How Our Bible Came to Us: Its Texts and Versions

By H. G. G. Herklots | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
BEHIND THE PRINTED OLD TESTAMENT

A FASCINATING study might be made--by some encyclopaedic scholar--of the cultural and religious effects of dispersion, especially when it has been occasioned by persecution. Amongst refugees and emigrants there must always be an enforced value-judgment about their possessions. What things are to be left behind? What things are so precious that room must, at all costs, be found for them? (What things, also, are so light or small that they may be stowed away in some corner of the luggage?) Refugees have taken with them not only their prized personal possessions but their beliefs and their skills. It was with the persecution which began with the martyrdom of Stephen that the Christian Church began to prosecute its missionary task with vigour. 'They therefore that were scattered abroad went about preaching the word' ( Acts 8.4). We have seen how Greeks fleeing before the Turkish invader helped to awaken classical interests in Italy. Compassionate Italians wanted to give these refugees a job. After all, they were Christians escaping from the power of the Infidel. What better than to employ them as teachers of their own language? In recent decades refugees from many countries have brought fresh life and skill to Britain and America. This has been to repeat a pattern familiar to history. British commercial enterprise owes a great deal to the Huguenots. Puritan exiles from England build up New England. But these were all dispersions limited in time and place. Throughout modern history there has, however, been one dispersed people par excellence. Into almost every nation the Jews have found their way.

Where they have entered they have brought their Sabbath and their Synagogue and their Scriptures. They have also

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