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.
It is in this large way of looking at the Hebrew literature that we discover its real preciousness. And when we get this large conception, then petty questions about the absolute accuracy of texts and dates no longer trouble us. |He who has once gained this broader view of the Bible,| says Dr. Newman Smyth, |as the development of a course of history itself guided and inspired by Jehovah, will not be disconcerted by the confused noises of the critic. His faith in the Word of God lies deeper than any difficulties or flaws upon the surface of the Bible. He will not be disturbed by seeing any theory of its mechanical formation, or school-book infallibility broken to fragments under the repeated blows of modern investigation; the water of life will flow from the rock which the scholar strikes with his rod. He can wait, without fear, for a candid and thorough study of these sacred writings to determine, if possible, what parts are genuine, and what narratives, if any, are unhistorical. His belief in the Word of God, from generation to generation, does not depend upon the minor incidents of the Biblical stories; it would not be destroyed or weakened, even though human traditions could be shown to have overgrown some parts of this sacred history, as the ivy, creeping up the wall of the church, does not loosen its ancient stones.| [Footnote: Old Faiths in New Light, p.59.]