WHO WROTE THE BIBLE?
I. A LOOK INTO THE HEBREW BIBLE II. WHAT DID MOSES WRITE? III. SOURCES OF THE PENTATEUCH IV. THE EARLIER HEBREW HISTORIES V. THE HEBREW PROPHECIES VI. THE LATER HEBREW HISTORIES VII. THE POETICAL BOOKS VIII. THE EARLIER NEW TESTAMENT WRITINGS IX. THE ORIGIN OF THE GOSPELS X. NEW TESTAMENT HISTORY AND PROPHECY XI. THE CANON XII. HOW THE BOOKS WERE WRITTEN XIII. HOW MUCH IS THE BIBLE WORTH?
WHO WROTE THE BIBLE?
A LOOK INTO THE HEBREW BIBLE.
The aim of this volume is to put into compact and popular form, for the benefit of intelligent readers, the principal facts upon which scholars are now generally agreed concerning the literary history of the Bible. The doctrines taught in the Bible will not be discussed; its claims to a supernatural origin will not be the principal matter of inquiry; the book will concern itself chiefly with those purely natural and human agencies which have been employed in writing, transcribing, editing, preserving, transmitting, translating, and publishing the Bible.
The writer of this book has no difficulty in believing that the Bible contains supernatural elements. He is ready to affirm that other than natural forces have been employed in producing it. It is to these superhuman elements in it that reference and appeal are most frequently made. But the Bible has a natural history also. It is a book among books. It is a phenomenon among phenomena. Its origin and growth in this world can be studied as those of any other natural object can be studied. The old apple-tree growing in my garden is the witness to me of some transcendent truths, the shrine of mysteries that I cannot unravel. What the life is that was hidden in the seed from which it sprang, and that has shaped all its growth, coordinating the forces of nature, and producing this individual form and this particular variety of fruit,— this I do not know. There are questions here that no man of science can answer. Life in the seed of the apple as well as in the soul of man is a mystery. But there are some things about the apple-tree that may be known. I may know—if any one has been curious enough to keep the record—when the seed was planted, when the shoot first appeared above the ground, how many branches it had when it was five years old, how high it was when it was ten years old, when this limb and that twig were added, when the first blossom appeared, when that branch was grafted and those others were trimmed off. All this knowledge I may have gained; and in setting forth these facts, or such as these, concerning the natural history of the tree, I do not assume that I am telling all about the life that is in it. In like manner we may study the origin and growth of the Bible without attempting to decide the deeper questions concerning the inspiration of its writers and the meaning of the truths they reveal.
That the Bible has a natural as well as a supernatural history is everywhere assumed upon its pages. It was written as other books are written, and it was preserved and transmitted as other books are preserved and transmitted. It did not come into being in any such marvelous way as that in which Joseph Smith's "Book of Mormon," for example, is said to have been produced. The story is, that an angel appeared to Smith and told him where he would find this book; that he went to the spot designated, and found in a stone box a volume six inches thick, composed of thin gold plates, eight inches by seven, held together by three gold rings; that these plates were covered with writing in the "Reformed Egyptian" tongue, and that with this book were "the Urim and the Thummim," a pair of supernatural spectacles, by means of which he was able to read and translate this "Reformed Egyptian" language. This is the sort of story which has been believed, in this nineteenth century, by tens of thousands of Mormon votaries. Concerning the books of the Bible no such astonishing stories are told. Nevertheless some good people seem inclined to think that if such stories are not told, they might well be; they imagine that the Bible must have originated in a manner purely miraculous; and though they know very little about its origin, they conceive of it as a book that was written in heaven in the English tongue, divided there into chapters and verses, with head lines and reference marks, printed in small pica, bound in calf, and sent down to earth by angels in its present form. What I desire to show is, that the work of putting the Bible into its present form was not done in heaven, but on earth; that it was not done by angels, but by men; that it was not done all at once, but a little at a time, the work of preparing and perfecting it extending over several centuries, and employing the labors of many men in different lands and long-divided generations. And this history of the Bible as a book, and of the natural and human agencies employed in producing it, will prove, I trust, of much interest to those who care to study it.
Mr. Huxley has written a delightful treatise on "A Piece of Chalk," and another on "The Crayfish;" a French writer has produced an entertaining volume entitled "The Story of a Stick;" the books of the Bible, considered from a scientific or bibliographical point of view, should repay our study not less richly than such simple, natural objects.
A great amount of study has been expended of late on the Scriptures, and the conclusions reached by this study are of immense importance. What is called the Higher Criticism has been busy scanning these old writings, and trying to find out all about them. What is the Higher Criticism? It is the attempt to learn from the Scriptures themselves the truth about their origin. It consists in a careful study of the language of the books, of the manners and customs referred to in them, of the historical facts mentioned by them; it compares part with part, and book with book, to discover agreements, if they exist, and discrepancies, that they may be reconciled. This Higher Criticism has subjected these old writings to such an analysis and inspection as no other writings have ever undergone. Some of this work has undoubtedly been destructive. It has started out with the assumption that these books are in no respect different from other sacred books; that they are no more a revelation from God than the Zendavesta or the Nibelungen Lied is a revelation from God; and it has bent its energies to discrediting, in every way, the veracity and the authority of our Scriptures. But much of this criticism has been thoroughly candid and reverent, even conservative in its temper and purpose. It has not been unwilling to look at the facts; but it has held toward the Bible a devout and sympathetic attitude; it believes it to contain, as no other book in the world contains, the message of God to men; and it has only sought to learn from the Bible itself how that message has been conveyed. It is this conservative criticism whose leadership will be followed in these studies. No conclusions respecting the history of these writings will be stated which are not accepted by conservative scholars. Nevertheless it must be remembered that the results of conservative scholarship have been very imperfectly reported to the laity of the churches. Many facts about the Bible are now known by intelligent ministers of which their congregations do not hear. An anxious and not unnatural feeling has prevailed that the faith of the people in the Bible would be shaken if the facts were known. The belief that the truth is the safest thing in the world, and that the things which cannot be shaken will remain after it is all told, has led to the preparation of this volume.
I have no doubt, however, that some of the statements which follow will fall upon some minds with a shock of surprise. The facts which will be brought to light will conflict very sharply with some of the traditional theories about the Bible. Some of my readers may be inclined to fear that the foundations of faith are giving way. Let me, at the outset, request all such to suspend their judgment and read the book through before they come to such a conclusion. Doubtless it will be necessary to make some readjustment of theories; to look at the Bible less as a miraculous and more as a spiritual product; to put less emphasis upon the letter and more upon the spirit; but after all this is done it may appear that the Bible is worth more to us than it ever was before, because we have learned how rightly to value it.
The word "Bible" is not a biblical word. The Old Testament writings were in the hands of the men who wrote the books of the New Testament, but they do not call these writings the Bible; they name them the Scriptures, the Holy Scriptures, the Sacred Writings, or else they refer to them under the names that were given to specific parts of them, as the Law, the Prophets, or the Psalms. Our word Bible comes from a word which began to be applied to the sacred writings as a whole about four hundred years after Christ. It is a Greek plural noun, meaning the books, or the little books. These writings were called by this plural name for about eight hundred years; it was not till the thirteenth century that they began to be familiarly spoken of as a single book. This fact, of itself, is instructive. For though a certain spiritual unity does pervade these sacred writings, yet they are a collection of books, rather than one book. The early Christians, who honored and prized them sufficiently, always spoke of them as "The Books," rather than as "The Book,"—and their name was more accurate than ours.
The names Old and New Testament are Bible words; that is to say we find the names in our English Bibles, though they are not used to describe these books. Paul calls the old dispensation the old covenant; and that phrase came into general use among the early Christians as contrasted with the Christian dispensation which they called the new covenant; therefore Greek-speaking Christians used to talk about "the books of the old covenant," and "the books of the new covenant;" and by and by they shortened the phrase and sometimes called the two collections simply "Old Covenant" and "New Covenant." When the Latin-speaking Christians began to use the same terms, they translated the Greek word "covenant" by the word "testament" which means a will, and which does not fairly convey the sense of the Greek word. And so it was that these two collections of sacred writings began to be called The Old Testament and The New Testament. It is the former of these that we are first to study.
When Jesus Christ was on the earth he often quoted in his discourses from the Jewish Scriptures, and referred to them in his conversations. His apostles and the other New Testament writers also quote freely from the same Scriptures, and books of the early Christian Fathers are full of references to them. What were these Jewish Scriptures?
At the time when our Lord was on the earth, the sacred writings of the Jews were collected in two different forms. The Palestinian collection, so called, was written in the Hebrew language, and the Alexandrian collection, called the Septuagint, in the Greek. For many years a large colony of devout and learned Jews had lived in Alexandria; and as the Greek language was spoken there, and had become their common speech, they translated their sacred writings into Greek. This translation soon came into general use, because there were everywhere many Jews who knew Greek well enough but knew no Hebrew at all. When our Lord was on earth, the Hebrew was a dead language; it may have been the language of the temple, as Latin is now the language of the Roman Catholic mass; but the common people did not understand it; the vernacular of the Palestinian Jews was the Aramaic, a language similar to the Hebrew, sometimes called the later Hebrew, and having some such relation to it as the English has to the German tongue. There is some dispute as to the time when the Jews lost the use of their own language and adopted the Aramaic; many of the Jewish historians hold the view that the people who came back from the captivity to Jerusalem had learned to use the Aramaic as their common speech, and that the Hebrew Scriptures had to be interpreted when they were read to them. Others think that this change in language took place a little later, and that it resulted in great measure from the close intercourse of the Jews with the peoples round about them in Palestine, most of whom used the Aramaic. At any rate the change had taken place before the coming of Christ, so that no Hebrew was then spoken familiarly in Palestine. When "the Hebrew tongue" is mentioned in the New Testament it is the Aramaic that is meant, and not the ancient Hebrew. The Greek, on the other hand, was a living language; it was spoken on the streets and in the markets everywhere, and many Jews understood it almost as well as they did their Aramaic vernacular, just as many of the people of Constantinople and the Levant now speak French more fluently than their native tongues. The Greek version of the Scriptures was, for this reason, more freely used by the Jews even in Palestine than the Hebrew original; it was from the Septuagint that Christ and his apostles made most of their quotations. Out of three hundred and fifty citations in the New Testament from the Old Testament writings about three hundred appear to be directly from the Greek version made at Alexandria. Between these two collections of sacred writings, the one written in Hebrew, then a dead language, and the other in Greek,—the one used by scholars only, and the other by the common people,—there were some important differences, not only in the phraseology and in the arrangement of the books, but in the contents themselves. Of these I shall speak more fully in the following chapters. It is to the Hebrew collection, which is the original of these writings, and from which our English Old Testament was translated, that we shall now give our attention. What were these Hebrew Scriptures of which all the writers of the New Testament knew, and from which they sometimes directly quote?
The contents of this collection were substantially if not exactly the same as those of our Old Testament, but they were arranged in very different order. Indeed they were regarded as three distinct groups of writings, rather than as one book, and the three groups were of different degrees of sacredness and authority. Two of these divisions are frequently referred to in the New Testament, as The Law and The Prophets; and the threefold division is doubtfully hinted at in Luke xxiv. 44, where our Lord speaks of the predictions concerning himself which are found in the Law and the Prophets and in the Psalms.
The first of these holy books of the Jews was, then, THE LAW contained in the first five books of our Bible, known among us as the Pentateuch, and called by the Jews sometimes simply "The Law," and sometimes "The Law of Moses." This was supposed to be the oldest portion of their Scriptures, and was by them regarded as much more sacred and authoritative than any other portion. To Moses, they, said, God spake face to face; to the other holy men much less distinctly. Consequently their appeal is most often to the law of Moses.
The group of writings known as "The Prophets" is subdivided into the Earlier and the Later Prophets. The Earlier Prophets comprise Joshua, the Judges, the two books of Samuel, counted as one, and the two books of the Kings, counted also as one. The Later Prophets comprise Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve Minor Prophets, the last books in our Old Testament,—Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. These twelve were counted as one book; so that there were four volumes of the earlier and four of the later prophets. Why the Jews should have called Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and the Kings books of the Prophets is not clear; perhaps because they were supposed to have been written by prophets; perhaps because prophets have a conspicuous place in their histories. This portion of the Hebrew Scriptures, containing the four historical books named and the fifteen prophetical books (reckoned, however, as four), was regarded by the Jews as standing next in sacredness and value to the book of the Law.
The third group of their Scriptures was known among them as Kethubim, or Writings, simply. Sometimes, possibly, they called it The Psalms, because the book of the Psalms was the initial book of the collection. It consisted of the Psalms, the Proverbs, Job, the Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Chronicles. This group of writings was esteemed by the Jews as less sacred and authoritative than either of the other two groups; the authors were supposed to have had a smaller measure of inspiration. Respecting two or three of these books there was also some dispute among the rabbis, as to their right to be regarded as sacred Scripture.
Such, then, were the Hebrew Scriptures in the days of our Lord, and such was the manner of their arrangement.
They had, indeed, other books of a religious character, to which reference is sometimes made in the books of the Bible. In Numbers xxi. 14, 15, we have a brief war song quoted from "The Book of the Wars of Jehovah," a collection of which we have no other knowledge. In Joshua x. 13, the story of the sun standing still over Gibeon is said to have been quoted from "The Book of Jasher," and in 2 Samuel i. 18, the beautiful "Song of the Bow," written by David on the death of Saul and Jonathan, is said to be contained in the "Book of Jasher." It is evident that this must have been a collection of lyrics celebrating some of the great events of Hebrew history. The title seems to mean "The Book of the Just." The exploits of the worthies of Israel probably furnished its principal theme.
In 1 Chronicles xxix. 29, we read: "Now the acts of David the king, first and last, behold they are written in the History of Samuel the Seer, and in the History of Nathan the Prophet, and in the History of Gad the Seer." There is no reason to doubt that the first named of these is the history contained in the books of Samuel in our Bible; but the other two books are lost. We have another reference to the "History of Nathan," in 2 Chronicles ix. 29,—the concluding words of the sketch of King Solomon's life. "Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and last, are they not written in the History of Nathan the Prophet, and in the Prophecy of Abijah the Shilonite, and in the Visions of Iddo the Seer concerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat?" Here are two more books of which we have no other knowledge; their titles quoted upon the page of this chronicle are all that is left of them. A similar reference, in the last words of the sketch of Solomon's son Rehoboam, gives us our only knowledge of the "Histories of Shemaiah the Prophet."
In the Kings and in the Chronicles, reference is repeatedly made to the "Books of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel," and the "Books of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah," under which titles volumes that are now lost are brought to our notice. Undoubtedly much of the history in the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles was derived from these ancient annals. They are the sources from which the writers of these books drew their materials.
We are also told in 2 Chronicles xxvi. 22, that Isaiah wrote a history of the "Acts of Uzziah," which is wholly lost.
Other casual references are made to historical writings of various sorts, composed by prophets and seers, and thus apparently accredited by the biblical writers as authoritative utterances of divine truth. Why were they suffered to perish? Has not Emerson certified us that
"One accent of the Holy Ghost The heedless world has never lost"?
But this is a fond exaggeration. Mr. Emerson was certainly not himself inspired when he uttered it. Many and many an accent of the Holy Ghost has been lost by this heedless world. And it is not at all improbable that some of these histories of Nathan and Gad and Shemaiah held vital and precious truth,—truth that the world has needed. The very fact that they are hopelessly lost raises some curious questions about the method of revelation. Is it to be supposed that the Providence which suffers whole books to be lost by men would infallibly guarantee those that remain against errors in the copies, and other imperfections? As a matter of fact, we know that He has not so protected any of them.
Still I doubt not that Providence has kept for us the best of this Hebrew literature. To say that it is the best literature that the world has produced is to say very little. It is separated widely from all other sacred writings. Its constructive ideas are as far above those of the other books of religion as the heavens are above the earth. I pity the man who has had the Bible in his hand from his infancy, and who has learned in his maturer years something of the literature of the other religions, but who now needs to have this statement verified. True it is that we find pure maxims, elevated thoughts, genuine faith, lofty morality, in many of the Bibles of the other races. True it is that in some of them visions are vouchsafed us of the highest truths of religion, of the very substance of the gospel of the Son of God. But when we take the sacred books of the other religions in their entirety, and compare them with the sacred writings of the Hebrews, the superiority of these in their fundamental ideas, in the conceptions that dominate them, in the grand uplifting visions and purposes that vitalize them, can be felt by any man who has any discernment of spiritual realities. It is in these great ideas that the value of these writings consists, and not in any petty infallibility of phrase, or inerrancy of statement. They are the record, as no other book in the world is a record, of that increasing purpose of God which runs through the ages. I hope that it will appear as the result of our studies, that one may continue to reverence the Scriptures as containing a unique and special revelation from God to men, and yet clearly see and frankly acknowledge the facts concerning their origin, and the human and fallible elements in them, which are not concealed, but lie upon their very face.
WHAT DID MOSES WRITE?
We are now to study the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch. This word "Pentateuch" is not in the Bible; it is a Greek word signifying literally the Five-fold Work; from penta, five, and teuchos, which in the later Greek means roll or volume.
The Jews in the time of our Lord always considered these five books as one connected work; they called the whole sometimes "Torah," or "The Law," sometimes "The Law of Moses," sometimes "The Five-fifths of the Law." It was originally one book, and it is not easy to determine at what time its division into five parts took place.
Later criticism is also inclined to add to the Pentateuch the Book of Joshua, and to say that the first six books of the Bible were put into their present form by the same hand. "The Hexateuch," or Six-fold Work, has taken the place in these later discussions of the Pentateuch, or Five-fold Work. Doubtless there is good reason for the new classification, but it will be more convenient to begin with the traditional division and speak first of the five books reckoned by the later Jews as the "Torah," or the Five-fifths of the Law.
Who wrote these books? Our modern Hebrew Bibles give them the general title, "Quinque Libri Mosis." This means "The Five Books of Moses." But Moses could never have given them this title, for these are Latin words, and it is not possible that Moses should have used the Latin language because there was no Latin language in the world until many hundreds of years after the day of Moses. The Latin title was given to them, of course, by the editors who compiled them. The preface and the explanatory notes in these Hebrew Bibles are also written in Latin.
But over this Latin title in the Hebrew Bible is the Hebrew word "Torah." This was the name by which these books were chiefly known among the Jews; it signifies simply "The Law." This title gives us no information, then, concerning the authorship of these books.
When we look at our English Bibles we find no separation, as in the Hebrew Bible, of these five books from the rest of the Old Testament writings, but we find over each one of them a title by which it is ascribed to Moses as its author,—"The First Book of Moses, commonly called Genesis;" "The Second Book of Moses, commonly called Exodus;" and so on. But when I look into my Hebrew Bible again no such title is there. Nothing is said about Moses in the Hebrew title to Genesis.
It is certain that if Moses wrote these books he did not call them "Genesis," "Exodus," "Leviticus," "Numbers," "Deuteronomy;" for these words, again, come from languages that he never heard. Four of them are Greek words, and one of them, Numbers, is a Latin word. These names were given to the several books at a very late day. What are their names in the Hebrew Bible? Each of them is called by the first word, or some of the first words in the book. The Jews were apt to name their books, as we name our hymns, by the initial word or words; thus they called the first of these five books, "Bereshith," "In the Beginning;" the second one "Veelleh Shemoth," "Now these are the names;" the third one "Vayikra," "And he called," and so on. The titles in our English Bible are much more significant and appropriate than these original Hebrew titles; thus Genesis signifies origin, and Genesis is the Book of Origins; Exodus means departure, and the book describes the departure of Israel from Egypt; Leviticus points out the fact that the book is mainly occupied with the Levitical legislation; Numbers gives a history of the numbering of the people, and Deuteronomy, which means the second law, contains what seems to be a recapitulation and reenactment of the legislation of the preceding books. But these English titles, which are partly translated and partly transferred to English from older Latin and Greek titles, tell us nothing trustworthy about the authorship of the books.
How, then, you desire to know, did these books come to be known as the books of Moses?
"They were quoted," answer some, "and thus accredited by our Lord and his apostles. They are frequently mentioned in the New Testament as inspired and authoritative books; they are referred to as the writings of Moses; we have the testimony of Jesus Christ and of his apostles to their genuineness and authenticity." Let us see how much truth this answer contains. It confronts us with a very important matter which may as well be settled before we go on.
It is true, to begin with, that Jesus and the Evangelists do quote from these books, and that they ascribe to Moses some of the passages which they quote. The soundest criticism cannot impugn the honesty or the intelligence of such quotations. There is good reason, as we shall see, for believing that a large part of this literature was written in the time of Moses, and under the eye of Moses, if not by his hand. In a certain important sense, which will be clearer to us as we go on, this literature is all Mosaic. The reference to it by the Lord and his apostles is therefore legitimate.
But this reference does by no means warrant the sweeping conclusion that the five books of the law were all and entire from the pen of the Lawgiver. Our Lord nowhere says that the first five books of the Old Testament were all written by Moses. Much less does he teach that the contents of these books are all equally inspired and authoritative. Indeed he quotes from them several times for the express purpose of repudiating their doctrines and repealing their legislation. In the very fore-front of his teaching stands a stern array of judgments in which undoubted commandments of the Mosaic law are expressly condemned and set aside, some of them because they are inadequate and superficial, some of them because they are morally defective. "Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time" thus and thus; "but I say unto you"—and then follow words that directly contradict the old legislation. After quoting two of the commandments of the Decalogue and giving them an interpretation that wholly transforms them, he proceeds to cite several old laws from these Mosaic books, in order to set his own word firmly against them. One of these also is a law of the Decalogue itself. There can be little doubt that the third commandment is quoted and criticised by our Lord, in this discourse. That commandment forbids, not chiefly profanity, but perjury; by implication it permits judicial oaths. And Jesus expressly forbids judicial oaths. "Swear not at all." I am aware that this is not the usual interpretation of these words, but I believe that it is the only meaning that the words will bear. Not to insist upon this, however, several other examples are given in the discourse concerning which there can be no question.
Jesus quotes the law of divorce from Deuteronomy xxiv. 1,2. "When a man taketh a wife and marrieth her, then it shall be, if she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house she may go and be another man's wife." These are the words of a law which Moses is represented as uttering by the authority of Jehovah. This law, as thus expressed, Jesus Christ unqualifiedly repeals. "I say unto you that every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress, and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery."
The law of revenge is treated in the same way. "Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Who said this? Was it some rabbin of the olden time? It was Moses; nay, the old record says that this is the word of the Lord by Moses: "The Lord spake unto Moses, saying [among other things], If a man cause a blemish in his neighbor, as he hath done so shall it be done to him; breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be rendered unto him." (Lev. xxiv. 19,20.) So in Exodus xxi. 24, "Thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." It is sometimes said that these retaliations were simply permitted under the Mosaic law, but this is a great error; they were enjoined: "Thine eye shall not pity," it is said in another place (Deut. xix. 21); "life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." This law of retaliation is an integral part of the moral legislation of the Pentateuch. It is no part of the ceremonial law; it is an ethical rule. It is clearly ascribed to Moses; it is distinctly said to have been enacted by command of God. But Christ in the most unhesitating manner condemns and countermands it.
"Ye have heard," he continues, "that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you." "But this," it is objected, "is not a quotation from the Old Testament. These words do not occur in that old legislation." At any rate Jesus introduces them with the very same formula which he has all along been applying to the words which he has quoted from the Mosaic law. It is evident that he means to give the impression that they are part of that law. He is not careful in any of these cases to quote the exact words of the law, but he does give the meaning of it. He gives the exact meaning of it here. The Mosaic law commanded Jews to love their neighbors, members of their own tribe, but to hate the people of surrounding tribes: "An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation shall none belonging to them enter into the assembly of the Lord for ever.... Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy days for ever." (Deut. xxiii. 3-6.)
"When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and shalt cast out many nations before thee, ... then thou shalt utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them." (Deut. vii. 1,2.) This is the spirit of much of this ancient legislation; and these laws were, if the record is true, literally executed, in after times, by Joshua and Samuel, upon the people of Canaan. And these bloody commands, albeit they have a "Thus said the Lord" behind every one of them, Jesus, in the great discourse which is the charter of his kingdom, distinctly repeals.
Such is the method by which our Lord sometimes deals with the Old Testament. It is by no means true that he assumes this attitude toward all parts of it. Sometimes he quotes Lawgiver and Prophets in confirmation of his own words; often he refers to these ancient Scriptures as preparing the way for his kingdom and foreshadowing his person and his work. Nay, he even says of that law which we are now studying that not one jot or tittle shall in any wise pass from it till all things be accomplished. What he means by that we shall be able by and by to discover. But these passages which I have cited make it clear that Jesus Christ cannot be appealed to in support of the traditional view of the nature of these old writings.
The common argument by which Christ is made a witness to the authenticity and infallible authority of the Old Testament runs as follows:
Christ quotes Moses as the author of this legislation; therefore Moses must have written the whole Pentateuch.
Moses was an inspired prophet; therefore all the teaching of the Pentateuch must be infallible.
The facts are, that Jesus nowhere testifies that Moses wrote the whole of the Pentateuch; and that he nowhere guarantees the infallibility either of Moses or of the book. On the contrary, he sets aside as inadequate or morally defective certain laws which in this book are ascribed to Moses.
It is needful, thus, on the threshold of our argument, to have a clear understanding respecting the nature of the testimony borne by our Lord and his apostles to this ancient literature. It is upon this that the advocates of the traditional view of the Old Testament wholly rely. "Christ was authority," they say; "the New Testament writers were inspired; you all admit this; now Christ and the New Testament writers constantly quote the Scriptures of the Old Testament as inspired and as authoritative. Therefore they must be the infallible word of God." To this it is sufficient to reply, Christ and the apostles do quote the Old Testament Scriptures; they find a great treasure of inspired and inspiring truth in them, and so can we; they recognize the fact that they are organically related to that kingdom which Christ came to found, and that they record the earlier stages of that great course of revelation which culminates in Christ; but they nowhere pronounce any of these writings free from error; there is not a hint or suggestion anywhere in the New Testament that any of the writings of the Old Testament are infallible; and Christ himself, as we have seen, clearly warns his disciples that they do not even furnish a safe rule of moral conduct. After this, the attempt to prove the inerrancy of the Old Testament by summoning as witnesses the writers of the New Testament may as well be abandoned.
But did not Jesus say, "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they that testify of me?" Well, if he had said that, it would not prove that the Scriptures they searched were errorless. The injunction would have all the force to-day that it ever had. One may very profitably study documents which are far from infallible. This was not, however, what our Lord said. If you will look into your Revised Version you will see that his words, addressed to the Jews, are not a command but an assertion: "Ye search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life" (John v. 39); if you searched them carefully you would find some testimony there concerning me. It is not an injunction to search the Scriptures; it is simply the statement of the fact that the Jews to whom he was speaking did search the Scriptures, and searched them as many people in our own time do, to very little purpose.
But does not Paul say, in his letter to Timothy, that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God?" No, Paul does not say that. Look again at your Revised Version (2 Tim. iii. 16): "Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction, which is in righteousness." Every writing inspired of God is profitable reading. That is the whole statement.
But Paul says in the verses preceding, that Timothy had known from a child the Sacred Writings which were able to make him wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Was there not, then, in his hands, a volume or collection of books, known as the Sacred Writings, with a definite table of contents; and did not Paul refer to this collection, and imply that all these writings were inspired of God and profitable for the uses specified?
No, this is not the precise state of the case. These Sacred Writings had not at this time been gathered into a volume by themselves, with a fixed table of contents. What is called the Canon of the Old Testament had not yet been finally determined.[Footnote: See chapter xi] There were, indeed, as we saw in the last chapter, two collections of sacred writings, one in Hebrew and the other in Greek. The Hebrew collection was not at this time definitely closed; there was still a dispute among the Palestinian Jews as to whether two or three of the books which it now contains should go into it; that dispute was not concluded until half a century after the death of our Lord. The other collection, as I have said, was in the Greek language, and it included, not only our Old Testament books, but the books now known as the Old Testament Apocrypha. This was the collection, remember, most used by our Lord and his apostles. Which of these collections was in the hands of Timothy we do not certainly know. But the father of Timothy was a Greek, though his mother was a Jewess; and it is altogether probable that he had studied from his childhood the Greek version of the Old Testament writings. Shall we understand Paul, then, as certifying the authenticity and infallibility of this whole collection? Does he mean to say that the "Story of Susanna" and "Bel and the Dragon," and all the rest of these fables and tales, are profitable for teaching and instruction in righteousness? This text, so interpreted, evidently proves too much. Doubtless Paul did mean to commend to Timothy the Old Testament Scriptures as containing precious and saving truth. But we must not force his language into any wholesale indorsement of every letter and word, or even of every chapter and book of these old writings.
So far, therefore, as our Lord himself and his apostles are concerned, we have no decisive judgment either as to the authorship of these old writings or as to their absolute freedom from error. They handled these Scriptures, quoted from them, found inspired teaching in them; but the Scriptures which they chiefly handled, from which they generally quoted, in which they found their inspired teaching, contained, as we know, worthless matter. It is not to be assumed that they did not know this matter to be worthless; and if they knew this, it is not to be asserted that they intended to place upon the whole of it the stamp of their approval.
We have wandered somewhat from the path of our discussion, but it was necessary in order to determine the significance of those references to the Old Testament with which the New Testament abounds. The question before us is, Why do we believe that Moses wrote the five books which bear his name in our Bibles? We have seen that the New Testament writers give us no decisive testimony on this point. On what testimony is the belief founded?
Doubtless it rests wholly on the traditions of the Jews. Such was the tradition preserved among them in the time of our Lord. They believed that Moses wrote every word of these books; that God dictated the syllables to him and that he recorded them. But the traditions of the Jews are not, in other matters, highly regarded by Christians. Our Lord himself speaks more than once in stern censure of these traditions by which, as he charges, their moral sense was blunted and the law of God was made of none effect. Many of these old tales of theirs were extremely childish. One tradition ascribes, as we have seen, to Moses the authorship of the whole Pentateuch; another declares that when, during an invasion of the Chaldeans, all the books of the Scripture were destroyed by fire, Ezra wrote them all out from memory, in an incredibly short space of time; another tradition relates how the same Ezra one day heard a divine voice bidding him retire into the field with five swift amanuenses,—"how he then received a full cup, full as it were of water, but the color of it was like fire, ... and when he had drank of it, his heart uttered understanding and wisdom grew in his breast, for his spirit strengthened his memory, ... and his mouth was opened and shut no more and for forty days and nights he dictated without stopping till two hundred and four books were written down." [Footnote: 2 Esdras xiv. See, also, Stanley's Jewish Church, iii, 151.] These fables had wide currency among the Jews; they were believed by Irenaeus, Tertullian, Augustine, and others of the great fathers of the Christian Church; but they are not credited in these days. It is evident that Jewish tradition is not always to be trusted. We shall need some better reason than this for believing that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch.
I do not know where else we can go for information except to the books themselves. A careful examination of them may throw some light upon the question of their origin. A great multitude of scholars have been before us in their examination; what is their verdict?
First we have the verdict of the traditionalists,—those, I mean, who accept the Jewish tradition, and believe with the rabbins that Moses wrote the whole of the first five books of the Bible. Some who hold this theory are ready to admit that there may be a few verses here and there interpolated into the record by later scribes; but they maintain that the books in their substance and entirety came in their present form from the hands of Moses. This is the theory which has been generally received by the Christian church. It is held to-day by very few eminent Christian scholars.
Over against this traditional theory is the theory of the radical and destructive critics that Moses wrote nothing at all; that perhaps the ten commandments were given by him, but hardly anything more; that these books were not even written in the time of Moses, but hundreds of years after his death. Moses is supposed to have lived about 1400 B.C.; these writings, say the destructive critics, were first produced in part about 730 B.C., but were mainly written after the Exile (about 444 B.C.), almost a thousand years after the death of Moses. "Strict and impartial investigation has shown," says Dr. Knappert, "that ... nothing in the whole Law really comes from Moses himself except the ten commandments. And even these were not delivered by him in the same form as we find them now." [Footnote: The Religion of Israel, p. 9.] This is, to my mind, an astounding statement. It illustrates the lengths to which destructive criticism can go. And I dare say that we shall find in our study of these books reason for believing that such views as these are as far astray on the one side as those of the traditionalists are on the other.
Let us test these two theories by interrogating the books themselves.
First, then, we find upon the face of the record several reasons for believing that the books cannot have come, in their present form, from the hand of Moses.
Moses died in the wilderness, before the Israelites reached the Promised Land, before the Canaanites were driven out, and the land was divided among the tribes.
It is not likely that he wrote the account of his own death and burial which we find in the last chapter of Deuteronomy. There are those, it is true, who assert that Moses was inspired to write this account of his own funeral; but this is going a little farther than the rabbins; they declare that this chapter was added by Joshua. It is conceivable that Moses might have left on record a prediction that he would die and be buried in this way; but the Spirit of the Lord could never inspire a man to put in the past tense a plain narrative of an event which is yet in the future. The statement when written would be false, and God is not the author of falsehood.
It is not likely either that Moses wrote the words in Exodus xi. 3: "Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of all the people;" nor those in Numbers xii. 3: "Now the man Moses was very meek above all the men which were on the face of the earth." It has been said, indeed, that Moses was directed by inspiration to say such things about himself; but I do not believe that egotism is a supernatural product; men take that in the natural way.
Other passages show upon the face of them that they must have been added to these books after the time of Moses. It is stated in Exodus xvi. 35, that the Israelites continued to eat manna until they came to the borders of the land of Canaan. But Moses was not living when they entered that land.
In Genesis xii. 6, in connection with the story of Abraham's entrance into Palestine, the historical explanation is thrown in: "And the Canaanite was then in the land." It would seem that this must have been written at a day when the Canaanite was no longer in the land,—after the occupation of the land and the expulsion of the Canaanites. In Numbers xv. 32, an incident is related which is prefaced by the words, "While the children of Israel were in the wilderness." Does not this look back to a past time? Can we imagine that this was written by Moses? Again, in Deuteronomy iii. 11, we have a description of the bedstead of Og, one of the giants captured and killed by the Israelites, just before the death of Moses; and this bedstead is referred to as if it were an antique curiosity; the village is mentioned in which it is kept. In Genesis xxxvi. we find a genealogy of the kings of Moab, running through several generations, prefaced with the words: "These are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom before there reigned any king over the children of Israel." This is looking backward from a day when kings were reigning over the children of Israel. How could it have been written five hundred years before there ever was a king in Israel? In Genesis xiv. 14, we read of the city of Dan; but in Judges xviii. 29, we are told that this city did not receive its name until hundreds of years later, long after the time of Moses. Similarly the account of the naming of the villages of Jair, which we find in Deuteronomy iii. 14, is quite inconsistent with another account in Judges x. 3, 4. One of them must be erroneous, and it is probable that the passage in Deuteronomy is an anachronism.
Most of these passages could be explained by the admission that the scribes in later years added sentences here and there by way of interpretation. But that admission would of course discredit the infallibility of the books. Other difficulties, however, of a much more serious kind, present themselves.
In the first verse of the twentieth chapter of Numbers we read that the people came to Kadesh in the first month. The first month of what year? We look back, and the first note of time previous to this is the second month of the second year of the wandering in the wilderness. Their arrival at Kadesh described in the twentieth chapter would seem, then, to have been in the first month of the third year. In the twenty-second verse of this chapter the camp moves on to Mount Hor, and Aaron dies there. There is no note of any interval of time whatever; yet we are told in the thirty-third chapter of this book that Aaron died in the fortieth year of the wandering. Here is a skip of thirty-eight years in the history, without an indication of anything having happened meantime. On the supposition that this is a continuous history written by the man who was a chief actor in it, such a gap is inexplicable. There is a reasonable way of accounting for it, as we shall see, but it cannot be accounted for on the theory that the book in its present form came from the hand of Moses.
Some of the laws also bear internal evidence of having originated at a later day than that of Moses. The law forbidding the removal of landmarks presupposes a long occupation of the land; and the law regulating military enlistments is more naturally explained on the theory that it was framed in the settled period of the Hebrew history, and not during the wanderings. This may, indeed, have been anticipatory legislation, but the explanation is not probable.
Various repetitions of laws occur which are inexplicable on the supposition that these laws were all written by the hand of one person. Thus in Exodus xxxiv. 17-26, there is a collection of legal enactments, all of which can be found, in the same order and almost the same words, in the twenty-third chapter of the same book. Thus, to quote the summary of Bleek, we find in both places, (a) that all the males shall appear before Jehovah three times in every year; (b) that no leavened bread shall be used at the killing of the Paschal Lamb, and that the fat shall be preserved until the next morning; (c) that the first of the fruits of the field shall be brought into the house of the Lord; (d) that the young kid shall not be seethed in its mother's milk.[Footnote: Introduction to the Old Testament, i. 240.]
We cannot imagine that one man, with a fairly good memory, much less an infallibly inspired man, should have written these laws twice over, in the same words, within so small a space, in the same legal document. In Leviticus we have a similar instance. If any one will take that book and carefully compare the eighteenth with the twentieth chapter, he will see some reason for doubting that both chapters could have been inserted by one hand in this collection of statutes. "It is not probable," as Bleek has said, "that Moses would have written the two chapters one after the other, and would so shortly after have repeated the same precepts which he had before given, only not so well arranged the second time." [Footnote: Introduction to the Old Testament, i. 240.]
There are also quite a number of inconsistencies and contradictions in the legislation, all of which may be easily explained, but not on the theory that the laws all came from the pen of one infallibly inspired lawgiver. We find also several historical repetitions and historical discrepancies, all of which make against the theory that Moses is the author of all this Pentateuchal literature. A single author, if he were a man of fair intelligence, good common sense, and reasonably firm memory, could not have written it. And unless tautology, anachronisms, and contradictions are a proof of inspiration, much less could it have been written by a single inspired writer. The traditional theory cannot therefore he true. We have appealed to the books themselves, and they bear swift witness against it.
Now let us look at the other theory of the destructive critics which not only denies that Moses wrote any portion of the Pentateuch, but alleges that it was written in Palestine, none of it less than six or seven hundred years after he was dead and buried.
In the first place the book expressly declares that Moses wrote certain portions of it. He is mentioned several times as having written certain historical records and certain words of the law. In Exodus xxiv., we are told that Moses not only rehearsed to the people the Covenant which the Lord had made with them, but that he wrote all the words of the Covenant in a book, and that he took the book of the Covenant and read it in the audience of all the people. After the idolatry of the people Moses was again commanded to write these words, "and" it is added, "he wrote upon the tables the words of the Covenant, the ten commandments." In Exodus xvii. 14, we are told that Moses wrote the narrative of the defeat of Amalek in a book; and again in Numbers xxxiii. 21, we read that Moses recorded the various marches and halts of the Israelites in the wilderness. We have also in the Book of Deuteronomy (xxxi. 24-26) a statement that Moses wrote "the words of the law" in a book, and put it in the ark of the covenant for preservation. Precisely how much of the law this statement is meant to cover is not clear. Some have interpreted it to cover the whole Pentateuch, but that interpretation, as we have seen, is inadmissible. We may concede that it does refer to a body or code of laws,—probably that body or code on which the legislation of Deuteronomy is based.
These are all the statements made in the writings themselves concerning their origin. They prove, if they are credible, that portions of these books were written by Moses; they do not prove that the whole of them came from his hand.
I see no reason whatever to doubt that this is the essential fact. The theory of the destructive critics that this literature and this legislation was all produced in Palestine, about the eighth century before Christ, and palmed off upon the Jews as a pious fraud, does not bear investigation. In large portions of these laws we are constantly meeting with legal provisions and historical allusions that take us directly back to the time of the wandering in the wilderness, and cannot be explained on any other theory. "When," says Bleek, "we meet with laws which refer in their whole tenor to a state of things utterly unknown in the period subsequent to Moses, and to circumstances existing in the Mosaic age, and in that only, it is in the highest degree likely that these laws not only in their essential purport proceeded from Moses, but also that they were written down by Moses or at least in the Mosaic age. Of these laws which appear to carry with them such clear and exact traces of the Mosaic age, there are many occurring, especially in Leviticus, and also in Numbers and Exodus, which laws relate to situations and surrounding circumstances only existing whilst the people, as was the case in Moses' time, wandered in the wilderness and were dwellers in the close confinement of camps and tents." [Footnote: Vol. i. p. 212.] It is not necessary to draw out this evidence at length; I will only refer to a few out of scores of instances. The first seven chapters of Leviticus, containing laws regulating the burnt offerings and meat offerings, constantly assume that the people are in the camp and in the wilderness. The refuse of the beasts offered in sacrifice was to be carried out of the camp to the public ash heap, and burned. The law of the Great Day of Atonement (Lev. xvi.) is also full of allusions to the fact that the people were in camp; the scapegoat was to be driven into the wilderness, and the man who drove it out was to wash his clothes and bathe, and afterward come into the camp; the bullock and the goat, slain for the sacrifice, were to be carried forth without the camp; he who bears them forth must also wash himself before he returns to the camp. Large parts of the legislation concerning leprosy are full of the same incidental references to the fact that the people were dwelling in camp.
There are also laws requiring that all the animals killed for food should be slaughtered before the door of the Tabernacle. There was a reason for this law; it was intended to guard against a debasing superstition; but how would it have been possible to obey it when the people were scattered all over the land of Palestine? It was adapted only to the time when they were dwelling in a camp in the wilderness.
Besides, it must not be overlooked that in all this legislation "the priests are not at all referred to in general, but by name, as Aaron and his sons, or the sons of Aaron the priests."
All the legislation respecting the construction of the tabernacle, the disposition of it in the camp, the transportation of it from place to place in the wilderness, the order of the march, the summoning of the people when camp was to be broken, with all its minute and circumstantial directions, would be destitute of meaning if it had been written while the people were living in Palestine, scattered all over the land, dwelling in their own houses, and engaged in agricultural pursuits.
The simple, unforced, natural interpretation of these laws takes us back, I say, to the time of Moses, to the years of the wandering in the wilderness. The incidental references to the conditions of the wilderness life are far more convincing than any explicit statement would have been. Can any one conceive that a writer of laws, living in Palestine hundreds of years afterwards, could have fabricated these allusions to the camp life and the tent life of the people? Such a novelist did not exist among them; and I question whether Professor Kuenen and Professor Wellhausen, with all their wealth of imagination, could have done any such thing. Many of these laws were certainly written in the time of Moses; and I do not believe that any man was living in the time of Moses who was more competent to write such laws than was Moses himself. The conclusion of Bleek seems therefore to me altogether reasonable: "Although the Pentateuch in its present state and extent may not have been composed by Moses, and also many of the single laws therein may be the product of a later age, still the legislation contained in it is genuinely Mosaic in its entire spirit and character." [Footnote: Vol. i. p. 221.] We are brought, therefore, in our study, to these inevitable conclusions:
1. The Pentateuch could never have been written by any one man, inspired or otherwise.
2. It is a composite work, in which many hands have been engaged. The production of it extends over many centuries.
3. It contains writings which are as old as the time of Moses, and some that are much older. It is impossible to tell how much of it came from the hand of Moses, but there are considerable portions of it which, although they may have been somewhat modified by later editors, are substantially as he left them.
I have said that the Pentateuch is a composite work. In the next chapter we shall find some curious facts concerning its component parts, and the way in which they have been put together. And although it did not come into being in the way in which we have been taught by the traditions of the rabbins, yet we shall see that it contains some wonderful evidence of the superintending care of God,—of that continuous and growing manifestation of his truth and his love to the people of Israel, which is what we mean by revelation.
Revelation, we shall be able to understand, is not the dictation by God of words to men that they may be written down in books; it is rather the disclosure of the truth and love of God to men in the processes of history, in the development of the moral order of the world. It is the Light that lighteth every man, shining in the paths that lead to righteousness and life. There is a moral leadership of God in history; revelation is the record of that leadership. It is by no means confined to words; its most impressive disclosures are in the field of action. "Thus did the Lord," as Dr. Bruce has said, is a more perfect formula of revelation than "Thus said the Lord." It is in that great historical movement of which the Bible is the record that we find the revelation of God to men.
SOURCES OF THE PENTATEUCH.
In the last chapter we found evidence that the Pentateuch as it stands could not have been the work of Moses, though it contains much material which must have originated in the time of Moses, and is more likely to have been dictated by him than by any one else; that large portions of the Mosaic law were of Mosaic authorship; that the entire system of Levitical legislation grew up from this Mosaic germ, though much of it appeared in later generations; and that, therefore, the habit of the Jews of calling it all the law of Moses is easily understood. We thus discovered in this study that the Pentateuch is a composite book.
The Christian Church in all the ages has been inclined to pin its faith to what the rabbins said about the origin of this book, and this is not altogether surprising; but in these days when testimony is sifted by criticism we find that the traditions of the rabbins are not at all trustworthy; and when we go to the Book itself, and ask it to tell us what it can of the secret of its origin, we find that it has a very different story to tell from that with which the rabbins have beguiled us. A careful study of the Book makes it perfectly certain that it is not the production of any one man, but a growth that has been going on for many centuries; that it embodies the work of many hands, put together in an artless way by various editors and compilers. The framework is Mosaic, but the details of the work were added by reverent disciples of Moses, the last of whom must have lived and written many hundred years after Moses' day.
Some of the evidences of composite structure which lie upon the very face of the narrative will now come under our notice. It is plain that the whole of this literature could not have been written by any one man without some kind of assistance. All the books, except the first, are indeed a record of events which occurred mainly during the lifetime of Moses, and of most of which he might have had personal knowledge. But the story of Genesis goes back to a remote antiquity. The last event related in that book occurred four hundred years before Moses was born; it was as distant from him as the discovery of America by Columbus is from us; and other portions of the narrative, such as the story of the Flood and the Creation, stretch back into the shadows of the age which precedes history. Neither Moses nor any one living in his day could have given us these reports from his own knowledge. Whoever wrote this must have obtained his materials in one of three ways.
1. They might have been given to him by direct revelation from God.
2. He might have gathered them up from oral tradition, from stories, folk-lore, transmitted from mouth to mouth, and so preserved from generation to generation.
3. He might have found them in written documents existing at the time of his writing.
The first of these conjectures embodies the rabbinical theory. The later form of that theory declared, however, that God did not even dictate while Moses wrote, but simply handed the law, all written and punctuated, out of heaven to Moses; the only question with these rabbins was whether he handed it down all at once, or one volume at a time. It is certain that this is not the correct theory. The repetitions, the discrepancies, the anachronisms, and the errors which the writing certainly contains prove that it could not have been dictated, word for word, by the Omniscient One. Those who maintain such a theory as this should beware how they ascribe to God the imperfections of men. It seems to me that the advocacy of the verbal theory of inspiration comes perilously near to the sin against the Holy Ghost.
The second conjecture, that the writer of these books might have gathered up oral traditions of the earlier generations and incorporated them into his writings, is more plausible; yet a careful examination of the writings themselves does not confirm this theory. The form of this literature shows that it must have had another origin.
The only remaining conjecture, that the books are compilations of written documents, has been established beyond controversy by the most patient study of the writings themselves. In the Book of Genesis the evidence of the combination of two documents is so obvious that he who runs may read. These two documents are distinguished from each other, partly by the style of writing, and partly by the different names which they apply to the Supreme Being. One of these old writers called the Deity Elohim, the other called him Yahveh, or Jehovah. These documents are known, therefore, as the Elohistic and the Jehovistic narratives. Sometimes it is a little difficult to tell where the line runs which separates these narratives, but usually it is distinct. Readers of Genesis find many passages in which the name given to the Deity is "God," and others in which it is "LORD," in small capitals. The first of these names represents the Hebrew Elohim, the second the Hebrew Yahveh or Jehovah. In one important section, beginning with the fourth verse of the second chapter, and continuing through the chapter, the two names are combined, and we have the Supreme Being spoken of as "The LORD God," Jehovah-Elohim. It is evident to every observing reader that we have in the beginning of Genesis two distinct accounts of the Creation, the one occupying the first chapter and three verses of the second, the other occupying the remainder of the second chapter with the whole of the third. The difference between these accounts is quite marked. The style of the writing, particularly in the Hebrew, is strongly contrasted; and the details of the story are not entirely harmonious. In the first narrative the order of creation is, first the earth and its vegetation, then the lower animals, then man, male and female, made in God's image. In the second narrative the order is, first the earth and its vegetation, then man, then the lower orders of animals, then woman. In the first story plant life springs into existence at the direct command of God; in the second it results from a mist which rose from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground. These striking differences would be hard to explain if we had not before our faces the clear evidence of two old documents joined together.
I spoke in the last chapter of certain historical discrepancies which are not explicable on the supposition that this is the work of a single writer. Such are the two accounts of the origin of the name of Beersheba, the one in the twenty-first and the other in the twenty-sixth chapter of Genesis. The first account says that it was named by Abraham, and gives the reason why he called the place by this name. The second account says that it received its name from Isaac, about ninety years later, and gives a wholly different explanation of the reason why he called it by this name. When we find that in the first of these stories God is called Elohim, [Footnote: In the last verse of this narrative the word Jehovah is used, but this is probably an interpolation.] and in the second Jehovah, we can readily explain this discrepancy. The compiler took one of these narratives from one of these old documents, and the other from the other, and was not careful to reconcile the two.
A similar duplication of the narrative is found in chapters xx. and xxvi., with respect to the incident of Abimelech; in the first of these narratives a serious complication is described as arising between Abimelech King of Gerar on the one hand and Abraham and Sarah on the other; in the second Abimelech is represented as interfering, in precisely the same way and with the same results, in the domestic felicity of Isaac and Rebekah. The harmonizers have done their work, of course, upon these two passages; they have said that there were two Abimelechs, and that Isaac repeated the blunder of his father; but it is a little singular, if this were so, that no reference is made in the latter narrative to the former. It is altogether probable that we have the same story ascribed to different actors; and when we find that the one narrative is Elohistic and the other Jehovistic, the problem is solved.
More curious than any other of these combinations is the account of the Flood, in which the compiler has taken the narratives of these two old writers and pieced them together like patchwork. Refer to your Bibles and note this piece of literary joiner-work. At the fifth verse of the sixth chapter of Genesis this story begins; from this verse to the end of the eighth verse the Jehovistic document is used. The name of the Deity is Jehovah, translated LORD. From the ninth verse to the end of the chapter the Elohistic document is used. The word applied to God is Elohim, translated God. With the seventh chapter begins again the quotation from the other document, "And the LORD [Jehovah] said unto Noah." This extends only to the sixth verse; then the Elohistic narrative begins again, and continues to the nineteenth verse of the eighth chapter, including it; then the Jehovistic narrative begins again, and continues through the chapter; then the Elohist takes up the tale for the first seventeen verses of the ninth chapter; then the Jehovist goes on to the twenty-seventh verse, and the Elohist closes the chapter. It is true that we have in the midst of some of these Elohistic passages a verse or two of the other document inserted by the compiler; but the outlines of the different documents are marked as I have told you. If you take this story and dissect out of it the portions which I have ascribed to the Elohist and put them together, you will have a clear, complete, consecutive story of the Flood; the portions of the Jehovistic narrative inserted rather tend to confusion. "The consideration of the context here," says Bleek, "quite apart from the changes in the naming of God, shows that the Jehovistic passages of the narrative did not originally belong to it. It cannot fail to be observed that the connection is often interrupted by the Jehovistic passages, and that by cutting them out a more valuable and clearer continuity of the narrative is almost always obtained. For instance, in the existing narrative certain repetitions keep on occurring; one of these, especially, is connected with a difference in the matters of fact related, introducing no slight difficulty and obscurity." [Footnote: Vol. i. p. 273.]
Hear the Jehovist: "And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth" (ch. vi. 5). Now hear the Elohist (vi. 11): "And the earth was corrupt before Elohim, and the earth was filled with violence." The Jehovist says (vi. 7): "And Jehovah said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the ground." The Elohist says (vi. 13): "The earth is filled with violence through them, and behold I will destroy them with the earth." In the ninth verse of the sixth chapter we read: "Noah was a righteous man and perfect in his generations; Noah walked with Elohim." In the first verse of the seventh chapter, we read, "And Jehovah said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation." These repetitions show how the same story is twice told. But the contradictions are more significant. Here the one narrative represents Elohim as saying (vi. 19): "And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every kind shalt thou bring into the ark to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of the fowl after their kind and of the cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee to keep them alive." But the other narrative represents Jehovah as saying, "Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, the male and the female; and of the beasts that are not clean, two, the male and the female; of the fowl also of the air seven and seven, male and female, to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth." The one story says that of every kind of living creature one pair should be taken into the ark; the other says that of clean beasts, seven pairs of each species should be received, and of unclean beasts only one pair. The harmonists have wrestled with this passage also; some of them say that perhaps the first passage only meant that they should walk in two and two; others say that a good many years had elapsed between the giving of the two commands (of which there is not a particle of evidence), and we are left to infer that in the mean time the Almighty either forgot his first orders, or else changed his mind. It is a pitiful instance of an attempt to evade a difficulty that cannot be evaded. One of the very conservative commentators, Dr. Perowne, in Smith's "Bible Dictionary," concludes to face it: "May we not suppose," he timidly asks, "that we have here traces of a separate document, interwoven by a later writer, with the former history? The passage has not, indeed, been incorporated intact, but there is a coloring about it which seems to indicate that Moses, or whoever put the book of Genesis into its present shape, had here consulted a different narrative. The distinct use of the divine names in the same phrase (vi. 22; vii. 5), in the former Elohim, in the latter Jehovah, suggests that this may have been the case." [Footnote: Art. "Noah," iii. 2179, American Edition.]
"May we not suppose," the good doctor asks, that we have traces of two documents here? Certainly, your reverence. It is just as safe to suppose it, as it is to suppose, when you see a nose on a man's face, that it is a nose. There is no more doubt about it than there is about any other palpable fact. The truth is, that the composite character of Genesis is no longer, in scholarly circles, an open question. The most cautious, the most conservative of scholars concede the point. Even President Bartlett, of Dartmouth College, a Hebraist of some eminence, and as sturdy a defender of old-fashioned orthodoxy as this country holds, made this admission more than twenty years ago: "We may accept the traces of earlier narratives as having been employed and authenticated by him [Moses]; and we may admit the marks of later date as indications of a surface revision of authorized persons not later than Ezra and Nehemiah." And Dr. Perowne, the conservative scholar already quoted, in the article on the "Pentateuch" in "Smith's Bible Dictionary," sums up as follows:—
"1. The Book of Genesis rests chiefly on documents much earlier than the time of Moses, though it was probably brought to very nearly its present shape either by Moses himself, or by one of the elders who acted under him.
"2. The books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are to a great extent Mosaic. Besides those portions which are expressly declared to have been written by him, other portions, and especially the legal sections, were, if not actually written, in all probability dictated by him.
"3. Deuteronomy, excepting the concluding part, is entirely the work of Moses, as it professes to be.
. . . . . . . . . .
"5. The first composition of the Pentateuch as a whole could not have taken place till after the Israelites entered Canaan.
"6. The whole work did not finally assume its present shape till its revision was undertaken by Ezra after the return from the Babylonish captivity."
The volume from which I have quoted these words bears the date of 1870. Twenty years of very busy work have been expended upon the Pentateuch since Dr. Perowne wrote these words; if he were to write to-day he would be much less confident that Moses wrote the whole of Deuteronomy, and he would probably modify his statements in other respects; but he would retract none of these admissions respecting the composite character of these five books.
The same fact of a combination of different documents can easily be shown in all the three middle books of the Pentateuch, as well as in Genesis. This is the fact which explains those repetitions of laws, and those singular breaks in the history, to which I called your attention in the last chapter. There is, as I believe, a large element of purely Mosaic legislation in these books; many of these laws were written either by the hand of Moses or under his eye; and the rest are so conformed to the spirit which he impressed upon the Hebrew jurisprudence that they may be fairly called Mosaic; but many of them, on the other hand, were written long after his day, and the whole Pentateuch did not reach its present form until after the exile, in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.
The upholders of the traditional theory—that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, just as Blackstone wrote his Commentaries—are wont to make much account of the disagreements of those critics who have undertaken to analyze it into its component parts. "These critics," they say, "are all at loggerheads; they do not agree with one another; none of them even agrees with himself very long; most of them have several times revised their theories, and there seems to be neither certainty nor coherency in their speculations." But this is not quite true. With respect to some subordinate questions they are not agreed, and probably never will be; but with respect to the fact that these books are composite in their origin they are perfectly agreed, and they are also remarkably unanimous in their judgments as to where the lines of cleavage run between these component parts. The consensus of critical opinion now is that there are at least four great documents which have been combined in the Pentateuch; and the critics agree in the main features of the analysis, though they do not all call these separated parts by the same names, nor do they all think alike concerning the relative antiquity of these portions. Some think that one of these documents is the oldest, and some give that distinction to another; nor do they agree as to how old the oldest is, some bringing the earliest composition down to a recent period; but on the main question that the literature is composite they are at one. The closeness of their agreement is shown by Professor Ladd in a series of tables [Footnote: The Doctrine of Sacred Scripture, Part II. chap. vii.] in which he displays to the eye the results of the analysis of four independent investigators, Knobel, Schrader, Dillmann, and Wellhausen. He goes through the whole of the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua,—the Hexateuch, as it is now called,—and picks out of every chapter those verses assigned by these several authorities to that ancient writing which we have been calling the Elohistic narrative, and arranges them in parallel columns. You can see at a glance when they agree in this analysis, and when they disagree. I think that you would be astonished to find that the agreements are so many and the disagreements so few. So much unity of judgment would be impossible if the lines of cleavage between these old documents were not marked with considerable distinctness. "The only satisfactory explanation," says Professor Ladd, "of the possibility of accomplishing such a work of analysis is the fact that the analysis is substantially correct." [Footnote: What is the Bible? p. 311.]
Professor C. A. Briggs, of the Union (Presbyterian) Theological Seminary in New York, bore this testimony three years ago in the "Presbyterian Review:" "The critical analysis of the Hexateuch is the result of more than a century of profound study of the documents by the greatest critics of the age. There has been a steady advance until the present position of agreement has been reached, in which Jew and Christian, Roman Catholic and Protestant, Rationalistic and Evangelical scholars, Reformed and Lutheran, Presbyterian and Episcopal, Unitarian, Methodist, and Baptist all concur. The analysis or the Hexateuch into several distinct original documents is a purely literary question in which no article of faith is involved. Whoever in these times, in the discussion of the literary phenomena of the Hexateuch, appeals to the ignorance and prejudices of the multitude as if there were any peril to faith in these processes of the Higher Criticism, risks his reputation for scholarship by so doing. There are no Hebrew professors on the continent of Europe, so far as I know, who would deny the literary analysis of the Pentateuch into the four great documents. The professors of Hebrew in the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh, and tutors in a large number of theological colleges, hold to the same opinion. A very considerable number of the Hebrew professors of America are in accord with them. There are, indeed, a few professional scholars who hold to the traditional opinion, but these are in a hopeless minority. I doubt whether there is any question of scholarship whatever in which there is greater agreement among scholars than in this question of the literary analysis of the Hexateuch."
I have but one more witness to introduce, and it shall be the distinguished German professor Delitzsch, who has long been regarded as the bulwark of evangelical orthodoxy in Germany. "His name," says Professor Ladd, "has for many years been connected with the conception of a devout Christian scholarship used in the defense of the faith against attacks upon the supernatural character of the Old Testament religion and of the writings which record its development." In a preface to his commentary on Isaiah published since his recent death, he speaks with great humility of the work that he has done, adding, "Of one thing only do I think I may be confident,—that the spirit by which it is animated comes from the good Spirit that guides along the everlasting way." The opinion of such a scholar ought to have weight with all serious-minded Christians. When I give you his latest word on this question, you will recognize that you have all that the ripest and most devout scholarship can claim. Let me quote, then, Professor Ladd's abstract of his verdict:—
"In the opinion of Professor Delitzsch only the basis of the several codes... incorporated in the Pentateuch is Mosaic; the form in which these codes... are presented in the Pentateuch is of an origin much later than the time of Moses. The Decalogue and the laws forming the Book of the Covenant are the most ancient portions; they preserve the Mosaic type in its relatively oldest and purest form. Of this type Deuteronomy is a development. The statement that Moses 'wrote' the Deuteronomic law (Deut. xxxi. 9, 24) does not refer to the present Book of Deuteronomy, but to the code of laws which underlies it.
"The Priest's Code, which embodies the more distinctively ritualistic and ceremonial legislation, is the result of a long and progressive development. Certain of its principles originated with Moses, but its form, which is utterly unlike that of the other parts of the Pentateuch, was received at the hands of the priests of the nation. Probably some particular priest, at a much later date, indeed, than the time of Moses, but prior to the composition of Deuteronomy, was especially influential in shaping it. But the last stages of its development may belong to the period after the Exile.
"The historical traditions which are incorporated into the Hexateuch were committed to writing at different times and by different hands. The narratives of them are superimposed, as it were, stratum upon stratum, in the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua. For the Book of Joshua is connected intimately with the Pentateuch, and when analyzed shows the same composite structure. The differences which the several codes exhibit are due to modifications which they received in the course of history as they were variously collected, revised, and passed from generation to generation.... The Pentateuch, like all the other historical books of the Bible, is composed of documentary sources, differing alike in character and age, which critical analysis may still be able, with greater or less certainty, to distinguish and separate from one another." [Footnote: What is the Bible? pp. 489-491.]
That such is the fact with respect to the structure of these ancient writings is now beyond question. And our theory of inspiration must be adjusted to this fact. Evidently neither the theory of verbal inspiration, nor the theory of plenary inspiration can be made to fit the facts which a careful study of the writings themselves bring before us. These writings are not inspired in the sense which we have commonly given to that word. The verbal theory of inspiration was only tenable while they were supposed to be the work of a single author. To such a composite literature no such theory will apply. "To make this claim," says Professor Ladd, "and yet accept the best ascertained results of criticism, would compel us to take such positions as the following: The original authors of each one of the writings which enter into the composite structure were infallibly inspired; every one who made any changes in any one of these fundamental writings was infallibly inspired; every compiler who put together two or more of these writings was infallibly inspired, both as to his selections and transmissions [omissions?], and as to any connecting or explanatory words which he might himself write; every redactor was infallibly inspired to correct and supplement and omit that which was the product of previous infallible inspirations. Or perhaps it might seem more convenient to attach the claim of a plenary inspiration to the last redactor of all; but then we should probably have selected of all others the one least able to bear the weight of such a claim. Think of making the claim for a plenary inspiration of the Pentateuch in its present form on the ground of the infallibility of that one of the Scribes who gave it its last touches some time subsequent to the date of Ezra!" [Footnote: The Doctrine of Sacred Scripture, i. 499]
And yet this does not signify that these books are valueless. When it was discovered that the Homeric writings were not all the work of Homer, the value of the Homeric writings was not affected. As pictures of the life of that remote antiquity they had not lost their significance. The value of these Mosaic books is of a very different sort from that of the Homeric writings, but the discoveries of the Higher Criticism affect them no more seriously. Even their historical character is by no means overthrown. You can find in Herodotus and in Livy discrepancies and contradictions, but this does not lead you to regard their writings as worthless. There are no infallible histories, but that is no reason why you should not study history, or why you should read all history with the inclination to reject every statement which is not forced on your acceptance by evidence which you cannot gainsay.
These books of Moses are the treasury, indeed, of no little valuable history. They are not infallible, but they contain a great deal of truth which we find nowhere else, and which is yet wonderfully corroborated by all that we do know. Ewald declares that in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis Abraham is brought before us "in the clear light of history." From monuments and other sources the substantial accuracy of this narrative is confirmed; and the account of the visit of Abraham to Egypt conforms, in all its minute incidents, to the life of Egypt at that time. The name Pharaoh is the right name for the kings reigning then; the behavior of the servants of Pharaoh is perfectly in keeping with the popular ideas and practices as the monuments reveal them. The story of Joseph has been confirmed, as to its essential accuracy, as to the verisimilitude of its pictures of Egyptian life, by every recent discovery. Georg Ebers declares that "this narrative contains nothing which does not accurately correspond to a court of Pharaoh in the best times of the Kingdom." Many features of this narrative which a rash skepticism has assailed have been verified by later discoveries.
We are told in the Exodus that the Israelites were impressed by Pharaoh into building for him two store-cities ("treasure cities," the old version calls them), named Pithom and Rameses, and that in this work they were made to "serve with rigor;" that their lives were embittered "with hard service in mortar and brick and all manner of hard service in the field;" that they were sometimes forced to make brick without straw. The whereabouts of these store-cities, and the precise meaning of the term applied to them, has been a matter of much conjecture, and the story has sometimes been set aside as a myth. To Pithom there is no clear historical reference in any other book except Exodus. Only four or five years ago a Genovese explorer unearthed, near the route of the Suez Canal, this very city; found several ruined monuments with the name of the city plainly inscribed on them, "Pi Tum," and excavating still further uncovered a ruin of which the following is Mr. Rawlinson's description: "The town is altogether a square, inclosed by a brick wall twenty-two feet thick, and measuring six hundred and fifty feet along each side. Nearly the whole of the space is occupied by solidly built, square chambers, divided one from another by brick walls, from eight to ten feet thick, which are unpierced by window or door or opening of any kind. About ten feet from the bottom the walls show a row of recesses for beams, in some of which decayed wood still remains, indicating that the buildings were two-storied, having a lower room which could only be entered by a trap-door, used probably as a store-house, or magazine, and an upper one in which the keeper of the store may have had his abode. Therefore this discovery is simply that of a 'store-city,' built partly by Rameses II.; but it further appears from several short inscriptions, that the name of the city was Pa Tum, or Pithom; and thus there is no reasonable doubt that one of the two cities built by the Israelites has been laid bare, and answers completely to the description given of it." [Footnote: Quoted by Robinson in The Pharaohs of the Bondage, p. 97.]
The walls of Egypt were not all laid with mortar, but the record speaks of mortar in this case, and here it is: the several courses of these buildings were usually "laid with mortar in regular tiers." More striking still is the fact that in some of these buildings, while the lower tiers are composed of bricks having straw in them, the upper tiers consist of a poorer quality of bricks without straw. Photographs may be seen in this country of some of these brick granaries of this old store- city of Pithom, with the line of division plainly showing between the two kinds of bricks; and thus we have before our eyes a most striking confirmation of the truth of this story of the bondage of the Israelites in Egypt. Quite a number of such testimonies to the substantial historical verity of these Old Testament records have been discovered in recent years as old mounds have been opened in Egypt and in Chaldea, and the monuments of buried centuries have told their story to the wondering world. The books are not infallible, but he who sets them all aside as a collection of myths or fables exposes his ignorance in a lamentable way.
But what is far more to the purpose, the ideas running all through the old literature, the constructive truths of science, of ethics, of religion, are pure and lofty and full of saving power. Even science, I say, owes much to Genesis. The story of the Creation in the first chapter of Genesis must not indeed be taken for veritable history; but it is a solemn hymn in which some great truths of the world's origin are sublimely set forth. It gives us the distinct idea of the unity of Creation,—sweeping away, at one mighty stroke, the whole system of naturalistic polytheism, which makes science impossible, when it declares that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." In the same words it sets forth the truth by whose light science alone walks safely, that the source of all things is a spiritual cause. The God from whose power all things proceed is not a fortuitous concourse of atoms, but a spiritual intelligence. From this living God came forth matter with its forces, life with its organisms, mind with its freedom. And although it may not be possible to force the words of this ancient hymn into scientific statements of the order of creation, it is most clear that it implies a continuous process, a law of development, in the generations of the heaven and the earth. This is not a scientific treatise of creation, but the alphabet of science is here, as Dr. Newman Smyth has said; and it is correct. The guiding lights of scientific study are in these great principles.
Similarly the ethical elements and tendencies of these old writings are sound and strong. I have shown you how defective many of the Mosaic laws are when judged by Christian standards; but all this legislation contains formative ideas and principles by which it tends to purify itself. Human sacrifices were common among the surrounding nations; the story of Abraham and Isaac banishes that horror forever from Hebrew history. Slavery was universal, but the law of the Jubilee Year made an end of domestic slavery in Israel. The family was foundationless; the wife's rights rested wholly on the caprice of her husband; but that law of divorce which I quoted to you, and which our Lord repealed, set some bounds to this caprice, for the husband was compelled to go through certain formalities before he could turn his wife out of doors. The law of blood vengeance, though in terms it authorized murder, yet in effect powerfully restrained the violence of that rude age, and gave a chance for the development of that idea of the sacredness of life which to us is a moral commonplace, but which had scarcely dawned upon the minds of those old Hebrews. Thus the history shows a people moving steadily forward under moral leadership, out of barbarism into higher civilization, and we can trace the very process by which the moral maxims which to us are almost axioms have been cleared of the crudities of passion and animalism, and stamped upon the consciousness of men. Is not God in all this history?
Those first principles which I have called the guiding lights of science are also the elements of pure religion. Science and religion spell out different messages to men, but they start with the same alphabet. And the religious purity of that hymn of the Creation is not less wonderful than its scientific verity. Compare it with the other traditional stories of the origin of things; compare it with the mythologies of Egypt, of Chaldea, of Greece and Rome, and see how far above them it stands in spiritual dignity, in moral beauty. "We could more easily, indeed," says Dr. Newman Smyth, "compute how much a pure spring welling up at the source of a brook that widens into a river, has done for meadow and grass and flowers and overhanging trees, for thousands of years, than estimate the influence of this purest of all ancient traditions of the Creation, as it has entered into the lives and revived the consciences of men; as it has purified countries of idolatries and swept away superstition; and has flowed on and on with the increasing truth of history, and kept fresh and fruitful, from generation to generation, faith in the One God and the common parentage of men." [Footnote: Old Faiths in New Light, p. 73.]
Above all, we find in all this literature the planting and the first germination of that great hope which turned the thought of this people from the earliest generations toward the future, and made them trust and pray and wait, in darkest times, for better days to come. "Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward!" This is the voice that is always sounding from the heights above them, whether they halt by the shore of the sea, or bivouac in the wilderness. They do not always obey the voice, but it never fails to rouse and summon them. No people of all history has lived in the future as Israel did. "By faith" they worshiped and trusted and wrought and fought, the worthies of this old religion; towards lands that they had not seen they set their faces; concerning things to come they were always prophesying; and it is this great hope that forms the germ of the Messianic expectation by which they reach forth to the glories of the latter day. This attitude of Israel, in all the generations, is the one striking feature of this history. No soulless sphinx facing a trackless desert with blind eyes—no impassive Buddha ensphered in placid silence—is the genius of this people, but some strong angel poised on mighty pinion above the highest peak of Pisgah, and scanning with swift glances the beauty of the promised land. Now any people of which this is true must be, in a large sense of the word, an inspired people; and their literature, with all the signs of imperfection which must appear in it, on account of the medium through which it comes, will give proof of the divine ideas and forces that are working themselves out in their history.