A GREAT BOOK is a living organism. Months, years, or centuries may go into its gestation. When finally composed and written down, it can be said to be born, but only born. It then grows and develops through the interpretations of generation after generation of readers, critics, editors, and translators, each adding something, great or little, to its expanding magnitude.
The life of the Bible, above all other books, is a life made up of countless lives, embodying their joys and agonies, their visions, their defeats and aspirations. Four thousand years cling about it. A full millennium of myths and legends passed into it; another millennium was consumed in the writing; bitter battles over canon and creed occupied a third; a fourth has seen the ever-continuing translations into modern tongues.
No individual, no Caesar or Napoleon, has had such a part in the world's history as this book. Wars, reformations, martyrdoms, religions, lie heavy on its head; men fought and died over its meaning; down through the ages it has continued to evolve, affecting for good and also for ill millions and millions of lives.
ERNEST SUTHERLAND BATES comes from a long line of New England deacons and members of the clergy. His father was an Episcopal clergyman; his mother's father was a Methodist. Their descendant, however, has devoted himself to the study of philosophy and literature, having taken his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1908. By ancestry, training, and natural inclination Dr. Bates is ideally equipped to write about the Bible. When he entered college he planned to become a clergyman but preferred to devote himself to the study of philosophy which increased, rather than diminished, his life-long interest in the Bible. He thus brings to his interpretation of the Bible the learning and wisdom of a varied life.