Davidson’s object in this work was to bring the history and the ideas into living relation, to trace the progress of Old Testament faith from stage to stage, and to exhibit the course along which it advanced from its beginning to the comparative fullness which it obtained at the end of the prophetic period. But he never carried out the scheme. He had an increasing distrust of ambitious attempts to fix the date of the Hebrew literature, and link the ideas in their several measures of immaturity and maturity with writings as thus arranges. He became more and more convinced that there was no solid basis for such confident chronological dispositions of the writings and juxtapositions of the beliefs. In his judgment the only result of endeavours of this kind was to give an entirely fictitious view of the ideas, in their relative degrees of definiteness, the times at which they emerged or came to certainty, and the causes that worked to their origin and development. The most that he had scientific warrant to do, in view of the materials available for the purpose, was, in his opinion, to take the history in large tracts and the literature in a few broad divisions, and study the beliefs and the deliverances in connection with these.
Davidson passed away before being able to finish his work and publish it. His lecture-manuscripts were taken by S. D. F. Salmond and edited them into a beautiful, well ordered form.