The cheerful contempt with which Voltaire treated every statement of a Hebrew author which he found difficult to understand, was equally significant of ignorance with some of the ponderous speculations of his disciples. But, after a century of discovery and exploration, it has become impossible to dismiss with easy incredulity the statements of the Bible history. During the dark ages in Europe the works of Jewish rabbis, and of monks, are no doubt equally marked by ignorant blunders and anachronisms: their manuscripts were carelessly copied, and omissions and additions commonly occur in many cases. But we have no right to assume that this was also the case in earlier days, when a professional class of scribes was engaged on sacred texts of the utmost importance in the eyes of their people. No one can study the monuments without seeing that such scribes were skilled writers, careful, intelligent, and faithful. It is only when their work is not seriously studied, or when the student has an imperfect knowledge of script and of language, or adopts second-hand the imperfect attempts of others, that charges of carelessness and ignorance are brought against the original writers, which recoil on the modern scholar. The author of Chronicles may have found some difficulty in understanding his original when he used the expression "and ancient words"; but the variations are evidence, not of unscrupulous alteration, or of carelessness and stupidity, but of painful study, and of faithful reproduction.

 

from pages 139-141, The First Bible