Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/448

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434
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

they hold a most prominent place in the various sacred books of the world. In nearly all these there is revealed the conception of a Creator, of whom man is an imperfect image, and who literally and directly created the visible universe with his hands and fingers or voice.

Among these theories, of especial interest to us are those which controlled theological thought in Chaldea. The Assyrian inscriptions which have been recently recovered and given to the English-speaking peoples by such scholars as Layard, George Smith, Oppert, Sayce, and others, show that in the ancient religions of Chaldea and Babylonia there was elaborated a narrative of the creation which, in its most important features, must have been the source of that in our own sacred books. Or, at least, it has now become perfectly clear that from the same sources which inspired the accounts of the creation of the universe among the Chaldeo-Babylonian, the Assyrian, the Phœnician, and other ancient civilizations came the ideas which hold so prominent a place in the sacred books of the Hebrews. In the two accounts imperfectly fused together in Genesis, and also in the third account of which we have indications in the book of Job and in the Proverbs, there is presented, often with the greatest sublimity, that same early conception of the Creator and of the creation—the conception, so natural in the childhood of civilization, of a Creator who is an enlarged human being working literally with his own hands, and of a creation which is "the work of his fingers." To supplement this view there was then developed the belief in this Creator as one who, having

"from his ample palm
Launched forth the rolling planets into space,"

sits on high, enthroned "upon the circle of the heavens," perpetually controlling and directing them.[1]

Among the early fathers of the Church this view of creation became fundamental; they impressed upon Christendom more and more strongly the belief that the universe was created in a perfectly literal sense by the hands or voice of God. Here and


  1. A somewhat similar series of sculptures representing the Almighty creating the heavens and the earth is also to be seen at the cathedral of Upsala and elsewhere. For an exact statement of the resemblances which have settled the question among the most eminent scholars in favor of the derivation of the Hebrew cosmogony from that of Assyria, see Jensen, Die Kosmologie der Babylonier, Strassburg, 1890, pp. 304, 306; also, Franz Lukas, Die Grundbegriffe in den Kosmographien dcr alten Völker, Leipsic, 1893, pp. 3546; also George Smith's Chaldean Genesis, especially the German translation with additions by Delitzsch, Leipsic, 1876, and Schrader, Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament, Giessen, 1883, pp. 1-54, etc. See also Kenan, Histoire du peuple d'Israel, vol. i, chap, i, L'antique influence babylonienne.