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Who Wrote the Bible? by Washington Gladden

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The aim of this volume is to put into compact and popular form, for the
benefit of intelligent readers, the principal facts upon which scholars
are now generally agreed concerning the literary history of the Bible.
The doctrines taught in the Bible will not be discussed; its claims to a
supernatural origin will not be the principal matter of inquiry; the
book will concern itself chiefly with those purely natural and human
agencies which have been employed in writing, transcribing, editing,
preserving, transmitting, translating, and publishing the Bible.

The writer of this book has no difficulty in believing that the Bible
contains supernatural elements. He is ready to affirm that other than
natural forces have been employed in producing it. It is to these
superhuman elements in it that reference and appeal are most frequently
made. But the Bible has a natural history also. It is a book among
books. It is a phenomenon among phenomena. Its origin and growth in this
world can be studied as those of any other natural object can be
studied. The old apple-tree growing in my garden is the witness to me of
some transcendent truths, the shrine of mysteries that I cannot unravel.
What the life is that was hidden in the seed from which it sprang, and
that has shaped all its growth, coördinating the forces of nature, and
producing this individual form and this particular variety of fruit,--
this I do not know. There are questions here that no man of science can
answer. Life in the seed of the apple as well as in the soul of man is a
mystery. But there are some things about the apple-tree that may be
known. I may know--if any one has been curious enough to keep the
record--when the seed was planted, when the shoot first appeared above
the ground, how many branches it had when it was five years old, how
high it was when it was ten years old, when this limb and that twig were
added, when the first blossom appeared, when that branch was grafted and
those others were trimmed off. All this knowledge I may have gained; and
in setting forth these facts, or such as these, concerning the natural
history of the tree, I do not assume that I am telling all about the
life that is in it. In like manner we may study the origin and growth of
the Bible without attempting to decide the deeper questions concerning
the inspiration of its writers and the meaning of the truths they

That the Bible has a natural as well as a supernatural history is
everywhere assumed upon its pages. It was written as other books are
written, and it was preserved and transmitted as other books are
preserved and transmitted. It did not come into being in any such
marvelous way as that in which Joseph Smith's "Book of Mormon," for
example, is said to have been produced. The story is, that an angel
appeared to Smith and told him where he would find this book; that he
went to the spot designated, and found in a stone box a volume six
inches thick, composed of thin gold plates, eight inches by seven, held
together by three gold rings; that these plates were covered with
writing in the "Reformed Egyptian" tongue, and that with this book were
"the Urim and the Thummim," a pair of supernatural spectacles, by means
of which he was able to read _and translate_ this "Reformed
Egyptian" language. This is the sort of story which has been believed,
in this nineteenth century, by tens of thousands of Mormon votaries.
Concerning the books of the Bible no such astonishing stories are told.
Nevertheless some good people seem inclined to think that if such
stories are not told, they might well be; they imagine that the Bible
must have originated in a manner purely miraculous; and though they know
very little about its origin, they conceive of it as a book that was
written in heaven in the English tongue, divided there into chapters and
verses, with head lines and reference marks, printed in small pica,
bound in calf, and sent down to earth by angels in its present form.
What I desire to show is, that the work of putting the Bible into its
present form was not done in heaven, but on earth; that it was not done
by angels, but by men; that it was not done all at once, but a little at
a time, the work of preparing and perfecting it extending over several
centuries, and employing the labors of many men in different lands and
long-divided generations. And this history of the Bible as a book, and
of the natural and human agencies employed in producing it, will prove,
I trust, of much interest to those who care to study it.

Mr. Huxley has written a delightful treatise on "A Piece of Chalk," and
another on "The Crayfish;" a French writer has produced an entertaining
volume entitled "The Story of a Stick;" the books of the Bible,
considered from a scientific or bibliographical point of view, should
repay our study not less richly than such simple, natural objects.

A great amount of study has been expended of late on the Scriptures, and
the conclusions reached by this study are of immense importance. What is
called the Higher Criticism has been busy scanning these old writings,
and trying to find out all about them. What is the Higher Criticism? It
is the attempt to learn from the Scriptures themselves the truth about
their origin. It consists in a careful study of the language of the
books, of the manners and customs referred to in them, of the historical
facts mentioned by them; it compares part with part, and book with book,
to discover agreements, if they exist, and discrepancies, that they may
be reconciled. This Higher Criticism has subjected these old writings to
such an analysis and inspection as no other writings have ever
undergone. Some of this work has undoubtedly been destructive. It has
started out with the assumption that these books are in no respect
different from other sacred books; that they are no more a revelation
from God than the Zendavesta or the Nibelungen Lied is a revelation from
God; and it has bent its energies to discrediting, in every way, the
veracity and the authority of our Scriptures. But much of this criticism
has been thoroughly candid and reverent, even conservative in its temper
and purpose. It has not been unwilling to look at the facts; but it has
held toward the Bible a devout and sympathetic attitude; it believes it
to contain, as no other book in the world contains, the message of God
to men; and it has only sought to learn from the Bible itself how that
message has been conveyed. It is this conservative criticism whose
leadership will be followed in these studies. No conclusions respecting
the history of these writings will be stated which are not accepted by
conservative scholars. Nevertheless it must be remembered that the
results of conservative scholarship have been very imperfectly reported
to the laity of the churches. Many facts about the Bible are now known
by intelligent ministers of which their congregations do not hear. An
anxious and not unnatural feeling has prevailed that the faith of the
people in the Bible would be shaken if the facts were known. The belief
that the truth is the safest thing in the world, and that the things
which cannot be shaken will remain after it is all told, has led to the
preparation of this volume.

I have no doubt, however, that some of the statements which follow will
fall upon some minds with a shock of surprise. The facts which will be
brought to light will conflict very sharply with some of the traditional
theories about the Bible. Some of my readers may be inclined to fear
that the foundations of faith are giving way. Let me, at the outset,
request all such to suspend their judgment and read the book through
before they come to such a conclusion. Doubtless it will be necessary to
make some readjustment of theories; to look at the Bible less as a
miraculous and more as a spiritual product; to put less emphasis upon
the letter and more upon the spirit; but after all this is done it may
appear that the Bible is worth more to us than it ever was before,
because we have learned how rightly to value it.

The word "Bible" is not a biblical word. The Old Testament writings were
in the hands of the men who wrote the books of the New Testament, but
they do not call these writings the Bible; they name them the Scriptures,
the Holy Scriptures, the Sacred Writings, or else they refer to them
under the names that were given to specific parts of them, as the Law,
the Prophets, or the Psalms. Our word Bible comes from a word which
began to be applied to the sacred writings as a whole about four hundred
years after Christ. It is a Greek plural noun, meaning the books, or the
little books. These writings were called by this plural name for about
eight hundred years; it was not till the thirteenth century that they
began to be familiarly spoken of as a single book. This fact, of itself,
is instructive. For though a certain spiritual unity does pervade these
sacred writings, yet they are a collection of books, rather than one
book. The early Christians, who honored and prized them sufficiently,
always spoke of them as "The Books," rather than as "The Book,"--and
their name was more accurate than ours.

The names Old and New Testament are Bible words; that is to say we find
the names in our English Bibles, though they are not used to describe
these books. Paul calls the old dispensation the old covenant; and that
phrase came into general use among the early Christians as contrasted
with the Christian dispensation which they called the new covenant;
therefore Greek-speaking Christians used to talk about "the books
of the old covenant," and "the books of the new covenant;" and by and by
they shortened the phrase and sometimes called the two collections
simply "Old Covenant" and "New Covenant." When the Latin-speaking
Christians began to use the same terms, they translated the Greek word
"covenant" by the word "testament" which means a will, and which does
not fairly convey the sense of the Greek word. And so it was that these
two collections of sacred writings began to be called The Old Testament
and The New Testament. It is the former of these that we are first to

When Jesus Christ was on the earth he often quoted in his discourses
from the Jewish Scriptures, and referred to them in his conversations.
His apostles and the other New Testament writers also quote freely from
the same Scriptures, and books of the early Christian Fathers are full
of references to them. What were these Jewish Scriptures?

At the time when our Lord was on the earth, the sacred writings of the
Jews were collected in two different forms. The Palestinian collection,
so called, was written in the Hebrew language, and the Alexandrian
collection, called the Septuagint, in the Greek. For many years a large
colony of devout and learned Jews had lived in Alexandria; and as the
Greek language was spoken there, and had become their common speech,
they translated their sacred writings into Greek. This translation soon
came into general use, because there were everywhere many Jews who knew
Greek well enough but knew no Hebrew at all. When our Lord was on earth,
the Hebrew was a dead language; it may have been the language of the
temple, as Latin is now the language of the Roman Catholic mass; but the
common people did not understand it; the vernacular of the Palestinian
Jews was the Aramaic, a language similar to the Hebrew, sometimes called
the later Hebrew, and having some such relation to it as the English has
to the German tongue. There is some dispute as to the time when the Jews
lost the use of their own language and adopted the Aramaic; many of the
Jewish historians hold the view that the people who came back from the
captivity to Jerusalem had learned to use the Aramaic as their common
speech, and that the Hebrew Scriptures had to be interpreted when they
were read to them. Others think that this change in language took place
a little later, and that it resulted in great measure from the close
intercourse of the Jews with the peoples round about them in Palestine,
most of whom used the Aramaic. At any rate the change had taken place
before the coming of Christ, so that no Hebrew was then spoken
familiarly in Palestine. When "the Hebrew tongue" is mentioned in the
New Testament it is the Aramaic that is meant, and not the ancient
Hebrew. The Greek, on the other hand, was a living language; it was
spoken on the streets and in the markets everywhere, and many Jews
understood it almost as well as they did their Aramaic vernacular, just
as many of the people of Constantinople and the Levant now speak French
more fluently than their native tongues. The Greek version of the
Scriptures was, for this reason, more freely used by the Jews even in
Palestine than the Hebrew original; it was from the Septuagint that
Christ and his apostles made most of their quotations. Out of three
hundred and fifty citations in the New Testament from the Old Testament
writings about three hundred appear to be directly from the Greek
version made at Alexandria. Between these two collections of sacred
writings, the one written in Hebrew, then a dead language, and the other
in Greek,--the one used by scholars only, and the other by the common
people,--there were some important differences, not only in the
phraseology and in the arrangement of the books, but in the contents
themselves. Of these I shall speak more fully in the following chapters.
It is to the Hebrew collection, which is the original of these writings,
and from which our English Old Testament was translated, that we shall
now give our attention. What were these Hebrew Scriptures of which all
the writers of the New Testament knew, and from which they sometimes
directly quote?

The contents of this collection were substantially if not exactly the
same as those of our Old Testament, but they were arranged in very
different order. Indeed they were regarded as three distinct groups of
writings, rather than as one book, and the three groups were of
different degrees of sacredness and authority. Two of these divisions
are frequently referred to in the New Testament, as The Law and The
Prophets; and the threefold division is doubtfully hinted at in Luke
xxiv. 44, where our Lord speaks of the predictions concerning himself
which are found in the Law and the Prophets and in the Psalms.

The first of these holy books of the Jews was, then, THE LAW contained
in the first five books of our Bible, known among us as the Pentateuch,
and called by the Jews sometimes simply "The Law," and sometimes "The
Law of Moses." This was supposed to be the oldest portion of their
Scriptures, and was by them regarded as much more sacred and
authoritative than any other portion. To Moses, they, said, God spake
face to face; to the other holy men much less distinctly. Consequently
their appeal is most often to the law of Moses.

The group of writings known as "The Prophets" is subdivided into the
Earlier and the Later Prophets. _The Earlier Prophets_ comprise
Joshua, the Judges, the two books of Samuel, counted as one, and the two
books of the Kings, counted also as one. _The Later Prophets_
comprise Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve Minor Prophets, the
last books in our Old Testament,--Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah,
Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. These
twelve _were counted as one book_; so that there were four volumes
of the earlier and four of the later prophets. Why the Jews should have
called Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and the Kings books of the Prophets is
not clear; perhaps because they were supposed to have been written by
prophets; perhaps because prophets have a conspicuous place in their
histories. This portion of the Hebrew Scriptures, containing the four
historical books named and the fifteen prophetical books (reckoned,
however, as four), was regarded by the Jews as standing next in
sacredness and value to the book of the Law.

The third group of their Scriptures was known among them as Kethubim, or
Writings, simply. Sometimes, possibly, they called it The Psalms,
because the book of the Psalms was the initial book of the collection.
It consisted of the Psalms, the Proverbs, Job, the Song of Solomon,
Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and
the Chronicles. This group of writings was esteemed by the Jews as less
sacred and authoritative than either of the other two groups; the
authors were supposed to have had a smaller measure of inspiration.
Respecting two or three of these books there was also some dispute among
the rabbis, as to their right to be regarded as sacred Scripture.

Such, then, were the Hebrew Scriptures in the days of our Lord, and such
was the manner of their arrangement.

They had, indeed, other books of a religious character, to which
reference is sometimes made in the books of the Bible. In Numbers xxi.
14, 15, we have a brief war song quoted from "The Book of the Wars of
Jehovah," a collection of which we have no other knowledge. In Joshua x.
13, the story of the sun standing still over Gibeon is said to have been
quoted from "The Book of Jasher," and in 2 Samuel i. 18, the beautiful
"Song of the Bow," written by David on the death of Saul and Jonathan,
is said to be contained in the "Book of Jasher." It is evident that this
must have been a collection of lyrics celebrating some of the great
events of Hebrew history. The title seems to mean "The Book of the
Just." The exploits of the worthies of Israel probably furnished its
principal theme.

In 1 Chronicles xxix. 29, we read: "Now the acts of David the king,
first and last, behold they are written in the History of Samuel the
Seer, and in the History of Nathan the Prophet, and in the History of
Gad the Seer." There is no reason to doubt that the first named of these
is the history contained in the books of Samuel in our Bible; but the
other two books are lost. We have another reference to the "History of
Nathan," in 2 Chronicles ix. 29,--the concluding words of the sketch of
King Solomon's life. "Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and
last, are they not written in the History of Nathan the Prophet, and in
the Prophecy of Abijah the Shilonite, and in the Visions of Iddo the
Seer concerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat?" Here are two more books of
which we have no other knowledge; their titles quoted upon the page of
this chronicle are all that is left of them. A similar reference, in the
last words of the sketch of Solomon's son Rehoboam, gives us our only
knowledge of the "Histories of Shemaiah the Prophet."

In the Kings and in the Chronicles, reference is repeatedly made to the
"Books of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel," and the "Books of the
Chronicles of the Kings of Judah," under which titles volumes that are
now lost are brought to our notice. Undoubtedly much of the history in
the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles was derived from these
ancient annals. They are the sources from which the writers of these
books drew their materials.

We are also told in 2 Chronicles xxvi. 22, that Isaiah wrote a history
of the "Acts of Uzziah," which is wholly lost.

Other casual references are made to historical writings of various
sorts, composed by prophets and seers, and thus apparently accredited by
the biblical writers as authoritative utterances of divine truth. Why
were they suffered to perish? Has not Emerson certified us that

"One accent of the Holy Ghost
The heedless world has never lost"?

But this is a fond exaggeration. Mr. Emerson was certainly not himself
inspired when he uttered it. Many and many an accent of the Holy Ghost
has been lost by this heedless world. And it is not at all improbable
that some of these histories of Nathan and Gad and Shemaiah held vital
and precious truth,--truth that the world has needed. The very fact that
they are hopelessly lost raises some curious questions about the method
of revelation. Is it to be supposed that the Providence which suffers
whole books to be lost by men would infallibly guarantee those that
remain against errors in the copies, and other imperfections? As a
matter of fact, we know that He has not so protected any of them.

Still I doubt not that Providence has kept for us the best of this
Hebrew literature. To say that it is the best literature that the world
has produced is to say very little. It is separated widely from all
other sacred writings. Its constructive ideas are as far above those of
the other books of religion as the heavens are above the earth. I pity
the man who has had the Bible in his hand from his infancy, and who has
learned in his maturer years something of the literature of the other
religions, but who now needs to have this statement verified. True it is
that we find pure maxims, elevated thoughts, genuine faith, lofty
morality, in many of the Bibles of the other races. True it is that in
some of them visions are vouchsafed us of the highest truths of
religion, of the very substance of the gospel of the Son of God. But
when we take the sacred books of the other religions in their entirety,
and compare them with the sacred writings of the Hebrews, the
superiority of these in their fundamental ideas, in the conceptions that
dominate them, in the grand uplifting visions and purposes that vitalize
them, can be felt by any man who has any discernment of spiritual
realities. It is in these great ideas that the value of these writings
consists, and not in any petty infallibility of phrase, or inerrancy of
statement. They are the record, as no other book in the world is a
record, of that increasing purpose of God which runs through the ages.
I hope that it will appear as the result of our studies, that one may
continue to reverence the Scriptures as containing a unique and special
revelation from God to men, and yet clearly see and frankly acknowledge
the facts concerning their origin, and the human and fallible elements
in them, which are not concealed, but lie upon their very face.



We are now to study the first five books of the Bible, known as the
Pentateuch. This word "Pentateuch" is not in the Bible; it is a Greek
word signifying literally the Five-fold Work; from _penta_, five,
and _teuchos_, which in the later Greek means roll or volume.

The Jews in the time of our Lord always considered these five books as
one connected work; they called the whole sometimes "Torah," or "The
Law," sometimes "The Law of Moses," sometimes "The Five-fifths of the
Law." It was originally one book, and it is not easy to determine at
what time its division into five parts took place.

Later criticism is also inclined to add to the Pentateuch the Book of
Joshua, and to say that the first six books of the Bible were put into
their present form by the same hand. "The Hexateuch," or Six-fold Work,
has taken the place in these later discussions of the Pentateuch, or
Five-fold Work. Doubtless there is good reason for the new
classification, but it will be more convenient to begin with the
traditional division and speak first of the five books reckoned by the
later Jews as the "Torah," or the Five-fifths of the Law.

Who wrote these books? Our modern Hebrew Bibles give them the general
title, _"Quinque Libri Mosis_." This means "The Five Books of
Moses." But Moses could never have given them this title, for these are
Latin words, and it is not possible that Moses should have used the
Latin language because there was no Latin language in the world until
many hundreds of years after the day of Moses. The Latin title was given
to them, of course, by the editors who compiled them. The preface and
the explanatory notes in these Hebrew Bibles are also written in Latin.

But over this Latin title in the Hebrew Bible is the Hebrew word
"Torah." This was the name by which these books were chiefly known among
the Jews; it signifies simply "The Law." This title gives us no
information, then, concerning the authorship of these books.

When we look at our English Bibles we find no separation, as in the
Hebrew Bible, of these five books from the rest of the Old Testament
writings, but we find over each one of them a title by which it is
ascribed to Moses as its author,--"The First Book of Moses, commonly
called Genesis;" "The Second Book of Moses, commonly called Exodus;" and
so on. But when I look into my Hebrew Bible again no such title is
there. Nothing is said about Moses in the Hebrew title to Genesis.

It is certain that if Moses wrote these books he did not call them
"Genesis," "Exodus," "Leviticus," "Numbers," "Deuteronomy;" for these
words, again, come from languages that he never heard. Four of them are
Greek words, and one of them, Numbers, is a Latin word. These names were
given to the several books at a very late day. What are their names in
the Hebrew Bible? Each of them is called by the first word, or some of
the first words in the book. The Jews were apt to name their books, as
we name our hymns, by the initial word or words; thus they called the
first of these five books, "Bereshith," "In the Beginning;" the second
one "Veelleh Shemoth," "Now these are the names;" the third one
"Vayikra," "And he called," and so on. The titles in our English Bible
are much more significant and appropriate than these original Hebrew
titles; thus Genesis signifies origin, and Genesis is the Book of
Origins; Exodus means departure, and the book describes the departure of
Israel from Egypt; Leviticus points out the fact that the book is mainly
occupied with the Levitical legislation; Numbers gives a history of the
numbering of the people, and Deuteronomy, which means the second law,
contains what seems to be a recapitulation and reënactment of the
legislation of the preceding books. But these English titles, which are
partly translated and partly transferred to English from older Latin and
Greek titles, tell us nothing trustworthy about the authorship of the

How, then, you desire to know, did these books come to be known as the
books of Moses?

"They were quoted," answer some, "and thus accredited by our Lord and
his apostles. They are frequently mentioned in the New Testament as
inspired and authoritative books; they are referred to as the writings
of Moses; we have the testimony of Jesus Christ and of his apostles to
their genuineness and authenticity." Let us see how much truth this
answer contains. It confronts us with a very important matter which may
as well be settled before we go on.

It is true, to begin with, that Jesus and the Evangelists do quote from
these books, and that they ascribe to Moses some of the passages which
they quote. The soundest criticism cannot impugn the honesty or the
intelligence of such quotations. There is good reason, as we shall see,
for believing that a large part of this literature was written in the
time of Moses, and under the eye of Moses, if not by his hand. In a
certain important sense, which will be clearer to us as we go on, this
literature is all Mosaic. The reference to it by the Lord and his
apostles is therefore legitimate.

But this reference does by no means warrant the sweeping conclusion that
the five books of the law were all and entire from the pen of the
Lawgiver. Our Lord nowhere says that the first five books of the Old
Testament were all written by Moses. Much less does he teach that the
contents of these books are all equally inspired and authoritative.
Indeed he quotes from them several times for the express purpose of
repudiating their doctrines and repealing their legislation. In the very
fore-front of his teaching stands a stern array of judgments in which
undoubted commandments of the Mosaic law are expressly condemned and set
aside, some of them because they are inadequate and superficial, some of
them because they are morally defective. "Ye have heard that it was said
to them of old time" thus and thus; "but I say unto you"--and then
follow words that directly contradict the old legislation. After quoting
two of the commandments of the Decalogue and giving them an
interpretation that wholly transforms them, he proceeds to cite several
old laws from these Mosaic books, in order to set his own word firmly
against them. One of these also is a law of the Decalogue itself. There
can be little doubt that the third commandment is quoted and criticised
by our Lord, in this discourse. That commandment forbids, not chiefly
profanity, but perjury; by implication it permits judicial oaths. And
Jesus expressly forbids judicial oaths. "Swear not at all." I am aware
that this is not the usual interpretation of these words, but I believe
that it is the only meaning that the words will bear. Not to insist upon
this, however, several other examples are given in the discourse
concerning which there can be no question.

Jesus quotes the law of divorce from Deuteronomy xxiv. 1,2. "When a man
taketh a wife and marrieth her, then it shall be, if she find no favour
in his eyes, because he hath found some unseemly thing in her, that he
shall write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send
her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house she may
go and be another man's wife." These are the words of a law which Moses
is represented as uttering by the authority of Jehovah. This law, as
thus expressed, Jesus Christ unqualifiedly repeals. "I say unto you that
every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of
fornication, maketh her an adulteress, and whosoever shall marry her
when she is put away committeth adultery."

The law of revenge is treated in the same way. "Ye have heard that it
was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Who said this? Was
it some rabbin of the olden time? It was Moses; nay, the old record says
that this is the word of the Lord by Moses: "The Lord spake unto Moses,
saying [among other things], If a man cause a blemish in his neighbor,
as he hath done so shall it be done to him; breach for breach, eye for
eye, tooth for tooth; as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it
be rendered unto him." (Lev. xxiv. 19,20.) So in Exodus xxi. 24, "Thou
shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand,
burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." It is
sometimes said that these retaliations were simply permitted under the
Mosaic law, but this is a great error; they were enjoined: "Thine eye
shall not pity," it is said in another place (Deut. xix. 21); "life
shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for
foot." This law of retaliation is an integral part of the moral
legislation of the Pentateuch. It is no part of the ceremonial law; it
is an ethical rule. It is clearly ascribed to Moses; it is distinctly
said to have been enacted by command of God. But Christ in the most
unhesitating manner condemns and countermands it.

"Ye have heard," he continues, "that it was said, Thou shalt love thy
neighbor and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your enemies,
and pray for them that persecute you." "But this," it is objected, "is
not a quotation from the Old Testament. These words do not occur in that
old legislation." At any rate Jesus introduces them with the very same
formula which he has all along been applying to the words which he has
quoted from the Mosaic law. It is evident that he means to give the
impression that they are part of that law. He is not careful in any of
these cases to quote the exact words of the law, but he does give the
meaning of it. He gives the exact meaning of it here. The Mosaic law
commanded Jews to love their neighbors, members of their own tribe, but
to hate the people of surrounding tribes: "An Ammonite or a Moabite
shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth
generation shall none belonging to them enter into the assembly of the
Lord for ever.... Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity
all thy days for ever." (Deut. xxiii. 3-6.)

"When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest
to possess it, and shalt cast out many nations before thee, ... then
thou shalt utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them,
nor show mercy unto them." (Deut. vii. 1,2.) This is the spirit of much
of this ancient legislation; and these laws were, if the record is true,
literally executed, in after times, by Joshua and Samuel, upon the
people of Canaan. And these bloody commands, albeit they have a "Thus
said the Lord" behind every one of them, Jesus, in the great discourse
which is the charter of his kingdom, distinctly repeals.

Such is the method by which our Lord sometimes deals with the Old
Testament. It is by no means true that he assumes this attitude toward
all parts of it. Sometimes he quotes Lawgiver and Prophets in
confirmation of his own words; often he refers to these ancient
Scriptures as preparing the way for his kingdom and foreshadowing his
person and his work. Nay, he even says of that law which we are now
studying that not one jot or tittle shall in any wise pass from it till
all things be accomplished. What he means by that we shall be able by
and by to discover. But these passages which I have cited make it clear
that Jesus Christ cannot be appealed to in support of the traditional
view of the nature of these old writings.

The common argument by which Christ is made a witness to the
authenticity and infallible authority of the Old Testament runs as

Christ quotes Moses as the author of this legislation; therefore Moses
must have written the whole Pentateuch.

Moses was an inspired prophet; therefore all the teaching of the
Pentateuch must be infallible.

The facts are, that Jesus nowhere testifies that Moses wrote the whole
of the Pentateuch; and that he nowhere guarantees the infallibility
either of Moses or of the book. On the contrary, he sets aside as
inadequate or morally defective certain laws which in this book are
ascribed to Moses.

It is needful, thus, on the threshold of our argument, to have a clear
understanding respecting the nature of the testimony borne by our Lord
and his apostles to this ancient literature. It is upon this that the
advocates of the traditional view of the Old Testament wholly rely.
"Christ was authority," they say; "the New Testament writers were
inspired; you all admit this; now Christ and the New Testament writers
constantly quote the Scriptures of the Old Testament as inspired and as
authoritative. Therefore they must be the infallible word of God." To
this it is sufficient to reply, Christ and the apostles do quote the Old
Testament Scriptures; they find a great treasure of inspired and
inspiring truth in them, and so can we; they recognize the fact that
they are organically related to that kingdom which Christ came to found,
and that they record the earlier stages of that great course of
revelation which culminates in Christ; but they nowhere pronounce any of
these writings free from error; there is not a hint or suggestion
anywhere in the New Testament that any of the writings of the Old
Testament are infallible; and Christ himself, as we have seen, clearly
warns his disciples that they do not even furnish a safe rule of moral
conduct. After this, the attempt to prove the inerrancy of the Old
Testament by summoning as witnesses the writers of the New Testament may
as well be abandoned.

But did not Jesus say, "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye
have eternal life, and they are they that testify of me?" Well, if he
had said that, it would not prove that the Scriptures they searched were
errorless. The injunction would have all the force to-day that it ever
had. One may very profitably study documents which are far from
infallible. This was not, however, what our Lord said. If you will look
into your Revised Version you will see that his words, addressed to the
Jews, are not a command but an assertion: "Ye search the Scriptures, for
in them ye think ye have eternal life" (John v. 39); if you searched
them carefully you would find some testimony there concerning me. It is
not an injunction to search the Scriptures; it is simply the statement
of the fact that the Jews to whom he was speaking did search the
Scriptures, and searched them as many people in our own time do, to very
little purpose.

But does not Paul say, in his letter to Timothy, that "All Scripture is
given by inspiration of God?" No, Paul does not say that. Look again at
your Revised Version (2 Tim. iii. 16): "Every Scripture inspired of God
is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction, which is in righteousness." Every writing inspired of God
is profitable reading. That is the whole statement.

But Paul says in the verses preceding, that Timothy had known from a
child the Sacred Writings which were able to make him wise unto
salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Was there not, then, in his
hands, a volume or collection of books, known as the Sacred Writings,
with a definite table of contents; and did not Paul refer to this
collection, and imply that all these writings were inspired of God and
profitable for the uses specified?

No, this is not the precise state of the case. These Sacred Writings had
not at this time been gathered into a volume by themselves, with a fixed
table of contents. What is called the Canon of the Old Testament had not
yet been finally determined.[Footnote: See chapter xi] There were,
indeed, as we saw in the last chapter, two collections of sacred
writings, one in Hebrew and the other in Greek. The Hebrew collection
was not at this time definitely closed; there was still a dispute among
the Palestinian Jews as to whether two or three of the books which it
now contains should go into it; that dispute was not concluded until
half a century after the death of our Lord. The other collection, as I
have said, was in the Greek language, and it included, not only our Old
Testament books, but the books now known as the Old Testament Apocrypha.
This was the collection, remember, most used by our Lord and his
apostles. Which of these collections was in the hands of Timothy we do
not certainly know. But the father of Timothy was a Greek, though his
mother was a Jewess; and it is altogether probable that he had studied
from his childhood the Greek version of the Old Testament writings.
Shall we understand Paul, then, as certifying the authenticity and
infallibility of this whole collection? Does he mean to say that the
"Story of Susanna" and "Bel and the Dragon," and all the rest of these
fables and tales, are profitable for teaching and instruction in
righteousness? This text, so interpreted, evidently proves too much.
Doubtless Paul did mean to commend to Timothy the Old Testament
Scriptures as containing precious and saving truth. But we must not
force his language into any wholesale indorsement of every letter and
word, or even of every chapter and book of these old writings.

So far, therefore, as our Lord himself and his apostles are concerned,
we have no decisive judgment either as to the authorship of these old
writings or as to their absolute freedom from error. They handled these
Scriptures, quoted from them, found inspired teaching in them; but the
Scriptures which they chiefly handled, from which they generally quoted,
in which they found their inspired teaching, contained, as we know,
worthless matter. It is not to be assumed that they did not know this
matter to be worthless; and if they knew this, it is not to be asserted
that they intended to place upon the whole of it the stamp of their

We have wandered somewhat from the path of our discussion, but it was
necessary in order to determine the significance of those references to
the Old Testament with which the New Testament abounds. The question
before us is, Why do we believe that Moses wrote the five books which
bear his name in our Bibles? We have seen that the New Testament writers
give us no decisive testimony on this point. On what testimony is the
belief founded?

Doubtless it rests wholly on the traditions of the Jews. Such was the
tradition preserved among them in the time of our Lord. They believed
that Moses wrote every word of these books; that God dictated the
syllables to him and that he recorded them. But the traditions of the
Jews are not, in other matters, highly regarded by Christians. Our Lord
himself speaks more than once in stern censure of these traditions by
which, as he charges, their moral sense was blunted and the law of God
was made of none effect. Many of these old tales of theirs were
extremely childish. One tradition ascribes, as we have seen, to Moses
the authorship of the whole Pentateuch; another declares that when,
during an invasion of the Chaldeans, all the books of the Scripture were
destroyed by fire, Ezra wrote them all out from memory, in an incredibly
short space of time; another tradition relates how the same Ezra one day
heard a divine voice bidding him retire into the field with five swift
amanuenses,--"how he then received a full cup, full as it were of water,
but the color of it was like fire, ... and when he had drank of it, his
heart uttered understanding and wisdom grew in his breast, for his
spirit strengthened his memory, ... and his mouth was opened and shut no
more and for forty days and nights he dictated without stopping till two
hundred and four books were written down." [Footnote: 2 Esdras xiv. See,
also, Stanley's _Jewish Church_, iii, 151.] These fables had wide
currency among the Jews; they were believed by Irenæus, Tertullian,
Augustine, and others of the great fathers of the Christian Church; but
they are not credited in these days. It is evident that Jewish tradition
is not always to be trusted. We shall need some better reason than this
for believing that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch.

I do not know where else we can go for information except to the books
themselves. A careful examination of them may throw some light upon the
question of their origin. A great multitude of scholars have been before
us in their examination; what is their verdict?

First we have the verdict of the traditionalists,--those, I mean, who
accept the Jewish tradition, and believe with the rabbins that Moses
wrote the whole of the first five books of the Bible. Some who hold this
theory are ready to admit that there may be a few verses here and there
interpolated into the record by later scribes; but they maintain that
the books in their substance and entirety came in their present form
from the hands of Moses. This is the theory which has been generally
received by the Christian church. It is held to-day by very few eminent
Christian scholars.

Over against this traditional theory is the theory of the radical and
destructive critics that Moses wrote nothing at all; that perhaps the
ten commandments were given by him, but hardly anything more; that these
books were not even written in the time of Moses, but hundreds of years
after his death. Moses is supposed to have lived about 1400 B.C.; these
writings, say the destructive critics, were first produced in part about
730 B.C., but were mainly written after the Exile (about 444 B.C.),
almost a thousand years after the death of Moses. "Strict and impartial
investigation has shown," says Dr. Knappert, "that ... nothing in the
whole Law really comes from Moses himself except the ten commandments.
And even these were not delivered by him in the same form as we find
them now." [Footnote: _The Religion of Israel_, p. 9.] This is, to
my mind, an astounding statement. It illustrates the lengths to which
destructive criticism can go. And I dare say that we shall find in our
study of these books reason for believing that such views as these are
as far astray on the one side as those of the traditionalists are on the

Let us test these two theories by interrogating the books themselves.

First, then, we find upon the face of the record several reasons for
believing that the books cannot have come, in their present form, from
the hand of Moses.

Moses died in the wilderness, before the Israelites reached the Promised
Land, before the Canaanites were driven out, and the land was divided
among the tribes.

It is not likely that he wrote the account of his own death and burial
which we find in the last chapter of Deuteronomy. There are those, it is
true, who assert that Moses was inspired to write this account of his
own funeral; but this is going a little farther than the rabbins; they
declare that this chapter was added by Joshua. It is conceivable that
Moses might have left on record a prediction that he would die and be
buried in this way; but the Spirit of the Lord could never inspire a man
to put in the past tense a plain narrative of an event which is yet in
the future. The statement when written would be false, and God is not
the author of falsehood.

It is not likely either that Moses wrote the words in Exodus xi. 3:
"Moreover the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the
sight of all the people;" nor those in Numbers xii. 3: "Now the man
Moses was very meek above all the men which were on the face of the
earth." It has been said, indeed, that Moses was directed by inspiration
to say such things about himself; but I do not believe that egotism is a
supernatural product; men take that in the natural way.

Other passages show upon the face of them that they must have been added
to these books after the time of Moses. It is stated in Exodus xvi. 35,
that the Israelites continued to eat manna until they came to the
borders of the land of Canaan. But Moses was not living when they
entered that land.

In Genesis xii. 6, in connection with the story of Abraham's entrance
into Palestine, the historical explanation is thrown in: "And the
Canaanite was then in the land." It would seem that this must have been
written at a day when the Canaanite was no longer in the land,--after
the occupation of the land and the expulsion of the Canaanites. In
Numbers xv. 32, an incident is related which is prefaced by the words,
"While the children of Israel were in the wilderness." Does not this
look back to a past time? Can we imagine that this was written by Moses?
Again, in Deuteronomy iii. 11, we have a description of the bedstead of
Og, one of the giants captured and killed by the Israelites, just before
the death of Moses; and this bedstead is referred to as if it were an
antique curiosity; the village is mentioned in which it is kept. In
Genesis xxxvi. we find a genealogy of the kings of Moab, running through
several generations, prefaced with the words: "These are the kings that
reigned in the land of Edom before there reigned any king over the
children of Israel." This is looking backward from a day when kings were
reigning over the children of Israel. How could it have been written
five hundred years before there ever was a king in Israel? In Genesis
xiv. 14, we read of the city of Dan; but in Judges xviii. 29, we are
told that this city did not receive its name until hundreds of years
later, long after the time of Moses. Similarly the account of the naming
of the villages of Jair, which we find in Deuteronomy iii. 14, is quite
inconsistent with another account in Judges x. 3, 4. One of them must be
erroneous, and it is probable that the passage in Deuteronomy is an

Most of these passages could be explained by the admission that the
scribes in later years added sentences here and there by way of
interpretation. But that admission would of course discredit the
infallibility of the books. Other difficulties, however, of a much more
serious kind, present themselves.

In the first verse of the twentieth chapter of Numbers we read that the
people came to Kadesh in the first month. The first month of what year?
We look back, and the first note of time previous to this is the second
month of the second year of the wandering in the wilderness. Their
arrival at Kadesh described in the twentieth chapter would seem, then,
to have been in the first month of the third year. In the twenty-second
verse of this chapter the camp moves on to Mount Hor, and Aaron dies
there. There is no note of any interval of time whatever; yet we are
told in the thirty-third chapter of this book that Aaron died in the
fortieth year of the wandering. Here is a skip of thirty-eight years in
the history, without an indication of anything having happened meantime.
On the supposition that this is a continuous history written by the man
who was a chief actor in it, such a gap is inexplicable. There is a
reasonable way of accounting for it, as we shall see, but it cannot be
accounted for on the theory that the book in its present form came from
the hand of Moses.

Some of the laws also bear internal evidence of having originated at a
later day than that of Moses. The law forbidding the removal of
landmarks presupposes a long occupation of the land; and the law
regulating military enlistments is more naturally explained on the
theory that it was framed in the settled period of the Hebrew history,
and not during the wanderings. This may, indeed, have been anticipatory
legislation, but the explanation is not probable.

Various repetitions of laws occur which are inexplicable on the
supposition that these laws were all written by the hand of one person.
Thus in Exodus xxxiv. 17-26, there is a collection of legal enactments,
all of which can be found, in the same order and almost the same words,
in the twenty-third chapter of the same book. Thus, to quote the summary
of Bleek, we find in both places, (_a_) that all the males shall
appear before Jehovah three times in every year; (_b_) that no
leavened bread shall be used at the killing of the Paschal Lamb, and
that the fat shall be preserved until the next morning; (_c_) that
the first of the fruits of the field shall be brought into the house of
the Lord; (_d_) that the young kid shall not be seethed in its
mother's milk.[Footnote: _Introduction to the Old Testament_, i.

We cannot imagine that one man, with a fairly good memory, much less an
infallibly inspired man, should have written these laws twice over, in
the same words, within so small a space, in the same legal document. In
Leviticus we have a similar instance. If any one will take that book and
carefully compare the eighteenth with the twentieth chapter, he will see
some reason for doubting that both chapters could have been inserted by
one hand in this collection of statutes. "It is not probable," as Bleek
has said, "that Moses would have written the two chapters one after the
other, and would so shortly after have repeated the same precepts which
he had before given, only not so well arranged the second time."
[Footnote: _Introduction to the Old Testament_, i. 240.]

There are also quite a number of inconsistencies and contradictions in
the legislation, all of which may be easily explained, but not on the
theory that the laws all came from the pen of one infallibly inspired
lawgiver. We find also several historical repetitions and historical
discrepancies, all of which make against the theory that Moses is the
author of all this Pentateuchal literature. A single author, if he were
a man of fair intelligence, good common sense, and reasonably firm
memory, could not have written it. And unless tautology, anachronisms,
and contradictions are a proof of inspiration, much less could it have
been written by a single inspired writer. The traditional theory cannot
therefore he true. We have appealed to the books themselves, and they
bear swift witness against it.

Now let us look at the other theory of the destructive critics which not
only denies that Moses wrote any portion of the Pentateuch, but alleges
that it was written in Palestine, none of it less than six or seven
hundred years after he was dead and buried.

In the first place the book expressly declares that Moses wrote certain
portions of it. He is mentioned several times as having written certain
historical records and certain words of the law. In Exodus xxiv., we are
told that Moses not only rehearsed to the people the Covenant which the
Lord had made with them, but that he wrote all the words of the Covenant
in a book, and that he took the book of the Covenant and read it in the
audience of all the people. After the idolatry of the people Moses was
again commanded to write these words, "and" it is added, "he wrote upon
the tables the words of the Covenant, the ten commandments." In Exodus
xvii. 14, we are told that Moses wrote the narrative of the defeat of
Amalek in a book; and again in Numbers xxxiii. 21, we read that Moses
recorded the various marches and halts of the Israelites in the
wilderness. We have also in the Book of Deuteronomy (xxxi. 24-26) a
statement that Moses wrote "the words of the law" in a book, and put it
in the ark of the covenant for preservation. Precisely how much of the
law this statement is meant to cover is not clear. Some have interpreted
it to cover the whole Pentateuch, but that interpretation, as we have
seen, is inadmissible. We may concede that it does refer to a body or
code of laws,--probably that body or code on which the legislation of
Deuteronomy is based.

These are all the statements made in the writings themselves concerning
their origin. They prove, if they are credible, that portions of these
books were written by Moses; they do not prove that the whole of them
came from his hand.

I see no reason whatever to doubt that this is the essential fact. The
theory of the destructive critics that this literature and this
legislation was all produced in Palestine, about the eighth century
before Christ, and palmed off upon the Jews as a pious fraud, does not
bear investigation. In large portions of these laws we are constantly
meeting with legal provisions and historical allusions that take us
directly back to the time of the wandering in the wilderness, and cannot
be explained on any other theory. "When," says Bleek, "we meet with laws
which refer in their whole tenor to a state of things utterly unknown in
the period subsequent to Moses, and to circumstances existing in the
Mosaic age, and in that only, it is in the highest degree likely that
these laws not only in their essential purport proceeded from Moses, but
also that they were written down by Moses or at least in the Mosaic age.
Of these laws which appear to carry with them such clear and exact
traces of the Mosaic age, there are many occurring, especially in
Leviticus, and also in Numbers and Exodus, which laws relate to
situations and surrounding circumstances only existing whilst the
people, as was the case in Moses' time, wandered in the wilderness and
were dwellers in the close confinement of camps and tents." [Footnote:
Vol. i. p. 212.] It is not necessary to draw out this evidence at
length; I will only refer to a few out of scores of instances. The first
seven chapters of Leviticus, containing laws regulating the burnt
offerings and meat offerings, constantly assume that the people are in
the camp and in the wilderness. The refuse of the beasts offered in
sacrifice was to be carried out of the camp to the public ash heap, and
burned. The law of the Great Day of Atonement (Lev. xvi.) is also full
of allusions to the fact that the people were in camp; the scapegoat was
to be driven into the wilderness, and the man who drove it out was to
wash his clothes and bathe, and afterward come into the camp; the
bullock and the goat, slain for the sacrifice, were to be carried forth
without the camp; he who bears them forth must also wash himself before
he returns to the camp. Large parts of the legislation concerning
leprosy are full of the same incidental references to the fact that the
people were dwelling in camp.

There are also laws requiring that all the animals killed for food
should be slaughtered before the door of the Tabernacle. There was a
reason for this law; it was intended to guard against a debasing
superstition; but how would it have been possible to obey it when the
people were scattered all over the land of Palestine? It was adapted
only to the time when they were dwelling in a camp in the wilderness.

Besides, it must not be overlooked that in all this legislation "the
priests are not at all referred to in general, but by name, as Aaron and
his sons, or the sons of Aaron the priests."

All the legislation respecting the construction of the tabernacle, the
disposition of it in the camp, the transportation of it from place to
place in the wilderness, the order of the march, the summoning of the
people when camp was to be broken, with all its minute and
circumstantial directions, would be destitute of meaning if it had been
written while the people were living in Palestine, scattered all over
the land, dwelling in their own houses, and engaged in agricultural

The simple, unforced, natural interpretation of these laws takes us
back, I say, to the time of Moses, to the years of the wandering in the
wilderness. The incidental references to the conditions of the
wilderness life are far more convincing than any explicit statement
would have been. Can any one conceive that a writer of laws, living in
Palestine hundreds of years afterwards, could have fabricated these
allusions to the camp life and the tent life of the people? Such a
novelist did not exist among them; and I question whether Professor
Kuenen and Professor Wellhausen, with all their wealth of imagination,
could have done any such thing. Many of these laws were certainly
written in the time of Moses; and I do not believe that any man was
living in the time of Moses who was more competent to write such laws
than was Moses himself. The conclusion of Bleek seems therefore to me
altogether reasonable: "Although the Pentateuch in its present state and
extent may not have been composed by Moses, and also many of the single
laws therein may be the product of a later age, still the legislation
contained in it is genuinely Mosaic in its entire spirit and character."
[Footnote: Vol. i. p. 221.] We are brought, therefore, in our study, to
these inevitable conclusions:

1. The Pentateuch could never have been written by any one man, inspired
or otherwise.

2. It is a composite work, in which many hands have been engaged. The
production of it extends over many centuries.

3. It contains writings which are as old as the time of Moses, and some
that are much older. It is impossible to tell how much of it came from
the hand of Moses, but there are considerable portions of it which,
although they may have been somewhat modified by later editors, are
substantially as he left them.

I have said that the Pentateuch is a composite work. In the next chapter
we shall find some curious facts concerning its component parts, and the
way in which they have been put together. And although it did not come
into being in the way in which we have been taught by the traditions of
the rabbins, yet we shall see that it contains some wonderful evidence
of the superintending care of God,--of that continuous and growing
manifestation of his truth and his love to the people of Israel, which
is what we mean by revelation.

Revelation, we shall be able to understand, is not the dictation by God
of words to men that they may be written down in books; it is rather the
disclosure of the truth and love of God to men in the processes of
history, in the development of the moral order of the world. It is the
Light that lighteth every man, shining in the paths that lead to
righteousness and life. There is a moral leadership of God in history;
revelation is the record of that leadership. It is by no means confined
to words; its most impressive disclosures are in the field of action.
"Thus _did_ the Lord," as Dr. Bruce has said, is a more perfect
formula of revelation than "Thus said the Lord." It is in that great
historical movement of which the Bible is the record that we find the
revelation of God to men.



In the last chapter we found evidence that the Pentateuch as it stands
could not have been the work of Moses, though it contains much material
which must have originated in the time of Moses, and is more likely to
have been dictated by him than by any one else; that large portions of
the Mosaic law were of Mosaic authorship; that the entire system of
Levitical legislation grew up from this Mosaic germ, though much of it
appeared in later generations; and that, therefore, the habit of the
Jews of calling it all the law of Moses is easily understood. We thus
discovered in this study that the Pentateuch is a composite book.

The Christian Church in all the ages has been inclined to pin its faith
to what the rabbins said about the origin of this book, and this is not
altogether surprising; but in these days when testimony is sifted by
criticism we find that the traditions of the rabbins are not at all
trustworthy; and when we go to the Book itself, and ask it to tell us
what it can of the secret of its origin, we find that it has a very
different story to tell from that with which the rabbins have beguiled
us. A careful study of the Book makes it perfectly certain that it is
not the production of any one man, but a growth that has been going on
for many centuries; that it embodies the work of many hands, put
together in an artless way by various editors and compilers. The
framework is Mosaic, but the details of the work were added by reverent
disciples of Moses, the last of whom must have lived and written many
hundred years after Moses' day.

Some of the evidences of composite structure which lie upon the very
face of the narrative will now come under our notice. It is plain that
the whole of this literature could not have been written by any one man
without some kind of assistance. All the books, except the first, are
indeed a record of events which occurred mainly during the lifetime of
Moses, and of most of which he might have had personal knowledge. But
the story of Genesis goes back to a remote antiquity. The last event
related in that book occurred four hundred years before Moses was born;
it was as distant from him as the discovery of America by Columbus is
from us; and other portions of the narrative, such as the story of the
Flood and the Creation, stretch back into the shadows of the age which
precedes history. Neither Moses nor any one living in his day could have
given us these reports from his own knowledge. Whoever wrote this must
have obtained his materials in one of three ways.

1. They might have been given to him by direct revelation from God.

2. He might have gathered them up from oral tradition, from stories,
folk-lore, transmitted from mouth to mouth, and so preserved from
generation to generation.

3. He might have found them in written documents existing at the time of
his writing.

The first of these conjectures embodies the rabbinical theory. The later
form of that theory declared, however, that God did not even dictate
while Moses wrote, but simply handed the law, all written and
punctuated, out of heaven to Moses; the only question with these rabbins
was whether he handed it down all at once, or one volume at a time. It
is certain that this is not the correct theory. The repetitions, the
discrepancies, the anachronisms, and the errors which the writing
certainly contains prove that it could not have been dictated, word for
word, by the Omniscient One. Those who maintain such a theory as this
should beware how they ascribe to God the imperfections of men. It seems
to me that the advocacy of the verbal theory of inspiration comes
perilously near to the sin against the Holy Ghost.

The second conjecture, that the writer of these books might have
gathered up oral traditions of the earlier generations and incorporated
them into his writings, is more plausible; yet a careful examination of
the writings themselves does not confirm this theory. The form of this
literature shows that it must have had another origin.

The only remaining conjecture, that the books are compilations of
written documents, has been established beyond controversy by the most
patient study of the writings themselves. In the Book of Genesis the
evidence of the combination of two documents is so obvious that he who
runs may read. These two documents are distinguished from each other,
partly by the style of writing, and partly by the different names which
they apply to the Supreme Being. One of these old writers called the
Deity Elohim, the other called him Yahveh, or Jehovah. These documents
are known, therefore, as the Elohistic and the Jehovistic narratives.
Sometimes it is a little difficult to tell where the line runs which
separates these narratives, but usually it is distinct. Readers of
Genesis find many passages in which the name given to the Deity is
"God," and others in which it is "LORD," in small capitals. The first of
these names represents the Hebrew Elohim, the second the Hebrew Yahveh
or Jehovah. In one important section, beginning with the fourth verse of
the second chapter, and continuing through the chapter, the two names
are combined, and we have the Supreme Being spoken of as "The LORD God,"
Jehovah-Elohim. It is evident to every observing reader that we have in
the beginning of Genesis two distinct accounts of the Creation, the one
occupying the first chapter and three verses of the second, the other
occupying the remainder of the second chapter with the whole of the
third. The difference between these accounts is quite marked. The style
of the writing, particularly in the Hebrew, is strongly contrasted; and
the details of the story are not entirely harmonious. In the first
narrative the order of creation is, first the earth and its vegetation,
then the lower animals, then man, male and female, made in God's image.
In the second narrative the order is, first the earth and its
vegetation, then man, then the lower orders of animals, then woman. In
the first story plant life springs into existence at the direct command
of God; in the second it results from a mist which rose from the earth
and watered the whole face of the ground. These striking differences
would be hard to explain if we had not before our faces the clear
evidence of two old documents joined together.

I spoke in the last chapter of certain historical discrepancies which
are not explicable on the supposition that this is the work of a single
writer. Such are the two accounts of the origin of the name of
Beersheba, the one in the twenty-first and the other in the twenty-sixth
chapter of Genesis. The first account says that it was named by Abraham,
and gives the reason why he called the place by this name. The second
account says that it received its name from Isaac, about ninety years
later, and gives a wholly different explanation of the reason why he
called it by this name. When we find that in the first of these stories
God is called Elohim, [Footnote: In the last verse of this narrative the
word Jehovah is used, but this is probably an interpolation.] and in the
second Jehovah, we can readily explain this discrepancy. The compiler
took one of these narratives from one of these old documents, and the
other from the other, and was not careful to reconcile the two.

A similar duplication of the narrative is found in chapters xx. and
xxvi., with respect to the incident of Abimelech; in the first of these
narratives a serious complication is described as arising between
Abimelech King of Gerar on the one hand and Abraham and Sarah on the
other; in the second Abimelech is represented as interfering, in
precisely the same way and with the same results, in the domestic
felicity of Isaac and Rebekah. The harmonizers have done their work, of
course, upon these two passages; they have said that there were two
Abimelechs, and that Isaac repeated the blunder of his father; but it is
a little singular, if this were so, that no reference is made in the
latter narrative to the former. It is altogether probable that we have
the same story ascribed to different actors; and when we find that the
one narrative is Elohistic and the other Jehovistic, the problem is

More curious than any other of these combinations is the account of the
Flood, in which the compiler has taken the narratives of these two old
writers and pieced them together like patchwork. Refer to your Bibles
and note this piece of literary joiner-work. At the fifth verse of the
sixth chapter of Genesis this story begins; from this verse to the end
of the eighth verse the Jehovistic document is used. The name of the
Deity is Jehovah, translated LORD. From the ninth verse to the end of
the chapter the Elohistic document is used. The word applied to God is
Elohim, translated God. With the seventh chapter begins again the
quotation from the other document, "And the LORD [Jehovah] said unto
Noah." This extends only to the sixth verse; then the Elohistic
narrative begins again, and continues to the nineteenth verse of the
eighth chapter, including it; then the Jehovistic narrative begins
again, and continues through the chapter; then the Elohist takes up the
tale for the first seventeen verses of the ninth chapter; then the
Jehovist goes on to the twenty-seventh verse, and the Elohist closes the
chapter. It is true that we have in the midst of some of these Elohistic
passages a verse or two of the other document inserted by the compiler;
but the outlines of the different documents are marked as I have told
you. If you take this story and dissect out of it the portions which I
have ascribed to the Elohist and put them together, you will have a
clear, complete, consecutive story of the Flood; the portions of the
Jehovistic narrative inserted rather tend to confusion. "The
consideration of the context here," says Bleek, "quite apart from the
changes in the naming of God, shows that the Jehovistic passages of the
narrative did not originally belong to it. It cannot fail to be observed
that the connection is often interrupted by the Jehovistic passages, and
that by cutting them out a more valuable and clearer continuity of the
narrative is almost always obtained. For instance, in the existing
narrative certain repetitions keep on occurring; one of these,
especially, is connected with a difference in the matters of fact
related, introducing no slight difficulty and obscurity." [Footnote:
Vol. i. p. 273.]

Hear the Jehovist: "And Jehovah saw that the wickedness of man was great
in the earth" (ch. vi. 5). Now hear the Elohist (vi. 11): "And the earth
was corrupt before Elohim, and the earth was filled with violence." The
Jehovist says (vi. 7): "And Jehovah said, I will destroy man whom I have
created from the face of the ground." The Elohist says (vi. 13): "The
earth is filled with violence through them, and behold I will destroy
them with the earth." In the ninth verse of the sixth chapter we read:
"Noah was a righteous man and perfect in his generations; Noah walked
with Elohim." In the first verse of the seventh chapter, we read, "And
Jehovah said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for
thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation." These
repetitions show how the same story is twice told. But the
contradictions are more significant. Here the one narrative represents
Elohim as saying (vi. 19): "And of every living thing of all flesh, two
of every kind shalt thou bring into the ark to keep them alive with
thee; they shall be male and female. Of the fowl after their kind and of
the cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after
its kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee to keep them alive."
But the other narrative represents Jehovah as saying, "Of every clean
beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, the male and the female;
and of the beasts that are not clean, two, the male and the female; of
the fowl also of the air seven and seven, male and female, to keep seed
alive upon the face of all the earth." The one story says that of every
kind of living creature one pair should be taken into the ark; the other
says that of _clean_ beasts, seven pairs of each species should be
received, and of unclean beasts only one pair. The harmonists have
wrestled with this passage also; some of them say that perhaps the first
passage only meant that they should _walk in_ two and two; others
say that a good many years had elapsed between the giving of the two
commands (of which there is not a particle of evidence), and we are left
to infer that in the mean time the Almighty either forgot his first
orders, or else changed his mind. It is a pitiful instance of an attempt
to evade a difficulty that cannot be evaded. One of the very
conservative commentators, Dr. Perowne, in Smith's "Bible Dictionary,"
concludes to face it: "May we not suppose," he timidly asks, "that we
have here traces of a separate document, interwoven by a later writer,
with the former history? The passage has not, indeed, been incorporated
intact, but there is a coloring about it which seems to indicate that
Moses, or whoever put the book of Genesis into its present shape, had
here consulted a different narrative. The distinct use of the divine
names in the same phrase (vi. 22; vii. 5), in the former Elohim, in the
latter Jehovah, suggests that this may have been the case." [Footnote:
Art. "Noah," iii. 2179, American Edition.]

"May we not suppose," the good doctor asks, that we have traces of two
documents here? Certainly, your reverence. It is just as safe to suppose
it, as it is to suppose, when you see a nose on a man's face, that it is
a nose. There is no more doubt about it than there is about any other
palpable fact. The truth is, that the composite character of Genesis is
no longer, in scholarly circles, an open question. The most cautious,
the most conservative of scholars concede the point. Even President
Bartlett, of Dartmouth College, a Hebraist of some eminence, and as
sturdy a defender of old-fashioned orthodoxy as this country holds, made
this admission more than twenty years ago: "We may accept the traces of
earlier narratives as having been employed and authenticated by him
[Moses]; and we may admit the marks of later date as indications of a
surface revision of authorized persons not later than Ezra and
Nehemiah." And Dr. Perowne, the conservative scholar already quoted, in
the article on the "Pentateuch" in "Smith's Bible Dictionary," sums up
as follows:--

"1. The Book of Genesis rests chiefly on documents much earlier than
the time of Moses, though it was probably brought to very nearly
its present shape either by Moses himself, or by one of the
elders who acted under him.

"2. The books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers are to a great extent
Mosaic. Besides those portions which are expressly declared to
have been written by him, other portions, and especially the
legal sections, were, if not actually written, in all probability
dictated by him.

"3. Deuteronomy, excepting the concluding part, is entirely the work
of Moses, as it professes to be.

. . . . . . . . . .

"5. The first _composition_ of the Pentateuch as a whole could
not have taken place till after the Israelites entered Canaan.

"6. The whole work did not finally assume its present shape till its
revision was undertaken by Ezra after the return from the
Babylonish captivity."

The volume from which I have quoted these words bears the date of 1870.
Twenty years of very busy work have been expended upon the Pentateuch
since Dr. Perowne wrote these words; if he were to write to-day he would
be much less confident that Moses wrote the whole of Deuteronomy, and he
would probably modify his statements in other respects; but he would
retract none of these admissions respecting the composite character of
these five books.

The same fact of a combination of different documents can easily be
shown in all the three middle books of the Pentateuch, as well as in
Genesis. This is the fact which explains those repetitions of laws, and
those singular breaks in the history, to which I called your attention
in the last chapter. There is, as I believe, a large element of purely
Mosaic legislation in these books; many of these laws were written
either by the hand of Moses or under his eye; and the rest are so
conformed to the spirit which he impressed upon the Hebrew jurisprudence
that they may be fairly called Mosaic; but many of them, on the other
hand, were written long after his day, and the whole Pentateuch did not
reach its present form until after the exile, in the days of Ezra and

The upholders of the traditional theory--that Moses wrote the
Pentateuch, just as Blackstone wrote his Commentaries--are wont to make
much account of the disagreements of those critics who have undertaken
to analyze it into its component parts. "These critics," they say, "are
all at loggerheads; they do not agree with one another; none of them
even agrees with himself very long; most of them have several times
revised their theories, and there seems to be neither certainty nor
coherency in their speculations." But this is not quite true. With
respect to some subordinate questions they are not agreed, and probably
never will be; but with respect to the fact that these books are
composite in their origin they are perfectly agreed, and they are also
remarkably unanimous in their judgments as to where the lines of
cleavage run between these component parts. The consensus of critical
opinion now is that there are at least four great documents which have
been combined in the Pentateuch; and the critics agree in the main
features of the analysis, though they do not all call these separated
parts by the same names, nor do they all think alike concerning the
relative antiquity of these portions. Some think that one of these
documents is the oldest, and some give that distinction to another; nor
do they agree as to how old the oldest is, some bringing the earliest
composition down to a recent period; but on the main question that the
literature is composite they are at one. The closeness of their
agreement is shown by Professor Ladd in a series of tables [Footnote:
_The Doctrine of Sacred Scripture_, Part II. chap. vii.] in which
he displays to the eye the results of the analysis of four independent
investigators, Knobel, Schrader, Dillmann, and Wellhausen. He goes
through the whole of the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua,--the
Hexateuch, as it is now called,--and picks out of every chapter those
verses assigned by these several authorities to that ancient writing
which we have been calling the Elohistic narrative, and arranges them in
parallel columns. You can see at a glance when they agree in this
analysis, and when they disagree. I think that you would be astonished
to find that the agreements are so many and the disagreements so few. So
much unity of judgment would be impossible if the lines of cleavage
between these old documents were not marked with considerable
distinctness. "The only satisfactory explanation," says Professor Ladd,
"of the possibility of accomplishing such a work of analysis is the fact
that the analysis is substantially correct." [Footnote: _What is the
Bible?_ p. 311.]

Professor C. A. Briggs, of the Union (Presbyterian) Theological Seminary
in New York, bore this testimony three years ago in the "Presbyterian
Review:" "The critical analysis of the Hexateuch is the result of more
than a century of profound study of the documents by the greatest
critics of the age. There has been a steady advance until the present
position of agreement has been reached, in which Jew and Christian,
Roman Catholic and Protestant, Rationalistic and Evangelical scholars,
Reformed and Lutheran, Presbyterian and Episcopal, Unitarian, Methodist,
and Baptist all concur. The analysis or the Hexateuch into several
distinct original documents is a purely literary question in which no
article of faith is involved. Whoever in these times, in the discussion
of the literary phenomena of the Hexateuch, appeals to the ignorance and
prejudices of the multitude as if there were any peril to faith in these
processes of the Higher Criticism, risks his reputation for scholarship
by so doing. There are no Hebrew professors on the continent of Europe,
so far as I know, who would deny the literary analysis of the Pentateuch
into the four great documents. The professors of Hebrew in the
Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh, and tutors in a large
number of theological colleges, hold to the same opinion. A very
considerable number of the Hebrew professors of America are in accord
with them. There are, indeed, a few professional scholars who hold to
the traditional opinion, but these are in a hopeless minority. I doubt
whether there is any question of scholarship whatever in which there is
greater agreement among scholars than in this question of the literary
analysis of the Hexateuch."

I have but one more witness to introduce, and it shall be the
distinguished German professor Delitzsch, who has long been regarded as
the bulwark of evangelical orthodoxy in Germany. "His name," says
Professor Ladd, "has for many years been connected with the conception
of a devout Christian scholarship used in the defense of the faith
against attacks upon the supernatural character of the Old Testament
religion and of the writings which record its development." In a preface
to his commentary on Isaiah published since his recent death, he speaks
with great humility of the work that he has done, adding, "Of one thing
only do I think I may be confident,--that the spirit by which it is
animated comes from the good Spirit that guides along the everlasting
way." The opinion of such a scholar ought to have weight with all
serious-minded Christians. When I give you his latest word on this
question, you will recognize that you have all that the ripest and most
devout scholarship can claim. Let me quote, then, Professor Ladd's
abstract of his verdict:--

"In the opinion of Professor Delitzsch only the basis of the several
codes... incorporated in the Pentateuch is Mosaic; the form in which
these codes... are presented in the Pentateuch is of an origin much
later than the time of Moses. The Decalogue and the laws forming the
Book of the Covenant are the most ancient portions; they preserve the
Mosaic type in its relatively oldest and purest form. Of this type
Deuteronomy _is a development_. The statement that Moses 'wrote'
the Deuteronomic law (Deut. xxxi. 9, 24) _does not refer to the
present Book of Deuteronomy, but to the code of laws which underlies

"The Priest's Code, which embodies the more distinctively ritualistic
and ceremonial legislation, is the result of a long and progressive
development. Certain of its principles originated with Moses, but its
form, which is utterly unlike that of the other parts of the Pentateuch,
was received at the hands of the priests of the nation. Probably some
particular priest, at a much later date, indeed, than the time of Moses,
but prior to the composition of Deuteronomy, was especially influential
in shaping it. But the last stages of its development may belong to the
period after the Exile.

"The historical traditions which are incorporated into the Hexateuch
were committed to writing at different times and by different hands. The
narratives of them are superimposed, as it were, stratum upon stratum,
in the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua. For the Book of Joshua is
connected intimately with the Pentateuch, and when analyzed shows the
same composite structure. The differences which the several codes
exhibit are due to modifications which they received in the course of
history as they were variously collected, revised, and passed from
generation to generation.... The Pentateuch, like all the other
historical books of the Bible, is composed of documentary sources,
differing alike in character and age, which critical analysis may still
be able, with greater or less certainty, to distinguish and separate
from one another." [Footnote: _What is the Bible?_ pp. 489-491.]

That such is the fact with respect to the structure of these ancient
writings is now beyond question. And our theory of inspiration must be
adjusted to this fact. Evidently neither the theory of verbal
inspiration, nor the theory of plenary inspiration can be made to fit
the facts which a careful study of the writings themselves bring before
us. These writings are not inspired in the sense which we have commonly
given to that word. The verbal theory of inspiration was only tenable
while they were supposed to be the work of a single author. To such a
composite literature no such theory will apply. "To make this claim,"
says Professor Ladd, "and yet accept the best ascertained results of
criticism, would compel us to take such positions as the following: The
original authors of each one of the writings which enter into the
composite structure were infallibly inspired; every one who made any
changes in any one of these fundamental writings was infallibly
inspired; every compiler who put together two or more of these writings
was infallibly inspired, both as to his selections and transmissions
[omissions?], and as to any connecting or explanatory words which he
might himself write; every redactor was infallibly inspired to correct
and supplement and omit that which was the product of previous
infallible inspirations. Or perhaps it might seem more convenient to
attach the claim of a plenary inspiration to the last redactor of all;
but then we should probably have selected of all others the one least
able to bear the weight of such a claim. Think of making the claim for a
plenary inspiration of the Pentateuch in its present form on the ground
of the infallibility of that one of the Scribes who gave it its last
touches some time subsequent to the date of Ezra!" [Footnote: _The
Doctrine of Sacred Scripture_, i. 499]

And yet this does not signify that these books are valueless. When it
was discovered that the Homeric writings were not all the work of Homer,
the value of the Homeric writings was not affected. As pictures of the
life of that remote antiquity they had not lost their significance. The
value of these Mosaic books is of a very different sort from that of the
Homeric writings, but the discoveries of the Higher Criticism affect
them no more seriously. Even their historical character is by no means
overthrown. You can find in Herodotus and in Livy discrepancies and
contradictions, but this does not lead you to regard their writings as
worthless. There are no infallible histories, but that is no reason why
you should not study history, or why you should read all history with
the inclination to reject every statement which is not forced on your
acceptance by evidence which you cannot gainsay.

These books of Moses are the treasury, indeed, of no little valuable
history. They are not infallible, but they contain a great deal of truth
which we find nowhere else, and which is yet wonderfully corroborated by
all that we do know. Ewald declares that in the fourteenth chapter of
Genesis Abraham is brought before us "in the clear light of history."
From monuments and other sources the substantial accuracy of this
narrative is confirmed; and the account of the visit of Abraham to Egypt
conforms, in all its minute incidents, to the life of Egypt at that
time. The name Pharaoh is the right name for the kings reigning then;
the behavior of the servants of Pharaoh is perfectly in keeping with the
popular ideas and practices as the monuments reveal them. The story of
Joseph has been confirmed, as to its essential accuracy, as to the
verisimilitude of its pictures of Egyptian life, by every recent
discovery. Georg Ebers declares that "this narrative contains nothing
which does not accurately correspond to a court of Pharaoh in the best
times of the Kingdom." Many features of this narrative which a rash
skepticism has assailed have been verified by later discoveries.

We are told in the Exodus that the Israelites were impressed by Pharaoh
into building for him two store-cities ("treasure cities," the old
version calls them), named Pithom and Rameses, and that in this work they
were made to "serve with rigor;" that their lives were embittered "with
hard service in mortar and brick and all manner of hard service in the
field;" that they were sometimes forced to make brick without straw. The
whereabouts of these store-cities, and the precise meaning of the term
applied to them, has been a matter of much conjecture, and the story has
sometimes been set aside as a myth. To Pithom there is no clear
historical reference in any other book except Exodus. Only four or five
years ago a Genovese explorer unearthed, near the route of the Suez
Canal, this very city; found several ruined monuments with the name of
the city plainly inscribed on them, "Pi Tum," and excavating still
further uncovered a ruin of which the following is Mr. Rawlinson's
description: "The town is altogether a square, inclosed by a brick wall
twenty-two feet thick, and measuring six hundred and fifty feet along
each side. Nearly the whole of the space is occupied by solidly built,
square chambers, divided one from another by brick walls, from eight to
ten feet thick, which are unpierced by window or door or opening of any
kind. About ten feet from the bottom the walls show a row of recesses
for beams, in some of which decayed wood still remains, indicating that
the buildings were two-storied, having a lower room which could only be
entered by a trap-door, used probably as a store-house, or magazine, and
an upper one in which the keeper of the store may have had his abode.
Therefore this discovery is simply that of a 'store-city,' built partly
by Rameses II.; but it further appears from several short inscriptions,
that the name of the city was Pa Tum, or Pithom; and thus there is no
reasonable doubt that one of the two cities built by the Israelites has
been laid bare, and answers completely to the description given of it."
[Footnote: Quoted by Robinson in _The Pharaohs of the Bondage_, p.

The walls of Egypt were not all laid with mortar, but the record speaks
of mortar in this case, and here it is: the several courses of these
buildings were usually "laid with mortar in regular tiers." More
striking still is the fact that in some of these buildings, while the
lower tiers are composed of bricks having straw in them, the upper tiers
consist of a poorer quality of bricks without straw. Photographs may be
seen in this country of some of these brick granaries of this old store-
city of Pithom, with the line of division plainly showing between the
two kinds of bricks; and thus we have before our eyes a most striking
confirmation of the truth of this story of the bondage of the Israelites
in Egypt. Quite a number of such testimonies to the substantial
historical verity of these Old Testament records have been discovered in
recent years as old mounds have been opened in Egypt and in Chaldea, and
the monuments of buried centuries have told their story to the wondering
world. The books are not infallible, but he who sets them all aside as a
collection of myths or fables exposes his ignorance in a lamentable way.

But what is far more to the purpose, the ideas running all through the
old literature, the constructive truths of science, of ethics, of
religion, are pure and lofty and full of saving power. Even science, I
say, owes much to Genesis. The story of the Creation in the first
chapter of Genesis must not indeed be taken for veritable history; but
it is a solemn hymn in which some great truths of the world's origin are
sublimely set forth. It gives us the distinct idea of the unity of
Creation,--sweeping away, at one mighty stroke, the whole system of
naturalistic polytheism, which makes science impossible, when it
declares that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
In the same words it sets forth the truth by whose light science alone
walks safely, that the source of all things is a spiritual cause. The
God from whose power all things proceed is not a fortuitous concourse of
atoms, but a spiritual intelligence. From this living God came forth
matter with its forces, life with its organisms, mind with its freedom.
And although it may not be possible to force the words of this ancient
hymn into scientific statements of the order of creation, it is most
clear that it implies a continuous process, a law of development, in the
generations of the heaven and the earth. This is not a scientific
treatise of creation, but the alphabet of science is here, as Dr. Newman
Smyth has said; and it is correct. The guiding lights of scientific
study are in these great principles.

Similarly the ethical elements and tendencies of these old writings are
sound and strong. I have shown you how defective many of the Mosaic laws
are when judged by Christian standards; but all this legislation
contains formative ideas and principles by which it tends to purify
itself. Human sacrifices were common among the surrounding nations; the
story of Abraham and Isaac banishes that horror forever from Hebrew
history. Slavery was universal, but the law of the Jubilee Year made an
end of domestic slavery in Israel. The family was foundationless; the
wife's rights rested wholly on the caprice of her husband; but that law
of divorce which I quoted to you, and which our Lord repealed, set some
bounds to this caprice, for the husband was compelled to go through
certain formalities before he could turn his wife out of doors. The law
of blood vengeance, though in terms it authorized murder, yet in effect
powerfully restrained the violence of that rude age, and gave a chance
for the development of that idea of the sacredness of life which to us
is a moral commonplace, but which had scarcely dawned upon the minds of
those old Hebrews. Thus the history shows a people moving steadily
forward under moral leadership, out of barbarism into higher
civilization, and we can trace the very process by which the moral
maxims which to us are almost axioms have been cleared of the crudities
of passion and animalism, and stamped upon the consciousness of men. Is
not God in all this history?

Those first principles which I have called the guiding lights of science
are also the elements of pure religion. Science and religion spell out
different messages to men, but they start with the same alphabet. And
the religious purity of that hymn of the Creation is not less wonderful
than its scientific verity. Compare it with the other traditional
stories of the origin of things; compare it with the mythologies of
Egypt, of Chaldea, of Greece and Rome, and see how far above them it
stands in spiritual dignity, in moral beauty. "We could more easily,
indeed," says Dr. Newman Smyth, "compute how much a pure spring welling
up at the source of a brook that widens into a river, has done for
meadow and grass and flowers and overhanging trees, for thousands of
years, than estimate the influence of this purest of all ancient
traditions of the Creation, as it has entered into the lives and revived
the consciences of men; as it has purified countries of idolatries and
swept away superstition; and has flowed on and on with the increasing
truth of history, and kept fresh and fruitful, from generation to
generation, faith in the One God and the common parentage of men."
[Footnote: _Old Faiths in New Light_, p. 73.]

Above all, we find in all this literature the planting and the first
germination of that great hope which turned the thought of this people
from the earliest generations toward the future, and made them trust and
pray and wait, in darkest times, for better days to come. "Speak unto
the children of Israel that they go forward!" This is the voice that is
always sounding from the heights above them, whether they halt by the
shore of the sea, or bivouac in the wilderness. They do not always obey
the voice, but it never fails to rouse and summon them. No people of all
history has lived in the future as Israel did. "By faith" they worshiped
and trusted and wrought and fought, the worthies of this old religion;
towards lands that they had not seen they set their faces; concerning
things to come they were always prophesying; and it is this great hope
that forms the germ of the Messianic expectation by which they reach
forth to the glories of the latter day. This attitude of Israel, in all
the generations, is the one striking feature of this history. No
soulless sphinx facing a trackless desert with blind eyes--no impassive
Buddha ensphered in placid silence--is the genius of this people, but
some strong angel poised on mighty pinion above the highest peak of
Pisgah, and scanning with swift glances the beauty of the promised land.
Now any people of which this is true must be, in a large sense of the
word, an inspired people; and their literature, with all the signs of
imperfection which must appear in it, on account of the medium through
which it comes, will give proof of the divine ideas and forces that are
working themselves out in their history.

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



We found reasons, in previous chapters, for believing that considerable
portions of the Levitical legislation came from the hands of Moses,
although the narratives of the Pentateuch and many of its laws were put
into their present form long after the time of Moses. The composite
character of all this old literature has been demonstrated. The fact
that its materials were collected from several sources, by a process
extending through many centuries, and that the work of redaction was not
completed until the people returned from the exile about five centuries
before Christ, and almost a thousand years after the death of Moses, are
facts now as well established as any other results of scholarly

Nevertheless, we have maintained that the Israelites possessed, when
they entered Canaan, a considerable body of legislation framed under the
eye of Moses and bearing his name. Throughout the Book of Joshua this
legislation is frequently referred to. If the Book of Joshua was, as we
have assumed, originally connected with the first five books,
constituting what is now called the Hexateuch, if these six books were
put into their present form by the same writers, we should expect that
the Mosaic legislation would be clearly traced through all these books.

But when we go forward in this history we come at once upon a remarkable
fact. The Book of Judges, the Book of Ruth, and the two books of Samuel
cover a period of Jewish history estimated in our common chronology at
more than four hundred years, and in these four books there is no
mention whatever of that Mosaic legislation which constituted, as we
have supposed, the germ of the Pentateuch. The name of Moses is
mentioned only six times in these four books; twice in the early
chapters of the Judges in connection with the settlement of the kindred
of his wife in Canaan; once in a reference to an order given by Moses
that Hebron should be given to Caleb; twice in a single passage in I
Samuel xii., where Moses and Aaron are referred to as leaders of the
people out of Egyptian bondage, and once in Judges iii. 4, where it is
said that certain of the native races were left in Canaan, "to prove
Israel by them, whether they would hearken to the commandments of the
Lord which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses." This last
is the only place in all these books where there is the faintest
allusion to any legislation left to the Israelites by Moses; and this
reference does not make it clear whether the "commandments" referred to
were written or oral. The word "law" is not found in these four books.
There is nothing in any of these books to indicate that the children of
Israel possessed any written laws. There are, indeed, in Ruth and in the
Judges frequent accounts of observances that are enjoined in the
Pentateuch; and in Samuel we read of the tabernacle and the ark and the
offering of sacrifices; the history tells us that some of the things
commanded in the Mosaic law were observed during this period; but when
we look in these books for any reference or appeal to the sacred
writings of Moses, or to any other sacred writings, or to any laws or
statutes or written ordinances for the government of the people, we look
in vain. Samuel the Prophet anointed Saul and afterward David as Kings
of Israel; but if, on these solemn occasions, he said anything about the
writings of Moses or the law of Moses, the fact is not mentioned. The
records afford us no ground for affirming that either Samuel or Saul was
aware of the existence of such sacred writings.

This is a notable fact. That the written law of Moses should, for four
centuries of Hebrew history, have disappeared so completely from notice
that the historian did not find it necessary to make any allusion to it,
is a circumstance that needs explanation.

It is true, as I have said, that during this period certain observances
required by the law were kept more or less regularly. But it is also
true that many of the most specific and solemn requirements of the law
were neglected or violated during all these years by the holiest men.
The Mosaic law utterly forbids the offering of sacrifices at any other
place than the central sanctuary, the tabernacle or the temple; but the
narrative of these early historical books shows all the saints and
heroes of the earlier history building altars, and offering sacrifices
freely in many places, with no apparent consciousness of transgression,
--nay, with the strongest assurance of the divine approval. "Samuel,"
says Professor Robertson Smith, "sacrifices on many high places, Saul
builds altars, David and his son Solomon permit the worship at the high
places to continue, and the historian recognizes this as legitimate
because the temple was not yet built (I Kings iii. 2-4). In Northern
Israel this state of things was never changed. The high places were an
established feature in the Kingdom of Ephraim, and Elijah himself
declares that the destruction of the altars of Jehovah--all illegitimate
according to the Pentateuch--is a breach of Jehovah's covenant."
[Footnote: _The Old Testament in the Jewish Church_, pp. 220, 221.]

According to the Levitical law it was positively unlawful for any person
but the high priest ever to go into the innermost sanctuary, the holy of
holies, where the ark of God was kept; and the high priest could go into
that awful place but once a year. But we find the boy Samuel actually
sleeping "in the temple of the Lord where the ark of the Lord was." The
old version conceals this fact by a mistranslation. These are only a few
of many violations of the Pentateuchal legislation which we find
recorded in these books.

From the silence of these earlier histories concerning the law of Moses,
and from these many transgressions, by the holiest men, of the positive
requirements of the Pentateuchal legislation, the conclusion has been
drawn by recent critics that the Pentateuchal legislation could not have
been in existence during this period of history; that it must have been
produced at a later day. It must be admitted that they make out a strong
case. For reasons presented in the second chapter, I am unable to accept
their theory. It is probable, however, that the code of laws in
existence at this time was a limited and simple code--no such elaborate
ritual as that which we now find in the Pentateuch; and that those
particular requirements with respect to which the earlier Judges and
Samuel and David appear to behave themselves so disorderly, had not then
been enacted.

Moreover, it seems to be necessary to admit that there was a surprising
amount of popular ignorance respecting even those portions of the law
which were then in existence. This is the astonishing phenomenon.
Attempts are made to illustrate it by the ignorance of the Bible which
prevailed among our own ancestors before the invention of printing; but
no parallel can be found, as I believe, in the mediæval history of
Europe. It is true that many of the common people were altogether
unfamiliar with the Bible in mediæval times; but we cannot conceive of
such a thing as that the priests, the learned men, and the leaders of
the church at that time, should have been unaware of the existence of
such a book.

On his death-bed David is said to have admonished Solomon (I Kings ii.
3), that he should keep the statutes and commandments of the Lord,
"according to that which is written in the law of Moses." This is the
first reference to the Mosaic law which we find in connection with the
history of David; the first mention of a written law since the death of
Joshua, four centuries before. After this there are three other casual
allusions to the law of Moses in the first book of Kings, and four in
the second book. The books of Chronicles, which follow the Kings,
contain frequent allusions to the law; but these books, as we shall see
by and by, were written long afterward; and the tradition which they
embody cannot be so safe a guide as that of the earlier histories. It is
in Chronicles that we learn of the attempt which was made by one of the
good kings of Judah, Jehoshaphat, to have certain princes, priests, and
Levites appointed to teach the law; they went about the land, it is
said, teaching the people, "and had the book of the law of Jehovah with
them." I think that this is the first intimation, after the death of
Moses, that the law delivered by him had been publicly taught or even
read in connection with the ordinances of worship. The earlier narrative
of Jehoshaphat's reign, which we find in the Book of the Kings, makes no
allusion to this circumstance.

Nearly three hundred years after Jehoshaphat, and nearly five hundred
years after David, the young King Josiah was reigning in Jerusalem. The
temple had fallen into ruin, and the good king determined to have it
repaired. Hilkiah, the high priest, who was rummaging among the rubbish
of the dilapidated sanctuary, found there the Book of the Law of the
Lord. The surprise which he manifests at this discovery, the trepidation
of Shaphan the scribe, who hastens to tell the king about it, and the
consternation of the king when he listens for the first time in his life
to the reading of the book, and discovers how grievously its
commandments have been disobeyed, form one of the most striking scenes
of the old history. "How are we to explain," asks Dr. Perowne, "this
surprise and alarm in the mind of Josiah, betraying, as it does, such
utter ignorance of the Book of the Law and the severity of its
threatenings,--except on the supposition that as a written document it
had well-nigh perished?" [Footnote: Smith's _Bible Dictionary_,
art. "Pentateuch."] Undoubtedly "the Book of the Law" thus discovered
was that body of legislation which lies at the heart of the Deuteronomic
code; and this was never again lost sight of by the Jewish people. It
was less than fifty years after this that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the
city and the temple and carried the people away into captivity. And it
was not until their return from the Captivity, seventy years later, that
these sacred writings began to assume that place of eminence in the
religious system of the Jews which they have held in later times. The
man by whom the Jews were taught to cherish and study these writings was
Ezra, one of the returning exiles. This Ezra, the record says, "was a
ready scribe in the law of Moses which the Lord God of Israel had
given," and "he had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and
to do it and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments." He it was, no
doubt, who gave to these laws their last revision, and who put the
Pentateuch substantially into the shape in which we have it now.
Doubtless much was added at this time; ritual rules which had been
handed down orally were written out and made part of the code; the
Pentateuch, after the Exile, was a more elaborate law book than that
which Hilkiah found in the old temple. Under the presidency of Ezra in
Jerusalem, and in the days which followed, the Book of the Law was
exalted; it was the standard of authority; it was read in the temple and
explained in the synagogues; its writings were woven into all the
thought and life of the people of Israel; there never has been a time
since that day when the history of the reign of any king could have been
written without mentioning the law of Moses; there never has been a
decade when any adequate account of the life of the Jewish people could
have been given which would not bring this book constantly into view.

This Book of the Law, as finally completed by Ezra and his co-laborers,
was the foundation of the Hebrew Scriptures; it possessed a sacredness
in the eyes of the Jews far higher than that pertaining to any other
part of their writings. Next to this in age and importance was the great
division of their Scriptures known by them as _"The Prophets."_

After the Book of the Law was given to the people with great solemnity,
in the days of Ezra, and the public reading and explanation of it became
a principal part of the worship of the Jews, it began to be noised
abroad that there were certain other sacred writings worthy to be known
and treasured. The only information we have concerning the beginning of
this second collection is found in one of the apocryphal books, the
second of Maccabees (ii. 14), in which we are told that Neemias
(Nehemiah), in "founding a library, gathered together the acts of the
kings, and [the writings of] the prophets, and of David, and the
epistles of the kings concerning the holy gifts." These last named
documents are not now in existence. They appear to have been the letters
and commissions of Babylonian and Persian kings respecting the return of
the people to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple. The other
writings mentioned are, however, all known to us, and are included in
our collection. It is not certain that Nehemiah began this collection;
it may have been initiated before his day, and the "founding" of the
library may have been only the work of providing for the preservation
and arrangement of books already in his possession. This second
collection of sacred writings, called The Prophets, was divided, as I
have before stated, into the Earlier and the Later Prophets; the former
subdivision containing the books of Joshua, [Footnote: Joshua, although
originally a portion of the pentateuchal literature, was, about the time
of the Exile, separated from the first five books, and put into this
later collection.] Judges, Samuel, and Kings; the latter, the books
which we now regard and class as the prophecies. Ruth was at first
considered as a part of the Judges, and was included among the "Earlier
Prophets," and Lamentations was appended to Jeremiah, and included among
the "Later Prophets." These two books were afterward removed from this
collection, for liturgical reasons, and placed in the third group of
writings, of which we shall speak farther on.

It is probable that the prophetic writings proper were first collected;
but it will be more convenient to speak first of the books known to the
Jews as the "Earlier Prophets," and to us as the Old Testament
Histories,--Judges, Ruth, Samuel, and the Kings.

These books take up the history of Israel at the death of Joshua, and
continue it to the time of the Captivity, a period of more than eight
centuries. Some of the critics are inclined to connect them all together
as successive volumes of one great history; but there is not much
foundation for this judgment, and it is better to treat them separately.

The Book of Judges contains the annals of the Israelites after the death
of Joshua, and covers a period of three or four centuries. It was a
period of disorder and turbulence,--the "Dark Ages" of Jewish history;
when every man, as the record often says, "did that which was right in
his own eyes." There is frequent mention of the keeping of various
observances enjoined in the laws of Moses; but there is no express
mention of these laws in the book. The story is chiefly occupied with
the northern tribes; no mention is made of Judah after the third
chapter; and it is largely a recital of the various wars of deliverance
and defense waged by these northern Hebrews against the surrounding
peoples, under certain leaders who arose, in a providential way, to take
command of them.

The questions, Who wrote it? and When was it written? are not easily
answered. It would appear that portions of it must have been written
after the time of Saul, for the phrase, frequently repeated, "there was
then no king in the land," looks back from a period when there
_was_ a king in the land. And it would appear that the first
chapter must have been written before the middle of the reign of King
David; for it tells us that the Jebusites had not yet been driven out of
Jerusalem; that they still held that stronghold; while in 2 Samuel v. 6,
7, we are told of the expulsion of the Jebusites by David, who made the
place his capital from that time. The tradition that Samuel wrote the
book rests on no adequate foundation.

The evidence that this book also was compiled, by some later writer,
from various written documents, is abundant and convincing. There are
two distinct introductions, one of which comprises the first chapter and
five verses of the second, and the other of which occupies the remainder
of the second chapter. The first of these begins thus: "And it came to
pass after the death of Joshua that the children of Israel asked of the
Lord, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites, to fight
against them?" The second of these introductions begins by telling how
Joshua sent the people away, after his farewell address, and goes on
(ii. 8) to say, "And Joshua the son of Nun the servant of the Lord died,
being an hundred and ten years old." After recounting a number of events
which happened, as it tells us, after the death of Joshua, the narrative
goes on to give us as naively as possible an account of Joshua's death.
If this were a consecutive narrative from the hand of one writer,
inspired or otherwise, such an arrangement would be inexplicable; but if
we have here a combination of two or more independent documents, the
explanation is not difficult. It is a little puzzling, too, to find the
circumstances of the death of Joshua repeated here, in almost the same
words as those which we find in the Book of Joshua (xxiv. 29-31). It
would seem either that the writer of Joshua must have copied from
Judges, or the writer of Judges from Joshua, or else that both copied
from some older document this account of Joshua's death.

Another still more striking illustration of the manner in which these
old books are constructed is found in the account given in the first
chapter of the capture of Debir, by Caleb (i. 11-15). Here it is
expressly said that this capture took place after the death of Joshua,
as a consequence of the leadership assigned by Jehovah to the tribe of
Judah in this war against the Canaanites. But the same narrative, in the
same words, is found in the Book of Joshua (xv. 15-19), and here we are
told no less explicitly that the incident happened during the lifetime
of Joshua. There is no doubt that the incident happened; it is a simple
and natural story, and carries the marks of credibility upon its face;
but if it happened after the death of Joshua it did not happen before
his death; one of these narrators borrowed the story from the other, or
else both borrowed it from a common source; and one of them, certainly,
put it in the wrong place,--one of them must have been mistaken as to
the time when it occurred. Such a mistake is of no consequence at all to
one who holds a rational theory of inspiration; he expects to find in
these old documents just such errors and misplacements; they do not in
the least affect the true value of the book; but it must be obvious to
any one that instances of this nature cannot be reconciled with the
theory of an infallible book, which has been generally regarded as the
only true theory.

The book is of the utmost value as showing us the state of morals and
manners in that far-off time, and letting us see with what crude
material the great ideas committed to Israel--the unity and spirituality
and righteousness of God--were compelled to work themselves out.

The Book of Ruth, which was formerly, in the Jewish collections,
regarded as a part of the Book of Judges, is a beautiful pastoral idyl
of the same period. Its scene is laid in Judea, and it serves to show us
that in the midst of all those turbulent ages there were quiet homes and
gentle lives. No sweeter story can be found in any literature; maternal
tenderness, filial affection, genuine chivalry, find in the book their
typical representatives. The first sentence of the book gives us the
approximate date of the incidents recorded: it was "in the days when the
judges judged." The concluding verses give us the genealogy of King
David, showing that Ruth was his great-grandmother; it must, therefore,
have been written as late as the reign of David,--probably much later;
for it describes, as if they belonged to a remote antiquity, certain
usages of the Jews which must needs have shaped themselves after the
occupation of Canaan. Yet it could scarcely have been written so late as
the Captivity, for the marriage of Ruth, who is a Moabitess, to Boaz, is
mentioned as if it were a matter of course, with no hint of censure. In
the latter days of Israel such an alliance of a Jew with a foreigner
would have been regarded as highly reprehensible. Indeed the
Deuteronomic law most stringently forbids all social relations with that
particular tribe to which Ruth belonged. "An Ammonite or a Moabite shall
not enter into the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation
shall none belonging to them enter into the assembly of the Lord for
ever.... Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy
days for ever." (Deut. xxiii. 3, 6.) But Ruth, the Moabitess, becomes
the wife of one of the chief men of Bethlehem, with the applause of all
the Bethlehemites, and the highest approval of the author of this
narrative; nay, she becomes, in the fourth generation, the ancestress of
the greatest of all the kings of Israel. This certainly shows that the
people of Bethlehem did not know of the Deuteronomic law, for they were
a God-fearing and a law-abiding people; and it also makes it probable
that the incident occurred, and that the book which describes the
incident was written, before this part of the Deuteronomic code was in
existence. It is therefore valuable, not only as throwing light on the
life of the people at that early period, but also as illustrating the
growth of the pentateuchal literature.

The two Books of Samuel and the two Books of Kings appear in the
Septuagint and in the Latin Vulgate as one work in four volumes,--they
are called the Four Books of Kings. In the recent Hebrew Bibles they are
divided, however, as in our Bible, and bear the same names. They
constitute, it is true, a continuous history; but the supposition that

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