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It is now nearly a century since my father originally published his ' DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE.' It appeared under the following title, in 2 vols. 8vo : ' A Dictionary of the Bible : containing an Historical Account of the Persons ; a Geographical and Historical Account of the Places ; a Literal, Critical, and Systematical Description of other Objects, whether Natural, Artificial, Civil, Religious, or Military ; and an Explication of the Appellative Terms mentioned in the writings of the Old and New Testament. The whole comprising whatever important is known concerning the Antiquities of the Hebrew Nation and Church of God ; forming a Sacred Conmentary; a Body of Scripture History, Chronology, and Divinity, and serving in a great measure as a Concordance to the Bible. Edinburgh 1769.
Numerous editions of the Work have since been published ; but during the last century, and particularly of late years, such vast advances have been made in the knowledge of Biblical subjects that I saw plainly that unless it was brought down to somewhat the present state of our knowledge it would in all likelihood fall down. I therefore thought it might help to prolong and promote the usefulness of my father's labours if I should revise the work, and supplement what might be found wanting in it. But on proceeding to do so I found much in it which it appeared to me might with advantage be omitted, as well as much which might usefully be added. The Dictionary of the Bible was one of the first works published by my father, and it appears to have been an object with him to make it a GENERAL REPOSITORY of the subjects of Theological study. Hence there is found in it the embryo or germ of several of his subsequent publications, where they were more appropriate and were treated by him on a larger scale.
It appeared to me that the original work was too much of a Dictionary. It dealt too much in the explanation of words, and thus answered too well to its name. This I think might be left to the ordinary Dictionaries of the English language, and to the well-understood signification of words, unless in those cases in which they are used in the Scriptures in peculiar senses.
The biographical accounts of persons appeared to me often too much lengthened. Their lives can nowhere be read to so much advantage as in the Scriptures themselves ; and most people who make use of a Dictionary of the Bible may be presuned to be already pretty well acquainted with them. Any other narrative of their life is in general singularly dull and uninteresting. I have therefore contented myself, as to the chief persons mentioned in the Scriptures, with noticing chronological or other special points in their history ; and as to the generality of persons whose lives possess no particular interest, or of whom there are no particular accounts, I have taken no notice at all, leaving readers to the knowledge which they may already have of them, or to turn to their Bibles if they wish to have more.
Articles of Systematic Divinity I have, in like manner, for the most part omitted. There is no lack of systems of divinity, or of works on the great heads of divinity ; and in these they can be and are discussed to much more advantage and more satisfactorily than in the separate and short articles of a Dictionary.
Nearly allied to these are articles on the Authenticity, Credibility, and Inspiration of the particular books of the Bible, and also as to various points in their history, which are largely dwelt on in some similar works ; but these are subjects which are much more satisfactorily discussed in connection with each other in Introductions to the Holy Scriptures and in Introductions to the New Testament, works of which there is now in like manner no lack.
Much of the History in my father's Dictionary I have also omitted. In much of ancient history there is little certainty, and most of it has no special bearing on the knowledge or the illustration of the Scriptures.
Here it may not be improper to give some further explanations as to what I have done and what I have not done in the following work.
The Scriptures, especially the books of the Old Testament, are very ancient writings, and hence there are many obscurities and many difficulties in them. In numerous cases no certainty has been, or perhaps can be, attained regarding these. Yet on topics of this kind there is often much speculation and discussion by learned men, but at the end of their speculations and discussions one feels no more certainty than at the beginning. One may be confused, yet not satisfied, by their statements and reasonings. On such subjects I rarely enter, as seeing no use in disquisitions which lead to no satisfactory conclusion.
It would have been strange if there had been no obscurities or difficulties in the Scriptures. To say nothing of the high and holy subjects of which they mainly treat—subjects so far removed from and so far above the ordinary current of human thought-the books of which they consist are not only of great antiquity (especially those of the Old Testament), but they are written in languages which have long been dead languages, and of which our knowledge is but imperfect. We even want a correct standard original text ; and all translations are to a certain extent unsatisfactory. To this may be added our imperfect acquaintance with the history, laws, manners, and customs, and state of feeling of God's ancient people and of the other nations mentioned in the Scriptures. These differ so widely from those of our own age and country that we are continually in danger of misconstruing and misapplying them. Thus our ignorance is often a source of obscurities and difficulties in reading and studying the Scriptures ; and not being duly sensible of our ignorance, and not making proper allowances for it, we startle and stumble at difficulties where, if our knowledge were more accurate and more comprehensive, we would find none. Were we fully and correctly informed of all circumstances, these would vanish like the clouds and darkness before the rising sun.
Yet all the difficulties of the Bible do not arise out of our ignorance : there are many real difficulties in the Scriptures. Some of these may and do admit of a solution ; but others have never yet been satisfactorily resolved, and perhaps never will. Many Christian writers, particularly on the evidences of the inspired writings, are, I apprehend, much too easily satisfied with explanations of difficulties. They treat difficulties as if they were no difficulties ; or at least as if they admitted an easy and satisfactory solution; and they are ready to accept of any explanation, however little it will bear examination. I apprehend that questions of this kind call for more of honest and candid investigation than they commonly receive ; and in all such
PREFACE. cases the conclusion should be graduated according to the nature and measure of the eridence. In some instances difficulties may admit of a possible solution, in others of a probable, and in others of a satisfactory, or nearly satisfactory solution. Now, in all cases let the measure of evidence be carefully examined, and no more weight attached to it than it will bear. In what degree it is satisfactory let this be stated, and nothing more ; and if the difficulty is not fully removed, let the measure in which it remains unresolved be distinctly acknowledged.
Should difficulties be utterly unresolvable by us, let us frankly acknowledge the fact, and not impose upon ourselves or others unsatisfactory solutions of them. We should not be afraid or ashamed to do this. It is in the interest of truth to do so. This may draw attention to them, and perhaps future inquirers may discover satisfactory solutions of them when they are thus held out as desideranda; whereas, if we content ourselves or others with unsatisfactory explanations of them, this may help to put off the solution of them indefinitely; and in the meanwhile they may continue to haunt our minds and create in us more doubts than if they had been frankly acknowledged from the first.
But should we meet with difficulties which neither we nor others are able to solve, neither in whole nor in part, we may still go back on our IGNORANCE—the narrowness and imperfection of our views and the limitedness and weakness of our faculties—as sufficient to account for many difficulties by wbich we should therefore not be stumbled. We have often no other means of meeting the difficulties of natural religion, and I see no reason why we should not meet in the same way the difficulties of revealed religion.
In the following work I shall probably be thought by some to have carried these principles too far; but I think it is the safer side to err upon, more especially as the error has been so commonly on the other side. In many cases, indeed, I have not noticed difficulties when I was sensible I was not able to give a satisfactory solution of them.
It has been an object with me not to load the work with doubtful or uncertain matter. I commonly satisfy myself with giving results without entering on the grounds on which they rest ; but where the evidence was not satisfactory I have in general thought it better to say nothing than to put forth statements for which there was not adequate authority.
I seldom ground my statements merely on the opinions of this or the other learned man. The opinions of learned men are of little or no value, except so far as they are founded on evidence. Learning and logic often do not go together. It is wonderful on what slender grounds learned men often put forth opinions ; and hence a common cause of the variety of opinion which is so often found among them.
I have not unfrequently stated the population of towns and cities ; but such statements can be held at best as merely some indication of the size of the places, of the number of the inhabitants, and of the relative proportion of the different classes of the inhabitants as regards religion; and I must warn the reader that little reliance is to be placed upon them, though perhaps they are said to rest on official returns. We frequently meet with statements of the population of places by different writers, but they usually differ very widely from each other. Speaking of Egypt (and the statement may probably be extended to all parts of the Turkish empire), Miss Martineau says: “It is clear the truth will not be learned by a census while the agents take bribes to get down a greater or smaller number, or have to make a guess at the population of a village which they find deserted' (Martineau, Eastern Life, ii. 172). It is not easy to state in a few words the miscellaneous class of subjects which should enter into such a work as this. For want of a better and more definite name I would perhaps call it The Literature of the Bible. My father, in his Dictionary, included much more than, according to my views, properly belonged to it. I exceedingly regret the large amount of the omissions and alterations I have made in it; but when I was re-editing it, I felt it to be a duty not to retain old and imperfect matter when new, more important, and more useful materials were now to be had. In truth, the simple fact is, that comparatively little of the original work now remains, and that the present publication is, in a great measure, a new work.