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Preface to Heidegger's Bible "Handbook"

Updated: Dec 19, 2019

[See my explanatory comment in the "Comments" section below. --Dr. Dilday]

The eternal and immutable Wisdom of God, in the writings of the Wisest of Mortal Kings, Proverbs 8:6-9, 14, thus invites all men of all ages and ranks to herself, even to hear and receive her word: Hear; for I will speak of נְגִידִים, princely things[1] (σεμνὰ, things majestic, authentic, of the sort that befit true leaders and teachers), and my pronouncements are right. For my throat meditateth truth, and my lips abominate iniquity. All my words are just, and there is nothing crooked or perverse in them. They are plain to him that believeth, and right to them that investigate…. Before me is counsel וְתוּשִׁיָּה, and sound wisdom (infallibility, certitude, success of counsel). Before me is judgment and magnificence. With good reason then does that Teacher of the Gentiles appoint the word of Christ to dwell in us πλουσίως/richly, ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ, in all wisdom, Colossians 3:16. Since the situation thus stands, not only with all that are altogether desirous of eternal salvation, but especially with those that aspire to the office of teaching and leading others, it is incumbent that they with diurnal and nocturnal hand turn through the pages of the Holy BIBLE, the sole fountain of this Wisdom and Word of Christ, and the true κέρας ἀμαλθείας, horn of plenty,[2] with all other studies, all other cares relegated to an inferior position; let them roll, unroll, and then roll it up again; let them read, so that they might understand; but let them understand, so that they might love, believe, and obey. Since in perceiving and retaining in the mind heavenly and excellent Wisdom, the Help of memory is critical; but memory, as one of the more inconstant parts of our mind, constantly vacillates and fails: it was of concern to me and dear to my heart to fasten it, as I was able in a popular literary manner, with a succinct analysis of the individual books, and with the argument of the chapters contracted into a few heads; in addition, with Notes prefaced to each book concerning its Author, Summary, Scope, Chronology, Distribution, etc., as certain anchors. In which matter that to me was not an unseasonable deliberation, that either I remove the Bible from the hands of the studious, or take direction from the indolence of men that want to appear to love the sacred books, but love them not; or pander to the listlessness of others, that, as Saint Augustine says, de Doctrina Christi, Book IV.5, both read and neglect the Holy Scriptures; they read so that they might retain; they neglect lest they understand: but, so that the Holy Bible might be read more advantageously and with greater fruit, and the industry of those to whom the Word of God is pure delight be helped and advanced to some extent; for that education devoted to the sacred studies of the youth, some Handbook/Enchiridion of the Bible (if in an agreeable enough manner we have called it an Enchiridion, which beyond the first intention under the hand and press, with a somewhat more abounding argument offering itself, increased beyond measure) should also be supplied, by the guidance of which the knowledge of the Sacred Books might be faithfully instilled in them, and carefully weighed by the same, and repeated continually. That most learned and sagacious men have braved this river before me, I am not ignorant; with a most grateful heart I also acknowledge the works of those, as well as of the other most outstanding Interpreters of Holy Scripture, ancient and more recent, and that I have constantly made use of their very words. Moreover, others judged that Memorialia, Synopses, Officinæ, and Oeconomiæ Biblicæ, although adorned with laudable study, were not sufficient: and that after those I contributed somewhat to the advantage of the literary Republic, whoever studies to compare these latter with the former concerns will not completely deny, I trust. I thought that I would add additional value to the work, if I set down for each book the Interpreters, ancient and more recent, Reformed, Augustinian, and Roman Catholic, and also the Hebrews on the Books of the Old Testament, with their bare names cited. Therefore, I gathered not a few, of which either I myself had acquaintance, or I was able to find a catalog in the writings of Learned Men, especially Crowe[3] and Possevinus,[4] and others; and I added them to the end of the treatment of the individual Books. If any, either with memory failing, or the catalogs not furnishing, I have omitted, assuming that the studious Reader will have verified them, he will add them to the rest with no difficulty. And to this Handbook/Enchiridion I have adjoined a certain More Succinct One, to which let them constantly have recourse, that desire to observe the succession of books and chapters in one glance, as it were, and fix it more tenaciously in memory. In any event, I have attempted to approve my trustworthiness and altogether pure devotion in all things to GOD and to the Church. But if ever in the ὀρθοτομίᾳ, correct teaching, of the books, or in other things also, I have not completely followed the mind of the Holy Spirit, or have manifestly strayed from the lines, the pious Reader, mindful of human infirmity, which easily creeps in on the best and most attentive, even the most studious, will forgive me, a man, and the meanest of those that diligently watch for the advantages of the Church. But in malevolent and unjust appraisers of these things, to whom belongs this iron and deadly age, for any that attempt to write anything, and appear to act, just as if (I borrow the words of Saint Jerome) he sent his hand into burning flame, and gave himself to the tongues and barbs of detractors; it has a crop overly abounding: the same thing on my behalf, in the much recited Epistle to Paulinus thus responds, I am not so petulant and dull that I affirm myself to know these things, and to pluck their fruit, the roots of which are fixed in heaven, but I confess that I should like to do so. I put myself before the man that sits idle and, declining the teaching position, I pledge myself a fellow-student. To the one asking it is given, to the one knocking it is opened, and the seeker finds.[5] Let us learn on earth the knowledge of what things will continue with us in heaven. I will receive you with open hands: and (if I may boast and speak foolishly like Hermagoras[6]) I will attempt to learn with you whatever you desire to study. For the rest, pious and benevolent Reader (for I love thee, being prepared to stand or to fall with thy judgment), I ask thee στέργειν τὰ παρόντα, to be content in the things at hand, and to enjoy this labor, and to make it fruitful and to water it, if it shall be of such worth, with the dew of the benevolence and piety of thy prayers, and not to reject it with scorn, and I hasten unto a greater matter; being continually mindful that ἑνὸς ἀνάγκη is THE ONE THING NECESSARY: and that, just as in other things, so much more in this study of Heavenly Wisdom, MANY THINGS DELIGHT, FEW THINGS ARE IMPORTANT.[7] But if I will have perceived that thou dost not altogether despise this labor, or regardest it as useless and unfruitful, to this Handbook of the Bible will succeed in its own time, ἐὰν ὁ Κύριος θελήσῃ καὶ ζήσωμεν, if the Lord will and we live, a Pharos Biblica, or general Introduction to the Scripture of the Old and New Testament, gathered from the same founts, and also from the multifarious monuments of ancient and more recent Theologians and Philologists, in which Holy Scripture’s origin, Sacred Authors, Authenticity, Integrity, Sufficiency, Parts, Theology, History, Chronology, Geography, Prophecy, Philology, Rhetoric, Sacred Dialectic, and Interpretation of Words and Things shall be distinctly set forth, and the Reading of the same informed by necessary and useful rules.[8] May the Lord from heaven bless Thy pious labors and studies, and liberally advance them unto public use in His house and vineyard, and unto the increase of His glory! ΕΡΡΩΣΟ/farewell.


[1] נָגִיד signifies a leader or prince; נְגִידִים is an abstract plural.

[2] In Greek mythology, Rhea, after giving birth to Zeus, hid him in a cave from his father Cronus, who was devouring his own children. There Zeus was nourished by the goat Amalthea. One day, playing with Amalthea, Zeus accidentally broke off her horn. He blessed the horn, so that it might bring forth perpetual abundance.

[3] William Crowe (1616-1675) was an Anglican clergyman and bibliographer. He wrote An Exact Collection or Catalogue of our English Writers on the Old and New Testament, and Elenchus Scriptorum in Sacram Scripturam tam Græcorum quam Lainorum, etc.

[4] Antonio Possevino (1533-1611) was a Renaissance Humanist and Counter-Reformation Jesuit. He wrote Apparatus sacer ad scriptores Veteris et Novi Testamenti.

[5] Matthew 7:8.

[6] Hermagoras of Temnos (first century BC) was a Greek Rhetorician, famously verbose and elaborate.

[7] Seneca’s De Beneficiis, book VII, chapter 1.

[8] Heidegger did not live to see this project completed.

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