THE BIBLE'S MESSAGE TO MODERN LIFE
Twelve Studies on
The Making of a Nation
The Beginnings of Israel's History
CHARLES FOSTER KENT JEREMIAH WHIPPLE JENKS
The best of allies you can procure for us is the Bible. That will bring us the reality—freedom.—Garibaldi.
If the common schools have found their way from the Atlantic to the Pacific; if slavery has been abolished; if the whole land has been changed from a wilderness into a garden of plenty, from ocean to ocean; if education has been fostered according to the best lights of each generation since then; if industry, frugality and sobriety are the watchwords of the nation, as I believe them to be, I say it is largely due to those first emigrants, who, landing with the English Bible in their hands and in their hearts, established themselves on the shores of America.—Joseph H. Choate.
And, as it is owned, the whole scheme of Scripture is not yet understood, so, if it comes to be understood, it must be in the same way as natural knowledge is come at; by the continuance and progress of learning and liberty, and by particular persons attending to, comparing and pursuing intimations scattered up and down it, which are overlooked and disregarded by the generality of the world. Nor is it at all incredible that a book which has been so long in the possession of mankind should contain many truths as yet undiscovered.—Butler.
Mr. Lincoln, as I saw him every morning, in the carpet slippers he wore in the house and the black clothes no tailor could make really fit his gaunt, bony frame, was a homely enough figure. The routine of his life was simple, too; it would have seemed a treadmill to most of us. He was an early riser, when I came on duty at eight in the morning, he was often already dressed and reading in the library. There was a big table near the centre of the room: there I have seen him reading many times. And the book? It was the Bible which I saw him reading while most of the household slept.—William H. Crook, in Harper's Magazine.
The Bible has such power for teaching righteousness that even to those who come to it with all sorts of false notions about the God of the Bible, it yet teaches righteousness, and fills them with the love of it; how much more those who come to it with a true notion about the God of the Bible.—Matthew Arnold.
The Rediscovery of the Bible. The Object of These Studies. The Plan of Work. Books of Reference.
STUDY I. MAN'S PLACE IN THE WORLD. The Story of Creation, Gen. 1, 2
1. The Different Theories of Creation. 2. The Priestly Story of Creation. 3. The Early Prophetic Story of Creation. 4. A Comparison of the Two Accounts of Creation. 5. Man's Conquest and Rulership of the World. 6. Man's Responsibility as the Ruler of the World.
STUDY II. MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS ACTS. The Story of the Garden of Eden, Gen. 3
1. The Nature of Sin. 2. The Origin of Sin According to the Story in Genesis 3. 3. The Different Theories Regarding the Origin of Sin. 4. The Effects of Sin upon the Wrong-doer. 5. God's Attitude toward the Sinner. 6. The Effect of Sin upon Society.
STUDY III. THE CRIMINAL, AND HIS RELATION TO SOCIETY. The Story of Cain, Gen. 4:1-16
1. The Meaning of the Story of Cain. 2. The Making of a Criminal. 3. The Criminal's Attitude toward Society. 4. The Ways in which Society Deals with the Criminal. 5. How to Deal with Criminals. 6. The Prevention of Crime.
STUDY IV. THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST. The Story of the Great Flood, Gen. 6-9
1. The Two Biblical Accounts of the Flood. 2. The Corresponding Babylonian Flood Stories. 3. History of the Biblical Flood Stories. 4. Aim of the Biblical Writers in Recounting the Flood Stories. 5. The Survival of the "Fittest" in the Natural World. 6. In Social and Political Life.
STUDY V. THE PIONEER'S INFLUENCE UPON A NATION'S IDEAL. Abraham, the Traditional Father of the Race, Gen. 12:1-8; 13:1-13; 16; 18; 19; 21:1-7; 22:1-19
1. The Reasons for Migration. 2. The Prophetic Stories about Abraham. 3. The Meaning of the Early Prophetic Stories about Abraham. 4. The Prophetic Portrait of Abraham. 5. The Tendency to Idealize National Heroes. 6. The Permanent Value and Influence of the Abraham Narratives.
STUDY VI. THE POWER OF AMBITION. Jacob the Persistent, Gen. 25:10-33:20
1. The Two Brothers, Jacob and Esau. 2. The Man with a Wrong Ambition. 3. Jacob's Training in the School of Experience. 4. The Invincible Power of Ambition and Perseverance. 5. The Different Types of Ambition. 6. The Development of Right Ambitions.
STUDY VII. A SUCCESSFUL MAN OF AFFAIRS. Joseph's Achievements, Gen. 37; 39-48; 50
1. The Qualities Essential to Success. 2. The Limitations and Temptations of Joseph's Early Life. 3. The Call of a Great Opportunity. 4. The Temptations of Success. 5. The Standards of Real Success. 6. The Methods of Success.
STUDY VIII. THE TRAINING OF A STATESMAN. Moses in Egypt and the Wilderness, Ex. 1:1-7:5
1. The Egyptian Background. 2. The Making of a Loyal Patriot. 3. The School of the Wilderness. 4. Moses' Call to Public Service. 5. The Education of Public Opinion. 6. The Training of Modern Statesmen.
STUDY IX. THE ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF LAW. Moses' Work as Judge and Prophet, Ex. 18:5-27; 33:5-11
1. The Needs that Give Rise to Law. 2. The Growth of Customary Law. 3. The Authority Underlying all Law. 4. Moses' Relations to the Old Testament Laws. 5. The Development of Modern Law. 6. The Attitude of Citizens toward the Law.
STUDY X. THE FOUNDATIONS OF GOOD CITIZENSHIP. The Ten Commandments, Ex. 20:1-17
1. The History of the Prophetic Decalogue. 2. Obligations of the Individual to God. 3. The Social and Ethical Basis of the Sabbath Law. 4. The Importance of Children's Loyalty to Parents. 5. Primary Obligations of Man to Man. 6. The Present-day Authority of the Ten Commandments.
STUDY XI. THE EARLY TRAINING OF A RACE. Israel's Experience in the Wilderness and East of the Jordan, Num. 11-14; 21:21-31; 32:39-42
1. The Wilderness Environment. 2. Influence of the Nomadic Life upon Israel's Character and Ideals. 3. The Influence of the Wilderness Life Upon Israel's faith. 4. The Significance of the East-Jordan Conquests. 5. The Significance of Moses' Work. 6. The Early Stages in the Training of the Human Race.
STUDY XII. A NATION'S STRUGGLE FOR A HOME AND FREEDOM, Israel's Victories over the Canaanites, Josh. 2-9; Judg. 1, 4, 5.
1. The Crossing of the Jordan. 2. The Canaanite Civilization. 3. The Capture of the Outposts of Palestine. 4. Ways by which the Hebrews Won Their Homes. 5. Deborah's Rally of the Hebrews. 6. The Final Stage in the Making of the Hebrew Nation.
THE REDISCOVERY OF THE BIBLE
In the early Christian centuries thousands turned to the Bible, as drowning men to a life buoy, because it offered them the only way of escape from the intolerable social and moral ills that attended the death pangs of the old heathenism. Then came the Dark Ages, with their resurgent heathenism and barbarism, when the Bible was taken from the hands of the people. In the hour of a nation's deepest humiliation and moral depravity, John Wycliffe, with the aid of a devoted army of lay priests, gave back the Bible to the people, and in so doing laid the foundations for England's intellectual, political and moral greatness. The joy and inspiration of the Protestant Reformers was the rediscovery and popular interpretation of the Bible. In all the great forward movements of the modern centuries the Bible has played a central role. The ultimate basis of our magnificent modern scientific and material progress is the inspiration given to the human race by the Protestant Reformation.
Unfortunately, the real meaning and message of the Bible has been in part obscured during past centuries by dogmatic interpretations. The study of the Bible has also been made a solemn obligation rather than a joyous privilege. The remarkable discoveries of the present generation and its new and larger sense of power and progress have tended to turn men's attention from the contemplation of the heritage which comes to them from the past. The result is that most men know little about the Bible. They are acquainted with its chief characters such as Abraham, David and Jesus. A few are even able to give a clear-cut outline of the important events of Israel's history; but they regard it simply as a history whose associations and interests belong to a bygone age. How many realize that most of the problems which Israel met and solved are similar to those which to-day are commanding the absorbing attention of every patriotic citizen, and that of all existing books, the Old Testament makes the greatest contributions to the political and social, as well as to the religious thought of the world? National expansion, taxation, centralization of authority, civic responsibility, the relation of religion to politics and to public morality were as vital and insistent problems in ancient Israel as they are in any live, progressive nation to-day. The gradual discovery of this fact explains why here and there through-out the world the leaders in modern thought and progress are studying the Bible with new delight and enthusiasm; not only because of its intrinsic beauty and interest, but because in it they find, stated in clearest form, the principles which elucidate the intricate problems of modern life.
THE OBJECTS OF THESE STUDIES,
There are two distinct yet important ways of interpreting the Bible: The one is that of the scholar who knows the Bible from the linguistic, historical and literary point of view; the other, that of the man who knows life and who realizes the meaning and value of the Bible to those who are confronted by insistent social, economic and individual problems. These studies aim to combine both methods of interpretation.
Briefly defined the chief objects of these studies are:
(1) To introduce the men and women of to-day to that which is most vital in the literature and thought of the Old Testament.
(2) To interpret the often neglected Old Testament into the language of modern life simply and directly and in the light of that which is highest in the teachings of Christianity.
(3) To present the constructive results of the modern historical and literary study of the Bible, not dogmatically but tentatively, so that the reader and student may be in a position to judge for himself regarding the conclusions that are held by a large number of Biblical scholars and to estimate their practical religious value.
(4) To show how closely the Old Testament is related to the life of to-day and how it helps to answer the pressing questions now confronting the nations.
(5) To lead strong men to think through our national, social and individual problems, and to utilize fearlessly and practically the constructive results of modern method and research in the fields of both science and religion.
THE PLAN OF WORK.
These studies are planned to meet the needs of college students and adult Bible classes. Those who are able to command more time and wish to do more thorough work will find in the list of Parallel Readings on the first page of each study carefully selected references to the best authorities on the subject treated. For their guidance are also provided Subjects for Further Study. In using this text-book the student may proceed as follows:
(1) Read carefully the Biblical passage indicated in connection with each title; for example, in the first study, Genesis 1 and 2.
(2) Read the Biblical and other quotations on the first page of each study. Unless otherwise indicated the Biblical quotations are from the American Revised Version. They include the most important Biblical passages. The other quotations embody some of the best contributions of ancient and modern writers to the subject under consideration.
(3) Read and think through the material presented under each paragraph. This material is arranged under six headings for the convenience of those who wish to follow the plan of daily reading and study.
BOOKS OF REFERENCE.
The books suggested in connection with this course have been carefully selected in order that each person may have for his individual use a practical working library. The following should be at hand for constant reference.
Kent, C. F., The Historical Bible, Vols. I and II. Contains the important Biblical passages arranged in chronological order and provided with the historical, geographical and archaeological notes required for their clear understanding. The translation is based on the oldest manuscripts and embodies the constructive results of modern Biblical research. New York, $1.00 each.
Jenks, J. W., Principles of Politics. New York, $1.25. Prepared to explain the principles by which political action is governed and thus to aid thoughtful citizens both to gain a clear outlook on life and wisely to direct their own political activity.
Aristotle, Politics. The greatest masterpiece of scientific political thought. Its different point of view will suggest many illuminating comparisons between Greek and modern political ideals and institutions and give the reader a broad basis for the appreciation of that which is essential and enduring in the statecraft of all ages. $2.50.
For further parallel study the following books are suggested:
Breasted, J. H., History of the Ancient Egyptians. Clear, concise and authoritative. New York, $1.25.
Bryce, James, The American Commonwealth, Vols. I, II. New York, $2.00 each. Best commentary on American Government.
Cooper, C. S., The Bible and Modern Life. Presents the point of view from which the Bible may most profitably be studied and contains valuable suggestions regarding the organization and work of college and adult classes. New York, $1.25.
Driver, S. R., Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament. New York, $2.50. A sane, thorough study of the origin, history, and contents of the Old Testament books.'
Goodspeed, G. S., History of the Babylonians and Assyrians. New York, $1.25. A comprehensive and attractive picture of the life of these ancient people.
Hadley, A. T., Standards of Public Morality. New York, $1.00. A suggestive study of the application of moral principles to the life of society.
Hastings, James, Dictionary of the Bible, Vols. 1-5. New York, $6.00 each. A summary of the historical, literary, geographical and archaeological facts which constitute the background of the life and thought of the Bible.
Kent, C. F., The Beginnings of Hebrew History and Israel's Historical and Biographical Narratives. (Vols. I and II of Student's Old Testament.) $2.75 each. Presents in a clear, modern translation the original sources incorporated in the historical books of the Old Testament, the origin and literary history of these books, and the important parallel Babylonian and Assyrian literature.
Kent, C. F., Biblical Geography and History. New York, $1.50. A clear portrayal of the physical characteristics of Palestine and of the potent influences which that land has exerted throughout the ages upon its inhabitants.
McFadyen, J. E., Messages of the Prophets and Priestly Historians. New York, $1,25. A fresh and effective interpretation of the historical and spiritual messages of the Old Testament historical books into the language and thought of to-day.
Smith, H. P., Old Testament History. New York, $2.50. A thorough, well-proportioned presentation of the unfolding of Israel's history.
Wilson, Woodrow, Constitutional Government in the United States. $1.50. A constructive judgment of the American constitution.
Seeley, J. R., Introduction to Political Science. $1.50. An effective example of the application of the historical methods to politics.
MAN'S PLACE IN THE WORLD.
THE STORY OF CREATION — Gen. 1 and 2.
Kent, Historical Bible, Vol. I, pp. 1-7, 231-3. Articles, "Evolution" and "Cosmogony," in Ency. Brit. or Inter. Ency., or any standard encyclopedia.
God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.—Gen. 1:27, 28.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, The moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him but little lower than God, And crownest him with glory and honor. Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thine hands, Thou hast put all things under his feet.—Ps. 8: 8-6.
God clothed men with strength like his own, And made them according to his own image. He put the fear of them upon all flesh, That they should have dominion over beasts and birds. Mouth and tongue, eyes and ears, And a mind with which to think he gave them; With insight and wisdom he filled their minds, Good and evil he taught them. Ben Sira. 17, 3-7 (Hist. Bible).
All things were made through him; and without him was not any thing made that hath been made.—John 1:3.
DIFFERENT THEORIES OF CREATION.
Every early people naturally asked the questions, How were things made? How were men created? First of all, Who made the world? They necessarily answered them according to their own dawning knowledge.
The most primitive races believed that some great animal created the earth and man. In the Alaskan collection in the museum of the University of Pennsylvania there is a huge crow, sitting upon the mask of a man's face. This symbolizes the crude belief of the Alaskan Indians regarding the way man was created. The early Egyptians thought that the earth and man were hatched out of an egg. In one part of Egypt it was held that the artisan god Ptah broke the egg with his hammer. In another part of the land and probably at a later date the tradition was current that Thoth the moon god spoke the world into existence. The earliest Babylonian record states that:
The god Marduk laid a reed on the face of the waters, He formed dust and poured it out beside the reed; That he might cause the gods to dwell in the dwellings of their heart's desire, He formed mankind.
Later he formed the grass and the rush of the marsh and the forest. Then he created the animals and their young.
The Parsee teachers held that the rival gods, Ahriman and Ormuzd, evolved themselves out of primordial matter and then through the long ages created their attendant hierarchies of angels. The philosophers of India anticipated in some respects our modern evolutionary theory. Brahma is thought of as self-existent and eternal. He gradually condenses himself into material objects, such as ether, fire, water, earth and the elements. Last of all he manifests himself in man. The Greek philosophers were the first to attempt to describe creation as a purely physical, generative process. They taught the evolution of the more complex from the simpler forms. Plato and Aristotle believed in a transcendental deity and found in the world indications of a vital impulse toward a higher manifestation of life—man.
Michael Angelo, with wonderful dramatic power, in his painting in the Sistine Chapel at Rome has portrayed how lifeless clay in form of man, when touched by the finger of God, by sheer vitalizing power is transformed into a living soul.
Very different yet equally impressive is the modern scientific view. The origin of matter and of life is so absolutely unknown that scientists have not as yet formulated definite theories concerning it. Even the theories regarding the origin of the solar system are still conflicting and none is generally accepted. The old nebular hypothesis is discredited and the theory of the spiral movement of the solar matter seems to be confirmed by phenomena observable in the heavens. The one principle generally held by scientists is that, given matter and life and some creating force, our present marvelous complex universe has come into being according to laws usually called natural. These laws are so invariable that they may be considered unchanging.
Even more definitely established is the so-called theory of evolution which is based on the careful observation and comparison of countless thousands of natural phenomena. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica it is the history of the physical process by which all living beings have acquired the characteristics, physical, mental, moral, and spiritual, which now distinguish them. It recognizes the gradual development from the simplest to the most complex forms. It is merely an attempt to describe in the light of careful observation and investigation the process of growth by which the world and the beings which inhabit it have grown into what they are.
A comparison of the Hebrew account of creation with those of other races and times is extremely suggestive.
THE PRIESTLY STORY OF CREATION.
Note that the first and second chapters of Genesis contain two distinct accounts of creation.
Read Genesis 1:1—2:3 (see Hist. Bib., I, pp. 231-3 for modern translation), noting its picture of conditions in the universe before the actual work of creation began. The creative power is the spirit or breath of God. The Hebrew word for spirit (ruah) represents the sound of the breath as it emerges from the mouth or the sound of the wind as it sighs through the trees. It is the effective symbol of a real and mighty force that cannot be seen or touched yet produces terrific effects, as when the cyclone rends the forest or transforms the sea into a mountain of billows and twists like straws the masts of wood and steel. In the Old Testament the "spirit of God" or the "spirit of the Holy One" is God working (1) in the material universe, as in the work of creation, (2) in human history, as when he directs the life of nations, or (3) in the lives of men.
Note the method of creation and the distinctive work of each day. The process is that of separation. It is orderly and progressive. The first three days of preparation in which (1) light and darkness, (2) air and water (separated by the firmament) and (3) land and vegetation are created, correspond to the work of the second three days in which are created (1) the heavenly bodies, (2) the birds and fishes (which live in the air and water) and (3) land animals and man. The underlying conception of the universe is that held by most early peoples. Compare the diagram in Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible I, 503 or Kent's Student's Old Testament, Vol. I, p. 52 which illustrates it.
God's benign plan is revealed by the recurring words: "God saw that it was good." What was the culminating act of creation? "Created man in his image" can not mean with a body like that of God (for in this story God is thought of as a spirit), but rather with a God-like spirit, mind, will, and power to rule.
THE EARLY PROPHETIC STORY OF CREATION.
The opening words of the second account of creation, which begins in the fourth verse of the second chapter of Genesis, imply that the earth and the heavens have already been created.
"In the day that Jehovah made earth and heaven, no plant of the field was yet on the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up, for Jehovah had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole face of the ground."
It is possible that here only a part of the original story is preserved. What is the order in the story of creation found in this second chapter? The method of man's creation?
According to this account, the tree of life was planted in the garden that man, while he lived there, might enjoy immortality. Was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil placed in the garden to develop man's moral nature by temptation or merely to inculcate obedience?
The love between the sexes is apparently implanted in all living beings primarily for the conservation of the species, but the early prophet also recognized clearly the broader intellectual and moral aspects of the relation. "It is not good for man to be alone" were the significant words of Jehovah. Hence animals, birds, and, last of all, woman, were created to meet man's innate social needs. Man's words on seeing woman were:
"This, now, is bone of my bone And flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called woman, For from man was she taken."
What fundamental explanation is here given of the institution of marriage? Compare Jesus' confirmation of this teaching in Matthew 19:4-5:
"And he answered and said, Have ye not read, that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and the two shall become one flesh?"
A COMPARISON OF THE TWO ACCOUNTS OF CREATION.
The account of creation found in the second chapter suggests the simple, direct ideas of a primitive people; while the account in Genesis 1 has the exact, repetitious, majestic literary style of a legal writer. Are the differences between these two accounts of creation greater than those between the parallel narratives in the Gospels? We recognize that the differences in detail between the Gospel accounts of the same event are due to the fact that no two narrators tell the same story in the same way. Are the variations between the two Biblical accounts of creation to be similarly explained? A growing body of Biblical scholars hold, though many differ in judgment, that the account in the first chapter of Genesis was written by a priestly writer who lived about four hundred B.C., and the second account four hundred years earlier by a patriotic, prophetic historian.
Observe that the two accounts agree in the following fundamental teachings: (1) One supreme God is the Creator; (2) man is closely akin to God; (3) all else is created for man's best and noblest development.
Is the primary aim of these accounts to present scientific facts or to teach religious truths? Paul says in Timothy that "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness." Is their religious value, even as in the parables of the New Testament, entirely independent of their historical or scientific accuracy? Is there any contradiction between the distinctive teachings of the Bible and modern science? Do not the Bible and science deal with two different but supplemental fields of life: the one with religion and morals, the other with the physical world?
MAN'S CONQUEST AND RULERSHIP OF THE WORLD.
In the story of Genesis 1 man is commanded to subdue the earth and to have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that creeps upon the earth. How far has man already subdued the animals and made them serve him? How far has he conquered the so-called natural forces and learned to utilize them? Is the latter day conquest of the air but a step in this progress? Are all inventions and developments of science in keeping with the purpose expressed in Genesis 1? Does the command imply the immediate or the gradual conquest of nature? Why? Do science and the Bible differ or agree in their answers to these questions?
MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY AS THE RULER OF THE WORLD.
Consider the different ways in which the Biblical accounts of creation state that man is akin to God. In the one account man was created in the image of God; in the other Jehovah formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils his own life-giving breath. In what sense is man God-like? Are all men "made in the image of God"? Does this story imply that every man has the right and capacity to become God-like?
A high official of China, whose power of authority extends to questions of life and death, is called "the father and mother of his people." If he fails in the responsibility which his authority imposes upon him, and the people in consequence create a disturbance, he is severely punished, sometimes by death. Does authority always imply responsibility? Of what value to man is the conquest of the forces of nature? President Roosevelt said that he considered the conservation of the natural resources of the United States the most important question before the American people. Is this political question also a religious question?
Why did God give man authority over the animal world? Does the responsibility that comes from this authority rest upon every man? One of the laws of the Boy Scouts reads:
"A scout is kind. He is a friend to animals. He will not kill nor hurt any living creature needlessly, but will strive to save and protect all harmless life." Is this a practical application of the teaching in Genesis 1?
If God's purpose is to make everything good, man's highest privilege, as well as duty, is to co-operate with him in realizing that purpose. Are men to-day as a whole growing happier and nobler? In what practical ways may a man contribute to the happiness and ennobling of his fellow men?
Is your community growing better? What would be the result if you and others like yourself did your best to improve conditions? If so, how?
Questions for Further Consideration.
Is man's possession of knowledge and power the ultimate object of creation? If not, what is? Does human experience suggest that man's life on earth is, in its ultimate meaning, simply a school for the development of individual character and for the perfecting of the human race?
Is there any other practical way in which a man can serve God except by serving his fellowmen? If so, how?
Subjects for Further Study.
(1) The Origin and Content of the Babylonian Stories of Creation.—Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible, 1, 501-7; Kent, Student's O. T., I, 360-9.
(2) The Relation of the Biblical Story of the Creation to the Babylonian.—Kent, Student's O. T., I, 369-70.
(3) The Seeming Conflict Between the Teachings of the Bible and Science and the Practical Reconciliation.—Sir Oliver Lodge: Science and Immortality, Section 1.
MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS ACTS.
THE STORY OF THE GARDEN OF EDEN.—Gen. 3.
Hist. Bible, Vol. I, 37-42. Drummond, Ideal Life, Chaps. on Sin.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eye, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened and they beard the voice of Jehovah God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah God amongst the trees of the garden.—Gen. 3:6-8.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been approved, he shall receive a crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man; but each man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is full grown, bringeth forth death.—James 1:12-15.
For the love of God is broader Than the measure of man's mind, And the heart of the eternal Is most wonderfully kind.—Frederick W. Faber.
None could enter into life but those who were in downright earnest and unless they left the wicked world behind them; for there was only room for body and soul, but not for body and soul and sin.—John Bunyan.
THE NATURE OF SIN.
Henry Drummond has said that sin is a little word that has wandered out of theology into life.
Members of a secret organization known as the Thugs of India feel at times that it is their solemn duty to strangle certain of their fellow men. Do they thereby commit a sin? A Parsee believes that it is wrong to light a cigar, for it is a desecration of his emblem of purity—fire. Others in the western world for very different reasons regard the same act as wrong. Is the lighting or smoking of a cigar a sin for these classes? Is the act necessarily wrong in itself?
When a trained dog fails to obey his master, does he sin? Is man alone capable of sinning?
THE DIFFERENT THEORIES REGARDING THE ORIGIN OF SIN.
Many and various have been the definitions of sin and the explanations of its origin. Most primitive peoples defined it as failure to perform certain ceremonial acts, or to bring tribute to the gods. Morality and religion were rarely combined. The Hebrew people were the first to define right and wrong in terms of personal life and service. Sin as represented in Genesis 3 was the result of individual choice. It was yielding to the common rather than the nobler impulses, to desire rather than to the sense of duty. The temptation came from within rather than from without, and the responsibility of not choosing the best rested with the individual. The explanation is as simple and as true to human experience to-day as in the childhood of the race.
The Persian religion, on the contrary, conceived of the world as controlled by two hostile gods, with their hosts of attendant angels. One god, Ormuzd, was the embodiment of light and goodness. The other, Ahriman, represented darkness and evil. They traced all sin to the direct influence of Ahriman and the evil spirits that attended him. During the Persian period a somewhat similar explanation of the origin of evil appeared in Jewish thought. Satan, who in the book of Job appears to be simply the prosecuting attorney of heaven, began to be thought of as the enemy of man, until in later times all sin was traced directly or indirectly to his influence. This was the conception prevalent among the Puritans. This view tended to relieve man of personal responsibility for he was regarded as the victim of assaults of hosts of malignant spirits. Does your knowledge of the heart of man confirm the insight of the prophet who speaks through the wonderful story of Genesis 3?
THE ORIGIN OF SIN ACCORDING TO THE STORY IN GENESIS 3.
In your judgment is the story of the man and the woman in Genesis 3 a chapter from the life of a certain man and woman, or a faithful reflection of universal human experience? Most of the elements which are found in the story may likewise be traced in earlier Semitic traditions. The aim of the prophet who has given us the story was, according to the view of certain interpreters, to present in vivid, concrete form the origin, nature, and consequences of sin. This method of teaching was similar to that which Jesus used, for example, in the parable of Dives and Lazarus. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, with the command not to eat of it, apparently symbolizes temptation. Is temptation necessary for man's moral development? The serpent was evidently chosen because of its reputation for craft and treachery. The serpent's words represent the natural inclinations that were struggling in the mind of the woman against her sense of duty. Note that in the story the temptation did not come to man through his appetite or his curiosity or his esthetic sense but through his wife whom God had given him. Was the man's act in any way excusable? Strong men and women often sin through the influence of those whom they love and admire. Are they thereby excused? What natural impulses impelled the woman to disobey the divine command? Were these impulses of themselves wrong? How far did her experience reflect common human experience? What was the real nature of her act? Was it wrong or praise-worthy for her to desire knowledge?
In what form did temptation come to the man in Genesis 3. Does temptation appeal in a different form to each individual? The Hebrew word for sin (which means to miss the mark placed before each individual) vividly and aptly describes the real nature of sin. The ideal placed before each individual represents his sense of what is right. If he acts contrary to that ideal or fails to strive to realize it, does he sin?
THE EFFECTS OF SIN UPON THE WRONG-DOER.
What was the effect of their consciousness of having disobeyed upon the man and woman in the ancient story? Did they believe that they had done wrong, or merely that they had incurred a penalty? Does sin tend to make cowards of men? Were the feelings of shame, and the sense of estrangement in the presence of one who loved them, the most tragic effect of their sin? When a child disobeys a parent or a friend wrongs a friend is the sense of having injured a loved one the most painful consequence of sin? Was the penalty imposed on the man and woman the result of a divine judgment or the natural and inevitable effect of wrong-doing? Why did the man and woman try to excuse their disobedience? Was it natural? Was it good policy? Was it right? If not, why not?
GOD'S ATTITUDE TOWARD THE SINNER.
Jehovah in the story evidently asked the man and woman a question, the answer to which he already knew, in order to give them an opportunity to confess their wrong-doing. Parents and teachers often seek to give the culprit the opportunity to confess his sin. What is the attitude of the law towards the criminal who pleads guilty? What is the reason for this attitude? A loving parent or even the state might forgive an unrepentant sinner, but the effect of the wrong-doing upon the sinner and upon others may still remain.
While the man and woman remained conscious of their wrong-doing, though defiant, to abide in Jehovah's presence was for them intolerable. Are toil and pain essential to the moral development of sinners who refuse to confess their crime? Are toil and pain in themselves curses or blessings to those who have done wrong? The picture in Genesis 3 clearly implies that God's intention was not that man should suffer but that he should enjoy perfect health and happiness. Jehovah's preparation of the coats of skin for the man and woman is convincing evidence that his love and care continued unremittingly even for the wrong doers. Modern psychology is making it clear that the effect of sin upon the unrepentant sinner is to increase his inclination toward sinning. But when a man in penitence for his sin has turned toward God and changed his relation to his fellow men, God becomes to him a new Being with a nearness and intimacy impossible before! May the Christian believe that this new sense of nearness and love to God is met by a corresponding feeling on God's part? In the light of Christian experience is there not every reason to believe that God himself also enters into a new and joyous relationship with the man? This thought was evidently in the mind of Jesus when be declared that there was joy in heaven over one sinner that repented.
THE EFFECT OF SIN UPON SOCIETY.
Men are often heard to remark that they are willing to bear the consequences of their sin. Is it possible for any individual to experience in himself the entire result of his wrong-doing? In the Genesis story the woman's deliberate disobedience would seem to have had very direct influence upon her husband. Mankind has almost universally come to regard certain acts as wrong and to prescribe definite modes of punishment. Such decisions have come about not simply because of the effect of sin upon the individual but more especially because the sin of the individual affects society. State the different influences that deter men from sin and note those which from your experience seem the strongest.
Questions for Further Consideration.
Is an act that is wrong for one man necessarily a sin if committed by another? Are men's tendencies to sin due to their inheritance or to impulses which they share in common with brutes, or to influences that come from their environment? In the light of this discussion formulate your own definition of sin.
Is the final test of sin a man's consciousness of guilt, or the ultimate effect of his act upon himself, or upon society?
May the woman in the Garden of Eden be regarded as the prototype of the modern scientist? Are there ways in which the scientist may sin in making his investigations? Illustrate. How about vivisection?
Does sin bring moral enlightenment? Distinguish between Jesus' attitude toward sin and toward the sinner. What should be our attitude toward the sinner?
If the man and woman had frankly confessed their sin, what, by implication, would have been the effect: first, upon themselves, and second, upon the attitude and action of God?
Does temptation to sin, as in the case of Adam, often come in the guise of virtue? What is the value of confession to the sinner? To society?
Subjects for Further Study.
(1) The Babylonian and Egyptian Idea of Sin. Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible, extra vol. 566-567; Breasted, History of Egypt, 173-175; Jastrow, Religion of the Babylonians and Assyrians, 313-327.
(2) Milton's Interpretation of Genesis 3 in Paradise Lost.
(3) The Right and Wrong of the Attempted Surrender of West Point from the Point of View of Benedict Arnold, Andre and Washington.
THE CRIMINAL AND HIS RELATION TO SOCIETY.
THE STORY OF CAIN.—Gen. 4:1-16.
Hist. Bible, Vol. 1, 42-46. Jenks, Prin. of Pol. 1-16. August Drahms, The Criminal.
Now in the course of time it came to pass, that Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground as an offering to Jehovah. And Abel also brought some of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat. And Jehovah looked favorably upon Abel and his offering: but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.
Therefore, Cain was very angry and his countenance fell. And Jehovah said to Cain,
Why art thou angry? And why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, is there not acceptance? But if thou doest not well, Does not sin crouch at the door? And to thee shall be its desire, But thou shouldst rule over it.
Then Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go into the field. And while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him.
And when Jehovah said to Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? he said, I, know not; am I my brother's keeper.—Gen. 4:3-9 (Hist. Bible).
And the Scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman taken in adultery; and having set her in the midst, they say unto Jesus, Teacher, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such: what then sayest thou of her? And this they said trying him, that they might have whereof to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground. And when they continued asking him, he lifted himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down and with his finger wrote on the ground. And they, when they heard it, went out one by one, beginning from the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. And Jesus lifted himself up and said unto her, Woman, where are they? Did no man condemn thee? And she said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn thee. Go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.—John 8:3-11.
Every experiment by multitudes or individuals that has a sensual or selfish aim will fail.—Emerson.
When you meet one of these men or women be to them a Divine man; be to them thought and virtue; let their timid aspirations find in you a friend; let their trampled instincts be genially tempted out in your atmosphere; let their doubts know that you have doubted, and their wonder feel that you have wondered.—Emerson.
But I still have a good heart and believe in myself and fellow men and the God who made us all.—Robert Louis Stevenson.
THE MEANING OF THE STORY OF CAIN.
In Arabia and Palestine to-day, as in the past, a man's prosperity or misfortune is universally regarded as the evidence of divine approval or disapproval. Even Jesus' disciples on seeing a blind man by the wayside, raised the question: "Did this man sin or his parents?" Among the Arabs of the desert the tribal mark, either tattooing or a distinctive way of cutting the hair, insures the powerful protection of the tribe. Each tribesman is under the most sacred obligation to protect the life of a member of his tribe, or to avenge, if need be with his own life-blood, every injury done him. Without the tribal mark a man becomes an outlaw. Many scholars, therefore, think that the mark placed upon Cain was not primarily a stigma proclaiming his guilt, but rather a token that protected him from violence at the hands of Jehovah's people and compelled them to avenge any wrongs that might befall him.
In the light of these facts would it not seem possible that Cain's character and conduct are the reason why his offering was not accepted?
What is the meaning and purpose of Jehovah's question, Where is Abel thy brother? Is it probable that in the question, Am I my brother's keeper, the writer intended to assert the responsibility of society for the acts of its members? In China where to-day, far more than in the West, there exists the responsibility of neighbors, those who fail to exert the proper influence over the character and conduct of a criminal neighbor often have their houses razed to the ground and the sites sown with salt. Is society responsible for producing criminals? How far am I personally responsible for my neighbor's acts?
THE MAKING OF A CRIMINAL.
Paul said, "All men have sinned." Are all men therefore criminals? What constitutes a criminal? Was Cain a criminal before he slew his brother? Legally? Morally?
Was Cain's motive in the worship of God truly religious or merely mercenary? This portrait of Cain illustrates the fact that formal religious worship does not necessarily deter a man from becoming a criminal. Sometimes men prominent in religious work become defaulters or commit other crimes. Does this story suggest the fundamental reason why great crimes are sometimes committed by religious leaders? The motive rather than the form is clearly the one thing absolutely essential in religious worship.
Was the slaying of Abel the result simply of jealousy or a sudden fit of anger or of a gradual deterioration of character? Compare the gradual development of the criminal instincts in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Think of the different influences tending to make criminals! Most criminals are made before they reach the age of twenty-one. The development of the criminal is the result either of wrong education or the lack of right education. Parents by their failure to guard carefully their children's associates and to develop in them habits of self-control, respect for the rights of others, and a sense of social and civic obligation, are perhaps more than any other class responsible for the growth of criminals. In what ways does the State through its negligence also contribute to the making of criminals?
THE CRIMINAL'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS SOCIETY.
Every criminal act is anti-social. Few if any criminals realize this fact. A superintendent of the Elmira Reformatory after years of experience said that he had never seen a criminal who felt remorse; while criminals usually regretted being caught, they always excused their crime. The criminal repudiates his social obligations, not acknowledging the fact that the basis of all society is the recognition of the rights of others. The thief often excuses his acts by asserting that society owes him a living. Is this position right or do you agree with the following statement? "The criterion of what is for the benefit of the community at large must be settled by the community itself, not by an individual. The citizen, then, may and must do what the community determines it is best for him to do; he must stand in the forefront of battle if so ordered. He must not do what the State forbids; he may be deprived of liberty and life if he does."— Jenks.
THE WAYS IN WHICH SOCIETY DEALS WITH THE CRIMINAL.
Cain's punishment was banishment rather than imprisonment. What was the fate that Cain specially feared? Cain and Abel in the original story, some writers believe, represented tribes (see Hist. Bible, I, 44). Among nomadic peoples in the early East, as to-day, the punishment of murder was left to the family or tribe of the murdered man. Was this just or effective? The same crude method of avenging wrongs is found in the vendetta of Italy and the family feuds in certain sparsely settled regions in the United States. The survival of this institution is to-day one of the greatest obstacles to civilization in those regions. Why?
In most criminal legislation the chief emphasis is placed on punishment. For example, thieves are punished with imprisonment. Why? A radical change in public opinion is now taking place. The prevailing method of dealing with crimes advocated by penologists to-day is the protection of society if possible by the reform of the criminal. Does this method protect society effectually? Why is it that criminals generally prefer a definite term in prison rather than an indefinite sentence with the possibility of release in less than half the time? Which method of treatment is best in the end for the wrong-doer?
It is important to distinguish clearly between the private and the official attitude toward the criminal. As individuals, who cannot know the motives, we should heed the maxim of Jesus: "Judge not!" As public officials whose duty it is to protect society, we are under obligation to deal firmly and effectively with the criminal. What would probably have been the result had Cain confessed his crime? God was far more lenient even with the unrepentant Cain than were his fellow men. Did God, however, remit Cain's sentence? Cain said, "I shall become a fugitive and a wanderer on the face of the earth." Was this sense of being an outcast the most painful element in Cain's punishment? All crime thus in a sense brings its own punishment. If in placing upon Cain a tribal mark, thereby protecting him from being killed, God apparently aimed to give him an opportunity to reform, the clear implication is that the divine love and care still follow him. That love and that care never cease toward even the most depraved. Compare Jesus' attitude toward the criminal, as illustrated in his ministry and especially in his dealing with the woman taken in adultery. His forgiveness of the woman's sin did not cancel the social results, but gave her a new basis for right living in the future. She realized that some one believed in her. Is this one of the most important influences to-day in assisting weak men and in redeeming criminals? Henry Drummond when asked the secret of his success with men said, "I love men."
HOW TO DEAL WITH CRIMINALS.
The purpose of criminal legislation and administration is clearly the protection of society. The criminals are punished, not for the mere sake of the punishment or for vengeance, but to deter them from further crime or to serve as a warning to others. Only on this account can punishment be justified.
To prove an effective warning the punishment for crime should be certain, prompt and just. For these reasons effective police, upright judges and fair methods of procedure are absolutely essential. Efforts should be made not to influence the courts by public opinion, and the pernicious prejudgment of cases by popular newspapers should be discountenanced.
The surest method of stopping a criminal's dangerous activity is to reform him; to give him a new and absorbing interest. Experience at our best reformatories shows that with the indeterminate sentence a very large majority of young criminals can be transformed into safe and useful citizens. This method is both cheaper and more effective than direct punishment for fixed terms.
THE PREVENTION OF CRIME.
The best method of dealing with crime is that of prevention. The work of protecting society against crime should begin with arousing parents to the sense of their responsibilities and by training them thoroughly in the duties of parenthood. Philanthropic agencies, the church, the schools, the State, may do much both by training character and by removing temptation. The maintenance of good economic conditions, provision for wholesome amusements, improved sanitation, all tend to remove pernicious influences and strengthen the power of resistance to temptation. The public press and the theatre, which are at times exceedingly harmful agencies, may be and should be transformed into active moral forces. In furthering all these reform measures and preventive movements each individual has a personal responsibility, and, as an active citizen, he may render most important service. The home, the school, the church and the State, all touch the individual on every side and create and together control the influences that make or unmake character.
Questions for Further Consideration.
What was the effect of Cain's anger upon his own life?
Gladstone said, "I do not have time to hate anybody."
In what way do anger and hatred hamper one's greatest usefulness? Do you believe in the modern theories regarding the effect of jealousy and hatred upon the body?
Is capital punishment at times a necessity?
What is the most effective argument which can be used to restore honor and manhood to a criminal?
Is there any particular agency at work in your community to assist men who have committed crimes?
Is the chief object of punishment to avenge the wrong, to punish the criminal, to deter others from committing similar crimes, or to reclaim the wrong-doer?
Subjects for Further Study.
(1) The Effect of the Semitic Law of Blood-revenge upon (a) the criminal, (b) society and (c) possible criminals. Kent, Israel's Laws and Legal Precedents, 91, 114-116; Smith, Religion of the Semites, 72, 420.
(2) Mrs. Ballington Booth's Work for Released Prisoners. After Prison—What?
(3) The Practical Effects of the Indeterminate Sentence. Reports of the Prison Reform Association.
(4) Influence of Contract Prison Labor. American Magazine, 1912, Jan., Feb., Mar., April.
THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.
THE STORY OF THE GREAT FLOOD.—Gen. 6-8.
Hist. Bible I, 52-65. Darwin, Origin of Species; Wallace, Darwinism; 3. William Dawson, Modern Ideas of Evolution; Article Evolution in leading encyclopedias.
When Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every purpose in the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually, it was a source of regret that he had made man on the earth and it grieved him to his heart. Therefore Jehovah said, I will destroy from the face of the ground man whom I have created, for I regret that I have made mankind.
Then Jehovah said to Noah, enter thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee I have found righteous before me in this generation.
And Noah did according to all that Jehovah commanded him.
Then Jehovah destroyed everything that existed upon the face of the ground, both man and animals, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens, so that they were destroyed from the earth; and Noah only was left and they who were with him in the ark.—Gen. 6:5-8; 7:1, 5, 23 (Hist. Bible).
And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing with God; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him. By faith Noah, being warned of God concerning things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house, through which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.—Heb. 11:6, 7.
Rare is the man who can look back over his life and not confess, at least to himself, that the things which have made him most a man are the very things from which he tried with all his soul to escape.
If we would attain happiness, We must first attain helpfulness.
But stay! no age was e'er degenerate Unless men held it at too cheap a rate, For in our likeness still we shape our fate. —Lowell.
THE TWO BIBLICAL ACCOUNTS OF THE FLOOD.
Careful readers of Genesis 6-9 have long recognized certain difficulties in interpreting the narrative as it now stands. Thus, for example, in 6:20 Noah is commanded to take into the ark two of every kind of beast and bird; but in 7:2, 3 he is commanded to take in seven of all the clean beasts and birds. According to 7:4, 12 the flood came as the result of a forty days' rain; but according to 7:11 it was because the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened. Again, according to 7:17, the flood continued on the earth forty days; while according to 7:24 its duration was a hundred and fifty days.
These fundamental variations and the presence of duplicate versions of the same incidents point, some writers think, to two originally distinct accounts of the flood which have been closely woven together by the final editor of the book of Genesis. When these two accounts are disentangled, they are each practically complete and apparently represent variant versions of the same flood story. (See Hist. Bible, I, 53-56, for these two parallel accounts.) The one, known as the prophetic version, was written, these writers believe, about 650 B.C. It has the flowing, vivid, picturesque, literary style and the point of view of the prophetic teacher. In this account the number seven prevails. Seven of each clean beast and bird are taken into the ark to provide food for Noah and his family. Seven days the waters rose, and at intervals of seven days he sent out a raven and a dove. The flood from its beginning to the time when Noah disembarked continued sixty-eight days. At the end, when he had determined by sending out birds that the waters had subsided, he went forth from the ark and reared an altar and offered sacrifice to Jehovah of every clean beast and bird.
The other and more detailed account is apparently the sequel of the late priestly narratives found in Genesis 1 and 5. The style is that of a legal writer—formal, exact and repetitious. In this account only two of each kind of beast and bird are taken into the ark. The flood lasts for over a year and is universal, covering even the tops of the highest mountains. No animals are sacrificed, for according to the priestly writer this custom was first instituted by Moses. When the flood subsides, however, a covenant is concluded and is sealed by the rainbow in accordance with which man's commission to rule over all other living things is renewed and divine permission is given to each to eat of the flesh of animals, provided only that men carefully abstain from eating the blood. This later account is dated by this group of modern Biblical scholars about 400 B.C.
THE CORRESPONDING BABYLONIAN FLOOD STORIES.
Closely parallel to these two variant Biblical accounts of the flood are the two Babylonian versions, which have fortunately been almost wholly recovered. The older Babylonian account is found in the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh epic, which comes from the library of Asshurbanipal. This great conqueror lived contemporaneously with Manasseh during whose reign Assyrian influence was paramount in the kingdom of Judah. In his quest for healing and immortality Gilgamesh reached the abode of the Babylonian hero of the flood. In response to Gilgamesh's question as to how he, a mortal, attained immortality the Babylonian Noah recounts the story of the flood. It was brought about by the Babylonian gods in order to destroy the city of Shurippak, situated on the banks of the Euphrates. The god Ea gave the warning to his worshipper, the hero of the flood, and commanded him:
Construct a house, build a ship, Leave goods, look after life, Forsake possessions, and save life, Cause all kinds of living things to go up into the ship. The ship which thou shalt build,— Exact shall be its dimensions: Its breadth shall equal its length; On the great deep launch it. I understood and said to Ea, my lord: "Behold, my lord, what thou hast commanded, I have reverently received and will carry out."
A detailed account then follows of the building of the ark. Its dimensions were one hundred and twenty cubits in each direction. It was built in six stories, each of which was divided into nine parts. Plentiful provisions were next carried on board and a great feast was held to commemorate the completion of the ark. After carrying on board his treasures of silver and gold he adds:
All the living creatures of all kinds I loaded on it. I brought on board my family and household; Cattle of the field, beasts of the field, the craftsmen, All of them I brought on board.
In the evening at the command of the god Shamash the rains began to descend. Then the Babylonian Noah entered the ship and closed the door and entrusted the great house with its contents to the captain. The description of the tempest that follows is exceedingly vivid and picturesque.
When the first light of dawn shone forth, There rose from the horizon a dark cloud, within which Adad thundered, Nabu and Marduk marched at the front, The heralds passed over mountains and land; Nergal tore out the ship's mast, Ninib advanced, following up the attack, The spirits of earth raised torches, With their sheen they lighted up the world. Adad's tempest reached to heaven, And all light was changed to darkness. So great was the havoc wrought by the storm that The gods bowed down, sat there weeping, Close pressed together were their lips.
For six days and nights the storm raged, but on the seventh day it subsided and the flood began to abate. Of the race of mortals, however, every voice was hushed. At last the ship approached the mountain Nisir which lay on the northern horizon, as viewed from the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Here the ship grounded. Then,
When the seventh day arrived, I sent forth a dove and let it loose, The dove went forth, but came back; Because it found no resting-place, it returned: Then I sent forth a swallow, but it came back; Because it found no resting-place, it returned. Then I sent forth a raven and let it loose, The raven went forth and saw that the waters had decreased; It fed, it waded, it croaked, but did not return. Then I sent forth everything in all directions, and offered a sacrifice, I made an offering of incense on the highest peak of the mountain, Seven and seven bowls I placed there, And over them I poured out calamus, cedar wood and fragrant herbs. The gods inhaled the odor, The gods inhaled the sweet odor, The gods gathered like flies above the sacrifice.
At the intercession of Ea, the Babylonian Noah and his wife were granted immortality and permitted "to dwell in the distance at the confluence of the streams."
A later version of the same Babylonian flood story is quoted by Eusebius from the writings of the Chaldean priest Berossus who lived about the fourth century B.C. According to this version the god Kronos appeared in a dream to Xisuthros, the hero, who, like Noah in the priestly account, was the last of the ten ancient Babylonian kings. At the command of the god he built a great ship fifteen stadia long and two in width. Into this he took not only his family and provisions, but quadrupeds and birds of all kinds. When the flood began to recede, he sent out a bird, which quickly returned. After a few days he sent forth another bird, which returned with mud on its feet. When the third bird failed to return, he took off the cover of the ship and found that it had stranded on a mountain of Armenia. The mountain in the Biblical account is identified with Mount Ararat. Disembarking, the Babylonian Noah kissed the earth and, after building an altar, offered a sacrifice to the gods.
Thus the variations between the older and later Babylonian accounts of the flood correspond in general to those that have been already noted in the Biblical versions. Which Biblical account does the earliest Babylonian narrative resemble most closely? In what details do they agree? Are these coincidences merely accidental or do they point possibly to a common tradition? How far do the later Biblical and Babylonian accounts agree? What is the significance of these points of agreement?
HISTORY OF THE BIBLICAL FLOOD STORIES.
On the basis of the preceding comparisons some writers attempt to trace tentatively the history of the flood tradition current among the peoples of southwestern Asia. A fragment of the Babylonian flood story, coming from at least as early as 2000 B.C., has recently been discovered. The probability is that the tradition goes back to the earliest beginnings of Babylonian history. The setting of the Biblical accounts of the flood is also the Tigris-Euphrates valley rather than Palestine. The description of the construction of the ark in Genesis 6:14-16 is not only closely parallel to that found in the Babylonian account, but the method—the smearing of the ark within and without with bitumen—is peculiar to the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Many scholars believe, therefore, that Babylonia was the original home of the Biblical flood story.
Its exact origin, however, is not so certain. Many of its details were doubtless suggested by the annual floods and fogs which inundate that famous valley and recall the primeval chaos so vividly pictured in the corresponding Babylonian story of the creation. It may have been based on the remembrances of a great local inundation, possibly due to the subsidence of great areas of land. In the earliest Hebrew records there is no trace of this tradition, although it may have been known to the Aramean ancestors of the Hebrews. The literary evidence, however, suggests that it was first brought to Palestine by the Assyrians. During the reactionary reign of Manasseh, Assyrian customs and Baylonian ideas, which these conquerors had inherited, inundated Judah. Even in the temple at Jerusalem the Babylonians' gods, the host of heaven, were worshipped by certain of the Hebrews. The few literary inscriptions which come from this period, those found in the mound at Gezer, are written in the Assyrian script and contain the names of Assyrian officials.
Later when the Jewish exiles were carried to Babylonia, they naturally came into contact again with the Babylonian account of the flood, but in its later form, as the comparisons already instituted clearly indicate. It is thus possible, these scholars believe, to trace, in outline at least, the literary history of the Semitic flood story in its various transformations through a period of nearly two thousand years.
AIM OF THE BIBLICAL WRITERS IN RECOUNTING THE FLOOD STORY.
The practical question which at once suggests itself is, What place or right has this ancient Semitic tradition, if such it is, among the Biblical narratives? At best the historical data which it preserves are exceedingly small and of doubtful value. Is it possible that the prophetic and priestly historians found these stories on the lips of the people and sought in this heroic way to divest them of their polytheistic form and, in certain respects, immoral implications? A minute comparison of the Babylonian and Biblical accounts indicates that this may perhaps be precisely what has been done; but the majestic, just God of the Biblical narratives is far removed from the capricious, intriguing gods of the Babylonian tradition, who hang like flies over the battlements of heaven, stupefied with terror because of the destruction which they had wrought.
Each of the Biblical narrators seems to be seeking also by means of these illustrations to teach certain universal moral and religious truths. In this respect the two variant Biblical narratives are in perfect agreement. The destruction of mankind came not as the fiat of an arbitrary Deity, but because of the purpose which God had before him in the work of creation, and because that purpose was good. Men by their sins and wilful failure to observe his benign laws were thwarting that purpose. Hence in accord with the just laws of the universe their destruction was unavoidable, and it came even as effect follows cause. On the other hand, these ancient teachers taught with inimitable skill that God would not destroy that which was worthy of preservation.
In each of the accounts the character of Noah stands in striking contrast with those of his contemporaries. The story as told is not merely an illustration of the truth that righteousness brings its just reward, but of the profounder principle that it is the morally fit who survive. In both of the versions Noah in a very true sense represents the beginning of a new creation: he is the traditional father of a better race. To him are given the promises which God was eager to realize in the life of humanity. In the poetic fancy of the ancient East even the resplendent rainbow, which proclaimed the return of the sun after the storm, was truly interpreted as evidence of God's fatherly love and care for his children. In the light of these profound religious teachings may any one reasonably question the right of these stories to a place in the Bible? Did not Jesus himself frequently use illustrations drawn from earlier history or from nature to make clear his teachings? Is it not evidence of superlative teaching skill to use that which is familiar and, therefore, of interest to those taught, in order to inculcate the deeper moral and religious truths of life?
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST IN THE NATURAL WORLD.
It is interesting and illuminating to note how the ancient Hebrew prophets in their religious teaching forecast the discoveries and scientific methods of our day. This was because they had grasped universal principles.
Since the memorable evening in July, 1858, in which the views of Darwin and Wallace on the principles of variation and selection in the natural world were sent to the Linnaean Society in London, the leading scientists have laid great stress upon the doctrine of the survival of the "fittest" as the true explanation of progress in the natural world. It was apparently made clear by Darwin, and supported by sufficient evidence, that "any being, if it vary however slightly, in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and somewhat varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected."
This principle, since that day, has been thoroughly worked out in practically all the important fields of both the plant and animal world. Moreover, the doctrine of evolution, dependent upon this principle, has exerted so great an influence upon the process of investigation and thinking in all fields of activity that the resulting change in method has amounted to a revolution. The principle is applied not only in the field of biology, but also in the realm of astronomy, where we study the evolution of worlds, and in psychology, history, social science, where we speak of the development of human traits and of the growth of economic, political and social institutions.
It is necessary to remember in applying such a brief statement of a principle, that the words are used in a highly technical sense. The word "fittest" by no means need imply the best from the point of view of beauty or strength or usefulness in nature; nor does it necessarily mean, in reference to society, best from the point of view of morals or a higher civilization. Rather the "fittest" means the being best adapted to the conditions under which it is living, or to its environment. As a matter of fact, it is the general opinion that in practically all fields this principle works toward progress in the highest and best sense; but it is always a matter for specific study as well as of great scientific interest and importance, to determine where and how the variation and the corresponding selection tend to promote the morally good. Especially is this true in the study of society, where we should endeavor to see whether or not the "fittest" means also the highest from the moral and religious point of view.
The story of the flood gives us a most interesting example of the way in which the ancient Hebrews looked upon such a process of selection in the moral and religious world and taught it as a divine principle. It is, therefore, one of the most suggestive and interesting of the writings of the early Israelites.
THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST IN SOCIAL AND POLITICAL LIFE.
From our modern point of view, the ancient Hebrew writers had a far deeper knowledge of moral and religious questions than of natural science. They had a far keener sense of what was socially beneficial than of what was scientifically true. However we may estimate their knowledge of geology and biology, we must grant that their beliefs regarding the good and ill effects of human action have in them much that is universally true, even though we may not follow them throughout in their theories of divine wrath and immediate earthly punishment of the wicked.
But is it not true almost invariably, if we look at social questions of every kind in a comprehensive way, that the survival of the fittest means the survival of the morally best? That the religion which endures is of the highest type? Business success in the long run, is so strongly based upon mutual confidence and trust, that, especially in these later days of credit organization, the dishonest man or even the tricky man cannot prosper long. A sales manager of a prominent institution said lately that the chief difficulty that he had with his men was to make them always tell the truth. For the sake of making an important sale they were often inclined to misrepresent his goods. "But nothing," he added, "will so surely kill all business as misrepresentation." Even a gambling book-maker on the race tracks in New York, before such work was forbidden by law, is said to have proudly claimed that absolute justice and honesty toward his customers was essential to his success and had therefore become the rule of his life. Although it is sometimes said that the man who guides his life by the maxim, "Honesty is the best policy," is in reality not honest at heart, it must nevertheless be granted that in business the survival of the fittest means the survival of the most honest business man.
It may perhaps have been true in the days of Machiavelli that cruelty and treachery would aid the unscrupulous petty despot of Italy to secure and at times to maintain his dukedom; but certainly in modern days, when in all civilized countries permanently prosperous government is based ultimately upon the will of the people, the successful ruler can no longer be treacherous and cruel. Even among our so-called "spoils" politicians and corrupt bosses, who hold their positions by playing upon the selfishness of their followers and the ignorance and apathy of the public, there must be rigid faithfulness to promises, and, at any rate, the appearance of promoting the public welfare. Otherwise their term of power is short.
If we look back through the history of modern times, we shall find that the statesmen who rank high among the successful rulers of their countries are men of unselfish patriotism, and almost invariably men of personal uprightness and morality, and usually of deep religious feeling. Think over the names of the great men of the United States, and note their characters. Pick out the leading statesmen of the last half century in England, Germany and Italy. Do they not all stand for unselfish, patriotic purpose in their actions, and in character for individual honor and integrity?
The same is true in our social intercourse. Brilliancy of intellect, however important in many fields of activity, counts for relatively little in home and social life, if not accompanied by graciousness of manner, kindness of heart, uprightness of character. It may sometimes seem that the brilliant rascal succeeds, that the unscrupulous business man becomes rich, and that the hypocrite prospers through his hypocrisy. If all society were made up of men of these low moral types, would such cases perhaps be more often found than now? In a society of hypocrites, would the fittest for survival be the most skilful deceiver? Or, even there, would the adage, "There must be honor among thieves," hold, when it came to permanent organization? But, whatever your answer, society fortunately is not made up of hypocrites or rascals of any kind. With all the weakness of human nature found in every society, the growing success of the rule of the people throughout the world proves that fundamentally men and women are honest and true. Generally common human nature is for the right. Almost universally, if a mooted question touching morals can be put simply and squarely before the people, they will see and choose the right.
Fortunate it is for the world that the lessons taught by the early Hebrew writers regarding the survival of the moral and upright are true, and that good sense and religion both agree that in the long run, honor and virtue and righteousness not only pay the individual, but are essential to the prosperity of a nation.
Questions for Further Consideration.
Had most primitive peoples a tradition regarding the flood? How do you explain the striking points of similarity between the flood stories of peoples far removed from each other?
Is there geological evidence that the earth, during human history, has been completely inundated?
What do you mean by a calamity? Is it a mere accident, or an essential factor in the realization of the divine purpose in human history?
Are appalling calamities, like floods and earthquakes, the result of the working out of natural laws? Are they unmitigated evils? Were the floods in China and the plagues in India, which destroyed millions of lives, seemingly essential to the welfare of the surviving inhabitants of those overpopulated lands?
What were the effects of the Chicago fire and the San Francisco earthquake upon these cities? How far was the development of the modern commission form of city government one of the direct results of the Galveston flood?
To what extent is the modern progress in sanitation due to natural calamities? What calamities?
Is a great calamity often necessary to arouse the inhabitants of a city or nation to the development of their resources and to the realisation of their highest possibilities? What illustrations can you cite?
How do changes in the environment of men affect the moral quality of their acts? How do circumstances affect the kind of act that will be successful? During the Chinese revolution of 1912 in Peking and Nanking, looting leaders of mobs and plundering soldiers when captured were promptly decapitated without trial. Was such an act right? Was it necessary? What conditions would justify such an act in the United States? Would the same act tend equally to preserve the government in both countries?
Subjects for Further Study.
(1) Flood Stories among Primitive Peoples. Worcester, Genesis 361-373; Hastings, Dict. of Bible Vol. II, 18-22; Extra Vol. 181-182; Encyc. Brit.
(2) The Scientific Basis of the Biblical Account of the Flood. Ryle, Early Narratives of Gen. 112-113; Davis, Gen. and Semitic Traditions 130-131; Driver, Genesis 82-83, 99; Sollas, Age of the Earth, 316 ff.
(3) Compare the treatment accorded their rivals and competitors for power in their various fields by the following persons: Solomon, Caesar Borgia, the late Empress Dowager of China (Tz'u-hsi), Bismarck, the great political leaders of today in Great Britain and the United States and the modern combinations of capital known as trusts.
I Kings 1; Machiavelli, The Prince; Douglas, Europe and the Far East, Ch. 17.
Did these different methods under the special circumstances result in the survival of the fittest? The fittest morally?
THE PIONEER'S INFLUENCE UPON A NATION'S IDEALS.
ABRAHAM, THE TRADITIONAL FATHER OF HIS RACE.—Gen. 12:1-8; 13:1-13; 16; 18, 19; 21:7; 22:1-19.
Hist. Bible I, 73-94. Prin of Pol., 160-175.
Jehovah said to Abraham, Go forth from thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, to the land that I will show thee, that I may make of thee a great nation; and I will surely bless thee, and make thy name great, so that thou shalt be a blessing, I will also bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse, so that all the families of the earth shall ask for themselves a blessing like thine own. So Abraham went forth, as Jehovah had commanded him.—Gen. 12:1-4. (Hist. Bible.)
By faith Abraham when he was called, obeyed to go out into a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out not knowing whither he went. By faith he became a sojourner in the land of promise as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he looked for the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.—Heb. 11:8-10.
He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it—Matt. 10:39.
THE PROPHETIC STORIES ABOUT ABRAHAM.
Many Biblical scholars claim that the data point to variant versions of the different stories about Abraham. Thus, for example, there are two accounts of his deceptions regarding Sarah, one in 12:9-13:1, and the other in 20:1-17. The oldest version of the story they believe is found in 26:1-14 and is told not of Abraham but of Isaac, whose character it fits far more consistently. Similarly there are three accounts of the covenant with Abimelech (Gen. 21:22-31, 21:25-34, and 26:15-33). The two accounts of the expulsion of Hagar and the birth of Ishmael, in Genesis 16:1-16 and 21:1-20 differ rather widely in details. In one account Hagar is expelled and Ishmael is born after the birth of Isaac, and in the other before that event. Do these variant versions indicate that they were drawn from different groups of narratives? The differences in detail are in general closely parallel to those which the New Testament student finds in the different accounts of the same events or teachings in the life of Jesus. They suggest to many that the author of the book of Genesis was eager to preserve each and every story regarding Abraham. Instead, however, of preserving intact the different groups of stories, as in the case of the Gospels, they have been combined with great skill. Sometimes, as in the case of the expulsion of Hagar, the two versions are introduced at different points in the life of the patriarch. More commonly the two or more versions are closely interwoven, giving a composite narrative that closely resembles Tatian's Diatessaron which was one continuous narrative of the life and teachings of Jesus, based on quotations from each of the four Gospels. Fortunately, if this theory is right, the group of stories most fully quoted and therefore best preserved is the early Judean prophetic narratives. When these are separated from the later parallels they give a marvelously complete and consistent portrait of Abraham.