Some Methods of Old Testament Exegetes before Modern Times

Ira Maurice Price
1916 The Biblical World  
The study of the Bible is undergoing very rapid changes at the present time, and the center of interest is shifting greatly from what was most in evidence a few years ago. Sometimes we are accustomed to think that such changes are characteristic of our own day. It is always illuminating for men who are growing thus provincial to look into the past and see how their predecessors also had their consciousness of originality, if not of novelty. No book has ever provoked an intelligent interest
more » ... igent interest comparable with that aroused by the Bible. The methods of interpreting its pages have been as various as the views they have sought to express. The Old Testament is a collection of books, written in an oriental language, under ancient oriental skies, and among peoples whose habits of life are very imperfectly known to the occidental world. Even before the completion of the Old Testament canon, Ezra began to interpret the Hebrew law which an earlier age had produced. And, as each succeeding age has arrived, men have arisen who made it their specialty to interpret to their contemporaries the meaning of those ancient records. The biblical exegete is a necessity of every Christian period or age. Language changes, thought progresses, doctrines wear out, discoveries are made, old languages are deciphered, new old nations are brought to light, history is reconstructed, and a new background is furnished for the ancient oriental world. Again, the philosophy of life gives a new viewpoint to all thought in whatever realm. Theology, philosophy, psychology, and the ever-widening realm of the sciences require a reconstruction of thinking in every age. And this involves, or always has involved, our interpretation of the Scriptures. Consequently the interpretations of the Bible for one age have never been fully acceptable to the next age. This exegesis has made its impression, and often a powerful one; but its inadequacy to meet the new questions that a new age propounds has soon sidetracked it. In fact, it is often true that the books which the exegetes of one age have laboriously produced have been entirely forgotten in the next period. Even the almost sublime reverence which one age bestows on certain interpretations, often fades away before the demands of a new era. The demands, too, are greater on each succeeding generation of exegetes. Old and revered views, obscured by age, and superseded by saner and sounder conceptions, should be regarded only with a kind of sacred archaeological reverence, as having served their times and ages. Hallowed associations merely of the past cannot claim any place in 237
doi:10.1086/475493 fatcat:fvtpunwvdrgqdjwjam3ns472da