The priest-like father reads the sacred page,
The Bible is properly called a greater light of Freemasonry, for from the center of the Lodge it pours forth upon the East, the West, and the South its refulgent rays of Divine truth. The Bible is used among Freemasons as a symbol of the will of God, however it may be expressed.
Therefore, whatever to any people expresses that will may be used as a substitute for the Bible in a Masonic Lodge. Thus, in a Lodge consisting entirely of Jews, the Old Testament alone may be placed upon the altar, and Turkish Freemasons make use of the Koran. Whether it be the Gospels to the Christian, the Pentateuch to the Israelite, the Koran to the Mussulman, or the Vedas to the Brahman, it everywhere Masonically conveys the same idea-that of the symbolism of the Divine Will revealed to man.
The history of the Masonic symbolism of the Bible is interesting. It is referred to in the manuscripts before the revival as the book upon which the covenant was taken, but it was never referred to as a great light. In the old ritual, of which a copy from the Royal Library of Berlin is given by Krause (Die drei ältersten Kunsturkunden der Freimaurerbrüderschaft, or The Three Oldest Art Documents of the Masonic Fraternity, 1, 32), there is no mention of the Bible as one of the lights. Preston made it a part of the furniture of the Lodge; but in monitors of about 1760 it is described as one of the tbree great lights. In the American system, the Bible is both a piece of furniture and a great light.
The above paragraphs by Doctor Mackey may well be extended on account of the peculiar position occupied by the Bible in our Fraternity. No one goes through the ceremonies and participates in Masonic activities uninfluenced by the Bible.
Studies of the Ritual necessarily rest upon the Scriptilres and of those inspired by Bible teachings and language. One good Brother earnestly and faithfully labored to have certain ceremonies freely edited but when he, devout Churchman as he was, understood that sundry peculiarities of language followed the example of the Bible, he gladly gave up his purpose to alter that which abides equally typical of age as the Scriptures.
What had seemed to him mere repetition was meant for weighty emphasis, as in James (x, 27) "Pure religion and undefiled;" Hebrews (xii, 28) "with reverence and godly fear;" Colossians (iv, 12) "stand perfect and complete," and also in the Book of Common Prayer, the word-pairs "dissemble nor cloak," "perils and dangers," "acknowledge and confess," and so on.
These may well be mentioned here as the tendency to change ceremonies is seldom curbed by any consideration of the peculiar merit, other than their quaintness, of the old expressions.
The Scriptures, the Holy Writings, the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Old and New Testaments, the Holy Bible, this word Bible from the Greek, the (sacred) books; the two parts, Old and New Testaments, the former recording the Covenants, attested by the prophets, between the God of Israel and His people, Christ the central figure of the latter work speaks of the new Dispensation, a new Covenant, and the word Covenant in the Latin became Testamentum from which we obtain the word commonly used for the two divisions of the Bible, the Old and New Testaments. These divisions are further separated into the books of the Bible, sixty-six in all, thirty-nine in the Old Testament, twenty-seven in the New.
We must remember that Old and New refer to Covenants, not to age of manuscripts.
Earliest Hiebrew writings of, the Old Testament only date back to the ninth century after Christ, several centuries later than the earliest New Testament Scriptures.
There is also another method of division in which the books of the Old Testament are counted but as twenty-four, First and Second Kings, First and Second Samuel, First and Second Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and then the minor prophets, as they are called, being grouped as one for several hundred years by the Jews and then divided into two in the sixteenth century. Roughly we may divide the books into the law according to Moses; the historical books of Joshua, Samuel, and the anonymous historians; the poetry and philosophy; and the prophecies, of the Old Testament.
These standards the books contain are known as the canon, originally a measuring rod or rule. The canon to some authorities admits none of the books of the Apocrypha, which are of value for the insight they afford of Jewish religious life. There are the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, and the Latin Old Testament, the Vulgate (Septuagint, a translation traditionally made by seventy persons, from the Latin septuaginta; and the Vulgate, another Latin expression, applied to the Saint Jerome version and meaning what is common) which in these works include the Apocrypha, usually held uncanonical by protestants, and then there are certain other books that both Roman Catholics and Protestants consider as having even less authority. Apocrypha comes from two Greek works krypto, to hide, and apo, meaning away. There is also an Apocrypha of the New Testament. Many Christian writings are of this class. Some add much light upon the early Church.
The New Testament was written at various times, Saint Matthew being followed about 64-70 A.D, by the work of Saint Mark at Rome. Saint Luke treats the subject historically, and claim is made that this writer was also responsible for recording the Acts of the Apostles. Saint John probably wrote his gospel near the close of the first century. His style is distinctive, and his material favored in formulating the Christian Creed.
The early Hebrew text of the Bible was wholly of consonants. Not until the sixth or eighth centuries did the pointed and accented lettering, a vowel system, appear, but before the tenth century much devoted labor was applied upon critical commentaries by Jewish writers to preserve the text from corruption. The Targum is practically a purely Jewish version of the Old Testament dating from soon before the Christian Era. The Septuagint is a Greek version used by the Jews of Alexandria and a Latin translation of the sixth century by' Jerome is the Vulgate. These three are leading versions.
The history of the several translations is most interesting but deserves more detail than is possible in our limited space. A few comments on various noteworthy editions, arranged alphabetically, are as follows:
Coverdale's Version. Known as the "Great Bible," translated by Miles Coverdale, 1488-1568, a York- shireman, educated with the Augustine friars at Cambridge, ordained at Norwich, 1514, becoming a monk.
By 1526 his opinions changed, he left his monastery, preached against confession, and against images in churches as idolatry. He was on the Continent in 1532 and probably assisted Tyndale in his task. His own work, the first complete Bible in English, appeared in 1535, the Psalms are those still used in the Book of Common Prayer. He was at Paris in 1538 printing an edition, when many copies were seized by the Inquisition, but a few got to England where the Great Bible was published in 1539.
Coverdale was Bishop of Exeter in 1551. An exile later, he had part in the Geneva edition, 1557-60.
Douai Version. Sometimes it is spelled Douay. A town in northern France, formerly an important center for exiled Roman Catholics from England.
Here the Douai Bible in English was published anonymously, translated from the Vulgate and doubtless by refugees at the Seminary at Douai and the English College at Rheims, the New Testament first appearing in 1582, the Old Testament in 1609--10.
Sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church the text has undergone several revisions, notably in 1749--50.
Genevan Bible. Called also the Breeches Bible from its translation of Genesis iii, 7 "They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves breeches."
Printed in a plainly readable type, this 1560 edition improved the former black-letter printing and was a complete revision of Coverdale's "Great Bible" in a bandy form.
Following the plan of a New Testament issued at Geneva in 1557, a Greek-Latin one in 1551, and the Hebrew Old Testament, this Bible had the text sepamted into verses and there were also marginal notes that proved popular.
King James Version. Known also as the Authorized Version, a task begun in 1604, the work was published in 1611, the actual revision requiring two years and nine months with another nine months preparing for the printing. Doctor Miles Smith, Bishop of Gloucester, 1612, tells in the old preface of the style and spirit of his associates.
They went to originals rather than commentaries, they were diligent but not hasty, they labored to improve and (modernizing the good Bishop's spelling) "lid not disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered, but having and using as great helps as were needful, and fearing no reproach for slowness, nor coveting praise for expedition, we have at the length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to that pass that you see. "
Mazarin Bible. Notable as the first book printed from movable metal types, about 1450, probably by Gutenberg in Germany, but t.his is also credited to other printers, as Peter Schöffer.
The name of this Latin reprint of the Vulgate is from that of Cardinal Mazarin, 1602-61, a Frenchman in whose library the first described copy was discovered.
Printers Bible. An early edition having a curious misprint (Psalm cxix, 161), the "Princes have persecuted me without a cause," reading the word Printers for Princes.
Revised Version. A committee appointed in February, 1870, presented a report to the Convocation of Canterbury, England, in May of that year, that it "should nominate a body of its own members to undertake the work of revision, who shall be at liberty to invite the co-operation of any eminent for scholarship, to whatever nation or religious body they may belong."
Groups of scholars were formed shortly afterwards and similar co-operating companies organized in the United States, the Roman Catholic Church declining to take part. Ten jears were spent revising the New Testament, submitted to the Convocation in 1881, the Old Testament revision in 1884, the revised Apocrypha in 1895. Afl this conscientious labor had calm, not to say cool, reception, changes were made in favorite texts, alterations upset theories, for some, the revision was too radical and for others too timid, even the familiar swing and sound of the old substantial sentences had less strength in their appeal to the ear and to many the whole eflect was weakened. Yet this would naturally be the result of any painstaking revision, especially so with a work of such intimacy and importance.
Later revisions have appeared. One from the University of Chicago is a skilful edition of the New Testament by Professor E. J. Goodspeed, whose attempt to reproduce the spirit today of the conversational style of the old originals is praiseworthy as a purpose, though we shall probably all continue to prefer that best known.
Tyndale's Version.. William Tyndale, 1490-1536, was born in Gloucestershire, England, on the Welsh border, went to the Continent, first to Hamburg, then to Cologne, to translate and print the Bible. This publication forbidden, he and his secretary escaped to Worms where an edition of the New Testament was completed in 1526. His pamphlets indicting the Roman Church and the divorce of the English king, Henry VIII, were attacks without gloves and powerful influence was exerted in return. His surrender was demanded.
But not until 535 was he seized, imprisoned near Brussels, tried for heresy and on October 6, 1536, strangled to death and his body burnt. His translations are powerful and scholarly, his literary touch certain and apt, experts crediting him with laying the sure foundation of the King James Version of the Bible.
Vinegar Bible. A slip of some one in an edition of i717 gave the heading to the Gospel of Saint Luke xx, as the "Parable of the Vinegar," instead of Vineyard.
Wicked Bible. An old edition,1632, which omits by some accident the word not from the seventh commandment (Exodus 14).
Wyclifle's Version. Spelled in many ways, John of that name, 1320--84, an English reformer, condemned to imprisonment through the Bulls of Pope Gregory XI, the death of the king and other interferences gave him some relief, but his attacks did not cease and his career was stormy. D'ying in church from a paralytic stroke, his remains, thirty years later were, by a Decree of the Council of Constance and at the order of Pope Martin V, dug from the grave and destroyed by fire. Wycliffe's personal work on the translation of the. Bible is in doubt, be it much or little, though there is no question that his main contribution was his earnest claims for its supreme spiritual authority and his success in making it popular, his devotion and ability paving the way and setting the pace for the pioneer English editions known by his name, the earliest finished about 1382, a revision of it appearing some six years later.
The reader desirous of studying the Bible will get great help in locating passages by any Concordance, listing the words with their text references, Cruden's of 1737 being the basis of English editions. A Bible Dictionary and the Encyclopedias assist in unearthing many details of consequence. Several special treatises on various important persons and places are available, the scientific publications of the Palestine Exploration Fund, established in 1865, very useful.
The study of the life of Christ is readily pursued through the New Testament with what is called a Harmony of the Gospels, an arrangement to bring corresponding passages together from the several documents, a convenient exhibition in unity of the isolated but closely related facts. Books on the Book of all Books are many.
Reason and Belief, a work by a well known scientist, Sir Oliver Lodge, is not only itself worthy but it lists others of importance for study. Appeal of the Bible Today, Thistleton Mark, shows how the Bible interprets itself and how it bears interpretation, a book listing freely many other authorities and itself also of great individual value.
These are typical of many excellent treatises.
Of the litemry values, two books in particular show clearly the influence of the Scriptures upon pre-eminent writers, George Allen's Bible References of John Ruskin, and The Bible in Shakespeare by William Burgess, the latter treating a field which many authors, Eaton, Walter, Ellis, Moulton, and others, have tilled. Listen to John Ruskin (Our Fathers have told us, chapter iii, section 37) on the Bible:
It contains plain teaching for men of every rank of soul and state in life, which so far as they honestly and implicitiy obey, they Will be happy and innocent to the utmost powers of their nature, and capable of victory over all adversities, whether of temptation or pain.
Indeed, the Psalter alone, which practically was the serviee book of the Church for many ages, contains merely in the first half of it the sum of personal and social Wisdom.
The 1st, 8th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, and 24th psalms, well learned and believed, are enough for all personal guidance; the 48th, 72nd, and 75th, have in them the law and the prophecy of all righteous government ; and every real triumph of natural science is anticipated in the 104th.
For the contents of the entire volume, consider what other group of historie and didactic literature has a range comparable with it. There are---
1. The stories of the Fall and of the Flood, the grandest human traditions founded on a true horror of sin.
II. The story of the Patriarchs, of which the eflective truth is visible to this day in the polity of the Jewish and Arab races.
III. The story of Moses, with the results of that tradition in the moral law of all the civilized world.
IV. The story of the Kings-virtually that of all Kinghood, in David, and of all Philosophy, in Solomon: culminating in the Psalms and Proverbs, with the still more close and practical Wisdom of Ecclesiasticus and the Son of Sirach.
V. The story of the Prophets-virtually that of the deepest mystery, tragedy, and permanent fate, of national existence.
VI. The story of Christ. .,
VII. The moral law of Saint John, and his closing Apocalypse of its fulfilment.
Think, if you can match that table of contents in any other-I do not say 'book' but 'literature.'
Think, no far as it is possible for any of us---either adversary or defender of the faith-to extricate his inteligence from the habit and the association of moral sentiment based upon the Bible, what literature could have taken its place, or fulfilled its function, though every library in the world had remained, unravaged, and every teacher's truest words had been written down.
As to Shakespeare we are reminded by the mention of his name of the monitorial item on the wasting of man (from Henry viii, iii, 2), "Today he puts forth the tender leaves, tomorrow blossoms, and bears his blushing honors thick upon him," and so on, a selection seldom adhering closely to the original words.
This is the Shakespeare in whose works we have so much biblical connection that Sprague, in his Notes on the Merchant of Venice, says "Shakespeare is so familiar with the Bible that we who know less of the Sacred Book are sometimes slow.to catch his allusions." Green's History of the English People tells graphically and convincingly of the power of the Bible at the Reformation when the translation and reading of it in the common tongue was no longer heresy and a crime punishable by fire, no more forbidden but almost the only, book in common reach.
Had Shakespeare any' book at all, that book was the Bible.
Brother Robert Burns ( The Cotter's Saturday Night) poetically describes the evening worship, and the reading of the Bible,
How Abram was the friend of God on high;
Or, Moses bade etemal warfare wage
With Amalek's ungracious progeny ;
Or, how the royal bard did groaning lie
Beneath the stroke of Heaven's avenging ire ;
Or Jacob's pathetic plaint, and wailing cry;
Or rapt Isaiah's wild, seraphic fire ;
Or other sacred seers that tune the sacred lyre.
Perhaps the Christian volume is the theme,
How guiltless blood for guilty man was shed;
How He, who bore in Heaven the second name,
Had not on earth whereon to lay His head:
How His first followers and servants sped ;
The precepts sage they wrote to many a land :
How he, who lone in Patmos banished,
Saw in the sun a mighty angel stand, ,
And heard great Bab'lon's doom pronounce'd by
The Standard Masonic Monitor of Brother George E. Simons, New York (page 21), ofiers an admirable address upon the Bible that for many years has been used by Brethren in various parts of the United States and elsewhere.
The Standard Monitor prepared by Brother Henry Pirtle, Louisville, Kentucky, 1921 (page 15), submits another address equally, to be used with pleasure and profit. The growing custom of presenting a suitably inscribed Bible from the Lodge to the initiate offers further opportunity to the Brethren to enlarge upon this important theme.
A brief address is here given upon the Bible as a Book peculiarly the cherished chart of the Freemason in struggling tbrough the storms of life to the harbor of peace:
The Rule and Guide of Masonic Faith is the Holy Bible. From cradle unto grave we cling to books, the permanent of friends, the sources of knowledge and inspiration.
Books are the lasting memories of manklnd. Youth relief upon the printed page for records of science, reports of philosophy, foundations of history, words of inspiring wisdom. Knowledge of the best books and a wise use of them is superior scholarship, highest education. in age as in youth we turn the leaves of literature for renewed acquentance with the gracious pact and better hold upon the living present. Of all the books is the one of leadership, the Book Supreme blazing the way with Light of noblest excellence to man, the Bible.
Within these covers are laid down the moral principles for the upbullding of a righteous life. Freemasonry lays upon the Altar of Faith this Book. Around that Altar we stand a united Brotherhood. There we neither indulge sectarian discussion nor the choice of any Church. We say the Freemason shall have Faith but our God is everywhere and we teach that it is the prayer that counts, not the place of praying. For centuries the Bible has shone the beaeon light of promised immortality, the hope serene of union eternal with the beloved who go before.
Here is the message for Masonic comfort when all else fails, the rays of truth glorifying God, enlightening Man.
Dr. George W. Gilmore, Editor of the Homiletic Retiew, and Chaplain of Anglo-Saxon Lodge, No. 137, New York City, prepared for us the following address for use in presenting a Bible to the newly raised Freemason:
Already this evening your earnest attention has been called to the three Great Lights in Masonry, especially to the Holy Bible. its importance to the whole Masonic structure has been emphasized. As you observe it now on the sacred Altar of the Brotherhood, its position is emblematic of the significance already taught you. Just as it is the basis on which the other two Great Lights rest, so its highest teachings are the foundation on which Freemasonry is erected, and they have been commended to you as the basis of your own faith and practice.
There is, however, a condition in this recommendation implicit, in part, in the circumstances under which you entered this lodge. Among the qualifications claimed for you as warranting your admission to this place one was that you are " of lawful age."
This was not insignificant. it meant that the Lodge was receiving you as one possessing mature judgment and the ability of a man to follow his judgment with the appropriate will to action. Freemasonry, my Brother, looks for no blind obedience to its commands. lt expects that its adherents will focus upon its mandates their God-given powers of intellect, and is confident that its precepts and its works will be justified by a mature and considered estimate of their worth. Hence, in so imporant a matter as that which concerns your own " faith and practice," you are commanded to study this sacred book and "learn the way to everlasting life,"-to read it intelligently and with as full appreciation of its origin and growth as you may command.
You should realize, first, that this Book is not, speaking humanly, the product of a single mind, the reflection of one generation. It is a double collection of many traets or treatises.
How many hands contributed to the composition we do not now know and probably never shall.
Some of its parts are highly complex, the produkt of whole schools of thought, ritual, and learning.
Its outstanding unity, however, rests upon the sublime fact that the rnind of the Great Architect of the Universe has, in all ages and places, been in contact with the mind of His sons, imparting to them as their capacities permitted, inspiring their sublimest thoughts and guiding to their noblest action, and was in contact with those who penned these books.
Second, this sacred volume covers in the period when it was actually written possibly nearly or quite thirteen hundred years-at least from the time of Moses to ths day, when 2 Peter was written.
And much earlier traditions, handed down by word of mouth (just as the teachings of Freemasonry are transmitted), are embodied within its pages.
The Old Testament records the history of a people from that people's unification out of clans and tribes to its formation as a monarchy, its division, its subsequent decline and fall as a kingdom, and its rebirth as a churchstate or theocracy. External history, not recorded within the Bible, tells of the extinction of this church-state by the Romans.
The history recorded in the Old Testament relates not only to external events, but to the more important matters of religion and ethics. It embraces not only the perfected thought of 1000 years of development, but also the crude morality of nomad tribes when " an eye tor an eye " registered the current conception of justice.
It is a far cry from that crude and cruel morality to the teaching of Micah : ''What doth Jehovah require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? " And the advance proceeds as we reach the New Testament. There we find such a consummate climax of religion and morality as is reached in the summary of the commandments: " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God With all thy heart and With all thy soul and With all thy mind and With all thy strength; and thy neighbor as thyself," conjoined with such peaks of self-control as in the command: " Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you."
The Bible is not, then, one dead level of ethics, religion, or culture. It is the register of a progress from a primitive stage of morals to the highest yet known. Not the inferior starting points of this morality are commended to you, but that level of action which best befits a man who would act on the square in this age of enlightenment.
If, therefore, you find in the record the sharp-practice of a Jacob or the polygamy of a Jacob or a Solomon, it is not there as a pattern. for your own life and practice. It is-just a record, faithful to fact and the witness to fidelity in recording.
You are not to reproduce in this age the life and morals of 1200 B.c, or of an earlier age.
You are to exercise the judgment of one living in the light of the prophets, of Jesus Christ, and of the great teachers and moralists who have followed them.
The highest pattem is yours to follow, that, as the Supreme Teacher expressed it, "Ye may be sons of your Father in heaven.'' This is the spirit and this the method in and by which you are encouraged to approach this masterpiece of literature, ethics, and religion, to draw from it the principles of the conduct you as a Macon shall exhibit in the lodge and in the world.
My brother, it is the beautiful practice of this lodge to present to each of the initiates a copy of the Great Light. It is my present pleasing duty to make this presentation in the name of the Worshipful Master and in behalf of the Lodge.
Receive, it, read it with painstaking care, study it sympathetically, appropriate its most exalted teachings, exemplify them in your life.
Therein is found " the way to life eternal."
In Masonic processions the oldest Master Mason present is generally selected to carry the open Bible, Square, and Compasses on a cushion before the Chaplain.
This brother is called the Bible-Bearer. The Grand Bible-Bearer is an officer of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.