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Yesterday afternoon in the Jefferson Physical Laboratory Professor Toy delivered an interesting lecture on "Semitic Sacred Books." The speaker said that we have to observe that the Semitic people were not behind other people in advancing thought but they were fully as worldly as the Greeks and thus they were able to accomplish much good. The Semitic books stand apart from other books in their power to adapt themselves to practical needs of the people.
This perhaps applies to the Mohammedan Koran, for this and the Bible are the two great religious books of the world and have made their way into the household of those who follow the Mohammedan and Christian religion respectively. The enormous influence which both these books have wrought ought to secure our undivided study. The Bible, it is true, was a Semitic book-a book of the Jews, but later it was reshaped by general Greek influence and also reinterpreted by the advancing thought of the ages. Professor Tov said that he referred especially to the English Bible as it is a classic of the language. It is a series of pictures of ancient life-religious, political and social, and more than any other book is a vivid portraiture of ancient life. So far as ancient archaeology is illustrated by the stories of the Bible, it has attractions for the student of history. But it has a greater claim to our attention on account of its literary excellence.
Professor Toy thought it was very strange that at the present day it was necessary for anyone to make a plea for the reading of the Bible, for it is unique in its literary excellence and ought to appeal to one simply from its literary style if from nothing else. It it strange, too, that at the present day there is so much ignorance concerning the purpose of the Bible, its line of composition, etc., etc.
By some it is wished to impose the Bible on the community as an absolute standard and this is naturally distasteful to some, who turn then to works which have less of that gloomy sanctity so often attributed to the Bible. If one will look closely, however, he will find in the Bible the best examples of pure eloquence, of noble heroism, and exalted poetry. He willf find, too, many passages of burning eloquence and impassioned rhetoric. If one would give the time to the study of the Bible which he gives to the study of the classics, he would experience a certain literary enjoyment which can not be got from other studies.
Matthew Arnold considered the Bible to be "the book of the people" and thought that no book in its diffusing power, its power of arousing creative ideas, in its power of appealing to the highest conceptions of the soul, and arousing the noblest and sweetest emotions that a human being is capable of the Bible is pre-eminent among all books of all ages.
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