Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Al Haines
THE BIBLE'S MESSAGE TO MODERN LIFE
Twelve Studies on
The Making of a Nation
The Beginnings of Israel's History
CHARLES FOSTER KENT
JEREMIAH WHIPPLE JENKS
The best of allies you can procure for us is the Bible. That will
bring us the reality--freedom.--_Garibaldi_.
If the common schools have found their way from the Atlantic to the
Pacific; if slavery has been abolished; if the whole land has been
changed from a wilderness into a garden of plenty, from ocean to
ocean; if education has been fostered according to the best lights
of each generation since then; if industry, frugality and sobriety
are the watchwords of the nation, as I believe them to be, I say it
is largely due to those first emigrants, who, landing with the
English Bible in their hands and in their hearts, established
themselves on the shores of America.--_Joseph H. Choate_.
And, as it is owned, the whole scheme of Scripture is not yet
understood, so, if it comes to be understood, it must be in the
same way as natural knowledge is come at; by the continuance and
progress of learning and liberty, and by particular persons
attending to, comparing and pursuing intimations scattered up and
down it, which are overlooked and disregarded by the generality of
the world. Nor is it at all incredible that a book which has been
so long in the possession of mankind should contain many truths as
Mr. Lincoln, as I saw him every morning, in the carpet slippers he
wore in the house and the black clothes no tailor could make really
fit his gaunt, bony frame, was a homely enough figure. The routine
of his life was simple, too; it would have seemed a treadmill to
most of us. He was an early riser, when I came on duty at eight in
the morning, he was often already dressed and reading in the
library. There was a big table near the centre of the room: there
I have seen him reading many times. And the book? It was the
Bible which I saw him reading while most of the household
slept.--_William H. Crook_, in _Harper's Magazine_.
The Bible has such power for teaching righteousness that even to
those who come to it with all sorts of false notions about the God
of the Bible, it yet teaches righteousness, and fills them with the
love of it; how much more those who come to it with a true notion
about the God of the Bible.--_Matthew Arnold_.
The Rediscovery of the Bible.
The Object of These Studies.
The Plan of Work.
Books of Reference.
STUDY I. MAN'S PLACE IN THE WORLD. The Story of Creation, Gen. 1,
1. The Different Theories of Creation.
2. The Priestly Story of Creation.
3. The Early Prophetic Story of Creation.
4. A Comparison of the Two Accounts of Creation.
5. Man's Conquest and Rulership of the World.
6. Man's Responsibility as the Ruler of the World.
STUDY II. MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS ACTS. The Story of the
Garden of Eden, Gen. 3
1. The Nature of Sin.
2. The Origin of Sin According to the Story in Genesis 3.
3. The Different Theories Regarding the Origin of Sin.
4. The Effects of Sin upon the Wrong-doer.
5. God's Attitude toward the Sinner.
6. The Effect of Sin upon Society.
STUDY III. THE CRIMINAL, AND HIS RELATION TO SOCIETY. The Story
of Cain, Gen. 4:1-16
1. The Meaning of the Story of Cain.
2. The Making of a Criminal.
3. The Criminal's Attitude toward Society.
4. The Ways in which Society Deals with the Criminal.
5. How to Deal with Criminals.
6. The Prevention of Crime.
STUDY IV. THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST. The Story of the Great
Flood, Gen. 6-9
1. The Two Biblical Accounts of the Flood.
2. The Corresponding Babylonian Flood Stories.
3. History of the Biblical Flood Stories.
4. Aim of the Biblical Writers in Recounting the Flood Stories.
5. The Survival of the "Fittest" in the Natural World.
6. In Social and Political Life.
STUDY V. THE PIONEER'S INFLUENCE UPON A NATION'S IDEAL. Abraham,
the Traditional Father of the Race, Gen. 12:1-8; 13:1-13; 16; 18;
19; 21:1-7; 22:1-19
1. The Reasons for Migration.
2. The Prophetic Stories about Abraham.
3. The Meaning of the Early Prophetic Stories about Abraham.
4. The Prophetic Portrait of Abraham.
5. The Tendency to Idealize National Heroes.
6. The Permanent Value and Influence of the Abraham Narratives.
STUDY VI. THE POWER OF AMBITION. Jacob the Persistent, Gen.
1. The Two Brothers, Jacob and Esau.
2. The Man with a Wrong Ambition.
3. Jacob's Training in the School of Experience.
4. The Invincible Power of Ambition and Perseverance.
5. The Different Types of Ambition.
6. The Development of Right Ambitions.
STUDY VII. A SUCCESSFUL MAN OF AFFAIRS. Joseph's Achievements,
Gen. 37; 39-48; 50
1. The Qualities Essential to Success.
2. The Limitations and Temptations of Joseph's Early Life.
3. The Call of a Great Opportunity.
4. The Temptations of Success.
5. The Standards of Real Success.
6. The Methods of Success.
STUDY VIII. THE TRAINING OF A STATESMAN. Moses in Egypt and the
Wilderness, Ex. 1:1-7:5
1. The Egyptian Background.
2. The Making of a Loyal Patriot.
3. The School of the Wilderness.
4. Moses' Call to Public Service.
5. The Education of Public Opinion.
6. The Training of Modern Statesmen.
STUDY IX. THE ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF LAW. Moses' Work as Judge and
Prophet, Ex. 18:5-27; 33:5-11
1. The Needs that Give Rise to Law.
2. The Growth of Customary Law.
3. The Authority Underlying all Law.
4. Moses' Relations to the Old Testament Laws.
5. The Development of Modern Law.
6. The Attitude of Citizens toward the Law.
STUDY X. THE FOUNDATIONS OF GOOD CITIZENSHIP. The Ten
Commandments, Ex. 20:1-17
1. The History of the Prophetic Decalogue.
2. Obligations of the Individual to God.
3. The Social and Ethical Basis of the Sabbath Law.
4. The Importance of Children's Loyalty to Parents.
5. Primary Obligations of Man to Man.
6. The Present-day Authority of the Ten Commandments.
STUDY XI. THE EARLY TRAINING OF A RACE. Israel's Experience in
the Wilderness and East of the Jordan, Num. 11-14; 21:21-31;
1. The Wilderness Environment.
2. Influence of the Nomadic Life upon Israel's Character and Ideals.
3. The Influence of the Wilderness Life Upon Israel's faith.
4. The Significance of the East-Jordan Conquests.
5. The Significance of Moses' Work.
6. The Early Stages in the Training of the Human Race.
STUDY XII. A NATION'S STRUGGLE FOR A HOME AND FREEDOM, Israel's
Victories over the Canaanites, Josh. 2-9; Judg. 1, 4, 5.
1. The Crossing of the Jordan.
2. The Canaanite Civilization.
3. The Capture of the Outposts of Palestine.
4. Ways by which the Hebrews Won Their Homes.
5. Deborah's Rally of the Hebrews.
6. The Final Stage in the Making of the Hebrew Nation.
THE REDISCOVERY OF THE BIBLE
In the early Christian centuries thousands turned to the Bible, as
drowning men to a life buoy, because it offered them the only way
of escape from the intolerable social and moral ills that attended
the death pangs of the old heathenism. Then came the Dark Ages,
with their resurgent heathenism and barbarism, when the Bible was
taken from the hands of the people. In the hour of a nation's
deepest humiliation and moral depravity, John Wycliffe, with the
aid of a devoted army of lay priests, gave back the Bible to the
people, and in so doing laid the foundations for England's
intellectual, political and moral greatness. The joy and
inspiration of the Protestant Reformers was the rediscovery and
popular interpretation of the Bible. In all the great forward
movements of the modern centuries the Bible has played a central
role. The ultimate basis of our magnificent modern scientific and
material progress is the inspiration given to the human race by the
Unfortunately, the real meaning and message of the Bible has been
in part obscured during past centuries by dogmatic interpretations.
The study of the Bible has also been made a solemn obligation
rather than a joyous privilege. The remarkable discoveries of the
present generation and its new and larger sense of power and
progress have tended to turn men's attention from the contemplation
of the heritage which comes to them from the past. The result is
that most men know little about the Bible. They are acquainted
with its chief characters such as Abraham, David and Jesus. A few
are even able to give a clear-cut outline of the important events
of Israel's history; but they regard it simply as a history whose
associations and interests belong to a bygone age. How many
realize that most of the problems which Israel met and solved are
similar to those which to-day are commanding the absorbing
attention of every patriotic citizen, and that of all existing
books, the Old Testament makes the greatest contributions to the
political and social, as well as to the religious thought of the
world? National expansion, taxation, centralization of authority,
civic responsibility, the relation of religion to politics and to
public morality were as vital and insistent problems in ancient
Israel as they are in any live, progressive nation to-day. The
gradual discovery of this fact explains why here and there
through-out the world the leaders in modern thought and progress
are studying the Bible with new delight and enthusiasm; not only
because of its intrinsic beauty and interest, but because in it
they find, stated in clearest form, the principles which elucidate
the intricate problems of modern life.
THE OBJECTS OF THESE STUDIES,
There are two distinct yet important ways of interpreting the
Bible: The one is that of the scholar who knows the Bible from the
linguistic, historical and literary point of view; the other, that
of the man who knows life and who realizes the meaning and value of
the Bible to those who are confronted by insistent social, economic
and individual problems. These studies aim to combine both methods
Briefly defined the chief objects of these studies are:
(1) To introduce the men and women of to-day to that which is most
vital in the literature and thought of the Old Testament.
(2) To interpret the often neglected Old Testament into the
language of modern life simply and directly and in the light of
that which is highest in the teachings of Christianity.
(3) To present the constructive results of the modern historical
and literary study of the Bible, not dogmatically but tentatively,
so that the reader and student may be in a position to judge for
himself regarding the conclusions that are held by a large number
of Biblical scholars and to estimate their practical religious
(4) To show how closely the Old Testament is related to the life of
to-day and how it helps to answer the pressing questions now
confronting the nations.
(5) To lead strong men to think through our national, social and
individual problems, and to utilize fearlessly and practically the
constructive results of modern method and research in the fields of
both science and religion.
THE PLAN OF WORK.
These studies are planned to meet the needs of college students and
adult Bible classes. Those who are able to command more time and
wish to do more thorough work will find in the list of _Parallel
Readings_ on the first page of each study carefully selected
references to the best authorities on the subject treated. For
their guidance are also provided _Subjects for Further Study_. In
using this text-book the student may proceed as follows:
(1) Read carefully the Biblical passage indicated in connection
with each title; for example, in the first study, Genesis 1 and 2.
(2) Read the Biblical and other quotations on the first page of
each study. Unless otherwise indicated the Biblical quotations are
from the American Revised Version. They include the most important
Biblical passages. The other quotations embody some of the best
contributions of ancient and modern writers to the subject under
(3) Read and think through the material presented under each
paragraph. This material is arranged under six headings for the
convenience of those who wish to follow the plan of daily reading
BOOKS OF REFERENCE.
The books suggested in connection with this course have been
carefully selected in order that each person may have for his
individual use a practical working library. The following should
be at hand for constant reference.
Kent, C. F., _The Historical Bible_, Vols. I and II. Contains the
important Biblical passages arranged in chronological order and
provided with the historical, geographical and archaeological notes
required for their clear understanding. The translation is based
on the oldest manuscripts and embodies the constructive results of
modern Biblical research. New York, $1.00 each.
Jenks, J. W., _Principles of Politics_. New York, $1.25. Prepared
to explain the principles by which political action is governed and
thus to aid thoughtful citizens both to gain a clear outlook on
life and wisely to direct their own political activity.
Aristotle, _Politics_. The greatest masterpiece of scientific
political thought. Its different point of view will suggest many
illuminating comparisons between Greek and modern political ideals
and institutions and give the reader a broad basis for the
appreciation of that which is essential and enduring in the
statecraft of all ages. $2.50.
For further parallel study the following books are suggested:
Breasted, J. H., _History of the Ancient Egyptians_. Clear,
concise and authoritative. New York, $1.25.
Bryce, James, _The American Commonwealth_, Vols. I, II. New York,
$2.00 each. Best commentary on American Government.
Cooper, C. S., _The Bible and Modern Life_. Presents the point of
view from which the Bible may most profitably be studied and
contains valuable suggestions regarding the organization and work
of college and adult classes. New York, $1.25.
Driver, S. R., _Introduction to the Literature of the Old
Testament_. New York, $2.50. A sane, thorough study of the
origin, history, and contents of the Old Testament books.'
Goodspeed, G. S., _History of the Babylonians and Assyrians_. New
York, $1.25. A comprehensive and attractive picture of the life of
these ancient people.
Hadley, A. T., _Standards of Public Morality_. New York, $1.00. A
suggestive study of the application of moral principles to the life
Hastings, James, _Dictionary of the Bible_, Vols. 1-5. New York,
$6.00 each. A summary of the historical, literary, geographical
and archaeological facts which constitute the background of the
life and thought of the Bible.
Kent, C. F., _The Beginnings of Hebrew History and Israel's
Historical and Biographical Narratives_. (Vols. I and II of
Student's Old Testament.) $2.75 each. Presents in a clear, modern
translation the original sources incorporated in the historical
books of the Old Testament, the origin and literary history of
these books, and the important parallel Babylonian and Assyrian
Kent, C. F., _Biblical Geography and History_. New York, $1.50. A
clear portrayal of the physical characteristics of Palestine and of
the potent influences which that land has exerted throughout the
ages upon its inhabitants.
McFadyen, J. E., _Messages of the Prophets and Priestly
Historians_. New York, $1,25. A fresh and effective
interpretation of the historical and spiritual messages of the Old
Testament historical books into the language and thought of to-day.
Smith, H. P., _Old Testament History_. New York, $2.50. A
thorough, well-proportioned presentation of the unfolding of
Wilson, Woodrow, _Constitutional Government in the United States_.
$1.50. A constructive judgment of the American constitution.
Seeley, J. R., _Introduction to Political Science_. $1.50. An
effective example of the application of the historical methods to
MAN'S PLACE IN THE WORLD.
THE STORY OF CREATION -- Gen. 1 and 2.
Kent, _Historical Bible_, Vol. I, pp. 1-7, 231-3.
Articles, "Evolution" and "Cosmogony," in _Ency. Brit_. or _Inter.
Ency_., or any standard encyclopedia.
God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he
him, male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and
God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the
earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea,
and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that
moveth upon the earth.--_Gen. 1:27, 28_.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
The moon and the stars which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
And the son of man that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him but little lower than God,
And crownest him with glory and honor.
Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thine hands,
Thou hast put all things under his feet.--_Ps. 8: 8-6_.
God clothed men with strength like his own,
And made them according to his own image.
He put the fear of them upon all flesh,
That they should have dominion over beasts and birds.
Mouth and tongue, eyes and ears,
And a mind with which to think he gave them;
With insight and wisdom he filled their minds,
Good and evil he taught them. Ben Sira. 17, 3-7 (_Hist. Bible_).
All things were made through him; and without him was not any thing
made that hath been made.--John 1:3.
DIFFERENT THEORIES OF CREATION.
Every early people naturally asked the questions, How were things
made? How were men created? First of all, Who made the world?
They necessarily answered them according to their own dawning
The most primitive races believed that some great animal created
the earth and man. In the Alaskan collection in the museum of the
University of Pennsylvania there is a huge crow, sitting upon the
mask of a man's face. This symbolizes the crude belief of the
Alaskan Indians regarding the way man was created. The early
Egyptians thought that the earth and man were hatched out of an
egg. In one part of Egypt it was held that the artisan god Ptah
broke the egg with his hammer. In another part of the land and
probably at a later date the tradition was current that Thoth the
moon god spoke the world into existence. The earliest Babylonian
record states that:
The god Marduk laid a reed on the face of the waters,
He formed dust and poured it out beside the reed;
That he might cause the gods to dwell in the dwellings
of their heart's desire,
He formed mankind.
Later he formed the grass and the rush of the marsh and the forest.
Then he created the animals and their young.
The Parsee teachers held that the rival gods, Ahriman and Ormuzd,
evolved themselves out of primordial matter and then through the
long ages created their attendant hierarchies of angels. The
philosophers of India anticipated in some respects our modern
evolutionary theory. Brahma is thought of as self-existent and
eternal. He gradually condenses himself into material objects,
such as ether, fire, water, earth and the elements. Last of all he
manifests himself in man. The Greek philosophers were the first to
attempt to describe creation as a purely physical, generative
process. They taught the evolution of the more complex from the
simpler forms. Plato and Aristotle believed in a transcendental
deity and found in the world indications of a vital impulse toward
a higher manifestation of life--man.
Michael Angelo, with wonderful dramatic power, in his painting in
the Sistine Chapel at Rome has portrayed how lifeless clay in form
of man, when touched by the finger of God, by sheer vitalizing
power is transformed into a living soul.
Very different yet equally impressive is the modern scientific
view. The origin of matter and of life is so absolutely unknown
that scientists have not as yet formulated definite theories
concerning it. Even the theories regarding the origin of the solar
system are still conflicting and none is generally accepted. The
old nebular hypothesis is discredited and the theory of the spiral
movement of the solar matter seems to be confirmed by phenomena
observable in the heavens. The one principle generally held by
scientists is that, given matter and life and some creating force,
our present marvelous complex universe has come into being
according to laws usually called natural. These laws are so
invariable that they may be considered unchanging.
Even more definitely established is the so-called theory of
evolution which is based on the careful observation and comparison
of countless thousands of natural phenomena. According to the
Encyclopedia Britannica it is the history of the physical process
by which all living beings have acquired the characteristics,
physical, mental, moral, and spiritual, which now distinguish them.
It recognizes the gradual development from the simplest to the most
complex forms. It is merely an attempt to describe in the light of
careful observation and investigation the process of growth by
which the world and the beings which inhabit it have grown into
what they are.
A comparison of the Hebrew account of creation with those of other
races and times is extremely suggestive.
THE PRIESTLY STORY OF CREATION.
Note that the first and second chapters of Genesis contain two
distinct accounts of creation.
Read Genesis 1:1--2:3 (see _Hist. Bib_., I, pp. 231-3 for modern
translation), noting its picture of conditions in the universe
before the actual work of creation began. The creative power is
the spirit or breath of God. The Hebrew word for spirit (_ruah_)
represents the sound of the breath as it emerges from the mouth or
the sound of the wind as it sighs through the trees. It is the
effective symbol of a real and mighty force that cannot be seen or
touched yet produces terrific effects, as when the cyclone rends
the forest or transforms the sea into a mountain of billows and
twists like straws the masts of wood and steel. In the Old
Testament the "spirit of God" or the "spirit of the Holy One" is
God working (1) in the material universe, as in the work of
creation, (2) in human history, as when he directs the life of
nations, or (3) in the lives of men.
Note the method of creation and the distinctive work of each day.
The process is that of separation. It is orderly and progressive.
The first three days of preparation in which (1) light and
darkness, (2) air and water (separated by the firmament) and (3)
land and vegetation are created, correspond to the work of the
second three days in which are created (1) the heavenly bodies, (2)
the birds and fishes (which live in the air and water) and (3) land
animals and man. The underlying conception of the universe is that
held by most early peoples. Compare the diagram in _Hastings'
Dictionary of the Bible_ I, 503 or Kent's _Student's Old
Testament_, Vol. I, p. 52 which illustrates it.
God's benign plan is revealed by the recurring words: "God saw that
it was good." What was the culminating act of creation? "Created
man in his image" can not mean with a body like that of God (for in
this story God is thought of as a spirit), but rather with a
God-like spirit, mind, will, and power to rule.
THE EARLY PROPHETIC STORY OF CREATION.
The opening words of the second account of creation, which begins
in the fourth verse of the second chapter of Genesis, imply that
the earth and the heavens have already been created.
"In the day that Jehovah made earth and heaven, no plant of the
field was yet on the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung
up, for Jehovah had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there
was no man to till the ground; but a mist used to rise from the
earth and water the whole face of the ground."
It is possible that here only a part of the original story is
preserved. What is the order in the story of creation found in
this second chapter? The method of man's creation?
According to this account, the tree of life was planted in the
garden that man, while he lived there, might enjoy immortality.
Was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil placed in the garden
to develop man's moral nature by temptation or merely to inculcate
The love between the sexes is apparently implanted in all living
beings primarily for the conservation of the species, but the early
prophet also recognized clearly the broader intellectual and moral
aspects of the relation. "It is not good for man to be alone" were
the significant words of Jehovah. Hence animals, birds, and, last
of all, woman, were created to meet man's innate social needs.
Man's words on seeing woman were:
"This, now, is bone of my bone
And flesh of my flesh.
This one shall be called woman,
For from man was she taken."
What fundamental explanation is here given of the institution of
marriage? Compare Jesus' confirmation of this teaching in Matthew
"And he answered and said, Have ye not read, that he who made them
from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this
cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to
his wife: and the two shall become one flesh?"
A COMPARISON OF THE TWO ACCOUNTS OF CREATION.
The account of creation found in the second chapter suggests the
simple, direct ideas of a primitive people; while the account in
Genesis 1 has the exact, repetitious, majestic literary style of a
legal writer. Are the differences between these two accounts of
creation greater than those between the parallel narratives in the
Gospels? We recognize that the differences in detail between the
Gospel accounts of the same event are due to the fact that no two
narrators tell the same story in the same way. Are the variations
between the two Biblical accounts of creation to be similarly
explained? A growing body of Biblical scholars hold, though many
differ in judgment, that the account in the first chapter of
Genesis was written by a priestly writer who lived about four
hundred B.C., and the second account four hundred years earlier by
a patriotic, prophetic historian.
Observe that the two accounts agree in the following fundamental
teachings: (1) One supreme God is the Creator; (2) man is closely
akin to God; (3) all else is created for man's best and noblest
Is the primary aim of these accounts to present scientific facts or
to teach religious truths? Paul says in Timothy that "Every
scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for
reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in
righteousness." Is their religious value, even as in the parables
of the New Testament, entirely independent of their historical or
scientific accuracy? Is there any contradiction between the
distinctive teachings of the Bible and modern science? Do not the
Bible and science deal with two different but supplemental fields
of life: the one with religion and morals, the other with the
MAN'S CONQUEST AND RULERSHIP OF THE WORLD.
In the story of Genesis 1 man is commanded to subdue the earth and
to have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the
heavens and over every living thing that creeps upon the earth.
How far has man already subdued the animals and made them serve
him? How far has he conquered the so-called natural forces and
learned to utilize them? Is the latter day conquest of the air but
a step in this progress? Are all inventions and developments of
science in keeping with the purpose expressed in Genesis 1? Does
the command imply the immediate or the gradual conquest of nature?
Why? Do science and the Bible differ or agree in their answers to
MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY AS THE RULER OF THE WORLD.
Consider the different ways in which the Biblical accounts of
creation state that man is akin to God. In the one account man was
created in the image of God; in the other Jehovah formed man of the
dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils his own
life-giving breath. In what sense is man God-like? Are all men
"made in the image of God"? Does this story imply that every man
has the right and capacity to become God-like?
A high official of China, whose power of authority extends to
questions of life and death, is called "the father and mother of
his people." If he fails in the responsibility which his authority
imposes upon him, and the people in consequence create a
disturbance, he is severely punished, sometimes by death. Does
authority always imply responsibility? Of what value to man is the
conquest of the forces of nature? President Roosevelt said that he
considered the conservation of the natural resources of the United
States the most important question before the American people. Is
this political question also a religious question?
Why did God give man authority over the animal world? Does the
responsibility that comes from this authority rest upon every man?
One of the laws of the Boy Scouts reads:
"A scout is kind. He is a friend to animals. He will not kill nor
hurt any living creature needlessly, but will strive to save and
protect all harmless life." Is this a practical application of the
teaching in Genesis 1?
If God's purpose is to make everything good, man's highest
privilege, as well as duty, is to co-operate with him in realizing
that purpose. Are men to-day as a whole growing happier and
nobler? In what practical ways may a man contribute to the
happiness and ennobling of his fellow men?
Is your community growing better? What would be the result if you
and others like yourself did your best to improve conditions? If
_Questions for Further Consideration_.
Is man's possession of knowledge and power the ultimate object of
creation? If not, what is? Does human experience suggest that
man's life on earth is, in its ultimate meaning, simply a school
for the development of individual character and for the perfecting
of the human race?
Is there any other practical way in which a man can serve God
except by serving his fellowmen? If so, how?
_Subjects for Further Study_.
(1) The Origin and Content of the Babylonian Stories of
Creation.--Hastings, _Dictionary of the Bible_, 1, 501-7; Kent,
_Student's O. T._, I, 360-9.
(2) The Relation of the Biblical Story of the Creation to the
Babylonian.--Kent, _Student's O. T._, I, 369-70.
(3) The Seeming Conflict Between the Teachings of the Bible and
Science and the Practical Reconciliation.--Sir Oliver Lodge:
_Science and Immortality_, Section 1.
MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS ACTS.
THE STORY OF THE GARDEN OF EDEN.--Gen. 3.
_Hist. Bible_, Vol. I, 37-42.
Drummond, _Ideal Life_, Chaps. on Sin.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it
was a delight to the eye, and that the tree was to be desired to
make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she
gave also unto her husband with her and he did eat. And the eyes
of them both were opened and they beard the voice of Jehovah God
walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and the man and his
wife hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah God amongst the
trees of the garden.--_Gen. 3:6-8_.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been
approved, he shall receive a crown of life, which the Lord promised
to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am
tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself
tempteth no man; but each man is tempted when he is drawn away by
his own lust and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived,
beareth sin: and the sin, when it is full grown, bringeth forth
For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man's mind,
And the heart of the eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.--_Frederick W. Faber_.
None could enter into life but those who were in downright earnest
and unless they left the wicked world behind them; for there was
only room for body and soul, but not for body and soul and
THE NATURE OF SIN.
Henry Drummond has said that sin is a little word that has wandered
out of theology into life.
Members of a secret organization known as the Thugs of India feel
at times that it is their solemn duty to strangle certain of their
fellow men. Do they thereby commit a sin? A Parsee believes that
it is wrong to light a cigar, for it is a desecration of his emblem
of purity--fire. Others in the western world for very different
reasons regard the same act as wrong. Is the lighting or smoking
of a cigar a sin for these classes? Is the act necessarily wrong
When a trained dog fails to obey his master, does he sin? Is man
alone capable of sinning?
THE DIFFERENT THEORIES REGARDING THE ORIGIN OF SIN.
Many and various have been the definitions of sin and the
explanations of its origin. Most primitive peoples defined it as
failure to perform certain ceremonial acts, or to bring tribute to
the gods. Morality and religion were rarely combined. The Hebrew
people were the first to define right and wrong in terms of
personal life and service. Sin as represented in Genesis 3 was the
result of individual choice. It was yielding to the common rather
than the nobler impulses, to desire rather than to the sense of
duty. The temptation came from within rather than from without,
and the responsibility of not choosing the best rested with the
individual. The explanation is as simple and as true to human
experience to-day as in the childhood of the race.
The Persian religion, on the contrary, conceived of the world as
controlled by two hostile gods, with their hosts of attendant
angels. One god, Ormuzd, was the embodiment of light and goodness.
The other, Ahriman, represented darkness and evil. They traced all
sin to the direct influence of Ahriman and the evil spirits that
attended him. During the Persian period a somewhat similar
explanation of the origin of evil appeared in Jewish thought.
Satan, who in the book of Job appears to be simply the prosecuting
attorney of heaven, began to be thought of as the enemy of man,
until in later times all sin was traced directly or indirectly to
his influence. This was the conception prevalent among the
Puritans. This view tended to relieve man of personal
responsibility for he was regarded as the victim of assaults of
hosts of malignant spirits. Does your knowledge of the heart of
man confirm the insight of the prophet who speaks through the
wonderful story of Genesis 3?
THE ORIGIN OF SIN ACCORDING TO THE STORY IN GENESIS 3.
In your judgment is the story of the man and the woman in Genesis 3
a chapter from the life of a certain man and woman, or a faithful
reflection of universal human experience? Most of the elements
which are found in the story may likewise be traced in earlier
Semitic traditions. The aim of the prophet who has given us the
story was, according to the view of certain interpreters, to
present in vivid, concrete form the origin, nature, and
consequences of sin. This method of teaching was similar to that
which Jesus used, for example, in the parable of Dives and Lazarus.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, with the command not to
eat of it, apparently symbolizes temptation. Is temptation
necessary for man's moral development? The serpent was evidently
chosen because of its reputation for craft and treachery. The
serpent's words represent the natural inclinations that were
struggling in the mind of the woman against her sense of duty.
Note that in the story the temptation did not come to man through
his appetite or his curiosity or his esthetic sense but through his
wife whom God had given him. Was the man's act in any way
excusable? Strong men and women often sin through the influence of
those whom they love and admire. Are they thereby excused? What
natural impulses impelled the woman to disobey the divine command?
Were these impulses of themselves wrong? How far did her
experience reflect common human experience? What was the real
nature of her act? Was it wrong or praise-worthy for her to desire
In what form did temptation come to the man in Genesis 3. Does
temptation appeal in a different form to each individual? The
Hebrew word for sin (which means to miss the mark placed before
each individual) vividly and aptly describes the real nature of
sin. The ideal placed before each individual represents his sense
of what is right. If he acts contrary to that ideal or fails to
strive to realize it, does he sin?
THE EFFECTS OF SIN UPON THE WRONG-DOER.
What was the effect of their consciousness of having disobeyed upon
the man and woman in the ancient story? Did they believe that they
had done wrong, or merely that they had incurred a penalty? Does
sin tend to make cowards of men? Were the feelings of shame, and
the sense of estrangement in the presence of one who loved them,
the most tragic effect of their sin? When a child disobeys a
parent or a friend wrongs a friend is the sense of having injured a
loved one the most painful consequence of sin? Was the penalty
imposed on the man and woman the result of a divine judgment or the
natural and inevitable effect of wrong-doing? Why did the man and
woman try to excuse their disobedience? Was it natural? Was it
good policy? Was it right? If not, why not?
GOD'S ATTITUDE TOWARD THE SINNER.
Jehovah in the story evidently asked the man and woman a question,
the answer to which he already knew, in order to give them an
opportunity to confess their wrong-doing. Parents and teachers
often seek to give the culprit the opportunity to confess his sin.
What is the attitude of the law towards the criminal who pleads
guilty? What is the reason for this attitude? A loving parent or
even the state might forgive an unrepentant sinner, but the effect
of the wrong-doing upon the sinner and upon others may still remain.
While the man and woman remained conscious of their wrong-doing,
though defiant, to abide in Jehovah's presence was for them
intolerable. Are toil and pain essential to the moral development
of sinners who refuse to confess their crime? Are toil and pain in
themselves curses or blessings to those who have done wrong? The
picture in Genesis 3 clearly implies that God's intention was not
that man should suffer but that he should enjoy perfect health and
happiness. Jehovah's preparation of the coats of skin for the man
and woman is convincing evidence that his love and care continued
unremittingly even for the wrong doers. Modern psychology is
making it clear that the effect of sin upon the unrepentant sinner
is to increase his inclination toward sinning. But when a man in
penitence for his sin has turned toward God and changed his
relation to his fellow men, God becomes to him a new Being with a
nearness and intimacy impossible before! May the Christian believe
that this new sense of nearness and love to God is met by a
corresponding feeling on God's part? In the light of Christian
experience is there not every reason to believe that God himself
also enters into a new and joyous relationship with the man? This
thought was evidently in the mind of Jesus when be declared that
there was joy in heaven over one sinner that repented.
THE EFFECT OF SIN UPON SOCIETY.
Men are often heard to remark that they are willing to bear the
consequences of their sin. Is it possible for any individual to
experience in himself the entire result of his wrong-doing? In the
Genesis story the woman's deliberate disobedience would seem to
have had very direct influence upon her husband. Mankind has
almost universally come to regard certain acts as wrong and to
prescribe definite modes of punishment. Such decisions have come
about not simply because of the effect of sin upon the individual
but more especially because the sin of the individual affects
society. State the different influences that deter men from sin
and note those which from your experience seem the strongest.
_Questions for Further Consideration_.
Is an act that is wrong for one man necessarily a sin if committed
by another? Are men's tendencies to sin due to their inheritance
or to impulses which they share in common with brutes, or to
influences that come from their environment? In the light of this
discussion formulate your own definition of sin.
Is the final test of sin a man's consciousness of guilt, or the
ultimate effect of his act upon himself, or upon society?
May the woman in the Garden of Eden be regarded as the prototype of
the modern scientist? Are there ways in which the scientist may
sin in making his investigations? Illustrate. How about
Does sin bring moral enlightenment? Distinguish between Jesus'
attitude toward sin and toward the sinner. What should be our
attitude toward the sinner?
If the man and woman had frankly confessed their sin, what, by
implication, would have been the effect: first, upon themselves,
and second, upon the attitude and action of God?
Does temptation to sin, as in the case of Adam, often come in the
guise of virtue? What is the value of confession to the sinner?
_Subjects for Further Study_.
(1) The Babylonian and Egyptian Idea of Sin. _Hastings, Dictionary
of the Bible_, extra vol. 566-567; Breasted, _History of Egypt_,
173-175; Jastrow, _Religion of the Babylonians and Assyrians_,
(2) Milton's Interpretation of Genesis 3 in Paradise Lost.
(3) The Right and Wrong of the Attempted Surrender of West Point
from the Point of View of Benedict Arnold, Andre and Washington.
THE CRIMINAL AND HIS RELATION TO SOCIETY.
THE STORY OF CAIN.--Gen. 4:1-16.
_Hist. Bible_, Vol. 1, 42-46.
Jenks, _Prin. of Pol_. 1-16.
August Drahms, _The Criminal_.
Now in the course of time it came to pass, that Cain brought some
of the fruit of the ground as an offering to Jehovah. And Abel
also brought some of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat.
And Jehovah looked favorably upon Abel and his offering: but for
Cain and his offering he had no regard.
Therefore, Cain was very angry and his countenance fell. And
Jehovah said to Cain,
Why art thou angry?
And why is thy countenance fallen?
If thou doest well, is there not acceptance?
But if thou doest not well,
Does not sin crouch at the door?
And to thee shall be its desire,
But thou shouldst rule over it.
Then Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go into the field. And
while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel his brother
and slew him.
And when Jehovah said to Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? he said,
I, know not; am I my brother's keeper.--Gen. 4:3-9 (_Hist. Bible_).
And the Scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman taken in adultery;
and having set her in the midst, they say unto Jesus, Teacher, this
woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act. Now in the law
Moses commanded us to stone such: what then sayest thou of her?
And this they said trying him, that they might have whereof to
accuse him. But Jesus stooped down and with his finger wrote on
the ground. And when they continued asking him, he lifted himself,
and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first
cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down and with his finger
wrote on the ground. And they, when they heard it, went out one by
one, beginning from the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was
left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. And Jesus
lifted himself up and said unto her, Woman, where are they? Did no
man condemn thee? And she said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said,
Neither do I condemn thee. Go thy way; from henceforth sin no
Every experiment by multitudes or individuals that has a sensual or
selfish aim will fail.--_Emerson_.
When you meet one of these men or women be to them a Divine man; be
to them thought and virtue; let their timid aspirations find in you
a friend; let their trampled instincts be genially tempted out in
your atmosphere; let their doubts know that you have doubted, and
their wonder feel that you have wondered.--_Emerson_.
But I still have a good heart and believe in myself and fellow men
and the God who made us all.--_Robert Louis Stevenson_.
THE MEANING OF THE STORY OF CAIN.
In Arabia and Palestine to-day, as in the past, a man's prosperity
or misfortune is universally regarded as the evidence of divine
approval or disapproval. Even Jesus' disciples on seeing a blind
man by the wayside, raised the question: "Did this man sin or his
parents?" Among the Arabs of the desert the tribal mark, either
tattooing or a distinctive way of cutting the hair, insures the
powerful protection of the tribe. Each tribesman is under the most
sacred obligation to protect the life of a member of his tribe, or
to avenge, if need be with his own life-blood, every injury done
him. Without the tribal mark a man becomes an outlaw. Many
scholars, therefore, think that the mark placed upon Cain was not
primarily a stigma proclaiming his guilt, but rather a token that
protected him from violence at the hands of Jehovah's people and
compelled them to avenge any wrongs that might befall him.
In the light of these facts would it not seem possible that Cain's
character and conduct are the reason why his offering was not
What is the meaning and purpose of Jehovah's question, Where is
Abel thy brother? Is it probable that in the question, Am I my
brother's keeper, the writer intended to assert the responsibility
of society for the acts of its members? In China where to-day, far
more than in the West, there exists the responsibility of
neighbors, those who fail to exert the proper influence over the
character and conduct of a criminal neighbor often have their
houses razed to the ground and the sites sown with salt. Is
society responsible for producing criminals? How far am I
personally responsible for my neighbor's acts?
THE MAKING OF A CRIMINAL.
Paul said, "All men have sinned." Are all men therefore criminals?
What constitutes a criminal? Was Cain a criminal before he slew
his brother? Legally? Morally?
Was Cain's motive in the worship of God truly religious or merely
mercenary? This portrait of Cain illustrates the fact that formal
religious worship does not necessarily deter a man from becoming a
criminal. Sometimes men prominent in religious work become
defaulters or commit other crimes. Does this story suggest the
fundamental reason why great crimes are sometimes committed by
religious leaders? The motive rather than the form is clearly the
one thing absolutely essential in religious worship.
Was the slaying of Abel the result simply of jealousy or a sudden
fit of anger or of a gradual deterioration of character? Compare
the gradual development of the criminal instincts in Shakespeare's
Macbeth. Think of the different influences tending to make
criminals! Most criminals are made before they reach the age of
twenty-one. The development of the criminal is the result either
of wrong education or the lack of right education. Parents by
their failure to guard carefully their children's associates and to
develop in them habits of self-control, respect for the rights of
others, and a sense of social and civic obligation, are perhaps
more than any other class responsible for the growth of criminals.
In what ways does the State through its negligence also contribute
to the making of criminals?
THE CRIMINAL'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS SOCIETY.
Every criminal act is anti-social. Few if any criminals realize
this fact. A superintendent of the Elmira Reformatory after years
of experience said that he had never seen a criminal who felt
remorse; while criminals usually regretted being caught, they
always excused their crime. The criminal repudiates his social
obligations, not acknowledging the fact that the basis of all
society is the recognition of the rights of others. The thief
often excuses his acts by asserting that society owes him a living.
Is this position right or do you agree with the following
statement? "The criterion of what is for the benefit of the
community at large must be settled by the community itself, not by
an individual. The citizen, then, may and must do what the
community determines it is best for him to do; he must stand in the
forefront of battle if so ordered. He must not do what the State
forbids; he may be deprived of liberty and life if he does."--
THE WAYS IN WHICH SOCIETY DEALS WITH THE CRIMINAL.
Cain's punishment was banishment rather than imprisonment. What
was the fate that Cain specially feared? Cain and Abel in the
original story, some writers believe, represented tribes (see
_Hist. Bible_, I, 44). Among nomadic peoples in the early East, as
to-day, the punishment of murder was left to the family or tribe of
the murdered man. Was this just or effective? The same crude
method of avenging wrongs is found in the vendetta of Italy and the
family feuds in certain sparsely settled regions in the United
States. The survival of this institution is to-day one of the
greatest obstacles to civilization in those regions. Why?
In most criminal legislation the chief emphasis is placed on
punishment. For example, thieves are punished with imprisonment.
Why? A radical change in public opinion is now taking place. The
prevailing method of dealing with crimes advocated by penologists
to-day is the protection of society if possible by the reform of
the criminal. Does this method protect society effectually? Why
is it that criminals generally prefer a definite term in prison
rather than an indefinite sentence with the possibility of release
in less than half the time? Which method of treatment is best in
the end for the wrong-doer?
It is important to distinguish clearly between the private and the
official attitude toward the criminal. As individuals, who cannot
know the motives, we should heed the maxim of Jesus: "Judge not!"
As public officials whose duty it is to protect society, we are
under obligation to deal firmly and effectively with the criminal.
What would probably have been the result had Cain confessed his
crime? God was far more lenient even with the unrepentant Cain
than were his fellow men. Did God, however, remit Cain's sentence?
Cain said, "I shall become a fugitive and a wanderer on the face of
the earth." Was this sense of being an outcast the most painful
element in Cain's punishment? All crime thus in a sense brings its
own punishment. If in placing upon Cain a tribal mark, thereby
protecting him from being killed, God apparently aimed to give him
an opportunity to reform, the clear implication is that the divine
love and care still follow him. That love and that care never
cease toward even the most depraved. Compare Jesus' attitude
toward the criminal, as illustrated in his ministry and especially
in his dealing with the woman taken in adultery. His forgiveness
of the woman's sin did not cancel the social results, but gave her
a new basis for right living in the future. She realized that some
one believed in her. Is this one of the most important influences
to-day in assisting weak men and in redeeming criminals? Henry
Drummond when asked the secret of his success with men said, "I
HOW TO DEAL WITH CRIMINALS.
The purpose of criminal legislation and administration is clearly
the protection of society. The criminals are punished, not for the
mere sake of the punishment or for vengeance, but to deter them
from further crime or to serve as a warning to others. Only on
this account can punishment be justified.
To prove an effective warning the punishment for crime should be
certain, prompt and just. For these reasons effective police,
upright judges and fair methods of procedure are absolutely
essential. Efforts should be made not to influence the courts by
public opinion, and the pernicious prejudgment of cases by popular
newspapers should be discountenanced.
The surest method of stopping a criminal's dangerous activity is to
reform him; to give him a new and absorbing interest. Experience
at our best reformatories shows that with the indeterminate
sentence a very large majority of young criminals can be
transformed into safe and useful citizens. This method is both
cheaper and more effective than direct punishment for fixed terms.
THE PREVENTION OF CRIME.
The best method of dealing with crime is that of prevention. The
work of protecting society against crime should begin with arousing
parents to the sense of their responsibilities and by training them
thoroughly in the duties of parenthood. Philanthropic agencies,
the church, the schools, the State, may do much both by training
character and by removing temptation. The maintenance of good
economic conditions, provision for wholesome amusements, improved
sanitation, all tend to remove pernicious influences and strengthen
the power of resistance to temptation. The public press and the
theatre, which are at times exceedingly harmful agencies, may be
and should be transformed into active moral forces. In furthering
all these reform measures and preventive movements each individual
has a personal responsibility, and, as an active citizen, he may
render most important service. The home, the school, the church
and the State, all touch the individual on every side and create
and together control the influences that make or unmake character.
_Questions for Further Consideration_.
What was the effect of Cain's anger upon his own life?
Gladstone said, "I do not have time to hate anybody."
In what way do anger and hatred hamper one's greatest usefulness?
Do you believe in the modern theories regarding the effect of
jealousy and hatred upon the body?
Is capital punishment at times a necessity?
What is the most effective argument which can be used to restore
honor and manhood to a criminal?
Is there any particular agency at work in your community to assist
men who have committed crimes?
Is the chief object of punishment to avenge the wrong, to punish
the criminal, to deter others from committing similar crimes, or to
reclaim the wrong-doer?
_Subjects for Further Study_.
(1) The Effect of the Semitic Law of Blood-revenge upon (_a_) the
criminal, (_b_) society and (_c_) possible criminals. Kent,
_Israel's Laws and Legal Precedents_, 91, 114-116; Smith, _Religion
of the Semites_, 72, 420.
(2) Mrs. Ballington Booth's Work for Released Prisoners. _After
(3) The Practical Effects of the Indeterminate Sentence. Reports
of the Prison Reform Association.
(4) Influence of Contract Prison Labor. American Magazine, 1912,
Jan., Feb., Mar., April.
THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.
THE STORY OF THE GREAT FLOOD.--Gen. 6-8.
Hist. Bible I, 52-65.
Darwin, _Origin of Species_; Wallace, _Darwinism_; 3. William Dawson,
_Modern Ideas of Evolution_; Article _Evolution_ in leading
When Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,
and that every purpose in the thoughts of his heart was only evil
continually, it was a source of regret that he had made man on the
earth and it grieved him to his heart. Therefore Jehovah said, I
will destroy from the face of the ground man whom I have created,
for I regret that I have made mankind.
Then Jehovah said to Noah, enter thou and all thy house into the
ark; for thee I have found righteous before me in this generation.
And Noah did according to all that Jehovah commanded him.
Then Jehovah destroyed everything that existed upon the face of the
ground, both man and animals, and creeping things, and birds of the
heavens, so that they were destroyed from the earth; and Noah only
was left and they who were with him in the ark.--Gen. 6:5-8; 7:1,
5, 23 (_Hist. Bible_).
And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing with God;
for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a
rewarder of them that seek after him. By faith Noah, being warned
of God concerning things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear,
prepared an ark to the saving of his house, through which he
condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is
according to faith.--_Heb. 11:6, 7_.
Rare is the man who can look back over his life and not confess, at
least to himself, that the things which have made him most a man
are the very things from which he tried with all his soul to escape.
If we would attain happiness,
We must first attain helpfulness.
But stay! no age was e'er degenerate
Unless men held it at too cheap a rate,
For in our likeness still we shape our fate.
THE TWO BIBLICAL ACCOUNTS OF THE FLOOD.
Careful readers of Genesis 6-9 have long recognized certain
difficulties in interpreting the narrative as it now stands. Thus,
for example, in 6:20 Noah is commanded to take into the ark two of
every kind of beast and bird; but in 7:2, 3 he is commanded to take
in seven of all the clean beasts and birds. According to 7:4, 12
the flood came as the result of a forty days' rain; but according
to 7:11 it was because the fountains of the great deep were broken
up and the windows of heaven were opened. Again, according to
7:17, the flood continued on the earth forty days; while according
to 7:24 its duration was a hundred and fifty days.
These fundamental variations and the presence of duplicate versions
of the same incidents point, some writers think, to two originally
distinct accounts of the flood which have been closely woven
together by the final editor of the book of Genesis. When these
two accounts are disentangled, they are each practically complete
and apparently represent variant versions of the same flood story.
(See _Hist. Bible_, I, 53-56, for these two parallel accounts.) The
one, known as the prophetic version, was written, these writers
believe, about 650 B.C. It has the flowing, vivid, picturesque,
literary style and the point of view of the prophetic teacher. In
this account the number seven prevails. Seven of each clean beast
and bird are taken into the ark to provide food for Noah and his
family. Seven days the waters rose, and at intervals of seven days
he sent out a raven and a dove. The flood from its beginning to
the time when Noah disembarked continued sixty-eight days. At the
end, when he had determined by sending out birds that the waters
had subsided, he went forth from the ark and reared an altar and
offered sacrifice to Jehovah of every clean beast and bird.
The other and more detailed account is apparently the sequel of the
late priestly narratives found in Genesis 1 and 5. The style is
that of a legal writer--formal, exact and repetitious. In this
account only two of each kind of beast and bird are taken into the
ark. The flood lasts for over a year and is universal, covering
even the tops of the highest mountains. No animals are sacrificed,
for according to the priestly writer this custom was first
instituted by Moses. When the flood subsides, however, a covenant
is concluded and is sealed by the rainbow in accordance with which
man's commission to rule over all other living things is renewed
and divine permission is given to each to eat of the flesh of
animals, provided only that men carefully abstain from eating the
blood. This later account is dated by this group of modern
Biblical scholars about 400 B.C.
THE CORRESPONDING BABYLONIAN FLOOD STORIES.
Closely parallel to these two variant Biblical accounts of the
flood are the two Babylonian versions, which have fortunately been
almost wholly recovered. The older Babylonian account is found in
the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh epic, which comes from the
library of Asshurbanipal. This great conqueror lived
contemporaneously with Manasseh during whose reign Assyrian
influence was paramount in the kingdom of Judah. In his quest for
healing and immortality Gilgamesh reached the abode of the
Babylonian hero of the flood. In response to Gilgamesh's question
as to how he, a mortal, attained immortality the Babylonian Noah
recounts the story of the flood. It was brought about by the
Babylonian gods in order to destroy the city of Shurippak, situated
on the banks of the Euphrates. The god Ea gave the warning to his
worshipper, the hero of the flood, and commanded him:
Construct a house, build a ship,
Leave goods, look after life,
Forsake possessions, and save life,
Cause all kinds of living things to go up into the ship.
The ship which thou shalt build,--
Exact shall be its dimensions:
Its breadth shall equal its length;
On the great deep launch it.
I understood and said to Ea, my lord:
"Behold, my lord, what thou hast commanded,
I have reverently received and will carry out."
A detailed account then follows of the building of the ark. Its
dimensions were one hundred and twenty cubits in each direction.
It was built in six stories, each of which was divided into nine
parts. Plentiful provisions were next carried on board and a great
feast was held to commemorate the completion of the ark. After
carrying on board his treasures of silver and gold he adds:
All the living creatures of all kinds I loaded on it.
I brought on board my family and household;
Cattle of the field, beasts of the field, the craftsmen,
All of them I brought on board.
In the evening at the command of the god Shamash the rains began to
descend. Then the Babylonian Noah entered the ship and closed the
door and entrusted the great house with its contents to the
captain. The description of the tempest that follows is
exceedingly vivid and picturesque.
When the first light of dawn shone forth,
There rose from the horizon a dark cloud, within which Adad thundered,
Nabu and Marduk marched at the front,
The heralds passed over mountains and land;
Nergal tore out the ship's mast,
Ninib advanced, following up the attack,
The spirits of earth raised torches,
With their sheen they lighted up the world.
Adad's tempest reached to heaven,
And all light was changed to darkness.
So great was the havoc wrought by the storm that
The gods bowed down, sat there weeping,
Close pressed together were their lips.
For six days and nights the storm raged, but on the seventh day it
subsided and the flood began to abate. Of the race of mortals,
however, every voice was hushed. At last the ship approached the
mountain Nisir which lay on the northern horizon, as viewed from
the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Here the ship grounded. Then,
When the seventh day arrived,
I sent forth a dove and let it loose,
The dove went forth, but came back;
Because it found no resting-place, it returned:
Then I sent forth a swallow, but it came back;
Because it found no resting-place, it returned.
Then I sent forth a raven and let it loose,
The raven went forth and saw that the waters had decreased;
It fed, it waded, it croaked, but did not return.
Then I sent forth everything in all directions, and offered a sacrifice,
I made an offering of incense on the highest peak of the mountain,
Seven and seven bowls I placed there,
And over them I poured out calamus, cedar wood and fragrant herbs.
The gods inhaled the odor,
The gods inhaled the sweet odor,
The gods gathered like flies above the sacrifice.
At the intercession of Ea, the Babylonian Noah and his wife were
granted immortality and permitted "to dwell in the distance at the
confluence of the streams."
A later version of the same Babylonian flood story is quoted by
Eusebius from the writings of the Chaldean priest Berossus who
lived about the fourth century B.C. According to this version the
god Kronos appeared in a dream to Xisuthros, the hero, who, like
Noah in the priestly account, was the last of the ten ancient
Babylonian kings. At the command of the god he built a great ship
fifteen stadia long and two in width. Into this he took not only
his family and provisions, but quadrupeds and birds of all kinds.
When the flood began to recede, he sent out a bird, which quickly
returned. After a few days he sent forth another bird, which
returned with mud on its feet. When the third bird failed to
return, he took off the cover of the ship and found that it had
stranded on a mountain of Armenia. The mountain in the Biblical
account is identified with Mount Ararat. Disembarking, the
Babylonian Noah kissed the earth and, after building an altar,
offered a sacrifice to the gods.
Thus the variations between the older and later Babylonian accounts
of the flood correspond in general to those that have been already
noted in the Biblical versions. Which Biblical account does the
earliest Babylonian narrative resemble most closely? In what
details do they agree? Are these coincidences merely accidental or
do they point possibly to a common tradition? How far do the later
Biblical and Babylonian accounts agree? What is the significance
of these points of agreement?
HISTORY OF THE BIBLICAL FLOOD STORIES.
On the basis of the preceding comparisons some writers attempt to
trace tentatively the history of the flood tradition current among
the peoples of southwestern Asia. A fragment of the Babylonian
flood story, coming from at least as early as 2000 B.C., has
recently been discovered. The probability is that the tradition
goes back to the earliest beginnings of Babylonian history. The
setting of the Biblical accounts of the flood is also the
Tigris-Euphrates valley rather than Palestine. The description of
the construction of the ark in Genesis 6:14-16 is not only closely
parallel to that found in the Babylonian account, but the
method--the smearing of the ark within and without with bitumen--is
peculiar to the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Many scholars believe,
therefore, that Babylonia was the original home of the Biblical
Its exact origin, however, is not so certain. Many of its details
were doubtless suggested by the annual floods and fogs which
inundate that famous valley and recall the primeval chaos so
vividly pictured in the corresponding Babylonian story of the
creation. It may have been based on the remembrances of a great
local inundation, possibly due to the subsidence of great areas of
land. In the earliest Hebrew records there is no trace of this
tradition, although it may have been known to the Aramean ancestors
of the Hebrews. The literary evidence, however, suggests that it
was first brought to Palestine by the Assyrians. During the
reactionary reign of Manasseh, Assyrian customs and Baylonian
ideas, which these conquerors had inherited, inundated Judah. Even
in the temple at Jerusalem the Babylonians' gods, the host of
heaven, were worshipped by certain of the Hebrews. The few
literary inscriptions which come from this period, those found in
the mound at Gezer, are written in the Assyrian script and contain
the names of Assyrian officials.
Later when the Jewish exiles were carried to Babylonia, they
naturally came into contact again with the Babylonian account of
the flood, but in its later form, as the comparisons already
instituted clearly indicate. It is thus possible, these scholars
believe, to trace, in outline at least, the literary history of the
Semitic flood story in its various transformations through a period
of nearly two thousand years.
AIM OF THE BIBLICAL WRITERS IN RECOUNTING THE FLOOD STORY.
The practical question which at once suggests itself is, What place
or right has this ancient Semitic tradition, if such it is, among
the Biblical narratives? At best the historical data which it
preserves are exceedingly small and of doubtful value. Is it
possible that the prophetic and priestly historians found these
stories on the lips of the people and sought in this heroic way to
divest them of their polytheistic form and, in certain respects,
immoral implications? A minute comparison of the Babylonian and
Biblical accounts indicates that this may perhaps be precisely what
has been done; but the majestic, just God of the Biblical
narratives is far removed from the capricious, intriguing gods of
the Babylonian tradition, who hang like flies over the battlements
of heaven, stupefied with terror because of the destruction which
they had wrought.
Each of the Biblical narrators seems to be seeking also by means of
these illustrations to teach certain universal moral and religious
truths. In this respect the two variant Biblical narratives are in
perfect agreement. The destruction of mankind came not as the fiat
of an arbitrary Deity, but because of the purpose which God had
before him in the work of creation, and because that purpose was
good. Men by their sins and wilful failure to observe his benign
laws were thwarting that purpose. Hence in accord with the just
laws of the universe their destruction was unavoidable, and it came
even as effect follows cause. On the other hand, these ancient
teachers taught with inimitable skill that God would not destroy
that which was worthy of preservation.
In each of the accounts the character of Noah stands in striking
contrast with those of his contemporaries. The story as told is
not merely an illustration of the truth that righteousness brings
its just reward, but of the profounder principle that it is the
morally fit who survive. In both of the versions Noah in a very
true sense represents the beginning of a new creation: he is the
traditional father of a better race. To him are given the promises
which God was eager to realize in the life of humanity. In the
poetic fancy of the ancient East even the resplendent rainbow,
which proclaimed the return of the sun after the storm, was truly
interpreted as evidence of God's fatherly love and care for his
children. In the light of these profound religious teachings may
any one reasonably question the right of these stories to a place
in the Bible? Did not Jesus himself frequently use illustrations
drawn from earlier history or from nature to make clear his
teachings? Is it not evidence of superlative teaching skill to use
that which is familiar and, therefore, of interest to those taught,
in order to inculcate the deeper moral and religious truths of life?
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST IN THE NATURAL WORLD.
It is interesting and illuminating to note how the ancient Hebrew
prophets in their religious teaching forecast the discoveries and
scientific methods of our day. This was because they had grasped
Since the memorable evening in July, 1858, in which the views of
Darwin and Wallace on the principles of variation and selection in
the natural world were sent to the Linnaean Society in London, the
leading scientists have laid great stress upon the doctrine of the
survival of the "fittest" as the true explanation of progress in
the natural world. It was apparently made clear by Darwin, and
supported by sufficient evidence, that "any being, if it vary
however slightly, in any manner profitable to itself, under the
complex and somewhat varying conditions of life, will have a better
chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected."
This principle, since that day, has been thoroughly worked out in
practically all the important fields of both the plant and animal
world. Moreover, the doctrine of evolution, dependent upon this
principle, has exerted so great an influence upon the process of
investigation and thinking in all fields of activity that the
resulting change in method has amounted to a revolution. The
principle is applied not only in the field of biology, but also in
the realm of astronomy, where we study the evolution of worlds, and
in psychology, history, social science, where we speak of the
development of human traits and of the growth of economic,
political and social institutions.
It is necessary to remember in applying such a brief statement of a
principle, that the words are used in a highly technical sense.
The word "fittest" by no means need imply the best from the point
of view of beauty or strength or usefulness in nature; nor does it
necessarily mean, in reference to society, best from the point of
view of morals or a higher civilization. Rather the "fittest"
means the being best adapted to the conditions under which it is
living, or to its environment. As a matter of fact, it is the
general opinion that in practically all fields this principle works
toward progress in the highest and best sense; but it is always a
matter for specific study as well as of great scientific interest
and importance, to determine where and how the variation and the
corresponding selection tend to promote the morally good.
Especially is this true in the study of society, where we should
endeavor to see whether or not the "fittest" means also the highest
from the moral and religious point of view.
The story of the flood gives us a most interesting example of the
way in which the ancient Hebrews looked upon such a process of
selection in the moral and religious world and taught it as a
divine principle. It is, therefore, one of the most suggestive and
interesting of the writings of the early Israelites.
THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST IN SOCIAL AND POLITICAL LIFE.
From our modern point of view, the ancient Hebrew writers had a far
deeper knowledge of moral and religious questions than of natural
science. They had a far keener sense of what was socially
beneficial than of what was scientifically true. However we may
estimate their knowledge of geology and biology, we must grant that
their beliefs regarding the good and ill effects of human action
have in them much that is universally true, even though we may not
follow them throughout in their theories of divine wrath and
immediate earthly punishment of the wicked.
But is it not true almost invariably, if we look at social
questions of every kind in a comprehensive way, that the survival
of the fittest means the survival of the morally best? That the
religion which endures is of the highest type? Business success in
the long run, is so strongly based upon mutual confidence and
trust, that, especially in these later days of credit organization,
the dishonest man or even the tricky man cannot prosper long. A
sales manager of a prominent institution said lately that the chief
difficulty that he had with his men was to make them always tell
the truth. For the sake of making an important sale they were
often inclined to misrepresent his goods. "But nothing," he added,
"will so surely kill all business as misrepresentation." Even a
gambling book-maker on the race tracks in New York, before such
work was forbidden by law, is said to have proudly claimed that
absolute justice and honesty toward his customers was essential to
his success and had therefore become the rule of his life.
Although it is sometimes said that the man who guides his life by
the maxim, "Honesty is the best policy," is in reality not honest
at heart, it must nevertheless be granted that in business the
survival of the fittest means the survival of the most honest
It may perhaps have been true in the days of Machiavelli that
cruelty and treachery would aid the unscrupulous petty despot of
Italy to secure and at times to maintain his dukedom; but certainly
in modern days, when in all civilized countries permanently
prosperous government is based ultimately upon the will of the
people, the successful ruler can no longer be treacherous and
cruel. Even among our so-called "spoils" politicians and corrupt
bosses, who hold their positions by playing upon the selfishness of
their followers and the ignorance and apathy of the public, there
must be rigid faithfulness to promises, and, at any rate, the
appearance of promoting the public welfare. Otherwise their term
of power is short.
If we look back through the history of modern times, we shall find
that the statesmen who rank high among the successful rulers of
their countries are men of unselfish patriotism, and almost
invariably men of personal uprightness and morality, and usually of
deep religious feeling. Think over the names of the great men of
the United States, and note their characters. Pick out the leading
statesmen of the last half century in England, Germany and Italy.
Do they not all stand for unselfish, patriotic purpose in their
actions, and in character for individual honor and integrity?
The same is true in our social intercourse. Brilliancy of
intellect, however important in many fields of activity, counts for
relatively little in home and social life, if not accompanied by
graciousness of manner, kindness of heart, uprightness of
character. It may sometimes seem that the brilliant rascal
succeeds, that the unscrupulous business man becomes rich, and that
the hypocrite prospers through his hypocrisy. If all society were
made up of men of these low moral types, would such cases perhaps
be more often found than now? In a society of hypocrites, would
the fittest for survival be the most skilful deceiver? Or, even
there, would the adage, "There must be honor among thieves," hold,
when it came to permanent organization? But, whatever your answer,
society fortunately is not made up of hypocrites or rascals of any
kind. With all the weakness of human nature found in every
society, the growing success of the rule of the people throughout
the world proves that fundamentally men and women are honest and
true. Generally common human nature is for the right. Almost
universally, if a mooted question touching morals can be put simply
and squarely before the people, they will see and choose the right.
Fortunate it is for the world that the lessons taught by the early
Hebrew writers regarding the survival of the moral and upright are
true, and that good sense and religion both agree that in the long
run, honor and virtue and righteousness not only pay the
individual, but are essential to the prosperity of a nation.
_Questions for Further Consideration_.
Had most primitive peoples a tradition regarding the flood? How do
you explain the striking points of similarity between the flood
stories of peoples far removed from each other?
Is there geological evidence that the earth, during human history,
has been completely inundated?
What do you mean by a calamity? Is it a mere accident, or an
essential factor in the realization of the divine purpose in human
Are appalling calamities, like floods and earthquakes, the result
of the working out of natural laws? Are they unmitigated evils?
Were the floods in China and the plagues in India, which destroyed
millions of lives, seemingly essential to the welfare of the
surviving inhabitants of those overpopulated lands?
What were the effects of the Chicago fire and the San Francisco
earthquake upon these cities? How far was the development of the
modern commission form of city government one of the direct results
of the Galveston flood?
To what extent is the modern progress in sanitation due to natural
calamities? What calamities?
Is a great calamity often necessary to arouse the inhabitants of a
city or nation to the development of their resources and to the
realisation of their highest possibilities? What illustrations can
How do changes in the environment of men affect the moral quality
of their acts? How do circumstances affect the kind of act that
will be successful? During the Chinese revolution of 1912 in
Peking and Nanking, looting leaders of mobs and plundering soldiers
when captured were promptly decapitated without trial. Was such an
act right? Was it necessary? What conditions would justify such
an act in the United States? Would the same act tend equally to
preserve the government in both countries?
_Subjects for Further Study_.
(1) Flood Stories among Primitive Peoples. Worcester, _Genesis_
361-373; Hastings, _Dict. of Bible_ Vol. II, 18-22; Extra Vol.
181-182; _Encyc. Brit_.
(2) The Scientific Basis of the Biblical Account of the Flood.
Ryle, _Early Narratives of Gen_. 112-113; Davis, _Gen. and Semitic
Traditions_ 130-131; Driver, _Genesis_ 82-83, 99; Sollas, _Age of
the Earth_, 316 ff.
(3) Compare the treatment accorded their rivals and competitors for
power in their various fields by the following persons: Solomon,
Caesar Borgia, the late Empress Dowager of China (Tz'u-hsi),
Bismarck, the great political leaders of today in Great Britain and
the United States and the modern combinations of capital known as
I Kings 1; Machiavelli, _The Prince_; Douglas, _Europe and the Far
East_, Ch. 17.
Did these different methods under the special circumstances result
in the survival of the fittest? The fittest morally?
THE PIONEER'S INFLUENCE UPON A NATION'S IDEALS.
ABRAHAM, THE TRADITIONAL FATHER OF HIS RACE.--Gen. 12:1-8; 13:1-13;
16; 18, 19; 21:7; 22:1-19.
_Hist. Bible_ I, 73-94.
_Prin of Pol_., 160-175.
Jehovah said to Abraham, Go forth from thy country, and from thy
kindred, and from thy father's house, to the land that I will show
thee, that I may make of thee a great nation; and I will surely
bless thee, and make thy name great, so that thou shalt be a
blessing, I will also bless them that bless thee, and him that
curseth thee will I curse, so that all the families of the earth
shall ask for themselves a blessing like thine own. So Abraham
went forth, as Jehovah had commanded him.--Gen. 12:1-4. (_Hist.
By faith Abraham when he was called, obeyed to go out into a place
which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out not
knowing whither he went. By faith he became a sojourner in the
land of promise as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with
Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he
looked for the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker
is God.--_Heb_. 11:8-10.
He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life
for my sake shall find it--_Matt_. 10:39.
THE PROPHETIC STORIES ABOUT ABRAHAM.
Many Biblical scholars claim that the data point to variant
versions of the different stories about Abraham. Thus, for
example, there are two accounts of his deceptions regarding Sarah,
one in 12:9-13:1, and the other in 20:1-17. The oldest version of
the story they believe is found in 26:1-14 and is told not of
Abraham but of Isaac, whose character it fits far more
consistently. Similarly there are three accounts of the covenant
with Abimelech (Gen. 21:22-31, 21:25-34, and 26:15-33). The two
accounts of the expulsion of Hagar and the birth of Ishmael, in
Genesis 16:1-16 and 21:1-20 differ rather widely in details. In
one account Hagar is expelled and Ishmael is born after the birth
of Isaac, and in the other before that event. Do these variant
versions indicate that they were drawn from different groups of
narratives? The differences in detail are in general closely
parallel to those which the New Testament student finds in the
different accounts of the same events or teachings in the life of
Jesus. They suggest to many that the author of the book of Genesis
was eager to preserve each and every story regarding Abraham.
Instead, however, of preserving intact the different groups of
stories, as in the case of the Gospels, they have been combined
with great skill. Sometimes, as in the case of the expulsion of
Hagar, the two versions are introduced at different points in the
life of the patriarch. More commonly the two or more versions are
closely interwoven, giving a composite narrative that closely
resembles Tatian's Diatessaron which was one continuous narrative
of the life and teachings of Jesus, based on quotations from each
of the four Gospels. Fortunately, if this theory is right, the
group of stories most fully quoted and therefore best preserved is
the early Judean prophetic narratives. When these are separated
from the later parallels they give a marvelously complete and
consistent portrait of Abraham.
THE MEANING OF THE EARLY PROPHETIC STORIES ABOUT ABRAHAM.
Read the prophetic stories regarding Abraham (_Hist. Bible_ I, 73,
74, 79-81, 84-87, 90-92). Are these stories to be regarded simply
as chapters from the biography of the early ancestor of the Hebrews
or, like the story of the Garden of Eden, do they have a deeper, a
more universal moral and religious significance? Back of the story
of Abraham's call and settlement in Canaan clearly lies the
historic fact that the ancestors of the Hebrews as nomads migrated
from the land of Aram to seek for themselves and their descendants
a permanent home in the land of Canaan. Abraham, whose name in
Hebrew means, "Exalted Father," or as it was later interpreted,
"Father of a Multitude," naturally represents this historic
movement, but the story of his call and settlement in Canaan has a
larger meaning and value. It simply and vividly illustrates the
eternal truths that (1) God guides those who will be guided. (2)
He reveals himself alone to those who seek a revelation. (3) His
revelations come along the path of duty and are confined to no
place or land. (4) For those who will be led by him God has in
store a noble destiny. (5) Blessed are the peacemakers for they
shall be called the children of God. (6) Blessed are the meek for
they shall inherit the earth. Thus this marvelous story presents
certain of the noblest fruits of Israel's spiritual experiences.
Incidentally it also deals with the relationship between the
Hebrews and their neighbors, the Moabites, across the Jordan and
the Dead Sea, for Lot in these earlier stories stands as the
traditional ancestor of the Moabites and Ammonites. It is evident
that, like the opening narratives of Genesis, this story aimed to
explain existing conditions, as well as to illustrate the deeper
truths of life.
Similarly the story of the expulsion of Hagar, it is thought, aims
primarily to explain the origin of Israel's foes, the nomadic
Ishmaelites, who lived south of Canaan. In the inscriptions of the
Assyrian king Sennacherib, Hargaranu is the name of an Aramean
tribe. A tribe bearing a similar name is also mentioned in the
south Arabian inscriptions. The Hagar of the story is a typical
daughter of the desert. When she became the mother of a child, the
highest honor that could come to a Semitic woman, she could not
resist the temptation to taunt Sarah. In keeping with early
Semitic customs Sarah had full authority to demand the expulsion of
Hagar, for in the eye of the law the slave wife was her property.
The tradition of the revelation to Hagar also represented the
popular explanation of the sanctity of the famous desert shrine
Beer-lahal-roi. Like most of the prophetic stories, this narrative
teaches deeper moral lessons. Chief among these is the broad truth
that the sphere of God's care and blessing was by no means limited
to Israel. To the outcast and needy he ever comes with his message
of counsel and promise. Was Abraham right or wrong in yielding to
Sarah's wish? Was Sarah right or wrong in her attitude toward
Hagar? Was Hagar's triumphal attitude toward Sarah natural? Was
In the story of the destruction of Sodom Lot appears as the central
figure. His choice of the fertile plain of the Jordan had brought
him into close contact with its inhabitants, the Canaanites.
Abandoning his nomadic life, he had become a citizen, of the
corrupt city of Sodom. When at last Jehovah had determined to
destroy the city because of its wickedness, Abraham persistently
interceded that it be spared. Its wickedness proved, however, too
great for pardon. Lot, who, true to his nomad training, hospitably
received the divine messengers, was finally persuaded to flee from
the city and thus escaped the overwhelming destruction that felt
upon it. What was the possible origin of this story? (_Hist.
Bible_ I, 87.) What are the important religious teachings of this
story? Were great calamities in the past usually the result of
wickedness? Are they to-day? Do people so interpret the
destruction of San Francisco and Messina? The great epidemic of
cholera in Hamburg in 1892 was clearly the result of a gross
neglect of sanitary precautions in regard to the water supply. At
that date the cholera germ had not been clearly identified and
there was some doubt regarding the means by which the disease was
spread. Was sanitary neglect then as much of a sin as it would be
now? May we properly say that the pestilence was a calamity
visited on that city as a punishment for its sin of neglect?
Why did the prophets preserve the story of the sacrifices of Isaac?
Compare the parallel teaching in Micah 6:6-8.
With what shall I come before Jehovah,
Bow myself before the God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings,
With calves a year old?
Will Jehovah be pleased with thousands of rams,
With myriads of streams of oil?
Shall I give him my first-born for my guilt,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
Which is the most important teaching of the story: the importance
of an unquestioning faith and obedience, or the needlessness of
human sacrifice? Does God ever command any person to do anything
that the person thinks wrong?
THE PROPHETIC PORTRAIT OF ABRAHAM.
In the so-called later priestly stories regarding Abraham (see
especially Gen. 17) he is portrayed as a devoted servant of the