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was the function of the Prophets to prepare for the coming of Christ not less than to predict it; and nothing can produce a firmer conviction of their divine mission, than the consideration of the way in which they were raised up from time to time to meet the actual needs of great crises in the history of Israel, as well as to point forward to the great purpose of the ages. If thereby we gain an increased
. conviction of the naturalness of Prophecy, we gain at the same time an increasing conviction of its supernaturalness. Adaptation not less than marvel is a characteristic of divine working; and it is by studying the ways of God in history that we come to recognise His footprints.
It has been said by an acute observer of movements of theological thought and Biblical study, that “the full rediscovering and full appropriating of the Old Testament are the special problem of our own day. ... The fashioning of the methods by which the secret of the Old Testament is to be approached and elicited has taken many centuries. We are not yet agreed about it; but I do not think that it is being too sanguine to feel that we are drawing nearer to it. We are beginning to feel the warmth and the life and the reality come back to those pale and shadowy figures. Isaiah and Hosea and Jeremiah no longer walk in a limbus Patrum, but we see them as they were among the forces by which they were actually surrounded. We see what they were as men; we see what they were as exponents of a message from God; we see the grand and glorious ideas which stirred within them in all their richness and fulness, conditioned, yet not wholly conditioned, by the world of thought and action in which they moved. We see these ideas linking themselves together, stretching hands as it were across the ages, the root-principles of the Old Testament running on into the New, and there attaining developments which may have been present to the Divine Mind—though they cannot have been present to the human instruments whose words went and came at its prompting.”ı
The words are bold; but at least they express the aim and desire of those who, while they advocate the most searching critical and historical study of the Old Testament, retain a firm belief that it is the inspired record of a unique divine revelation to the world. The interpretation of the Bible is not stationary but progressive. As successive centuries contributed to the construction of the Divine Library, so successive centuries must contribute to
Sanday, The Oracles of God, pp. 118, 120.
its interpretation. It must not be supposed that modern students of the Old Testament wish to depreciate the students of past generations, or to regard their own work as final. The answer of Jerome to the charges of innovation so fiercely hurled at him will be theirs. Quid igitur ? damnamus veteres ? minime : sed post priorum studia in domo Domini quid possumus laboramus.?
“ It is no less true now than ever it has been, that the surest means of religious advance is to be sought in renewed study of the Bible. What we need especially at this moment is freshness, a real getting at the heart of the matter instead of dallying with the outside. And I question if we shall get this in any better way than by approaching our task under the guidance of Criticism and Historyof Criticism and History not, as too often, dissevered from, but united with, Religion.”
May these Lectures offer some help towards such a more real understanding of the Prophets; and better still, may they direct their readers, if they shall find any, to such a diligent and attentive study of the Prophetic Books themselves, that, in the words of
Origen, they may feel, as they read, the traces of their inspiration, and gain a firmer conviction that they are in very truth no mere writings of men, but the words of God.
CAMBRIDGE, November 15, 1892.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
THE present edition of this book does not differ substantially from the first, though it has been revised in detail throughout. In thus re-issuing the book without material change, I may seem to be disregarding the various criticisms which it has received. For the generally friendly tone of those criticisms I am deeply grateful, and I am by no means insensible to the force of many of them. But a work of this nature deals with many questions upon which difference of opinion is inevitable; and its limits compel the slight treatment or entire omission of many topics which are undoubtedly important, and may to some seem indispensable for the proper treatment of the subject. It is possible that fresh study of disputed problems may lead to change of judgement, but the four years which have elapsed since the first publication of the book have been so fully occupied with other work that I have had no leisure for such a thorough re-examination of