much attention has been paid to the lists of expressions characteristic of the style of particular writers. These have, in most cases been drawn up, and in all cases independently tested and verified, by myself; and care has been taken to exclude from them1 words of slight or no significance. Distinctive types of style prevail in different parts of the Old Testament; and it is hoped that at least the more important of these types may thus be brought before the notice of students: though naturally the full significance of such lists and their mutual bearing upon one another will only be apprehended by one familiar with the whole of the Old Testament, and able to view its parts in their true perspective. It was impossible to avoid altogether the introduction of Hebrew words; nor indeed, as the needs of Hebrew students could not with fairness be entirely neglected, was it even desirable to do so; but an endeavour has been made, by translation, to make the manner in which they are used intelligible to the English reader.
Completeness has not been attainable. Sometimes, indeed, the grounds for a conclusion have been stated with approximate completeness; but generally it has been found impossible to mention more than the more salient or important ones. This is especially the case in the analysis of the Hexateuch. A full statement and discussion of the grounds for this belongs to a Commentary. Very often, however, it is believed, when the relation of different passages to each other has been pointed out briefly, a comparative study by the reader will suggest to him additional grounds for the conclusion indicated. A word should also be said on the method followed. A strict inductive method would have required a given conclusion to be preceded by an 1 With the limitation noted on p. 167, n. 2.
enumeration of all the facts upon which it depends. have been impossible within the limits at the writer's disposal, as well as tedious. The method pursued has thus often been to assume (on grounds not fully stated, but which have satisfied the author) the conclusion to be established, and to point to particular salient facts, which exemplify it or presuppose its truth. The argument in the majority of cases is cumulative-a species of argument which is both the strongest and also the one which it is most frequently impossible to exhaust within reasonable compass.
In the critical study of the Old Testament, there is an important distinction, which should be kept in mind. It is that of degrees of probability. The probability of a conclusion depends upon the nature of the grounds on which it rests; and some conclusions reached by critics of the Old Testament are for this reason more probable than others: the facts at our disposal being in the former case more numerous and decisive than in the latter. It is necessary to call attention to this difference, because writers who seek to maintain the traditional view of the structure of the Old Testament sometimes point to conclusions which, from the nature of the case, are uncertain, or are propounded avowedly as provisional, with the view of discrediting all, as though they rested upon a similar foundation. But this is very far from being the case. It has been no part of my object to represent conclusions as more certain than is authorized by the facts upon which they depend; and I have striven (as I hope successfully) to convey to the reader the differences in this respect of which I am sensible myself. Where the premises satisfy me, I have expressed myself without hesitation or doubt; where the data do not justify (so far as I can judge) a confident conclusion, I have indicated this by some qualifying phrase. I desire what I have just said to be applied in particular to the analysis of the Hexateuch. That the "Priests' Code" formed a clearly defined document, distinct from the rest of the Hexateuch, appears to me to be more than sufficiently established by a multitude of convergent indications; and I have nowhere signified any doubt on this conclusion. On the other hand, in the remainder of the narrative of Gen.-Numbers and of Joshua, though there are facts which satisfy me that this also is not homogeneous, I believe that the analysis (from the nature of
the criteria on which it depends) is frequently uncertain,1 and will, perhaps, always continue so. Accordingly, as regards "JE," as I have more than once remarked, I do not desire to lay equal stress upon all the particulars of the analysis, or to be supposed to hold that the line of demarcation between its component parts is at every point as clear and certain as it is between P and other parts of the Hexateuch.
Another point necessary to be borne in mind is that many results can only be approximate. Even where there is no question of the author, we can sometimes only determine the date within tolerably wide limits (e.g. Nahum); and even where the limits are narrower, there may still be room for difference of opinion, on account of the different aspects of a passage which most strongly impress different critics (e.g. in some of the acknowledged prophecies of Isaiah). Elsewhere, again, grounds may exist sufficient to justify the negative conclusion, that a writing does not belong to a particular age or author, but not definite enough to fix positively the age to which it does belong, except within broad and general limits. In all such cases we must be content with approximate results.
It is in the endeavour to reach definite conclusions upon the basis either of imperfect data, or of indications reasonably susceptible of divergent interpretations, that the principal disagreements between critics have their origin. Language is sometimes used implying that critics are in a state of internecine conflict with one another. This is not in accordance with the facts. There is a large area on which the data are clear, and critics are agreed. And this area includes many of the most important results which criticism has reached. There is an area beyond this, where the data are complicated or ambiguous; and here it is not more than natural that independent judges should differ. Perhaps future study may reduce this margin of uncertainty. I make no claim to have admitted into the present volume only those conclusions on which all critics are agreed; for naturally
See pp 14, 17 f., 36, 109 f., etc. The same admission is constantly made by Wellhausen, Kuenen, and other critics-most recently by Kautzsch and Socin in the second edition (1891) of the work named on p. 12, p. xi.
2 It may not be superfluous to observe that, from allusions to the subject in contemporary literature, no accurate opinion can commonly be formed as to either the principles or the results of the critical study of the Old Testament.