WHEN the plan of the “Encyclopædia Biblica” was first announced several years ago, the most favourable anticipations were formed with regard to the new project by all advocates of a moderate and scientific criticism of the Biblical writings. This dictionary was to embody the ideal of the late Prof. Robertson Smith, an encyclopædia which should include within its purview the results of the latest criticism, provided only that this criticism was conceived in common sense, developed with moderation and expressed with that consideration for the holders of traditional views which in this case is absolutely required. The first volume of the “Encyclopædia” seemed entirely to fulfil these anticipations, and its appearance was welcome to all students of Biblical history and archæology; but in the second, various disquieting symptoms were noticeable, especially in Prof, Cheyne's article “Jerahme'el”; the third can only be frankly described as disappointing these initial hopes and as being, in fact, most damaging to the cause of the “higher criticism.” Those who have a working knowledge of Biblical criticism will, of course, be able to discriminate between those parts of the “Encyclopædia” which are really useful and suggestive and those which are the reverse; but what of the vast majority of readers who do not know? It is probable that very many of these, wearied by Prof. Cheyne's incessant discussion of his “Jerahmeelites” and “Musrites,” irritated by Prof, van Manen's calm abolition of St. Paul and revolting against the inconsiderate tactlessness of Prof. Schmiedel's article “Mary,” will, ignoring the vast overplus of sound and sterling critical learning which is to be found in the book, be driven into the opposing camp of anticritical obscurantism and refuse to hear anything further of Biblical criticism. Thus will the splendid work of critics of the type of the late Profs. Robertson Smith, Tiele and Socin, many of whose articles appear in this volume, of Profs. Driver, Nöldeke and Wellhausen, of President Moore and many others, be discredited by the insistent advocacy of a single over-mastering theory for which no convincing proof has yet been furnished by its author, and by the continual display by several of the continental contributors of their ignorance of the fact that in approaching British and American readers on such a subject as the Nativity of Christ or the life of the Virgin Mary the utmost tact is necessary.
Encyclopaedia Biblica; a Critical Dictionary of the Literary, Political and Religious History, the Archaeology, Geography and Natural History of the Bible.
Edited by the Rev. T. K. Cheyne J. Sutherland Black Vol. iii. (L to P). (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1902.)
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Encyclopaedia Biblica; a Critical Dictionary of the Literary, Political and Religious History, the Archaeology, Geography and Natural History of the Bible . Nature 66, 193–196 (1902). https://doi.org/10.1038/066193a0