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The present volume, as its name implies, is intended for use in Jewish homes. There are many parents who are unwilling to place the Bible, pur et simple, in the hands of their children. Moreover, mere extracts from the Bible without comment will hardly suit them any better. They want some help towards its explanation. It is not difficult
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nd reThe Preface can easily be detached from the body of the book by cutting the yellom thread between pages iv and v.
escent, t have ; they erently
e from about the age anu auuuviur what was thought about them by their own teachers or parents. They are well aware that it is now widely maintained by the best authorities that Moses did not write the entire Pentateuch, and that it is not the work of one author or of one age, but of many authors and many ages. They have heard that few scholars now believe that David or Solomon wrote many, and that many scholars believe that they wrote none, of the Psalms or Proverbs which bear their name. It is not an unfamiliar fact to them that
of the prophecies were not and never can be fulfilled.
The present volume, as its name implies, is intended for use in Jewish homes. There are many parents who are unwilling to place the Bible, pur et simple, in the hands of their children. Moreover, mere extracts from the Bible without comment will hardly suit them any better. They want some help towards its explanation. It is not difficult to see why.
These people no longer believe that every word in the Bible is historically accurate, nor are they unaware that there are many varieties or degrees in its ethical and religious teaching. Some things in the Bible seem morally and religiously on a far higher level than other things. Some laws of the Pentateuch seem to them temporary and obsolescent, , others permanent and abiding. Though they may not have read a single book on Biblical criticism or theology, they know that the great scholars of to-day think very differently about the age and authorship of the books of the Bible from what was thought about them by their own teachers or parents. They are well aware that it is now widely maintained by the best authorities that Moses did not write the entire Pentateuch, and that it is not the work of one author or of one age, but of many authors and many ages. They have heard that few scholars now believe that David or Solomon wrote many, and that many scholars believe that they wrote none, of the Psalms or Proverbs which bear their
It is not an unfamiliar fact to them that many of the prophecies were not and never can be fulfilled.
It is for people such as these and for their children that this volume has been composed. It was primarily begun from the necessity of doing something for the Biblical instruction of my own boy, but when I was once at work, my imaginary audience became wider, though hardly less definite. For the persons
I have described seem quite familiar to me. They are naturally in great difficulties as to what they shall (or shall not) say to their children about the Bible. Perhaps the simplest (though not the noblest) plan, which will suggest itself, may be to say nothing. Their children will pick up their knowledge of the Bible as they go along; from their professional teachers, or from their companions, or from occasional attendances at a synagogue. Perhaps they will be allowed (at a certain age) to read the Bible,
expurgated' edition of it, by themselves. Perhaps they will be fed on · Bible stories.' The parents themselves will keep aloof from the whole subject as much as possible. If they read the Bible with their children at all, they will seek to ignore all those critical and ethical difficulties which did not perplex and were not visible to their own parents, but which do perplex and are visible to themselves. They will argue, Let the child, as he grows up, hear or learn about these high matters for himself, and draw his own conclusions. They may therefore be even willing to imply that every statement in the Bible is historically accurate, and every sentiment of equal religious value.
But even those who employ this method of silence or evasion will probably feel that it is not free from grave objection. For that the Bible should be emphatically a book, if not the Book, of Home Reading will scarcely be denied. That parents should let their children drift with regard to this book of books is surely reprehensible. They should not surrender a high responsibility as well as a great privilege.
On the other hand, apart from the great danger involved in allowing the child to find out about criticism and all
that' for himself, and apart from the religious recoil which such a procedure may nowadays involve, it is both morally and educationally very doubtful how far it is advisable for a parent to teach something which he does not himself believe. Even if he imply what he does not believe rather than assert it, nevertheless his teaching will lack the genuine ring of sincere interest and whole-hearted conviction. It will carry with it little weight and inspiration; though it be believed for a time, the subsequent rebound and revolt may be dangerous and hurtful.
And here it is well to make at once an important distinction. It matters comparatively little if it be implied that a given statement is historically 'true,' when it is believed to be historically “false'; but if it be implied that it is morally and religiously true, when it is believed to be morally and religiously false, the injury done is educationally far greater. For example. It does not much matter if we imply that the story of a man called Samson, carrying the doors and posts of the city gates of Gaza on his shoulders, is to our minds as much an historical fact as that on the 18th of June, 1815, a battle was fought in Belgium between the English and the French. But it does matter very much indeed if, believing that the story of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart and of the ten plagues, in its literal meaning and as intended by the narrators, is morally and religiously false, we make our children believe it to be morally and religiously true. It does not much matter if we suffer our children to believe that a certain man called Elisha made “iron swim,' but it does matter very seriously if we allow it to be believed that God deliberately sent two she-bears out of a wood to destroy forty-two children because they had happened to say a rude word to a passing stranger. It does matter very seriously if we allow the approving verdict which the compiler of the Books of Kings puts into God's mouth upon the series of murders committed by Jehu to pass unquestioned and undenied.