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The purpose of this book is sufficiently indicated by the title and is set forth more at large in the opening chapter. It is an endeavour to give an intelligible account of the rise and progress of Israel's religion from its beginnings in the nomadic period down to the tragic event which put an end to the Jewish state. The reader who is even superficially acquainted with the progress of biblical study during the last forty years will not be surprised to find that the book proceeds upon the supposition that the results of the so-called higher criticism are fairly certain. All that the book claims for itself is that it represents our present knowledge; what the future has in store for us we cannot forecast. I have avoided controversy and have endeavoured to state my opinion frankly and in positive terms. I have not thought it necessary to make frequent reference to the literature of the subject. Old Testament scholars will discover where I am indebted to my predecessors. The reader who is not a specialist may safely assume that I have not taken any position without examining the arguments for and against.
The frequent references to the biblical writers will be their own justification. And since (according to my observation) few readers have the patience to look up chapter and verse in their Bibles, I have often introduced the words of the authors into my text. In the few cases in which the notation of chapter and verse in the English is not the same as in the Hebrew, I have followed the latter. Where my translation differs from that of the current version it will, I think, command the approval of good authorities.
In preparing this book I thought with pleasure of dedicating it to my friend Dr. Briggs, to whom biblical and theological scholarship owes so much. Before the copy could be put into the hands of the printer he was called from the scene of his earthly labours. There remains to me only the melancholy pleasure of consecrating it to his memory, a belated testimony of my affection, but none the less an evidence of the debt of gratitude I owe him. I count him among them that are wise, who shine as the brightness of the firmament.
NEW YORK, December 1, 1913.