Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/194
why they worshipped the animal, which the instances he gives do not at all explain. The case of the serpent is a very difficult one. Dr. Cobb's discussion of it, occupying chapters vii. and viii., is instructive ; and his remarks on the morality of the worship are characterised by broad-minded charity and insight into archaic social conditions. Yet after all we are by no means sure that the writers whose view he accepts have penetrated to the heart of the mystery.
One of the most valuable chapters is the final one on some " Ornaments of the Church " of the Jews. It is abundantly clear that, while Hebrew institutions and ritual bear witness to some Egyptian influence, their chief affinities are to be sought for in Syria and Chaldea. Nor indeed is it otherwise than astonishing, if the account of the sojourn in Egypt and the Exodus be true, how little Egyptian culture affected the Israelites, especially if their leader and lawgiver were really " learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians." We are bound to infer that the national tradi- tions on the subject require still more careful sifting than they have hitherto received ; and the difficulties attending every attempted identification of " the Pharaoh of the Exodus " render a further suspense of judgement incumbent upon all who desire historic truth. To Dr. Cobb, who, while maintaining his theo- logical orthodoxy, frankly accepts (as every unprejudiced person must) the general results of what is called "the Higher Criticism," this attitude should not be impossible.
The theological aspects of the book are not for discussion here. From a scientific standpoint it is a serious contribution to an inquiry of profound and perennial interest. It contains candid and acute criticism that will be helpful to students of the history of religion. Whether the theory of menotheism as the foundation of heathen religions — at least, of the heathen religions which influenced Judaism — be proved, is another question. It involves assumptions as to the progress of thought for which we confess we cannot find sufficient warrant. But such theories, even if they do not ultimately commend themselves to the scientific judgement, materially subserve the cause of truth by calling attention to possible interpretations of the facts, liable else to be overlooked, and by thus enabling us to clarify our ideas. However we may explain it, the author is probably right when he argues that in the days of Hezekiah the Hebrews were in a stage of advanced poly-