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by Joseph Exell
INTRODUCTION TO THE PENTATEUCH
The Title: Pentateuch
The title, Pentateuch, is the Greek name given by the LXX translators to the five books of Moses, the name by which they were known among the Jews being “The Law,” Torah. In the Scriptures it is called “The Book of the Law” (2 Kings 22:8), “The Book of the Covenant” (2 Kings 23:2; 2 Kings 23:21; 2 Chronicles 34:30), “The Book of the Law of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 17:9; 2 Chronicles 34:14), “The Law of Moses,” “The Book of Moses,” or “The Book of the Law of Moses” (see 2 Chronicles 25:4; 2 Chronicles 35:12; Ezra 6:18; Ezra 7:6; Nehemiah 8:1; Nehemiah 13:1). The division into five books is by many thought to be also due to the LXX interpp. The Jews, however, retain the division, calling the whole chamishah chomeshc torah, “The five quinquernions of the Law,” though they only distinguish the several books by names derived from a leading word in the first verse in each. Thus Genesis they call Bereshith, i.e., “in the Beginning,” Exodus Shemoth, “the Names,” etc. (Speaker's Commentary.)
Israel’s Lawgiver: his narrative true and his laws genuine
I. The man Moses. That the Moses of the Bible is a Man and not an Idea, it is the leading object of these pages to prove. The genuine impulse of the believing heart and the first clear judgement of the unbiassed mind concur in rejecting with indignation, as plainly incompatible with the Divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, the unnatural and groundless fancy that the greater portion of the laws and the history of Moses is a fiction in which Moses, the brother of Aaron, had no personal part. Moses, the great Lawgiver of Israel, is in the new criticism no longer a real man, as the Church both Hebrew and Christian has in all ages believed him to be; but an Ideal Person made up of different men, of whom Moses, the leader of Israel out of Egypt, is the first; and a thousand years after his death Ezra, the leader of the second company of exiles out of Babylon, is the greatest and nearly the last. Between these two the critics interpolate, and after them they add, various unknown men in Jerusalem or in Babylon; all of whom together, known and unknown, make up the ideal lawgiver and historian whom they call Moses. Besides Moses, who is most unwarrantably credited with having left only a few laws in writing, with others given by him orally, and Ezra, who is quite arbitrarily accused of having written many laws in the name of Moses, there is a third great writer of whose name the critics make much use--the prophet Ezekiel. Him, indeed, they can by no means fashion into their ideal figure of Moses; but they maintain the unfounded supposition that his closing prophetic vision contains a sketch of new ceremonial laws for Israel after the Captivity. But, if so, Ezekiel is a standing witness against their scheme of Moses having been personated by subsequent priests or prophets when they had new laws to introduce; for he openly announces all he has to write, not in the name of Moses, but in his own name from the mouth of the Lord. The critics conceive three Codes of Laws in the Mosaic Books: the first in Exodus 21:1-36; Exodus 22:1-31; Exodus 23:1-33, probably given in substance by Moses; the second in Deuteronomy, written about the time of Josiah; the third, the Levitical or Priestly Code, scattered through Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and held to have been written mainly during the Exile.
II. The ideal Moses of the critics. In proceeding to examine the subject we note that this ideal Moses of the critics disowns his own ritual, that he denies their alleged fact of the degradation of the Levites in Babylon, and that his personation of Moses extending over a thousand years is an impossible unity.
1. Their ideal Moses in the Second Temple disowns half its ritual.
(1) The critics’ ideal Moses ordains no vocal praise, which constituted half the ritual of the Second Temple. This part of the Temple service is described by Kuenen in these glowing terms: “In the period of the Sopherim (scribes) temple song and temple poetry were at their prime. The Psalms which we still possess have been rightly called ‘the songs of the Second Temple.’ Sacrifices were killed and part of them burnt upon the altar just as formerly. But their symbolic signification could very easily be lost sight of. On the contrary, there was no need for anyone to guess at the meaning of the Temple songs. The service itself had thus assumed a more spiritual character, and had been made subservient, not merely to symbolic representation, but also to the clear expression of ethic and religious thoughts. What a pure and fervent love for the sanctuary pervades some of the Psalms! The Temple which could draw such tones from the heart must in truth have afforded pure spiritual enjoyment to the pilgrim.” Yet no place for these songs is provided in the entire Levitical ritual, although they formed, not indeed the most essential part, yet the second half of the sacred service. The framework of the Levitical ritual, as we now have it, is accepted by the critics for their ideal Moses, and held by them to be complete; having received its crowning ordinance in the solemn service of the great Day of Atonement more than a thousand and fifty years after the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. For the perfect consummation of this ritual there was every possible facility; there was ample time to frame it in one century after another; there was no check of conscience in attributing new ordinances to Moses, and in surrounding them with fictitious incidents in his life; and when the ecclesiastical and civil authorities concurred in new laws or ceremonies they could either be added in a mass like Deuteronomy, or interpolated piece by piece as in the other Mosaic books. In the new theory this ritual was meagre and imperfect till the time of the Second Temple; new ordinances had been suggested and ordained by Ezekiel; these were modified and greatly extended by the priests in Babylon, most of all by Ezra; and after him they were still further supplemented in Jerusalem till they took the final form in which we now possess them. Now there can be no conclusion more certain than that, when the Levitical ritual under the name of Moses was completed, the songs of the Levites in the Temple formed no part of that ritual. If they had, they could on no account have been omitted; they were sung by ministers in the Temple divinely appointed to the office; at the great annual feasts they formed a leading and a most attractive part of the festival; and at the daily sacrifices in the Temple the Levites “stood every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at even.” If we believe the Holy Scriptures the Levitical ritual for the Tabernacle was absolutely completed by Moses himself; and this magnificent service of song was by Divine command added afterwards by David in preparation for the Temple. All this is set aside by the new critics, according to whom Ezra comes up from Babylon with more than half of the ordinances in Exodus, Numbers, and Leviticus added by himself and inserted under the name of Moses. But he adds no ordinance of song! He inserts in the law the minutest ceremonial observances; he thinks it needful to prescribe how many days the cleansed leper after entering the camp is to live outside of his own tent, although camp and tent had both been removed a thousand years before the ordinance was written; yet in his institutions he entirely omits one half of the daily service in God’s Temple!
(2) The critics’ ideal Moses ordains music without song for the Sanctuary. Whilst Ezra’s ritual is absolutely silent on the worship of God in His temple with song or with harp, it is by no means silent on the sacred music with which, and with which alone, the Lord was to be praised in his Tabernacle. The acceptable praise of the Holy One in His holy place was not left to the will of man, or to observances casually arising, but was expressly and most definitely ordained. Not however by Moses himself, according to the critics, but either by Ezra, or by an unknown priestly scribe of the Exile, writing in the name of Moses, the sacrificial praise was ordained in these very definite terms (Numbers 10:1-10). It is inconceivable that Ezra should have written such an ordinance in Babylon and brought it up with him as the ritual to be followed in the Temple, for he brought up Levites and singers with him to Jerusalem, and in his day there was confessedly the full service of song in the Temple. But this severe and simple institution expressly limits the whole sacrificial service to the priests, it excludes the Levites from sounding the trumpets, and allows no voice of song or sound of harp over the sacrifices. If it be pleaded that although this ordinance was by no means appointed by the personal Moses, it may have been written by some unknown priest before Ezra’s time, the difficulty is not lessened; for Ezra lets it remain as his own ritual, and as such he ordains it with authority in Israel. Nor is it any outlet to plead that Ezra and his successors made a shift for the omission by inserting in their histories what, according to the new criticism, they knew to be false, and ascribing the service of praise to David; for Ezra’s code comes with the superior authority of Moses five hundred years after David, and cancels all that differs from it. According to the new critics the sounding of the two silver trumpets by the priests is the entire service of praise that is allowed by the Levitical ordinances of the Second Temple! The ideal Moses of the critics therefore wants one-half of their own idea; their idea is the ritual of the Second Temple; and their ideal Moses severely disowns the magnificent half of the service which morning by morning and evening by evening filled that Temple with the lofty praises of the Lord of Hosts, whose mercy endureth forever.
2. Their Moses in Babylon denies their Babylonian origin of the order of the Levites. The Babylonian origin of the Levitical office is one of the main pillars on which the Levitical structure of the critics rests. If the distinction between the priests and Levites in the Book of Numbers was made by Moses, their theory of the Priestly Code loses one of its chief supports, or rather falls into pieces. Ezra, who is fancifully made either to write the ritual laws of Moses, or to be responsible for them, writes for us really with his own pen, and clearly states that the distinction between the priests and Levites did not originate in Babylon. But before considering the positive testimony of Ezra on the subject, we shall briefly notice--
(1) The argument against the antiquity of the Levites. The negative argument of the critics is that the distinction between Levites and priests made by the Levitical law in Numbers is not elsewhere recognized before the Exile. But the argument from subsequent silence regarding an institution that professes to have been clearly laid down and fully recognized in the nation, is extremely fallacious; and in this case it is maintained only by denying the historical truth of the Books of Chronicles, which is to set aside their inspiration, and by arbitrarily refusing the testimony to “the priests and the Levites” in 1 Kings 8:4. Whilst, however, the complete silence of the few prophetical books after the Exile, when the distinction confessedly existed, is to be taken in so far over-against the previous silence, the evidence from the last book of the Old Testament is very remarkable. The prophet Malachi not only does not recognize the existence of the two orders, but appears even to set it aside, and to regard the whole tribe of Levi as sacrificing priests, at a time when, according to the critics, the distinction between priests and Levites had existed for more than ninety years, and had been recently laid down in the code of Ezra with the severest penalties for neglecting it. The evident explanation is that from the days of Moses the distinction had been so universally acknowledged that there could be no risk of mistake in designating the priests as Levites, which they were, although the mere Levites were not priests.
(2) Ezra’s testimony to their antiquity. The affirmative evidence of the pre-Exile distinction between the priests and the Levites is clear, and determines both this special question, and with it one chief part of the whole controversy. The affirmative proof adduced by the critics is in the last portion of Ezekiel, which is neither law nor history, but a prophetic vision of a character that cannot be taken in a literal sense, as shown by its accounts of the division of the land and by the living waters flowing east and west from the Temple. But if it were to be taken into account in this inquiry, all that it could be proved to indicate is that Ezekiel appears to use the term “Levites” for the “Priests” exactly as Malachi uses the corresponding term “sons of Levi.” The most probable meaning of his language is that “the Levites [i.e., the priests, the Levites] that are gone away far from Me shall not come near unto Me to do the office of a priest unto Me. But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of My sanctuary, shall come near to Me to minister unto Me” Ezekiel 44:10; Ezekiel 44:13; Ezekiel 44:15), both the erring and the faithful having been Levite priests. The supposition of the critics is that in this prophecy of Ezekiel the distinction of the two orders had its origin; that as the fruit of his vision all the sons of Levi, who were not sons of Zadok, were shut out from the priesthood and degraded to the lower rank of Levites; that this degradation may account for the small number of Levites who were willing to leave Babylon; that it was incorporated in the law of Moses by Ezra or some other priest in Babylon, not in its true form of degradation, but under the false pretence of honour to the Levites; and that it was first put into practical operation on the return of the exiles to Jerusalem. Every thoughtful reader of the Bible ought to shudder at this scheme, for it turns the Scriptural account of the Levites, in Numbers 8:5-26, not merely into a fiction, but into a base falsehood, invented to transform their merited disgrace in Babylon into a high honour conferred on them by Moses a thousand years before; and it makes the history in the sixteenth chapter, of the awful destruction of Korah and his two hundred and fifty men by the direct judgment of God, to be a mere fable devised in Babylon to exalt the priesthood. Now Ezra in his own person states that the distinction between priests and Levites existed four hundred years before the captivity, not that it originated then, but was then in existence. In the narrative of the founding of the Temple in Ezra 3:10, there is the clear testimony that “they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David, king of Israel.” Quite apart from any theory of our own, we accept equally all the Scriptures, but because these words are not written in the first person many of the critics will not allow them to have been written by Ezra; and against all reason they deny the authority of the words that are against their own theories, while they magnify every word that can be turned in their favour. We therefore pass on to refer to chap. 8:15-20, which some of them hold to be given to us in Ezra’s own words. If the vision of Ezekiel in Babylon ordained for the first time the distinction of the Levites from the priests, Ezra the scribe could not but be well acquainted with that recorded ordinance; if the first practical operation of the new law was in the first exodus from Babylon, Ezra the priest must have known exiles in Babylon, both priests and Levites, who witnessed that exodus; and if the slowness of the Levites to go up to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel and with Ezra was caused by their official degradation, the fact must have been very familiar to Ezra. Now in Ezra the Levites are named twenty times, and always in distinction from the priests; in the following narrative Ezra expressly distinguishes between the two orders; and he states plainly that David and his princes appointed the Nethinim as servants to the Levites. That under the name of Levites, Ezra does not include the priests, but designates those whom he had just called “sons of Levi” (verse 15), is clear from the whole connection; in verses 29 and 30 he speaks again of “the priests and the Levites”; and in Genesis 7:3; Genesis 7:24, we read of “the priests and the Levites and the Nethinims.” Ezra, who most of all represents the ideal Moses of the critics, thus plainly denies the degradation of the Levites in Babylon, which is the main prop of all the alleged Priestly Code.
3. Their ideal Moses of a thousand years is an impossible unity. Receiving the sacred books in their natural sense, we have from the second chapter of Exodus to the last chapter of Deuteronomy, including Leviticus and Numbers, the space of forty years with the history of Israel and the laws given by Moses during that period. It would not invalidate the argument to allow, as many hold, that certain brief parenthetic explanations may have been added, as by Ezra; but there is no need for such an allowance, and the simple position is the best, that every line in these books from Ex
2:11 to Deuteronomy 33:29 is such as may have been written by Moses himself. In some parts another may have written what Moses spoke, but all may naturally have been written by him. Of Genesis also and the beginning of Exodus we fully believe him to be the author, but in them he does not write from personal acquaintance with the facts. On the other hand, the position taken by recent critics is that Moses was or may have been the writer of the greatest of these laws, as well as of institutions put into writing at a later period, that in the ages between Moses and Manasseh other laws may have had their origin, that about the time of Josiah Deuteronomy was written, that during the captivity in Babylon a new code filling a large part of Exodus and of Numbers, and nearly the whole of Leviticus, was written, chiefly by Ezra, and supplemented by other writers after his death. The critics who take this view hold at the same time that the scriptural writers constantly depict past events with a colouring of their own time, which would inevitably lead them into obvious and numerous mistakes both in time and place, in the fictitious productions of a thousand years. It is incredible and impossible that writers in the wilderness, in Jerusalem, in Babylon, and in Jerusalem again, should have pieced together a great body of laws and ordinances, each man inventing and interpolating according to his own mind; that they should all have agreed to sink their own names and to personate Moses in the wilderness where none of them but himself had ever been; and that none of them, prophet, priest, or scribe, after one or five, or seven or ten centuries, should have written what was incongruous to Moses, in time, or place, or language, or circumstance, or character. The unity of the acts and writings of a living man through a period of forty years confirms his identity; the unity of an ideal man through an alleged millennium of time, as if through a single life, proves that the allegation is untrue, because such a unity is impossible.
III. The author of the Mosaic books the same throughout. The historical Moses of the Bible, the author of the four specially Mosaic books, is thoroughly consistent in all his writings; he is the same man in them all; in all his words, in all his recorded events, in all his ordinances, in all his laws, and in all his character. He employs no words which Moses, the brother of Aaron, could not have used, narrates no event he could not have known, frames no ordinance he could not have prescribed, writes no law he could not have issued, and assumes no character in which he could not have acted.
1. There are no words in these books that could not have been used by Moses. There are expressions in the books of Moses that are never used afterwards; of which one of the most remarkable is in the frequent description of the end of life, first applied to Abraham, that he was “gathered unto his people,” and occurring in Genesis, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, but in no later books. There are also expressions common in the other books of the Bible, which never occur in the books of Moses; such as the title “The Lord of Hosts,” which is so frequent afterwards, but is never used by Moses. While these books of Moses have thus their own peculiarities, there is no word or phrase found in them which Moses himself could not have used. A very sufficient proof of this statement is presented in the following passage, in which the phrases or words that are adduced must be regarded as the most decided instances that can be found of alleged terms which Moses could not have employed: “There has been a great controversy about Deuteronomy 1:1, and other similar passages, where the land east of the Jordan is said to be across Jordan, proving that the writer lived in Western Palestine. That this is the natural sense of the Hebrew word no one can doubt, but we have elaborate arguments that Hebrew was such an elastic language that the phrase can equally mean ‘on this side Jordan’ as the English version has it. The point is really of no consequence, for there are other phrases which prove quite unambiguously that the Pentateuch was written in Canaan. In Hebrew the common phrase for ‘westward’ is ‘seaward,’ and for ‘southward’ ‘towards the Negeb.’ The word Negeb, which primarily means ‘parched land,’ is in Hebrew the proper name of the dry steppe district in the south of Judah. These expressions for west and south could only be formed in Palestine. Yet they are used in the Pentateuch, not only in the narrative but in the Levitical description of the tabernacle in the wilderness (Exodus 27:1-21). But at Mount Sinai the sea did not lie to the west, and the Negeb was to the north. Moses could no more call the south side the Negeb side of the tabernacle than a Glasgow man could say that the sun set over Edinburgh. The answer attempted to this is that the Hebrews might have adopted these phrases in patriarchal times, and never given them up in the ensuing four hundred and thirty years; but that is nonsense. When a man says ‘towards the sea,’ he means it. The Egyptian Arabs say seaward for northward, and so the Israelites must have done when they were in Egypt. To an Arab in Western Arabia, on the contrary, seaward means towards the Red Sea.”--(The Old Testament in the Jewish Church, p. 323). The objection to the employment by Moses of the phrase in Deuteronomy 1:1, translated “this side of Jordan,” is not here pressed: and for its use by him we must refer to our previous examination of the objection (Our Old Bible: Moses on the plains of Moab, p. 18). The literal translation “on the other side of Jordan” is certainly the best, if it is clearly understood that Moses means by these words the same eastern bank of the river on which he now stands. Of men before or since, “the man Moses” was the one to whom most of all that final stand on the plains of Moab was “the other side of Jordan,” from the earnestly coveted land of rest for the “wandering foot” of the tribes of Israel. But the author leaves this point as of no consequence, and takes up the expressions used for the South and the West in Exodus 27:1-21, and elsewhere, not only in the narrative, but in the description of the Tabernacle, which he holds to prove beyond all question that the Pentateuch was written in Canaan. If these strong assertions were true, they would take a chief place in the whole argument of the book. Let us look first at the more general arguments on the two phrases, and then at the special arguments on each.
2. The general argument on the South and the West. “In Hebrew,” Professor Smith says, “the common phrase for ‘westward’ is ‘seaward,’ and for ‘southward’ ‘towards the Negeb,’” and because these designations, as he holds, could only have been formed in Palestine originally, he repudiates the idea that they could have been used by Moses for the description of the Tabernacle in the wilderness; thus disproving, as he believes, the historical authenticity of the account given to us in Exodus. That the common Hebrew word for the west originally meant the sea is allowed by all, though not that the term for the south was derived from the Desert of Judah; but words often lose their original meaning in all languages, and it seems probable that in the days of Abraham these terms were used for the west and the south in general without any definite reference. In the promise of the land in Genesis 13:14, Abraham is asked first to look northward in a Hebrew term that is entirely and confessedly general; and when he is asked next to look southward, it is probable that this term is taken like the corresponding one in a merely general sense. Then he looks eastward, for which again the Hebrew term is absolutely general, rendering it in like manner probable that the corresponding westward is also general. As regards the alleged foolishness of supposing that Moses in the wilderness used the terms for the south and the west which the patriarchs had employed in Canaan, in must be remembered how distinct Israel must have been kept from the Egyptians although dwelling amongst them, how ardently they clung to the promised land and all its associations, and how Egypt was for them only a place of temporary exile. Canaan was to Israel the land alike of the past and of the future; there they had already buried their father Jacob, who had bound them by oath not to leave his body in Egypt; and they kept the bones of Joseph to carry up with them in their exodus. There is no reason to think that in coming out of Egypt, “where they heard a language that they understood not,” they spoke a different Hebrew from that of their fathers in Canaan; and, as already noted, words once embodied in a language often retain their meaning without reference to their origin. For Moses himself Canaan was the promised land to which he was to lead his people Israel; the north, south, east, and west in the promise that constituted Israel’s claim to the land were written on his memory and in his heart as with a pen of iron and the point of a diamond; and when he was recording the history of Israel, wherever he stood, there could be nothing so natural to him as to retain those hallowed terms, alike on account of the past and of the future, unaffected by Israel’s passing exile from the land of their fathers.
(2) The argument from the South. As regards the South, before it can be said that “at Mount Sinai the Negeb was to the north,” it must first be proved that the Negeb derived its name from the dry steppe of Judah, and next that it always retained this purely local meaning, and was not used to signify the south in general. Gesenius, taking parchedness for the origin of the word, makes first of all its general meaning to be the south, of which he gives several examples, as in Exodus 27:1-21, and Psalms 126:1-6. Afterwards he gives two specific meanings, of which the first is the southern district of Palestine and the second is Egypt, both of which he takes merely as special applications of the more general term for the south. Furst, in his Hebrew Concordance and in his Lexicon, agrees with Gesenius in giving the south as the meaning of the Negeb, in deriving it from parchedness, and in recognizing the Negeb of Judah as a name originating in the general term for the south. That critics should hold their different opinions on the origin of one of the Hebrew words for the south is of slight importance; but the argument takes a graver form when it is held out merely that the Negeb was originally the Desert of Judah, but that it retained this restricted meaning exclusively, and did not come to signify the south in general. The author’s affirmation on this point is so decided as to call for a detailed proof of the error. In the nature of the case many or most instances of the occurrence of the term Negeb determine nothing on its more special use, as in the designation of the southern aspect of the temple (1 Kings 7:25), which will be held to refer to the south of Judah, although the only natural reference is to the south in general. But a testing example occurs in Ezekiel 20:46-49; Ezekiel 21:1-5, where the prophet living in Chaldea, north of Palestine, prophesies against “Jerusalem, the holy places, and the land of Israel,” under the designation of the south in three different Hebrew terms. One of these terms, and the only repeated one, is the Negeb; but here it cannot possibly mean the Southern steppe, for this would lower a great and leading prophecy against Jerusalem and the whole land to a mere denunciation of the wilderness of Judah. In like manner in the Book of Daniel the Negeb is used twice in the eighth chapter for the south in general quite apart from Palestine (Daniel 8:4; Daniel 8:9); and ten times in the eleventh chapter for the land of Egypt (Daniel 11:5-40). It is, then, most certain that the critic is in error; and that the Hebrew word used by Moses for the south side of the Tabernacle is a general designation of the south, and would be used at Mount Sinai as freely and as correctly as in Palestine.
(3) The argument from the West. If Professor Robertson Smith’s opinion on the origin of the term for the south were correct, there would be little occasion left for discussion concerning the west, for if the dry steppe of Southern Judah gave its Hebrew name to the south in general, still more readily might the name of the Mediterranean Sea become a general designation for the west. There is conclusive proof that when a Hebrew said, “towards the sea,” he might simply mean the west and not the sea. Professor Smith writes that “the Egyptian Arabs say seaward for northward, and so the Israelites must have done when they were in Egypt.” But the author of the book of Exodus, writing either in Egypt or of it, and with an intimate knowledge of the country, speaks of a strong “sea wind” Exodus 10:19) carrying the locusts into the Red Sea. According to this view, it must have been a “north wind,” as in the present speech of the Egyptian Arabs; but a north wind would not have carried the locusts into the Red Sea. The Vulgate, our English Bible, Gesenius, Furst, Keil, and Delitzsch render it a west wind. There are good critics who hold that it may be taken more widely for a sea wind, in the sense of a wind from the northwest; but we are not aware that any have rendered it a north wind.
The evidence is not for, but against the supposition that Israel in Egypt called the north wind a sea wind; for it seems probable that it is the west wind that is here spoken of under the old Hebrew term for the sea without any reference to the origin of the word. But there are other passages where the term has clearly no reference to the sea, that is, the Mediterranean or Great Sea, but simply means the West; and in that sense it might be equally used in Palestine or anywhere else. In Canaan it is so used in Joshua 15:12, “and the west border was to the great sea, and the coast thereof.” If Professor Smith’s contention were right, these words would signify, “and the (great) sea border was to the great sea”; but, although he maintains that when a man says “towards the sea, he means it,” it is evident, on the contrary, that the writer does not at all refer to the sea, but simply to the west. In like manner before entering Canaan, in Numbers 34:6, Moses is commanded to say to Israel, “As for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border; this shall be your west border.” But according to the view before us the verse must bear this impossible meaning, “As for the (great) sea border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border; this shall be your (great) sea border.” Ezekiel in the same way uses the term for the west as distinguished from the sea: “The west side also shall be the great sea” (chap. 47:20). That the word is constantly used for the west is allowed by all, but Professor Smith maintains that it could be so used only as meaning the Mediterranean Sea. But in these three passages it is used not only with no reference to the Mediterranean, but with a most definite and express distinction of the term from that which is used for that sea. It is, therefore, exactly equivalent to our English term west; and there can be no reason why Moses should not have used it in describing the tabernacle in the wilderness of Sinai.
3. These books narrate no facts which Moses could not have recorded. The most conspicuous example of a supposed error in date is presented by the old and oft repeated objection to the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy from the statements in Deuteronomy 2:12, that “the children of Israel succeeded them (the Horims), when they had destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their stead; as Israel did unto the land of his possession, which the Lord gave unto them;” and again in chap. 4:38, “to drive out nations from before thee, greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day.” These statements, however, instead of being objections, serve as proofs of the Mosaic authorship of the book, because so skilful an imitator of Moses, as the Deuteronomist is allowed by our opponents to have been, would have avoided the use of expressions that might lead to searching questions. In
Moses himself there was no occasion to avoid them, because his own previous narrative had amply explained them. The supposed reference in these passages to “the conquest of Canaan” is an entire mistake; there is in them no mention of the conquest of central Canaan, and there is no allusion to it. In the second and third chapters there is a full rehearsal by Moses of the conquest by Israel of the kingdoms of Sihon, king of Heshbon, and of Og, king of Bashan, “nations greater and mightier” than Israel; and the reference is to the “possession” and “inheritance” of their lands “as it is this day.” There is no ground whatever for the plea of a later date which the critics have founded on these expressions, as if they referred to the central land of Canaan. Again, in Deuteronomy 4:38, “To drive out nations before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give their land for an inheritance, as it is this day,” there is likewise no difficulty, for the verse describes exactly the historical situation of Israel in the closing days of Moses.
4. These books contain no religious ordinance that Moses could not have instituted. The work of Ezra in Jerusalem is held by the critics to constitute an epoch in the history of Israel, not in the true sense of moving his people to keep the original law of Moses, but of inducing them to accept a new ritual under the old authority of his name. But the whole proof of the new keeping of ritual Egyptian Arabs say seaward for northward, and so the Israelites must have done when they were in Egypt. But the author of the book of Exodus, writing either in Egypt or of it, and with an intimate knowledge of the country, speaks of a strong “sea wind” (Exodus 10:19) carrying the locusts into the Red Sea. According to this view, it must have been a “north wind,” as in the present speech of the Egyptian Arabs; but a north wind would not have carried the locusts into the Bed Sea. The Vulgate, our English Bible, Gesenius, Furst, Keil, and Delitzsch render it a west wind. There are good critics who hold that it may be taken more widely for a sea wind, in the sense of a wind from the northwest; but we are not aware that any have rendered it a north wind. The evidence is not for, but against the supposition that Israel in Egypt called the north wind a sea wind; for it seems probable that it is the west wind that is here spoken of under the old Hebrew term for the sea without any reference to the origin of the word. But there are other passages where the term has clearly no reference to the sea, that is, the Mediterranean or Great Sea, but simply means the West; and in that sense it might be equally used in Palestine or anywhere else. In Canaan it is so used in Joshua 15:12, “and the west border was to the great sea, and the coast thereof.” If Professor Smith’s contention were right, these words would signify, “and the (great) sea border was to the great sea”; but, although he maintains that when a man says “towards the sea, he means it,” it is evident, on the contrary, that the writer does not at all refer to the sea, but simply to the west. In like manner before entering Canaan, in Numbers 34:6, Moses is commanded to say to Israel, “As for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border; this shall be your west border.” But according to the view before us the verse must bear this impossible meaning, “As for the (great) sea border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border; this shall be your (great) sea border.” Ezekiel in the same way uses the term for the west as distinguished from the sea: “The west side also shall be the great sea” (Ezekiel 47:20). That the word is constantly used for the west is allowed by all, but Professor Smith maintains that it could be so used only as meaning the Mediterranean Sea. But in these three passages it is used not only with no reference to the Mediterranean, but with a most definite and express distinction of the term from that which is used for that sea. It is, therefore, exactly equivalent to our English term west; and there can be no reason why Moses should not have used it in describing the tabernacle in the wilderness of Sinai.
5. These books narrate no facts which Moses could not have recorded. The most conspicuous example of a supposed error in date is presented by the old and oft repeated objection to the Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy from the statements in Deuteronomy 2:12, that “the children of Israel succeeded them (the Horims), when they had destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their stead; as Israel did unto the land of his possession, which the Lord gave unto them;” and again in Deuteronomy 4:38, “to drive out nations from before thee, greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day.” These statements, however, instead of being objections, serve as proofs of the Mosaic authorship of the book, because so skilful an imitator of Moses, as the Deuteronomist is allowed by our opponents to have been, would have avoided the use of expressions that might lead to searching questions. In Moses himself there was no occasion to avoid them, because his own previous narrative had amply explained them. The supposed reference in these passages to “the conquest of Canaan” is an entire mistake; there is in them no mention of the conquest of central Canaan, and there is no allusion to it. In the second and third chapters there is a full rehearsal by Moses of the conquest by Israel of the kingdoms of Sihon, king of Heshbon, and of Og, king of Bashan, “nations greater and mightier” than Israel; and the reference is to the “possession” and “inheritance” of their lands “as it is this day.” There is no ground whatever for the plea of a later date which the critics have founded on these expressions, as if they referred to the central land of Canaan. Again, in Deuteronomy 4:38, “To drive out nations before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give their land for an inheritance, as it is this day,” there is likewise no difficulty, for the verse describes exactly the historical situation of Israel in the closing days of Moses.
6. These books contain no religious ordinance that Moses could not have instituted. The work of Ezra in Jerusalem is held by the critics to constitute an epoch in the history of Israel, not in the true sense of moving his people to keep the original law of Moses, but of inducing them to accept a new ritual under the old authority of his name. But the whole proof of the new keeping of ritual institutions at this great historical epoch consists in Israel erecting green booths for the Feast of Tabernacles on the roofs of their houses, and in their courts, and in the courts of the Temple, and in the streets of the water gate and of the gate of Ephraim; and this is expressly stated to have been only the revival of an old ordinance of the personal Moses, the predecessor of Joshua. This is all that can be proved to constitute the new epoch under Ezra. In the reading of the Law and the observance of its ordinances the marked noting of this solitary instance of neglect clearly warrants the inference, that the people were not aware of a similar neglect in the range of other ceremonial institutions, but that they knew them to have been kept by the nation, at least under their better kings. But against all reason the contrary conclusion is drawn, that this exceptional instance is given as an example of a universal neglect of the ceremonial law. In other respects, however, this particular record is of primary importance; but before examining it we shall look at the notices of other ordinances in the post-Exile Scriptures.
According to the law of Moses, or according to any supposed traditional law of which there is any trace in the Scriptures, he could not have been sentenced to this punishment for theft or for any other crime whatever save the one of putting out his brother’s eye or his brother’s tooth. Therefore the law of retaliation is of necessity recognized in the Deuteronomic Code as in full force, and is made the express basis of extending the same penalties to the crime of perjury. If the law had become obsolete or been limited to the case of false witness, the enactment as against perjury was a dead letter; for the perjured man would not have forfeited his own eye or his own tooth, if the man whom he accused was not liable to forfeit his for the imputed crime of putting out his neighbour’s eye or his neighbour’s tooth.
(5) These books contain no circumstances or character in which Moses could not have acted. The oldest are likewise the newest objections that have been taken to the manner of writing in these books; it has been and is alleged to be unnatural that an author should write his own history in the third person. That the writer of a nation’s history, with which his own is inseparably bound up, should speak of himself in the third person need not seem artificial to us; and the usage was well enough known in ancient times, although it may seldom occur, for the obvious reason that historians for the most part narrate the acts of others and not their own. The familiar and very important example of Caesar’s “Commentaries” is acknowledged as an instance of a narrative in which the narrator so speaks of himself; but exception may be taken to the lateness of the date, and to the circumstance that the writer is not a Hebrew. This is not, however, the earliest date of such a mode of writing, and it was used by the Greek and by the Jew, as well as by the Roman. Three hundred and fifty years before Caesar, Xenophon in his “Expedition of Cyrus” constantly speaks of himself as Xenophon, just as Moses speaks of himself; and also, like Moses, he narrates his own words in the first person. Proof, however, is asked, “that any Hebrew ever wrote of himself in the third person.” Our blessed Lord so speaks of Himself in John 3:13-18, and elsewhere; so does the disciple whom Jesus loved: and so also Ezra (Ezra 9:1; Ezra 9:5; Ezra 10:1; Ezra 10:5; Ezra 10:10, and in 7:6, 11, 27, 28; 8:1). In later times, Josephus in his history of the Jewish war constantly writes of himself in the third person, and gives his own words in the first, using this form of writing quite as much as Moses did. The following is a single instance out of many, and in it this author, so familiarly known, furnishes a very definite reply to the demand for a Hebrew writing in this manner: “Upon this, Josephus declared, to them what Caesar had given him in charge, and this in the Hebrew language, But the tyrant cast reproaches upon Josephus. In answer which Josephus said--‘Take notice that I, who make this exhortation to thee; I who am a Jew,do make this promise to thee’” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 6, Chap. 2)
. The old objection against Moses writing of himself as “very meek above all the men that were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3), which Thomas Paine says is to “render him truly ridiculous and absurd,” rests on not taking into account the circumstances of the case together with the peculiarly high calling of Moses, who faithfully narrates for all generations the Lord’s dealings with himself and with Israel, and records his own faults and theirs. When a man’s character and motives are assailed, as with Job, David, and Paul, he is justified in vindicating himself; and Moses speaks of himself as the meekest of men, in reference to the accusation by Aaron and Miriam that he had usurped authority which belonged equally to them. This meekness was contrary to his own natural character; was acquired through Divine training in a retirement of forty years; and had so thoroughly imbued him, that he insisted with the Lord to choose any man except himself for Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt, on which his heart was so intently set. The record of this meekness serves the threefold end of explaining the unjustifiableness of the attack against him, his own singular silence under it, and the Lord’s remarkable interposition on his behalf; whilst the accompanying record of the words of the great God as distinguishing Moses from all other prophets by speaking to him “mouth to mouth,” is in reality much more exalting to him than the testimony of his being the humblest among sinful men.
IV. THE CHURCH IN ALL AGES ACCEPTED ONLY THROUGH ATONING SACRIFICE. If the Levitical ritual were accepted as instituted by Moses at Mount Sinai, there would be no question of the Divine appointment of sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin under that dispensation; but the refusal of the ceremonial law to Moses is accompanied by the denial of pardon through sacrifice, either under Moses or in the previous history of the Church from the beginning of the world. “The law was given by Ezra” is the new interpretation or rather contradiction of the old Divine words, “the law was given by Moses.” Let us, therefore, look first at the earlier history before the prophets, and then at the position taken by the prophets.
1. The character of sacrifice before the time of the prophets.
2. The teaching of the prophets regarding sacrifice.
1. Like Jeremiah he bids Israel in the Lord’s name to cease from offering sacrifices to Him if they will not cease from sacrificing to idols (chap. 23:39, 20:39).
2. Like Jeremiah he proclaims the great acceptableness to the Lord of sacrificial offerings from an obedient and single-hearted people (chap. 20:40).
3. Like the other prophets he does not definitely express the connection of pardon with sacrifice, although the pardon of sin is at the very foundation of the promised acceptance of their sacrifices. But, on the one hand, pardon is promised to the penitent sinner (chap. 33:14, 16); and on the other hand the cleansing and the forgiveness of sin are represented as coming not by the blood of slain beasts, but through an atonement provided directly by God Himself and reaching the inmost conscience (chap. 37:25-26).
4. This promise of inward cleansing by sprinkling with clean water clearly proves that the Levitical law was not introduced by Ezra, but was well known both to Ezekiel and to the exiles for whom he wrote, to whom otherwise the expression would have been unintelligible. It plainly refers either to the command given to Moses for the Levites in Numbers 8:7. The spiritual promise of the prospect as clearly refers to a ritual ordinance taken in its spiritual sense as David’s prayer, “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean,” which the critics so unwarrantably deny to David, who in their account could not have known a law that was introduced by Ezra. In Ezekiel the sprinkling with the cleansing water of the old Levitical rite is taken in a spiritual sense, and plainly overturns the theory of the new critics. If it be said that Ezekiel’s promise might have reference to Ezra’s future ritual, this is plainly to reverse the Divine order and to put the spirit first and the letter afterwards. But even so the argument fails, because according to the critics Ezekiel sketched his own new code of ritual laws in considerable detail, and if the “sprinkling with clean water” had not referred to the ancient rites of Moses but to his own future code he could not have failed to introduce it in his alleged ritual. But in his great vision there are abundant spiritual waters flowing from the threshold of the sanctuary to give life and beauty, but no ceremonial sprinkling of water on the unclean. The certain inference is that the prophet, who was himself a priest, refers to the Levitical ordinances given by Moses at Mount Sinai; and that this reference quite sets aside the most uncritical conjecture of these ordinances having originated in Babylon.
4. By the prophets, as by the Psalms, it is always to be borne in mind that the Lord was preparing Israel for the Great Sacrifice by which all the Levitical sacrifices were to be abolished, and of which they were all only types and shadows. This great element in the prophetic writings serves to explain any more difficult expressions, taken in connection with the bold abruptness of the prophetic style. In answer to inquiring Israel, Micah says concisely, “The Lord hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what cloth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” The prophet does not say that no more than these is required, but that no more is required “of thee,” because the Lord Himself had “shown man what was good.” Now what is “the good” which the Lord had shown to Israel? not doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly, which the Lord requires of men; but the good which God Himself provides and reveals, and which had been so brought out to Israel by Micah’s older contemporary, the great national prophet, Isaiah (Isaiah 55:1-3). This good is in the sure mercies of David, given as “a witness and leader to the people,” the same as “the Servant whom the Lord upheld,” whom “it pleased the Lord to bruise,” on whom “the Lord laid the iniquity of us all,” whose soul He “made an offering for sin,” and through whose coming sacrifice the prophet proclaimed, “Comfort ye my people, cry unto Jerusalem that her iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” If this suggested connection between the words of Micah and of Isaiah seem too remote, there is no doubt of the meaning of Isaiah’s own words. While he declares that “Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof for a burnt offering,” he proclaims a free pardon to Israel, because on His Righteous Servant “the Lord hath laid the iniquities of us all, and made His soul an offering for sin.” (A. Moody Stuart, D. D.)
History of the Pentateuchal, Composition Controversy
Philo and Josephus both held that Moses actually penned the last eight verses of the Pentateuch. The former was of opinion that Moses, as prophet, could narrate his final earthly fate; the latter judged that Moses told of his death and burial out of humility, in order to prevent his own apotheosis. If the Mosaic origin of a part of the Pentateuch could be defended only by such artificial assumptions, can we wonder that, after the time of Philo and Josephus, the number of those constantly increased who doubted more and more the Mosaic origin of the entire Pentateuch? Of course, the part of the Pentateuch which was at first denied to Moses was small. So among the Jews the editors of the Babylonian Gemara (Baba Bathra, fol. 14, 15) ascribed only eight verses of the book of the law to Joshua Deuteronomy 34:5-12). “For they ask,” says the Talmud at this place, “if Moses while alive could have written, ‘And Moses died there’? Did not Moses write only as far as this verse, and Joshua add the following eight verses? “Outside of Jewry also it was the account of Moses’ death which gave occasion in the first instance for doubting the Mosaic composition of the entire Pentateuch. According to a passage contained in the third of the Clementine Homilies, written about 160 A.D., Moses intended to hand down the primal religion by word of mouth only, and entrusted the law to seventy wise men; but after his death, contrary to his own intention, the law was committed to writing. From the account of Moses’ death Deuteronomy 34:5), however, it is clear that this transcription of the law, the Pentateuch, did not come from him. Later, moreover, the Pentateuch was repeatedly destroyed, and then enlarged by additions which were made to it, again written down. Celsus also, as is reported by Origen (4, 42) in the eight books which he wrote against him, held that the Pentateuch did “not come from Moses, but from several uncertain persons.” There lurks something also of criticism of the absolute Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch in the words with which the learned Jerome addressed Helvidius: “Whether thou callest Moses the author of the Pentateuch, or Ezra the restorer of this work, I do not object.” These words contain an echo of the notice (Ezra 7:11; Ezra 7:14) that Ezra came in order to teach in Israel statutes and judgments according to the law of God which was in his hand. At a later date, in the mediaeval centuries, as in regard to many other things, so also in regard to the origin of the Pentateuch, the sparks of historical discernment, which had blazed up earlier, were almost entirely extinguished. But as it was generally the chief purpose and achievement of the reformers to dig through the strata of ecclesiastical tradition to the primary sources of Christianity, so the friends of the Reformation waked to a new and vigorous life the knowledge which had existed in earlier centuries regarding the origin of the Pentateuch. In 1520, Andreas Bodenstein of Carlstadt, at whose hands Luther had received the oath in 1512 when he became doctor of the Holy Scriptures, declared, in his “Treatise on the Canonical Scriptures”: “It is certain that Moses gave the people the God-delivered law; but to whom the wording of the five books and the thread of the representation belong,--as to that there may be doubt” (§ 81). And farther: “The proposition can be defended that Moses was not the composer of the five books, because after his death we still find the self-same thread of representation” (§ 85). Perhaps, however, someone may forget that the evangelical Church owes its origin to the striving after historical truth, and affirm that Carlstadt was a radical spirit. But Luther also, in his lectures on Genesis (delivered 1536-1545; Opera Latina, Erlangen edition, vol. 9, p. 29 et seq.), commenting upon Genesis 36:31, says: “The question arises whether these kings lived before or after Moses. If they lived after Moses, then he himself could not have written this, but an addition has been made by another; such as is also the last section of Deuteronomy. For he did not say of himself: ‘There hath not arisen another since Moses with whom God spake face to face.’ The same is true again of what is there narrated concerning” the grave of Moses, etc., unless, one should say that he foresaw and prophesied this with the help of the prophetical sprat. There is another fact also from which it can be perceived that doubts regarding the absolute Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch were called forth by the plain finger marks which existed; namely, that in the sixteenth century several scholars of the Roman Catholic Church, although in general friends of that which had been handed down, shook violently the tradition regarding the origin of the Pentateuch. For example, Andreas Masius wrote, in the preface to his commentary on the book of Joshua, which was printed in Antwerp in 1574 (p. 2): “Easily refuted, yes, even invented, is the opinion of the ancientJews, which they have left behind in their Talmud, regarding the authors of their holy books. I at least am of the opinion that Ezra, either alone or together with cotemporaries who possessed distinguished piety and scholarship, illuminated (afflatum) by the heavenly Spirit, compiled (compilasse) not only this book of Joshua, but also that of the Judges, that of the Kings, and other books of the Holy Bible, from various records which had been preserved by the congregation of God. Good arguments can even be adduced to show that the work of Moses, which is called Pentateuch, was pieced and elucidated long after Moses’ time at least by the interpolation of words and sentences. To mention, for example, only one argument, Cariath-arbe [Kiriath-arba] is there often named Hebron, and yet weighty authorities have reported that this name was given to that city by Hebron, the son of Caleb.” The heaping up of proofs tending to show that Moses was not the real author of the Pentateuch, has had, in general, the following course:--
1. As far as the argument from matter is concerned, the so-called post-Mosaica were at first presented in a more and more complete form; that is, all those statements of the Pentateuch which, according to a natural interpretation, could not have been made until after the time of Moses: “And the Canaanites were then in the land” (Genesis 12:6); Bethel Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:3; comp. Joshua 18:13; 1:23); Hebron Genesis 13:18; comp. Joshua 14:15; Joshua 15:13; 1:10);Daniel (Genesis 14:14; Deuteronomy 34:1; comp. Jos 18:29); mention of the kingdom (Genesis 36:31); land of the Hebrews (Genesis 40:15; for a difference, see Ex Leviticus 18:25; Leviticus 18:28; Numbers 15:32); the villages of Jair Deuteronomy 3:14; Joshua 13:30; 10:3 et seq.); the law for the king (Deuteronomy 17:14-20), etc. Then, after the appearance of the first edition of Eichhorn’s “Introduction to the Old Testament” (1780-1783), the material differences between the three middle books of the Pentateuch on the one side and Deuteronomy on the other, were more and more clearly recognized (by Vater, De Wette, Riehm, and Kleinert). In distinction from Exodus 20:24-26, Deuteronomy demands most strongly unity in the place of worship (chap. 12.), and over against Leviticus 10:3; Numbers 18:4; Numbers 18:7, Deuteronomy accords to all members of the tribe of Levi the same right to exercise the priestly office Deuteronomy 18:1-7). In spite of this, the five scholars named, as well as many others, decided that all the books of the Pentateuch agree, at least in their religious and ethical principles, and therefore they concluded that the kernel of the Pentateuch can be, and actually is, the work of Moses. But finally a new succession of scholars believed themselves to have made the discovery that even the religious and ethical principles of the Pentateuch differ from those which, according to their view, actually prevailed in the earliest ages of Israel. These latter principles they have constructed out of those circumstances which, according to the judgment of the Old Testament writers, and especially of the prophets, were rather violations of the legitimate religion of Israel. This construction was supported also by the assumption that Israel’s religion is only one phase of the general evolution of all religions.
2. The stylistic peculiarities of the individual parts of the Pentateuch were found in the following manner. To begin with, even in the earliest times it had been observed that the words for “God” (Eloheem)
and “the Lord” (Jahve) alternate in a remarkable manner in the opening chapters of Genesis (Tertullian adv. Hermogenem, Cap. 3, and Augustine, De Genesi ad literam 8:11) . But, inasmuch as this interchange can also be regarded as a material difference, it is not amazing that Spinoza referred to no predecessor when he remarked (1670) that the words of different parts of the Pentateuch are different, that the order of arrangement is careless, and that tautologies exist. Eight years later, Richard Simon pointed out that, from the divergent writing of many proper names, from repetitions, from the fragmentary order, and from the varieties of style, it must be concluded that the Pentateuch did not receive its present form from Moses. It was, however, Eichhorn who later gave (1780) to a chapter of his introduction the title “The Proof from Style” (Der Beweis aus der Sprache). Ilgen, who was the first (1798) to apply the names “Elohist” and “Jehovist,” was also the first to find that, of these two writers, one alone always uses certain expressions. But it was Vater (1805) who, with the greatest acumen, investigated the literary construction of the whole Pentateuch, and especially of Deuteronomy. Following him, Staihelin (1831), Knobel (1861, in the concluding part of his commentary on the Pentateuch), and Kleinert (1872, in Das Deuteronomium und der Deuteronomiker), have rendered especially valuable service in the detection of the stylistic differences in the Pentateuch These have been the kinds of critical observations, and this the way in which their volume has been constantly increased.
Thus it is that exegetes and historians, in the course of the last two centuries, have been led to propose the following views as to the sources of the Pentateuch, and the origin of that work.
1. On account of the post-Mosaica discovered in the Pentateuch, it was supposed that the original work of Moses had been added to in individual passages.
2. Since the events narrated in the first book occurred in part several centuries before Moses, and in part at a still earlier period, to the former supposition was added this--that the contents of Genesis were drawn by Moses from the writings of the patriarchs, which are distinguishable by characteristics both of matter and manner.
3. The path once entered upon was pursued ever further. All five books of the Pentateuch were divided into sections, according to their peculiar characteristics of matter or manner. Vater was the first who, in his commentary on the Pentateuch (vol. 3, pp. 395, 423 note), put forth the opinion that the Pentateuch had resulted from the conjunction of several compositions, which from the outset had stood in no relation to one another--the fragmentary hypothesis. Several scholars give their assent to this theory.
4. But it was soon recognized that a very large number of sources of the Pentateuch had been assumed without sufficiently cogent reasons. Therefore, various scholars put forth and supported the proposition that only two documents can be distinguished in Genesis and the first part of Exodus, a basal document (the Elohist), and a supplemental document (the Jehovist),--the supplementary hypothesis.
5. But, much as this view was recommended by its simplicity, it could not maintain the supremacy forever. It suffered from the fault of being altogether too simple; for it gave no satisfactory answer to the question why the supposed supplementer had brought in so many repetitions, for example, in the story of the flood; why, for example, he had inserted before Genesis 6:9-22 the Genesis 6:1-8. Further, a document could not properly be regarded as supplementary to which--for example, in the twelfth chapter--by far the greater part belongs. Finally, that which Ilgen had already recognized could not be forgotten, namely, that those parts belonging to the supposed supplementer do not form a consistent whole; for example, chapter 22, because there the names Eloheem and Jahve alternate, and because the notice of the second appearance of the angel (Genesis 22:15) begins without any words of preparation, while the promise pronounced by the angel (Genesis 22:16-18) constitutes a causeless repetition of 12:3,
4. On similar grounds Knobel and Delitzsch, in their commentaries on Genesis, both of which made their first appearance in 1852, decided that the Jahvist has borrowed his materials mainly from two ancient books, which are mentioned as “Book of the Wars of Jahve” (Numbers 21:14), and as “Book of the Righteous” (Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18). Next Hupfeld, in “The Sources of Genesis” (Die Quellen der Genesis, 1853, pp. 103, 125, 152), put forth these three propositions. The Book of the Jahvist (Genesis 2:4 b, etc.) was once a connected and independently existent narrative of the oldest recollections of Israel. Further, a second Elohist must be distinguished from the first. Finally, parts of all these three independent documents were worked together by one editor to form our present Pentateuch. This is the renewed documentary hypothesis. Since Hupfeld, almost all of those scholars who are at all friendly to Pentateuchal criticism have adhered, and still adhere, to this theory.
6. Quite recently a new advance seems to have been begun; for some think that they have discovered reasons for separating the work of the Jahvist into a first, second, and third stratum. Such, in particular, has been Wellhausen’s position, expressed in his articles on the composition of the Hexateuch, under which name he embraces the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua. But the grounds on which this splitting up of the Pentateuch, this dissolution of the tradition of Israel, is demanded, are untenable: and equally incorrect is the opinion of a second group of critics who hold that no part of the Pentateuch, not even the Decalogue, was derived from Moses. This is the latest position maintained by Wellhausen in his “Prolegomena to the history of Israel.” Now, since Israel possessed an especial and lively sense for the cultivation of its history (comp. Exodus 13:8-10; 1 Samuel 7:12; 1 Samuel 30:25; 2 Samuel 1:18; 2 Samuel 18:18, etc.); since it actually kept the patriarchal and the Mosaic stages separate; since furthermore, a progress of a varied character has been reported; since also the faults of individual heroes and of the people have not been concealed; and since, finally, the degrees of the aberrations from virtue are distinguished--for all these reasons it is to be maintained that essentially correct traditions of Israel’s history, not excluding even the times of the patriarchs, have reached us. Further, since all the historical recollections of Israel contain innumerable echoes of Moses’ activity; since also the very earliest prophets knew a legitimate national religion, which they derived from Moses (for example, Hosea 12:10-14); since, furthermore, all the prophets make mention of a sum of laws as the basis of the common jurisprudence (Amos 2:4; Hosea 4:6; Hosea 8:12); since, finally, individual parts of the Pentateuch correspond in fact to that stage of the religious, moral, and ritual history of Israel which is described in the oldest sources of the Books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings--therefore the Mosaic origin of these parts of the Pentateuch at least cannot be denied. These are, in the first place--
On the Authenticity of the Pentateuch
The Truth of the History, both of common and miraculous events, contained in the Four Last Books of it.
I. That the Jews have acknowledged the authenticity of the Pentateuch, from the present time back to the era of their return from the Babylonish Captivity, a period of more than two thousand three hundred years, admits not a possibility of doubt. But how far have we reason to believe that the Pentateuch was not first compiled after the Babylonish Captivity, from the indistinct traditions of the history of the Jewish nation, which, in an absence of seventy years from their country, may perhaps have lost all clear records of former events? In answer to this suspicion I observe, that it is not supported by any semblance of probability, because the period of seventy years was not long enough to lose all clear public records of former events: nineteen years of the Captivity of the Jewish nation had elapsed before the burning of the Temple, and the carrying away the last of the people; it is therefore perfectly credible that many individuals then alive may have survived the close of the Captivity, and witnessed the rebuilding of the second Temple; and of this really having taken place we have direct testimony (Ezra 3:12; Nehemiah 7:64). Still further. Not only the individuals who remained could compare the circumstances which had existed before the Captivity, and thus could not be deceived by so gross an imposition as any attempt to fabricate, as the public code of the national religion and government, a new compilation never before heard of; but we know that writings of far less importance were preserved. For example: no priests were admitted to resume their offices who could not trace back their genealogy to Aaron and the heads of the Levites contemporary with Moses. In the book of Ezra, who presided over the Jews after their restoration from the Babylonish Captivity, the particular families are specified, “who sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found; therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood” (Ezra 2:62). Nor was this exactness in tracing genealogies confined to the priests; we are told of others, who “could not show their father’s house and their seed, whether they were of Israel” Ezra 2:59-60). And the reason of this exactness is plain from this: that such of the Jews as believed their prophets, expected a return into their native land after a period of seventy years, and preserved their genealogies, as the titles on which they might resume their properties, with the same care which they had always employed from the very first commencement of the state. Now is it possible that the whole nation should lose all public records of their public law, when they preserved public records of the descent of private families? Is it possible that the genealogies of the priests and their distinct offices should be preserved, while the Law that describes these offices, and assigned them to different families, was forgotten? Is it probable the identical vessels (Ezra 6:5), and furniture of the Temple which had been carried away at the beginning of the Captivity, should be restored as they are recorded to have been, and that no one copy of whatever code existed to regulate the laws and religion of the whole nation, as well as the Temple worship, should be preserved? The only thing which gives the least plausibility to this suspicion is, that we are told that the Jews had during the Captivity (as these objectors say) lost their language; hence it is rashly inferred that they also lost all records in the language. Now the real fact is this: that the original language of the Jews had indeed degenerated among the great mass of the people, by the corruption of foreign dialects; but the learned part of the nation still perfectly understood it, and were able to interpret it with ease; and the records contained in it (Ezra 2:2; Ezra 6:18) lost nothing of their clearness or their use. Further, this very circumstance supplies no weak presumptive argument, that as the Pentateuch which now exists is written in pure Hebrew, it was composed before the Captivity. This probable conclusion acquires almost resistless force, when we consider the direct testimony, first of the Jews, and next of the Samaritans. The tenor of their history after the Captivity represents the Jews, not as regulating their religion and policy by any new Law, but as reviving the observance of the old Law given by Moses, interpreting it with humble veneration, and submitting to it with the most prompt obedience. Ezra is distinguished as the scribe, because he was a ready scribe in the Law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given; and very many others also are mentioned, “who caused the people to understand the Law.” Undoubtedly it is probable that Ezra prepared for use new copies of the Mosaic Law, that a sufficient number might be ready to supply the demands of the people. In doing this he may have inserted some notes, to explain or complete passages obscure or defective. But what symptoms are there in this history of a new compilation, a code of doubtful authority, a collection of uncertain traditions? How idle is it to talk of these things, when the fact is so plainly the reverse. We have yet a stronger proof that the Law thus offered to the people was not a selection and revival of such former Laws alone as suited their present temper and situation; such laws as were agreeable to the general wishes of the people, and therefore might be supposed to obtain general submission without any minute inquiry into their authority. No, the case was otherwise; the code thus received enjoined in some instances sacrifices the most severe and distressing to individuals, sacrifices which no politic governor would have ventured to propose, and which no people would have submitted to, if any doubt could have been raised as to the authority of the Law requiring them. For, as the Scribes read the book of Moses in the audience of the people, therein was found written Nehemiah 13:1; Nehemiah 13:3) that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of the Lord forever; now it came to pass, that when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.” Even this must have created great discontent, and excited much opposition, if the authority of the law requiring it had not been clear and unquestioned. But there was yet a more trying proof of obedience required. The Mosaic code commanded that Jews should not intermarry with any of the neighbouring idolatrous nations. On the dissolution of the state and the dispersion of the people at the Captivity, this law was violated in numerous instances; on the reassembling of the people, the violation was too glaring to escape the notice of the zealous supporters of the Divine code. The history of Ezra describes in the strongest colours the feelings of grief and alarm which this discovery excited, the vast numbers who were involved in this guilt, and the high rank and authority of many of the offenders (Ezra 9:1-15; Ezra 10:1-44). The greatness of the sacrifice may be estimated by the severity of the penalty under which it was enjoined: “Whosoever would not come within three days, to comply with this law, all his substance was to be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation.” And the offenders assembled in great numbers, and certain of the elders and judges were appointed to examine the matter, and so many did the inquiry extend to, that it held for three entire months; and among the offenders we find many of the Priests and Levites; it was not therefore a contrivance of theirs to strengthen their influence. In a word, I rely on this fact as a full proof, that the code the Jews received after the Captivity was in all respects the very same they had been subject to before it; not then newly compiled, not then artfully modified; but brought forward exactly as they found it, in the known records of the nation, and submitted to with scrupulous reverence, as of undoubted and Divine authority. Strong as this proof is, we have another, which may perhaps be deemed even stronger; the Samaritans 2 Kings 17:24 to the end; Ezra 4:1-24; Nehemiah 4:1-23; Nehemiah 6:1-19), we know, from the period of the Captivity became the most bitter enemies of the Jews; this animosity was greatly enflamed at the close of the Captivity, because the Jews would not permit them to join in building the Temple. These Samaritans must then have derived their knowledge of the Mosaic institutions from a code which existed at the commencement of the Captivity. They would never have received as the rule of their religion a new compilation, formed by their enemies at the very moment when they rejected their alliance, and would not acknowledge them as partakers of their religion, or admit them to worship at their Temple. And what is the code which the Samaritans acknowledged? The Pentateuch, and nothing but the Pentateuch. This they preserved, written indeed in a different character from that which the Jews use; they have in some few places altered it, to support the claim of their Temple to a precedence and a sacredness above the Temple at Jerusalem; but in all other respects it is precisely the same with the Pentateuch which is preserved by the Jews with the same scrupulous reverence, as of unquestioned Divine authority. Does it then admit a doubt that the code thus received by these two hostile nations bad been acknowledged by both as of Divine authority before that hostility took place? I conclude that the Pentateuch was the known sacred Law of the Jews before the Babylonish Captivity commenced, about 580 years before our Saviour’s death. Further: An argument of a similar nature brings us through a period of 377 years, and establishes the authority of the Pentateuch, from the destruction of the kingdom of Judah by the Babylonish Captivity, back to its separation from the kingdom of Israel under the son and immediate successor of Solomon. From the revolt of the ten tribes, it became the decided political interest of their monarchs, to alienate them as far as possible from the religion and the Temple of the monarch of Jerusalem. The very first king of Israel discerned this interest, and prosecuted it to the utmost of his power, without the least scruple as to the religious or moral consequences of the means which he determined to adopt (1 Kings 12:26). Now, to the full and secure completion of this design, the Pentateuch interposed the great obstacle. It allows no such separation of the tribes; it supposes them all united in one confederate body, governed by the same common counsel, recognizing one High Priest, by whom they were to consult the oracle; and commands all the males of the twelve tribes to repair three times a year to their common Temple, to join in a common form of worship, in adoration of their common God. This system was therefore entirely un-favourable to the views of the kings of Israel. If, then, its authority had not been acknowledged before the separation of the two kingdoms, would these monarchs, so watchful and so politic in guarding their separate sway, have permitted it be introduced and received, to be fabricated and imposed upon the whole Jewish race, and published before the face of that part of it which they governed, as the system which both nations, when united, had acknowledged as of Divine authority? Assuredly not, except that code had been previously
and universally admitted as of Divine origin, which they knew their subjects had been long habituated to reverence and obey. I conclude from hence, that the authority of the Pentateuch was acknowledged antecedent to the separation of the kingdom of Israel and Judah, above 970 years before the birth of Christ. But perhaps it may be asserted, that the support which the Pentateuch gives to the claims of the kings of Judah, renders it probable that it may have been compiled for the purpose of favouring their views; and that perhaps its authority was rejected by the kings of Israel and their subjects, though the history of their opposition is now lost--the kingdom of Judah having long survived that of Israel, and reunited all the Hebrews under one common government; and having perhaps taken care to obliterate all records that could justify the past or lead to a future separation. To this I answer, that the Samaritans, who, though hostile to the Jews, acknowledged the Pentateuch, succeeded to the ten tribes in the possession of their country; that they were intermingled with their posterity; and that it is not possible such a circumstance could have taken place, as that the original Samaritans should have rejected the Law which the Jews received, and for a series of 230 years should have combated its authority: and that immediately after their successors should have received this Law, and this only, as of Divine origin, without preserving the least trace of its ever having been disputed; though an hostility as strong subsisted between them and the restored Jews as had before the Captivity divided the separate kingdoms. Two particular examples, deserving peculiar attention, occur in the Jewish history, of the public and solemn homage paid to the sacredness of the Mosaic Law, as promulgated in the Pentateuch, and by consequence affording the fullest testimony to the authenticity of the Pentateuch itself; the one in the reign of Hezekiah, while the separate kingdoms of Judah and Israel still subsisted; and the other in the reign of his great-grandson Josiah, subsequent to the Captivity of Israel. In the former we see the pious monarch of Judah assembling the Priests and Levites, and the rulers of the people, to deplore with him the trespasses of their fathers against the Divine Law, to acknowledge the justice of those chastisements which, according to the prophetic warnings of that Law, had been inflicted upon them, to open the house of God which his father had impiously shut, and restore the true worship therein according to the Mosaic ritual (with the minutest particulars of which he complied, in the sin offerings and the peace offerings which, in conjunction with his people, he offered, for the kingdom and the sanctuary and the people, to make atonement to God for them, and for all Israel); and thus restoring the service of God as it had been performed in the purest times. Not less remarkable was the solemn recognition of the Divine authority of the Pentateuch by King Josiah and the whole people of the Jews, whose pious monarch while he was “yet young began to seek after the God of David his father,” destroying idols and banishing idolatry throughout the entire extent of his dominions, and proceeding to repair the House of the Lord, that he might restore His worship with due solemnity. On this occasion, says the narrative, when they brought out the money that had been brought into the House of the Lord (to receive which they had probably opened the most secret and secure place for a deposit in the Temple) “the priests found a book of the Law of the Lord given by Moses” (more accurately by the hand of Moses, possibly the sacred autograph of Moses himself originally deposited in the Ark); “and Hilkiah said to Shapham the Scribe, ‘I have found the book of the Law in the House of the Lord, and he delivered the book to Shapham, who read it before the king.’” The passage read seems to have been that part of Deuteronomy which contains the prophetic declarations of the Lawgiver against the future apostasies of his people, which were so awful and severe as to excite the utmost terror in the young and pious monarch (2 Chronicles 34:19-21). And Huldah the prophetess, who was consulted, declared that God would certainly fulfil the denunciations of that Book; but yet that, in consequence of the humiliation and repentance of the king, “he should be gathered to the grave in peace, neither should his eyes see all the evil which God would bring upon Jerusalem.” The sacred history proceeds to detail the particular circumstances of the Levites being employed in their due courses (2 Chronicles 35:18), and the solemn celebration of the Passover, “as it is written in the book of the covenant”; and there was no such Passover, says the history, kept in Israel, from the days of Samuel the prophet; probably because the recent captivity of the ten tribes awakened the fears and secured the universal concurrence of all Judah and Israel, who were present, as well as of all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who now concurred with the king (2 Kings 23:24), “to perform the words of the Law, which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the House of the Lord.” Which could not possibly have been any other than the Pentateuch of Moses; probably the very copy written by himself. These facts and arguments seem sufficiently decisive. They may be confirmed by another argument from the internal structure of the Pentateuch, which I do not recollect to have seen noticed; and which not only meets this objection, but goes further, and seems to prove it highly improbable that the Pentateuch should have been compiled and received, if of a late date or doubtful authority, during any period of the regal government in Judah. The argument is this: that the civil form of government which the Pentateuch exhibits is not regal. The Jewish government was, what no other ever was, a theocracy; in which the last appeal was to Jehovah himself expressing His will by the oracle; and in which there was no power either to make or repeal new laws, the laws of the nation being the laws of Jehovah. We must also observe, that the judge was rather an occasional than a constant magistrate, nominated, or at least approved by the oracle; never invested with authority for more than his own life, and without the least idea of a hereditary right. Further, the Mosaic code does not merely appoint a constitution, of which kingly government was no part; but it notices this government as an innovation which the people would introduce, after the example of the surrounding nations; and it lays the kings under restraints which were equally irksome to their sensuality and their ambition (Deuteronomy 17:16, etc.). When the Jews first solicited from Samuel a king, after they had lived near four hundred years under their original form of government, he was displeased, and represented this demand as in some degree a rejection of God as their king; and he stated in strongest terms the oppressions and the mischiefs they should suffer under the kingly government. Now it is remarkable, that the restraints imposed by the Mosaic Law were grossly and fatally violated by Solomon, the most renowned and powerful of the Jewish kings. On this fact then I argue: that if the Mosaic Law had not been universally known and revered as of Divine authority long before the time of Samuel, it could never have been compiled and received during the kingly government. He would not have ventured to oppose the wishes of the people in appointing a king, on the pretext of its being a rejection of God for their king; nor would he have attempted to impose such restraints on the monarchs of the Jews, if unsupported by a previously admitted authority. Such a fabrication would never have escaped detection and exposure, either by Saul, who for the last years of his life was in constant enmity with Samuel; or by Solomon, who amidst his power and prosperity must have felt his fame wounded, and his passions rebuked by the stern condemnation of the Mosaic Law. The preceding argument shows the extreme improbability of a supposition which has been sometimes resorted to: that Samuel was the compiler of the Pentateuch. We have now ascended to within less than four hundred years from the promulgation of the Mosaic Law; a period during which the Jews had lived in the uninterrupted possession of the land in which they were settled by Moses and his immediate successor; and without any fundamental alteration in the form of that government under which they were originally placed. And if we have reason to believe that the Pentateuch was admitted as the true system of the Mosaic Law at the close of that period, no possible era during its continuance can be pointed out, at which the fabrication of such a code may be supposed probable or so much as credible; no motive or circumstance can be assigned as the origin of such a fabrication, or to account for the ready and universal credit which it must have obtained; no body of men, even no individual, can be discovered whose interest it was to form such a fabrication, or who could have had an influence sufficiently powerful and permanent to give currency. The history of the Jews proves, indeed, that they were very far from adhering strictly to the Mosaic Law during that period. We find that they frequently violated it in the grossest manner, and fell into great disorders and idolatries, and in consequence suffered great calamities. But what was the general effect of these calamities? That they repented of their disobedience, and again submitted to the Law of Moses as the Law of God. Now would this have been natural if they entertained any doubts of the authenticity of the code containing that Law? We are not, however, driven to rest the universal reception of the Pentateuch on presumptive arguments or probable conjecture alone. We have the most decisive and uninterrupted, the most positive and direct external testimony. We have a number of different tracts, acknowledged by the Jews as not only genuine, but Divine. These works are, the latest of them, written during or shortly after the Babylonish Captivity, as their very language indicates. They take up the history of the Jews from that period, and carry it regularly back to their first settlement in their country by Joshua, the successor of Moses, and thus bring us into contact with the legislator himself. They are to a certainty written by a great variety of persons and for very different purposes; some of them plain histories, and almost chronological annals; other of them prophetical and mysterious; others poetical and popular; hymns in praise of God, His providence, and laws, or celebrating great national events or deploring national calamities. And all these multiplied and various compositions unite in presupposing the existence and the truth of the Pentateuch; and uniformly refer to and quote it as the only true and genuine account of the ancient history and known laws of the Jews. They recite its facts, they refer to its laws, they celebrate its author; they appeal to the people, to the kings, to the priests; they rebuke and threaten them for neglecting the Mosaic Law, as it is contained in the Pentateuch; and what is most decisive, they never once give the least hint of any rival law, of any new compilation of any doubt as to its authenticity.
II. We may also remark, that the nature of several laws concerning property was such, that if they had not been enacted before its distribution among the people, and established as the tenure and condition on which it was held, their introduction at any subsequent period would have excited a great ferment and great opposition. Such was the Law of release from all debts and all personal servitude every seventh year (Deuteronomy 15:1-23; Leviticus 25:1-55); and that Law which ordered that if the property of any family had been alienated by sale, it should be restored to the family every fiftieth year, or year of jubilee. All who know the commotions which attempts to discharge debts, and change the distribution of property, have always excited, and who recollect the examples of Sparta, Athens, and Rome, in this matter, will be sensible that a code containing such regulations as these could not have been established as the regular Law of the Jewish state, without opposition, except before the distribution of property, and as the condition on which it was held; and therefore before the settlement of the Jews in the land of their inheritance. Another regulation as to property occurs in Leviticus 19:23-25, of a singular kind. Now, would such a regulation as this have been observed, if it had not been established on clear authority, before the Jews took possession of the Promised Land? And if it never had been established and observed, what motive could have induced a fictitious writer to load his account with so improbable and so apparently useless a circumstance? I now proceed to confirm the conclusion thus derived from the testimony of the Jewish nation, still farther, by considering the internal structure of the history itself. If the Pentateuch is not the work of Moses, it is a forgery imposed upon the nation in his name. It is totally impossible this should have been done during the life of the legislator, or immediately after his death, during the lives of his contemporaries. If then the Pentateuch was not the original record of Moses himself, it was the work of some compiler in a period long subsequent, who assumed the character, and wrote in the name of the Jewish Lawgiver, to answer some design different from genuine truth. And if so, we can hardly fail of discerning, in the texture of the work itself, marks of a compilation long subsequent to the facts it relates. We cannot but perceive some traces of the particular purpose for which it was composed. On the most cursory perusal of the four last books of the Pentateuch, it seems most evident that the main facts (considering at present only such as were not supernatural) were so public, so singular, and so important, affecting in their consequences the most valuable rights and interests of every order of society, nay, almost of every individual; that we cannot suppose any man could have ventured to fabricate a false account of them, and have been successful in gaining for such a fabrication that universal credit and permanent authority which it has been proved the Pentateuch certainly obtained amongst the Jews from the very commencement of their state. The rapid increase of the Jews in Egypt, the severe oppression they sustained there, the treasure cities, and other public works raised by their labours, above all, the cruel edict to destroy all their male children, in order, gradually and totally, to exterminate the nation; all these were facts which must have been engraven on the hearts, and handed down in the traditions of every Hebrew family. Nor were the circumstances which led to their departure from the Land of Bondage, less public and notorious. Let it be remembered that this history does not recount the origin and growth of an infant colony, or the emigration of a savage horde, but the march of a numerous nation; for they “journeyed about six hundred thousand men, besides women and children; and a mixed multitude went up also with them, and flocks and herds, and very much cattle”; while the magnificent structure of their Tabernacle, the distribution of property, the tribe of the Levites set apart for ministers of Divine worship and for public instructors, and the code of their religious and civil institutions, prove that a great degree of civilization prevailed amongst the Jews at the very time when these facts were said to have taken place. Now can we believe a nation so great and so civilized were universally and palpably deceived as to a whole series of facts, so public and important as this history details? If, then, the leading events of the Pentateuch were so public, so momentous, and so recent, that the history detailing them could have found no credit had it not been true; if the laws and institutions it contains were so important, and of such a singular nature, that had they not been derived from unquestioned authority they could never have been adopted; it remains to enquire how far the relation carries with it marks of truth, even in its minutest detail. Now in this view, the first character of the Pentateuch which strikes us is the perfect artlessness and simplicity of its style and structure. Nothing is more evident in the entire structure of the Pentateuch, than its being written without the least effort to form an elaborate and engaging history, an impressive and beautiful composition. A writer who had such a design would have separated the history from the laws; the former he would have related with such a selection of circumstances as would most interest and affect his reader; the latter he would have delivered in some regular system, and avoided minute detail and frequent repetitions. On the contrary, the author of the Pentateuch proceeds in such an order as was indeed most natural to a writer relating the different occurrences which took place, exactly as they took place; but which renders his work exceedingly irregular, and even tedious as a composition. Additional proofs that the writer of the Pentateuch was careless of ornament, and attentive to objects which no mere inventor of a fiction would have thought of, and no compiler even of a true history, who designed to interest and amuse his readers, would have dwelt on, may be derived from the manner (see Deuteronomy the first twenty-three chapters) in which the rules about sacrifices, the distinctions of meats, clean and unclean, the different modes of contracting pollution, and the rules about purification, and, in particular, about the symptoms and the cure of leprosy, are detailed. We must not forget that these rules continued to be observed amongst the Jews; that they are so minute, they could scarcely have been remembered distinctly for any length of time, if they had not been written; that this account of them must therefore have been published very soon after they were first observed; that many of them are so tedious and burdensome that they would not have been submitted to, if the authority inculcating them had been at all doubtful; in short, if they had not been inculcated by the same authority which regulated the rest of that religious and civil system of which they form a part. It follows, that they were observed from the time when the Jewish Lawgiver established his code, and that they were published either by him, or immediately after him. The frequent genealogies (see Numbers 1:1-54; Numbers 2:1-34; Numbers 3:1-51, and especially 26 and 34) which occur in the Pentateuch, form another strong presumptive proof that it was composed by a writer of a very early date, and from original materials. The genealogies of the Jewish tribes were not mere arbitrary lists of names, in which the writer might insert as many fictitious ones as he pleased, retaining only some few more conspicuous names of existing families, to preserve an appearance of their being founded in reality. But they were a complete enumeration of all the original stocks, from some one of which every family in the Jewish nation derived its origin, and in which no name was to be inserted whose descendants or heirs did not exist in possession of the property which the original family had possessed at the first division of the Promised Land. The distribution of property by tribes and families proves some such catalogue of families as we find in the Pentateuch must have existed at the very first division of the country. These must have been carefully preserved, because the property of every family was unalienable, since, if sold, it was to return to the original family at each year of jubilee. The genealogies of the Pentateuch, if they differed from this known and authentic register, would have been immediately rejected, and with them the whole work. They therefore impart to the entire history all the authenticity of such a public register. Again, we may make a similar observation on the geographical enumerations of places in the Pentateuch Exodus 14:2; Exodus 15:27; Exodus 17:7; comp. Numbers 20:1-29; Numbers 21:1-35; Numbers 33:1-56; Numbers 34:1-29; Numbers 35:1-34; also Deuteronomy 1:1-46; Deuteronomy 2:1-37; Deuteronomy 3:1-29); the accounts constantly given of their deriving their names from particular events and particular persons; and on the details of marches and encampments which occur, first in the progress of the direct narrative, when only some few stations distinguished by remarkable facts are noticed, and afterwards at its close, where a regular list is given of all the stations of the Jewish camp. All this looks like reality. Whenever the Pentateuch was published, it would have been immediately rejected, except the account it gives of the origin of these names, and of the series of these marches, had been known to be true by the Jews in general. An inventor of fiction would not venture upon this, as it would facilitate the detection of his falsehood; a compiler long subsequent would not trouble himself with it, except in some remarkable cases. The very natural and artless manner in which all circumstances of this nature are introduced in the Pentateuch increases the probability of its being the work of an eyewitness, who could introduce them with ease; while to anybody else it would be extremely difficult and therefore unnatural; since it would render his work much more laborious, without making it more instructive. All these things bespeak a writer present at the transactions, deeply interested in them, recording each object as it was suggested to his mind by facts, conscious he had such authority with the persons to whom he wrote, as to be secure of their attention, and utterly indifferent as to style or ornament, and those various arts which are employed to fix attention and engage regard; which an artful forger would probably have employed, and a compiler of even a true history would not have judged beneath his attention. Now, though it does not at all follow that where these arts are used, falsehood must exist; yet their absence greatly increases our confidence that we shall meet nothing but truth. But the most decisive character of truth in any history is its impartiality. And here the author of the Pentateuch is distinguished perhaps above any historian in the world; whether we consider the manner in which he speaks of the Hebrew patriarchs, the Jewish nation in general, or of its legislator and his nearest relations. Of the patriarchs, he speaks in such a way as not only did not gratify the vanity of his countrymen, but such as must have most severely wounded their national pride. He ranks some of their ancestors very high indeed, as worshippers of the true God, and observers of His will, in the midst of a world rapidly degenerating into idolatry; yet there is not one of them (Joseph perhaps excepted) of whom he does not recount many weaknesses, which a zealous partisan would have been careful to suppress; and to many he imputes great crimes, which he never attempts to palliate or disguise. Of the Jewish nation in general, the author of the Pentateuch speaks, it may be said, not only impartially, but even severely. He does not conceal the weakness and obscurity of their first origin, that “a Syrian ready to perish, was their father”; nor their long and degrading slavery in Egypt; their frequent murmurings and criminal distrust of God, notwithstanding his many interpositions in their favour; their criminal apostasy, rebellion, and resolution to return to Egypt; first, when they erected the golden calf at Mount Sinai; and next on the return of the spies from the land of Canaan, when they were so afraid of the inhabitants that they durst not attack them: he repeatedly reproaches the people with these crimes, and loads them with the epithets of stiff-necked, rebellious, and idolatrous. He inculcates upon them most emphatically, that it was not for their own righteousness that God gave them possession of the promised land. He declares to them his conviction that in their prosperity they would again relapse into their rebellions and idolatries, and imitate the foul vices of those nations, whom God had driven out from before them for there very crimes. The impartiality of the author of the Pentateuch is not less remarkable in the mode in which he spoke of the nearest relations and connections of the Jewish lawgiver. His brother Aaron is related to have been engaged in the great crime of setting up the golden calf, to have joined with his sister Miriam in an unjustifiable attack on the authority of Moses, and to have offended God so much that he was excluded from the promised land; and the two eldest sons of Aaron are related to have been miraculously put to death by God Himself, in consequence of their violating the ritual Law. The tribe and kindred of the Lawgiver are not represented as exempt from the criminal rebellion of the Jews on the return of the twelve spies. Caleb and Joshua, who alone had opposed it, were of different tribes, one of Judah, and the other of Ephraim. In a word, nothing in the narrative of the Pentateuch exalts the characters of any of the near relatives of Moses and Aaron, except only in the instance of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron; who, for his zeal in restraining and punishing the licentiousness and idolatry into which the Midianitish women had seduced his countrymen, was rewarded by the high priesthood’s being made hereditary in his family. The most decisive proof of impartiality is, however, found in the manner in which the Pentateuch speaks of Moses himself. The entire account which the book of Exodus delivers of the private life of Moses, for the eighty years which preceded his Divine mission to deliver the Israelites, is comprised in twenty-two verses. All is plain and artless, full of the simplicity of patriarchal life, and unmixed with a single circumstance tending to exalt the personal character of the Lawgiver, or mark him out as peculiarly fitted for so high a destiny. Compare with this short and modest narrative, the embellishments which national vanity added in subsequent traditions, and which Josephus collected and adorned. Now, what I contend for is this, that if the Pentateuch had been compiled by any historian guided by the mere uncontrolled feelings and partialities of the human mind, we should discover them in his describing the character of the man who is represented as the legislator and head of the nation who were the chosen people of God. I could show by a minute induction, that nothing of this kind occurs in the Pentateuch, and that multiplied instances of it are found in Josephus, who is yet admitted to be an historian of general veracity and integrity. I have but one further remark to make, and that is, that we find, although the subject matter of Josephus is essentially the same with that of the Pentateuch, yet, in the selection and order of their circumstances they differ, exactly as we should expect the works of a compiler anxious to interest and keep up his reader’s attention, would, whenever composed, differ from the original narrative of an eyewitness, detailing (as Moses did) every circumstance as it occurred, and totally careless of everything but minute precision and strict fidelity. All these differences, I contend, strongly illustrate and confirm the originality and the truth of the Pentateuch; and tend to prove it was the work of an eyewitness, and even of an eyewitness whose business and anxious care it was to superintend and direct every circumstance of what he described; such an eyewitness was Moses, and Moses alone. If then he was the author, can we doubt the truth of the narrative? Were not the leading facts too recent, too important, to admit of the least falsification? Is not the detail formed with such artlessness and simplicity, such particularity and minuteness, such candour and impartiality, that we cannot doubt of its truth, even in the most minute particulars?
III. The exordium to the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 1:1-3) is exceedingly remarkable. It states that it is not, like the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, a direct narration or journal of the various events which occurred to the Jewish legislator and nation, from the commencement of their deliverance from Egypt; but that it was a recapitulation of everything which Moses thought it necessary to notice, in addressing the people shortly before his death, at the close of the forty years, during which he had acted as their Lawgiver and judge. I direct attention to this peculiar character of the last book of the Pentateuch, because it seems to me to supply the ground work of an argument for the genuineness and truth of the entire, somewhat different from those which I have seen generally and distinctly noticed. I have endeavoured to collect the topics in proof of the authenticity and truth of the works ascribed to Moses; from their general reception among the Jews; from the important and public nature of the facts they relate; from the simplicity of their style and structure; from the particularity of their narrative, natural to an eyewitness, and to an eyewitness alone; and especially from the admirable impartiality they everywhere display. But if the distinct nature and purpose ascribed to the book of Deuteronomy really belongs to it, a comparison of this, with the preceding books of the Pentateuch, ought to afford a distinct proof of the truth and authenticity of all, from the undesigned coincidences between them. The direct narrative was written at the time of the transactions as they were passing; the recapitulation was delivered at a period long subsequent to many. The former was intended to record all the particulars of the events most necessary to be known. In the latter it was intended to notice only such particulars as the immediate object of the speaker, in addressing the people, rendered it expedient to impress upon their minds. In each the laws are intermixed with the facts, and both laws and facts are referred to for different purposes and on different occasions. This gives room for comparing these statements and allusions, and judging whether they agree in such a manner as appears to result, not from the artifice which forgery or falsehood might adopt, but from the consistency of nature and truth. We may thus weigh the different testimonies of the same witness, delivered at different times and on different occasions, and judge, as it were, by a cross-examination of their truth. And we may remark that if a coincidence appears in minute and unimportant circumstances, it is therefore the more improbable it should have been designed:--also the more indirect and circuitous it is, the less obvious it would have been to a forger or compiler. If the situations in which the writer is placed, and the views with which at different times he alludes to the same facts are different, and the terms which he employs are adapted to this difference, in an artless and natural manner, this is a strong presumption of truth. Finally, if the direct narrative, and the subsequent references and allusions, appear in any instance to approach to a contradiction, and yet, on closer inspection, are found to agree, this very strongly confirms the absence of art, and the influence of truth and reality. Having thus expounded the general meaning of my argument, I proceed to exemplify it by some instances, which seem sufficient for establishing the conclusion contended for. Some presumption that the four last books of the Pentateuch were really composed by an eyewitness, at the time of the transactions, arises from their describing the nation and the lawgiver in circumstances totally different from any which ever existed before or after that peculiar period; from their adapting every incident, however important, every turn of expression, however minute, to these peculiar circumstances. The Jews are supposed to have left the land of Egypt, and not yet possessed themselves of the land of Canaan. In this interval the nation was all collected together, never before or after; it then dwelt in tents, never before or after; no one possessed any landed property or houses; no local distinctions, no local tribunal could then exist; these and a variety of other circumstances of the same nature necessarily attended this peculiar situation. Now such is the nature of the human mind, that though it may be easy to imagine a peculiar situation of fictitious characters, and describe their conduct in this situation with sufficient consistency, as in a poem or a fiction entirely unconnected with reality, yet, when characters that have really existed are described in circumstances entirely or even partly fictitious; when it is necessary to combine a considerable degree of truth with a certain portion of fiction; when it is necessary to describe this unprecedented and fictitious situation, not merely in general terms, but in a very minute detail of facts and regulations; to connect it with particular times and places and persons, to combine it with subsequent events which were real, and with the laws and customs which the writer himself lives under, and which prevail through an extensive nation; then, indeed, it requires no ordinary ingenuity, and no common caution, to preserve a perfect consistency; never once to suffer the constant and familiar associations which perpetually obtrude themselves upon the mind from present experience to creep into our language or sentiments, when we wish to describe or relate facts suitable only to past experience. Nay, admit that all this may possibly be done, it certainly can be done only by great care and art; and it is, I should conceive, next to impossible but that this care and art should somewhere or other betray itself in the turn of the narrative or the expression. Now, an attentive perusal of the Pentateuch will, I doubt not, prove that it is written without any the least appearance of art or caution; and it is certain, beyond all doubt, that its facts, sentiments, and language are adapted to the peculiarities of the situation which have been noticed. The present tense is constantly used in speaking of the facts in the wilderness: “I am the Lord, who bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt”: the future, in speaking of anything to be done in the land of Canaan Exodus 34:11-13; Exodus 34:23-24). Thus, also, it is perpetually supposed in every direction, as to public matters, that the whole congregation can be collected together at the shortest warning. We are told (see Leviticus nine first chaps.; also Leviticus 10:5) of dead bodies carried out of the camp; of victims on particular occasions being burned without the camp Leviticus 4:21; Leviticus 8:17; Numbers 19:9). This peculiarity of situation mixes itself with every circumstance of the narrative, directly and indirectly, in express terms, and by incidental allusions, and always without any appearance of art or design. But to proceed to compare the direct narrative with the recapitulation. We may observe, that a variety of circumstances which it was natural and necessary to notice on the entrance of the Jews into the land of their inheritance, occur for the first time in the last address which Moses delivered to the people on the borders of Canaan. Then, and not before, does the legislator speak of the “place which the Lord should choose to put His name therein” (Deuteronomy 12:5). Then, and not before, does he add to the precepts concerning the observance of the three great feasts, that they were to be celebrated at that holy place. Then, and not before, does he enjoin the Jews to bring their offerings, their sacrifices, their tithes, and the firstlings of their flocks and of their herds, to the same holy place, and not to eat them in the gates of their own cities; and if that House of the Lord should be too far for them Deuteronomy 14:23) to turn their offerings into money, and employ that for the celebration of the religious festivals, at the place which the Lord should choose. Now also does the legislator add to the rules relating to the Levites, that which gave them a right of (Deuteronomy 18:6) migrating from any other city, and joining with those who were employed in the service of God at the place which He should choose. Thus, also, in recapitulating the regulations of the civil law, the legislator now, for the first time, introduces the (Deuteronomy 16:13; Deuteronomy 19:11; Deuteronomy 21:18) appointment of judges and officers in the different cities which they should inhabit; and fixes the right of appealing in difficult eases from these judges to the high priest and his assessors at the place which the Lord should choose; and determines what the elders of each city may finally decide on, and the manner in which they should examine the cause, as in the instances of an uncertain murder (Deuteronomy 21:1-23) of the rebellious son, and in the ceremony of taking or refusing the widow of a brother who had died childless. The city, the gate of the city, the elders of the city, are now perpetually introduced, never before. We may also observe that in this last address, when the people were going to attack the great body of their enemies, and as they conquered them, were to inhabit their land, different circumstances are mentioned, suited to this new situation. The causes which were to excuse men going to war are now first stated: “Having built a new house, planted a new vineyard,” or “betrothed himself to a wife” Deuteronomy 20:5, etc.); all of which supposed a separation of the people from the common camp of the whole congregation, in consequence of possessing the promised land. Now also the rules about Deuteronomy 20:19) besieging cities, about not destroying such trees round them as were good for food, are specified much more minutely than before, because now sieges would be frequent. Now, also, Moses enlarges more frequently and more fully than he ever did before on the fertility and the excellence of the promised land. This was natural; such a topic at an earlier period would have increased the murmurings and the impatience of the people at being detained in the wilderness; whereas now it encouraged them to encounter with more cheerfulness the opposition they must meet with from the inhabitants of Canaan. These general and obvious features of difference, which distinguish the last book of Moses from the preceding ones, when compared with the evident artlessness and simplicity of the narrative, seem to result from truth and reality alone. Such differences were natural, nay, unavoidable, if these books were really composed by Moses who was the witness of the facts, and the author of the Laws which these books contain. They would be much less likely to occur, if any other man were the author, even if he were an eyewitness; and they are totally unlike the general detail of a remote compiler, or the laboured artifice of fiction and forgery.
IV. I shall now state a few instances where the undesigned coincidence, the exact suitableness, which we have been noticing in the recital of the natural events of the history, are also observable in the relation of the miraculous facts and allusions to them. We may remark, then, that in the direct narrative, the miracles are related minutely and circumstantially. The time, the place, the occasion of each being wrought, are exactly specified; and such circumstances are introduced, as, when considered, prove the miraculous nature of the fact, though no argument of that kind is instituted. The miracles also are related in the exact order of time when they happened, and the common and supernatural events are exhibited in one continued, and, indeed, inseparable series. Now, had the recapitulation of events been formed for the purpose of gaining credit to a doubtful narrative of supernatural facts, we should, I presume, perceive a constant effort to dwell upon and magnify the miracles, to obviate any objections to their reality; we should find their writer accusing his countrymen of obstinate incredulity, asserting his own veracity, and appealing in proof of the facts to that veracity. But it is most evident that nothing of this appears in the book of Deuteronomy. The people are never once reproached with having doubted or disbelieved the miracles, but constantly appealed to having seen and acknowledged them; though, notwithstanding this, they did not preserve that confidence and that obedience to God which such wonderful interpositions ought to have secured. The speaker never produces arguments to prove the miracles, but always considers them as notoriously true and unquestioned, and adduces them as decisive motives to enforce obedience to His laws. This is the only purpose for which they are introduced; and such circumstances in the history as, though not miraculous, would show the necessity of obedience, are dwelt on as particularly as the miracles themselves. Thus the object of the three first chapters of Deuteronomy is to assure the people of the Divine assistance in the conquest of Canaan, and to convince them of the guilt of not confiding in that assistance. For this purpose the speaker alludes to the former disobedience of the people, when forty years before they had arrived at the borders of Canaan; and mentions the miracles they had previously to that time witnessed, in general terms, merely as aggravations of their guilt. Is not this whole exhortation natural? Is not the brief incidental introduction of the miracles, and their being blended with other facts not miraculous, but tending to impress the same conclusion, natural? Does not the whole appear totally unlike the timidity and artifice of fiction or imposture? It might be proved by a minute induction of every instance in which the miracles are referred to in Deuteronomy, that the allusion is naturally suggested by the nature of the topic which the legislator wishes to enforce; and that it is addressed to the people in that manner, which would be clear and forcible if they had been spectators of the miracle alluded to, and on no other supposition. Thus the whole miracle is never related, but that leading circumstance selected which suited the present subject. I add some few instances of incidental allusions to miracles, to show how naturally they are introduced, and how exactly the manner in which they are spoken of, suits the situation of Moses himself, addressing the eyewitnesses of the fact. The Ten Commandments had been the only precepts of the Law, which God had distinctly proclaimed from Mount Horeb to the assembled nation of the Jews; the rest of it had been promulgated by Moses himself as the Divine command. Now, how does he argue with the people, in order to induce them to receive what he announced as the Divine will, equally with that which God Himself had directly proclaimed? He might have urged that the miracles which God had wrought by him established his Divine authority; that the Ten Commandments being of preeminent importance, God had Himself proclaimed them to impress them the more deeply, and chosen to employ him as the medium of conveying the rest of the Law. He might have urged the severe punishments which God had inflicted on those who had contested against His Divine mission (as he does in another passage), and rested the point on these arguments; but he chooses a quite different ground. He states that the people had declined hearing the rest of the Law directly from God Himself, and had entreated that it should be conveyed to them through him. Now, if this argument had never been used by the legislator, if the fact had never occurred, if the Pentateuch had been the invention of fancy, or even the compilation of some historian long subsequent to the events, what could lead him to clog his narrative with such a circumstance as this? In short, what but truth and reality could suggest such an argument, or gain it the slightest credit from the people to whom it was addressed?
V. I have endeavoured to deduce presumptive proofs of the authenticity and truth of the Jewish history from the structure of the narrative in which it is presented to us--and to show that these proofs apply with equal clearness to the miraculous as to the common facts; both being interwoven in one detail, and related with the same characters of impartiality, artlessness, and truth. This conclusion will receive great confirmation should it be found that the common events of the history, if we attempt to separate them from the miraculous, become unnatural, improbable, and even incredible, unconnected, and unaccountable; while, if combined with the miracles which attend them, the entire series is connected, natural, and consistent. For this purpose, let us consider the objects to which this narrative naturally directs our attention: the character of the Jewish legislator, the resistance he encountered from the Egyptian government, the disposition and circumstances of the Hebrew people, and impediments which presented themselves to their settlement in the land to which they emigrated. Let us review the narrative of these events, separating the leading facts not miraculous, which form the basis of the history, from the miraculous; and consider whether it be rational to receive the former and reject the latter. Let us first contemplate the character and conduct of the legislator. Born at that period when his nation groaned under the most oppressive and malignant despotism which ever crushed a people; rescued by a singular providence from that death to which he was destined by the cruel edict of Pharaoh; adopted by the daughter, and educated in the court of that monarch, there is reason to believe, with the inspired martyr St. Stephen, that he was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” and that he may have been “mighty both in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22): that is, conversant in learning, skilled in writing, and judicious in conduct; for his own positive declaration prevents us from believing him eloquent. If we exclude the idea of a Divine interposition, we must believe that at the end of forty years, without any outward change of circumstances, merely from a rash and sudden impulse, this exile, so long appearing to have forgotten his people, and to have been by them forgot, resumes, at the age of fourscore, the project which, in the full vigour of manhood, and the yet unabated ardour of youthful confidence, he had been compelled to abandon as desperate. He forsakes his family and his property, revisits his nation, determined again to offer himself for their leader, and to attempt their deliverance. Yet he appears not to have cultivated in the interval a single talent, and not to have formed a single preparation to facilitate his enterprise. Of eloquence he confesses himself destitute; of military skill or prowess, he never made any display; he appears to have formed no party among the Jews, no alliance with any foreign power; he had certainly prepared no force. But it will be said he employed an engine more powerful than eloquence or arms with an unenlightened people, who looked upon themselves as the favourites of heaven, and who long had hoped for their deliverance by a Divine interposition. He claimed the character of an ambassador commissioned by the God of their fathers, to free them from the bondage under which they groaned; he supported his claim by some artful deceptions and mysterious juggling, which his former acquaintance with Egyptian magic enabled him to practise; and this was sufficient to gain the faith and command the obedience of a superstitious race, always credulous, and now eager to be convinced of what they wished to be true. Thus we may account for his success. This might appear plausible, if the only thing wanting was to prevail on his countrymen to quit the land of bondage; but let it be remembered that the great difficulty lay in the necessity of prevailing on the Egyptians to permit their departure. Supposing the Hebrew slaves were willing to encounter the difficulties of emigration, and the dangers of invading a warlike nation (a point by no means certain); yet who shall prevail on their proud and mercenary lords to suffer them to be deprived of their service? Every circumstance which would enable a chief to establish his party with the one, would rouse suspicion, resentment, and opposition, in the other. A very short period elapses, and what is the event? No human force is exercised, not a single Israelite lifts the sword or bends the bow; but the Egyptian monarch is humbled, his people terrified, they urge the Israelites to hasten their departure. They are now honoured as the masters of their late oppressors; they demand of the Egyptians (in obedience to the express injunction of Jehovah) silver, and gold, and jewels, as the remuneration due to their past unrequited labours, conceded by Divine justice, and obtained by Divine power; as the homage due to their present acknowledged superiority, and the purchase of their immediate departure. The Egyptians grant everything; the Israelites begin their emigration: “Six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children; and a mixed multitude went with them, as well as flocks and herds, and much cattle” (Exodus 12:37-38). But, notwithstanding his unparalleled success in his main project, the leader of this great body acknowledges himself to have acted in a mode utterly destitute of the slightest human foresight or prudence; for this multitude are so little prepared for their emigration, that they had not time so much as to leaven the bread which they brought out of Egypt. And as if in the first step to display his total neglect of every precaution which a wise leader would adopt, he takes no care to guide them in such a course as would enable them to escape from pursuit, or contend to advantage with their pursuers. He leads them into a defile, with mountains on either side, and the sea in front. At this moment the Egyptians recover from the panic, under the influence of which they had consented to their departure; and they pursued after them, and soon overtook them. Perhaps at this crisis, despair inspired them with courage. No, all is dismay and lamentation. Here now is a second crisis, in which no human hope or help appears to sustain their leader: on one side a regular disciplined army, assured of triumph--on the other, a rabble of women and children and men as spiritless as they, expecting nothing but certain death, lamenting they had left their servitude, and ready to implore their masters to permit them again to be their slaves. But if their leader had betrayed unparalleled imprudence in exposing his host to such a danger, the high strain of confidence he now speaks in is equally unparalleled. What would this be in any mere human leader, but the ravings of frenzy? Yet, wonderful to relate, the event accords with it. The Israelites escape “by the way of the sea” (Exodus 14:11-12); the Egyptians perish in the same sea, we know not how or why, except we admit the miraculous interposition which divided the Red Sea, “the waters being a wall on the right and left hand” (Exodus 14:13-14), to let His people pass free; and when the infatuated Egyptians pursued, overwhelmed with its waves their proud and impious host. Let us now pass by the intermediate events of a few months, and observe this people on the confines of that land, to establish themselves in which they had emigrated from Egypt. Their leader, with his usual confidence of success, thus addresses them: “Ye are come unto the mountain of the Amorites, which the Lord our God doth give unto us. Behold the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee; go up, and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 1:20-21). But the people propose to adopt some precautions which human prudence would naturally dictate. “We will send men before us (say they) to mark out the land, and bring us word again, by what way we must go up, and into what cities we shall come.” They are sent. They report: “The land is a good land, and fruitful; but the people be strong,” etc. At this discouraging report this timid and unwarlike race were filled with the deepest terrors. In vain did Moses and Aaron fall on their faces before all the congregation; in vain did two of the chief men, who had searched out the land, and who adhered to them, represent its fertility, and endeavour to inspire the host with a pious confidence in the Divine protection. So incurable was their despair, and so violent their rebellion, that they resented, as the grossest crime, the advice of these honest and spirited men; for “all the congregation bade stone them with stones till they die.” They even determine to abandon altogether the enterprise; to depose their leader in contempt of the Divine authority which he claimed; to elect another captain, and return to Egypt. At this crisis, what conduct would human prudence have dictated? No other, surely, than to soothe the multitude till this extreme panic might have time to subside; then gradually to revive their confidence, by recalling to their view the miseries of that servitude from which they had escaped, the extraordinary success which had hitherto attended their efforts, and the consequent probability of their overcoming the difficulties by which they were now dispirited; then gradually to lead them from one assault, where circumstances were most likely to ensure victory, to another, till their courage was reanimated, and the great object of their enterprise might be again attempted with probability of success. But how strange and unparalleled is the conduct of the Jewish leader! He denounces against this whole rebellious multitude the extreme wrath of God; instead of animating them to resume their enterprise, he commands them never to resume it; instead of encouraging them to hope for success, he assures them they never shall succeed; he suffers them not to return to Egypt, yet he will not permit them to invade Canaan. He denounces to them that they shall continue under his command; that he would march and countermarch them for forty years in the wilderness, until every one of the rebellious multitude then able to bear arms should perish there; and that then, and not till then, should their children resume the invasion of Canaan, and infallibly succeed in it. Now let me ask in seriousness and simplicity of mind, can we believe that such a denunciation as this could have been uttered by any human being, not distracted with the wildest frenzy, if it had not been dictated by the clearest Divine authority; or if uttered, whether it could have been received by an entire nation with any other sensation than that of scorn and contempt, if the manifestation of the Divine power from which it proceeded, and by which alone it could be executed, had not been most certain and conspicuous? But can we be sure, it is said, that it was ever uttered? I answer, yes; because it was assuredly fulfilled. And its accomplishment forms the last particular I shall notice in the history of this unparalleled expedition, as exhibiting a fact partly natural (for the existence of a whole nation in a particular country for a certain length of time is an event of a natural kind), yet inseparably connected with a continued miraculous interposition, which, if not real, no human imagination could have invented, and no human credulity believed. I mean the miraculous sustenance of the whole Jewish nation of six hundred thousand men, besides women and children, for forty years, within the compass of a barren wilderness, where a single caravan of travellers could never subsist, even marching through it by the shortest route, without having brought with them their own provisions. Yet so long the host of Israel remained in it. In the interval they were fed with food from heaven, even with manna, until in the plains of Jericho they did eat of the corn of the land; and the manna ceased the morrow after they had eaten the old corn of the laud. Here then I close this argument. And I contend that the existence of the Jewish nation in the wilderness for forty years, their submission during that period to the authority of their leader, without attempting either to return to Egypt or to invade Canaan, is a fact which cannot be accounted for, without admitting the uninterrupted and conspicuous interference of the power of Jehovah, miraculously sustaining and governing this His chosen people; and by consequence establishing the Divine original of the Mosaic Law. (Dean Graves.)
The mosaic legislation
The legislative Books of the Pentateuch, from Exodus to Deuteronomy, may be contemplated either in the lightin the legislative Books. Many of the laws are without sense or purpose, except in regard to circumstances which disappeared with the Mosaic period. Further, we have this remarkable declaration. Though the entire Pentateuch in its present form should not have been the work of Moses, and though many laws are the product of a later age, still the legislation, in its spirit and character as a whole, is genuinely Mosaic; and in dealing with the Pentateuch we stand, at least as to the three middle Books, upon historical ground, evidently meaning upon historical ground as opposed to that which is unauthenticated or legendary. And what is thus generally asserted of the spirit and character of the Pentateuchal laws, is asserted for an important share of them as to both the contents and even the form. These statements--it would not be fair to call them admissions--go to the root of the whole matter, and leave us in possession of that forwhich alone I contend: namely, that the heart and substance of the legislative and institutional system delivered to us in the Pentateuch is historically trustworthy. If this be so, it still remains highly important to distinguish by critical examination what, if any, particular portions of the work in its actual form may be open to question as secondary errors or as developments appended to the original formation; but the citadel, so long victoriously held by faith and reason, both through Hebrew and through Christian ages, remains unassailed, and the documents of Holy Writ emerge substantially unhurt from the inquisitive and searching analysis of modern time. When it is attempted to bring down the Books of the Pentateuch from the time of Moses, by whom they profess to have been written, to the period of the Babylonian Captivity, and this not only as to their literary form, but as to their substance, the evident meaning and effect of the attempt is to divest them of a historical and to invest them with a legendary character. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that those who have not seen reason to adopt the negation theory above described, leave entirely open numerous questions belonging to the institutions of the Israelites. It is not extravagant to assume that laws given to them as a nomad people, and then subjected to the varying contingencies of history for many centuries, may or even must have required and received adaptation by supplement, development, or change in detail, which the appointed guides of the people were authorized and qualified to supply, not in derogation, but rather in completion and in furtherance of the work of Moses, which remained his in essence from first to last. It is admitted, however, that the whole question must be tried on historical and literary grounds. On such grounds I seek to approach it, and to learn by testing what in the main is fact, what in the main is speculation, and to a great extent fluctuating and changeful speculation. It is never to be forgotten that our point of departure is from the ground of established historic fact. The exodus from Egypt, the settlement in Palestine, the foundation there of institutions, civil and religious, which were endowed with a tenacity of life and a peculiarity of character beyond all example: these things are established by Scripture, but they are also established independent of Scripture. They contribute a threefold combination of fact, which, in order to make them intelligible and coherent, in order to supply a rational connection between cause and effect, require not only a Moses, but such a Moses as the Scripture supplies. They build up a niche, which the Scripture fills. At all times of history, and specially in those primitive times, when the men made the countries, not the countries the men, these great independent historic facts absolutely carry with them the assumption of a leader, a governor, a legislator. All this simply means a Moses, and a Moses such as we know him from the Pentateuch. And this leads us, I do not say to, but towards, the conclusion that whatever be the disparaging allegations of the critics, they must after all in all likelihood turn upon matters of form or of detail, but that the substance of the history is in thorough accordance with the historic bases that are laid for us in profane as well as in sacred testimony. If so, then we have also to bear in mind that the phenomenon is most peculiar, and could only have been exhibited to the world as the offspring of a peculiar generating cause. A people of limited numbers, of no marked political genius, negative and stationary as to literature and art, maintain themselves for near a thousand years, down to the Captivity, placed in the immediate neighbourhood, and subject to the attacks, of the great Eastern monarchies, as well as of some very warlike neighbours. They receive the impress of a character, so marked, that not even the Captivity can efface it, but on the contrary helps to give a harder and sharper projection to its features. It retains its solidity and substance while everything else, including great political aggregations, such as the Hittite monarchy, becomes gradually fused in the surrounding masses; and this even when it has been subjected to conditions such as at Babylon, apparently sufficient to beat down and destroy the most obstinate nationalism. Can it be denied that this great historic fact, nowhere to be matched, is in thorough accordance with, and almost of itself compels us to presuppose, the existence from the outset of an elaborately detailed and firmly compacted system of laws and institutions, under which this peculiar discipline might gradually shape, determine, and mature the character of the people? Wherever we turn, we seem to find the broad and lucid principles of historic likelihood asserting themselves in favour of the substance of the legislative Books, apart from questions of detail and literary form. In its great stages, we are entitled to treat the matter of the narrative Books as history entitled to credit. An elaborate organization with a visible head and a hereditary succession is, after a long lapse of time, substituted for a regimen over Israel, of which the main springs had been personal eminence and moral force. It is represented in the Scripture, and it seems obvious, that the transition from this patriarchal republicanism to monarchy was in the nature of a religious retrogression. It showed an increasing incapacity to walk by faith, and a craving for an object of sight as a substitute for the Divine Majesty apprehended by spiritual insight, and habitually conceived of as the head of the civil community. This view of the relative condition of republican and of regal Israel is confirmed by the fact that with the monarchy came in another regular organization, that of the schools of the prophets. Prophecy, which for the present purpose we may consider as preaching, instead of appearing as occasion required, became a system, with provision for perpetual succession. That is to say, the people could not be kept up to the primitive, or even the necessary, level in belief and life, without the provision of more elaborate and direct means of instruction, exhortation, and reproof, than had at first been requisite. Notwithstanding the existence of those means, and the singular and noble energy of the prophets, the proofs of the decline are not less abundant than painful, in the wickedness of most of the sovereigns, and in the almost wholesale and too constant lapse of the Israelites into the filthy idolatry which was rooted in the country. And again, it is not a little remarkable that the enumeration by name of the great historic heroes of faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews ends in the person of King David, with the first youth of the monarchy. The only later instances referred to are the prophets, named as a class, who stood apart and alone, and were not as a rule leaders of the people, but rather witnesses in sackcloth against their iniquities. Taking the history from the Exodus to the Exile as a whole, the latter end was worse than the beginning, the cup of iniquity was full, it had been filled by a gradual process: and one of the marks of that process was a lowering of the method in which the chosen people were governed, it became more human and less Divine. Under these circumstances, does it not appear like a paradox, and even a rather wanton paradox, to refer the production of those sacred Mosaic Books, which constituted the charter of the Hebrews as a separate and peculiar people, to the epochs of a lowered and decaying
spiritual life? They formed the base on which the entire structure rested. It is hardly possible to separate the fabric from its foundation. Had they not been recorded and transmitted, it would have been reasonable, perhaps necessary, for us to presume their existence. They could only spring from a plant full of vigorous life, not from one comparatively sickly, corrupt, and exhausted. And so again we have, in the historic Moses a great and powerful genius, an organizing and constructing mind. Degenerate ages cannot equip and furnish forth illustrious founders, only at the most the names and shadows of them. Moses stands in historic harmony with his work. As we stand on historical ground in assuming that Moses was a great man, and a powerful agent in the Hebrew history, so we stand on a like basis in pointing to the fact that from the Captivity onwards (to say nothing of the prior period, as it would beg the question) the Jewish nation paid to the five Books of the Pentateuch a special and extraordinary regard, even beyond the rest of their sacred Books. These were known as the Torah; and the fact of this special reverence is one so generally acknowledged, that it may without discussion be safely assumed as a point of departure. Before, then, any sort of acceptance or acquiescence is accorded to notions which virtually consign to insignificance the most ancient of our sacred Books, let us well weigh the fact that the devout regard of the Hebrews for the Torah took the form, at or very soon after the Exile, of an extreme vigilance on behalf of these particular Books as distinct from all others. If (such was their conception) we secure the absolute identity of the manuscripts, and reckon up the actual numbers of the words they contain, and of the letters which compose the words, then we shall render change in them impossible and conservation certain. The Hebrews were the only people who built up by degrees a regular scientific method of handling the material forms in which the substance of their Sacred Books was clothed, and this system had begun to grow from the time when a special reverence is known to have been concentrated upon the Torah. It may have commenced before the Captivity. It may have preceded, and may probably have been enhanced by, the division of the kingdoms. It must have been in great force when, soon after the Captivity, schools of scribes were entrusted with the custody of the text of the law as a study apart from that of its meaning. Now in our time we are asked or tempted by the negative criticism to believe that all this reverence for the Books of the Pentateuch, having primarily the sense for its object, but abounding and overflowing so as to embrace the corporeal vehicle, was felt towards a set of books not substantially genuine, but compounded and made up by recent operators who may be mildly called editors, bat who were rather clandestine authors. Is this probable or reasonable? Is it even possible that these books of recent concoction, standing by the side of some among the prophetical Books possessing a greater antiquity, should nevertheless have attracted to themselves, and have permanently retained, an exceptional and superlative veneration, such as surely presumes a belief in the remoteness of their date, the genuineness of their character, and their title to stand as the base, both doctrinal and historic, of the entire Hebrew system? And now let us look for a moment at the rather crude and irregular form of the Mosaic books from Exodus to Deuteronomy. Taken as a whole, they have not that kind of consistency which belongs to consecutiveness of form, and which almost uniformly marks both historical and legal documents. They mix narrative and legislation: they pass from one to the other without any obvious reason. They repeat themselves in a manner which seems to exclude the idea that they had undergone the careful and reflective reviews, the comparison of part with part, which is generally bestowed upon works of great importance, completed with comparative leisure, and intended for the guidance not only of an individual but of a people. They are even accused of contradictions. They appear to omit adjustments necessary in the light of the subsequent history: such, for instance, as we might desire between the sweeping proscription not only of image worship, but of images or shapen corporeal forms, in the Second Commandment, and the use actually made of them in the temple, and the singular case of the serpent destroyed by Hezekiah. It seems not difficult to account for this roughness and crudeness of authorship under the circumstances of changeful nomad life, and the constant pressure of anxious executive or judicial functions, combined with the effort of constructing a great legislative code, which required a totally different attitude of mind. The life of Moses, as it stands in the sacred text, must have been habitually a life of extraordinary, unintermitted strain, and one without remission of that strain even near and at the close. As some anomalies in the composition of the Koran may be referable to the circumstances of the life of Mahomet, so we may apply a like idea to the shape of the legislative books. It is not difficult to refer the anomalies of such authorship to the incidents of such a life, and to conceive that any changes which have found their way into the text may yet have been such as to leave unimpaired what may be called the originality as well as the integrity of its character. But how do these considerations hold if we are to assume as our point of departure the hypothesis of the negative extremists? Under that supposition the legislative books were principally not adjusted but composed, and this not only in a manner which totally falsifies their own solemn and often repeated declarations, but which supposes something like hallucination on the part of a people that accepted such novelties as ancient. In addition to all this, they assumed their existing form, so wanting as to series and method, in a settled state of things, in an old historic land, with an unbounded freedom of manipulation, at any rate with no restraint imposed by respect for original form, and with every condition in favour of the final editors which could favour the production of a thoroughly systematic and orderly work. Does it not seem that if the preparation and presentation of the Hebrew code took place at the time and in the way imposed on us by the doctrine of the thorough disintegrationist, then we stand entirely at a loss to account for the form of the work before us? And conversely do not the peculiarities of that form constitute an objection to the negative hypothesis, which it is an absolute necessity for its promoters to get rid of as best they can? I subjoin one further topic of the same class as fit to be taken into view. The absence from the legislative books of all assertion of a future state, and of all motive derived from it with a view to conduct, has been already noticed. The probable reason of that absence from a code of laws framed by Moses under Divine command or guidance, is a subject alike of interest and difficulty. It has sometimes occurred to me as possible that the close connection of the doctrine with public religion in the Egyptian system might have supplied a reason for its disconnection from the Mosaic laws, even as I suppose we might, from other features of those laws, draw proof or strong presumption that, among the purposes of the legislator, there was included a determination to draw a broad and deep line, or even trench, of demarcation, between the foreign religions in their neighbourhood and the religious system of the Hebrews. Be this as it may, it is enough for my present purpose that the absence of the doctrine of a future state from the work cannot be held to discredit the Mosaic authorship. But does not that absence clearly discredit the idea of a post-exilic authorship? Is it conceivable that Hebrews, proceeding to frame their legislative books, after the Captivity, and long after the dispersion of the ten tribes, and after the light which these events had thrown upon the familiar ideas of a future life and an underworld, as held both in the East and in Egypt, could have excluded all notice of it from their system of laws? If they could not so have excluded it, then the fact of the exclusion becomes another difficulty in the way of our accepting any negative hypothesis concerning the substance of the legislative books. It seems, then, that it is difficult to reconcile the results of the negative criticism on the Pentateuch with the known reverence of the Jews for their Torah, which appears absolutely to presuppose a tradition of immemorial age on its behalf, as a precondition of such universal and undoubting veneration. But if this be necessary in the case of the Jew, how much more peremptorily is it required by the case of the Samaritan, and what light does that case throw upon the general question? The Samaritan Pentateuch is one of the most remarkable monuments of antiquity. Its testimony, of course, cannot be adduced to show that the books following the Pentateuch have been clothed from a very ancient date with the reverence due to the Divine Word, and is even capable of being employed in a limited sense the other way. But as respects the Samaritan Pentateuch itself, how is it possible to conceive that it should have held, as a Divine work, the supreme place in the regard of the Samaritans, if, about or near the year 500 B.C., or, again, if at the time of Manasseh the seceder it had, as matter of fact, been a recent compilation of their enemies the Jews? or if it had been regarded as anything less than a record of a great revelation from God, historically known, or at the least universally believed, to have come down to them in the shape it then held from antiquity? The Samaritan Pentateuch, then, forms in itself a remarkable indication, even a proof, that, at the date from which we know it to have been received, the Pentateuch was no novelty among the Jews. But may we not state the argument in broader terms? Surely the reverence of the Samaritans for the Torah could not have begun at this period; hardly could have begun at any period posterior to the Schism. If these books grew by gradual accretion, still that must have been a single accretion. A double process could not have been carried on in harmony. Nor can we easily suppose that, when the ten tribes separated from the two, they did not carry with them the law on which their competing worship was to be founded. In effect, is there any rational supposition except that the kingdom of Israel had possessed at the time of Rehoboam some code corresponding in substance, in all except mere detail, with that which was subsequently written out in the famous manuscripts we now possess? Let us close with a plea of a different order, one which, admitting a probable imperfection of the text, deprecates, as opposed to the principles of sound criticism, any conclusion therefrom adverse to its general fidelity. It has caused me some surprise to notice
Testimony of the Pentateuch to itself
1. In the outset it is important to keep apart two questions that are not seldom confused. It is one thing to be the recipient of a revelation; it is another thing to write down such a revelation. The whole Pentateuch may be Mosaic, and yet Moses need not, sua manu, have written a single word in it, nor the Pentateuch, in its present shape, date from his age.
2. The direct evidence of the Pentateuch as to its literary author is very meagre. The only passages in which Moses is said to have written any portion of the words spoken to him by the Lord are Exodus 17:14,
24:4 (cf. Exodus 5:7), 34:28; Numbers 33:2; Numbers 17:2 sqq.; Deuteronomy 31:9; Deuteronomy 31:24 (cf., Deuteronomy 5:26, as also Deuteronomy 17:18; Deuteronomy 28:58; Deuteronomy 28:61; Deuteronomy 29:19-20; Deuteronomy 29:26; Deuteronomy 30:10). Of these Exodus 34:28 refers only to the writing of the ten commandments upon the two tables; Numbers 17:2 refers only to the writing on rods; Numbers 33:2 only to the list of desert stations, and these passages thus furnish their own limitation. In Exodus 24:4 we are told that Moses wrote “all the words of the Lord,” and in verse 7 these “words” are identified with “the book of the covenant,” which he read to the people, and to which the audience promised obedience. In the nature of the case this cannot refer to the whole Pentateuch, for the simple reason that it could not have existed at that time. It refers to a particular set of laws given in the chapters preceding the twenty-fourth. Hengstenberg considers this book of the covenant to be composed of chap. 20:2-14, and chaps. 21 to 23. There are then left only the two most difficult, but also most promising passages, viz., Exodus 17:14, and Deuteronomy 31:9,
In the former passage we read that the Lord commanded Moses to“write this for a memorial in a book.” A “book” in the Hebrew is a written document of any kind or length. The Israelites then had other “books” besides their law books (cf. Numbers 21:14). What is meant here is doubtless that Moses wrote or caused to be written the affair of Amalek, and that this document was incorporated into the Pentateuch. In Deuteronomy 31:9; Deuteronomy 24:1-22 matters seem to be more satisfactory. In the first passage it is said that Moses “wrote this law”; in the second that he “made an end of writing the words of this law in a book.” What is meant by “this law”? Is it the whole Pentateuch? Of the law here meant, it is said in verse 10 sqq., that every seven years, at the feast of the tabernacles, it shall be read before all Israel, in order to instruct the people in their duties toward Jehovah. It must accordingly have been a document of such a kind that it could be read on such an occasion; and, secondly, it must have been formulated in such a way as to impress their duties upon the children of Israel. Both these features point not to the whole Pentateuch as such, but to the law in the exhortatory form in which it is presented in Deuteronomy. A fair explanation here seems to compel us to restrict “this law” in this connection to the Book of Deuteronomy, and doubtless to the strictly legal second half. We do not then think that we have any direct testimony of the Pentateuch to prove that Moses himself wrote or caused to be written the whole of the five books. He is declared to be the writer of portions of Exodus and Numbers, and of the legal portion and possibly the whole of Deuteronomy. Whether he also Wrote the rest of the Pentateuch, or larger portions thereof, is not directly stated.
3. It is deeply significant, over against the somewhat scanty and disappointing testimony in reference to the writer of the Pentateuch, when we ask for the evidences as to the person who was chosen of God to promulgate the revelations, that the testimony is simply overwhelming. Moses may or may not have written these books, yet the contents of the last four, at least in their great bulk, claim to have been given by God to Moses. Yet it would be unfair to conclude that Moses must be regarded as the medium through whom Jehovah revealed every word and syllable in our present Pentateuch. Moses is nowhere declared to be the recipient of the whole Pentateuch as such, but of certain parts or portions. And here the question in each case arises, whether the testimony to the Mosaic source that heads each section covers all the ground, until the same declaration is made of a new section. In many instances this is probably the intention; in other cases it is not so certain, and in some quite doubtful. It may, however, be asserted that the great bulk and mass of the Pentateuch, from that period on which Moses first was called to his mission Exodus 3:2 sqq.), both the legal portion and also the historical narratives, claim to be the revelation of Jehovah given to His servant Moses. This still leaves open the critical and literary question as to whether into this Mosaic bulk or mass foreign elements were introduced then or later, and also the historical question as to the time and manner in which these Mosaic revelations were written, collected, or received their present shape, and the changes, if any, which they may have undergone in this process.
4. The indirect evidence on this point is also abundant. The Pentateuch contains a large number of laws, and narrates numerous events which can be understood only from the historical background of the sojourn and journey of the children of Israel through the desert under the leadership of Moses. From the standpoint of the advanced critics, these laws and events are glaring anachronisms, and could be explained only as bold fraudes piac. Then there are other laws which, if not in their own character indicative of the Mosaic age, yet in the occasion which caused their promulgation connect with that age, and can be rationally and reasonably understood only from this point of view. Thus the law on the great day of atonement (Leviticus 16:1-34) is based upon the historical events recorded in Leviticus 10:1 sqq. Then the whole section Exodus 25:1-40; Exodus 26:1-37; Exodus 27:1-21; Exodus 28:1-43; Exodus 29:1-46; Exodus 30:1-38; Exodus 31:1-18, is intelligible only from a Mosaic era. In Numbers 10:1-8, in which the method of calling together the congregation is described, we have again the Mosaic era presupposed. The same is true of Numbers 1:1 sqq., with its statistics; chap. 4, containing the description of the arrangement of the people’s camp in the wilderness; chap. 4, with its regulations concerning the services of the Levites in the camp . . . The evidence of the Pentateuch concerning itself may be thus summed up: Directly, it is claimed that the great bulk of the last four books are Mosaic in the sense that they are revelations of God to Moses, and portions of them in the sense that Moses himself wrote or caused them to be written. Indirectly, the testimony points to the author of the last four books as also the author of the first, as also that a large number of the laws and much of the history in these four books presuppose the Mosaic age. Whether these conclusions are applicable to the whole and entire Pentateuch or not, or whether these five books contain also direct or indirect evidence of post-Mosaic elements can be discussed only later, after it has been determined what the internal character of these books is.
5. What is the testimony of the Pentateuch concerning itself, both in regard to the substance and matter it brings, as also in regard to the books as a literary composition? In regard to the first point the evidence is overwhelming that these five books claim to be a revelation and the history of a revelation. The Pentateuch proceeds from the premises that the fall of man has seriously interfered with God’s plans for man’s welfare, and that God’s providential guidance of man is specially directed toward his restoration and re-establishment. God chooses from among the peoples of the earth one family, that of Abraham, and later one nation, that of the descendants of Abraham, and enters into a special covenant with them in order to accomplish His great ends in mankind.
6. Concerning the Pentateuch as a literary work there is but little direct testimony. But that the author did not simply mechanically record revelations directly given, but based at least part of his work on other literary documents, is plainly enough stated . . . The inspiration of the Pentateuch certainly does not consist in this, that the author received all his information from the Holy Spirit as something entirely unknown to him before, but rather in directing him to make the correct use of the means of information at his command . . . The great evil of modern Pentateuchal criticism does not lie in the analysis into documents, but in the creation upon this analysis of a superstructure of pseudo-history and religion that runs directly counter to the revealed and historic character of the Pentateuch. But as little as this analysis justifies such a building of hay and stubble, just so little does this abuse of this theory by advanced critics justify conservative men in refusing to accept what the evidences seem sufficient to warrant. The Pentateuch is essentially Mosaic, in the sense that the laws were promulgated through him. It becomes then an historical question as to the manner in which these laws were first written down and afterwards united into one code.
7. There are a number of passages which apparently can be explained only on the supposition that they were written in a period later than Moses. The existence of these would seem to prove that the collecting of the Mosaic revelations and the final editing was not accomplished until a later day.
8. What is the value of this evidence of the Pentateuch concerning itself? The testimony of a witness is measured by the amount of credence given to his words. Apodictically, no historical point can be proved. It is regarded as certain and sure only in the degree as its evidence is considered reliable. The same is the case with regard to the Pentateuch. What divides scholars in this department into such antagonistic camps is not the exegesis of this or that passage, but the “standpoint” of the investigators. The conservative scholar accepts the authority of the Pentateuch over against canons and laws drawn from philosophical speculations. The advanced critic, on the basis of his ideas concerning the nature of religion in general and revelation drawn from extra-biblical sources, regards his deductions as better testimony than the simple statements of the Pentateuch, and accordingly interprets the words of the Pentateuch in accordance with his philosophy. It is for this reason that he finds mythology in Genesis where others find history. In the nature of the case no historical fact can be proved with mathematical certainty. It is only a question of a greater or less degree of probability. Internal and external evidence must combine to determine this degree of probability. For the conservative scholar the conviction that the Pentateuch is an inspired work is a ground for believing its statements concerning itself. This conviction of inspiration he gains not by logical reasoning or historical criticism, but as a testimonium spiritus sancti. Another reason for accepting it is its acceptance as Mosaic and Divine by Christ and the New Testament. A conservative scholar is convinced that this authority is a better ground for belief than his own theories and hypotheses, in case these should clash with the former. (Prof. G. H. Schodde.)
Summary of the Evidence as to the Date of the Pentateuch
I. In the Book of Genesis we have no legislation, and only one prophetic passage; it is composed essentially of histories. That portion of the narrative which lies before the time of Abraham it is improbable (on literary grounds) was the work of contemporaries, though we cannot say it is impossible. The remainder may have been so; since writings fully equal in literary development to its pages are extant of very ancient date. It is certain, from its use of archaisms, that the book belongs to a much earlier period of Hebrew literature than the times of Hosea, Amos, and Isaiah. Turning, then, to the evidence afforded by the narrative itself, it appears that there are considerable portions which must be assigned to pre-Mosaic periods. One of these must have been composed as early as Abram’s migration into Canaan; another probably during his lifetime; while the bulk were written during the early part of the sojourn in Egypt. These latter passages comprise portions of the history of Abraham, of Ishmael, and notably of Jacob; and among them may be also reckoned the blessing of Jacob, the historical basis of which distinctly points to this epoch as the time of its composition. To ascertain precisely how much of Genesis was written at this period would require a careful investigation into its structure, style, and phraseology, such as cannot here be attempted. It must suffice to know that some considerable part was then written. The latter part of Genesis was composed by one familiarly acquainted both with the details of Egyptian life and customs, and also with the Egyptian language; at latest, therefore, by a contemporary of Joshua, but quite probably by one of a previous generation. Several brief notes, chiefly of an explanatory character, scattered throughout the book require the time of Joshua for their composition; or they may have been added later. In either case, their occurrence testifies indirectly to the early date of the narrative which stood in need of them. Only one passage of any length, the list of Edomite kings, seems to call for a later date (the reign of Saul), but this is doubtful. On the whole, then, we arrive at this result:--the Book of Genesis was completed, or all but completed, in its present form probably before the death of Joshua, but its contents appear in the main to be of an earlier date, and are in part certainly the work of contemporaries.
II. The Book of Exodus consists of history and legislation, the former somewhat preponderating. In a literary point of view, all the evidence for early date applies here with full force, and requires the assignment of the book to a period long anterior to that of the prophets. The narrative is marked in its first sections by a great familiarity with Egypt, and in the succeeding ones by an equally striking familiarity with the desert; a combination scarcely explicable except on the view of strictly contemporary origin. This view is confirmed by the presence of an explanatory note in one place; and also by the historical basis of the song of Moses. The legislation is shown to be contemporary both by its essentially historical character, its subject matter, its phraseology, and its references to Canaan as still future, as well as by its own claim; while history and legislation are so intertwined that the evidence for each tends not a little to strengthen and increase that for the other. With the exception of about three verses, there can be little doubt that the whole of Exodus was written before the death of Moses.
III. The Book of Leviticus consists almost wholly of legislation; about three chapters only being occupied with narrative, and one with prophecy.
The literary argument, owing to the absence of Egyptian words, is here somewhat less striking than in Exodus. This, however, is amply compensated for by the fulness of evidence in regard to the laws. Not only is there the witness of their own claim, and the many links, of the most varied character, which bind them one after another into the history of the wanderings: but when scrutinized internally, their references to the place where they were first delivered, and the persons concerned in their first accomplishment, their allusions to Egypt on the one hand and Canaan on the other, all point clearly to their origin in the wilderness at some period before the death of Aaron. The character of the narrative sections, and the historical basis and hortatory peculiarities of the prophetical chapter, fully accord with, and further sustain, this conclusion.
IV. The Book of Numbers is occupied with narrative and legislation, much interspersed, in about equal proportions, with some prophecy. In a literary point of view it holds much the same position as Leviticus. The narrative, wherever opportunity offers, displays a similar familiarity with Egypt and the desert to that observed in Exodus, though from the nature of the case the range of evidence is considerably less extensive. The phraseology in one or two sections points to a time of composition which may be later than Moses, but need not be later than Joshua. The most notable point in Numbers, however, is the way in which a large portion of its laws are linked into the history, some by the narration of their historical origin, some by the connection between their enactment and the events which followed, some by their own intrinsic character and subject matter. Both narrative and laws must clearly have been recorded by the same hand, and that a contemporary one. Much of what was said above in regard to Leviticus also applies here. The historical basis of the prophecies is unmistakably that of the wilderness. Saving only the doubtful narrative sections above referred to, therefore, Numbers must be assigned to a similar date with Exodus and Leviticus.
V. The Book of Deuteronomy is composed in the main of prophecy and legislation, in nearly equal parts, with a little narrative as setting. In both these departments the evidence of Mosaic date is very striking. The laws abound with references to Egypt and the wilderness journey, while they frequently speak of Canaan as unpossessed. On comparing these laws with those in the other books, they are found to differ from them precisely as their respective dates would have led us to expect. The new laws in Deuteronomy are largely occupied with topics especially suitable to the close of Moses’ career; while the modified and repeated laws point in the clearest manner to the beginning and end of the desert wanderings, as the times when they must severally have been written, if their divergences are to be rationally explained. This latter branch of evidence of course affects portions of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, as well as Deuteronomy, and affords valuable additional testimony to their early date. The hortatory prophecies of Deuteronomy, both in their personal allusions, their subject matter, their aim, their tone, and their style, point most clearly to the time of Moses, as that in which they were composed; while the enormous differences, in all these respects, between them and the later prophetic writings render it wholly incredible that they could have originated at the same time with these. Similarly, the historical basis of the predictive passages is distinctly the close of Moses’ life. Thus the whole of the substance of Deuteronomy is proved to be unmistakably Mosaic. The narrative sections must of necessity be somewhat later than the addresses; they may be referred with great probability to about the close of Joshua’s leadership. It will have been observed in this survey of results, that in most of the books there is something which must be referred to post-Mosaic times. Especially is this the case in Genesis and Deuteronomy; though similar phenomena are seen also in Exodus, and perhaps in Numbers. The specific time to which this late matter points is, as a rule, the period between Moses’ death and Joshua’s, or thereabouts. It is probable, therefore, that in this period the entire Pentateuch received its final editing. (G. Warington, B. A.)
Originality and Design of the Jewish Ritual
If the great Jehovah, the moral Governor of the word, did in reality separate the Jewish nation to be the depositaries of true religion and sound morality, in the midst of an idolatrous world, and for this purpose brought them forth out of Egypt by a series of stupendous and uncontrolled miracles; if He promulgated to them the moral law of the Decalogue, with the most awful display of Divine power and majesty; if He established over them, as their form of national government, a theocracy, which could not be supported without the continued interposition of an extraordinary providence; if He retained them in the wilderness for forty years, to discipline and instruct them, until the entire generation, which had been familiarized to the idolatry and corruptions of Egypt, had perished; and if He then planted them in the land of Canaan by a supernatural power, driving out before them its inhabitants, or compelling the Jews to exterminate them, as a punishment for their inveterate idolatry and its attendant crimes, commanding them carefully to avoid all similar profanation and guilt, under the terror of suffering similar punishment--if these facts have been established, so as to prove that the Jewish Lawgiver was clearly delegated by God to institute a particular form of worship, with a variety of regulations and rites, to preserve the separation of this chosen people from the surrounding nations--then the supposition that he should borrow anything from these rites and customs, in order to accommodate his system to the prejudices, habits, and propensities of his countrymen, becomes unnecessary, in proportion as we more clearly discern that he possessed authority to conciliate attention and enforce obedience without resorting to any such artifice. And if such an expedient was unnecessary, surely its adoption is extremely improbable. Thus to blend Divine appointments and human inventions; to degrade the worship of the great Jehovah with the intermixture of rites, originally designed to honour the basest idols; to reprobate the whole system of idolatry, all its profanations and crimes, with the most vehement and indiscriminate condemnation, and prohibit every attempt to introduce any part of it, under the severest penalties; and yet secretly, as it were, pilfer from it some of its most attractive charms, varnish them with a new colouring, and exhibit them as the genuine features of true religion; this seems altogether irreconcilable with the dignity of an inspired Legislator, and the purity of a Divine law, and indeed forms a scheme so jarring and inconsistent, that it appears utterly incredible it should be adopted by Divine Wisdom. It is true, some parts of the Jewish religion derived their origin from an authority more ancient than that of Moses: the observance of the Sabbath appears to have been coeval with the creation, and the use of sacrifice to have been instituted by God immediately after the fall. These, therefore, it is perfectly natural to suppose, had been received by other nations from the remotest antiquity, and when adopted into the Mosaic institutions, it was only requisite to free them from the superstitions and corruptions with which they had been blended, restore them to their original purity, and direct them to their true object. In truth, the whole tenour of the Jewish law exhibits not a studied imitation, but a studied opposition to the principles and rites of idolatry. That law required the worship of the one true God exclusively; idolatry worshipped a rabble of deities. The Law proscribed all use of images, or resemblance of any creature, as emblems of the Divinity; idolatry multiplied them. The Law abhorred and condemned all impure rites and all human sacrifices; idolatry too frequently employed them. The Law forbade all necromancy and divination; it made no use of the inspection of the entrails of victims, or the observation of the flight of the birds, to discover future events; it relied for this, when necessary, on the Divine oracle consulted by public authority, and answering from the sanctuary, when the Divine glory was displayed, by a distinct and audible voice. The Law forbade a variety of practices, in themselves apparently innocent, but which we know were employed in the superstitions of idolatry; such as worshipping in high places or in consecrated groves. Thus Maimonides notices that the prohibition against rounding the corners of the hair on the head and the beard was given because the idolatrous priests were accustomed to use that particular tonsure. He assigns a similar reason for not making a garment of linen and woollen mixed together, this being a particular dress in idolatrous rites. Hence also he accounts for the prohibition against eating the fruits of the trees they should find in the land of Canaan for three years, which by the planters had been consecrated to idols. Thus also idolaters were brought to believe that it was acceptable to their gods to sow the ground on particular occasions with certain mixtures of seeds, which was therefore prohibited. Idolaters were accustomed to use blood in consulting the dead, to consecrate bats and mice, and other insects, as a sacrifice to the sun; these, therefore, were pronounced unclean. And it is abundantly evident, that all the peculiarities of the Ritual, as to its rites, sacrifices, and purifications, and its distinctions between things clean and unclean, contributed to guard against the infection of idolatry; not only by an opposition of rites and sacrifices, which would make the worshippers of Jehovah regard with habitual horror and contempt the rites and sacrifices of idolaters, but by establishing a similar opposition even in the customs of common life, and the use of even daily food, which would render all familiar intercourse between the peculiar people of Jehovah and idolaters impracticable. This effect really followed wherever these precepts of the law were observed. Thus, according to Josephus, when the Midianite women are represented as conferring with the young men whom their beauty had captivated, stating their fears of being forsaken by their lovers, and receiving their assurances of attachment, they go on: “If then,” said they, “this be your resolution not to forsake us, since you make use of such customs and conduct of life as are entirely different from all other men, insomuch that your kinds of food are peculiar to yourselves, and your kinds of drink not common to others, it will be absolutely necessary, if you would have us for your wives, that you worship our gods; nor can there be any other demonstration of the kindness which you say you already have and promise to have hereafter for us, than this, that you worship the same gods that we do. Nor has anyone reason to complain that, now you are come into this country, you should worship the proper gods of the same country, especially while our gods are common to all men, and yours such as belong to nobody else but yourselves? So they said they must either come into such methods of worship as all other came into, or else they must look out fur another world, wherein they may live by themselves, according to their own laws.” The same feeling of aversion and contempt from this studied opposition, not only in religious rites, but in the customs of common life, was universal amongst the heathens towards the Jews. Tacitus, in his eloquent but ignorant and gross misrepresentation of their origin and manners, expresses it strongly: “Moses” (says he), “that he might attach the nation forever to himself, introduced rites new and in opposition to the rest of mankind: all things we hold sacred, are there profane; and what we deem abominable, are with them permitted.” And again, “they slaughter the ram in sacrifice, as if in contempt of Ammon; and they also offer up an ox, which the Egyptians worship under the name of Apis.” The decided feeling of opposition and hostility which the whole Jewish system excited, not merely in the vulgar, but in the most enlightened heathens, is evident in the passage already quoted from this philosophic historian; and still more in those which follow, where he terms their “rites perverse and polluted”; and while he remarks the good faith and benevolence for which they were noted in their intercourse with each other, charges them “with an hostile hatred towards the rest of mankind,” and declares that “those who adopt their principles and customs, not only use circumcision, but are taught to despise their own gods, to renounce their country and to hold in contempt brothers, children, parents.” Thus decided was the contrast between not only the general principles of Judaism and idolatry, but also the particular rites of each--a contrast by which the Jewish Ritual so effectually contributed to the end for which it was originally designed, even to serve as a partition wall to separate the chosen people of God from the surrounding nations, and form a barrier against the corruptions of heathenism--a purpose with which the supposition, that it borrowed and consecrated many of these rites and practices, appears to be entirely inconsistent. The evidence on which this supposition is founded has been proved to be as inconclusive as the supposition itself appears to be improbable. Witsius has shown, with a clearness which renders it altogether unnecessary to discuss the subject afresh, that the authors on whose testimony the superior antiquity of the Egyptian religion has been maintained, and who have asserted or supposed that the Mosaic Law derived from this source many of its principles and rites, lived so long after the facts, were so grossly ignorant of the Jewish history and system, so rash or so prejudiced, that their testimony can have no authority to obtain credit, not merely, as he expresses it, with a strict investigator of antiquity, but “even with any man of plain sense and moderate erudition.” In truth, the fancied resemblance between the rites of Judaism and idolatry amounts to little more than this: that in both were priests, temples, altars, sacrifices, festivals, calculated to catch the attention, captivate the senses, and engage the imaginations of the worshippers by their splendour or their solemnity. Should it be asked, Why should an inspired Lawgiver, instead of a simple and purely spiritual worship, adopt a Ritual, thus, in the variety and the splendour attending it, bearing even a remote resemblance to the more gross inventions of idolatry? it may be answered: that the Jewish Ritual, with its temple, its festivals, its priests, its sacrifices, its distinctions of food, its purifications, etc., not only served as a barrier against idolatry, but contributed to give the true religion dignity and attraction in the estimation both of strangers and of the Jews themselves. It marked out the Hebrew nation as a holy people, a nation of priests to Jehovah their God and King; it attached them to their religion by the habitual association of festive rites, of national exaltation and prosperity; it engaged their imagination and their senses, made them feel the necessity of circumspection and purity when they approached the presence of God, and by all these means formed some counterpoise to the seduction of idolatry. It is further to be remarked, that the appointment of the Tabernacles first, and of the Temple afterwards, as the sanctuary where Jehovah the God and King of Israel would manifest His presence by a visible display of His glory, and give answers to the public and solemn applications, made through the high priest, to discover the will of this the supreme Sovereign of the Hebrew nation, gave rise to many peculiarities of the Jewish Ritual. Hence the solemn worship of the whole Church was to be directed to that place where Jehovah dwelt; and it was therefore declared unlawful, by this Ritual, to have any altar, or to offer any sacrifice, but before this presence, in honour of which the Ritual appoints the magnificence of the Temple, of the holy and most holy place, and the religious respect with which they were to be approached. For the same reason the Ritual appoints so many priests as servants to attend on the Presence, and to minister before the Lord Jehovah, who were to be invested in their sacred office by many solemn rites of consecration, and distinguished by a peculiar and splendid dress. This honour, continues Lowman, which ought to distinguish Jehovah as above all gods, in the perfections of His nature and supreme authority, is further well expressed by the whole ceremonial of the sacrificial rites: whether we consider the things that were to be offered, or the persons who were to offer them--the several kinds of sacrifices, whole burnt offerings, peace offerings, sin and trespass offerings, which were to honour God as the supreme governor of the world, as forgiving iniquities, transgressions, and sins, as the author of all blessings, spiritual and temporal. These are plainly designed to give unto Jehovah, as their God, the glory due unto His name. Thus all the ritual holiness is manifestly designed for the same end, that “they might be a holy people, as their God was a holy God.” Hence the Ritual distinctions of unclean foods and of several pollutions, as well as the ritual purifications after legal uncleanness, expressed a due honour to the presence of Jehovah; constantly representing how fit, how becoming it was, for those who were honoured with the nearest approach to this Presence, to keep themselves pure, purged from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, that they might honourably serve so pure and so holy a God. I will close my remarks on this subject, by removing a very ill-grounded prejudice, too frequently entertained, against the Jewish Ritual as a system intolerably burthensome. I observe, with Lowman, that it is the Ritual of a national, and not a personal worship. In this view, all objections against the Jewish Ritual as personally burthensome, tedious, or expensive, evidently appears to be wholly founded on ignorance and error; while as a system of national worship, it was most wisely adapted to the great designs of the Jewish economy, even to preserve the Law, and the worship of the great Jehovah, in the Jewish race, and to prepare the way for the promised MESSIAH, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. (Dean Graves.)
The Character and Aims of Mosaic Legislation
Many and diverse have been the theories advanced concerning the origin and nature of law. Some ascribe the origin of law to the will of the people, others to the wisdom of the rulers, some to the power of the strongest, others to the ordinance of a social compact. But the law given by Moses originated in a source distinct from any of these.
1. The idea lying at the root of all the Mosaic legislation was the theocratic idea. Every ordinance instituted by Moses, whether civic or ceremonial, political or ecclesiastical, was based upon the recognition of the supreme sovereignty of God. The lofty tribunal before which every action was to be tried, judged, and sentenced, did not sit upon earth--its chair was in heaven. The judgment seat of Jehovah was the final court of appeal for the Jew, because the code of Moses declared itself to be the code of God. One of the aims, therefore, of the Mosaic legislation was to bring man face to face with God in the manners, customs, and usages of common daily life.
2. But the Mosaic code was instinct with a still deeper and more prophetic purpose. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” It was the “shadow of good things to come,” of which Christ “is the substance.”
The statutes of Moses served as a pedagogue to the world, leading the steps of its childhood into the school of spiritual knowledge, there to be trained, in the fulness of time, for the salvation of Christ, “who is the end, the completion, the fulfilment, of the law.” This purpose the Mosaic legislation accomplished by two principal instruments.
Christ in the Pentateuch
What I wish to suggest, and as far as I may, to prove, is this: that a substantial unity may be discovered between the earlier revelations of God and that confessedly more perfect and final revelation which was made in Jesus Christ. I wish to show that in the Pentateuch, as St. Augustine has said of the Psalms, you may hear “the voices of Christ and His Church.”
1. Perhaps the most obvious consideration with regard to the presence of Christ in the Pentateuch is that which arises from the prophetical character of the sacred books (2 Peter 1:19). It is not so much that there are definite undeniable predictions of the coming of the Son of God in the flesh, though I do not say that these are wanting; but it is rather the general aspect of the events recorded and the uniformity of the direction in which they seem to point. The most obvious illustration of this prophetical character is the reference to the “seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:1-24.). It is no question how much or how little Adam and Eve understood of the promise; there is but little to guide us to an opinion upon this point; neither is it even a question how much their children understood before the coming of Christ; but the question is, in what light the Church of Christ is compelled to view the promise, now that it has been illustrated by the life and death of the Lord Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom. And looking upon the words spoken by the Almighty to Adam and Eve thus, we can hardly refuse to allow that they are prophetic of Jesus Christ and the triumph of Him and His people over the evil one. The next conspicuous outpouring of the prophetic Spirit is in the case of Abraham (Genesis 22:18; cf. Galatians 3:16). The design of such promises seems to have been, so far as the ancient recipients were concerned, not to give them an infallible insight into futurity, but to give them light enough to comfort, encourage, and guide them; and so far as we are concerned, upon whom the ends of the world are come, the design seems to have been, that we should perceive the mutual adjustment of prophecy and fulfilment as of lock and key, and so should recognize the one Divine hand which has ordered events from the beginning till now. (See also Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17; Deuteronomy 18:15.) Nor are the prophetical utterances of the Pentateuch estimated at their right value, unless they be taken as the first terms of a series; later on in the history of the ancient Church we have clearer language still, but those later prophecies would lose much of their force, and would not have been so effectual as they proved to be in educating the Jewish mind to the hope of a Messiah, in leading men to wait for the Consolation of Israel, if they had not been prefaced by the prophetical language of the Pentateuch, and so made links in a continuous chain stretching from the first Adam to the second, and binding together the earliest hint of redemption with the great Redeemer Himself.
2. The Church of Christ has ever seen and loved to see in the historical events and the ordinances of the ancient dispensation, types and shadows of those greater blessings and clearer revelations which were reserved for the days of the gospel. And it is hardly necessary to say that the sacrifices of the old dispensation found their explanation and fulfilment in the sacrifice of the death of Christ.
3. There is one other declaration of Christ in the Pentateuch which ought to be noticed. The phrase “preludings of the Incarnation” has been happily used as descriptive of those manifestations of God to men of old time, to which I am about to refer. I will adduce two instances. The first shall be that of the three men who visited Abraham before the destruction of
Sodom and Gomorrah. One of these men seems to be made by the story identical with the Lord; and we can hardly resist the conclusion that the person in question was the Second Person in the Blessed Trinity. For the second instance I refer to the history of Jacob and the man with whom he wrestled (Genesis 32:24). The point to be noticed is, that although the wrestler is spoken of as a man, still when he gives the name of Israel to Jacob the reason assigned is this, “as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”
4. One of the most striking features of the Pentateuch, to a mind considering its contents philosophically, is its anthropomorphic character. The revelation is intensely human, and yet there is no sinking of the Majesty of God. The principle of the Pentateuch is that of revealing God to man through humanity; God may be said to be stooping to man in order to lift up man to Himself. The full meaning of the Pentateuch can be found only in the Incarnation. The Pentateuch is anthropomorphic, because it is the preface to the record in which we read that God became man; there is a deep underlying unity between the shadowy record of God’s early communion with His creatures and the clearer record of His perfect communion with them in the person of His Son. (Bp. Harvey Goodwin.)
Historical Siting of the Books important
In a recent number of the “Contemporary Review” a voice from Oxford pleads in a temperate and harmless looking article for the recognition of the new critical movement. To those who can read between the lines, that article will be noticeable for what it leaves unstated. And to those who are unacquainted with the bearings of the questions discussed the effect will be misleading. There are three propositions in it in particular on which I wish to make a passing remark.
I admit, however, that the main difference which the evolution conception would introduce into Old Testament doctrine would be a difference in the setting. But what would that difference mean in regard to the doctrine? The Oxford professor evidently thinks it would be immaterial. Let us take an example or two.
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF GENESIS
Name and Character of the Book
The Jews have no title for this book but its first word--Bereshith (in the beginning). The Greeks called it Genesis (origination). All thoughtful men have recognized the value and dignity of this book as “the stately portal to the magnificent edifice of Scripture.” It is the oldest trustworthy book in the world, and conveys all the reliable information we possess of the history of man for more than two thousand years. The Vedas are ancient hymns and legends; the Zendavesta is a speculation on the origin of things; but Genesis is a narrative, written with a grave archaic simplicity. It is characteristically a book of origins and beginnings--it contains the deeply-fastened and widely-spread roots of all futurity. There is nothing afterward unfolded in the relationships of God with man, that is not at least in rudiment, or germ, to be traced in Genesis. (D. Fraser, D. D.)
The Importance of the Book
The Book of Genesis is a record of the highest interest, not only as being probably the oldest writing in the world, but also because it is the foundation upon which the whole Bible is built. As well the Jewish as the Christian religions have their roots in this book, and there is even no doctrine of Christianity, however advanced, which is not to be found, at least in outline, therein . . . This consistency of Holy Scripture with itself is made the more remarkable by the fact that in Genesis we have records of an age far anterior to the exodus from Egypt. Though the hand be the hand of Moses, the documents upon which the narrative is founded, and which are incorporated in it, date from primeval times. Upon them Moses based the Law, and subsequently the prophets built upon the Pentateuch the marvellous preparation for Christ. But though given thus “by diverse portions and in diverse manners,” through a vast period of time, and under every possible variety of culture and outward circumstance, the Bible is a book which from first to last is at unison with itself. It grows, proceeds onward, develops, but always in the same plane. It is no national anthology, full of abrupt transitions and violent contrasts, with the writings of one age at variance with those of another, and with subsequent generations ashamed of and destroying what went before. Rather like some mighty oak it has grown slowly through long centuries, but with no decaying limbs, no branches which have had to be lopped away . . . From Genesis to Malachi there is in Holy Scripture a steady and homogeneous growth, advancing upwards to a stage so high as to be a fit preparation for the full sunshine of the gospel; and in the Book of Genesis we find the earliest stages of this work founded upon pre-Mosaic documents. (Dean Payne Smith.)
The Book of Genesis is probably the most important contained in the Bible; it forms the basis of all revelation; is necessary to account for the moral condition of man, and his consequent need of redemption by Christ. The history, doctrine, and prophecy of all the inspired writings take their rise in its narrative, and without it would be unintelligible to us. The Book has an historical importance. It informs us of the creation of the world--of the coming forth of man to inhabit it, and of his development into a family, a tribe, a nation. It also contains the record of many great and influential lives, and presents them with the pictorial vividness, with the simplicity and pathos of primitive times. Thus the Book of Genesis contains the history of the world’s early progress, as presented in the lives of the most influential men of the times. It is therefore most important, certainly most interesting, and supremely reliable, as the outcome of a Divine inspiration then for the first time given to man. The Book has a doctrinal importance. It narrates the creation of man, with his temporal and moral surroundings. It teaches the Divine origin of the soul; that life is a probation; that communion with God is a reality; that man is gifted with moral freedom; that he is subject to Satanic influence, and that a violation of the law of God is the source of all human woe. Here we have the only reliable account of the introduction of sin into the world; the true philosophy of temptation, the true meaning of the redemptive purpose of God, the universal depravity of the early race; and we have exemplified the overruling providence of God in the history of the good. The Book has an ethical importance. It teaches the holy observance of the Sabbath as a day of rest and prayer; the intention and sanctity of marriage; and in its varied characters the retribution of deceit and envy. The morals of the Book are most elevating, and are especially emphatic in their appeal to the young. Nor are these principles contained merely in cold precept, but are invested with all the force and reality of actual life. Hence they are rendered preeminently human, attractive, and admonitory. The Book has a political importance. It traces the growth of social and national life; it indicates the method of commerce during the ancient times; it also proves that the national life of men may be rendered subservient to Divine ideas, and be made the medium for the advent of spiritual good to humanity. (J. S.Exell, M. A.)
The Form and Matter of the Narrative
A part of the internal evidence lies in the form of the narrative. Its great simplicity, purity, and dignity; the sharp contrast which marks it, when laid side by side with the noblest forms of collateral tradition; the manner in which it is content to leave the mysterious and seemingly incredible, without toning it down, and without trying to explain it--these are some of the marks of a record of facts; of facts apprehended simply and clearly in their real relations; and of facts so profoundly impressing themselves upon a line of serious men, as to be held in tradition clear and unmixed, like bars of gold and inestimable jewels transmitted from generation to generation. Another part of the internal evidence lies in the matter of the narrative. Everything in it is weighty. There is not one trivial line. The profoundest themes are successively under treatment, and a purely original light irradiates them all. (D. N. Beach.)
With the utmost directness and in smaller compass than that of the briefest of the articles that today stigmatize it as an “old Hebrew legend,” this venerable book notes and answers the whole round of questions which modern thought agrees to reckon as involving the fundamental data of history, and to the solution of which in detail successive volumes are still being given. In the form given to the facts, from the description of the earth as emerging out of chaos to that of Israel about to emerge out of Egypt, and from the rejection of Cain’s progeny to the dismissal of the Oriental civilizations with incidental allusion, there is always deliberate and intelligent rejection of that which has become obstructive or indifferent--that is to say, a recognition of the eminently modern notion of progress as dependent on the elimination of the unfit. But all the facts mentioned do not become even a background. There is a narrowing selective process. “The heaven and the earth” at first appear, but the earth alone is taken as the subject of the story. Chaos then passes, darkness falls apart, the blue vault lifts, the waters shrink, and light, air, and solid land emerge. So also the myriads of swarming life in its lower forms recede that man may stand single and conspicuous in the foreground. Forthwith his history cleaves apart from that of “the ground from which he was taken,” through the inspiration of the breath of God; and the lower creatures are equally shut out as furnishing no “helpmeet for him.” The process of elimination goes steadily on in the strictly human history. Cain “went out,” and reappeared no more. His stock, like that of Ishmael and Esau afterward, is soon dismissed from the record. The animalized antediluvians who were “flesh” were blotted out, and the idolatrous Chaldeans were left out of history, while Noah and Abraham alone were “selected” as “fitted” to “survive.” The same rigid discrimination is exercised in fixing the range of history.
The narrator goes on his chosen way avoiding much. He does not ignore, but neither does he dwell upon the growth of music, handicraft, or the beginnings of social and civic institutions. He is not insensible to the overhanging shadow of the massive Assyrian or Egyptian civilizations. But they do not awe or divert his thought. He leaves Nimrod’s tower unfinished and Pharaoh’s palace without an heir, while he pushes on to a shepherd’s tent to detect in Judah and the Messianic promise the true thread of coming history. It was a marvellous prescience. For the tribe of Judah alone survives in an unbroken lineage from that earlier world, and all history today counts backward and forward from the date when that Messianic promise was fulfilled. (J. B. Thomas.)
Of the Pentateuch itself, the first book, Genesis is preparatory to the other four. These record the growth of the family of Jacob, or Israel, into the peculiar people; the constitution of the theocracy; the giving of a code of laws, moral, ritual, and civil; the conquest of part of the land promised to the forefathers of the nation; and the completion of the institutions and enactments needed for a settled condition. For this order of things the first book furnishes the occasion. (Prof. J. G. Murphy.)
Unity of Plan and Purpose Throughout
The book begins with a general introduction, from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3, wherein the creation of the universe is related in language of simple grandeur, very possibly in words handed down from the remotest antiquity, than which none could be more fitted here for the use of the sacred historian. After this the book consists of a series of Toledoth, or genealogical histories, the first of which is called “the Toledoth of the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 2:4); the others being the respective histories of the different families of man, especially of the ancestors of the people of Israel, from Adam to the death of Joseph . . . As a rule, in each of these successive Toledoth, the narrative is carried down to the close of the period embraced, and at the beginning of each succeeding portion a brief repetition of so much as is needed of the previous account is given, and with it, very often, a note of time. (Speaker’s Commentary.)
Whether these primary documents were originally composed by Moses, or came into his hands from earlier sacred writers, and were by him revised and combined into his great work, we are not informed. By revising a sacred writing, we mean replacing obsolete or otherwise unknown words or modes of writing by such as were in common use in the time of the reviser, and putting in an explanatory clause or passage when necessary for the men of a later day. The latter of the above suppositions is not inconsistent with Moses being reckoned the responsible author of the whole collection. We hold it to be more natural, satisfactory, and accordant with the phenomena of Scripture. It is satisfactory to have the recorder, if not an eyewitness, yet as near as possible to the events recorded. And it seems to have been a part of the method of the Divine Author of the Scripture to have a constant collector, conservator, authenticator, reviser and continuator of that book which He designed for the spiritual instruction of successive ages. We may disapprove of one writer tampering with the work of another; but we must allow the Divine Author to adapt His own work, from time to time, to the necessities of coming generations. (Prof. J. G. Murphy.)
Holiness, sublimity, truthfulness--these are the impressions left upon the mind of the thoughtful reader of Genesis. There is meant by this its subjective truthfulness. It is no invention. The one who first wrote it down, and first spoke it to human ears, had a perfect conscious conviction of the presence to his mind of the scenes so vividly described, and a firm belief in a great objective reality represented by them. It is equally evident, too, that it is the offspring of one conceiving mind. It never grew, like a myth or legend. It is one total conception, perfect and consistent in all its parts. There is nothing ideal about it. Myths and legends are the products of time; they have a growth. Thus other ancient cosmogonies, though bearing evidence of derivation from the one in Genesis, have had their successive accretions and deposits of physical, legendary, and mythological strata. This stands alone in the world. It has nothing national about it. It is no more Jewish than it is Assyrian, Chaldaean, Indian, Persian, or Egyptian. It is no imitation. Copies may have been made from it, more or less deformed, but this is an original painting. The evidence is found in its simplicity, unity, and perfect consistency. Its great antiquity is beyond dispute. It was before the dawning of anything called science. We are shut up to the conclusion of its subjective truthfulness and its subjective authenticity. At a very early day, to which no profane history or chronology reaches, some man, who was not a philosopher, not a poet, not a fable maker, but one who “walked with God,” and was possessed of a most devout and reverent spirit,--some such man, having a power of conception surpassing the ordinary human, or else inspired from above, had present to his soul in some way, and first wrote down or uttered in words, this most wonderful and sublime account of the origin of the world and man. He believed, too, what he wrote or uttered. He was conscious of some source, whether by words or vision, whence he had received it, and he had no doubt of its relation to an outward objective truth which it purported to set forth. (Tayler Lewis, LL. D.)
The Beauty and Utility of this Book
We cannot wonder at the expression of the great German Reformer, Luther: “Nihil pulchrius Genesi, nihil utilius.” “There is nothing more beautiful than the Book of Genesis, nothing more useful.” There is, indeed, a beauty in it, which cannot be discovered in any other ancient work: there is a utility in it which we cannot fail, on inquiry and investigation, to appreciate. It is the record of the creation of the material world and of the founding of the spiritual world; and as such it stands at the head of all Scripture, as the authentic basis of the whole Bible, while, in the most special sense, it is the basis of the Pentateuch. It is, says Lunge, the root whose trunk extends through all Scripture, and whose crown appears in the Apocalypse; or, as Delitzsch has expressed the same idea: “Genesis and Apocalypse, the Alpha and Omega of the canonical writings, correspond to each other. To the creation of the present heaven and the present earth corresponds the creation of the new heaven and the new earth on the last pages of the Apocalypse. To the first creation, which has as its object the first man Adam, corresponds the new creation, which has its outgoing from the Second Adam. Thus the Holy Scriptures form a rounded, completed whole--a proof that not merely this or that book, but also the canon, is a work of the Holy Spirit.” (R. W. Bush, M. A.)
The Book of Genesis as a Whole, a Suggestive Picture of the World in which we Live
When we read over this Book of Genesis we find great expectations and great promises in the beginning and throughout its progress, and in the end disappointment and great darkness. “In the beginning, God!” what expectation does not this grand exordium awaken, when we remember who God is and what He is; what His glory, what His power, what His love, what His grace! “In the beginning, God”--How does it end? “A coffin in Egypt!” That is the end. So, too, with the great promises made to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob. “I will be a God to thee.” “I will be thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.” What glorious expectations are excited there, and what is the end? A coffin in Egypt. Now, this seems to me to be just a picture of this world, so far as we can see, and so far as we can know. It is this world, as it is to sight and as it is to science. There are glorious expectations here. We look back to the origin of things, and we find wonderful preparations. We can trace back the history of our earth through the geological epochs, and find extraordinary development, wonderful evolution--rising, rising, rising up through inanimate creation, and then through the animate creation, until at last it reaches its crown and consummation in man; and now what glorious prophecies are there in man’s nature, and what magnificent expectations in connection with his work and destiny! But, after all these hopes are so excited and stimulated, and we soar as high as heaven in our skyward aspirations, the end is a coffin. In Egypt perhaps. Yes, in Egypt. Egypt is a great country. It is the land of the pyramids. It is the land of the Sphinx, of science and art, of culture and civilization. In this nineteenth century civilization, of which we are so proud, we have better than Egyptian culture. We have better than Egyptian art. We have lordly magnificence all around us. There is wonderful progress in inventions and discovery--there seems no limit to the possibilities of inventive art and genius--the Egypt of the future bids fair to throw the Egypt of the present as far into the shade as it has already cast the Egypt of the past; but what is your portion and mine in the Egypt of the future? A coffin in it. Yes, that is the end for you and me and every one of us, so far as this world is concerned: a coffin in Egypt. In this world as in Genesis, there is much blessed light. There are many beautiful things in it; many things to admire, many things to impress us and inspire us; but it all ends in darkness. Hope springs exultant at the outset. Then it is “the evening and the morning.” But when you reach the end you find the order has been sadly inverted. It is now the morning and the evening and the night. Can it be of God then, of Him who calls Himself “the Father of Lights”? Can it be that the development which commenced, “In the beginning, God,” shall end with a coffin? No, it cannot be. If it had been, “In the beginning, Fate,” or, “In the beginning, Chance,” or, “In the beginning, Law,” it might have been. But seeing that it is, “In the beginning, God,” it cannot be. But is it not the end? Yes; but of what? Of Genesis. It is only the end of the beginning. That is the explanation of it all. Here is the key by which we can get out of the dark dungeon. “Now we see through a glass darkly.” Now we know in part. Now we see only the beginnings of things. That is the reason they sometimes look so dark and so dreadful. And though to sight, and even to science, death seems to be the end of all our hope, remember that to faith it is the end of the beginning only. What a cheering thought it is to think that this life, that seems bounded by a grave, that seems to have so dark an end, is only the Genesis of our history. All the rest is yet to come, beyond the coffin in Egypt. It is because this life is only our Genesis that there is so much of prophecy in it, and so much of promise in it, and so little of fulfilment here. But beyond the coffin in Egypt there is an Exodus, without any wanderings. There is Joshua, the captain of the Lord’s host in the heavenly places; and Judges Matthew 19:28; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3), but no desolating wars. There are Kings, but no Prophets (“whether there be prophecies; they shall cease”). There are Psalms, but no Lamentations. There are Gospels without a Cross. There are Acts of loving service without a dungeon. And whether in that world beyond the grave there be any need of Epistles, I cannot tell; but this we know, that there shall be a glorious Apocalypse, when the veil is drawn and the glory is seen. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear”--He on whom all hopes are centred; to whom all the types did point; of whom all the prophets spake; in whom all the promises have been fulfilled--when He shall appear, the second time, in His glory, “we shall be like Him.” And what our surroundings shall be then we cannot tell; but we know that there will be the fulfilment of every true desire and longing of the sanctified soul. All these promises, all these expectations, all these aspirations of our Genesis life, will be fulfilled in the coming Apocalypse of glory. (J. M.Gibson, D. D.)
The early chapters of Genesis
GENESIS THE THIRD: HISTORY, NOT FABLE
I. The Place which the Mosaic Account of the Creation and Fall of Man occupies in Holy Scripture. In some scientific circles, in which Christian faith has no place, this narrative is now regarded as one of many similar fables of the early world, the truth being that there was no first man, and no fall of man, but a gradual rise from the animal level up to humanity, through the ages of an immeasurably distant past. In other scientific and theological circles, where Christian faith still maintains its hold on revelation in general, the narrative is regarded as an allegory wholly destitute of historical reality, but setting forth in pictorial form the early struggles of man with the lower forces of nature, and the ascension of the spirit, through discipline and temptation, to the heights of faith in God. Among Christian believers of this class it is now boldly affirmed that it is impossible to attach any historical value to the idea of the ruin of a world by the common ancestor of the race. I have thought that it might be a moderately useful contribution to the cause of Scriptural Christianity to show, in opposition to such methods of dealing with Holy Scripture, what may be fairly alleged in support of the historical reality of this narrative, and what may be fairly said in reply to the more common objections to its literal credibility. Our business will be to clear the ground by showing the place which the narrative of the creation and fall of man occupies in the Bible. There can be no hesitation in affirming that the books of the Old Testament, and emphatically the books of the New Testament, with one consent, treat the narrative of the recent creation and fall of man as historical, and make it the basis of the whole system of Divine dispensations towards our race which they profess to record. In modern writings the assertion is frequently made that the earlier chapters of Genesis are manifestly symbolical, and demand no faith in their literality. But in the Book of Genesis there are no signs of symbolism in the earlier portion. If there is a simple realistic style in ancient prose history anywhere, that style is found in the Book of Genesis, from the beginning to the end. It is surely a great violence in criticism to represent the author or compiler of Genesis as distinguishing in his own mind between the allegorical quality of his earlier and later chapters. Whether true or not, most certainly he delivers them as if he believed them to be true, and true in their literal sense; the first chapter relating to a very recent action of God in refitting the earth, and in creating man and certain animals upon it; the second and third recounting the moral trial of the newly-made human beings in order to decide the question of eternal obedience to their Maker, with the result of loss of life through sin, and of the prospect of immortality. The narrative professes to account for the entrance of death into the human world, and this problem could not be solved by an allegory. If the presence of direct Divine action, asserted in this narration, is sufficient ground for rejecting its literality, consistency will require the rejection of the whole subsequent narrative of Scripture on the same ground. The story in Genesis is not more open to objection for this reason than any other parts of the Bible. The whole Bible, certainly, may be a false record; but it is impossible to save or defend a long supernatural history simply by attempting to allegorize its earliest chapters. It is, I think, easy to show that, throughout the New Testament, in the teaching both of Christ and the apostles, the narrative of Eden is not only taken for historic truth, but is made the basis of Christianity itself as a religion of redemption. In St. Matthew 19:3-6 we find our Lord Jesus Christ establishing the sanctity of the marriage union for all mankind from the beginning of the world, and forbidding divorce, except for unfaithfulness, on the basis of the truth of the Mosaic account of the creation of Adam and Eve, and on the authority of the words said to be spoken on the occasion of that first marriage. This is repeated in Mark 10:2-9. Christ’s teaching surely is Christianity, or an important part of it, and He here most distinctly founds His own legislation in respect to the indissolubleness of marriage, except for the cause of adultery, on the historical reality of the narrative in Genesis. If He took this part of the narrative as historical truth, it is certain that He did not look upon the remainder as allegory. If the story of Adam and Eve is a fable, and these persons had no real existence, then the alternative is that Christ founds His law of marriage, one of the most important laws in any religion, on a fable which He mistook for a truth. And with that primary mistake His authority as a Divine legislator falls altogether. In St. John 8:44 ourLord again refers to the Edenic narrative, and supplies the explanation of the temptation by the serpent. But if Jesus Christ did not rightly understand the origin of the race which He came to save, did not understand, in fact, why they required to be saved, mistook an allegory for a history, and falsely imagined the action of an Adam, and of an adversary who had no real existence, what remains in His teaching to which it is possible to attach any real importance? It will be requisite to carry the allegorizing process much further, and to convert the gospel history itself and all our Lord’s teaching into a fabulous representation of truths which He Himself did not understand, and which have nothing whatever to do with authentic history. If next we pass from Christ to His biographers and apostles, we find St. Luke, in the genealogy of Jesus, placing “Adam, the son of God,” at the summit of the table, evidently with as firm a persuasion of his real personality as that of any of his successors. If we open the Epistle to the Romans, we find St. Paul, the chief apostle of the gospel, in his chief doctrinal Epistle, addressed to the chief Church in Christendom, laying the very foundation of the doctrine of salvation through the Incarnation, in the historic truth of the Fall of man in the Book of Genesis. Nine times in eight verses does St. Paul affirm the literal truth of the Edenio history, and represent the Redemption in Christ as having a distinct relation to the entrance of sin and death therein described. If St. Paul was in error here at the foundation, he erred at least along with his Master, as we have seen; and if he erred in his belief on the Fall, and we can certainly know it, it is quite certain that there is nothing whatever left in his doctrinal teaching respecting the Redemption to which any Divine authority can be attached. He is mistaken in the two loci of his theological system. It is, nevertheless, an error which he repeats in many forms in his writings. Thus, in chap.
16:20 of the same Epistle, he promises the Romans, in manifest allusion toGe 3:15, that “the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.” “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” Again, in writing several years before to the Corinthians, when treating of the resurrection of the saints to eternal life, in the glory of God, he had thus spoken of the origin of death and of the cause of resurrection in these words: “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death--by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in the Christ shall all be made alive.” And lower down, when speaking of the different constitutions of the animal and spiritual humanities, he adds: “There is a natural, or soulual, or psychical body, and there is a spiritual or pneumatical body. And so it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul, or psyche, the last Adam became a life-giving spirit, or pneuma. Howbeit, that is not first which is spiritual or pneumatical, but that which is natural, or soulual, psychical, then that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, choikos, a man of dust. The second Man is of heaven. As is the man of dust, such also are the men of dust, and as is the heavenly One, such also are the heavenly ones. And as we have borne the likeness of the man of dust, we shall also bear the likeness of the heavenly One” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22; 1 Corinthians 15:44-49). How is it possible to avoid seeing that in every expression of these verses St. Paul refers to the detailed account of the creation of Adam in the second and third chapters of Genesis, and treats the whole narrative, not only as historical, but as the record of an essential part of the general system of the Divine dealings with humanity in its psychical and pneumatical stages of development under its two federal heads, Adam and Christ Again, in the same Epistle (1 Corinthians 11:8), St. Paul gives as a reason why women were to be attired in a manner to represent subjection to man, thus: “For a man ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not out of the woman, but the woman out of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.” Can there be any doubt that the apostle here refers to the words of Genesis 2:23, and reasons from them as a true history? In his Second Epistle St. Paul does not hesitate to hold up the example of Eve’s weakness as a warning to the philosophical Corinthians. In his Epistle to the Ephesians the apostle quotes the words of Genesis 2:24, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother,” etc., just as our Lord had done before him, to describe to his converts the law of marriage union fixed at the creation of Adam and Eve--a quotation without the force or authority even of antediluvian legend, unless he held the history as authentic, real, and indisputable. In his First Epistle to Timothy he assigns as a reason for the subjection of women and their silence in church, so far as teaching in the Church is concerned, the original constitution of things and the truth of the narrative of the Fall in Eden. It is easy to see that St. Paul regarded the Edenic history as a fable no more than he looked on the rest of the Old Testament as mythical or allegorical. Indeed, there is no narrative in the Old Testament which St. Paul so frequently refers to in his writings as true and instructive as that of the earlier chapters of Genesis. In the same manner Apollos, or whoever wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews, speaks of the history of the antediluvians in his eleventh chapter, from Abel downwards, as if equally authentic with that of all subsequent ages. St. John, in his Epistle, refers, as we have seen, similarly to the history of Cain and Abel as a practical instruction in the ways of piety and faith. And, lastly, in the Apocalypse, not only is the scenery of the earthly paradise taken as a type and symbol of loftier realities beyond, but “the devil and Satan” is twice pointed out as the “man killer from the beginning,” and described as “the ancient serpent, which deceiveth the whole world,” so as to fix beyond dispute the diabolical nature of the power which brought upon our first parents ruin and destruction (Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2). Everyone who has followed attentively this complete induction of Biblical reference to the Mosaic history of man’s creation and fall must allow that the modern attempt to resolve the early chapters in Genesis into an allegory or a fable is inconsistent with any rational recognition of the inspiration or authority of Jesus Christ and His apostles. It seems to me quite useless to disguise this conflict between the Bible and--not science, but that which, in the opinion of not a few in our time, is thought worthy of the name of science. There can be no doubt that it is held for certain by many, including no small number of able and accomplished persons, that modern discovery has decisively proved the immense antiquity of man, his animal origin, and, consequently, the falsity of the Mosaic cosmogony and Edenic story, so that the fable of “Eve and the Apple” and the “talking serpent”--to use the favourite profane description--is widely regarded as a test measurement of any man’s ignorance and credulity. A man who will believe that is proved to be both ignorant of facts and undeserving of argument. Who that reflects on this state of things can fail to conclude that there is some great mistake somewhere? If the so-called scientific view of man’s origin is really scientific--that is, is a matter of certain knowledge, and not of mere guess work (and nothing less than certain knowledge is science)--why, undoubtedly it follows that not merely Moses was mistaken, but that Christ and all His apostles were mistaken also. Christianity is one complicated mistake, for it founds a doctrine of redemption on the history of the recent creation and fall of Adam, on the moral and not animal origin of sin; and if the Adam of Genesis never sinned, because he never existed, Christ was certainly not “sent from God,” and “died in vain.” Is it, then, possible that this so-called scientific conclusion of the antiquity of man, and of his bestial origin, is only a hideous delusion, notwithstanding the loud tones in which some are proclaiming it? Is it possible that, when closely examined, this theory of man’s immense antiquity, however boldly affirmed by some, is resting at this moment chiefly on the substructure of so-called inferences from the growth of stalagmite and the age of gravels, which rouse nothing less than the indignation of men of the very first rank in knowledge, who grieve to see a mere succession of changing guesses represented to the multitudes as ascertained European science? Is it possible that statements which were put forth a few years ago in support of this theory have, one after another, been compulsorily withdrawn? Is it true that, in general, ordinary men’s assurance of its truth is in inverse proportion to their detailed acquaintance with the state of the evidence? And, lastly, is it a fact that if it were attempted at this moment to make it a test of membership in any of the great scientific societies of Europe to confess the truth of the evolution theory in general, as universally and irrevocably established--much more the evolution of man from the animal races as proved with any show whatever of positive evidence--or even the remotest antiquity of the present race of man as supported by any decisive evidence at all, there is not one of these societies--English, French, German, or American--which would not be rent asunder by a violent convulsion of opposing conviction, from the Royal Society downwards, so deep, so strong, so indignant is the revolt of many of the leading lights of biology and archaeology against the notion that anything has been demonstrably settled to shake the public faith in the recent and direct Divine creation of the human race? Professor Stokes, one of the secretaries of the Royal Society, a man closely conversant with the principal scientific men in Europe, in a paper recently read before the Church Congress, and repeated in a revised form elsewhere, said that in the absence of biological knowledge of our own what must be done in order to test the value of opinions involving such momentous issues for all mankind is to examine the mode of argument of these writers in departments with which we are more familiar, and to compare the utterances of biological leaders in Europe and America with one another, so as not to be carried away by the authority of one or two considerable names. Science signifies absolute knowledge, not the opinion of some distinguished scientific men. What is absolutely known for certain is accepted by properly qualified investigators in all lands. Tried by this test, the widely diffused notions of the animal origin and remote antiquity of the human race break down instantly. There is scarcely a single fact in the interpretation of which the leading biologists and archaeologists of the world are agreed--certainly not one which can serve as a basis for a theory solid enough to overthrow the teaching of Divine revelation.
II. The General Objections Urged against the Truth of the History of the Fall. It is wonderful sometimes to listen to the objections to the supernatural Bible history which are made by men who are well acquainted with the work of God in nature. The objection, if it means anything at all, means that you must not associate the idea of Deity with details in the universe, but only with universal laws; that to impute to God minute or definite acts of creation or providence, or to think of Him as the “man in the next street”--to use Dr. M. Arnold’s phrase--is to dishonour the idea of an Eternal Cause. The notion seems to be that the Infinite Mind can be occupied only with general and abstract ideas, and not with the detailed application of laws or forces, as if these abstract and general ideas were anything more than the algebraic symbols required by the weakness of finite minds, or as if we could even conceive of an all-pervading intelligent Deity who did not see all general ideas in every one of their special applications, and, if He worked at all, worked in detail. Now, let any man who believes in an intelligent Power behind nature, and working in nature, think of what we know of the interior economy of a spider’s nest, an anthill, a beehive, as described by Lubbock and Romanes, and then tell us whether Creative Power is too great for details. Why, all natural history proves that God “taketh care” for animals down to the very animalculae--in Christ’s sublime language, that “not one of them is forgotten before Him.” There is no remedy for disbelief in Bible history, because of its details of Divine action and interference, so effectual as study of natural history both in animal and vegetable life. The objection to the supernatural element in the history of paradise is but one specific example of a wider objection to the supernatural altogether, and lies equally against the whole recorded history of the Bible. Those who are resolved to account for all things by the single action of natural causes will allow of no Divine direct agency whatsoever, and against these objectors it is idle to attempt to establish the truth of this particular supernatural history; but those who admit the reality of Divine direct agency in the subsequent history of man are to the last degree unreasonable in objecting to the record of such agency at its commencement. The Bible is one prolonged denial of the doctrine that a uniform course of nature is an adequate description of the history of this world. It is professedly a record, from first to last, of a series of direct interferences of God, both in creation and providence, supernatural because the end to be attained was above law--the salvation of man; and this series of interferences becomes credible to the mind precisely in proportion as it is studied in connection with nature, studied as a whole, and studied in the light of its alleged object, the bestowment of eternal life on sinful and dying men. Assuredly the earlier chapters of Genesis are full, in every line, as was likely if man had a beginning in God, of statements of such direct Divine operations. In the first chapter we see Almighty God directly creating certain animals at the time of the creation of man. We see Him directly creating woman “out of man,” the reverse of the subsequent order of nature. In the third chapter we see God placing man in the paradise, under a special trial of his moral nature, arraigning him for disobedience, and then passing sentence on the man, the woman, and the serpent tempter. This style of writing is not peculiar to the opening pages of Moses. It continues to the end of the Bible--the assertion of the direct, constant, minute, supernatural action of God in mercy and in judgment. Now, when such statements do not meet with the assent of faith, faith which discerns the truth even in the miracle, the counter feeling which they raise is that of strong disbelief, and generally of ridicule, ridicule being the expression of the sense of incongruity and total incredibility. Accordingly the Bible is in our time either believed as a supernatural whole, or, quite logically, rejected and ridiculed as a whole. Nothing is easier than to ridicule the Bible by comparing it with common life. The more closely men study the uniformity of nature and the ordinary course of events, the more will they be struck with the extraordinary quality of the miraculous record of Scripture; and, unless they have spiritual reasons for believing it, the more incongruous and ridiculous will it all appear. But such a sense of the ridiculous offers no solid basis of argument. It requires little candour to admit that any true account of the origin of mankind must be, in its circumstances, exceedingly unlike our modern development, and that to require similarity to our own experiences as the condition of belief in such an account is a sign of a somewhat narrow apprehension. Whatever theory of man’s origin be adopted, the beginning must have been so unlike the ending that, if unlikeness to our own experience is to bring down ridicule, no theory can escape it. Even if the favourite notion be true, that man originated in some collateral ancestor of the anthropoid apes or gorillas, it must have been a day of wonder in “the infinite azure of the past” when that black-faced, long-tailed, hairy monster, described for us by Mr. Grant Allen, first thought and spake as a man; and another day, much unlike our own, when this developed brute first stood upright, and found a half-rational helpmeet in a similarly developed female anthropoid. If ridicule here is to be the test of truth, ridicule excited by unlikeness to modern experience, the story of Adam and Eve, glowing fresh in strength and beauty from the direct hand of God, will bear comparison with that of the infinitely slow development of this prognathous brute of pseudo-science, whose fierce dull eye gradually gleamed with reason, and whose bellowings and roarings, during the course of thousands of years spent amidst the post-glacial morasses and jungles (Dr. Max Muller says it is quite inconceivable), gradually subsided into human speech. A second difficulty which has been felt in the reception of the Edenic story as historical is what is spoken of as its childish tone, in which the Almighty Creator is represented as working with His hands as a potter or sculptor; walking, talking, professing ignorance of the hiding place of Adam; and then condemning His new made creatures to death when tempted to make progress in intelligence by a speaking serpent. That is one way of putting the case. Now let us try the effect of another. This narrative presents a succession of the sublimest ideas of which the human mind is capable. The expression of them is indeed childlike, in the simplest language, language suitable to the childhood of the world; but there is nothing childish, nothing unworthy of the faith of the manliest intelligence, and nothing unworthy of the Infinite Lord of Nature dealing with mankind in its beginnings. The Bible as a whole is credible and defensible, partly because it offers a history of humanity from its infancy to its mature age, the race having, as a matter of fact, passed through the stages of individual life from childhood to maturity; so that the early portion of the Bible, professing to record revelations of God in the earliest stages of man’s life, wins credibility from reflective readers just because its opening pages are answerable in style to the opening ages of the world. Had they been less childlike in tone, they would have lacked one necessary note of genuineness in the adaptation of the Divine Father’s voice to the early understanding of His sons. The books of the nursery are indeed childlike in tone, but often embody the maturest wisdom; and no wise man dreams of deriding his own childhood, or of burning the library of his children’s nursery. Judged by these canons, the histories of Genesis assume a place of high importance in the annals of the world. As a record of early religious literature, compared with the deciphered rubbish of Egypt and Chaldea, it is a preeminent example of the survival of the fittest. Let us now point out some of the noble thoughts which underlie the Edenic story.
1. Here, then, first of all, we find the sublimest possible conception of man’s original. Man is Deiform, the image of the Infinite Being on earth, the direct creation of the Eternal Mind and Will. He is formed of the dust of the ground, Adamah, from which he takes his name of Adam, or Earth--dust and ashes, in the language of Abraham. He is formed as the last link in a series of animal lives, and on one side of his nature strongly resembles those beasts which perish. He belongs to the Vertebrata. His form has been typified and foretold in a long succession of old-world prophecies, in the structure of previous animals. But he does not spring from the earth, or from previous forms, as they did. He is specially fashioned by the Almighty Hand; God is represented as moulding him, working out in living art the eternal idea; and then as breathing into him, by direct afflatus of Divinity, the breath of life. The seal of the living God, of the Infinite Life, is on his forehead, and though capable of dying, he is not made to die. There is no idea in the modern books on the Descent of Man so grand as this.
2. An equal splendour and originality characterizes the relation of the creation of woman. As if foreseeing the debasing gorilla philosophy of the last days, here, in the very dawn of history, the strongest possible contradiction is given, while humanity was still in its beginning, to the notion of human derivation from the animals. For a modified gorilla a modified simian would have served well enough. But Adam was of a Divine original, “made in God’s image,” and therefore Eve, in her glory and beauty, is the direct work of the Supreme Sculptor, Painter, Poet, and Lifegiver; fashioning out of Adam himself the woman who should be one with him in life and love forever and ever. Here is the strongest possible denial of the bestial original of humanity. He could not pair with the lower races, for his origin was directly from the sacred fount of Deity. The building up of the frame of Eve out of materials of bone and flesh taken from the entranced form of Adam is only a specific difference under the general principle that living beings descend from each other, under the plastic agency of God; and in this case the form of the action was specially fitted to lay the foundation of spiritual marriage, the only true human marriage, in the consciousness of their deep unity in Him. It is God who “joins together” man and woman in a unity which is no mere partnership or trading company with limited liability, but a unity consecrated by the bond of God’s Spirit, and which, therefore, “no man may put asunder.”
3. Next observe that the man and woman thus formed are designed for immortal life. So long as Adam abstained from the forbidden tree he is free to take of the tree of life, the effect of which is to cause him to “live forever.” To take of one tree was death, but to take of the other was life eternal. What can convey more clearly the sublime idea that man was originally designed for a dependent but endless life in God?
4. But if man is not a “beast of the field,” and if a “beast’s heart is not given him,” neither is he here represented as an automaton. He is free, and is placed at once under the necessity of choosing between good and evil, truth and falsehood, right and wrong, God and self-will--in an immediate trial. He must, by a deliberate choice under temptation, against all lower seduction, declare his allegiance to the Eternal, as the condition of the endless life. It was a trial of faith; that is, of intelligent voluntary choice of the Infinite Life and. Perfection as Ruler and Lord, precisely in the same sense in which we are tried in the contest between faith and unbelief. How could this faith be tested? The law of the Ten Commandments was, as Mr. Henry Rogers has pointed out in one of his memorable letters, inapplicable. The law of the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth commandments was unsuited to a creature who had but one single earthly relationship. There must, therefore, be appointed some positive external trial, by which the question of allegiance might be determined at once and forever. The test selected was the taking of the fruit of a tree which was called the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” which was good for food, desirable to the eyes, and in some mysterious sense described as a “tree desirable to make one wise.” This tree appealed, by its complex qualities, to the whole nature of man on its un-moral side, to the lower senses of taste and smell, to the sense of beauty, above all to his intellectual curiosity and ambition, as carrying with it some awful mystery of “knowledge of good and evil” which should liberate him from dependence on the Creator’s word--in fact, from a life of faith in God. It was a test which brought out the whole strength of the two counter attractions by which their being was drawn in two opposite directions, towards God the Infinite or away from Him. Between these two the choice must be made for eternity of loyal obedience or of empirical rebellion. And the lower attraction was supplemented by the permitted assistance of a living tempter, enforcing the seduction of the inanimate object, since the rejection of animated evil was as much due to God as the rejection of the inanimate. In Adam’s case, the still further fidelity was required of deafness to the voice of his wife when she became an auxiliary to the seduction. What is there of ridiculous in such a trial? It precisely resembles in its essence the trial to which every man in the world is still exposed--the trial of faith and fidelity to God, to right, to duty as against created forces of seduction. How shamefully is this lofty trial now misrepresented! Here is not one word of “an actual apple”--the fruit is not named; the material attractiveness is scarcely noticed, in the emphasis given to the intellectual attractions of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”--the temptation to know good and evil experimentally, apart from the will and word of the Creator. It was a test of the root principle of obedience to the Eternal Mind and Will, the prime condition of co-existence in eternity with God; since such obedience of faith is, and must be in all worlds, but the fulfilment of the primary law of created free agency. For pride is the sin through which “fell the angels.”
III. The Sentences Pronounced on the Man, the Woman, and the Serpent tempter. We now proceed to examine the narrative of the trial of Adam in paradise on the side of its results, with a view to an opinion on its credibility when taken as a real history. And, first of all, I observe that the narrative, as it stands in the Book of Genesis, ought not to be made answerable at the bar of modern thought for the traditionary accumulations which have gathered round it after thirty-four centuries of rabbinical and theological comment upon it. It is defensible as it stands in the primitive record; but, I admit, wholly indefensible and incredible as interlined by the additions of a later philosophy and tradition. On the face of the narrative as it stands we find only that, after other things set in order, and other living beings created, “God made man of the dust of the ground in His own image, and breathed into him the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” This last expression, applied in the Hebrew original hundreds of times to the animals, signifies only that man, animated by the Divine Spirit, became a “living creature.” It most certainly was not intended to signify that Adam was created in possession of an indestructible life. On the contrary, being made “in God’s image,” he was a creature that might live forever if God so pleased; but he might also die and pass away if he disobeyed his Maker. On the face of the narrative it appears plainly that, being created in the likeness of God, and allowed access to the “Tree of Life,” he was originally designed for immortality--for life eternal; but it was conditional on the obedience of faith. If he transgressed, he would “die.” The object set before him, therefore, was to secure, by faith in God, an absolute possession of the eternal life for which God made him. If he departed from the living God, and set up himself to be a self-determining power, to be “as God, knowing good and evil,” he would “return to the dust whence he was taken.” This is all that is in the narrative. The penalty of withdrawing from God was death--the termination of his life (just as death would have borne that meaning to him for all other living beings in the world), and with that, of course, the life of the unborn race which he represented. If now we examine closely the history of the consequences resulting from the disobedience of our first parents, through whom it is falsely said that we have become “guilty and accursed of God,” it is seen at once, as was pointed out seventeen centuries ago by Irenaeus, the scholar of Polycarp, the disciple of St. John the Divine, in his second book on Heresies, that God pronounced no curse whatever on Adam or on Eve after their transgression, much less on their posterity. It is said that God “cursed the ground for Adam’s sake,” cursed it with comparative sterility, so as to demand extraordinary toil in its cultivation. The lightning passed from the head of Adam to the soil, whence he should draw his sustenance. Similarly, there is no single word of a “curse” pronounced on Eve. The life penalty of her offence was sorrow in child bearing; but child bearing itself was a blessing, not a curse. The curse turned aside from her also, and descended on the serpent deceiver. The ground and the serpent were accursed, but not Adam and Eve. They were both to undergo the death penalty, and to “return to the dust whence they were taken,” and thus were “constituted sinners”; but, first, the penalty was deferred, and, secondly, in the very act of sentencing them to death, God spake a word of hope and restoration through the “seed of the woman.” And then it was that Adam called his wife by a new name, “Evah,” or Life, because she was to be the mother of a world of living beings which would never have existed but for the promised “seed of the woman” and the suspension of the sentence. Their continued life was itself a sign of the pardoning mercy of God, abstaining from the infliction of the threatening that “in the day” of their transgressions they should “surely die.” The postponement of death rendered possible the existence of mankind, and the birth of their Deliverer who should “crush the serpent’s head.” If, next, we turn to consider the results of the transgression recorded in the Genesis fragment, probably of antediluvian antiquity, we find first of all a statement that the sense of shame in nakedness entered into the human world with sin, and as the effect of it. Few features in the narrative have been more steadily derided than this, that both man and woman were created in a state of nakedness, and that the sense of outward shame began only with the sense of transgression, leading to the first attempt at imperfect clothing. No ridicule has been more inconsiderate and superficial. The account given in Genesis is at least a striking solution of a problem under atheistic views hopelessly insoluble. Think of it. The whole world of living creatures is either unclothed, or, if dressed in plumage or fur, is so dressed by nature for protection from the weather, or for flight, or for beauty, and not as a remedy for any shame at exposure of the body or any part of it. There is no trace of this feeling in the animal world throughout all its ranks. Even our nearest analogues, the most unsightly anthropoids, are destitute of any similar instinct of self-concealment. Whence the irresistible instinct through which the most noble and beautiful forms in the whole world clothe themselves from view, just in proportion as culture and civilization render them more majestic and more beautiful? and in a world where all the rest of animated nature is “naked, and is not ashamed”? The fact is indisputable. Not the most infidel or the most beautiful nation in Europe, in its finest, warmest climate, could possibly venture to live one day absolutely unclothed. Absolute public nudity is itself a synonym for disgrace and shameless vice in all nations and ages. Even the half-nakedness of modern fashion and of theatrical display is condemned by the public conscience. Let those who ridicule the narrative in Genesis be pleased to give us some account of this phenomenon. Will anyone assign a more rational account of this extraordinary exception to the rule of nature among living creatures than this--that the sense of shame in nakedness, the outward crimson blush at exposure of the person, the impulse to hide and cover, entered with sin, with sin of a crimson dye, entered when the ancestors of the race had cause to be inwardly ashamed of themselves; and that this sense of shame is the perpetual mark of the truth of this narrative; just as the tremendous and abnormal toils of mankind regarded as a historic whole, and the still more tremendous and thoroughly exceptional infliction denounced on woman--however varying with climate--equally confirm our faith in the Mosaic account of the circumstances attending the first origin of our race and nature. We now arrive at the last point in the history--the temptation by the serpent. So heavily has the difficulty been felt ofwhat is called this “miraculously talking reptile,” that I suppose the prevailing mode of explaining this incident in the history of the Fall, even by those who do not reject the historical reality of Adam and Eve, is by resorting to the notion that there was no serpent at all concerned in the transaction, any more than in Christ’s temptation by the devil; but that this reptile name was assigned allegorically to an invisible spirit, who did not in any way appear, but who enforced the temptation presented by the tree of knowledge of good and evil by his murderous suggestions. There is no doubt that under this view the essential elements of the narrative may be preserved intact, and the foundation of Christian faith remain unshaken, against the assaults of honest unbelievers. But, after paying the utmost attention to these allegorical hypotheses of interpretation, I confess that I follow the majestic intelligence of Milton, rather than modern critics, in thinking that a deeper study of the ease will enable and compel us to hold fast to the literal and natural interpretation here also. But I frankly admit that we do not expect to persuade anyone to adopt this old-fashioned conclusion who does not accept the following premises as a basis of argument:--
1. That the narrative, as a whole, in Genesis 3:1-24, of the recent creation and trial of Adam in paradise, is a true story, contradicted by nothing that is really ascertained by modern science, and that there is no more reason a priori for converting into an allegory one part of the narrative than the other.
2. That it is necessary, in order to do justice to any part of the Scripture of the Old and New Testaments, to bring the light thrown by the Bible as a whole, as a record of the work of God, on to each special portion of it.
3. The acceptance of the mysterious Scripture doctrine of fallen angels, with one mighty adversary of truth and right at the head of them, the mortal enemy of mankind and the permitted tempter for a short season of the servants of God. Suppose it be true, as is laid down uniformly in Scripture, that although man is tempted by the envious evil power who receives permission to try his faith, this whole process of trial is, in all its details, under the strictest Divine limitation and control, so that Satan can, neither by himself, nor by angels, nor by his human agents, go one step further than God “suffers them.” Suppose it he true that God will permit no well-disposed person to be “tempted above what he is able to bear”; suppose, as in the dramatic history of Job, revealing ancient beliefs, Satanic power is never allowed to advance beyond the line dictated by a merciful regard to man’s infirmity, and that each trial is regulated and limited by the Divine knowledge of an honest soul’s resources of resistance; suppose that this law was applied to the temptation of our newly created first parents, and that, in their youthful and inexperienced state, knowing nothing of the history of the universe, or of the fall of angels, or the purpose of God, it was forbidden to Satan to assail their life or tempt them in the form of an equal or a superior, so that the permission to tempt was limited by the most humiliating condition--that the temptation must come, if at all, through the apparent action of one of those undeveloped and inferior animals which sported around them. Under such conditions the action of the murderous adversary becomes, at least, more intelligible. But you will ask, last of all, What reasonable explanation can possibly be given of the alleged curse on the serpent--“On thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life”? Professor Huxley has sometimes said, in former years, to his pupils at Jermyn Street: “Serpents have in all ages of the world, so far as I know, gone upon their bellies; yet in the Book of Genesis it seems as if at least an early specimen once went erect, a thing unknown before; and he was punished by being reduced to creep and crawl forever, on the general plan of the ophidia.” Professor Huxley has an excellent defence for his sardonic gloss in the example of some Christian commentators, who have alleged this to be the meaning of the Divine curse on the serpent. But there is not a word in the narrative supporting such a notion. Suppose we take the history thus, and offer an explanation in the terms following to the evolutionists and paleontologists, which, from their point of view will, I think, be acknowledged to be more credible, because more consonant to the facts: “Gentlemen, you have taught us as the result of your studies of animal nature, of which we all alike are proud, that the probable doctrine--at least over large areas of life--is that of the evolution of species, theone from the other, through all past history. You have taught us that the class of reptiles filling up the space between fishes and birds has in past ages, and in the existing world, contained nine orders, of which four are now existing and five are extinct, having left their fossil remains in the sedimentary rocks below. Among these nine orders of reptiles, one order alone--that of serpents--is, and always has been, through all past ages, wingless, finless, footless. The germs of hinder legs are concealed in some few kinds of serpents, as in the boa constrictor, enough to show their relationship with the eight other orders of limbed reptiles, which fill up the space between fishes and birds. Now, of you, gentlemen, as evolutionists, I, as an expositor of Scripture respectfully ask, Supposing this curse on the serpent was really uttered by the Author of nature, by a living God, who knew all past history, and all anatomy, and therefore knew the strange abnormal history of the serpent order, through all its generations up till then--that is, knew the history of the one reptile order which alone among nine never developed its limbs, or any of the organs of locomotion which belong to all the other eight, since the Permian epoch; and supposing--as I must ask you to suppose for the sake of argument--this narrativeof man’s trial in paradise, as explained in the later portions of the Bible, were true, so that the serpent was the organ of a brighter but viler intelligence--I put it to you, evolutionists, would it be utterly irrational to take the words of the Supreme Judge thus, speaking first to the serpent, but more profoundly to the evil power which had sunk so low as to employ this reptile form, ‘Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field. Upon thy belly hast thou gone from the days of old, the one undeveloped, crawling, limbless reptile among all the kindred orders above thee and beneath thee! And on thy belly shalt thou go all the days of thy life, so long as the world shall last; no higher development awaits thee, no evolution into a nobler type; but still carrying the marks, in thy unborn hinder limbs, of a better kinship, thou shalt go on hissing, crawling, poisoning the world, hateful and hated, striking man’s heel, yet punished by his enmity, until the time comes when thou shalt be added to the already extinct orders of reptiles, and the “woman’s seed,” destined to endless duration, shall bruise thee out of the creation’”? Such a meaning, I think, might have been conveyed in full biological truth by such a Divine Speaker to such a serpent. Here would be no implication of his being reduced from a previous higher form to a limbless creeper, but a sentence of continued crawling on the ground, without any hope of evolution into a noble development. And, on the supposition that the typical serpent form concealed some mighty spirit of evil, the antagonist of human life, how awful the deeper enigmatical meaning of the words of the Judge, not understood by the fallen pair, but understood well enough by the object of the curse--“Origin of evil! thou hast sunk so low from thy once heavenly brightness--so low in envy, spite, and murder, as willingly to take even a reptile form, and that form the hatefullest, to reach thy end. Crawl, then, Spirit of Darkness, to the end of thy days, and ‘lick the dust,’ with all the enemies of sun light and righteousness. For evil is not noble, and is not eternal, and has no future evolution into greatness and victory. Thou thoughtest to devour this man of ‘dust’ in thy abhorred embrace, but thy malice shall be defeated; thy victim shall be rescued from thy fangs; man shall attain to the life immortal; the Seed of the woman shall crush thy head, and the dust of death ‘shall be the serpent’s meat.’ God shall bruise thee and thy seed under man’s feet shortly.”
IV. The Philosophy of the Hebrews on Good and Evil compared with Asiatic Dualism. It appears that in ages preceding the times of Moses by at least a thousand years the evil power which has ruined the work of the supreme goodness was represented all over the world by the name of the Serpent. In the very earliest epoch of the Egyptian monarchy there is evidence that the legend of Osiris was firmly established, of which the essence was that this son of the supreme god was put to death by the poisonous serpent, from the effects of whose murderous attack he is delivered by resurrection and final enthronement in the celestial realms. The same idea is found in ancient India, in the redemptive story of Krishna, who is depicted as setting his foot on the serpent’s head. Moses, therefore, has recorded, in the narrative of the Fall of man, a history which had much earlier diffused itself over the post-diluvian world in more or less corrupted traditions. In a word, the universal traditions of mankind confirm, even amidst their fanciful variations, the record which stands at the beginning of Genesis, as all subsequent revelation confirms the original reality whence those traditions sprang. But there is this difference between the beliefs of the whole civilized world in ancient times and the doctrine of the Hebrew religion, that, without exception, the heathen worshippers deified evil as well as good, and regarded it as engaged in an eternal and often successful conflict with a god of goodness; while, from one end to the other of the Mosaic and Christian revelations evil is represented as an incident, vanishing and temporary, in the everlasting dominion of supreme righteousness and love, a conviction which imparted a wholly new aspect both to religious worship and to religious character. The place and value of the Hebrew revelation in the systems of Asiatic thought will appear the more clearly if we picture to ourselves the earlier movements of the human mind in contemplating the mystery of life, where natural speculation was unaided by light from heaven. Let us endeavour to throw ourselves backward in fancy to that early time when the knowledge of the true God had been lost amidst growing heathenism. How would thoughtful men attempt under such conditions to solve the problem of the world? Clearly there would emerge in succession two leading explanations of this scene of mingled good and evil, moral and physical, in which chaotic darkness seems struggling with the light and order which could create a kosmos. Of these, the first and the more ancient was the dualistic, based on faith in spiritual powers; the second and more recent was the sceptical, or Buddhistic, based on scientific observation of things visible, and the positive rejection of Divine causes in accounting for the state of the world. The earliest step downwards from the patriarchal religion (which acknowledged one God, and traced up the origin of evil to the rebellion of created free agency) was into dualism, or the exaltation of evil to the rank of a Divine power coeval with the good. If in our time a mind so great as Mr. John Stuart Mill could, in his latest works, indicate some tendency to this solution of the mystery, is it to be wondered at if men whose philosophy was primitive and tentative found an easy if terrible resource in such a doctrine? If, further, they started from a primitive tradition of personal evil agency in the supernatural sphere, it was inevitable that the idea of an evil demon should be aggrandized into the idea of an evil deity. Of this early dualism several things must be noted. Its essential identity of principle must not be lost sight of under varying forms of expression. Its reign extended over all Central Asia and India and China in the ages preceding the Buddhistic “reform.” The relative prominence given in different ages and countries respectively to the good or the evil powers was determined by the physical, intellectual, and moral conditions of the nations who embraced the general doctrine. The inevitable tendency of dualism among ignorant nations in a state of suffering is towards religious pessimism--the special service of the malignant deity, in order to propitiate him by atrocious rites, or to ward off his injuries. The beneficent power will no doubt endure neglect, but hatred is inexorable. Hence the Moloch worship of Syria, the devil worship of Asia, of which some awful relics survive even to this day among the far-descended aborigines of Ceylon. Hence, too, the remarkable fact that although the Medo-Persian dualism, as organized by Zerduscht in a remote antiquity, gave the supremacy to Ormuzd, the Eternal Light, in the course of ages of conflict the popular mind, acted upon by terror and misery, by superstition and magian priestcraft, had, by the time of Cyrus, arrived at so complete a prostration under the shadow of the power of darkness, whose secrets the magians professed to know, that much of the territory had been abandoned to sterility from a conviction that it was useless to fight with destiny, an enemy who was omnipotent and eternal. With the reviving fortunes of the people under the bright and energetic rule of the Medo-Persian kings, and very probably through the diffusion of Hebrew ideas in the East, a more luminous faith returned to the nation. A profound theological revolution signalized the reign of Darius Hystaspes, the final result of the happy victories of Cyrus. Darius records it in the famous triumphal inscription on the rocks of Behistun. He asserts that he has overthrown the magians, for ages leagued with Ahriman, and declares that Ahuramasda or Ormuzd is king. It was as great a revolution as if Satan had been worshipped in terror for ages in England, and then suddenly a political revolution had revived the worship of God. In the more ancient sculptures of Nineveh and Persepolis abundant memorials occur of the varying types of dualism. In every better period of these monarchies the king is, represented as under the protection of the beneficent deity, depicted as a winged human form surrounded by the wheel of nature, while the evil power, symbolized by a dragon, is portrayed only in a form of subjection or comparative defeat. With these brief historical indications in view, it is easier to estimate aright the value of the original Hebrew monotheism, and of its successive dispersions, as factors in ancient Asiatic thought. At a time when India was dimly striving to uphold faith in a beneficent deity against a malignant energy which was itself divine; at a time when Zerduscht, in Central Asia, was more vigorously maintaining the same faith against a popular superstition which was ever darkening into the direful worship of Ahriman, Moses and the sons of Israel were maintaining at once against Egyptian polytheism, and against all the might of Eastern dualism, the existence and supreme sovereignty of one living and true God, the Almighty, the just, the merciful, in whose government evil was a possible, perhaps inevitable, incident, arising from the defect of the creature’s freewill or the slothfulness of the creature’s intelligence, but which had no root in the nature of things. It is this idea of the Infinite as one living eternal personality which has bound the Jewish race together by the sublimest of spiritual ties from first to last. They were monotheists when Egypt, in the times of Amenophis and Aahmes, were bowing down before a Pantheon of gods and goddesses--symbolized by oxen, by beetles, and by hooded cobras--in a superstition redeemed from contempt by the single sublime legend of Osiris. They were then monotheists, believing and declaring the unity of God, as Lord of universal nature, the God of the heavenly forces and of a man’s conscience--the Eternal God, in whose sight evil is but a transitory incident, the outcome of the creature’s freewill; one God, the everlasting antagonist of moral evil, destined speedily to be vanquished as the serpent beneath the heel of humanity. Yes, when all Asia held evil to be incurable and eternal and divine, the race of Abraham held that evil was “but for a moment,” and that God’s goodness and justice alone were eternal; and they stuck unto this testimony age after age without varying, the witnesses alone and unconquerable in antiquity to the sole sovereignty and eternity of God. And it is they who have taught this lesson to the nations of the modern world. If we, the gloomy dwellers in these half-lighted lands of the North, are still agonizing in the terrific folds of an evil power who is a match for all goodness, and the destined tormentor of the universe forever, we owe it to Abraham and his sons, and to those precious books which have held their own race together through all their wanderings. Under these references in thought, it becomes doubly interesting to note the phrases in which Christ and His apostles describe the relations of the good and evil powers. The New Testament affirms, as we have seen, in every form, the historical truth of the Genesis narrative. In the Gospels, Christ’s Messianic life begins with a temptation by a personal devil. In Christ’s teaching Satan is a real personality; he is a mighty king, and, in a lower sense, lord of this world. He claims all political sovereignty as his gift. He is “the prince” or ruler “of this world.” But his origin is in measurable time, and his history is that of a murderous apostate who once dwelt in the light, but “standeth not in the truth.” His destiny, too, is eternal damnation and destruction. So in St. Paul’s writings there is a “kingdom of darkness” and a “course of this world” from which Christians are delivered. There is even a “god of this world” and a “prince of the aerial powers”; there are evil “princedoms in the heavenlies,” but here, again, evil is a recent evolution--the work of unreason, of will that prefers government by passion to government by Divine law. And its end is destruction. St. John adds: “The Kosmos passeth away and its passion, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” It is but faintly we can imagine how the world of mankind breathed more freely when these glorious truths were first heard in Asia, crushed down under the dark ancestral belief in an eternal reign of evil, and beneath the stupefying fatalism to which it inevitably leads. When, then, Christ was made known as the messenger of the one eternal power of good, warring against an evil power which was not Divine and was not eternal, He was gladly listened to by Europeans and Asiatics, who had been confounded between the rival theories of dualism and atheism. We are now in a position to appreciate more correctly the contention of those who would regard as a fable, having no foundation in fact, the history of the entrance of evil through the serpent tempter, placed at the beginning of the Hebrew Bible. Surely it could have been no mere fable, no mere allegory, which thus carried a whole theology, and philosophy, and civilization along with it. It showed God the Beneficent as supreme, omnipresent, and eternal; and evil as a reptile perishing power. It engaged the will of mar, to a personal conflict, both in nature and in human life, with a mighty but a conquerable foe. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” was the battle cry through all ages. It showed all honest men that nothing was noble except goodness, nothing immortal but righteousness; that even the strongest and subtlest wickedness was ever ready to descend to the meanest concealments and falsehoods to attain its ends; but that all those ends should fail, because the history of the earth and of mankind was destined to be that of a prolonged conflict of right against wrong, resulting in the enthronement of Justice in the person of the true Osiris, the Son of Mary, who is also the Son of God. Lastly, turning to our own times, we are still in the thick of this awful and worldwide conflict; but oh, how glorious the retrospect of the war against evil, how marvellous the succession of victories already won, and how thrilling the hope that now shortly the atmosphere shall be cleansed from the pestilent influence of that dark “power of the air” which rains down falsehood and death upon the nations! The belief in the living God is nowhere stronger than among many of the very foremost students of nature. The belief in Christ, the Son of God, is nowhere more fervent than among many of those who have fathomed all the depths of ancient and modern philosophy. The belief in the Bible, as a whole, is nowhere more profound than among many of those who command a view of the literature of the world in all ages. And the belief in life eternal, through the Word made flesh, is nowhere more potent than in many of those who know all the reaches and “oppositions of science falsely so called.” (Edward White.)
Some Objections to the Literal History of the Fall Examined
I. First, as to the severity of the penalty inflicted upon the violation of the command not to eat of the tree of knowledge, it must be remembered that morality being founded in the will of God, whatever He commands or forbids, though in itself perhaps indifferent, is of indispensable obligation. The injunction, therefore, not to eat of the fruit of a particular tree was as binding upon the protoplasts as any moral precept whatsoever, and the infringement of it was an act of rebellion against the sovereign authority of heaven. Some circumstances also convict it of more than ordinary criminality. They were then in the keen relish of new-created existence; the impression of the Almighty’s goodness was still fresh upon their minds; they, in all likelihood, held familiar converse with Him; and they well knew that their being, their faculties, their happiness, all they possessed and enjoyed, as well as all the glories of creation, were derived from His bounty and goodness. Their disobedience, then, evinced the blackest ingratitude. The breach of so easy a command as to abstain from one single tree, when full liberty was given to taste all the other delicious fruits of paradise, greatly aggravated the offence; and the eating of that particular tree, which the Almighty had reserved, as it were, holy unto Himself, was a kind of sacrilege. As all necessary knowledge was communicated, and all needful aid imparted to them, their transgression was wilful and presumptuous; it was, in the strong language of Horsley, “nothing less than a confederacy with the apostate spirit against the sovereign authority of God.” The motives, likewise, for the commission of the offence, a secret distrust of the Divine promises, and the diabolical pride of aspiring to be like God, rendered it a deed of unparalleled atrocity.
II. The curse pronounced upon the ground, and the consequent sterility of the earth, was a merciful dispensation even towards Adam, who, having this standing memorial of his transgression, would be the more earnest in his repentance, and from experiencing the toils and hardships of life, would be the more resigned to leave this world when summoned away by death. To his posterity it was an act of mercy to take away some of the fascinations of a world which was to be only a temporary sojourn; and by diminishing its allurements, to stimulate their hopes of a better. The labour required for the attainment of food, and clothing, and needful comforts, is attended with many beneficial effects; and the earth, with all its barrenness, weeds, poisons, tempests, and convulsions, is better adapted to a probationary state for creatures such as we are than if it revolved in perpetual serenity and brought forth its fruits with spontaneous fertility.
III. Such being the case, it were unreasonable to complain of the fallen pair’s dismission from paradise to a state of labour and toil. It was an act of justice, inasmuch as they had forfeited all right to the happy bowers of Eden by violating the Divine command; and of mercy, inasmuch as they were thus brought to a sense of their destitution and of their dependence upon God, and were taught experimentally to quit this world without regret. The bloom, and verdure, and pleasures of paradise might well suit a state of contented innocence; but pain, and toil, and anxiety are no less befitting fallen creatures, whose appetites are to be conquered by labour and abstinence, and whose holy aspirations would die away unless quickened by a train of calamities and sickness. Nor could it be any longer desirable for the lamenting pair to continue in a place every object of which would remind them of their seduction and disobedience. In vain might the feathered songsters carol in the groves; for them the opening flowers would have no beauty, no fragrance; the fruits would pall upon their appetite; and, as the charm that springs from conscious innocence was fled, they would have wandered amidst the sweets of paradise without enjoyment or content.
IV. Why God suffered Adam to be seduced when such fearful punishment was to be the consequence is among those secret things which belong to the Lord our God. What can we know of the Divine counsels, we who are but of yesterday, whose existence is but a span, and whose utmost intellectual ken can scarcely peep into the confines of immensity? From all, however, that we can comprehend, from everything we can observe in the moral and the natural world, we are led to the belief that the present transitory scene is a part of a stupendous scheme tending through all its gradations to consummate the counsels of Divine benignity and love. God could, no doubt, by an exertion of omnipotent power, have prevented the introduction of evil into the world, but we find He has made men free agents; He has subjected them to the temptations of sin, to pain, and to death; and His design in permitting such a state of things, we humbly believe, is the production of higher degrees of ultimate happiness.
V. This supplies us with an adequate answer to the question, why the Almighty suffered the devil to tempt the first pair when He must have foreseen that they would become the victims of his treachery. It was not in any mutability of His designs, not in abandonment of the works of His hands, that He granted this permission to the apostate spirit, but because He had predestinated in His eternal foreknowledge and decree to bring good out of evil, and to make even the malignity of the arch-fiend instrumental to His own glory. Man was created free; an easy duty was enjoined, and the penalty of disobedience laid before him; he had sufficient power and abilities to stand; it was not, therefore, by an irresistible necessity that he fell, but by an abuse of his own free agency; and Satan was permitted to make trial of him, because God, who foresaw the consequences, foresaw that it would, in the end, be productive of a greater degree of glory to Himself and of happiness to His creatures. In the same way we may often account for the often condemned ordination of Providence, by which all mankind were subjected to condemnation and death for the sin of one man. It is easy to harangue upon the apparent injustice exercised towards the whole human race, who thus share in the punishment, though not in the crime. But such is the course and constitution of nature, where children suffer for the vices of their parents, and where even a whole nation is oppressed and afflicted by the errors and wickedness of one individual. That the innocent often suffer through the crimes of the guilty, and that the dire effects of sin are extended to the unoffending, are matters of daily experience; and if such circumstances are reconcilable with the Divine administration, as the Deist must allow, why should he condemn the appointment by which the penalty of Adam’s transgression is transmitted to his posterity? Both cases are similar, and both must be referred to the sovereign will and pleasure of the Deity, who, as we reverently believe, has for infinitely wise and good reasons established this order of things, since all His counsels and designs are laid in the immensity of His benevolence. Some beneficial purposes answered by it our faculties are able to discover, among which must be numbered its excellent adaptation to a probationary state and the evidence it supplies of a future existence, where the irregularities of this will be adjusted, and where all the instances of terrestrial partiality and injustice will be rectified according to the rules of inviolable equity. The grand solution, then, is to be sought in the cheering and consolatory doctrine that all things are working together to produce ultimate felicity, and that, through the benevolent appointment of God, all partial evil will finally end in universal good. This may be inferred from the attribute of transcendent benevolence in the Godhead, as well as from a contemplation of the Divine love and mercy displayed in the works of creation; and, aided by the light of Christianity, we are able to point out some of the benefits arising from the Fall, which, on a superficial view, may appear to be attended only with fatal and unhappy consequences. And, first, we are placed in a state of greater security than Adam under the paradisiacal covenant, notwithstanding the comparative perfection of his nature and the unsullied purity of his heart. Though the protoplasts had retained their integrity, yet some of their descendants might, by virtue of their freewill, have fallen from their righteousness, and introduced sin and death into the world, the consequence of which would have been irretrievable misery, there being no covenant to admit transgressors into favour. The atonement, perhaps, might have been made, though the first offence had not been committed till many centuries after the creation; but who shall say whether this would have been consonant with the wisdom of the Divine mind? Or if it had, who shall say whether some good might not have arisen from the early more than from the late entrance of sin into the world? On such a subject, however, it is right for the frail children of the dust to speak with reverential humility. Unbecoming in man is the presumption of deciding what might have taken place under a different order of things. Let us rather accept the ransom with grateful hearts, and, while revering the unbounded benignity of God, let us strive to participate in the offered pardon by a religious life conducted on the principles of Christian faith. Secondly, we are capable of attaining greater happiness than if our first parents bad continued in their integrity. The terrestrial paradise presents only a faint image of the celestial paradise of God; and it is most agreeable to infinite mercy to suppose that the loss of the happiness of the one will be followed by the acquisition of still greater felicity in the other. And if this transitory life has its pains and its miseries, it has also its consolations and its hopes; if it be a state of probationary difficulty, it is alleviated by spiritual aid and cheered by the most glorious promises; if sin abounds, we know its remedy; and when we err, we know that there is also room for reconciliation, of which the transgressor could have but a transient hope under the Adamitical covenant of works. Exulting in the prospect of the exceeding and eternal weight of glory to be revealed hereafter, when the ransomed shall come to the celestial Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads, we are led to believe that the first sin in the garden of Eden was permitted in mercy to mankind, and to exclaim with an ancient writer, “A happy Fall; and happy unhappiness which was the occasion of so great happiness!” Thirdly, the glory of the Divine attributes is more advantageously displayed by the grand scheme of human redemption through the blood of Christ and sanctification of the blessed Spirit than it could have been by the uninterrupted innocence of the first man. The state of paradise gave evidence to the might, the majesty, and the goodness of the Deity, but if it had continued unchanged, where would have been the stupendous plan whereby infinite mercy is exhibited to intelligent beings seated upon the same throne with infinite justice? There could have been no room for the ways of Providence in calling, justifying, sanctifying, and glorifying the faithful which now form the subject of unceasing admiration and gratitude. Such are the consolatory views of the present, and the enlivening hopes of the future, which we are taught in the sacred writings to draw from the primeval transgression. Little as they may avail with the Deist, who objects to revelation in general, they will be embraced by every Christian with the transports of gratitude and veneration which a Christian alone can feel. But if we consult the light of nature only, there is no more difficulty in accounting for God’s permitting the temptation and fall of Adam than upon any other hypothesis for His permitting the origin of sin and its miserable attendants which are allowed to exist. All our reasonings upon the moral government of the world presuppose the existence of a great Creator; and if we believe Him to be infinitely wise and good, as may be inferred from a contemplation of His works, we must believe that the widespread evil is, in some way or other, consistent with infinite wisdom and goodness. (G. Holden, M. A.)
Another View of the Early Records of Genesis
It would be the veriest truism to say that the earliest records of Genesis excel in interest and in religious importance almost all other portions of the Bible. It is obvious at once that the facts they narrate and the problems they raise lie at the root, not only of all Old Testament theology, but still more of all New Testament theology. Take them away, or rather take away the great truths they teach, and our faith loses its natural foundations; it becomes a lovely flower without a root, a shining river without a source, a vast building without a base. So it has been said, and rightly said, that the whole of the Bible is only the unfolding of Genesis 3:15. If, however, it is a truism to assert the extreme importance of these records, it is also a truism to assert their extreme difficulty. God, in His wisdom, has joined these two things together, so that what the devout Christian most strongly clings to as inspired is most fiercely assailed as false and legendary. Nor must we say simply “most fiercely assailed.” It would be an affectation most unworthy of the “children of light” to deny or to ignore the fact that the assaults made upon these records in the name of science are to a large extent unanswered and unanswerable. One of the first things which the new science of geology established with certainty was the now acknowledged fact that the world is of great and incalculable age, and was formed and fashioned through enormous periods of time. This discovery cut up by the root the old and very natural idea that the world was made in six literal days. The “days,” accordingly, were lengthened out into “periods” of indefinite duration, and many schemes were propounded whereby the successive creations of Genesis might be reconciled with the results of geological research. It is not too much to say that all these attempts at reconciliation, and the many thoughtful and once popular books in which they were set forth, have become discredited and out of date; having in many cases a certain plausibility, they were fatally vitiated by one or other (or both) of these things: they either strained the text in order to force it into conformity with the facts, or they manipulated the facts in order to extort some apparent confirmation of the text. No assignable “six periods” are known to geology, nor can the order of creation as revealed to Moses be read into the testimony of the rocks except by an ingenuity which is as painful to the man of faith as it is unconvincing to the man of science. The only real result of striving to maintain the geological truth of the first chapter of Genesis is to empty it of all truth by making it mean anything which it seems convenient at the moment it should mean. The same conflict, with the same result, has gone on concerning the Deluge of Noah. Nothing, as Bishop Wordsworth justly argues, can be more plainly stated than the universality of that Deluge and the utter destruction of all human and animal life outside the ark. Yet that universality and that total destruction is as plainly contradicted by the whole strength of scientific evidence. If anyone fails to realize the strength of that evidence, let him study briefly the present distribution of the animal tribes on the earth’s surface. Let him take one single fact from amongst the multitude, and let him consider that all the animals in Australia are marsupials, and that these are the only marsupials in existence, saving a single family in North America. Will he maintain that the marsupials of Australia really came out of the ark? that the many hundred ancestors of all their families--widely differing in size, in form, and in habits--journeyed together across land and sea from Ararat, nowhere settling, nowhere breeding, until they, and they alone, reached their future home? Will he maintain the same thing of the Lemuroids of Madagascar? Not to multiply instances, it is no exaggeration to say that if all the land animals, even of the three continents, came out of the ark, then there is no science of natural history, and the distribution of animal life in different lands is not simply an arbitrary thing without explanation, but is a delusive thing irresistibly suggesting a false explanation. Probably, therefore, there is not to be found a single person who has made himself acquainted with natural history who believes that the present distribution of animal life in the globe was even seriously affected by the Noachian Deluge. If believed at all, it is regarded as a very local and partial catastrophe overwhelming possibly the whole tract inhabited by man, probably only that tract which was inhabited by a particular race of men. These two cases are examples of those in which the fixed conclusions of science have compelled us to abandon the apparently plain historical declarations of those Scriptures which we love and reverence with all our hearts as the inspired Word of God. There are other cases, in which the conclusions of science, not at present fixed, nevertheless promise to become so in a very short time. The evidence of geology in favour of the great antiquity of man, far beyond any antiquity which can be assigned to Adam and Eve as historical personages, is already tolerably convincing, and bids fair to become overwhelming. Similarly the evidence of history and philology is strong in favour of a far more ancient era of separate languages than any which can be assigned to the Tower of Babel; and this evidence, too, bids fair to become conclusive. In either case, a really devout man, who believes that the sober and confirmed conclusions of science are the indirect teaching of God Himself, must keep the question open in his own mind, and must be ready to revise, if need be, what has hitherto been his understanding of the Scriptures. The problem, as it presents itself to a devout Churchman, is this: Here is a record, apparently historical, to the inspiration and spiritual truth of which Christ and the Church and his own soul bear testimony--such testimony as he could not for a moment set aside. And yet reason, and the course of nature, and the testimony of the rocks, proclaim aloud that this record is not historically true. What, then, shall he think? Is there no form of literature which might at once bear the weight (so to speak) of inspiration, and satisfy at the same time the required conditions? There is one, and only one; and that one the most ancient of all the forms into which the thoughts of men ran spontaneously when first they sought to put their thoughts on record. At the beginning of all histories stand myths, and those myths are historic in form but (more or less) unhistoric in substance, Is it lawful to hold that sacred history, like all other history, which runs its natural course from the first, begins with myths? No doubt it is at first sight a startling, and even a shocking position. The very word “myth” has gathered associations around it which jar painfully upon a devout mind in connection with the Word of God. But this feeling may disappear if we look at the matter more calmly.
A genuine “myth” is not false, if we imply by “false” any intention to deceive. The myth is true in its own way, often profoundly true. Sometimes it embodied a great fact, sometimes a deep yearning, sometimes a noble aspiration. No one now would throw a national myth away because it is not historically true; he would treasure it up reverently, he would try to find oat what it meant to convey; he would not weave it into a prosaic record of actual events, but he would not value it less highly in its own sphere. This being so, the question presents itself thus: Is it incredible that the Holy Spirit of God should adopt the most primitive of the known forms of literature as the vehicle of His earliest revelations to men? Is it not at least possible, however strange at first sight, that the Holy Spirit should have employed myths in the first instance, even as He employed poems, parables, visions, in other places? If it be in itself not incredible, if it be a possible position for a loyal Churchman to take up, it is unquestionably a position of enormous strength. In the first place, it preserves and completes the thorough “naturalness” of the Bible as to its outward and human element. As the true Divinity of our Lord did not in the least mar or hinder the development of His perfect humanity, even from its smallest and humblest beginnings, so the most devout belief in the inspiration of Holy Scripture need not hinder anyone from recognizing its entire conformity to the general type of all other literatures. If it should appear that the earliest inspired documents are myths, then the written Word would but dimly reflect in its development the humility of the incarnate Word, who, being God, was yet at one definite time an unborn Babe. In the second place, such a position is one absolutely unassailable from the side of science. As things are at present, the believer in inspiration is ever being attacked, and ever being driven backwards, from one position to another. No sooner has he taken up, with much difficulty, some new line of defence than this too is turned and made untenable by some fresh advance of science on one side or other of the field. But if he can say boldly, “These writings are myths, not histories,” then all conflict ceases; science and history are left in full and free possession of the territory which belongs to them, which God has marked out for them and allotted to them from the beginning; faith and religion are left in undisturbed sovereignty within their own domain, the domain of moral and of spiritual truth. In the third place, the theory which regards these early records as myths, while it does not sacrifice anything that is valuable in them, does very greatly enlarge their highest value by giving due prominence to their moral and spiritual truth. It does not sacrifice even their historical value (as it might easily be accused of doing); for, in saying that such and such a story is a myth, the critic does not mean for a moment to say that it is a falsehood or a fiction, or to empty it of historical significance; he only means to say that it is not to be read as a literal statement of facts. It would be the extreme of folly to say that there was no element of historic truth in the first ten chapters of Genesis: unquestionably there is, only that element is not distinctly assignable; perhaps it will never be exactly fixed, although it will be approximately fixed by the progress of historical science. Meanwhile that value of these records, which the Church has ever recognized as their true value, remains wholly independent of the progress, and even of the existence, of historical science. Being myths as to their literary form and human origin, they are parables for all practical intents, and share to the full those wonderful advantages which have so greatly commended the parable to the use of the Holy Spirit, and which all men feel instinctively if they cannot express. The records of Genesis were written, it is certain, not for one age, but for all--for the uninquiring ages of the past, with their utter ignorance of everything beyond their own immediate relations to one another and to God; for the ages of inquiry, present and to come, with their rapidly growing knowledge of the world, For the past and for the present it was alike needful that those records should not clash with their ignorance or with our knowledge; neither anticipating then what God would teach men to find out thereafter, nor limiting and confusing now what He had led them to discover. Now, in point of fact, no one can help seeing that this purpose has been answered, to a great extent, by the peculiar form into which these earliest revelations are thrown, and would be answered still more completely if they were clearly recognized as myths. Does it make any difference to the welfare of immortal souls whether the world was brought into its present form in six days or in countless ages? whether the race of men appeared upon the globe six thousand years ago or six hundred thousand? whether the woman was actually made out of one of the man’s ribs or whether that only typify her derivative and subordinate position? What really does concern immortal souls is that the moral and spiritual lessons of these records should be drawn out in the spirit of St. Paul and of the early teachers of the Church. The story of Adam and Eve was applied by our Lord and by St. Paul, and ought to be applied by the Church of Christ today, to define the mutual relation of the sexes and the Divine ideal of marriage. The same story was used by St. Paul, and ought to be used by the Church today, in order to set forth what is for us perhaps the most important, and certainly the least appreciated, of Christian doctrines, the spiritual relation betwixt Christ and His Church. Yet where do we find this teaching worked out upon the outlines laid down for us by an inspired apostle? Who ever hears a sermon preached upon it? Bishop Wordsworth, in his invaluable commentary, has indeed done much, but much more remains behind. The allegory is carried on, not only in the sleep of Adam and the opening of his side; not only in the name he gave his bride and the words he used of her; but also in the sentences which God pronounced upon them after the Fall. “In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee,” is, of course, a sentence fulfilled in the case of women in general, although not now as a curse. But it is in a much deeper and truer sense fulfilled in the Church of Christ. “In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children” is the very law of her spiritual fruitfulness, a law which must always, and under all advantages, hold good, however much she may think to escape it. Without pain and conflict and distress, and even agony, she will never get to herself spiritual children. The calm serenity in which mere schools of thought may thrive can never be for her, unless it be to die in. Who does not hear, as he thinks upon this deep saying, the sad voice of the great apostle complaining, “My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you”? It was in, the nature of things that he should suffer the birth-pangs once in the travail of their first conversion; but it was hard, very hard, that he should have to go through the same distress again for them. “And thy desire shall be to thy husband”; of course it is, and this desire is that he should rule over her absolutely and without any hindrance or cessation. But there may be noted in this word “desire” an element of pain, which comes out most strongly and affectingly in the hymns and prayers which are the voice of the Bride; it is a yearning desire, a longing desire, in which there is much of unsatisfied and a little of afraid; it is the destiny of the Bride now to long for the Bridegroom with a sense of weariness at His long delay, of faintness because He cometh not, almost of dread lest, coming, He be not wholly pleased with her. All this, and much more, which is so profoundly evangelical, is in the sentence on the woman; for it springs from the great conflict between the sin of earth and the love of heaven. Again, the sentence on the man only finds its real significance when understood of the Second Adam. Because He hearkened to the voice of His wife, of the Church which He foreknew; because He listened to the cry of His own in many lands, in many tongues, “O come, O come, Emmanuel”; therefore He came, and was made man, and did eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and got to know all physical evil as well as good by way of experience; and all moral evil, too, as well as good, by way of temptation and of constant struggle. And therefore, because He had laid Himself open to all this, was the ground cursed for His sake, and in sorrow did He eat of it all the days of His life. Thorns also and thistles did it bring forth to Him, all that could annoy and vex His gentle soul; and thorns, too, in literal truth, wherewith to crown His head. Much more there is in the same passage, but this may suffice as one instance, out of so many, of the marvellous wealth of these sacred myths in moral and spiritual teaching. This great treasure would be available, far more than it is now, if these records were boldly treated as allegories, if the reader and the preacher were not hampered and perplexed by having to ask and answer (if he can) a thousand useless questions, as to whether Adam and Eve were really the ancestors of the whole human race; as to whether the Euphrates and the Nile ever really flowed from one source; as to whether all existing tongues were really separated from the Hebrew less than three thousand years before Christ. Again the question presses us--May a loyal Churchman hold and teach that these records are myths, inspired indeed, but not strictly historic? In all fairness it must be conceded that the objections to such a solution are serious and weighty. Many who do not feel the difficulties of the present position very keenly will deem these objections fatal. In the first place, it will be said by many that the myth is not such a form of literature as could become the vehicle of Divine teachings. As no one was responsible for the myth, as it could not be traced to any definite source, so no one could have been inspired to indite it, and therefore it could not itself be inspired in any intelligible way. It is, however, sufficiently certain and allowed that many of the proverbs and sayings which go by the name of Solomon’s were drawn from common life; they must have been current among the “wise,” and done duty in expressing the common sense and feeling of men long before they were caught up (so to speak) by the Holy Ghost, and set in the firmament of Scripture. There is also many a fragment of national song and of popular lore in the historical books. That must surely be an unduly narrow view of inspiration which would exclude the spontaneous products of the national mind, the anonymous poetry, the deep sayings, which form so large and so true a part of the literature of an archaic age. It may not be possible to say how such can be inspired, but neither is it necessary: the inspiration of the written Word, like the incarnation of the personal Word, passes all human definition. In the second place, it will be put forth as an unanswerable objection by many that to acknowledge anything mythical in the beginning of Scripture is to introduce such an element of vagueness and mistiness as will destroy the value of all the rest; “For where,” they will say, “are you to stop? If the story of the Tower of Babel appear a myth to one, why not the story of Jacob and Esau to another, and the story of the Exodus to a third?” Unquestionably it is of the nature of myths to slide insensibly into history, so that it is mostly impossible to draw the precise line between them. But the practical difficulty which ensues may easily be exaggerated. The narrative, which is obviously mythical to begin with, becomes obviously historical as it goes on, and is accepted without reserve as history. Most of the reigning families of Europe are descended from divine beings through lists of ancestors half-historical, half-mythical. Does any real or considerable confusion result from that? In the third place, it will be urged (and this is no doubt the gravest objection) that the mythical theory is already a deadly weapon in the hands of unbelief. If myths are possible in the Old Testament, can we say that they are impossible in the New? May not the Resurrection itself be a myth, as many have taught, and teach now? It may, of course, be called a myth, but it would not and could not be a myth in the same sense in which the story of paradise is a myth; it could only be a myth in that corrupt sense of the word in which it is a euphemism for a lie, If we read, in some fragment of primitive tradition, that such and such a hero was the grandson of Wodin, we rightly call it a myth; if a special correspondent telegraphs that such and such a general has gained a splendid victory, because he wished him to gain the victory: we rightly call it a disgraceful falsehood. There is no real similarity between them, although both may be called (in different senses) mythical. No one would use any harder word than “unhistoric” of the legend of St. George and the Dragon, because it was simply an atmospheric myth turned into a Christian allegory. A reported fight between a dwarf and a dog, which never happened, was rightly spoken of in very different language. It is unhappily true that the mythical theory has been carried into the New Testament, where it has no sort of place, and therefore it is an object of very natural suspicion in the beginning of Genesis, where it is in exact accordance with the conditions of the age. But it should be remembered why it has been carried into the New Testament, and with what result, in order to see whether there be any similarity whatever in the two cases. The Resurrection has been resolved into a myth on the simple a priori ground that miracles are incredible, and on no other. The whole character of the narrative, of the men, of the age, is dead against it; a mythical resurrection, tacked on to an actual crucifixion, is a monstrosity which does violence to human intelligence in general, and to all the conditions of the special case in particular. The earliest records of Genesis are recognized as myths, in accordance with their apparent character and the genius of their age, on the plain a posteriori ground that science has demonstrated what internal evidence suggested, that they are not historical. Again, if the Resurrection be a myth, then our hope is vain, and we are, of all men, most miserable; if the story of the Fall be a myth, it does not lose one particle of its moral and spiritual value, and none is any the worse. What is there in common between a criticism which destroys the gospel and Christianity itself, and a criticism which removes certain early records from one literary category to another? Lastly, it will be urged that our Lord and His apostles continually quote these stories as if they were histories. Most assuredly, and the parables of our Lord Himself are quoted every day in a thousand pulpits exactly as if they were veritable histories. Those who now believe that the early records of Genesis are myths, scientifically and historically considered, have no more hesitation in talking about Adam and Eve, Enoch and Noah, than they had before, or than they have now in talking about the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. In order to justify the use made of parables from the New Testament, or of myths from the Old, it is not in either case necessary to assume that they are historically true; it is only necessary to assume that they are inspired, and are therefore warranted by the Holy Ghost to be true for all moral and spiritual purposes. They are in the Bible, and that is enough for the loyal Churchman. The Bible is the Word of God, and as long as he uses any part of it for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, he knows he is perfectly safe. If he go further, and imagine that the holy writings were given either to anticipate or to contradict the discoveries of natural and historical science in their own proper field, he is assuredly deceived. (R. Winterbotham, M. A.)
the Sixth Week after Easter