Modern Rationalism/Chapter II

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Chapter II.


BIBLICAL CRITICISM.


Simultaneously with the decay of formulas and dogmata, which has been described in the preceding chapter, there has been in progress during the century a remarkable and profound change in the conception of that literature from which they are believed to have issued. The very term "Biblical criticism" is, of itself, suggestive of an important change of attitude on the part of the Christian mind. It is now one of the most familiar phrases on the lips of the modern educated world, orthodox and heterodox; yet it implies an entirely new mode of conceiving the sacred literature of Judaism and Christianity. Indeed, there is no province of thought in which the active Rationalistic spirit of this century has effected a stranger and more significant revolution than in its criticism of the Bible. The mists of ages of superstitious reverence have been marvellously dissipated. The sacred character of the book has gradually faded until—with regard to the Old Testament at least—it has entirely lost any special and distinctive features raising it to a position of authority among the sacred books of other religions; its historical value has been almost entirely destroyed, and its ethical character has been most gravely impeached. The Old Testament, in particular, has been almost rejected by the modern theologian, and, strange to say, has acquired an interest and value in the eyes of his Rationalistic adversary. In the eyes of all educated men it has now only a similar value—in whatever degree that may be estimated—to that of all other sacred books—an ethical value. The glamour of inspiration, in the specific sense understood by all previous Christianity, has departed from it for ever. It has no different inspiration than that of the Vedas, or the Zend Avesta, or the Iliad, or the Æneid, or "Paradise Lost."

Such a transformation of the conception of the Bible, even, to a large extent, of the orthodox conception, is an important aspect of nineteenth-century progress. Like all other branches of progress, it has its roots in the past centuries; but one hundred years ago there were still but feeble and spasmodic protests against the oppressive tyranny of the traditional view. Lessing and Semler could not have formed a remote conception of the issue of the movement, which they saw and calmly blessed before they died. Even Eichhorn and Geddes could not, in the least, have anticipated its utterly revolutionary result. But the critical attitude which they adopted and recommended harmonized too well with the mental unrest, the audacity, and the destructiveness of the new-born century. Criticism became a science of engrossing interest and of powerful effect, and ecclesiastical authority and the voice of tradition were enfeebled before the multitude of issues which the new generation raised. Like every anti-traditional effort, it was concentrated, fired, and purified by a continued stress of sacerdotal opposition; but it has at length attained so high a degree of security and cogency that it now numbers a large body of the most competent orthodox scholars among its most advanced adherents.

Some of the defects of the books of the Old Testament are so conspicuous that they had been derisively pointed out by the few Freethinkers who arose in preceding centuries; but the traditional reverence for the Bible was still too strong to permit a candid and sensible appreciation of them. The strained explanations of fathers and schoolmen were still available. There had, it is true, already been a significant change in the popular estimate of the book. The belief in verbal inspiration had practically vanished, and the painfully obvious human element had at length dawned upon the mind of Christendom. The inspiration, however, which was universally attributed to the Bible, was still of a character to repel scientific analysis, and even forbid a common-sense appreciation of its contents. Its contradictions, repetitions, impossibilities, and indecencies were still gravely attributed to the Holy Spirit, and, therefore, placed beyond criticism. Another advance towards criticism was made in the seventeenth century by the discovery of the unsatisfactory condition of the actual text of Scripture. Until the seventeenth century divines had assumed that Providence had miraculously guarded its inspired books. From this torpid belief they were at length roused by the controversies on the date and origin of the vowel points of the Hebrew text between the Buxtorfs and Morinus and Cappell, and by the discovery of a vast number of variations in the manuscripts and printed books of Scripture—Kennicott's Hebrew Bible, published from 1776 to 1790, gave 200,000 variations. Thus a door was opened to a certain reverent kind of criticism. Here and there, as in the case of R. Simon and Leclerc, criticism assumed a more threatening character, but it was easily suppressed, and only such radical Freethinkers as Hobbes and Spinoza ventured to anticipate, in some measure, the destructive views of subsequent ages.

The eighteenth century witnessed a graver and more systematic attack upon the cherished idol. The English Deists, the German Illuminati, and the French philosophes made a direct attack, before the middle of the century, upon the supernatural origin of the Scriptures. Their criticism, however, was comparatively superficial, and confined itself to the obvious contradictions and gross indecencies of the narrative. It was effectually (however illogically) restrained by the theological ingenuities of excuse and conciliation which it evoked. In its old form, it perished before the end of the century. However, it had achieved an important work; it had emancipated reason and conscience, and planted the seeds of a new force, more fatal to traditional belief, and more useful to intellectual progress. The "Higher Criticism" which thus virtually commenced in the last century had an entirely different character from the Voltairean Scepticism—not an opposite character, but a more profound and scientific method. It is foolish to contrast nineteenth-century criticism with the older method and endeavour to make capital of their divergence. The new method recognises the destructive inferences to be drawn from the contradictions, etc., which are obvious in all versions of the Bible; but it has forged new and more powerful instruments—not only weapons of destruction, but useful implements of construction. It relies upon an accurate and profound science of philology, which finds important critical considerations in the original text of scripture—in differences of style and lexicology, and other linguistic features; it compares the information acquired by history and archaeology;[1] it enters, by an intimate acquaintance with the Hebrew text, into the peculiarities of thought, the psychological conditions, as well as the material environment, of the writers. The results of the present day have been attained by the application of such methods by an unbroken series of erudite Hebraists and profound thinkers from Eichhorn to Wellhausen. Though this sketch is intended only to summarize Rationalistic progress in England, it is absolutely necessary, in this section, to treat of the German schools, in which the progress in Biblical analysis has been mainly achieved.

It is often foolishly objected to the higher criticism by English hearers that it comes from Germany. Apart from the obvious frivolity of the objection (for, whatever may be said of the German systems which come here when they die, the living thoughts of that erudite and energetic nation are of great importance to us), it may be safely answered that German criticism may be traced to an English source. In 1774-8 a number of treatises by Reimarns propagated the ideas of the English Deists throughout Germany; these works, commonly called the "Wolfenbüttel Fragments," had a profound disturbing influence on the younger generation, though even their editor, Lessing, did not approve of the opinions they embodied. That they had an important influence, and thus directly prepared the way for the nascent "higher" criticism, is admitted by such writers as Lechler, Ritschl, Tholuck, and Dorner. Thus the present advanced stage of Biblical criticism in England may be traced back, through the activity in the German schools, to the Deistic teaching of the last century to which it is so often unwisely opposed in a deprecatory sense. In Germany the seed had more favourable conditions for growth. The tyranny of the sterner Lutheran and Calvinistic formulae provoked a fiercer reaction, and the liberty of University Professors was in happy contrast to the demoralizing restraint of their British contemporaries. The spread of the Kantist philosophy, which discarded all but the ethical elements of religion, was also most favourable to the growth of criticism.

Under such conditions Johann Salomo Semler (1725-91), who is called the "father of modern Biblical criticism," commenced the work of disintegration. He was an orthodox theologian, and a warm opponent of the adversaries of Christianity, though an advanced Rationalist. In the ethical spirit of his time he called into question the supernatural origin and most of the miracles of Scripture; and, after the middle of the century, he excited many doubts on the authenticity of entire books of Scripture by his "free examination of the Canon." After his example, theologians continued to explain away Scripture as only a moral revelation; to disburden religion of its miracles and creeds, and regard it simply as a moral system. Then came two important Biblical scholars Paulus, with his naturalistic interpretation of the miraculous history; J. G. Eichhorn, a semi-apologetic critic, who, however, has an important relation to modern thought. He is considered by many to be the founder of modern Old Testament criticism, and his "Introduction to the Old Testament" is said to have exercised as much influence on contemporary opinion as Wellhausen's "Prolegomena" in our days. Compared with later critics, he is most cautious and conservative, though he has a clear conception of the Maccabean date of Daniel. His most important work is the development of Astruc's hypothesis of the composite character of Genesis, which has since proved so fruitful. Eichhorn's successor at Jena, Karl D. Ilgen; De Wette, who relaxed from his first position of ardent critic to an orthodox liberalism; and Gesenius, who was coveted by our own Oxford University in 1832, continued the tradition. In 1810 a new centre of activity was created by the foundation of the Berlin University. Schleiermacher, an important orthodox theologian, who was the first professor appointed, marked his appreciation of the rapidly developing system in stating that "the Old Testament was merely the accidental soil in which Christianity was rooted"—it was a premature enunciation of the position which the majority of orthodox divines were ultimately to adopt. De Wette and Neander were also aggregated to the new University. Ewald was the next prominent figure in the critical movement. Like Eichhorn, he was an orthodox but advanced critic, who held aloof from theological quarrels, and continued his investigations with a sincere fearlessness of consequences. In 1823 he opposed both the current theories of the origin of Genesis, which was then the main object of controversy; but modified his position eight years afterwards. He also advanced the theory that the Song of Songs was a sort of popular drama, a cantata describing the victory of true love. The year 1835 was marked by the appearance of Strauss famous "Leben Jesu," and Vatke's 11 Biblische Theologie." Vatke was a pronounced Hegelian, and his later speculations are said to have found little favour. His association with the "Fragmentary theory" of Genesis gives him an important place in the development of criticism. Bleek, Hengstenberg, Hupfeld, and F. Delitzsch played the part of foils to the zeal of their more Rationalistic colleagues. Of the latter, Canon Cheyne says that whatever concessions he made to the critics were literally "wrung from him." Riehm was also prominent on the orthodox side, and Reuss did much to popularize the critical theories. Lagarde, Kuenen, Stade, and Wellhausen bring the critical tradition to the actual generation; of the New Testament critics and Christologists we shall speak afterwards. Wellhausen is a typical Rationalist, and the ablest and most influential critic of the modern school. Lagarde, though called one of the founders of the new Hexateuch criticism, remained in the orthodox ranks in an advanced position. Kuenen, the celebrated Dutch critic of Leyden University, was a theologian of firm and reverent faith, but, like Lagarde, his ideal was a pure ethical Theism; he had no sympathy with traditional forms of Christianity, and considered all dogmatic supernaturalism untenable; hence his criticism, ever cautious and fundamentally reverent, was of the most uncompromising character.

In England there was no corresponding development of the critical methods. During the preceding century three theologians had manifested Rationalistic tendencies. Bishop Warburton had thrown out certain suggestions in connection with Job and the Song of Songs. Bishop Lowth had deviated a little from the traditional view of the prophets, contending that they spoke primarily to their own time; and Dr. A. Geddes had made a direct attack upon the old theory of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. He held that the Pentateuch had been written or compiled from a number of documents about the time of Solomon in Jerusalem. Dr. Geddes was familiar with the recent speculations on Genesis of his German contemporaries, and his own theory, which differs slightly from Eichhorn's, was taught for a long period in Germany. Westphal calls it the Geddes-Vater theory—it is usually called the "Fragmentary hypothesis," as we shall see. Dr. Geddes was a Roman Catholic priest, but he was suspended from sacerdotal functions when he published his "Critical Remarks on the Hebrew Scriptures" in the year 1800. He boldly announced the first postulate of Rationalistic criticism, which is now almost universally conceded: "Let the father of Hebrew be tried by the same rules of criticism as Greek history."

It would be expected that the good seed which was thus planted on British soil at the beginning of the century would have been carefully cultivated by the semi-Rationalistic school which we have seen to be so active in England even in the first half of this century. In point of fact, the history of criticism in England is almost a perfect blank until the appearance of "Essays and Reviews" in 1861; it is relieved only by the appearance of a few unimportant works, such as the "Book of Jasher," by J. W. Donaldson. This sterility, which reflects so little credit on our English universities, now that the results of the brilliant labours of the German scholars are freely accepted within and without the Church, is entirely due to the ecclesiastical and academic authorities.

At the end of the eighteenth century a Cambridge professor, H. Lloyd, meditated a translation of Eichhorn's "Introduction to the Old Testament" that had recently created a profound sensation in Germany. The authorities refused their sanction to the translation, and their opposition led to a decay of the Oriental studies which were absolutely necessary even to keep pace with the learned Germans. Thus it is that neither Hare, nor Dr. Arnold, nor Jowett, nor Dean Stanley, with all their liberality of feeling and breadth of mind, contributed to the advancing science.

But in 1864 a powerful and successful effort was made to cast off the irksome restrictions under which the Broad Church chafed. Dr. Williams, as we have seen, introduced B. Bunsen's critical theories to English readers, and made a bold defence of the entire German movement. Hardly had the intellectual world realized the significance of this new offence of the semi-Rationalists than Bishop Colenso's “Pentateuch and Book of Joshua Critically Examined” came to confirm the impression; and it was followed, after the favourable decisions of the Privy Council, by a series of subversive speculations on the whole of the Old Testament. England was now inflamed with the controversy, and more than 300 replies to Colenso's first book appeared. Colenso did little more than give a “timid adhesion” to the speculations of the Germans, and his own theories have met with little approval. Besides emphasizing the innumerable contradictions and impossibilities of the text, he rejected entirely the orthodox notions of the authorship of the books of the Old Testament, supporting the composite character and the late date of the Pentateuch and the historical books. He adopts the hypothesis of Vatke on the post-exilic origin of the Levitical legislation, which, he says, “strikes a death blow at the whole system of priestcraft.” He teaches that the early history of the Old Testament is purely legendary; that the patriarchs and even Moses were probably mythical; that Israel was not an object of special divine choice; that Jehovah was the sun-god of the Phœnicians, with which the Israelites became acquainted about the time of the exile; that the “Exodus” is a distorted account of the expulsion of the shepherd-kings; and an infinity of equally revolutionary propositions. The learned and exhaustive treatises of the South African bishop did much towards familiarizing the nation with the new conception of Scripture. About the same time appeared S. Davidson's “Introduction to the Old Testament,” also relating with some degree of approval the conclusions of the critics on the Hexateuch. Much service was also rendered by the Jewish theologian, Dr. Kalisch, who came to England as a political refugee in 1848. He agrees generally with the higher critics, and helped to propagate their theories in England.

In our own days the purified conception of the Bible is widely accepted among Biblical scholars, and is being rapidly propagated among the rank and file of the orthodox Churches by members of their own clergy. Not only such professed theological sceptics as Dr. Momerie and Mr. Craufurd advocate it, but some of the most influential writers and teachers of the Anglican communion are in substantial agreement with the most advanced critics, though they resist the inferences which the critics draw from their theories. A work has been recently published by Deans Farrar and Fremantle, and a number of influential clergymen and laymen, which advocates a "discreet" use of the critical theories even in the education of the young, and evinces a perfect resignation to the new presentation of the historic volume. Mr. Stead has elicited from several bishops the opinion that the time has come to incorporate many of the new views into ordinary Biblical education. The Biblical articles in that universal educator, the "Encyclopaedia Britannica," are by the most advanced scholars—the most important title, the "Pentateuch," has been entrusted to Wellhausen himself, the "Prophets" to Canon Cheyne, and the majority to W. Robertson Smith. Cheyne, Canon of the Established Church, and Oriel professor of Interpretation of the Holy Scripture, adopting an attitude of perfect candour and fearlessness which does him credit, has come to accept, and ardently propagates, the views of Kuenen and Wellhausen—except in their application to the religious history of Israel; he is entirely free from, and earnestly deprecates, the spirit of timidity and compromise which enfeebles the efforts of most of his colleagues. W. Robertson Smith, the late Arabic professor of Cambridge and an intimate friend of Wellhausen, in spite of his taint of compromise and occasional hesitation, has conducted an effective propaganda of the higher criticism. Professor Driver, though fettered by a more direct anti-critical influence, admits "whatever is vitally important," as Cheyne says. Even Professor Sayce, of whom Canon Cheyne writes "for the sake of historical truth let those who read Professor Sayce be on their guard," and who is the last support of the anti-critical party, largely accepts the new analysis of the Old Testament, and often adds most destructive evidence from his Assyriological researches. Making due allowance for the timidity and compromise which always characterize the attitude of the clergy in the transition from opposition to acceptance, we may confidently regard the victory of the higher criticism as decisive. All the contentions of the critics are not admitted, except by those theologians who succeed in pursuing grammatico-historical exegesis quite apart from theology; but sufficient is admitted to justify the assertion that the Christian conception of the Bible has been revolutionized. We shall throughout distinguish between the unaccepted and the received views of the purely Rationalistic critics; but an independent and unbiassed mind will naturally prefer to follow the guidance of non-theological scholars.

The inquiry has been chiefly directed to the Pentateuch and the prophets in the Old Testament, and it is here especially that the revolutionary character of the analysis is discerned. In both cases the compromising tendency of theological critics is to be guarded against by the candid inquirer, on account of the possible dogmatic consequences of any change in that direction. However, the whole ground of the Canon has been laboriously covered by the German critics. In the case of nearly every book the result has been fatal to the traditional belief, and in most cases the new doctrine is in startling contrast to the old. Many of the hypotheses are still only provisional, and a résumé of the results of the higher criticism is not yet a collection of stereotyped conclusions. At the same time, so many of the most important conclusions have been ratified by general acceptance that they may be duly registered as final acquisitions to science. It will be impossible, as a rule, even to glance at the process of reasoning by which the conclusions have been reached; but a fuller exposition of the Hexateuch controversy, the first and most ardent struggle, will throw some light upon the vast labour which has been expended, and the constant control of hostile forces, in arriving at definite results. To the Pentateuch, or five books which form the Torah, the first section of the Jewish canon, it has been found necessary to add the Book of Joshua, which continues the early narrative, and shares the peculiar composite structure of the Pentateuch; hence the writers now invariably speak of the Hexateuch, or group of six books. The first object of the critics was to refute the traditional belief in the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. That belief is now almost confined to the Church of Rome, and is only defended by the more erudite scholars of that body in deference to a despotic reactionary authority. The second point of the critics was to institute a searching analysis of the text, by which they discovered its composite and comparatively recent character, and were finally enabled to reproduce the original synthesis of the narrative. The history of the process is extremely interesting and instructive.

Although there had been sporadic deviations from the traditional view of the Pentateuch during the preceding two centuries, the modern controversy may be said to date from the middle of the last century. In the year 1753 a French physician, named Astruc, published a work at Brussels entitled "Conjectures sur les mémoires originaux dont il parait que Moyse s'est servi pour composer le livre de la Génèse." He had noticed that the two names of God which occur in the Hebrew text—Elohim and Jahve, (Yahweh, or Jehovah, as the second is commonly read)—are not used indiscriminately, but seem to reveal the presence of two distinct writers who are severally characterized by them. He surmised that Moses had had two more ancient documents before him in composing Genesis. Thus was vaguely started the "Documentary hypothesis," around which all subsequent criticism has centred. Smith says: "That the way in which the two names are used can only be due to difference of authorship is now generally admitted." Astruc's suggestion was, however, treated with contempt in those days, and met with the usual theological stigma—"systema ineptissimum conjecturarum," such as is applied to the theories of Kuenen and Wellhausen to-day. A few years afterwards Eichhorn revived the teaching of Astruc, and strengthened it by other linguistic considerations in his "Einleitung." Michaelis also patronized it. Like Astruc, Eichhorn at first sustained that Moses was the compiler; but, as Mr. Addis forcibly urges, the Mosaic authorship is inevitably relinquished when the analysis is extended to the whole of the Hexateuch. It is impossible to think that any man wrote contradictory accounts of his own life, and systematically employed two different styles in his own narrative. Eichhorn had a powerful influence on the rising Biblical scholars, and they immediately applied themselves to the problem. Ilgen, Stähelin, Gramberg, and Kelle followed him with more or less fidelity.

In the meantime Geddes, in England, had suggested what is known as the "Fragmentary hypothesis," which regarded the Pentateuch as originating in a series of old laws and fragments of laws collected in the time of David and Solomon, which formed the basis of the actual Deuteronomy. The theory was adopted by Vater, and superseded the former hypothesis in Germany for some time. At length De Wette initiated the "Supplementary hypothesis," which supposes one document to be the basis of the Pentateuch, and that supplementary additions have been made to it, and particulars of a much later date incorporated into it. Instead of considering Deuteronomy to be the earliest stratum of the Pentateuch literature, he makes it the most recent, and assigns it to the age of Josiah. He considers the Elohistic document (in which the name Elohim occurs) the most ancient of the three—Elohistic, Jehovistic, and Deuteronomic. This theory held the ground until the speculations of Hupfeld in 1853, but is now almost antiquated. It is still held by Schrader, though Schrader is better known as an Assyriologist than a critic. Bleek, who followed De Wette, annexed the book of Joshua to the Pentateuch, and thus started the inquiry on the whole Hexateuch; and Ewald traced the two documents throughout. The problem of the respective ages of the documents led to an infinite diversity of opinions, as was natural in the yet imperfect state of speculation. All, however, agreed that the Elohistic document was the "Grund-schrift," or fundamental document which was used by the Jahvist, and supplemented by the Deuteronomist.

About the middle of the century Hupfeld made the important discovery that there were two Elohistic writers; that the Jahvist and the elder Elohist had been combined by a second Elohist, and he added that a fourth writer reunited the whole; but the latter point was immediately corrected by Nöldeke. As the theory now stood, therefore, there were four documents constituting the Hexateuch namely, the Jahvist (J), and the second Elohist (E2), which were welded at an early date; the Deuteronomist (D), and a fourth, which has received various titles—the Grund-schrift (Tuch), the Book of Origins (Ewald), the Annalistic writer (Schrader), the first Elohist (E1), and the Priestly Code (P.C.); it is now usually called by the last name. Kuenen gave his weighty adhesion to the theory of Graf and Hupfeld in its bold outlines, and it received the assent of Colenso and Wellhausen and all subsequent critics. The date and the extent of the respective documents were still a matter of grave discussion and endless differences; but an important stage had been reached, and the general thesis of the origin of Genesis from the four documents mentioned received almost universal acceptance.

Before proceeding to state more clearly the conclusion which has been adopted, it is well to note the unity and consistent growth which is perceptible in the apparently ceaseless variation. There are reviewers (of the Quarterly Review type) who are content to reject the conclusions of the critics by an appeal to the contradictory opinions which have been patronized at successive stages of the history of Biblical criticism. But, as Mr. Addis remarks, "we only need some real knowledge of the course which criticism has followed to perceive that the general knowledge of the documents which compose the Hexateuch has been gaining ground step by step," and that there has been "an amazing growth of unanimity." It is no longer wise to reproach the doctrine of biological evolution with the varied treatment it received in its growth from Lamarck, Darwin, and Spencer, or the nebular hypothesis with the variety of forms it assumed in the hands of Descartes, Kant, Laplace, and Flammarion. Such reproaches do not aid the elucidation of a truth. But, in point of fact, there has been a uniform progress amid the prolific growth of Pentateuch theories during the century. Astruc and Eichhorn's idea of Elohistic and Jahvistic documents perseveres throughout. The extension of the analysis to the rest of the Pentateuch, and ultimately to Joshua, by Bleek, was a legitimate step. De Wette's separation of Deuteronomy from the rest of the Pentateuch, on account of its distinctive style, was a second stage of growth. Even the date he assigned to Deuteronomy is retained by modern criticism. Ewald's tracing of the two documents throughout the Hexateuch was a step in advance. The Fragmentary hypothesis, which was correct in extending the analysis beyond Genesis and the beginning of Exodus, and in rejecting the idea that Genesis consisted of documents used by Moses, erred only in not perceiving the possible reduction to a common source of many of its "fragments." This error, or oversight, was corrected by the third hypothesis; the modern theory completed the progress by its discovery of a subdivision of one of the documents. Thus the successive hypotheses are not disjointed and conflicting systems, but consistent stages of growth of one central idea, around which innumerable personalities are clustered. And the Grundschrift, Book of Origins, Annalistic Writer, Elohist, Book of the Four Covenants, and Priestly Code, or Writer, are so many titles, suggested by different aspects, of one and the same document—the one which serves as a framework, and gives order and unity to the whole Hexateuch.

It is possible, therefore, at the present day to offer a decisive analysis of the Hexateuch as the accepted result of the long controversy. The traditional notion, that Moses wrote the earlier books of Scripture as sole and inspired author, is entirely obsolete. Even Professor Sayce admits that "about the general fact of the composite character of the Pentateuch competent critics of all schools are now agreed."[2] The few who still contend for a Mosaic authorship admit that it is a compilation, and that it has been much modified subsequently. It is significant to note that almost all who cling to the Mosaic authorship and editorship are persuaded that its denial has grave theological implications. In the second place, there is unanimity among the critics with regard to the character of the documents which compose the Hexateuch. Four main documents have been unanimously recognised—the Deuteronomist, the Priestly Writer, the Jahvist, and the Elohist. The principles on which the several documents have been traced in the exceedingly complex structure of the Pentateuch are numerous and effective. Not only the curious duality of names which was the first to be remarked, and manifest differences of style and lexicology, and of psychological assumption, come to the aid of the analysts, but the final synthesis has been so crude that the narrative contains numerous anachronisms, omissions, repetitions, and contradictions which offer an infallible criterion. Indeed, if doctrinal prepossessions were not in the way, the composite hypothesis would be welcomed by theologians as a much more natural solution of Biblical difficulties than the precarious modes of reconciliation which have hitherto calmed the believing conscience. The defects of the Old Testament literature are obviously due to the clumsiness or indifference of the final Redactor. The varieties of style are, of course, appreciable only to the Hebraist; but the "chronological monstrosities," as Mr. Addis calls them, have been a stumbling-block to all generations, and the virtual and even actual contradictions of the narrative are patent and numerous. Thus, in the legislative portion, there are three codes of laws that completely ignore each other's existence. "To say nothing of the remarkable divergence of style," says even the timid Dr. Driver, "Deuteronomy conflicts with the legislation of Exodus-Numbers in a manner that would not be credible were the legislator in both one and the same." Again, in the book of the Covenant (Exodus xx.) sacrifice is permitted at many shrines; in Deuteronomy only one shrine is recognised. In the book of the Covenant there is no mention of a priestly race; in Deuteronomy the tribe of Levites appears; in the Priestly Writer the sons of Aaron rise above even the Levites. And, in matters of fact, contradictions are much more numerous and less easily explained away. There are two contradictory accounts of the Creation; there are two divergent accounts of the flood; there are two distinct accounts of Joseph's history; there are discordant traditions of the origin of proper names, such as Beersheba and Bethel. The name Yahweh is known to Eve, and familiar to the patriarchs, according to J.; it is revealed for the first time to Moses during his exile among the Midianites, according to E.2; it is expressly said to be unknown to the patriarchs, and first revealed to Moses on his return to Egypt, by P.W. In E. the tent of meeting is said to have been outside the camp and left to the charge of an Ephraimite; in P.C. the tent is said to have been in the centre of the camp, and to have been guarded by a double cordon—the inner of priests, and the outer of Levites. There are two different accounts of the sending of manna and the quails, and two of the sending of the spies into the promised land.[3] And when we find that throughout these divergent narratives there is a consistent and marked diversity of style, it is impossible not to regard them as distinct threads which have been unskilfully woven. The task of the critic in disentangling them is comparatively easy.

Moreover, there is a general agreement among critics with regard to the character and relative extent of the documents. The documents J. and E. cannot be easily distinguished throughout; but, as all admit that they were combined at an early date by a "Harmonist," it is usual to analyze the Hexateuch into the three main portions—J.-E., D, and P.C; "in the limits of these three, critics of different schools are practically agreed," says Dr. Cheyne. The Jahvist and Elohist were historians, according to the fashion of their remote time; they collected the traditions, myths, and legends (as we shall see presently) which were handed down in their own nation or in surrounding peoples. Their work differs only from the mythical early literature of all the great nations of antiquity in that it had a monotheistic and more ethical character. The hortatory style of the Deuteronomist (whose work does not begin at the commencement of the actual Deuteronomy, and continues into the book of Joshua) facilitates his recognition; his document was practically marked out by Hollenberg in 1874. He is the apostle of law, describes the new law-giving and hortatory discourses of Moses, and extols Joshua as a pious hero who observed the law. The work of the Priestly Writer is also dissected with comparative ease and unanimity. He combines the functions of legislative and historical writer; but it is clear that his history is entirely subservient to his sacerdotal purpose. He is a Levitical legislator; "his dry annalistic history," says Addis, "which prepares the way for an elaborate ritualistic code, extends from the first verse of Genesis almost to the end of Joshua." It was dissected out by Nöldeke as early as 1869. His history is entirely constructed with a view to legislation, and his legislation is entirely religious; his religion is, moreover, highly ritualistic, hence he attaches an importance to the priesthood which is unknown in the rest of the Pentateuch. Indeed, so patent is the purpose of his work that even Dr. Driver regretfully admits that "it is difficult to escape the conclusion"—however much one may wish—"that the representation of P. contains elements not in the ordinary sense of the word historical."

So far there is unanimity among critics, orthodox and heterodox; numerous editions of the Hexateuch are now published in which the various elements are printed in different types or in different colours, and Mr. Addis's valuable work presents to English readers a perfectly detached and continuous version of the constituent documents. The analysis, worked out step by step in the teeth of a century of Christian prejudice and obloquy, is one of the finest literary triumphs of the Rationalistic spirit, and one of its most brilliant contributions to positive science; it is already being claimed by divines (as in the case of the theory of evolution) as a quasi-providential revelation. Orthodox critics have succeeded in readjusting their doctrinal tenets to the new analysis with comparative ease; when, however, we come to the question of the order and date of the documents, to the synthesis of the Hexateuch, the strain is much more appreciated, and there is less unanimity. Here, again, it is significant to note that those who candidly lay aside their theological notions in applying themselves to criticism, like Cheyne and Robertson Smith, consider the positions of Kuenen and Stade and Wellhausen to be unassailable.

With regard to the date of D. and J.-E., as Wellhausen says, there is tolerable agreement. The compound historical document J.-E. is the oldest of the three. It must have been written some time before the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, for the Elohist clearly wrote in the Northern Kingdom. A general consensus of critics places them both in the golden age of Hebrew literature, between 850 and 750 B.C., many centuries after the death of Moses. It is allowed, however, that they contain older fragments, although leading critics cannot admit the Mosaic authorship of even the Decalogue in its actual form. The date of the Deuteronomist and his age relative to P.C. (especially the latter point) is a present subject of controversy between the "advanced" and the "moderate" critics. In both cases there are doctrinal implications. The general opinion of the critics, with whom Cheyne agrees, assigns it to the reign of Josiah. Ewald, Riehm, Bleek, and a few others place its composition a century earlier, in the time of Manasseh; but "the ruling critical opinion," as Delitzsch confesses, attributes it to the High Priest Hilkiah, about 621 B.C. The fact that it differs conspicuously in style, and conflicts with the legislation of the Priestly Code, completely negatives the old notion that it came from the inspired pen of Moses with the other books of the Pentateuch. That it cannot be older than Hezekiah seems certain, because it maintains that sacrifice can only be offered at the central shrine; whereas, down to the time of Hezekiah, prophets and pious kings had sacrificed in the "high places." The book, which is said (2 Kings xxii.) to have been "discovered" in the eighteenth year of Josiah, is recognised to be Deuteronomy, and critics are almost unanimous that it was actually composed at, or very shortly previous to, that date by the High Priest who "discovered" it. The priests had meditated a reform of the cultus, and they secretly composed the book, foisted it upon Moses, and pretended to discover it with the well-known dramatic circumstances. Such is the theory, admitted even by the best orthodox critics, of the origin of this book of Scripture. Yet even here the theological spirit displays its wonted fertility. There was no "forgery," not even a "pia fraus." The book was Mosaic in substance, at least, and the transaction will stand Canon Gore's test of forgery (drawn up with an eye to this incident)—"to find out whether the writer of a particular book could have afforded to disclose the method and circumstances of its production." Moreover, the book is inspired. Hilkiah was inspired by God to make a bold coup for reform, and the "finding" of Deuteronomy in the ark (where he had put it himself) was the result.[4]

But a more important controversy is still raging, though it is decidedly on the wane, with regard to the origin of the Priestly Code. Until a comparatively recent date, the P.C. was considered the earliest of the three documents. Many reasons were alleged, but it was really owing to the "supplementary hypothesis," which had made P.C. (the major portion of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers) the "grundschrift" of the whole Hexateuch. Graf at length succeeded in changing the opinion, or in reviving the old opinion of Vatke, that the Levitical legislation was of post-exilian origin. Kuenen supported and enforced the change, and it became the accepted theory. Colenso was of the same opinion. It is the common opinion of the German critics—Wellhausen, Kuenen, Stade, Schultz, Kayser, Smend, Budde, etc.—and is shared by Kalisch, Cheyne, Robertson Smith, and others in England. Robertson Smith speaks of the "demonstration, for such I venture to call it," that the Priestly Legislation did not exist before the exile; and Cheyne thinks that the arguments are "irresistible to a fresh mind." The chief argument lies in the finished ritual and sacerdotalism of the P.W., and the novelty of his doctrines. Throughout Deuteronomy and the rest of Hebrew literature priests and Levites are not distinguished—all Levites may be priests. In P.C. there is a sharp distinction drawn between the priests (the descendants of Aaron) and the Levites who occupy a subordinate position. In P.C., also, the hierarchy leads up to a High Priest of an importance which is unknown in the other documents. His entire scheme the graduated hierarchy, the elaborate ritual, the strict centralization of cult, the number of festivals, the income of priests and Levites, etc.—points to a later period of development. Hence it is the general opinion of the critics that it was composed during and after the exile, and incorporated with the rest of the Hexateuch about the time of Ezra, about 444 B.C. (though there are later additions). Dillman and a few others would substitute the precarious hypothesis that it was composed about 800 B.C., but not published, because it received no royal or public sanction. It remained in sacerdotal circles, and was at length much amplified and produced by priests who remained at Babylon after the captivity. There seems little reason for the hypothesis (beyond the desire to avoid unpleasant theological consequences); and, as Wellhausen points out, the three documents naturally correspond to the three periods of the religious history of the nation:—(1) To the period before Josiah, when there was sacrifice in the "high places," etc., the J.-E. document naturally belongs; (2) to the reforming reign of Josiah and centralization of cultus we may securely refer Deuteronomy; (3) after the exile, when all traditions had been fatally uprooted, we find the natural opportunity for priestly innovations.

From these data the important inference is drawn that the history of the Hebrew religion is not a supernatural exception to the law of evolution, but that it is a perfectly natural and ordinary growth. This point is, of course, the rock that divides the stream of criticism; but, if we take a purely scientific estimate of the three documents, in that character and of that period which the vast majority of the critics assign to them, we are constrained to regard them as marks of the successive stages through which the religion has passed. The early narrative depicts a period without priest, or temple, or ritual—if it does not indeed lead us back to a pre-monotheistic period, as the "advanced" critics maintain; Deuteronomy marks an early stage of the growth of sacerdotalism, and of the decay of religion; the later writing describes the complete inauguration of an elaborate ritual and hierarchy. Every religion, even Christianity, has had a similar growth; to scientific critics, unembarrassed with doctrinal prepossessions, the unveiling of Israel's growth was but a confirmation of an anticipation which general principles had led them to form. Unfortunately for historical science, it was brought once more into conflict with an important religious doctrine; Christendom was already convinced that Hebrew religion had not been a natural growth, but that its fabric had been revealed and ordained by Jehovah amid the thunders of Sinai, and its principles committed to writing and partially carried out (especially in the creation of the Aaronic priesthood) by Moses himself. That belief has been completely undermined; even orthodox critics (such as Robertson Smith) admit that the religious institutions of the Hebrews have been a gradual growth, the centralization of worship a natural development, the rise of the Aaronic family to power a secondary growth out of the institution of Levites in the wilderness. They maintain that this process has been presided over and directed by an all-ruling providence, and "a triumph of spiritual religion over opposing forces;" that, therefore, no real doctrinal sacrifice is involved in its acceptance. But the consequences of the theory are too grave to be lightly swept aside, and every effort of modern priests to palliate and sanctify the action of the writers of the P.C. only shows the utter unsoundness and unreliability of sacerdotal conduct in all time and place; they have a standard of rectitude in pursuing their own ends (so intimately connected with those of Jehovah) which is repellent to the lay mind. The priestly writers found a convenient opportunity to gratify their ambition after the Babylonian exile, and they literally forged the Pentateuch in the name of Moses, just as Hilkiah had forged Deuteronomy; the test of forgery used by Canons Gore and Cheyne will hardly satisfy the unecclesiastical conscience—certainly not a legal mind. The whole system is the outgrowth of priestly ambition and avarice; and the whole system of Mosaism, in which Christendom devoutly believed so long, is a vast clerical fraud, in which some of the venerated figures of the Old Testament are deeply involved.

Moreover, it follows that almost the whole of the "historical" section of the Old Testament is absolutely unreliable. Dr. Driver feebly remarks that much of P.C.'s work is "not in the ordinary sense historical;" the truth is that he has written entirely with a purpose of glorifying the ritual and the clergy, and when an Oriental writer is inspired with any such motive we know the value of his statements. It is useless to contend that "we must not judge such ancient documents by modern canons of criticism," for the Old Testament has been rigidly enforced upon humanity by the Churches as historical in the modern sense. It is a hopeless mass of myths and legends of uncertain origin. The stories of the earlier document are Hebraized versions of popular myths of all nations; the patriarchs are as mythical as Romulus and Remus. Deuteronomy and the Priestly Code may or may not possess fragments of sound history, but their discreditable origin alienates all respect; and, as we shall see, the books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings have suffered from the same influence, and Chronicles were forged by the priests as literally as the Levitical legislation. The further difficulty which arises with regard to Christ's ascription of the Pentateuch to Moses will be considered later.

It is necessary to add that a new force has appeared which bears upon the critical problem, and from which many of the anti-critics are expecting a rehabilitation of their fallen theories. The deciphering of ancient monuments has given rise to the new sciences of Assyriology, Egyptology, etc., and some of their most prominent representatives, as Sayce and Schrader, have taken up an attitude of opposition to the critics. In the first place, it must be noted that the evidence of the monuments militates against the old orthodox view of Scripture much more than against the views of Cheyne and Wellhausen; the S. P. C. K. is driven to the questionable expedient of using Sayce against the critics, while rejecting the more important of his conclusions, which are very advanced. But, in point of fact, the result of Professor Sayce's achievements—does not seriously affect the critical position does not at all affect its main points. Mr. Sayce contends that his evidence throws back the date of many of the sources of the Hexateuch, and sometimes corroborates the Old Testament where the critics had refused its testimony; it would, therefore, tend to restore its historical credit. But, from a purely critical point of view, the new evidence makes little or no difference to the problem. Archaeological research has confirmed the Scripture narrative in some passages, but it has equally negatived it in others; the narrative is, therefore, as useless as ever in itself, without the confirmation of the monuments in detail. That the higher critics have erred in several points is of little significance; if they had been convicted of such enormous errors as the Church has been guilty of in teaching the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and the inspired character of the historical books of the Old Testament, we should have grave reason to distrust their methods. And then Mr. Sayce's proposed new analysis of the early books into Babylonian, Egyptian, Aramaic, Edomite, and Canaanitish elements neither conflicts with the literary analysis, nor restores confidence in the narrative; the fact that the narrative of the creation is a purified copy of a Babylonian epic, that the day of seven weeks and the Sabbath comes from Babylon, that Eden was the great plain of Babylon, that the Hebrews most probably borrowed from the Babylonians the notions of the tree of life, of the cherubim, of the creation of woman out of man, of the fall by eating the forbidden fruit, of the deluge in all its details, that the history of Joseph is probably a copy of an Egyptian novel, etc., is rather a welcome illustration of the critical theory. How the dogmas of Inspiration, the Fall, etc., are reconciled with the new evidence is another question; the mere fact that the Jahvist or the Elohist made use of Babylonian bricks and Egyptian papyri (or remote copies of them) in writing his narrative is interesting, but is far from restoring confidence in Genesis. The stories remain myths and legends, which it would be weakness of mind to accept as truths; once for all, they are not revelations made to Moses. And the defects which Mr. Sayce finds in the historical books, the "foreshortening of chronological perspective" (as he mildly puts it), the victories exaggerated and defeats suppressed, etc., do but confirm the critical theory of their origin. There is no contradiction between literary and archaeological results; when the two work harmoniously, the result will be a fuller and more satisfactory development of the critical scheme.

The labours of the critics on the Hexateuch, which have been described at length, will serve to illustrate their methods throughout the whole of the Bible. It will be impossible to enter in detail upon the controversies over each book of the canon; we can only give the results which have obtained general assent. The traditional belief in the authorship of the several books has been falsified in almost every instance, and the books have been thrown back to a much later date than Christendom had imagined. The authority of the historical books has been entirely destroyed—no single statement can be accepted without archaeological confirmation. Many books which were formerly thought historical are proved to be pure fiction. It will be useful to take a brief survey of the canon.

The books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings, from which we had been taught ancient history for many generations, are now quite denuded of credibility, if not of utility. The Rev. Lyman Abbott[5] says: "How far those books which are historical in form have a historical basis of truth we cannot now judge." The opinion marks a step of progress, but it is hardly correct. We can judge; even Mr. Sayce, who has given them all the support which a zealous and fertile imagination could derive from the cuneiform inscriptions, admits that they form a "defective" and "inaccurate" history. They consist of "a series of extracts and abstracts from various [unauthenticated] sources which have been worked over from time to time by successive editors and freely handled by copyists" (Robertson Smith). The older narratives go back to the time of the Assyrian monarchy, but they have been so tampered with by successive editors, especially by the final Redactor in the exilic period, that, if they had any original value, it has become an uncertain quantity. The whole was revised from the priestly stand point, hence we are not to look for history in them, but, as Dr. Driver admits, "the philosophy of history"—from a sacerdotal point of view.

The books of Chronicles (together with Ezra and Nehemiah, in which the narrative is continued, and which are in the same style) are placed by the advanced critics in the same category as Exodus, Numbers, and Leviticus. They are forgeries in favour of the extension of priestly power and the ritualism of the temple. Ezra and Nehemiah may incorporate original memoirs, but the whole was written about the close of the Persian, and beginning of the Greek, period (fourth century B.C.). All critics agree that they are of no more value than the other sacerdotal elements of the Old Testament; they are utterly untrustworthy. The writer is either a priest or a tool of the priesthood—"not so much an historian," says R. Smith, "as a Levitical preacher;" he colours all events, and forces them into harmony with the Priestly Code, and writes fictitious genealogies of Levitical descent. Mr. Sayce's defence of him is characteristic. He says the writer is more trustworthy than critics allow; but, at the same time, completely destroys his credit. His chronology (according to Professor Sayce) is "an artificial scheme which breaks down before the facts of contemporary monuments;" between Archbishop Usher's version of it (the best of many) and Assyriology there is "an irreconcilable difference." "His use of documents is uncritical, his inferences are unsound, and he makes everything subserve his theory. His ecclesiastical tone cannot fail to strike us;" "from the historical point of view his unsupported statements must be received with great caution;" "he did not possess that sense of exactitude which we require in a modern historian," etc. However, Canon Cheyne assures his readers that the books may still be regarded as "inspired"—in the sense that a good sermon is inspired. Most men will admit that the books are "inspired," though not from heaven.

Ruth, Esther, Tobit, and Judith (the two latter are received as canonical by the Church of Rome) may be classed together as a group of pious stories with no appreciable historical value. "The decipherment of the cuneiform inscriptions," says Professor Sayce, "has finally destroyed all claim on the part of the books of Tobit and Judith to be considered as history;" and he extends the statement to the fragments of Susanna and Bel and the dragon. The Anglican Church is, therefore, to be congratulated on its exclusion of them from the canon, for they have certainly no ethical value. Ruth, according to Canon Cheyne, "is practically as imaginative as the book of Tobit;" it is of post-exilic composition. Esther is another work of pious fiction, which, at the most, may be founded on a semi-historical legend (the most Professor Sayce can claim). It was probably written by a Jew in the third century B.C., to whom the customs and names of the Persians loomed very indistinct through "the mists of antiquity" (Sayce). The name Esther itself (which has become, on account of the Biblical heroine, a favourite with Christian maidens) is really the great goddess of impurity, Istar (the Astarte of the Syrians, and Aphrodite of the Greeks). The name could not have been borne by a woman, except in combination. Mordecai, the name given to the devout Hebrew, means "devoted to Merodach," the Babylonian god.

The book of Job is now generally admitted to be, in its present form, post-exilic. Cheyne says it most probably belongs to the Persian period, and that it is due to a number of different authors. That it is not an historical narrative is, of course, conceded by all. Cheyne thinks it probably founded on one of the simple folk-stories, and Sayce is inclined to believe it was originally a genuine specimen of North Arabian or Edomite literature which passed into Jewish hands. When we come to the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes, says Cheyne, "the difficulties of theories of inspiration are still greater." The Song of Songs is, indeed, one of the most incongruous elements of the "inspired" book. Its inspiration is purely sensual and erotic. "In it, according to most critics," says Robertson Smith, "the pure love of the Shulamite for her betrothed is depicted as victorious over the seductions of Solomon and his harem." It is a beautiful love-song, a kind of lyric-drama, without any consciousness of allegory on the writer's part, and without any known basis of fact. The gravity with which we monks used to recite it in our choir, applying the most sensual and (from the modern point of view) indecent passages to the mother of Christ and to his spouse, the Church, is a curious instance of the perversity of superstition. It is post-exilic in origin (Cheyne), many centuries more recent than Solomon. The so-called Proverbs of Solomon are also "not at all Solomonic, though they may contain some of his sayings" (Robertson Smith), and Cheyne speaks of the "worthless tradition of Solomonic authorship." He says that "in final arrangement they are almost certainly post-exilic," and some parts of the book certainly. He adds that the other proverbial books of the Old Testament are certainly later than 538. Ecclesiastes is a work of the Greek period. Kuenen puts it about 200 B.C., about forty years before the Maccabean rising, and he is generally followed.

With regard to the psalms, the principal concern of the higher critics has been to test the accuracy of their titular inscriptions, and discover their true date and authorship. As is found to be the case with nearly all the books of the Old Testament, the titles and the traditions of authorship are entirely wrong. Instead of David being the leading composer of the psalms, there is not a single one that can be confidently attributed to him. All admit that the vast majority of the so-called Davidic psalms are certainly not by David; they "belong to different periods of Israelitish history" (Driver), and Canon Cheyne is inclined to agree with the "advanced" critics that the whole psalter is post-exilic, and at the most may contain a few Davidic elements. Robertson Smith, in his eagerness to enable theologians to retain traditional terminology, can only say that "the so-called psalms of David may come from a collection in which there were psalms of David." The 110th psalm, which Christ expressly attributes to David (Mark xii. 37; Luke xx. 42 and 44), was only written nearly one thousand years after the death of David, and then not in prophetic allusion to the Messiah, but in honor of Simon the Maccabee. The fifty-first psalm, so universally attributed to the penitent David, was, says Robertson Smith, "obviously composed during the destruction of the temple"—most critics think it much later. The first book or collection of psalms (containing the so-called Davidic) seems to have been made in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra; the second and third (containing the Korahites and Asaphites) are much later, as a collection. The fourth and fifth books run down to the Maccabean period, to which many of them (44, 74, 79, 83, etc.) belong.

One of the most important sections—perhaps the most important section—of the Old Testament, in the eyes of the Christian world, has been the collection of prophetical books. The existence of definite prophecies has always been relied upon as one of the most cogent demonstrations of the divinity of Christ, and it was thought that nothing could be clearer than the Messianic predictions of the four major and twelve minor prophets. The notion of prediction has been always regarded as the essential characteristic of the prophet, and it was held that the Messianic revelation, which began vaguely in Genesis, reached an unmistakeable degree of clearness and definition in Isaiah and Daniel. At the present day, however, the orthodox notion of a prophet has undergone a complete metamorphosis. "The predictive element," says Robertson Smith, "received undue prominence, and withdrew attention from the influence of the prophets on the religious life of their time." We are told that they were the "leaders of a great development," that their principal concern was with the present, not with the future; and hence that "there is no reason to think that a prophet ever received a revelation which was not spoken directly and pointedly to his own time." The truth is, of course, that the higher criticism has completely revolutionized the traditional conception of the prophets, and theologians are adapting their tenets to the irresistible conclusions of the critics. All competent orthodox critics now admit that each of the so-called Messianic predictions finds a sufficient explanation in the political circumstances of the period at which it was written. They leave a margin, of course, for their Christian readers to indulge in thoughts of secondary applications of texts; but, from the point of view of positive science, there is absolutely no reason to see a predictive element in any part of the Old Testament. Indeed, "the Messiah" (with a definite article) is not an Old Testament phrase at all; it has been read into it. The word Messiah (properly Māshiah), which means "the anointed one," is the ordinary title of the human king. Then, also, the integrity and early date of the prophecies have been shown to be delusive. In fact, some of the prophets have been reduced to myths. How much written prophecy may have existed before the exile is a difficult question; the earliest certainly do not go beyond the eighth century. In any case, all were re-edited after the exile when the scattered remnants of prophecies from a multitude of anonymous writers were collected into a number of books, to which the names of the prophets were given. As Robertson Smith says, "the collections of all remains of ancient prophecies, digested into the four books named from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezechiel, and the twelve minor prophets, were not formed till after the time of Ezra, 250 years at least after the death of Isaiah." The higher critics discovered the composite or mosaic character of the books, and were enabled to correct the traditional view of their origin.

Thus, in the prophecy of Isaiah, it was soon discovered that the last twenty-two chapters were by an entirely different writer—a "great unknown prophet" about the time of the Babylonian Captivity; "they cannot be understood in a natural and living way except by looking at them from the historical standpoint of the exile," says Dr. Driver. The whole chronological order of the book is confused, so that it has clearly been redacted by an incompetent later editor, who inserted many fragments which belonged neither to the real nor to the deutero-Isaiah. Thus, the "Messianic" prediction in ii. 2-4 is probably a post-exilic text; so also the "prediction" of the root of Jesse (xi. 10). And the "predictions" which are assigned to Isaiah have lost all super natural character. He was not only a prophet or religious teacher, but he was an able politician; he shows a clear appreciation of the dangers of the situation, and often gives a shrewd forecast of the course of events. Profoundly religious as he is, he is persuaded that a king (Messiah) is required who shall rule over Israel in the name and spirit of Jehovah, and he is confident that Jehovah will raise one up; his Messianic ideal consists simply in the perfect performance of the ordinary duties of a monarch—there is no reason for thinking that he looks beyond that immediate ideal. In c. xi. his fanciful millennium is simply a hopeful anticipation of the downfall of Assyria (for it was his policy to dissuade an Assyrian alliance) and the rise of a new Davidic kingdom; he has perfect confidence in the ultimate triumph of Jehovah. Thus, also the famous text on the conception by a virgin (vii. 14 sqq.) is now easily understood. The Hebrew word, in the first place, does not mean a "virgin" in the physical sense; it means any young woman of age to become a mother. So far from alluding to the "Virgin" Mary and Christ, Isaiah simply says that any woman who may conceive and bear a child within a year may call him Emmanuel (God with us); foretelling that before the infant reaches the age of intelligent childhood Judah will be laid desolate, all wealth and hindrances to union with God swept away, nothing will be between men and God. It was a political forecast for the coming few years, such as the great statesman often gave; and, like all similar predictions, they were not always realized, and were generally inaccurate in details and exaggerated in colouring.

The most destructive criticism has fallen to the lot of Daniel. Not only is the book not the work of a prophet Daniel of the Babylonian captivity, but the very existence of such an individual is "more than doubtful."[6] It seems hard to part with the most familiar of the prophets (personally alluded to as the author of the book by Christ), but critics are so unanimous in ascribing the book to the second or third century B.C. that the figure of Daniel recedes into the land of myth. It was compiled by a late Jewish writer out of some old folk-stories. Its date is not quite clear, but, as Driver admits, it cannot be older than 300 B.C., and its date is more probably about 168 or 167, where even Delitzsch puts it. Professor Sayce here conspires with the critics in demolishing the book, pointing out that the writer is entirely unacquainted with Babylonian names and customs. It was the last of a series of forgeries—for forgery it was, as truly as the "Poems of Ossian;" the fact that forgery had become a common practice among Hebrew writers, and was employed by the priestly authorities, does not change its character. And, after supplying Christendom with a dramatic version of the fall of Babylon for 2,000 years, the book is found to be utterly untrustworthy. It is full of grave historical errors. We now know from the cuneiform inscriptions (contradicting Herodotus) that there was no siege of Babylon, and that "the king of the Chaldeans" was not slain, as Daniel affirms; that Belshazzar never became king of Babylon at all, and that he was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar, but of Nabonidos; that the successor of Nabonidos was Cyrus (not "Darius the Mede"), and Cyrus was not even a Mede; that Darius was not the son of Ahasuerus, but his father. It is clear that the author is far removed from Babylon and the Babylonian captivity. Hence, Daniel is another extremely incongruous section of an inspired book.

Another very popular prophet who has faded into airy nothingness under the attentions of the critics is Jonah, of balsenine notoriety. Dr. Driver gently urges that he "is not strictly historical," whereat Canon Cheyne protests that he is "not in any point" historical. Still, he considerately adds (for the benefit of weaker minds) that "he is not directly mythic," but that the author "used a Babylonio-Israelitish expression of mythic origin." It is commonly admitted that the author (of post-exilic period) invented the incident for didactic purposes, so that the conscience of Christendom is relieved of belief in the famous miracle. Like Tobit and his dog, and Daniel and the lions, Jonah and the whale recede from the stage of serious history. In Zechariah, at chapter ix., a new oracle begins, quite distinct in subject and style, revealing the composite nature of the book. The whole prophecy is unintelligible, unless it is placed a little after the time of Hosea. Nahum is put by Sayce, on archaeological grounds, between 666 and 660 B.C. Even the Lamentations are proved not to be the work of Jeremiah. In general, it may be said that the prophets are found to be largely composite and adulterated, and to have a much later date than tradition believed; and, especially, that every so-called prediction finds its sufficient reason in the actual circumstances of the writer. Hence that revolution in the conception of a prophet which has been described, and which is so apparent in the recent work of Dean Farrar and his associates on that subject.[7]

Such, then, is the series of changes which the higher criticism, literary and historical, has induced in our estimate of the books of Scripture. It is not surprising that an increasing number of Christians are coming to regard the Old Testament as a collection of documents which were not intended for their use; to whose fate, therefore, Christianity can afford to be indifferent. Many would retain their veneration for it on the ground of its ethical and spiritual value; but, in that case, it is obviously expedient to make considerable expurgations; such selected or expurgated editions are, indeed, beginning to appear. As the Bible stands, the grave defects of its contents, its crude and repulsive picture of the deity, and its malodorous details and perverse ideals of conduct, together with the light which modern criticism has thrown upon its composition and historical value, may be thought to outweigh any ethical usefulness it may have for humanity. And when such a selection has been made, it will still be incontestable that the documents will have no higher title to inspiration than the Scriptures of Confucianism, Buddhism, Brahminism, and Zoroastrianism.

Not very many years ago astronomers were startled by the theory that the sun moved rapidly through space. The motion of the stars had been observed, and, the analogy having been extended to our sun, it was found to be drifting rapidly towards Hercules and Lyra. At the present day astronomers have so far recovered from the shock of the discovery that they are prepared to demonstrate a priori that the sun must move; that, if their predecessors had only calculated the effect of the law of gravitation upon our system, they would have seen that the sun would have collided with Centauri ages ago, if it were not on the move; rapid motion was just what we ought to expect. The change of attitude on the part of Biblical theologians is not unlike that of the astronomers. The critical theory met, at first, with a resistance which only theologians can offer. At the present day we are assured that the new character which the Old Testament presents is (like the nebular hypothesis or Darwinism) just what we ought to have expected. Oriental writers were generally anonymous, we are told, and it was quite a familiar practice for them to put the name of some venerated individual at the top of their parchment. If they did not, tradition would almost inevitably do it for them. The great figures of the Old Testament history were men of action, whose entire energy was engrossed in their actual task. It were foolish to expect that they should indite long treatises for the benefit of posterity, and especially that their thoughts should be always centred upon some remote future. So, too, it were unwise to expect the "sense of exactitude" of a Gibbon or a Lecky in Oriental writers many centuries before the Christian era. The Oriental imagination must not be credited with the modern scientific spirit and peculiar interest in exact truth. If we transfer ourselves in thought to the period at which the documents arose and were edited, divesting ourselves of our modern mental habits, we shall recognise that the critical theory of the origin of Scripture contains nothing startling or extraordinary, and may be accepted without scruple. No one will quarrel with theologians for laying this flattering unction to their wounded consciences; but one cannot but notice that it is a complete renunciation of the doctrine of inspiration—though not of the term—and that it has given an irreparable blow to the teaching authority of the Churches.

The New Testament had been attacked by the older Freethinkers pari passu with the Old. Their motive principle was a conviction of the impossibility of miraculous occurrences, hence they were led a priori to relegate the whole contents of the Gospels to the region of pious legends. The higher criticism, more exact in research and less ruled by philosophical preconceptions, confined its attention to the Old Testament at the beginning of the century. In 1835 appeared the famous "Leben Jesu" of Strauss, which gave a powerful impetus to New Testament criticism. Strauss's mythic theory is frequently said to be entirely antiquated, and the apologist for the Gospels loves to dwell upon the rise and fall of theories—the mythic, the tendency, the Renanesque, etc., which preceded the actual state of critical opinion. But it can hardly be said that Strauss's theory is entirely extinct. A certain element of it must be retained by all who reject the miraculous legends of the Gospels, and are yet unwilling to consider them forgeries. However, it is true that the interval between the death of Jesus and the appearance of the Gospels is not now thought to have been so great as Strauss imagined, and as the elaborate accretion of myths which he taught would require. To regard the Gospel story as a conglomerate of a few facts and an enormous quantity of innocent fictions like Greek or Roman mythology, or Hindoo theology, we must suppose a longer period of growth than we should, perhaps, be justified in demanding. Still, there was a considerable interval between the events and the publication of their compound narrative. There is actually in that narrative a very large quantity of mythological and superstitious insertions. Hence it is usually thought that, in the interval, the few authenticated facts of Christ's career had been gradually incrusted with the romantic and quasi-mythic additions of unthinking fervour.

However, the school which immediately replaced the mythical school regarded the New Testament documents somewhat in the light of forgeries. No doubt there is much justification for such an hypothesis; literary criticism had discovered a quantity of such forgeries in the Old Testament, ecclesiastics have been convicted of many such during the Christian era (as the Isidorian Decretals and the works of Dionysius the Areopagite), and modern ecclesiastics show an edifying coolness in defending the work of Hilkiah and the priestly writers. The Tübingen school, therefore—a group of Tübingen professors, headed by F. Baur, Zeller, Schwegler, and other Hegelians—rejected the late origin and gradual growth of Strauss, and thought that the books of the New Testament were so many party pamphlets in which facts had been coloured and distorted with partizan zeal, and even direct forgeries admitted. The theory was connected with a larger hypothesis on the origin of the Christian Church. It was thought that two opposing tendencies were discernible in the nascent Church—a conservative, Judaizing, Ebionite tendency and a liberal and latitudinarian tendency under the leadership of Paul; the several parts of the New Testament were discordant emanations of these parties. Thus, in the Apostolic age the Apocalypse sprang from the Ebionite party, the Pauline epistles from their opponents. Of the Gospels, the old Gospel according to the Hebrews (of which Matthew is a later revision) represented the Ebionite faction; Luke and Marcion's Gospel belonged to the Pauline movement. Mark, 2 Peter, and Jude were neutral, and so on. The "tendency theory" led on to a "mediation school," under Hilgenfeld, which admitted the majority of the books to be of the age of the apostles, and considered Paul as the virtual founder of Christianity. The followers of Renan (almost confined to the France which gave him birth) are often called the "romancist school;" the importance, however, of Renan's delineation of the psychological development of Jesus is very great, and the influence of his brilliant "Vie de Jesus" in exciting a critical attitude in unlearned spheres is much too important to be lost sight of. In England, also, in 1874 the appearance of "Supernatural Religion" (which has been previously analyzed) attracted much attention to the criticism of the New Testament.

Though, naturally, less startling than the revelation of the origin of the Old Testament, the results which have been attained in New Testament criticism are of no little importance. The activity of the critics has centred chiefly upon what is called the Synoptic problem. It was early noticed that there was a remarkable similarity between the narratives of the first three Gospels, Mark, Matthew, and Luke; they seem to take a common view of the life of Christ, frequently using even the same language; hence they are called the Synoptic writers. The question how to account for their substantial agreement, with incidental divergencies and even contradictions, gave rise to the Synoptic problem. The problem is now generally solved by assuming that the three writers made use of an earlier document[8] or documents, a simpler life of Christ, of which they frequently retain the very words. The writers expanded this document at discretion and incorporated independent traditions; as time went on, and they were transcribed and dispersed, other mythical and legendary additions were made, and the actual three gospels were probably in use in the second half of the second century. The actual authorship of the three is, of course, problematical, and is of no importance; a more serious question is that of date, and the evidence is too meagre to afford a precise solution. The Gospel entitled Mark seems to be the earliest, and is usually assigned to the closing period of the first century. The Gospel entitled Matthew, in which critics find traces of composite authorship, is generally referred to the beginning of the second century; as is also the lost Hebrew Gospel of Matthew which St. Jerome mentions. Luke is referred to a more cultured writer of the beginning of the second century.

A keener controversy has arisen over the authorship and character of the Fourth Gospel. In the first half of the present century it is said that, of fifty authorities on the subject, four to one were in favour of the Johannine authorship. Of those who wrote on the subject between 1880 and 1890, two to one were against the Johannine authorship.[9] And, while the majority of orthodox critics have thus surrendered the traditional belief in the Johannine authorship, they have accepted the critical contention that it is historically untrustworthy. "One half of those on the conservative side to-day," says a Christian scholar—"scholars like Weiss, Beyschlag, Sanday, and Reynolds—admit the existence of a dogmatic intent and an ideal element in this Gospel, so that we do not have Jesus's thought in his exact words, but only in substance." It has been characterized by one of the most eminent among recent Christian scholars as "an unhistorical product of abstract reflection."[10] It represents a mixture of Greek philosophy and Jewish theology, and is probably due to a gifted member of the Alexandrian school during the reign of Hadrian (died 138). It frequently conflicts with the older Gospels, and its historical value is nullified by the ideal tendency of the writer. The Pauline epistles are usually accepted—except the epistle to the Hebrews, whose author is unknown. The first epistle of Peter is also spurious; the first and second of Timothy and Titus are probably spurious. The Acts are denied to the traditional Luke, and thrown back to about 120-130. The Apocalypse is fundamentally (for it has been much amplified and interpolated) the oldest book of the New Testament, and was probably written in 68 or 69 by an unknown Aramaic writer.

Little interest, however, arises from the discussion of the date, authorship, and integrity of the minor portions of the New Testament. Two issues are made clear by the result of the controversy. The first is that the traditional idea of the origin of the New Testament is entirely inaccurate. A few prominent figures, apostles, and apostolic writers are proposed as the authors by tradition, and each is described as accomplishing his task within a short period of the events he describes, and under a special inspiration. The historical report on their origin is vastly different. Only the epistles of Paul can be definitely traced; the majority have a most precarious origin. During the second century the Christian world was flooded with "inspired" writings, Gospels, Epistles, Revelations, etc., of unknown and irresponsible authorship. The credulity of the early Christians accepted anything and everything that was written of Christ. At length, seeing that heresy was being thus propagated, the Church made a selection from the vast number, and drew up a canon containing the few which we have to-day. The names of prominent apostles were attached to them, but criticism has at length taught us a truer view of their origin.

The second issue has important reference to the dogma of the divinity of Christ. The witness of the prophets to that doctrine had, as we have seen, completely broken down even among orthodox critics. The prophets spoke of, and to, their own times, if we confine our attention to facts. Again, serious trouble arose when it was found that Christ's allusions to the Old Testament were based on a false traditional belief. As Canon Liddon said, in 1889, the authority of Christ, and therefore of Christianity, must rest on the old view of the Old Testament; the old view is utterly untenable to-day. Christ refers psalms to David which he did not write, and the law to Moses. He alluded to Jonah's preaching and adventure with a whale as historical facts. He attributes words to Daniel which were only two hundred years old. He refers to Noah and the Flood, Lot's wife, and other Old Testament myths. There are, of course, many ingenious attempts to explain; but, to one who has no theory to sustain, the natural inference is irresistible, that Christ knew no more of the Old Testament than his audience did. Finally, we now learn that there was a sufficient interval between the death of Christ and the appearance of the Gospels to allow the accretion of all their supernatural stories; that such accretion has followed the lives of Zoroaster, Buddha, Apollonius of Tyana, etc., and would be natural in the present instance; that (as we shall see) many of the supposed supernatural features of Christ's life have a clear pre-Christian origin, and that the writers of the Gospel are unknown Jews of utterly unverifiable authority. Criticism has impartially weighed the external evidence in favour of the credibility of the Gospels, and can find none of sufficient clearness before the writings of Justin in the middle of the second century. Whatever may be said of the genuineness of the Ignatian epistles, etc., the utmost that could be inferred from them would be that there were certain documents in existence in the first century which reappear in the Gospels. The quotations are too slender to allow us to call them witnesses to the existence of the Gospels. We are, therefore, reduced to the fact that the New Testament, as we have it (substantially), was in use in the Churches about the middle of the second century—more than one hundred years after the death of Christ, four generations from the events of his life. In view of that interval, and of the unknown character of the writers, and keeping in sight the analogy of other religions, criticism can only say of the divine features attributed to the Galilean what it says of them in the case of Buddha and Apollonius—"Fama crescit eundo." A few facts about the lives of religious teachers gain enormous accretions of myth and legend in the course of a century or two.

  1. Though there is much confusion in contrasting the terms "higher" and "lower" criticism, it is certainly not correct to say that the "higher" criticism is purely internal and philological. In spite of Professor Sayce's assertions, the higher critics do utilize the results of careful research in Assyriology and Egyptology. The "lower" criticism would seem to be a purely mechanical textual criticism, such as Bengel and Wetstein initiated, and Hug, Griesbach, Scholz, Tischendorf, etc., continue.
  2. "The Higher Criticism and the Verdict of the Monuments."
  3. Vide "Documents of the Hexateuch," Introduction, by W. E. Addis, who gives an imposing catalogue of contradictions, etc.
  4. It is interesting to find that it was an English theological writer who saw for the first time (in 1739) that Deuteronomy was a product of the seventh century B.C.
  5. In "The Bible and the Child," by Dean Farrar and associates.
  6. Reuss, quoted approvingly by Cheyne.
  7. "Prophets of the Christian Church," by F. W. Farrar, etc.
  8. An interesting résumé of this common early tradition is found in Mr. F. J. Gould's "Concise History of Religion," vol.iii., p. 117.
  9. Vide Crocker, "The New Bible and its Uses."
  10. Vide A. D. White, "Warfare of Science and Theology," vol. ii., p. 385.