« ZurückWeiter »
THE PENTATEUCH AND MOSES.
to the compilation of these books, either carrying them back to the time of Samuel', and supposing them to have been derived from separate fragments of various times and authors?, or admitting a later revision and arrangement during the brightest period of the Hebrew history under David and Solomon%. Some have subjected detached parts (and among others the first eleven chapters of Genesis) to a more searching criticism“, and shown the strongest reasons for referring them to the time of the Captivity. Others have fixed on this period for the collection of the whole, but have left the origin of the separate documents or traditions unexplained ; while others again have entered on this branch of the inquiry and have fully proved how largely the mythic element has entered into their compositions.
In this new path the bold fragments of Otmar on the gradual formation of the Hebrew Scriptures, and the acute remarks of Vater?, first led the way to a more searching method of inquiry; but it was reserved for De Wette, who had already been conducted by independent researches to the same results, to prove, with an ingenuity and force that opened a new field to criticism, the mythic character of the whole contents of the Pentateuch 8. He sought, in
? As Newton had already done. Observatt. in Danielem, cap. I. 2 Bertholdt, Introduction,(Einleitung). 3 Eckermann, Bauer, Paulus. 4 Von Hasse. Hartmann, Illustrations of Asia, (Aufklärungen über Asien.) Pustkuchen, Researches on Primæval History, (Untersuchungen über die Urgeschichte.)
5 As in the Primæval History of Eichhorn and Gabler, 1791, and the Hebrew Mythology of Bauer, 1802.
o In Henke’s Magazine for the Philosophy of Religion, &c. (Magazin für Religionsphilos. Exegese, und Kirchengesch.) ii. 433 ; iii. 566.
7 Comment. on the Pent. 1802.
8 Contributions to the Introd. to the Old Test. (Beiträge zur Einleitung in das A, T.) 1806.
EPIC OF THE HEBREWS.
the first place, to ascertain the true character of the several narratives, and thus to show that they must have been derived from the popular legends of the Hebrews, and that pure invention had often furnished the materials; for tradition, he argued, is in its very nature so poetical, and so invariably partial in its evidence, that it cannot be regarded in any case as the source of genuine history. From this it may be inferred that the criticism of De Wette is for the most part purely negative, and in direct opposition to the historical mode of explanation. He terms the Pentateuch, the Epic of the Hebrews, a name which was also employed by Herder and Augusti, and which, considering the artificial contexture of the mythic elements, appears the best and the safest title we can give to their primæval history.
It was but a few years later, and without any knowledge of his German predecessors, that the French philosopher Volney arrived at the same results?. He dwelt particularly on the inconsistent fluctuations of the Hebrew history, pointed out the extreme vagueness in the accounts of the period under the Judges, and the total absence of traditions during the four hundred years in Egypt, and then proceeded to show how poetical and legendary were the minute details of the private lives of the patriarchs, notwithstanding their apparent exactness.
These various inquiries have received a final support and consistency from the philological labours of Gesenius?, the great founder of a rational exposition, and are so self-evident in their general outlines that even laymen3 26
1 Recherches sur l'Histoire Ancienne, 1814. ? See also a statement of his principles in his articles Adam, Biblical History, &c. in the German Encyclopedia.
3 As Th. Paine.
THE PENTATEUCH AND MOSES.
have learned to view them in their proper light; so that all unprejudiced interpreters are at present very well agreed in their estimate of the character of the Pentateuch'. Even some among the learned Jews of later years have abandoned the authorship of Moses?, and looked with more critical eyes upon the Pentateuch itself? ; so that now it may be said, that scarcely one new argument remains to be gleaned in support of the freer hypothesis.
On the opposite side, however, some learned advocates have lately appeared in defence of the older opinion which ascribes these books to Moses; among them Michaelis, Jahn, and Eichhorn deserve to be specially mentioned, inasmuch as they have certainly endeavoured to support their positions by argument; while others, by the candid admission that they have been partly influenced by the wish to promote the interests of their creed, renounce all title to the name of critics, and with their so-termed “ exposition of faith5” cut the knot it was their office to unloose.
Assuredly if we read these ancient records because they “ were regarded as sacred by every Christian people," or “ under the conviction that a particular providence has continually watched over them, and that they speak to us still the very words of revelation?,” the door is closed to
1 As Ewald,—Ammon, Development of Christianity, (Fortbildung des Christenthums) i. p. 123,-Schumann,-Maurer.
2 As Ben David, Relig. before Moses, 1812, as far as relates to Genesis. 3 As Jost and Zunz in their profound works.
4 As Fritzsche, Examination, &c. (Prüfung der Grunde, &c.) 1814, and more recently Ranke, Researches on the Pentateuch, (Untersuchungen über den Pentat. aus dem Gebiete der höheren Kritik,) 1834.
5 (“ Gläubige Exegese," Germ.)
6 Kapp, Origin of Nations, according to the Genesis of Moses. (Ursprung der Völker nach der Mosaischen Genesis.)
7 Werner on the first chapter of Genesis.
FAITH ON AUTHORITY.
every species of inquiry, and the search for truth runs the risk of being branded with the name of hostility and prejudice? For criticism, as such, is always incredulous, and has only to deal with proofs; while faith on authority admits without a thought the most astounding prodigies, or possibly finds itself placed in the same predicament to which Wolff was reduced in his interpretation of Homer: “I have imitated the interpreters of sacred doctrine, who, alarmed by the fear of edicts, do not teach that which is satisfactory to themselves, but that which the church formerly ordered to be proved, in accordance with the circumstances of the time.
The question as to how far Christianity is involved in the critical examination of the Old Testament, has been already set at rest by the venerable Griesbach and De Wette3. It is not founded, we should hope, on so insecure a basis, that it must stand or fall with the mythology of the Jews; and a popular teacher, we may add, will always be able to extract some religious and moral meaning even from a popular fiction. We might therefore have proceeded at once to lay before our readers the results of the latest inquiries, if an attempt had not been made to revive the older theory by a very recent author, as little characterized by the originality of his own arguments as by a fair appreciation of those of his opponents. On this account, we have arranged, in the following chapters, the most important
2 “Imitatus sum interpretes doctrinæ sacræ, qui edictorum metu territi, non id docent quod sibimet ipsis placet, sed quod ecclesiæ olim ex tempore probandum præscriptum est.”_Wolff, Prol. Homer.
3 Contributions, (Beiträge,) p. xii. vol. ii. p. 404.
4 Rosenmüller, in his Scholia on the Pentateuch. See the admirable review by Fasi in Schulthess' newest Theol. Annals, 1829, p. 81.
reasons which have been adduced, for attributing the Pentateuch to Moses; admitting at the same time, and in reference to both parties, the full justice of the remark made by an able contemporary, that “An objection reproduced, even for the hundredth time, always proves that it has never been completely answered',—that all the counter arguments are not overwhelming, or at least that they have not convinced him who again adduces it, for no one would defend a cause when persuaded it was false.”
[Completely answered, i. e. so as to be generally acknowledged.]