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BIBLE


544


BIBLE


literary collections of Greece, Rome, China, Persia, and India. Its second part, the New Testament, completed about a. d. 100, is indeed far more recent than the four last named literatures, and is some- what posterior to the Augustan age of the Latin language, but it is older by ten centuries than our earliest modern literature. As regards the Old Tes- tament, most of its contents were gradually written within the nine centuries which preceded the Chris- tian era, so that its composition is generally regarded as contemporarj- with that of the great literarj' works of Greece, China, Persia, and India. The Bible re- sembles these various ancient literatures in another respect. Like them it is fragmentary, i. e. made up of the remains of a larger literature. Of this we have abundant proofs concerning the books of the Old Tes- tament, since the Hebrew Scriptures themselves re- peatedly refer us to more ancient and complete works as composed by Jewish annalists, prophets, wise men, poets, and so on (cf. Nmnbers, xxi, 14; Josue, x, 13; II Kings, i, IS; I Paralip.,xxix,29; I Mach.,xvi, 24; etc.). Statements tending to prove the same fragmentary character of the early Christian literature which has come do\\Ti to us are indeed much less numerous, but not altogether wanting (cf. Luke, i, 1-3; Colos- sians, iv, 16; I Corinthians, v, 9). But, however ancient and fragmentarj', it is not to be supposed that the Biblical literature contains only few, and these rather imperfect, literary forms. In point of fact its contents exhibit nearly all the literarj' forms met with in our Western literatures together with others peculiarly Eastern, but none the less beautiful. It is also a well-known fact that the Bible is so replete with pieces of transcendent literarj' beauty that the greatest orators and writers of the last four centuries have most willingly turned to our sacred books as pre-eminent 1 J' worthy of admiration, studj-, and imitation. Of course the widest and deepest in- fluence that has ever been, and ever will be, exercised upon the minds and hearts of men remains due to the fact that, while all the other literatures are but man's productions, the Bible is indeed "inspired of God" and, as such, especially "profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice" (II Timothy, iii, 16).

Providentissimus Deus in the Great Encyclicals of Pope Leo XUI (New York. 1903); Barry, The Tradition of Scripture (New York. 1900); Vaugh.ui. The Bible: Its Use and Abuse; Breex, Introduction to Holy Scripture; Humphrey, The Written Word; Gigot, General Introduction; Cornely, Introductio Generalis; Hunter, Outlines of Dogmatic Theology. I.

Fr.^ncis E. Gigot.

Bible Christians. See Methodism; (BRY.txrrEs).

Bible Commentary. See Exegesis.

Bible Communists. See Oxeid.^ CoNOREG-iTioN's.

Bible Editions. See Editiox.s op the Bible.

Bible Manuscripts. See Manuscripts of the Bible.

Bible Societies. — Protestant Bible Societies, es- tablished for the purpose of publishing and propa- gating the Bible in all parts of the world, are the logical outcome of the principle: "The Bible, and the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants." Precisely to what extent that theological formula is held true even bj^ the starchest evangelicals, may be a matter of dispute, but the consistent and heroic efi'orts of the Bible societies to provide a version of the sacred text in everj- tongue and to supply the ends of the earth with Bibles, can scarcelj' be ex- plained unless Chillingworth's famous formula be taken to mean literallj- that the possession of a copy of the Bible is an indispensable means of salvation. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that the societies for the world-wide propagation of the Bible, like the Protestant missionary societies, are a late outgrowth of Protestantism. It is well known that the sects did not seriously bestir themselves about mission work


until two hundred years after the Reformation, and historically the Bible societies are an appendage and a consequence of the missionary organizations. Some efforts were made to provide a sj-stematie dissemination of Bibles as earlj' as the time of Charles I of England, and before the formation of Bible societies on a scale of world-wide activity, there existed a number of organizations which maae Bible distribution a feature of their work. Among them were, (1) The Society for Promoting Christian ICnowl- edge (1698), which spread copies of Holj' Writ in England, Wales, India, and Arabia; (2) The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Wales (1662);

(3) The Societj' for Sending >Iissionaries to India, founded in 1705 bj' King Frederick of Denmark;

(4) The Societj- for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (1701), which devoted a large share of its attention to the American Colonies; (5) The Scottish Society for Propagating Cliristiau Ivnowl- edge among the Poor (1750); (6) The Naval and Militarj- Bible Society (1780). The foundation of these and similar societies was but an indication of the vast work that was to come. The great reac- tion against the religious apathj', and, indeed, in- fidelitj' of the Enolish people in the eighteenth cen- turj' "brought with it the foundation of numerous- missionarj' societies, and this new enthusiasm for Christianity resulted in the foundation of the most famous and the most effective of all Bible societies. The British and Foreign Bible Societj', 7 March, 1804. The first impulse to the formation of this organiza- tion was given by a group of Nonconformist min- isters and laj-men but when completely formed, the societj' included an equal number of members of the Establislied Church and of the various sects. Its avowed purpose was "to encourage the wider circulation of the Bible without note or comment".

At present, the British and Foreign Societj' is governed bj' an executive committee of 36 laj'men. 15 from the Church of England, 15 dissenters, and 6 foreign members who must reside in or near London. The growth and work of this societj^ have been e.x- traorduiarj'. It controls, according to the latest statistics (1906) almost S.OOO auxiliarj' societies; 5,729 in Great Britain and 2,224 abroad. Its trans- lations of the sacred text number about 380. Its operations in India have been particularly thorough, but in everj' countrj' where its agencies are estab- lished, its work can onlj' be measured in vast figures. It disposes annuallj' of about 5,190,000 copies of the Scriptures (whole Bibles, New Testaments and other portions), and spends each j'ear £250,000 (§1,210,000). In the hundred j'ears of its existence, this society has distributed 186,(380,000, volumes at an expenditure of £14,194,000 (868,699,000). There have Ijeen numerous offshoots, some in the nature of developments, others schisms, but the size, wealth, and prestige of the parent societj" have alwaj's overshadowed those of its children and its rivals. Mention must also be made of the Hibernian Bible Societj', and the National Bible Societj' of Scotland, the names of which sufEcientlj' designate their field of labour.

On the Continent, Count Canstein founded a German Bible Societj' in 1710. Others were estab- lished at Nuremberg (1804), Berlin (1806), Saxony (1813), and Sc'hleswick-Holstein (1826). The Berlin society was united with the Prussian Bible Society in 1814. The Danish Bible Society dates from 1814, the Russian from 1812; a Bible societj' was foimded in Finland in 1812, one in Norwaj' in 1815, one in the Netherlands 1813, one in Malta in 1817, and one in Paris 1818.

In America, we find the Continental Congress so impressed with the scarcity of Bibles that in 1777 it passed a resolution calling for the printing of 20,000 copies. Facilities' were not at hand for the