The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew/Chapter 19

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N example of the handling of Scripture by the " modern " critical school may be found in an article on the " Teraphim " by Dean Farrar in the third edition of Kitto's "Cyclopaedia," which manifests the greatest confusion of thought imaginable. After summarising the earlier passages where the word is found, he comes to Hosea iii. 4, of which he says, "Here it would certainly be the primd facie impression of every unbiassed reader that the matzebdh and the teraphim are mentioned without blame as ordinary parts of religious worship.

" Without, however, entering into the question (which perhaps cannot be decided) whether Hosea did or did not mean to com- mend or tolerate these material adjuncts to a v monotheistic worship, it is certainly not surprising that the reverence paid to the teraphim should have continued in Israel side by side with that paid to the calves, which beyond all doubt were intended to be mere Elohistic symbols."

This is unpardonable ignorance on the part of a would-be teacher, for it confounds God and Belial, and the symbols of the worship of Jehovah with the symbols of idolatry.

There cannot be the least question as to whether the prophet "did or did not mean to commend or tolerate these material adjuncts to a monotheistic worship," since he treats them not as appositions but as oppositions of the symbols of the worship of the true and living God. On this point the unconverted Rabbi whom I have quoted on page 9 has more spiritual and historical insight than the prominent Church dignitary. It is "certainly not at all surprising that the reverence paid to the teraphim should have continued in Israel side by side with that paid to



the calves" set up by Jeroboam, for both alike were idolatrous practices equally abominable in the sight of God, and a violation of His law.

Further down in his article, after summarising Spencer's absurd arguments to the effect that the teraphim and Urim and Thummim were identical, he says, " On the other hand, if in the above passages we have convincing proof that the use of teraphim was common, if not universal, among the early Hebrews, there are other passages which show that it was condemned, and that strongly, by the stricter Jehovists." Some of " the main and certain results " which he gathers from his whole review of the subject are, " that the resort to teraphim was not a practice con- fined to Jews ; that their use continued down to the latest period of Jewish history ; and lastly, that although the more enlightened prophets and strictest later kings regarded them as idolatrous, the priests were much less averse to such images, and their cult was not considered in any way repugnant to the pious worship of Elohim, nay, even to the worship of him under the awful title of Jehovah. In fact they involved a monotheistic idolatry very different indeed from polytheism ; and the tolerance of them by priests, as compared with the denunciation of them by the keener insight and more vivid inspiration of the prophets, offers a close analogy to the views of the Roman Catholics respecting pictures and images as compared with the views of Protestants. It was against this use of idolatrous symbols and emblems in a monotheistic worship that the Second Commandment was directed, whereas the first is aimed against the graver sin of direct polytheism. But the whole history of Israel shows how early and how utterly the law must have fallen into desuetude. The worship of the golden calf, and of the calves at Dan and Bethel, against which, so far as we know, neither Elijah nor Elisha said a single word ; the tolerance of high places, teraphim and bcetytia ; the offering of incense for centuries to the brazen serpent destroyed by Hezekiah ; the occasional glimpses of the most startling irregularities, sanctioned apparently even in the Temple worship itself, prove most decisively that a pure mono- theism and an independence of symbols was the result of a slow and painful course of God's disciplinal dealings among the noblest thinkers of a single nation, and not, as is so constantly and erroneously urged, the instinct of the whole Semitic race; in other words, one single branch of the Semites was under God's providence educated into pure monotheism only by centuries of misfortune and series of inspired men."


This is a fine specimen of the new method : first misunder- stand Scripture statements, and then represent the Bible as made up of conflicting "Codes," some written by more "tolerant priests " and " Eloists," and some by " the stricter Jehovists," who differ on the legitimacy of such a cardinal point as idolatry which is most solemnly forbidden in the Ten Commandments. But some, at any rate, of Dr. Farrar's " certain results " are drawn purely from his own imagination.

There is not the slightest ground on a careful examination of the eight scriptures in question in which the teraphim are men- tioned for the assertion that there is any difference of opinion in reference to them among the inspired writers. They all alike regarded them in the same light as iniquity, witchcraft, idolatry, and other " abominations " (i Sam. xv. 23 ; 2 Kings xxiii. 24), and if one or another simply refer to them in passing as a matter of history, as they do to some of the other notorious sins of Israel, without stopping at the time to denounce them, it is no more fair to argue from the negative that they approve of them, than is the Dean's astounding conclusion that Elijah and Elisha did not object to the worship of the calves at Dan and Bethel because, " so far as we know, they said not a single word against it " !

It never seems to have struck the writer that in their faithful witness to the one true and living God, and in their denunciations of all apostasy from Him, this sin too was included. We might as well argue that because, " so far as we know," they did not say a single word in particular against breaches of some of the other of the Ten Commandments of which Israel was guilty, that therefore they approved of those transgressions !

The only grounds which Dean Farrar adduces (in a note) for the assertion that " the priests were much less averse to such ' images ' and more tolerant to ' monotheistic ' idolatry " which, by the way, is an absurd paradox are the conduct of Aaron in the matter of the golden calf ; the story of the vagrant Levite Jonathan in those wild and ignorant times, " who for his board and clothing and ten pieces of silver a year hired himself out to the Ephraimite Micah to become the obscure priest" of a cult in which the imperfect knowledge of Jehovah was mixed up with a " graven image and a molten image," which are an abomination in His sight ; and finally the conduct of the pliable priest Urijah, who at the command of the wicked King Ahaz introduced into the Temple of God an altar after the fashion of an idolatrous altar which the king saw in Damascus.

Now it would be quite as fair and logical to argue from the


fact that because two or three priests were guilty of the crime of murder or adultery that therefore the priests as an order were " less averse " and " more tolerant " of these sins than " the keener-sighted " prophets !

As to Aaron's conduct, into which, according to his excuse to Moses, he was driven out of fear for the people. Moses, too, was a priest, and what he and the whole tribe of the Levites thought of it is answered by their slaughter among the people in one day of three thousand men. And as to Jonathan, whom Dean Farrar quotes as an example of the priests, the inspired (priestly) chronicler (i Chron. xxiii. 15, 17) is so ashamed of him that he does not record his name among the sons of Gershom, and therefore stops with the firstborn. That Gershom had other sons may be inferred from the fact that of his brother Eliezer, who only had one son, the fact is recorded.

This desire to efface Jonathan from the priestly register, or at any rate from the register of the family of Moses to which he really belonged, is to be observed from the insertion of the hang- ing Hebrew letter nun, by which the name of " Moses" is turned into " Manasseh" (see the Hebrew of Judges xviii. 30), by which the early scribes meant to convey the hint that he was more worthy to be a descendant of the wicked and idolatrous king of that name than of the great lawgiver.

Then, finally, as to Urijah, who introduced that unauthorised altar into the Temple, the connection of which with the subject of the teraphim I fail to see, he was as much a model priest as Ahaz, by whose command he acted, was a model king.

In the last paragraph of Dr. Farrar's article which I have quoted, we observe in veiled language the great fallacy common to this school of writers. Instead of judging the conduct and failures of Israel by the divinely revealed law, which was perfect from the beginning, they are apt to form certain notions about the law from the conduct of the people ; thus the non-observance or transgression of certain laws has been used by these writers as a proof of their non-existence at the time, and as an argument for the theory of a much later origin.

It was not the result " of a slow and painful course " of disci- pline " among the noblest thinkers " that men finally arrived at "a pure monotheism and independence of symbols," but as the result of a self-revelation on the part of the true and living God, to which man is ever slow to respond.

As already said in the section in Chapter I. which I have devoted to this subject, the history of Israel as of Christendom


teaches man the humbling lesson that not only can he not by searching find God, but that even when the knowledge of God is divinely communicated to him he is unable, left to himself, to retain that knowledge in his heart, and is apt to fall back into idolatry whether literal or spiritual.