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not only that the art of writing is of far greater antiquity than was once supposed, but also that a certain degree of literary culture prevailed throughout western Asia, even at a period preceding the exodus of Israel from Egypt1. Hence it is not more than reasonable to expect that they may modify some of the conclusions which had been reached by literary criticism respecting the most ancient periods of Hebrew history. It would, however, be unwise to overrate the extent to which critical results are likely to be modified by this branch of knowledge. There are no doubt discoveries which lead us to defer our acceptance of certain critical verdicts; there are others which have to some extent qualified or corrected the axioms on which literary criticism has at times too confidently insisted. But there is an agreement between literary critics and archaeologists on at least two points: they are at one in their estimate of the general character, as distinct from the intrinsic value, of the Old Testament documents; and they seem also to be agreed in acknowledging that we have reached a period of reconstruction 2. This may well encourage us in an attempt to deal not merely critically but constructively with the literature and theology of the Old Testament. The real value of sacred archaeology is that it enables us to enter into the circumstances of those to whom the Word of God came, with that intelligent sympathy which alone can appreciate the quality of their writings and the conditions which moulded or influenced their thought. Indeed, the change which has come over our conception of the Old Testament documents seems to be due not merely to the results of research into special points of history, but also to the fact that there has been a development of the historical sense, and an enlargement of the power of insight into the peculiar characteristics of the Hebrew

1 See generally Sayce, The Higher Criticism and the Monuments. On the antiquity of writing in the East, Cornill, Einleitung in das A. T. § 4. Sayce, op. cit. p. 24. Cp. Robertson Smith, O. T. in J. C. p. 16.


mind. When we are asked why we hesitate to ascribe to the early books of the Old Testament a uniformly historical character, we can only reply, first, that there is no sufficient reason for assuming that Hebrew history has been exempted from the ordinary conditions observable in all other primitive annals; and secondly, that in any case the ancient Scriptures are a genuine product of the Semitic mind, guided and controlled no doubt by the wisdom of the divine Spirit, but clearly reflecting the characteristics of the oriental temperament-its imaginative capacity, its passionate moral fervour, its intuitive perception of spiritual laws and realities.

3. Once more it is necessary to repeat with all possible emphasis that a Christian reader of the Old Testament will feel no a priori difficulties in regard to the occurrence of miracles. On the contrary, he will be prepared to find in the course of redemptive history creative epochs at which the moral character and purpose of Almighty God manifest themselves in a manner relatively to our ordinary experience supernatural. The possibility of miracle in point of fact logically follows from the belief which is everywhere conspicuous in the Old Testament-the belief in the living personality of God. The anthropopathic expressions which are so frequently applied to Jehovah-the ascription to Him, for example, of love, hatred, wrath, jealousy, scorn, and repentance-do tend to inculcate, perhaps in the only possible form, a fundamental truth of religion, namely that the Creator and Ruler of the universe is akin to man in the essential characteristics of His being-in the possession of will, character, and moral freedom. Inadequate of course as descriptions of the divine nature, anthropopathic modes of speech reflect this conviction which dominated the Hebrew mind and which gained strength and clearness in proportion to the advance of Israel's religion. But, as was previously pointed out, a general acknowledgment of See Rawlinson's Bampton Lectures (1859), pp. 27 foll.


the a priori credibility of the Old Testament miracles does not bind us to regard every supernatural occurrence recorded in the Old Testament as literal fact. In regard to this point we may the more confidently claim freedom because, on the whole, miracle is kept in the background in the Old Testament, while in some passages (such as Deut. xiii. 1-3) a comparatively low estimate of its evidential value is expressed. Indeed, it would appear that it was only in the age of Judaism that there arose a kind of passion for the miraculous, in some respects anticipating the temper of mind which sought after a sign and was rebuked as evil and adulterous by our Lord1. Miracles may justly be believed to have accompanied a momentous creative act of God, such as that which brought into being the nationality of Israel 2; but, after all, their chief significance in the view of the Old Testament writers is that they constitute an unmistakeable sign of Jehovah's presence among His people at particular crises of their history. They do not seem in the old dispensation any more than in the new to have been a normal part of the divine method under normal circumstances 4. So far as we can judge from the records, the closing stage of the journey from Egypt to Canaan appears to have been marked by a gradual cessation of miracle 5, a fact which illustrates the action


Cp. Robertson Smith, O. T. in J. C. p. 409.

2 Cp. Deut. xxxii. 6, Isa. xliii. 1, &c.

3 Cp. Joshua iii. 10. Schultz, op. cit. vol. ii. pp. 193 foll., has some admirable remarks on the O. T. view of miracle. He points out how the Hebrew mind, with its vivid consciousness of God's immediate action in nature, would view a miracle: regarding it not as an unnatural or supernatural event, but rather as a striking proof of God's power and freedom. To the Hebrew a miracle 'does not stand out as an irregular individual occurrence in contrast with a differently ordered whole; but it stands out as a specially striking individual occurrence in contrast with other single events, which, being less striking owing to their frequency, are less calculated to produce the impression of God's almighty power in executing His purposes.' It is a significant fact, and consistent with his treatment of the Gospel narrative, that M. Renan attributes the miracles of the wilderness-journey to imposture (Histoire du peuple d'Israël, bk. i, ch. 13). Cp. Mason, The Relation of Confirmation to Baptism, p. 477.



Cp. Joshua v. 12.

of what has been called a 'law of parsimony' in revelation-of a principle of restraint and limitation, avoiding both waste and extravagance.

We may now pass to the special subject of this lecture, prepared by what has been already said to be contented with broad general conclusions only, and remembering that in this matter, as in many others, it is possible to overrate the importance of completeness and precision. For convenience' sake we shall do well. to limit our survey of the history of Israel to three distinct epochs: (1) the patriarchal age, (2) the Mosaic period, (3) the period of the Judges and of the early monarchy. From the nature of the case it is plain that the evidence available for the history of each epoch is different in quality, but this need not deter us from attempting to form some conception of its value that may be practically serviceable in the study of the Old Testament.


In dealing with the patriarchal period we must bear in mind that the age to be investigated is, relatively speaking, prehistoric. The available documents, in their final shape at least, belong to an age removed by an interval of several centuries from the events. The narrative which is generally held by critics to be the earliest, that of the Jehovist, seems indeed to be based on ancient popular tradition, but it describes the age of the patriarchs as in some essential respects so closely similar to later periods, that it can only be regarded as a picture of primitive life and religion drawn in the light of a subsequent age. We have here to do with the earliest form of history, traditional folklore about primitive personages and events, worked up according to some preconceived design by a devout literary artist 1. The question at once naturally arises how

1 Cp. Wellhausen's Prolegomena, pp. 295, 296.

these narratives are to be employed and interpreted. As is well known, some very extreme conclusions have been advanced by critics, as for example that the patriarchs are not real historical personages at all, but mere personifications of particular Semitic tribes 1. Some writers maintain that Abraham,' 'Isaac,' and 'Jacob' are titles of primitive tribal deities 2. It is not my business to investigate these theories, which in their extreme form are never likely to pass beyond the stage of unverified hypothesis. It may at once be pointed out that while no convincing reasons have ever been alleged for doubting the historic personality of the great patriarchs, there are some considerations which materially support the traditional view. There are of course historical points respecting which the verdict of a purely literary criticism cannot be final, and its more or less provisional conclusions need to be supplemented or even corrected by archaeological data. The discoveries of recent years have admittedly shown that during the age in which Hebrew tradition places. the patriarchs, there was much more intercourse between Palestine and the far East than was formerly suspected, -a circumstance which increases the probability that a genuine historical substratum underlies the patriarchal narratives. Again, there is a striking element of internal consistency in the story of the patriarchs. It fits in with known facts; it accounts for subsequent developments. The entire course of events in the Mosaic period seems to presuppose the nomad “and migratory stage which tradition connects with the person of Abraham and his immediate descendants.

For a similar but

See Kuenen, The Religion of Israel, vol. i. p. III. slightly modified wiew see Wellhausen, Prolegomena, p. 320. Cp. Renan, Histoire du peuple d'Israël, bk. i, ch. 8.


2 See Kittel, History of the Hebrews (Eng. Tr.), i. 171.

Cp. Sanday, Bampton Lectures, p. 221. The importance of Gen. xiv, which seems to lie outside the recognized sources of the Pentateuchal narrative, must not be over-estimated. It renders credible, but cannot be said actually to prove, the facts related in the patriarchal narrative. See some judicious remarks of Meinhold, Jesus und das A. T. p. 124. Cp. Kittel, op. cit. i. 175-180.

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