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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

Lecture II. — Other People's Share in it

page 17

Lecture II.

Other People's Share in it.

One great objection to regarding the Jewish books as miraculously produced is this: That we are thereby unable to look upon them as a national literature, the component parts of which show a regular development of thought and culture. That they are a national literature is undeniable, and as they cannot be this, and at the same time a supernatural product, the baselessness of the orthodox claim becomes at once apparent. The true view of the Old Testament I take to be this: That it is a literature exhibiting the characteristic genius of the Hebrew mind; that just as the Greek mind developed and perfected the idea of æsthetic art, just as the Roman mind cultivated the ideal of law, and gave to the world the fundamental principles of equity and government, so the gifted Hebrew mind naturally excelled all others in religious contemplation, and exhibited insight into the lofty speculations of theology, The one growth is just as natural and just as non-miraculous as the others. The Jewish books themselves show us that the national development was gradual and slow; that in its early stages the religious ideas of the nation were as crude, its gods as numerous, fierce, and local, as those of the surrounding peoples, and that it was not until the nation had gone through a season of severe mental and moral discipline that it rose to the sublime and lofty heights of monotheism and spiritual religion. That the Jews were and are far ahead of the majority of the human race in the region of transcendental thought we readily allow—the Christian Church at the present hour being a living proof of it, content, as it is, with that degrading doctrine, that dishonest polytheism which it calls Trinitarianism. But there's nothing supernatural about this Hebrew development, it's simply the spontaneous outgrowth of the gifted Hebrew mind. No doubt to people with an inborn bent to polytheism, like the Christian races, the idea of monotheism appears one so lofty and difficult of attainment as to suggest the theory that only a race miraculously dealt with could have attained to it; and this explanation has been still further strengthened by the anachronism we are combating in these lectures, viz., the blunder by which some of the books have been antedated, and a literature which really belongs to a late age has been attributed to a generation a thousand years before. The natural development of the national mind has thus been obscured and lost sight of, and then the miracle of inspiration has been invoked to explain the apparent anomaly. But this page 18 thought brings us again to the point at which we left our argument last Sunday morning, and we will now resume out examination of the Pentateuch.

It is now a recognised axiom in the criticism of profane literature that chronicles of supernatural occurrences are never written by an author contemporary with those occurrences. Reason, however, compels us to apply this principle universally, to Hebrew literature not less than to Latin, an application which at once brands the Pentateuch as certainly non-Mosaic, whilst it raises a high probability of an origin in far subsequent times. In our lecture last Sunday, we endeavoured to confirm the high probability thus suggested, first by examining several statements or expressions scattered throughout the books, all implying that they could not have been written by Moses, but must have been composed by someone living in far subsequent times; and, secondly, by drawing attention to the significance of the extraordinary fact that the words and grammatical forms employed in the language of the book were identical with those of books avowedly written at the time of the Babylonian Captivity or later. We now propose to go further and show by reference to some details of the narrative that the books could not have been written by Moses on another account, since the narrative is evidently a compilation, containing the writings not of one, but several authors, living at considerable intervals of time from one another.

I daresay in reading passages in various parts of the Pentateuch, especially if you have read them carefully, you have often been puzzled by the writer giving you a second account of an occurrence, apparently forgetful of the fact that he had already given you a previous account, whilst the two narratives differ more or less in details. Many instances of this occur in the Book of Genesis. For instance, the whole of the first chapter of Genesis and the first three verses of the second chapter are a continuous narrative of the work of creation, telling us how the earth and heavens, the herb of the field, and man himself, both male and female, were brought into existence. But, now, at the fourth verse of this second chapter the writer starts again with a new version of the creation, as if he were unaware that he had already given one account of this stupendous series of occurrences. Thus, in Gen. i., 12, Revised Version, he says, "And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind." And in the 27th verse, "And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them." But in the fifth verse of second chapter, in utter contradiction to this, we find, "And no plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground." He then goes on to relate page 19 the creation of man again, and the subsequent evolution of woman out of the man's rib, and that is a more wonderful evolution than any Mr Darwin tells of. What then can be the meaning of these two contradictory accounts of the same occurrences in the same narrative? If you read the two accounts a little closer you will notice this difference. In the first it is always God who per-performs the act of creation, in the second it is always the Lord God, i.e., Jehovah God, who does it. I say "Jehovah God," not "Lord God," for I am sorry to have to remark that neither King James's translators nor Queen Victoria's revisers have been honest enough to express this matter plainly, but have altered the proper name Jehovah, the proper name of the national God of the Jews, have altered this into the word "Lord," so making the phrase "the Lord God" instead of "Jehovah God," as it is in the original. Well, in the second account it is always "Jehovah God" who does everything, and now you see at once that the narrative we have in Genesis is not an original narrative at all, but merely two very ancient documents pieced together. Let us take another instance: turn to the account of the Flood, and notice first what God tells Noah to do, and then what the Lord, or Jehovah tells him to do, and you will see that here again we have, not one document, but two. Turn to chap, vi., 5—13: "And God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before me," and so on until the 19th verse, where it says, "And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female." Here you see God, not the Lord or Jehovah, commands Noah to take two individuals, or two pairs of every living thing, into the ark with him—two, and only two. But, now, in complete contradiction to this, in the second verse of the next chapter, not God, but the Lord, i.e., Jehovah, commands him thus:—"Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and men, the male and his female." Here again we evidently have two different versions of the same story, which we might call God's account and the Lord's account respectively, but which biblical scholars call the Elohist's narrative, and the Jehovist's narrative, because Elohim is the Hebrew word for "God," whilst Jehovah, as we have just seen, is the word that has been mistranslated "Lord." And as this point is a very important one, and enables us to clear up many obscure passages in Genesis, we will take one or two more instances of these double accounts. And we will look for a moment into the History of Abraham. The 12th chapter of Genesis evidently belongs to the Jehovistic document, because in it Jehovah and not God speaks to Abram. In this chapter Abram and his family leave Canaan and go down into Egypt on account of a severe famine that happened in Canaan, and in the course of the journey Abram persuades his wife Sarai to pass herself off to Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as his sister and page 20 not his wife. In this way, and at the price of his own honor, Abram meanly hopes to save his life, and does so, but in the end his baseness is publicly exposed. But in the 20th chapter, and when Sarah is more than 90 years of age, we have her and Abraham practising the same deception again on another King, viz., Abimelech, King of Gerar, although one certainly fails to see the necessity for it at Sarah's age, the author of this chapter being apparently in complete ignorance of any similar incident in the lives of these two people. But when we notice that this 20th chapter is an Elohistic chapter, the word God, not Jehovah, being used throughout, we see at once that the true explanation is, that here we have simply another version of the former incident by a different author, and that the editor of the Pentateuch, finding both versions to his hand, has tacked the Elohistic on to the Jehovistic version, and so given us both of them.

And yet once again. In the history of Jacob we shall find two incidents in his life, each represented as occurring twice over and under entirely different circumstances, whilst with reference to both events, the writer of the second account seems to be quite unaware that the circumstance has been mentioned before, and the inspired editor, whoever he was, not quite so smart as uninspired editors, failing to see the identity of the occurrences. You doubtless remember the beautiful story of Jacob journeying to Padan-Aram to obtain for himself a wife, and how on the first night after leaving home be had a wonderful dream of a ladder extending from earth to heaven, on which angels seemed to be ascending and descending, and how the narrative tells us that next morning he was so much impressed by the vision he had seen that he set up a stone on the spot and changed the name of the place to Bethel. Well, twenty years pass away and Jacob returns with all his household, and all the flocks and herds he has acquired by cheating his father-in-law, Laban, from Padan-Aram, with the intention of settling in his native land of Canaan. Now the narrative of this return contains one strange and obscure paragraph. Jacob, remembering the mean wrong he had perpetrated on his brother Esau twenty years before, is filled with alarm when he learns that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men. Jacob has reached the banks of the Jabbok, a tributary of the Jordan on its eastern side, and at evening he sends all his people across the stream at the ford, whilst he himself waits behind. All that night he is engaged, according to the story, in a mysterious wrestling, but at dawn his opponent, whether human or divine, leaves him; not, however, till he has changed the name of the Patriarch to Israel. Now, so far, all is plain sailing. We have one long continuous narrative, of which the two incidents I have just mentioned are parts, a narrative extending from chapters 28 to 84, at the end of which Jacob and his sons are left, as settlers of old standing, at Shechem in the page 21 land of Canaan, west of the Jordan. But then at the 9th verse of chapter 85 the writer appears to make a new start altogether, and represents Jacob as only just just arrived west of the Jordan from Padan-Aram, ignoring the long narrative of the details of the journey home immediately preceding. "And God appeared unto Jacob again when he came out of Padan-Aram and blessed him, and God said unto him, thy name is Jacob, thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name, and he called his name Israel." And the passage then goes on to narrate how God made him great promises after having thus changed his name from Jacob to Israel, the writer being apparently quite ignorant of the fact that this change of name had already taken place under quite different circumstances east of the Jordan. But, still further, when the divine communication ceased Jacob sets up a pillar, anoints it, and calls the name of the place Bethel, quite unaware, it would seem, that he had given that name to another place twenty years before. Now, these peculiarities in the history of Jacob were, until recently, quite inexplicable. But the difficulty is at once solved when you come to see that the long-detailed narrative extending from chapter 28 to chapter 84, or farther, is a section of the Jehovistic document, whilst the second account of the change of name, as well as the second account of the origin of the word Bethel, are supplements taken from the Elohistic document. Thus referring to the ladder that Jacob saw at the commencement of his twenty years' exile the writer says (c. 28, v. 18), "And behold Jehovah stood above it and said I am Jehovah." And, again just before the passage of the Jabbok by Jacob's people, and the change of name after the mysterious wrestling, he prays (c. 32 v. 9), "O, God of my father, Abraham, and God of my father, Isaac, O Jehovah." Indeed the whole narrative is continuous, and is plainly Jehovistic throughout. On the other hand when the new start occurs in the narrative, at the 9th verse of chapter 35, and the second version of each incident is given, the term Lord, or: Jehovah does not once occur. Thus we read (c. 35, v. 11), "And God said unto Jacob, I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply. . . And God went up from him in the place where he spake with him." Here we have only God, i.e., Elohim, and the passage is plainly an extract from the Elohistic document.

These instances will be sufficient to show that at all events in this first book of the Pentateuch we have two narratives woven together, but not cleverly woven, so that it is very easy to detect i the places at which the pieces join. Moreover, scholars have of late years subjected the Pentateuch to very close scrutiny, and, as a result, have succeeded in relegating every part of the narrative to its original document, and have then made the extraordinary discovery that when the Elohistic sections are arranged page 22 in due course by themselves they actually make a continuous and complete narrative; brief, it is true, but quite consistent with itself. And, perhaps, this in one of the greatest triumphs of modern scholarship, to have unravelled the tangled thread of a blundering, unknown editor, who has been dead and buried more than two thousand years. Indeed, in a new work of Renan, "The History of Israel," I see there is an exceedingly acute explanation given of the way in which this amalgamation of the the two documents may have come about: it is evidently the result of the Assyrian practice of recording two or more narratives of the same event in parallel columns—a practice that offers a sort of temptation to an ill-informed man to attempt to combine or harmonize them into one account. But there comes now the further question—a very interesting one—is it possible to ascertain the respective ages of these two component documents, the Elohistic and the Jehovistic? When were they written, and by whom? And can we determine these questions with any degree of certainty?

Until quite recently scholars were in the habit of regarding these documents as the oldest elements of the Pentateuch; and, indeed, with respect to one of them (the Jehovistic) that opinion remains unaltered. It was supposed that the Elohistic document might have been produced in the schools of the prophets, which seem to have been established by the Prophet Samuel, just as in early English history we know that the chronicles which furnish us with our knowledge of Saxon and Norman times were composed year by year by the monks in the monasteries of Glastonbury and other places. Many, indeed, have suggested that Samuel the Prophet may himself have been the author of the Elohistic document. But, as we shall see later on, the continued and more profound study of the subject, in conjunction with the revelations that have come as the fruit of the recent investigations into Assyrian antiquities and literature, has forced upon scholars the conviction that a far later date must be assigned to this Elohistic document, which, so far from being the oldest component of our present Pentateuch, is actually the latest of them all, and did not come into existence till after the return from Babylon.

For the present, however, we will leave the Elohistic document and turn our attention to its fellow—the Jehovistic—narrative, which still maintains its reputation for antiquity, though, even in this case, it is not the remote antiquity to which critics were at first disposed to assign it. In the early days of Biblical criticism, to which we have already referred, whilst the Elohistic narrative was referred to the time, and even to the hand of Samuel, the Jehovist was thought to have lived and written in the first days of the monarchy, say the end of David's reign, or the beginning of that of his successor, Solomon. It page 23 was seen plainly that he could not have written earlier than Samuel's time, and the end of Samuel's time, and that from the following circumstance. In the first book of Samuel that prophet is represented as sending the newly-made king of Israel (Saul) on an errand of extermination against the Amalekites. Here is his commission—we ought to say his divine commission, but diabolical would be nearer the mark:—"Now, go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass" (1. Samuel xiv., 3). Saul, however, fails to carry out this ruthless command in its integrity, and spares the Amalekite king, whose name was Agag; but the latter is subsequently hewn in pieces by the hand of the fierce prophet himself. Now, strange to say, there is a reference to this very King Agag in the prophecy uttered by Balaam in the Pentateuch. How Moses should know anything about this man Agag, who lived so many centuries later than himself, we need not stop to inquire. We have already seen that Moses may be left out of the question when discussing the real authorship of the Pentateuch. But this "prophecy of Balaam" in the Book of Numbers is part of the Jehovistic section of the Pentateuch, and the reference in it to Agag—the words being, "His king shall be higher than Agag" (Numbers, xxiv., 7)—this reference evidently proves beyond all cavil that the composition of the Jehovistic narrative was subsequent to the time of Samuel, as well as subsequent to the creation of the monarchy; and, as I said just now, it has been usual to consider that the author of it lived either at the end of David's reign or the beginning of Solomon's. But, bold and reckless as these early critics were thought to have been by their contemporaries, it now turns out that they were not bold enough, but antedated the actual time of the origin of the document by some two and a half centuries. This, at all events, is the opinion of the latest writers on the question. Instead, however, of referring to their works, perhaps I may be allowed to put before you the steps by which I had myself already arrived at the same conclusion.

There is a name of awe occurs not once, but several times, in this Jehovistic document—the terrible name of Assyria. How is it that the writer should be so strangely familiar with this dread name, and should even talk of Assyria carrying the Kenites away captive, as he does in the concluding verses of Balaam's prophecy (xxiv., 21, 22, A.V.): "And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said: Strong is thy dwelling-place, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock; nevertheless, the Kenite shall be wasted, until Assyria shall carry thee away captive."

Assyria, you will remember, was the great empire that arose on the banks of the Tigris with Nineveh for its capital, and you page 24 are doubtless aware that of late years great discoveries have been made, both of its buildings and the inscriptions upon them; and that these inscriptions, though written in a most extraordinary character, and in a language the key to which had been completely lost, have recently been deciphered and can now be read by scholars without difficulty. These cuneiform inscriptions, as they are called, include the period comprised in the Second Book of Kings, and give the Assyrian version of events mentioned in that book, where Jewish and Assyrian history touch and overlap one another. This was the great empire, as you are well aware, from which proceeded the host that besieged and captured Samaria, and carried the Israelites away captive to the banks of the Tigris. This happened in the year 720, B.C., in the ninth year of the reign of Hosea, King of Israel, and the sixth year of that of Hezekiah, King of Judah. And at what period do you suppose the Assyrians first come upon the page in Jewish history? Why just fifty years before this time, when Pul, King of Assyria, invaded the territories of Menahem, King of Israel, and was bought off by the latter. No doubt the Assyrians would be heard of, both in Judah and Israel, some time before their first invasion of the country; but from the time of Pul's invasion backwards to that of the death of King David is nearly two and a half centuries, and we can hardly suppose that these mighty and cruel warriors, the Assyrians, who have been rightly called the Romans of Asia, were two and a half centuries pressing on the borders of Palestine before they invaded it—it is much more reasonable to suppose that they had hardly risen upon the horizon of Hebrew politics in the days of David and Solomon, or, perhaps, for a couple of centuries afterwards; so that the references to them by name in the Jehovistic document make many of us think it was drawn up at a date much later even than the reign of Solomon.

But now compare this thought and this evidence for it with the popular notion, that not only David and Solomon, but even Moses, several centuries before their time, were familiar with Assyria; nay more, remember that the orthodox theory about the earliest chapters of Genesis and the Garden of Eden is that these chapters contain the first traditions of our race, 2000 years before the Flood, and from 3000 to 4000 years before Israel was carried away captive; and that Moses, under Divine guidance, adopted these traditions and recorded them in the Book of Genesis. Well, one of the very earliest of these is the description of the Garden of Eden, which, the writer says, originated four great rivers, whose names he gives us. One of these is the Euphrates, and another the Hiddekel, which we know to be the Tigris, and which the Jehovist declares is "that which goeth towards the east of Assyria." Why, what in the world did the Antediluvians know about Assyria? According to the biblical page 25 story Assyria could have had no existence as such till after the Flood. What is this comparatively modern name doing in an Antediluvian tradition? And if you reply that this description of the Garden is the work of Moses himself, what becomes of your theory of a pre-Noachic tradition? Moreover, the modern dress of this so-called primeval account is much more evident in the original Hebrew than it is in our English translations. The writer says, "The fourth river is Euphrates." Euphrates, you know, is the name the Greek travellers gave the river, but the name by which it is known to the inhabitants living on its banks to-day is the Frat, El Frat. And what do you suppose is the Hebrew name for it in the second chapter of Genesis, and which our translators have rendered by the Greek name Euphrates? Why, it's the Frat, letter for letter with the name of the present day. What do you think of that? The name has never changed, to the people living on its banks. Doesn't that bring you pretty close to the origin of these documents? Doesn't that give a sufficiently modem air to this second chapter of Genesis? You hardly thought you were so close to the Garden of Eden as all that. Don't these early chapters of Genesis begin to smack a little of the Captivity, or at latest of a century or two before that event? And, how, any one with such words as Assyria and the Frat sticking out in the narrative could imagine it was a primeval tradition, or even a Mosaic writing, I am utterly at a loss to understand. It only shows that people have been reading these so-called sacred books for ages without thinking at all of what they were reading. The holy sounds buzzed in then-ears, and that was sufficient for them.

Thus, you will see, even those scholars have some show of reason for their opinion who believe that the Jehovistic document was composed considerably later than David or Solomon's time. And, besides what has already been said, we must remember that, since the cuneiform inscriptions of Ancient Assyria have been deciphered, it has come to light that the Assyrians had many traditions almost identical with those we find in the Jehovistic document. For instance, we find that they have a series of early legends entitled the "Gisdhubar Epic," in twelve books, and that the eleventh book contains an account of the Flood very similar to that we have in the Book of Genesis, so that the myths we find in the latter seem to be mere selections from a larger collection in the Assyrian antiquities; whilst it is well worth remembering that the Assyrian language, though differing as widely as possible from the Hebrew in written characters, is as closely allied to that language in reality as English is to German. "I speak that I do know."

We will now conclude this branch of our subject by saying that the date which the New Criticism requires us to adopt as the birth-date of the Jehovistic document is the middle of the eighth page 26 century, B.C., about thirty years before the siege and capture of Samaria by the Kings of Assyria, Shalmanezar and Sargon. And further that such slight indications of locality as there are all point to the probability that it was in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and not at Jerusalem, that this famous document originated.

So much then for the origin of the Jehovistic element of the Pentateuch. The origin of the Mosaic law contained in the Book of Leviticus, as well as that of the Book of Deuteronomy we will, in accordance with the announcement I made at the commencement of this lecture, reserve for future mornings.

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