The Prophets and Israel's Culture

By William Creighton Graham | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

It is only recently that biblical scholars have become socially minded. For centuries they combined scriptural texts into an oracular theology. A couple of generations ago they began literary criticism, analyzing biblical books, determining the time and place of their composition, their probable authorship, and their editorial combination. In no field has there been more, if indeed, as much minute examination of literature. But literary criticism gave no appreciation of religion as a form of social behavior. It is, of course, true that elaborate studies were made in what was called the historical background of literature and into this background the literature was ingeniously set. The influence of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon was recognized in the development of religious institutions and gods but, as one who has had some part in this type of literary study, I have to confess that it left me cold. However important the knowledge of the documents and however satisfactory might be the fitting of literature into the history of the Near East, the result was encyclopedic rather than religious. We came to know a deal about Biblical literature and gained a vast amount of information about Hebrew religion, but we did not really get at the Hebrew religion as it was actually practiced by the people themselves. In consequence the critical study of the Bible did not make a contribution to the religious life of today commensurate with the industry of the critics. Its interest was in a literature rather than in people.

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