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breezes of friendly discussion shall be diffused through our social and moral atmosphere,—counteracting, most effectually, the pestiferous aroma of bigotry, and the blighting mildew of spiritual usurpation.
OUR attention will be engaged, this evening, in a somewhat critical examination of the first five distinct portions of the Bible-the books generally regarded as forming a separate division of the Scriptures, and denominated THE PENTATEUCH.
Pentateuch is a numerical term, signifying a book composed of five parts-penta meaning five. Though not exactly relevant to the subject under immediate consideration, yet for the purpose of illustrating the origin of kindred numerical phrases, by a few examples, I will adduce some partially corresponding terms. Pentachord, an instrument with five strings; pentagon, a figure with five angles; pentastich, a poem of five verses; and pentastyle, a piece of Architecture with five rows of columns.
It is probable that the name, Pentateuch, was applied to the collective writings which it designates some time after their arrangement in their present form, and by scholars and biblical antiquaries, as a technical denomi native-not used by the original authors of the books, or by him who first collated, re-arranged, and re-wrote
The titles of the several books,-which are as follows,
viz: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, it may be well to define before proceeding farther. Genesis means a record of generations, and is affixed to the first book because it contains genealogical statistics of the human race, at a very early period. Exodus signifies a going oút, or a journey, from some particular place. The book called Exodus is so termed for the reason that it gives an account of the departure of the Israelites from the land of Egypt. There is now in very common use with us, a similar word, having exactly the same purport. We sometimes say of a person who dies, that he makes his exit from this life. At a certain period in a written dramatic performance, when one of the actors is to be represented as leaving the stage, that fact is signified by prefixing to his name, in the proper connection, the word exit. Says Shakspeare, in his memorable seven ages,
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
The third book is styled Leviticus, from the fact that it comprises the rules and regulations appertaining to the office of the Levites, the descendants of Levi,—a class invested with sacerdotal functions, who were subordinate to the priests, and assisted them in the ceremonies of the tabernacle. The fourth book was recognized by the Hebrews under different names. By some, it was styled "And he spake," because in the Hebrew language it commences with that phraseology. By others, it was called "In the desert," from the circumstance
that it furnishes a description of the journeyings of the Israelites through the wilderness. The term Numbers was applied to it by the Greeks, because the three first chapters give the details of the numbering, in the tabernacle, of the ancient Hebrew people, by generations and by family descent. The literal meaning of Deuteronomy is, The Second Law; and the reason of its being applied to the fifth book of the Pentateuch, is simply the fact that that book is principally a repetition of the Mosaic code, recorded at length in a preceding book,a recapitulation of the ground which had already been passed over.
The authorship of these books is commonly attributed to MOSES-the reputed law-giver of the Hebrew nation, still venerated by the Jew wherever situated, and (according to the account given of him) the most wonderful man of his time. When I say commonly attributed, I do not mean unanimously, among all who receive the books as authentic records,-all modern Jews, and nominal Christians of every sect: but I wish only to convey the idea, that they are generally spoken of, almost every where, as the books of Moses; and by the majority of people, who have never been led to turn their attention to the close scrutiny of their verbal composition, or who have never made any researches respecting their history, they are supposed to have been originally written by him.
Whether he was the direct author of the whole, or only a part, or of any portion whatever, of the books in