An Illustrated History Of The Holy Bible Preface


“Bible History,” says Dr. Lange, “differs from the general history of the kingdom of God, in that it delineates only the foundation of this kingdom by means of and during the course of revelation. It traces, in historical succession, the narrative contained in the Scriptures in all its essential features. In the Old Testament it shows us all the elements of the life of faith, and sets before us many a precious example of faith and patience for our imitation; while in the New Testament it exhibits the history of faith and salvation 'made perfect,' both in the miracles and triumphs of the Lord, and in the deeds of His apostles. Thus Bible history forms the basis of Church history.”

As a department of useful knowledge, it possesses an intrinsic value and interest, surpassing whatever can be claimed for any other history. It covers a long period in the age of human society, whose chronicles, in an authentic form have been nowhere else preserved. It runs back to the eventful epoch whence the creation of the world, in its present organic state, dates its existence; and furnishes the only reliable record of the origin of man, of his primitive condition, his fall, his subsequent development, and the fortunes of his family.

Biblical history is the source of all we know of the antediluvian period, and subsequent ages of the world down to the time of Herodotus, the father of history. It contains the only truthful account of the ancient and long since vanished civilizations. Herodotus was a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah, the last of the Old Testament historians. The antediluvian period, and that intervening between the Noachian deluge and the times of Nehemiah, embrace an era of about three thousand five hundred years, the history of which is nowhere found but in the Old Testament. True, there are fabulous legends and cosmogonies in which may be found a confused intermingling of traditional lore and the inventions of the imagination, but thy are wanting in all the essential elements of authentic history.
It has been said by Dr. Kitto, that “Admidst the various profane authors who have written more or less in detail on Egypt, the Bible remains our best and fullest authority for the early history of this country…. The Bible supplies, either by express statement or obvious implication, facts and principles which constitute genuine history and go far to give the past all the value which it can possess for the men of these times.”

The history of the pre-Christian era embraces, 1. the primeval ages till the deluge, and the re-settlement of Noah and his family in Armenia. 2. The dispersion of the posterity of Noah's three sons till the calling of Abraham. 3. The origin and establishment of the Hebrew Theocracy, and its relations to the ancient empires of the world, comprising the period from Moses to David--the period of the kings from David to the Babylonian exile--the period of sacerdotal rule under the Maccabean administration, or what is called the middle period. 4. Primitive Christianity to the close of the first century.

Thus surveyed, it appears that Biblical history covers a period of four thousand years--from the morning of creation to the establishment of Christianity in all parts of the Roman empire. When considered in respect to the infallible sources whence it is derived, and the long flight of ages which it embraces, it must be regarded as possessing the highest claims to our careful study.

“Viewed merely as a literary production, the Bible,” says the able and learned editor of Dr. Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, “is a marvelous book, and without rival. All the libraries of theology, philosophy, history, antiquities, poetry, law, and policy would not furnish material enough for so rich a treasure of the choicest gems of human genius, wisdom, and experience. It embraces works of about forty authors, representing the extremes of society, from the throne of the king to the boat of the fisherman; it was written during a long period of sixteen centuries, on the banks of the Nile, in the desert Arabia, in the land of promise, in Asia Minor, in classical Greece, and imperial Rome; it commences with the creation, and ends with the final glorification, alter describing all the intervening stages in the revelation of God and the spiritual development of man; it uses all forms of literary composition; it rises to the highest heights, and descends to the lowest depths of humanity; it measures all states and conditions of life; it is acquainted with every grief and every woe; it touches every chord of sympathy; it contains the spiritual biography of every human heart; it is suited to every class of society, and can be read with the same interest and profit by the king and the beggar, by the philosopher and child; it is as universal as the race, and reaches beyond the limits of time into the boundless regions of eternity.”

The Illustrated History of the Bible is to be accredited to the labors of Kitto, who has contributed several valuable and voluminous works to the cause of biblical learning. For the numerous notes introduced, recourse has been had to the most reliable authors, and especially to the later researches in the department of sacred literature.

As some readers may be interested in a brief biographical notice of the distinguished Christian scholar referred to above, the following is here inserted.

JOHN KITTO was born in Plymouth, England, Dec. 4, 1804. His father was a common laborer, in humble circumstances. Being addicted to intemperance, he squandered his earnings in ale-houses, and his family was subjected to poverty and mortification. His son, John, was consequently removed to the home of his maternal grandmother, where he was tenderly cared for and instructed. Very early he manifested a strong desire for knowledge, and sought the society of those who would entertain him with stories or loan him books.

In his grandmother's library he found a family Bible, containing many pictorial illustrations of scenes in sacred history, which afforded him much pleasure, and induced him to read the Scriptures. The course of an eventful life is not infrequently shaped by some single incident in the experience of childhood. In the case of Kitto, it is very evident that there was a connection between his interest in the old family Bible, with its pictures, and his subsequent fondness for Biblical studies.

When he was ten years old, he was brought back to the parental home; his father, a journeyman mason, required John to assist him. In the mean time, he improved every leisure day and hour in reading such books as he could find or borrow. While other boys were at play, he was reading.
In the year 1817, the thirteenth of his age, young Kitto suffered in injury which cast a disheartening cloud over his future prospects. He was employed in carrying slates to the roof of a house which his father was repairing, when stepping from the ladder to the roof, his foot slipped, and he fell to the pavement below. He was conveyed in a senseless state to his home, and for two weeks there seemed to be but little hope of his recovery. At the expiration of this time he opened his eyes and consciousness returned. His first thoughts were directed to his books, his mind reverting to the subject with which it was occupied at the time of the casualty. He seemed greatly surprised to find himself weak and helpless. As yet he was not aware that, in consequence of the injury he had received, he had become entirely deaf. On inquiring for a book which he was reading just before he fell, he heard no answer. “Why do you not speak?” he asked with some impatience. The painful information was given to him, in writing, that he was deaf.

The fact of his deafness, depressing as it was, and unfitting him as it did for most kinds of business, did not extinguish his thirst for knowledge. He resorted to a variety of resources and expedients for earning small sums of money, which he expended in the purchase of cheap books. But his scanty earnings were not sufficient for the purchase of such books as he now craved, and for procuring food and clothing, which his parents in their poverty could no longer provide for him. Consequently, in the fifteenth year of his age, the poor deaf boy was sent to the poor-house. This stern, humiliating necessity seemed intolerable to his noble and sensitive spirit. After a while, however, he became resigned to this hard lot, and conducted himself in a manner that won the sympathy and kindness of the overseer.

In the latter part of the year 1821, John Kitto was apprenticed to a shoemaker, who proved to be an unreasonable and cruel master. But in these circumstances, trying as they were, and though required to work sixteen or eighteen hours a day, he redeemed time from sleep for the pursuit of knowledge. His was a mind that rose above the pressure of the most depressing adversity.

The promising abilities of this unfortunate youth were at last brought to the notice of several gentlemen in Plymouth. Measures were proposed by them in 1823, with a view to procuring for him a situation favorable to the attainment of that knowledge and culture on which he was so intent. As the result of these humane efforts, he was removed from the work-house to the position of sub-librarian in the Plymouth Public Library. Having triumphed over discouragements and difficulties which would have utterly disheartened a less brave and resolute spirit, he found himself on the upward career of successful literary culture and achievement.

Two grand ideas now impressed and affected his mind, viz.: that he must make himself, and that usefulness should be the ruling purpose in the prosecution of his literary labors find attainments. The eventful history of his life affords abundant evidence that these noble ideas were not theoretical elements, but practical forces, the influence of which was signally manifested in the strength and affluence of a cultivated intellect, and in the widely appreciated usefulness resulting from his manifold and elaborate contributions to the department of Biblical learning. There were other elements of character which contributed to his masterly activity and signal success. These were singleness of aim, thoroughness of execution, rigid system, personal independence, and strong faith in God.

The friends of Kitto advised him to engage in the work of a printing-office, for the purpose of qualifying himself to superintend a mission press. He did so, and in 1827 he received from the Church Missionary Society the appointment of lay missionary. In this capacity he sailed for the Island of Malta, where he engaged in the department of labor for which he had been set apart. On finding that his work was less favorable to intellectual and spiritual growth than he had expected, he resigned the situation.

As a missionary company was about to be sent to Bagdad, he readily accepted an invitation to join the same. The voyage to that oriental city occupied six months, which time he improved in careful observations on men, customs, and places. While residing in that city, it was visited by the plague, the terrific ravages of which swept off more than one-half the inhabitants in two months. Amidst this fearful desolation he remained calm and active at his post. His connection with this mission continued about three and a half years.

On returning to England, he settled near London, and engaged in literary pursuits. About this time he was married to a very excellent woman, who aided him in his labors. His first work was a book of travels in the East. Soon he commenced his great work, the Pictorial Bible, in three volumes. His Pictorial History of Palestine and the Holy Land followed. Then another great work, the The Cycloplaedia of Biblical Literature, was published in two very large volumes. Another work was the Gallery of Scripture Engravings and Landscape, in three volumes. Among his last productions may be mentioned the Daily Bible Illustrations, in two series of four volumes each, designed for morning and evening reading. Other works, besides numerous contributions to magazines, were among his literary productions. They have, as a whole, greatly enriched the department of Biblical Literature, and been regarded as valuable helps in the explanation and illustration of the Sacred Scriptures, Their acknowledged value has secured for them a wide circulation among Bible students in England and in our own country.

The religious change in the experience of Dr. Kitto, which occurred at the age of twenty-two, is referred to by him in a manner showing that it was deep and thorough. He speaks of it as the rising of “the day-spring from on high” upon his soul, through the grace of God.

His intense and unremitting application to literary labors impaired his health, so that, when fifty years of age, he was compelled to suspend his labors, and resort to measures for recruiting his over tasked constitution. He visited Germany for this purpose, but without any benefit. He rapidly declined, and died at Caanstadt, near Stuttgardt. His wife, who was with him, has furnished a beautiful record of his last days, which shows that his end was peace.

It has been the special care of the editor, in preparing this work, to verify references, to review, and, in some instances, revise the marginal notes, and to eliminate doubtful and irrelevant matter. As an humble contribution to the department of Bible history, this work is offered to Christian readers, and especially to the young, with the prayer and the hope that it may not only contribute something towards a popular and attractive illustration of the Historical Scriptures, but create an increased interest in the sacred book given of God for the edification, enlightenment, and spiritual benefit of all nations and all ages.

A.B. Norwich, Conn., May 1866.

Being a Connected Account of the
Remarkable Events and Distinguished Characters
Contained in
The Old and New Testaments,
and in
Jewish History during the Four Hundred Years,
Intervening between the
Time of Malachi and the Birth of Christ,
Including also the
Life of Christ and His Apostles:
the whole embracing a
Period of Four Thousand Years,
with notes critical, topographical and explanatory.
John Kitto, D.D., F.S.A.