Imágenes de páginas

As Professor Kittel, following Dillman, points out, 'the religious position of Moses stands before us unsupported and incomprehensible 1,' unless we accept the tradition which traces to the patriarchs the rudiments at least of a higher religion and the first tentative occupation of the promised land. The fact-basis which underlies the story of Abraham's call may be his migration from Chaldaea, dictated by motives of 'vague dissatisfaction with prevalent religious beliefs and practices, rather than a new clearly conceived idea of God.' Thus we may hold it to be intrinsically probable that so unique a history as that of the elect people had precisely such a beginning as the book of Genesis relates. The circumstances indeed of the patriarchal age may not have been in all points what they afterwards appeared to minds trained in the school of levitical piety and imbued with strict theocratic ideas; but it may be confidently claimed for the patriarchal narratives that they give the true ideal significance of the events summarily, and perhaps obscurely, described in them.

While, however, in receiving the narrative as substantially true, though coloured by later prophetic conceptions of Israel's history, we are accepting an account which is entirely consistent with all that we otherwise know respecting the redemptive methods of Almighty God, we have no interest in denying a certain element of idealization in the description of the primitive period. There may possibly be an element of truth even in the view that the figures of the patriarchs are tribal personifications. We may agree with Baethgen that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are historical persons, but that 'these personalities are invested with the characteristics which afterwards marked the tribes descended from them +' It is likely enough that the

Cp. ibid. pp. 195–199.

1 History of the Hebrews, vol. i. p. 174. 2 Bruce, Apologetics, p. 199. * Baethgen, Der Gott Israels und die Götter der Heiden, quoted by Meinhold, Jesus und das A. T. p. 120: 'Die hervorstechenden Eigenschaften, durch welche ein Volk sich vom andern unterscheidet, werden auf die Helden der Vorzeit übertragen, so dass diese zu typischen Gestalten

great figures of the remote past were made the subjects of many popular legends and traditions1; and it is no doubt possible that to a certain extent a tribal history may have been expressed in a personal and individual form 2. It might be admitted, for instance, if it could be made to appear historically probable, that Joseph was a prominent chieftain belonging to a tribe which bore his name, and that the story of his personal career conceals the record of a tribal migration from Canaan to Egypt. There is ample scope for speculation on this and kindred points, nor does a general acceptance of the Hebrew tradition in its main outlines preclude a certain latitude of view in regard to such minor details. We have indeed no reason for abandoning, even though we may be required to modify, our ordinary view of the patriarchal narratives; but we should be open to the charge of misconceiving altogether the spirit and intention with which they were compiled if we insisted, as some are inclined to do, on their possessing a character which cannot justly be attributed to them. We are dealing with stories which are probably derived for the most part from oral tradition, and are unlikely to have been based to any great extent on contemporary records, though the existence of such documents is admittedly possible. It has been sometimes asserted that oral tradition was more likely to be preserved in a state of integrity among the Hebrews than elsewhere, but the grounds

werden. . . . Mir steht es fest dass Abraham, Isaak und Jakob... geschichtliche Persönlichkeiten sind; ebenso sicher ist est mir, dass diese Persönlichkeiten zu idealen Trägern der Charactereigenschaften geworden sind, welche das Volk als seine eigenen erkannte.'

1 Cp. Darmesteter, Les Prophètes d'Israël, pp. 220 foll.

2 In the Book of Judith (v. 6 foll.) the movement of Abraham from Chaldaea is described as a tribal migration.

3 So, for instance, Renan and Kittel. Montefiore, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 12, 13, follows Kuenen and Renan in regarding all the patriarchs as legendary heroes 'individualized heroes eponymi,' whose family story represents the early career of the Beni-Israel. On similar grounds it has been held that names like 'Mamre' and 'Eshcol' are collective and represent tribes. See however a criticism of the theory in Robertson, The Early Religion of Israel, pp. 123 foll., and note xi (p. 499).

urged in support of such a belief are precarious and sometimes arbitrary. Accordingly, while there are sufficiently good reasons for holding that the main outlines of the pre-Mosaic history are trustworthy, it would be unwise to insist particularly on more than the following points, which are unlikely to be disputed. 1. The narratives of Genesis present in the main a faithful picture of the general conditions of patriarchal life, especially in respect of its moral characteristics. A Hebrew writer, we must remember, would be continually in a position to observe with his own eyes the habits and customs of primitive civilization; among the tribes of Bedawin Arabs on the east side of the Jordan, some of the unchanging features of nomadic shepherd-life may be witnessed to this day. The oldest narrative, though coloured by prophetic idealism, gives a vivid portrait of patriarchal life: its simple forms of worship, its family priesthood, its sacrificial feasts, its sacred customs and social institutions. Moreover, there are features in the story which point to a comparatively low standard of ethical and religious development, especially the use of of cunning and violence, together with a certain element of sexual licence. We notice also obvious traces of the close affinity that existed between the religion of the Hebrew patriarchs and the common ideas and practices of the neighbouring Semitic tribes: the notion, for instance, that the revelation of deity was confined to certain definite spots, such as Sichem, Bethel, Hebron, and Beersheba; the reverence paid to sacred pillars, trees, and other emblems which were regarded as monuments and tokens of a special presence of God; and the use of teraphim for oracular purposes, a custom which apparently lingered to a comparatively late period1.

1 See Riehm, ATI. Theologie, pp. 51, 52. Cp. Gen. xxi. 33, xxviii. 18 foll., xxxi. 19, xxxv. 2, 14, &c. Teraphim were still found in the time of David (1 Sam. xix. 13). On the general characteristics of the patriarchal age see Renan, Histoire du peuple d'Israël, bk. 1, chh. 2 and 3. M. Renan forms a high estimate of the book of Genesis regarded as 'the idealistic description of an age which really existed.' A book, he adds,


These indications of a very rudimentary religious condition are valuable, not only as enhancing the credibility of the narratives, but also as deepening our consciousness of the divine influence which actually guided the Hebrew race from the first, controlling the development of faith, accepting what was rude and primitive as a needful stage in a constant upward movement, and gradually raising the ancestors of Israel above the general level of their age. It is not, I think, too strong to assert with Schultz that 'we cannot, in point of fact, picture to ourselves the rise of the Hebrew religion in any other way than Hebrew legend does,' when it represents God as entering into converse and communion with primitive man in modes suited to his present capacity. The whole subsequent course of revelation tends to confirm the idea that at some point in early Hebrew history there actually took place such an event as we believe the 'call' of Abraham to have been: a self-manifestation of Almighty God and a vocation addressed to a particular man, on whose response to the divine call the future development of the redemptive movement was allowed to depend. This is the important point, and there are many extraneous matters in regard to which we can well afford to be neutral or indifferent. All that we are told by literary critics respecting other internal features of the early narratives for instance, respecting the presence in them of mythical details or euhemeristic elements-only serves, if modern theories can be substantiated, to illustrate more vividly, first, the antecedently probable fact that Israel's religion was rooted in the natural soil of Semitic usage and worship; secondly, the fact that it contained, even in its most rudimentary stage, which is not strictly historical, may well supply a perfect historical picture. Elsewhere, he remarks (pref. p. xiii, Eng. Tr.) that nothing in the history of Israel can be explained without reference to the patriarchal age.'

1 Such elements are probably to be discerned in the traditions of the antediluvian period. Such names as Tubal-cain, Jubal, Enoch, Lamech, &c., point to the possibility of figures originally mythical becoming human. See the cautious remarks of Schultz, vol. i. pp. 112 foll.

a divinely implanted germ or element, which by perpetual upward pressure ultimately attained to complete predominance, and imparted to the faith of Israel its capacity in the fullness of time to welcome and adore the Son of God himself, manifest in human flesh.

2. In the patriarchal tradition we may reasonably contend that we have a faithful representation of the two principal factors which determined the distinctive character of Israel's religion: namely, a personal and redemptive operation of God in history on the one hand, and the response of human faith on the other. If we wished to select the master-thought of the Old Testament, we should be justified in saying that it is belief in the providence and direct action of the living God. Certainly this was the point of view from which the writers of the Pentateuchal narratives described the early stages of the history; it was the standpoint from which the prophets reviewed and interpreted Israel's wonderful past. It was the living experience of Jehovah's might that made Israel unique among nations: Unto thee it was showed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him. Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice, that he might instruct thee: and upon earth he showed thee his great fire; and thou heardest his words out of the midst of the fire. And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt 1 Whatsoever the Lord pleased, says the psalmist, that did he in heaven, and in earth, and in the sea, and in all deep places. In the Old Testament Jehovah is not merely represented as one who controls the course of natural events; He interposes, He actively operates, He brings mighty things to pass, He makes Himself known in acts that display the tenacity of an invincible will, the splendour of a spiritual purpose, the reality of redemptive power. And although in early times the mass of the nation probably thought 1 Deut. iv. 35-37.

2 Ps. cxxxv. 6.

« AnteriorContinuar »