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The Sceptics of the Old Testament: Job - Koheleth - Agur   By: (1855-1933)

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with English text translated for the first time from the primitive Hebrew as restored on the basis of recent philological discoveries.


E. J. Dillon

Late Professor of Comparative Philology and Ancient Armenian at the Imperial University of Kharkoff; Doctor of Oriental Languages of the University of Louvain; Magistrand of the Oriental Faculty of the Imperial University of St. Petersburg; Member of the Armenian Academy of Venice; Membre de la Société Asiatique de Paris, &c. &c.



My Dear Paschkoff,

In the philosophical problems dealt with by the Sceptics of the Old Testament, you will recognise the theme of our numerous and pleasant discussions during the past sixteen years. Three of these are indelibly engraven in my memory, and, if I mistake not, in yours.

The first took place in St. Petersburg one soft Indian summer's evening, in a cosy room on the Gagarine Quay, from the windows of which we looked out with admiration upon the blue expanse of the Neva, as it reflected the burnished gold of the spire of the Fortress church. At that time we gazed upon the wavelets of the river and the wonders of the world from exactly the same angle of vision.

The second of these memorable conversations occurred after the lapse of nine years. We had met together in the old place, and sauntering out one bitterly cold December evening resumed the discussion, walking to and fro on the moonlit bank of the ice bound river, until evening merged into night and the moon sank beneath the horizon, leaving us in total darkness, vainly desirous, like Goethe, of "light, more light."

Our last exchange of views took place after six further years had sped away, and we stood last August on the summit of the historic Mönchsberg, overlooking the final resting place of the great Paracelsus. The long and interesting discussions which we had on that occasion, just before setting out in opposite directions, you to the East and I to the West, neither of us is likely ever to forget.

It is in commemoration of these pleasant conversations, and more especially of the good old times, now past for ever, when we looked out upon the wavelets of the Neva and the wonders of the world from the same angle of vision, that I ask you to allow me to associate your name with this translation of the primitive texts of the Sceptics of the Old Testament.

Yours affectionately,


TREBIZOND, January 3, 1895.


A careful perusal of this first English translation of the primitive text of "Job," "Koheleth," and the "Sayings of Agur" will, I doubt not, satisfy the most orthodox reader that I am fully warranted in characterising their authors as Sceptics. The epithet, I confess, may prove distasteful to many, but the truth, I trust, will be welcome to all. It is not easy to understand why any one who firmly believes that Providence is continually educing good from evil should hesitate to admit that it may in like manner allow sound moral principles to be enshrined in doubtful or even erroneous philosophical theories. Or, is trust in God to be made dependent upon the confirmation or rejection by physical science of, say, the Old Testament account of the origin of the rainbow? Agur, "Job" and "Koheleth" had outgrown the intellectual husks which a narrow, inadequate and erroneous account of God's dealings with man had caused to form around the minds of their countrymen, and they had the moral courage to put their words into harmony with their thoughts. Clearly perceiving that, whatever the sacerdotal class might say to the contrary, the political strength of the Hebrew people was spent and its religious ideals exploded, they sought to shift the centre of gravity from speculative theology to practical morality... Continue reading book >>

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