« FöregåendeFortsätt »
It was my first intention to send forth this book without a Preface, leaving it to the reader to gather from its contents, and more especially from the Introduction, such inferences as might fairly be drawn from them, as to the particular views which guided me in its composition, and led to its publication. It appears, however, in the judgment of a friend, that some persons may fall into error as to the motives which caused me to publish this work, and may ascribe it to a feeling of hostility towards a book held in universal estimation. Against the injustice of this charge, I should still have not deemed it necessary to protect myself in any other way than by silence. For, though I will not pretend to be ignorant that the religious character of a work must vary greatly in proportion to its historical tendencies, yet I should still have left this book to advocate its own doctrines, had it not been strongly urged that some persons may even wilfully pervert its meaning, and ascribe to it a tendency which its author never contemplated. To guard against such a possibility, I think it right to premise that this work is historical, and not theological. Its object is, to assign a certain value and antiquity to the Old Testament,-such a value indeed and such an antiquity as to leave it, even in my own judgment, what it has always been in the opinion of nine-tenths of civilized men, the most wonderful record of past times that the world has yet seen. clusion which I have endeavoured to establish in this Historical Inquiry, so far from diminishing the value of the Old Testament, seems to me really to add thereto, for it substitutes certainty in the place of uncertainty, light for darkness, and reason for mystery, whilst it is left for those who pursue the subject by deducing religious doctrines from historical fact, to determine how far the same data may be of use as shewing the
importance of studying the spirit rather than the letter of a code of laws, certainly better adapted for Jews than Christians, and more in harmony with the manners which prevailed in Palestine before the Christian era, than with the state of things which now exists in England, or, in fact, in any part of Europe.
In the Appendix to this volume are given some long extracts from the laborious works of Prideaux and Shuckford, not on account of the deductions which those learned compilers have arrived at,-for these are often diametrically opposed to my own conclusions, but on account of the full information which they furnish on their respective subjects. The reader is thus saved the trouble of referring to the original works from which those extracts are taken.
It is also necessary to allude to an apparent omission of certain chapters which had at first entered into the plan of this work-i. e. concerning the two books of Chronicles, the Prophetical books, and others, known and admitted to be of late origin. The increasing bulk of the volume, and the completeness with which the subject seemed already to have been discussed, have been the cause why these chapters have not been added.
In the Introductory chapter of this work it is hinted that a similar inquiry has been instituted concerning the Christian Scriptures, or the books of the New Testament. The statement is certainly correct, but whether the result of the investigation will ever be made public, is a question that must be decided at a future time. The nature of the contemplated work, however it may involve some questions similar to those which are here started concerning the Old Testament, will of course be in many respects very different; for, whereas my object here has been to prove the Old Testament, in its actual form, to be a thousand years later than the date to which it is generally referred, yet no one has had the boldness to assert that the New Testament is not a relic of primitive Christian times.
Bampton, Sept. 20, 1850.
J. A. G.