Read INTRODUCTION of The Making of a Nation The Beginnings of Israel's History, free online book, by Charles Foster Kent and Jeremiah Whipple Jenks, on ReadCentral.com.

THE REDISCOVERY OF THE BIBLE

In the early Christian centuries thousands turned to the Bible, as drowning men to a life buoy, because it offered them the only way of escape from the intolerable social and moral ills that attended the death pangs of the old heathenism. Then came the Dark Ages, with their resurgent heathenism and barbarism, when the Bible was taken from the hands of the people. In the hour of a nation’s deepest humiliation and moral depravity, John Wycliffe, with the aid of a devoted army of lay priests, gave back the Bible to the people, and in so doing laid the foundations for England’s intellectual, political and moral greatness. The joy and inspiration of the Protestant Reformers was the rediscovery and popular interpretation of the Bible. In all the great forward movements of the modern centuries the Bible has played a central rôle. The ultimate basis of our magnificent modern scientific and material progress is the inspiration given to the human race by the Protestant Reformation.

Unfortunately, the real meaning and message of the Bible has been in part obscured during past centuries by dogmatic interpretations. The study of the Bible has also been made a solemn obligation rather than a joyous privilege. The remarkable discoveries of the present generation and its new and larger sense of power and progress have tended to turn men’s attention from the contemplation of the heritage which comes to them from the past. The result is that most men know little about the Bible. They are acquainted with its chief characters such as Abraham, David and Jesus. A few are even able to give a clear-cut outline of the important events of Israel’s history; but they regard it simply as a history whose associations and interests belong to a bygone age. How many realize that most of the problems which Israel met and solved are similar to those which to-day are commanding the absorbing attention of every patriotic citizen, and that of all existing books, the Old Testament makes the greatest contributions to the political and social, as well as to the religious thought of the world? National expansion, taxation, centralization of authority, civic responsibility, the relation of religion to politics and to public morality were as vital and insistent problems in ancient Israel as they are in any live, progressive nation to-day. The gradual discovery of this fact explains why here and there through-out the world the leaders in modern thought and progress are studying the Bible with new delight and enthusiasm; not only because of its intrinsic beauty and interest, but because in it they find, stated in clearest form, the principles which elucidate the intricate problems of modern life.

THE OBJECTS OF THESE STUDIES,

There are two distinct yet important ways of interpreting the Bible: The one is that of the scholar who knows the Bible from the linguistic, historical and literary point of view; the other, that of the man who knows life and who realizes the meaning and value of the Bible to those who are confronted by insistent social, economic and individual problems. These studies aim to combine both methods of interpretation.

Briefly defined the chief objects of these studies are:

(1) To introduce the men and women of to-day to that which is most vital in the literature and thought of the Old Testament.

(2) To interpret the often neglected Old Testament into the language of modern life simply and directly and in the light of that which is highest in the teachings of Christianity.

(3) To present the constructive results of the modern historical and literary study of the Bible, not dogmatically but tentatively, so that the reader and student may be in a position to judge for himself regarding the conclusions that are held by a large number of Biblical scholars and to estimate their practical religious value.

(4) To show how closely the Old Testament is related to the life of to-day and how it helps to answer the pressing questions now confronting the nations.

(5) To lead strong men to think through our national, social and individual problems, and to utilize fearlessly and practically the constructive results of modern method and research in the fields of both science and religion.

THE PLAN OF WORK

These studies are planned to meet the needs of college students and adult Bible classes. Those who are able to command more time and wish to do more thorough work will find in the list of Parallel Readings on the first page of each study carefully selected references to the best authorities on the subject treated. For their guidance are also provided Subjects for Further Study. In using this text-book the student may proceed as follows:

(1) Read carefully the Biblical passage indicated in connection with each title; for example, in the first study, Genesis 1 and 2.

(2) Read the Biblical and other quotations on the first page of each study. Unless otherwise indicated the Biblical quotations are from the American Revised Version. They include the most important Biblical passages. The other quotations embody some of the best contributions of ancient and modern writers to the subject under consideration.

(3) Read and think through the material presented under each paragraph. This material is arranged under six headings for the convenience of those who wish to follow the plan of daily reading and study.