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Rev. J. R. BEARD, D.D.,
MEMBER OF THE HISTORICO-THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF LEIPZIC, &c.
SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, AND Co.
GLASGOW : CHAMBERS. DUBLIN: M'GLASHAN.
The DICTIONARIES OF THE BIBLE circulating in this country, however useful they may have proved in their several spheres, are either too much derived, as to their materials, from the old and, in the present state of Biblical knowledge, in some measure antiquated Dictionary of the celebrated Calmet, or, without exception, are too expressly designed and constructed in order to support established opinions, to appear to the author of "THE PEOPLE'S DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE' altogether suitable to afford to the public, especially to its more intelligent members, either such information as they need and may receive with confidence, or such views of the nature and evidence of Divine Revelation as may in the present day be least open to assault. Not without hesitation and a deep consciousness of insufficiency, did he in consequence take on himself the task of endeavouring, so far as his humble abilities allowed, to supply what in his judgment seemed required. The result will be found in the following pages ; the great object of which is, to afford a digest of trustworthy information necessary for the profitable study and the right understanding of the Holy Scriptures.
Such information exists in great abundance and variety in the works of learned German divines, on whose treasures the writer has drawn so far as was needful, and so far as was compatible with the exercise of an independent judgment. In a List of Works given at the end of the Second Volume, intended to afford to the English student aid in the study of the rich treasures of Continental theology, are mentioned many authors to whom the writer is under obligations; to no one, however, in such a degree as to require the mention of his name in this place, save Winer, from whose invaluable 'Biblisches Realwörterbuch,' 2nd and 3rd edition (Leipzig, 1846), materials have been freely drawn. In two or three articles, the work is indebted to the kindness and learning of gentlemen whose aid is acknowledged in connection with their productions. Should any reader discover a similarity between views and statements here made and others found in the · Biblical Cyclopedia' edited by Dr. Kitto, it may be accounted for by the fact that the author of this Dictionary contributed largely to that publication. In the use of authorities, preference has for the most part been given over English divines whose works are in this country generally known, to foreigners, and before all others to Germans, because, beyond comparison, they at present are the great masters in theological science, and in the hope not only of augmenting, however little, the store of knowledge on the subject in the English tongue, but, still more, of doing something to recommend and promote the study of German theology. Surely a literature that contains the writings of such men as Schleiermacher, Neander, Tholuck, Winer, Bretschneider, and Credner, deserves, and will repay, the most attentive perusal.
Whatever the amount of his obligation to others, the author has for the most part re-produced the materials here offered to the reader, in such a way and to such an extent that he and no one else is answerable for their actual shape and character. If the work has any merit in his own eyes, that merit arises from the fact that, whatever its deficiencies and faults, the opinions which it advances have not been adopted or modified in order to meet or support popular creeds. The writer has striven simply to say what he thinks, without speculating as to its acceptableness in the world, desirous only of being approved of Him who loveth truth in the inward parts.
In regard to details, the author adopted such a plan as seemed to him likely to secure his purpose of communicating to the general reader such information as was requisite for the right comprehension of the Bible. In this view, he has taken as the occasion of the remarks and essays that ensue, those Biblical words which, as it seemed to him, a person of small information might not understand, and which were best fitted to lead naturally to the disquisitions required in order to put the reader in possession of a general summary of Biblical Knowledge. In the execution of his pleasant though laborious task, he has not been forgetful of what might excite the reader's interest in the important topics handled; and he has not hesitated to express freely his convictions on many points having, in the present day, an immediate bearing on the personal and social advancement of his fellow-men. Against one error he has striven carefully to guard, namely, that of putting forth his opinions in the spirit of a zealot, and so offending those who differ from him. While, also, he has freely uttered his own deliberately-formed convictions, he has, he trusts, respected the convictions of others ; and in composing a work designed to throw light on the common treasury of Christian truth and hope, he has carefully abstained from advancing opinions characteristic of a sect, or hostile to standards of faith generally held in respect. One set aim and purpose he avows that he has had—one besides that of aiding the unlearned to read the Scriptures profitably-namely, to explain the nature and maintain the credibility and acceptableness of the revelation graciously made of God through Moses and his own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This object is a result of some inquiry, some thought, and deeply-seated convictions. This object has hitherto formed the chief aim and purpose of his publications. It will probably not cease to be entertained and cherished till death terminate his labours. The recognition of the trustworthiness of the Bible as the great repository of Divine Truth, as containing a history of what God has done for man, and therefore a history of Providence, specially a history of God's revelations for the enlightenment and salvation of his creatures—the recognition of the Scriptures as comprising all that is needful for duty, godliness, and eternal life—appears to the writer most important, as in all ages, so emphatically in the present day, laying as it does a broad and sure foundation for Christian .faith, hope, and charity,' and being an indispensable prerequisite to the establishment of the kingdom of God in the world at large.
In the progress of the studies requisite for the execution of his undertaking, the writer's estimate of the Bible has been greatly enhanced. Owing to conclusions which had been come to by learned foreigners, it was not without solicitude that he applied himself to the study of some topics—such, for instance, as the authorship of the Pentateuch and the historical validity of the Gospels. The result is before the reader. It is not meant to be implied that he has seen no reason to modify previous opinions ; but he has met with new confirmations of the truth of Holy Scripture;' and in proportion as his convictions have been founded on personal inquiry and rested on a wider basis, has he been led to a greater admiration of its contents. Deficient indeed must be prevalent modes of education, when many who professedly are expounders of the Divine Word, having spent their best preparatory hours in the study of literatures which contain thoughts and influences that the Gospel was designed to supersede, should be led to give, and, owing to their own want of a proper regard for the Bible, should be the occasion of others giving, a preference over that book to Pagan writings whose almost sole merit lies in their qualities as works of art. It is not by this implied that the bulk of educated divines do not show and claim reverence for the Word of God.' A verbal and outward reverence does prevail. “A reasonable service,' founded on solid and well-understood grounds, is rendered by only comparatively few. Yet even in a mere literary point of view, the Bible contains compositions of the highest character. Why should not Isaiah be studied in our Colleges with as much care, diligence, and minuteness, as Aristophanes ? Is it not most extraordinary that the book which is professedly the source of all our obligations and hopes should, even in academical studies for the Christian ministry, hold nothing higher than a secondary rank ? Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that laymen, while they fill their minds and gratify their taste in perusing the productions of other writers, have no systematic knowledge of, no keen relish for, the sublime compositions of David, Ezekiel, John, and Paul, which most receive and read with the unawakened feelings of a certain passive traditional respect, and which others quietly disesteem or openly reject as .childish things. Before a remedy can be applied to these evils, a new manner of studying the Scriptures must become prevalent; and that new manner cannot be established unless men shall have first so had their faith increased as to feel a lowly assurance that God's spirit will be given to those who calmly and faithfully follow the leadings of His providence in quest of Divine Truth. We subjoin to these remarks on the worth of the Sacred Writings a few words translated from The Apostolical Constitutions :— What fails you in the law of God, so that you give yourself to the reading of profane authors ? Are you fond of history? You have the Book of Kings. You love philosophers and poets? You will find in our Prophets, in the writings of Job, in the Book of Proverbs, topics of deeper interest than in any of the Gentile writers. Do you wish for lyric compositions ? You have the Psalms. Do you desire to peruse truly original antiquities ? Here is the Book of Genesis. Would you become acquainted with legislation and morals ? God puts into your hand the code of his holy law. These literary excellences, however, are a kind of surplus—something gratuitously added to the real and characteristic excellence of the Scriptures, which consists in their efficacy, with the aid of the Divine Spirit, to make men 'wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ' (2 Tim. iii. 15); or perhaps it would be less incorrect to say that the sacred authors, who, before all others, are in their several styles free, natural, impressive, touching, and sublime, were, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, raised to the height that they hold by the great thoughts which filled their minds, the pure and spontaneous charities which moved their hearts, and the solemn purpose which directed the whole course of their lives.
Besides a variety of general information and statements respecting the antiquities of ancient nations, especially of Egypt, tending to promote the great purposes of the work, this Dictionary will be found to contain I. A brief and popular introduotion to a knowledge of the Books of the
Bible, in relation to their origin, preservation, contents, aim, and credibility; embracing remarks on the formation of the Canon, the Apocrypha, and Tradition, as well as the diffusion of the Scriptures in ancient and modern times :