Story of the Bible Told for Young and Old - Jesse Hurlbut
Hurlburt's classic retelling of most of the famous stories from the Bible has been a popular favorite, in print continuously since it was first published in 1904. There are numerous versions and all are beautifully illustrated.
Some years ago, the editor of an English magazine sent a communication to "the hundred greatest men in Great Britain" asking them this question:
"If for any reason you were to spend a year absolutely alone, in a prison for instance, and could select from your library three volumes to be taken with you as companions in your period of retirement please to inform us what those three books wouldbe." The inquiry was sent to peers of the realm, prominent leaders in politics, judges, authors, manufacturers, merchants, gentlemen of leisure—men who would represent every aspect of successful life. In the answers it was found that ninety-eight of the hundred men named "The Bible" first on the list of the three books to be chosen.
If from the middle class of society, instead of the highest, another hundred names were taken at random, requiring only character and not greatness, the proportion of those who would name the Bible as the most desirable book in all literature would be almost, perhaps quite, as large. And if one should ask the same question of a hundred moral honest people in the lower walks of life—workingmen and housewives in humble homes,—the answer from the largest number would still be "The Bible." There is no other book in all the world which commands annually a circulation of ten million copies, in order to supply the demand for it in every land and in every language. Choose if you please the new novel that last year sold the largest number of copies, and you will find during the same year more than ten times the number of Bibles were sold. And three years from now, when the new novel will be old, forgotten, and no longer in demand, there will again be ten million Bibles in three hundred and twenty-five languages printed and bound and sold in a year!
A book which stands in such honor as the Bible no one can afford to neglect. It is everywhere quoted, referred to, written about, preached from, and every one who would be considered as intelligent must have some acquaintance with it. And the time when one can most readily obtain a familiarity with the Bible is in early life. Those who in childhood learn the Story of the Bible are fortunate, for they will never forget it. Wise parents tell the Stories of the Bible to their little children, and both parents and children find them the most fascinating of all stories. "David and Goliath" is more interesting than "Jack, the Giant Killer;" "Joseph and His Brothers" will compare favorably with "Whittington, Lord Mayor of London;" the battles of Joshua and David are as wonderful as those of "King Arthur and the Table Round." The Bible is a veritable "Arabian Nights" of entertainment when parents are themselves familiar with the stories and know how to tell them. No book is so delightful to children as the Bible.
But the parents who are not thoroughly informed, or who do not possess the great gift of story-telling, find difficulties in the path of teaching the contents of the Bible to their children. Here is a great Book with masses of matter interesting only to students, as history, genealogy, details of law and customs of worship, psalms, prophecies, proverbs, epistles —how shall a selection be made appropriate to childhood? There are Oriental forms of speech, antiquated, unfamiliar, sometimes unacceptable to the taste of the age. The Stories of the Bible must be chosen with care, some statements must be explained, and some allusions must be omitted. There is need of a "Child's Bible," if children are to be interested in the Book of Books.
The writer of this work has been for many years a Bible student, a Bible teacher and a helper through the press, of instructing the young in the Bible. He has long felt the need of a Book of Bible Stories, different in some respects from any work that has yet appeared. with this conviction he has undertaken the preparation of this work, which after patient labor and many revisions is now submitted to the public. In its purpose and plan its distinguishing features are the following:
1. The aim has been not merely to make a selection of the most striking and interesting among the stories contained in the Bible, but to tell all the principal stories in their connected order, and in such relation with each other as to form a continuous history. Whoever reads this book will find in it not only "Stories from the Bible," but also the "Story of the Bible" in one narration. He will follow the current of Scripture history and biography.
2. This Bible Story, though continuous and connected, is arranged in the form of a series of Stories, each independent of all the others and treated separately. Every Story has its title; and an effort has been made to give to each a striking title, one that will arrest the young reader's attention. A child or a parent who might hesitate in undertaking to read through the history in the Bible, may open almost it random and find a Story. Here are one hundred and sixty-eight Stories, each one complete in itself, while together combining to form one narrative. And with each Story is named the place where it may be found in the Bible.
3. Special care has been given to the language of this book. I have endeavored to make it childlike without making it childish. Every word has been carefully chosen and there are few words in these Stories which a child of ten years old will not readily understand. Whenever it has been found necessary to introduce any word outside the realm of childhood, as "altar," "offering," "tabernacle," "synagogue," "centurion," etc., it is carefully explained, not once only, but a number of times, until it becomes familiar. Doctrinal and technical terms have been everywhere excluded, and in place of them plain, familiar words have been given.
4. Inasmuch as the book is designed to lead the young reader to the Bible itself, and not away from it, the language of the Bible, or a language somewhat like that of the Bible, has been employed. For the same reason I have refrained from adding to the Bible record any imaginary scenes or incidents or conversations. I wish every child who hears this book read to feel instinctively that it is the Bible, and not a fairy-tale, to which he is listening. When he grows older and reads these Stories himself for the first time in the Bible itself, I would not have him feel that he has been misled, or taught that which is not contained in the Word of God. The Bible stories are made plain, but they are not rewritten or changed.
5. In my opinion many books for children containing stories from the Bible are greatly marred by the evident attempt to interject a body of divinity into them, to make them teach doctrines which may be right or may be wrong, but are not stated nor hinted in the Scripture stories. Some excellent works have occupied much space here and there in trying to put into childlike language and to connect with Bible stories the deepest and most mysterious doctrines, which theologians find hard to understand. Others contain many moral reflections and applications which may be useful, but are not contained in the text of the story. I have sought to explain what needs explanation, but to avoid all doctrinal bias, and not to be wise above what is written. Only in a few instances where the New Testament warrants a spiritual interpretation of the Old Testament story has an application been given, and then in the simplest and fewest words. It is my confident hope that all denominations of Christians may feel at home in the pages of this book.
6. In the management of the material, the paragraphs are short, and according to the modern manner the conversations are generally printed in separate paragraphs. The results of recent knowledge in Bible lands and Bible history are used as far as is suitable in a book for children. Where the Revised Version is a manifest improvement upon the Old Version, it has been followed, as bringing the reader a step nearer to the thought of the Biblical writers.
7. Many of the engravings have been designed expressly for this book, and both the subjects for illustrations and the pictures themselves have been prepared with great care. The publishers have not allowed, in the book, scenes of blood or such as would be repulsive to people of taste. There is a realism in some modern views of Oriental manners and customs, which may be accurate, but is not pleasing and does not promote reverence. We have sought for pictures representing action and life, rather than those of ruined cities and squalid modern villages which may represent the Holy Land of to-day, but give no conception of the country and its people in Bible times. The pictures and the stories with them are designed to make the Word of God real to the young people who read these pages.
In the hope that this book may be an aid to parents and teachers in imparting Bible truth, and to children in learning it, with an earnest desire to increase the interest in the Sacred Narrative, these pages have been prepared and are sent forth into the world.
AUGUST 1, 1904.