We have to avoid the wiles of Satan continually. His temptations are ever there in all we pass through; but there are some things which come more directly from him, errors by which he seeks to deceive Christians and undermine the truth, as Irvingism, Puseyism, Rationalism. And these are to be met as coming directly from him. If we meet them thus we may expect help from God, while if tampered with in a friendly way we cannot. Such is the question which turns up on every hand around us now. Infidelity and the undermining the truth and the authority of the word are rampant. It does not surprise the Christian acquainted with Scripture; it confirms his faith in it, because he is warned there that it would be so. It is his painful experience however, but Scripture has taught him that in the last days perilous times would come.
The active mind of Germany has been the officina, the workshop, of this in various phases in these latter years. Paulus and Strauss and Bauer, and the rationalists from Semler and Eichhorn down, and England and other countries, have been infected with it. Scotland, through the forms of its church government, has recently been most openly under the public eye.
I have nothing to do with the church matters of that little section of Christendom which made itself conspicuous in Europe by a public claim to purity and disinterestedness beyond others, nor have I to do with what is expedient for United Presbyterians if the question arises there. Their internal affairs are no concern of others, save as the Christian must care for everything that concerns Christ’s truth and Christ’s people. Nor do I expect them to listen to Dr. M‘Cosh advising the rationalists to leave and set up for themselves. If Satan is at work, as I have no doubt he is, honesty is not what you are to expect. But the question concerns every Christian.
Dr. M’Cosh has told them,37 what every one outside themselves can see, that the principal dissenting bodies in Scotland, and eminently the Free Church, are on their trial. It is not merely, as Dr. M‘Cosh says, “What are the churches to do?” nor is any “shrewdness” required in the matter. The question is, What are those who believe that Scripture is inspired to do when Rationalism, Broad-Churchism, as Dr. M’Cosh calls it after its English name, has reared its head and infected the ecclesiastical bodies of the country, and when, as in the case of the Free Church, though it suspended Mr. Smith as professor, they are really trifling with the faith?—the latter, in the last form the question has taken, having shelved the matter by what is called moving the previous question. I do not trust in churches; I do not know which of them is to be trusted. Is Rome or Greece, is the Lutheran—the very seat of infidelity— or the reformed, who are in the same state? Holland is far worse than Dr. M‘Cosh represents it: the well-known converted Jew Capadose left it a few years ago because it was universally infidel. France is notorious. Will the Anglican, with its Puseyism and Broad-Churchism, give me rest? or now, Scotland falling into the same track of heartless indifference to the truth? “Ephraim has grey hairs here and there upon him, and he knoweth it not.” The attack on the word of God is not from heathens as of old, or open infidels, but from the bosom of Christendom itself. Men who are called its ministers are undermining the confidence of the simple in what was the basis of their faith, the true basis of all faith, the word of God. “If it were an open enemy, I could have borne it; but it was thou, my companion, mine own familiar friend.” They tell you they believe in the Bible, nay, in inspiration, only taking up literary questions. It is false; utterly false. None can deny that it is but the crambe repetita—the dishing up afresh—what is borrowed from the Eichhorns, though he is now left far behind, the De Wettes, Bleeks, Ewalds, Riehms, Grafs, Knobels, Bertheauts, and a host of others, to say nothing of Kuenen, who avows himself a Unitarian and ready to join with Jews, only they would not probably do so at present. I have not read all these. But I have read some of them. It is all one system. Some more insolent and bold, as Graf and Kuenen and De Wette (though there was in his history and views, it would seem, a drawing to the truth of Christ as he went on, which was interesting). But I do not speak of the individuals, knowing none of them. I speak of a regular system unfolded in their books, and now propagated by professors and ministers of the Free Church of Scotland. They differ from each other in details; nay, you must know what edition you read of the principal ones, or you will be stating something false about them.
But this is not really the question. They all develop a system which destroys the authority of the word of God, which denies it comes from Him to us. This is attempted to be denied, and covered up, and softened down, not to frighten honest minds, not to say Christian ones, too soon. But this is only Satan’s craft, and if those who talk of literary inquiries into the history of the sacred writings believe really that we have God’s revelation, they must know that this system undermines it, that it denies that we have God’s revelation on God’s authority. I shall proceed to shew this.
There are two systems in the main, if you take thoroughgoing destructives as Graf and others (De Wette grew somewhat more sober); that Deuteronomy was the first book written, and in Josiah’s time, or a little before, but produced then by the high priest; and that the legal enactments of the Pentateuch were added after the Babylonish captivity, Moses’ name being used to secure the priestly influence established in them. I suppose this is not inspiration.
According to Ewald, the great body of these laws were drawn up by a priest very soon after the building of the temple by Solomon. This is the “Book of Origins.” He admired greatly the character of the writing, which is the production of a great and elevated genius aroused by the reigns of David and Solomon. This too was to enforce the priests’ rights and authority. This history includes the creation, to which, being of an elevated mind, he could look back, and went on to the history of the Judges’ time, but this is lost, and was very briefly related; for he tells us what parts of it are clearly lost. But he holds there was before this a book of covenants which recorded various covenants of Abraham and Abimelech, and Isaac and Jacob, etc., and Exodus 20 to 23. This was written about Samson’s time. Even before this there were written documents, as songs, and the book of the wars of the Lord, and that of Jasher. After the Book of Origins, the great work of Solomon’s time, there were in his earlier editions a third and fourth, in the last, a third, fourth, and fifth writer, to complete the recovery and collection of the old traditions, adding and connecting and modifying, and, besides this, one who put all together and added some passages to make a rounded whole of it.
Bleek is certainly soberer in his judgment of details, but he does not in the least believe in the inspiration of the word of God. None of them ever thinks of such a thing. The difficulty of shewing it in positive statements arises, as far as any exist, from their taking it for granted there is none. Nothing of the kind ever crosses their minds. Even Lange, so much thought of, speaks of it in his Life of Christ as an obsolete thing which hindered all development of the truth.
But before I shew from Ewald and Bleek the real character of the system—and I choose the most capable and respected (indeed, Ewald may be taken as the most complete, and as a representative of the moderate system; as Kuenen, Graf, and others whom I have not read, of the daring and open contempt of the word of God; Bleek as the most sober of all); but, I repeat—for none regard the Scriptures as the oracles of God— according to none of them can man live, as the Saviour teaches us (quoting Deuteronomy as authority against Satan, and silencing him by it) by words which proceed out of the mouth of God.
But I shall begin nearer home with the sermon of Dr. Marcus Dods and his excusing preface. Dr. Dods goes so far as to admit that, when the prophets say “Thus saith the Lord,” a revelation has been made to them. Would he allow me to ask him, Has none been made to us, when the prophets say “Thus saith the Lord?” This you will not find from Dr. Dods. Happily, if we do not find it from him, we can from such words find it out without him. But the whole point lies there; is there a revelation to us? How God revealed the truth to the prophet is not, as he would have us believe, in question at all. No one can tell how, save as, in some cases, told us in Scripture; Num. 12:6, 8. But how the word of the Lord came to them, those to whom it has not thus come are not likely to know. Nor do I believe a prophet could explain it to one who had not experienced it. The question is: Is it the word of God for me as given out by the prophet? Well, if “Thus saith the Lord “be true, it clearly is; though Dr. Dods will not say so. “Similarly of the apostles,” adds Dr. Dods, “I, of course, believe they are the authoritative teachers of the church, and that, in order to fit them to be so, special revelations were made to them.” Is what they have written the word of God to us? This is the question. Paul tells us very distinctly how the matter stood. God has given to “us not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things which are freely given to us of God; which things also we speak not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” And he adds the third step too. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit: but they are foolishness unto him, because they are spiritually discerned.”38 We may compare the words of the Lord in the special case of their answering before magistrates: “Take no thought of how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” The theory of these doctors is that the gracious Lord would put words in the mouth of His servants for their difficulties: but in what was to be truth for the church at all times, the basis of its faith and its security against error, direct communication (I do not say revelation) to us of the truth was not so made by those to whom He made the revelation of it for that purpose. Dr. Dods does not deny that in the case of the prophets man had revelation made to them; but he does carefully distinguish between this and the inspiration of the Scriptures, and he distinctly denies that any revelation is made by them to us. Now, in the case of the prophets, the matter is palpable, and he shirks it in the sermon, and confines it to a revelation to them in the preface, and as to the apostle says: “In their case also, I desire, as Paul himself obviously did, to bring the revelations made by God into the foreground, and to allow the inspired state of the human mind to fall back into a secondary place.”
This is very poor special pleading. Of course Paul’s business was not to explain a “theory of inspiration.” Who thinks it was? But when the revelations were brought into the foreground, who received them then? to whom did they, or do they, become revelations? That I need to be spiritual to enjoy them is true; or, if it be gospel to a sinner, grace to work in bringing it home to him. But that is another question. But if Paul brought the revelation unadulterated, not corrupting the word of God, for so he calls it, into the foreground (that is, in his communication of it to others, I suppose, according to the measure of their spirituality), they received it, that is, the revelation he brought into the foreground, the revelation he had received himself. It was to this end it was so given to him. “When it pleased God who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen.” And his boast is that through the Spirit he brought it to others as pure as he had received it himself. (See the end of 2 Cor. 2 and 4:2.) Of course the revelation of truth was the thing of importance. But revelation to whom? If to the hearers or readers, it was God’s word to them as the apostles and prophets had received it. Thank God!
I only recall here in passing the utter absurdity of a theory, which would tell us that God, willing in grace to give a revelation to the whole church, and in some respects to all men, gives it in such a way that, as a revelation, it goes no farther than the one to whom it is communicated. It is a very convenient system for the clergy, who may desire that we should believe all that they give us as authoritative teachers, but a poor case for us Christians that we have no revelation from God. Our good friends will say, Were not the apostles authoritative teachers? Surely; but they tell us how and why. “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe,” 1 Thess. 2:13. They imparted to them the gospel of God. It was “not yea and nay, but in him was yea” —yea “all the promises of God” were; and Peter took care they should have the things “in remembrance,” and John wrote his epistle that they “might believe.” There were not only authoritative teachers, which no Christian denies; but we have what was authoritatively taught, and was and is the word of God. Either we have what was revealed to Paul or others as purely and as fully as he received it, as he asserts (2 Cor. 2:17); or, the authoritative teachers being gone, we have no authoritative word of God at all. Nor had they directly then. Nor has, in fact, Dr. Dods any, as I will plainly shew a little farther on.
But, before I turn to his more direct subject—the historical part, there is another point I may notice, which refers also to the subject we have been upon. Dr. Dods believes the prophets when they say, “Thus saith the Lord.” Now in the greater part of the Pentateuch (and he will “contend for the historic credibility of the narratives “) we find, “And the Lord spake unto Moses,” very commonly adding, “Speak unto Aaron,” or “to the priests,” or “to the children of Israel, and say unto them,” etc. Is this true? If so, we have, not a revelation of God in history credibly reported, but the word of God revealed to us. So in Deuteronomy we find “These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel,” and then (chap. 4) he says, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you.” Is it true, or did he deceive them or not? If not, all the commandments, which are inseparable in the four last books from the history, and the history with them, are the word of God. If it is not true, or he deceived himself, or meant to deceive others, we have no sure warrant for the history, nor any revelation of God at all. If it be true, we have the revelation made by God to Moses. I do not insist on the absurdity of a system which makes the words of the prophets in warning to the Jews, and in statements occupied with their history and future hopes as a nation, a revelation from God; and the account of the fall of man, the promises, the law, the judgment of the whole world—a subject infinitely more important to us all—no revelation at all. The absurdity of it stares every intelligent Christian in the face.
And now, to turn directly to the historical part of Scripture, Dr. Dods’ theory is that God has revealed Himself in certain great acts, as the flood. These are revelation, and we have a credible history of them.39 Dr. Dods ignores here the word of God, and the operation of the Spirit of God in every way, and represents in a way utterly false the documents he is speaking of. Speaking of Paul’s writings he says: “I may not be able at once to accept all he teaches; I cannot accept it merely because it comes to me with authority. I can only accept in doctrine that which fits itself in with my previously received ideas and my stage of mental growth.” … “Having accepted Paul or any one as an authoritative teacher, it is of course at my own risk I disagree with him in any one particular.” Can there be a more complete denial that it is the word of God, or of our having any revelation from God? Who in his senses would talk of disagreeing with God in any particular?
Unless, with strange inconsistency, it be the inferior revelation of prophets, Dr. Dods has no revelation from God at all. Next, it must “fit itself in with my previously received ideas, and my stage of mental growth.” Could it not possibly correct your previously received ideas, Dr. Dods? If the ideas which Paul gives us are God’s ideas, do you not think they might? As to mental growth, I find, if it be mere man’s mind, He hides these things from the wise and prudent, and reveals them unto babes; He chooses the foolish things to confound the wise. That there is progress in divine knowledge no one denies, and that we need the Holy Ghost to apprehend spiritual things I fully recognise; but in Dr. Dods’ statement, neither as to source nor power, is there the smallest recognition of God as to our receiving what is in Scripture. What Dr. Dods would have is to “apprehend the distinction between these two things—God’s revelation of Himself, and the narrative or record of that revelation in the Bible “(page 12). There is no revelation in the narrative, note. So (preface, page 6) “All that we need contend for is the historic credibility of the narrative.” It will be said, he only refers to “a special theory of inspiration.” He does in order to reject the plenary inspiration of Dr. Hodge; but his theory is a theory of no inspiration, but of historic credibility. So far as the historical contents of Scripture are concerned (we have spoken of the prophets and apostolic writings), “revelation stands firm, though there should prove to be no such thing as inspiration.” Now this is absurd in principle; and Dr. Dods’ statements false in fact, and false as to the ground of reception. Paul tells us that all or every scripture is given by inspiration of God. I do not go through the proofs rapidly summed up in the tract Have we a Revelation from God?40but no honest man can deny that Christ and the apostles quote all parts of the Scripture as inspired. Perhaps Dr. Dods may not agree with them; but if he does not, he does “wait with a warning over his head.” He may be assured of that.
But his moral theory is all false. Truth is presented to the conscience, and the conscience reached, but the effect, according to Scripture, is to believe the message and the messenger. The woman of Samaria, when her conscience was reached, did not answer the Lord, Who told you that? by what historical document, or story of another first witness, do you know that? but, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.” Her convinced soul recognised the divine authority and source of the word spoken to her. The noble ones of Berea, when it was the general truth of Christ, searched the Scriptures whether those things were so; they recognised their authority; “therefore many of them believed.” Their inquiry was not whether the new truth “fitted in with their previously received ideas.” Most certainly it did not (it is always fresh truth which tests the faith of the heart); but whether it fitted in with the Scriptures, the certain word of God, the revelation of God. Fresh truth which calls for faith never can be part of the historical revelation of God, or it would not be fresh. It will never be inconsistent with, but confirm, what was previously revealed. The truth previously received one may adhere to, and pride one’s self in, and reject the new. “The time cometh when he that killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things they will do unto you, because they have not known the Father nor Me.” I do not doubt we have all revealed truth in Scripture. In these “perilous times” we are referred to the Scriptures and expressly as inspired of God—certainly not to my previously received ideas. And we have the promise “they shall be all taught of God.” Dr. Dods recognises neither.
Further, Dr. Dods refers to the narrators in the New Testament as claiming no other ground, but that of being eyewitnesses, referring to the common objection of infidels, namely, what is said in the beginning of Luke. Now that the Lord in gracious condescension did use eye-witnesses, so that men should, have no excuse for not believing, is most true and precious; but that the credibility of Scripture statements is “grounded not on any inspiration “is utterly false. I will not rest on Origen’s comment on Luke’s words that the others had taken it in hand as men, and Luke’s was divinely undertaken in contrast with that. But, in the first place, Luke states exactly the contrary of what Dr. Dods says: “not,” he says, “in any inspiration which could give him a knowledge of events of which he could not in any other way be cognisant, but upon the ordinary grounds of belief in history, namely, that he had his facts from those who were eye-vdtnesses.” “Many,” Luke says, “having taken in hand” to set forth the things most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them, who from the beginning were eye-witnesses of the word, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first” (parekolouthekoti anothen, the word being the same as that used by Paul to Timothy (2 Tim. 3:10), with the addition of anothen). The others had related the history as delivered by eye-witnesses. But this did not satisfy Luke; so he wrote his Gospel having perfect knowledge of everything.
But note here that it is not merely inspiration for the knowledge of facts which is denied, but such a guarding of the writer as should preserve him from writing a false account. It was “the ordinary grounds of belief in history.” Now the Lord expressly speaks of both grounds as to the apostles. The Holy Ghost would come and testify of Christ; “and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” Nor is this all. In John 14 the Lord says to His disciples: “he, the Comforter, shall teach you all things, and shall bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Dr. Dods puts on the ground of confidence a spiritual state in the apostles which made them sensitive to everything in Him which was of the highest value. We are in a spiritual region because we are in the hands of spiritual men. They had the Spirit of Christ, and so coincided with Him as to what was important. Now this shews the hollowness of all this theory. Dr. Dods has given up inspiration in the history of Christ, and even guidance, so that they should not commit errors, and we are cast upon the apostles coinciding with Christ, being spiritual men. When? When they saw all the things which passed in His life down here. What does Dr. Dods himself tell us? “We can scarcely suppose that the evangelists saw all that had to be seen in Christ, but we can only see through them.” But then they must coincide with Him, and see as important what He saw as important. Now, through grace they believed He was the Christ and had the words of eternal life, and clung to Him. But will Dr. Dods shew me one single instance where they entered into His mind, where they understood Him, or, if they did, did not remain entirely opposed to what He told them? “We have no bread,” when the Lord warned them against the leaven of Pharisees or others. “Hath any one brought him meat to eat?” when, rejected in Judæa, the blessed Lord’s heart was expanding through the opening blessing that reached out beyond it through the conversion of one, a stranger to covenant and promise, and He had meat to eat that they knew not of. And when He told them that He should die and rise again, “they were exceeding sorry,” and again, “That be far from thee, Lord.”
One sole instance we have, a heart whose affections rose with the rising hatred of the Jews just ready to kill Him, and spent the best she had in lowliness on Him; and this was to be told wherever the gospel was to be preached—a solitary case, so strange to Him who looked for comforters and found none— and it has been. And even after the resurrection they say on the road with Him, “We thought it had been he which should have redeemed Israel”; and the apostles most closely bound up with Him and with one another saw (were eye-witnesses, Dr. Dods) and believed, for as yet they knew not the Scriptures that He must rise from the dead, and went home again; and that was all about it for them. And another woman, clinging to His empty grave (all the world was to her if He was not there), is made to the apostles themselves the messenger of the highest privileges the saint can have, from the lips of Jesus Himself. Then, after that, He opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures; but He assured them too, that “blessed are they who have not seen and who yet have believed.” Were they, before He made them understand the Scriptures? “Mainly this, that they had the revelation at first hand, that they were the men before whom the revelation was made, and who were so impressed with it, and saw its meaning as to be moved to preserve and perpetuate this impression for the sake of others?” What does John tell us in one case? “These things the disciples understood not at the first; but when Jesus was glorified then remembered they that these things were written of him, and they had done these things unto him,” John 12:16.
Impossible for anything to be more contrary to Scripture, or I must add greater insensibility to the sweetness and true history of that Bread which came down from heaven, than the statement of Dr. Dods. And, if it were only after He was glorified that they could tell the wondrous tale and have told it to us, blessed be God! It was not that they were impressed with it while He was there and saw its meaning; but that the Holy Ghost was come down from heaven, and they gave us a history of the Son of God, and Son of man, as none but the Holy Ghost could give, or make us understand and delight in.
Dr. Dod’s theory and principle is utterly false. Nothing but the utter darkness of man’s mind and heart that could give us such a statement as that it was spiritually valuing what He valued that made them competent witnesses; that it was those who were most in sympathy with the purposes of God and who were most imbued with His own Spirit, who were best prepared to see and recount His revelations. But it is every way false. First, who could tell them of a glorified Christ? They could follow Him to the cloud; the angels told them He would come again; but what about Him while He was away? The Comforter would come and take the things of Christ and shew them to them. All things that the Father had were His: therefore He said, “He shall take of mine and shew it unto you.” Where were the eye-witnesses now? Yet, sweet as it is when at peace through His precious blood to dwell and feed on that Bread come down from heaven, and attractive in itself even to the sinner, the blessing is not to look upon the things that are seen, but the things that are not seen, which are eternal, to set our affections on things above, not on things on earth. Where is our Livy or Thucydides, as they miserably say, for this?
Hence Dr. Dods tells us what we have got by Paul’s teaching is, “spirit supersedes law” —rather poor Presbyterian teaching; but that is all he can lead us to find in it. “This is the ultimate teaching the world needs or can have.” Is there nothing of the Person and glory of Christ and God’s purposes in Him? I find him telling me that eye indeed hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him; but “God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so, the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things which are freely given to us of God; which things also we speak.”
Now it is quite clear that all these blessed things on which our affections are to be set, where our conversation (our politeuma) is, are known only by the revelation of the Spirit. For Dr. Dods all is simply “spirit supersedes law.” Besides, Christianity is the ministration of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3), and the veil on Moses is done away in Christ; and thus the sacrifices, the pattern of things in the heavens, and the whole scheme hidden in the shadows of the law, have their true force given to them through a suffering and glorified Christ, sitting at the right hand of God the Father till He comes again, His enemies being made His footstool. With all this history has nothing to do. It is all revealed and understood solely by the Spirit of God. There can be no history of the facts and glory of heaven. What could be heard when one went there could not be revealed at all; and the history we may in one sense have of it has no sense for us till it ceases to be history and becomes shadows of better things which the Spirit opens up to us in them.
But even in the earthly part, to spiritual intelligence the operation of the Holy Ghost in the Gospels, in the revelation of Christ on earth, is as plain as in the heavenly part. The four Gospels reveal Him in four distinct characters, as has been long ago remarked—(1) Emmanuel-Messiah; (2) the Servant-Prophet; (3) the Son of man in grace (after the two first chapters shewing Israel’s and the remnant’s position); (4) the Word made flesh, eternal life in the Son of God, and at the close, the other Comforter, the Spirit, promised. And in each Gospel the Holy Ghost calls up before us, through the mind of the evangelist, what presents the Lord in the character it treats of. Take the closing scene: all is power and divine in John without suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross; in Matthew the sheep dumb before his shearers, the suffering victim without a comforter all through; in Luke more suffering expressed in Gethsemane, none on the cross; there all was grace and confidence. Mark is substantially here the same as Matthew; he takes the place of suffering instead of active service. The mission of the disciples is distinct in each Gospel. Into all this I cannot enter here, but it is not as eye-witnesses we have the accounts. Matthew was present when all went backward and fell to the ground, but tells us nothing about it. John was nearer to Christ when in an agony, but it is not his subject. John was one of those that slept, but there is not a word of it. Mark was not, but tells us all about it. Who told them the infancy of the Lord? If we believe Lange, it was Mary, with plenty of nonsense about it. The Lord Jesus, the Son of God, the Word made flesh, was worthy of one historian, alone capable of writing His history, the Spirit of God; happy those who were made the instruments of doing it! No Christian denies that the twelve, at least, were eyewitnesses, and he appreciates God’s grace in it in dealing with men. But none but an infidel as to God’s revelation denies the operation of the Spirit of God in the testimony they have given.
It remains for me to speak of the history of the Old Testament, before I shew what the principles of this school are, a school with which Dr. Dods has fully identified himself, not only in general principles, but in the whole scheme on which these principles are carried out. My reader need not suppose I charge Dr. Dods with agreeing with them in details, for no two of them agree. Dr. Bleek, for example, declares Ewald’s as utterly unproved and ungrounded. So Ilgen’s, of which I only know by report. But these details merely refer to the dates at which the different histories of which the Pentateuch is compiled were written. There are in the main two schools, one making Deuteronomy the first book, and the body of the Pentateuch worked up after the captivity, with some Mosaic tradition, but no regular book of law till Josiah’s time (that there was no regular book of the law is pretty much Bleek’s view too); the others that the body of the laws are Mosaic, though not written by him, save a song or two and register of journey, Deuteronomy with Joshua coming in their natural order.
But all leave a revelation by Moses entirely out of the question, indeed all revelation; and it is to this system in its actual form Dr. Dods in the note to page 18 gives his adherence, besides insisting in the text on the infidel principle of it. The Bible is not a revelation, but a record of the historic facts in which God has revealed Himself, such as the flood, etc. Now all this is as shallow and poor as can be. We have an ordinary historical account, “the ordinary grounds of belief in history.” But first, by the historical writers of Scripture Dr. Dods does not mean what we have actually in Scripture at all—that is merely an account compiled out of them; at any rate, “not always those who brought the books into their final state, but those, whoever they were, who first recorded the revelations made.” One thing is never thought of in any shape—God’s having anything to do with the record. The prime requisite is knowledge of these facts at first hand. But this we have not got at all, “Whoever they were!” Some fragments may be preserved, songs and genealogies, and different documents, a very few from the first hand, and these curtailed, added to, fashioned according to the thoughts of those “who brought the books into their final shape.” So that what we have got may be as to a part of the history from the first hand, whoever he was, but may not be. But at any rate they were “brought into shape,” so that “first hand” we certainly have not!
But there are other serious difficulties. Though there are important facts revealing God’s ways, the greater part of the historical books are not composed of facts at all. They are laws, exhortations, promises, warnings, prophecies, institutions, which were the shadow of good things to come—feasts which prefigured great future dealings of God; things purposely ordered to be patterns of things in the heavens; God’s estimate of men, the conduct of men as laying the ground of God’s ways with them, and that often of the deepest instruction and the finest development of motives in men, and in God as to His government; the elements, as in Abraham’ and Isaac and Jacob, of God’s future dealings; personages who came out involving immense principles of God’s dealings in otherwise trifling incidents, and principles and relationships which run through God’s ways on to glory, yet with no great revelation of God in the acts themselves, as for instance, Melchisedec; things “which happened unto them for examples, and written for our admonition on whom the ends of the world are come.” There seems a purpose here in their being written. Whose? Of those who first recorded the revelations, in all these details, or those who brought the books into their final shape? or of God in His wise and holy counsel?
But I have some further inquiry to make on this statement that God gave revelations of Himself in His acts, and then we have a credible account of them from eye-witnesses at first hand. Take Dr. Dods’ example, the flood. What eye-witness gave us the account of this, or of the tower of Babel—nay, even of Abraham’s altars, of Jacob’s wrestling? Did Adam record for the benefit of his posterity his disobedience and sin, and exclusion from paradise, and the barring of the way back to the tree of life on which the whole history of man, and Satan, and redemption, and mediately or immediately judgment, depends? What “first hand “wrote the ordinary credible history of what passed in the garden? We may go farther, if need be, to do so. Has Dr. Dods got the morning stars and the sons of God who shouted for joy to give us a credible history of creation?* Was anyone there to hear, “Let us make man in our image?”
But why should I continue? Was ever such senseless stuff? Whether we consider the delicate shades of thought in a thousand cases, small events of the utmost import, statements of what God thought and said, and a multitude of facts which no eye had seen, and all forming part of an immense scheme of God as to man, and of His glory in Christ, and gathering together all things in Him, every part of the record (which, thank God, we do possess) shews the gross and senseless absurdity of the whole scheme.
I shall shew what the authors of this system, those from whom all this is drawn, and whose system is substantially accepted in Dr. Dods41 note, to which I have referred, make of these “Urkunde und Quellschriften,” those who first recorded the revelations; but I thought it best first to take up Dr. Dods’ statements themselves as he presents them. He does not go so far as the gravest of them as to the prophets; he carefully confines himself to the historical books, and I have done so. Divine and interesting as the prophets are, the history contained in Genesis is of far more importance to us. Of this, according to the system, we have no revealed record, but only what rests on the ordinary grounds of historic credibility; and, moreover, in cases where the whole plan of man with God depends on it, and redemption has all its sense from it, we cannot possibly have any such history at all. Does the revelation of the thoughts, and what I may call the private thoughts, of God, rest on the ordinary grounds of historic credibility? It is puerile absurdity, an infidel rejection of what Christ and the apostles have told and taught us as to these books; while the saint who has to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, that word which pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, has no such word to look to at all.
I turn to Ewald and Bleek, leaving aside Kuenen and Graf, whom I may call openly infidel. Ewald shews at once his view of the matter. The beginning of his “Geschichte Israels” is a dissertation on the nature of legend; how it develops itself, and the forms it takes under various circumstances; in fact, a mere abstract statement of what he is going to tell us of the Bible, and drawn from his view of it. I leave aside the references to the Book of the Wars of the Lord, and a supposed account of Moses’ life,42 to one of which the Scriptures themselves refer, as not material, to come to his first larger source of the history, the “Book of Covenants.” Here all refers to covenants— Jacob and Laban, Isaac and Abimelech, Abraham and Abimelech—shewing restless and unsettled times. This, therefore, will have been written in the time of the Judges, in the latter half of the period, or more exactly at the beginning of Samson’s rule, etc.
But Genesis 49 leads to a closer knowledge of the time. This flows entirely from seeing the twelve tribes as they dwelt scattered in Canaan in the time of the Judges. Nothing could describe in a more lively way their then state than this song. Deuteronomy 33, which was a copy of it made in the time of kingly rule to fill up the felt want in that of Genesis, shews it was made earlier, when Israel’s unity was not established. But verses 16-18, where Dan is spoken of most exactly, shew us the time, as they clearly refer to Samson’s time and his being in the judge’s office, describing his heroic dealing against the Philistines; and in a note it is added, as also among the Arabs, the image of a warrior as a serpent is largely developed. And the more certainly this position of the tribe under Samson was soon over, so the more surely must such an utterance be written down during the short happy elevation of Samson. So the state of things related in Judges 1 is evidently the state of things in the time of the composer—a state already so fully changed under the Kings, that the “Book of Origins “sketches a totally different picture of Joshua’s and Moses’ days. The stream of accounts handed down flowed more richly, as we might expect, when no more important time had eclipsed them. So the legends as to the patriarchs were taken up into this work evidently circumstantially, and with remembrances whose completeness subsequently constantly suffers. Their time was so distant from that of the composers that he could there venture on a higher artistic presentation with poetic freedom. That the dying man had a clearer sight, and specially a dying patriarch could cast his view over the future of his posterity, was the view of all antiquity. And so the composer dared to bring in the dying Jacob as a higher voice of pure truths to be spoken of all the tribes. As he had to praise and sharply blame some of them on seeing the state of the scattered tribes with a troubled heart, his spirit takes refuge in43 the memory of the patriarch Jacob and it. Not only Moses’ blessing (Deut. 33), but such utterances as Genesis 48:15-19; chap. 27:27-29; chap. 39 ff.; Numbers 23 f., depend entirely on this model.
Now I ask if, in all this account of the recorders of the first revelation of God, there is the smallest sign of God’s Spirit, or of anything coming from God at all? It is purely a human composition, not a contemporary one; and if there be an allusion to an event which the professed author puts forth as a prophecy, it is a proof that it was written at the time prophesied of. That is, there is a complete denial of all inspiration. From this author we have the decalogue, only without the reference in the seventh day to the creation which was added by the author of the “Book of Origins.” But that blessing of Jacob’s shews a genuine prophetical spirit, so in the conclusion of covenant with God; Exod. 23:20-23. He adopted older songs, already written down, into his work, as Exodus 15:1-19; Numbers 21:17, profiting by the above-mentioned Wars of the Lord. “On the other hand, it is impossible to think that such verses as Jacob’s blessing (Gen. 49) springs from anything else than mere artistic power in composition.”
I add this part as shewing what genuine prophetic spirit means. So we must regard a considerable part of the Mosaic laws as got from old writings, which must be from an earlier date, as he introduces them as communicated to Moses by God after the decalogue to be laid before the people. “The book of Jasher” contained songs which furnished abundant materials in historical songs. It was an historical book of instruction without connected history. It was written in the beginning of Solomon’s reign. This brings us to the “Book of Origins,” written, says Ewald, at that time. Only I must add (124) that Exodus 20:23 to chap. 24:19 was introduced into the “Book of Covenants.” But what I have given as to the “Book of Covenants” may suffice.
The “Book of Origins,” Ewald tells us, was a much larger work than the “Book of Covenants,” and more recent, belonging to the reign of the early kings, which gives its whole character and we have much larger fragments of it. The date is clear from the way in which, in the midst of describing the time of the patriarchs, he is looking at his own time. The author of the “Book of Covenants” had only once made Jacob cast his eyes forward to the latest future, and therewith into the beclouded time of the author (time of the Judges). But the author of the “Book of Origins” (in Solomon’s time) is bolder, and in this the voice of God appearing to the patriarchs overflows often in cheerful utterances and joyous promises for the seed or later posterity, as if the time of the author (to which such utterances with the hope that their blessings would yet last to future times properly refer), was one of the rare times which from a mighty train of complete prosperity feel themselves lifted higher, and look forward to yet greater; and we find, among other things, Abraham and Sarah and Jacob would become a multitude of nations, and kings would arise out of them. How then could the blessing be limited to a definite and peculiar, and so evidently accidental, a blessing as that kings should descend from the patriarchs? This question can never be answered unless we hold fast that the work was composed in the times of the first opening bloom of the kingdom, which furthered Israel’s true good.
So the change from kings in Edom to heads of tribes comes from David’s conquest of Edom. And the name of Hadad, who fled to Egypt, is found in the name of the last king. But the exact time is learned from 1 Kings 8:2. Much, no doubt, as we now have it, is worked up by a later hand; still we have much of the authors, and yet it must be before the glorious time of the kingdom was over, and no better termination than “the glory of the Lord filled the house” would be found, so that we may hold for certain that the work was completed in the first third of Solomon’s rule. He favours thus Judah, but was a Levite, as the author of the “Book of Covenants” certainly was not. His object in this time of rest was to take a survey of history in its whole compass, bringing it down, however, always to Israel as the central object, following constantly that line of genealogy, but going up to the origin of all history like the Grecians after their conquests over the Persians. But then he goes back to the origin of the various heads of the four ages, Mosaic, Patriarchal, Noachic, and Adamic: so it is a book of origins. This refers to the expression, “These are the generations” (Toledoth) of such a one as Noah, and then, as in Genesis 5:1 “these are the generations of man” (Adam). But the picture (Schilderung) rises up boldly yet beyond all that, seeking to declare (erklaren) or expound the origin even of all that is visible in a history of the creation (Gen. 1 and 2:1-3); yet this only to be treated as an introduction to the proper work which begins at chapter 5:1. It might give us still oftener the title “These are the generations” (origins), even afterwards as to the tribal genealogies of Israel, if the most of these parts of the work were not at present lost.
There is, he tells us, a special charm in these accounts. A not less healthful than strengthening breath of an elevated spirit blows on every feeling reader, and only the author, because he lived through his own time with the warmest participation in it and a treasure of royal thoughts, could understand what was most elevated in antiquity in the liveliest way, and bring forward for posterity with a master hand what lay there not to be lost and elevating, and paint it with increasing attractiveness, without for that reason failing to recognise the higher happiness which the bloom of the present kingdom afforded. Then attention could be turned also to the whole state of the people as to laws, as it had formed itself gradually since the dark times of antiquity and then existed, but certainly had never till then been the exhausted subject of writing; for attempts indeed at shorter compilations of the most important laws of the people, besides the decalogue, had been made in writing, and many of them might at that time have been long written, as the oldest somewhat circumstantial attempt at a code known to us (Exod. 20:2, or rather 23, to 23:19), was inserted in the former work (“Book of Covenants”), and as the “Book of Origins” has adopted two smaller collections of laws. But the smallest trace fails us, and it is in itself improbable that the whole wide compass of all possible (denk-baren, thinkable) legal determinations and holy instructions had ever been made in writing at an earlier time.
He tells us that Hosea (chap. 8:12) sets out as supposed that, in his time, and specially in the northern kingdom, a number of books like the “Book of Origins,” and not a few highly esteemed, were current, but not in the least heeded by the government. But this stream of myriads of written laws could not be very old.44 This expression of Hosea’s shews that such writings at first had no public recognition, but as free products of skill in authorship were current for centuries among the people, and some of them, perhaps, had won a higher consideration and become holy, and so must we evidently think of the “Book of Origins.” This specially as regards the origin of the Mosaic sanctuaries and institutions and the rights of the priestly race, and as it paints all that was of law and rights as having its origin in the first beginning of the olden time (Urzeit); so also in that account sets it forth with so much the greater diligence and development, so that it should be valid at the present time (David and Solomon) as pattern and rule. So it was, he tells us, with the Indian Puranas. And as the previous writer (“Book of Covenants”) had his point of departure from the idea of the covenant established in Sinai; so the “Book of Origins “undertakes to shew what divine laws and covenants had their origin already in the beginning of the previous ages under Abraham, Noah, and Adam, and how the laws and precepts, like man’s race, even from the simplest beginnings onwards have always spread out and been developed. (Gen. 17; chap. 9:1-17; chap. 1:27-30 are quoted.)
Right and law are not in all times the same. They change, especially according to the great changes and windings about of all human history: and yet every valid right must stand on ground above men and bind them as a divine command, as if it took effect through a covenant between God and mankind. And as he had the consciousness that many laws which prevailed in the community had their origin in the olden time before Moses, so he finks the explanation of the obligation and use of circumcision to a suited occasion in patriarchal times. Hence in the proper Mosaical history he seizes every occasion to insert what is of law; expounds at the exodus from Egypt, in full detail, the laws as to the passover and firstborn; and puts off the chief subject of Mosaic institutions and laws (the sanctuary and the priestly race) into the short time of the sojourn of the people at Sinai; partly while according to all fixed remembrance the people were really formed anew under the establishment of the last great covenant of men with God, and partly because of the suitable resting-place for the exposition of a great connected collection of institutions and laws; and specially so as to the sanctuary, the highest centre of the religion and constitution of the people, and as to the ark glorified by being received into Solomon’s temple, made after the pattern of that sanctuary. And thus the author starts from that visible sanctuary (the temple) in his sketch of the whole that was to be pictured; describes it with all that belonged to it as made according to the divine pattern shewn and prescribed to Moses; and then gives the sacrifices and their order and use. Only Numbers 19 ought to be inserted after Leviticus 16.
If we treat now the whole manner and way in which the author puts in order and describes the Mosaic laws in recounting the history, there cannot be the smallest doubt that it is solely on this account that he describes them as communicated from Jehovah to Moses, and through Moses to the congregation, or Aaron, if the contents concern the priesthood; namely, that, as in his time they were in force as holy, an historian could only place their origin in that commencement of the congregation. They had won their force and holiness through long use, and so the author puts them as divine commands. Hence he has to seek what goes back to Moses’ time, and what gradually or from other causes had come in. The author does not set up to be Moses. And when a prescription in the connected whole of the description applied only to the land, not in the wilderness, the author makes Moses announce it prophetically, sometimes with the addition, “When ye are come into the land.” He revives the law-giving time, and depicts Moses and Joshua as models of leaders of the people, himself imbued with the same spirit. And certainly he took much out of the former historical work, or worked it up after his own manner, and took what was already in it, the inimitably described manifestation at Sinai, and with it the decalogue (where the words Exod. 20:9-11 are an addition from himself), the rather, as it was necessary in itself. He then praises largely the author for a priestly, lawgiving, leading royal spirit, and closes with thus apostrophising the author’s elevated spirit whose writings have for centuries succeeded in being taken for those of the great hero Moses himself. “I know not thy name, and guess only from thy traces where thou walkedst in time, and what thou didst; but these traces lead me irrecusably on not to take thee immediately for him who was greater than thee, and whom thou couldst thyself honour as he deserved. So see that in me there is nothing false, and no desire not to recognise thee altogether as thou wast.”
Having given Ewald’s estimate of the historical books, and, where it was of moment, in his own words, as regards the two chief original histories, the rest need not occupy us long. There were, he tells us, a third, fourth, and, in the second edition, a fifth narrator, who worked it up. And here remark it is not that there were original documents used, which is possible: but what we have is the work of those who composed the history. The earliest (save a small fragment or two of a life of Moses, and the Book of the Wars of the Lord) was composed in the time of Samson; we have not even the ten commandments as they were originally given. The various morsels of the third narrator are given in page 145 (third edition). The special excellence of this writer is the uncommonly high and clear view of the work of the prophetic and divine Spirit which appears more or less in different minds, and gives us some of the finest pieces in the Old Testament, as Numbers 11. Still though elevated, he is far from the artistic painting and bolder picturing of him (the fourth) who will soon be described. He had much to do with the account of Joseph, but a good deal was woven in afterwards. He lived in the time of the prophets Joel and Elias, in the ninth or tenth century before Christ, and belonged to the northern kingdom, so that his work was for it what the “Book of Origins” was for Judah. He gives the different bits in the Pentateuch which belong to this writer. I shall only give what shews the estimate of these new German views, which are to replace inspiration and the revelation of divine thoughts and intentions in the word of God. The pieces of the fourth narrator shew a high and ripest cultivation of all spiritual powers and capacities of the ancient people which can hardly be surpassed. One may justly maintain that, in the handling of the original early history, this work presents the progress to the extremest freedom of conception and picturing beyond which nothing more is possible as the pure artistic giving form to, and profiting by, legend; and one recognises easily, in the form of the whole popular life of the time which shines out from it, the commencing of loosening the chains of the old limits of the Mosaic religion, and the powerful rising again of many new thoughts and strivings.
This in a note to the reference he compares to the bright days of Islam after the Crusades, though in a different spirit then. The prophetic spirit which characterises it, flowing out ever wider, over its nearest limits, also completely fills now the original early history and transforms it with the greatest freedom into more beautiful new forms. Thus Messianic hopes link themselves, as we see in the great prophets, the most easily to the historical beginning of all the higher life of the patriarchs. The beginning and end meet—what is between is only development—so that we hardly find more elevated expectations uttered by the great prophets. The third narrator kept closer to tradition, and was in the prophetic point of view what the “Book of Origins” was to the lawgiving; whereas the prophetic thought in this work governs the history as its own field, and handles it from the outset onward with all freedom. To this is ascribed Genesis 12:1-3; chap. 18:18 ff., chap. 22:16-18; chap. 26:4 ff.; chap. 28:13, the fully-formed Messianic hopes, the truth of the infinite grace of Jehovah surpassing everything, along with the deepest sinfulness and corruption of the earthly (natural) man, the like of the not accidental origin of evil in man, are such luminous thoughts as the sun of that century first elicited from holy ground (that is, the ninth or eighth century before Christ). This fourth narrator introduces, losing sight of the difference of times, Mosaic sacrifices, as in the case of Noah, and even in Cain and Abel, without anxiously asking if they belonged to the gate of paradise. The wickedness of Gibeah was the pattern of that of Sodom, as one cannot have originated without the other. And as Amos refers to Sodom and Gomorrha only, our narrator confines himself to these. Through this new birth of old history much has been preserved from legendary traditions, but also through this working up much has been broken up (aufgelost) and become unrecognisable, or thrown away as of no importance.
The fifth narrator belongs to about Joel’s time. From him the first great collection and thorough working up of all the previous sources of the original early history proceeded; to him the whole present Pentateuch and book of Joshua must be referred, except the three kinds of additions which were inserted later. So that we have a narrator who indeed sketches much altogether new with his own hand, and according to his own thought, as the need of his own time seemed to require it, but most of it only out of older writings, either verbally repeated, or here and there somewhat changed, and on the whole is more a collector and thorough worker-up than an independent writer and original historian. The distinction of Israel and the other nations is more strongly marked, particularly Edorn, Moab, and Ammon, who were then throwing off Israel’s yoke, whence the prophecy of Balaam, the Assyrian being looked at rather as a friendly power, Josephus enabling us to trace the place of Amalekites and Kenites then. The ships of Chittim refer to a war of the Phoenicians for the subjugation of Cyprus, whence pirates had been attacking all those coasts, as we read that Elulaus, king of Tyre, conquered those of Chittim, etc. But, through this division of foes and friends of the spiritual religion, which was much more marked then, this historian introduces a remarkable supplement to the “Book of Origins,” in that he sets up in the olden time before the flood an opposition of holy and corrupt, of good and bad among men; Gen. 4.
After the previous one had already pursued the origin of wickedness farther up to the first man, and has developed it there at the same time in a prophetic way, he brings in striking pictures of things before the history, as Genesis 15 before 17, and so on. But he leaves out a great deal of what he had before him. So he sets Jehovah in addition to Elohim (Gen. 2:5; chap. 3), which he had from the fourth narrator, but gives up the unusual dragging double name in the simple relation; Gen. 4. However freely the fourth narrator has handled the original history, it is never with a law-giving object; for the single time when he brings forward laws he does it only in his usual competition with the old sources (Exod. 34:10-26), in order to declare the decalogue and its origin in his own way. Leviticus 26 is inserted by him, and could only have been written after the dispersion of one kingdom, as we have the sorrowful feelings of the descendants of those dispersed (vv. 36-40), so that this could not have been written before the end of the eighth or beginning of the seventh century (B.C.).
Last of all came the author of Deuteronomy in the time of corruption after Hezekiah, and the author (desirous, as this advanced age required, to improve the Davidical kingdom yet existing) introduces Moses himself as speaking; and as he conceals himself under the name of Moses, so does he the king, whom he wishes to improve the state of things, under the name of Joshua; but 4ie deals more boldly with history as in so far removed a time.
I need not go farther into the details as to Deuteronomy. Its character and that of Joshua in Ewald’s eyes is clear from what has been said. It was written in the latter half of King Manasseh’s reign, and in Egypt. It was the book which was the foundation of the reformation in Josiah’s time. Deuteronomy 33 is an imitation of Genesis 49. The song (chap. 32) was already written in Jeremiah’s time. The wish that Judah should come to his people shews the time of composition, when it was hoped all Israel would be subject to the king of Judah. It appeared as a distinct work, but was wrought up into one with the previous works, already much read. Ewald describes the way in which he who put it all together managed. The Deuteronomist calls the great previous collection Law of God, or of Moses; so the old name of the “Book of Origins” and others was forced into the background. Then, by the later transformations and additions, the true old divisions of the “Book of Origins” were made thoroughly obscure, and the whole work such as it became at last, we know not by whom, thrown into six parts. Still, out of the wreck of the older writings, and the multitude of later additions, much of what was original glimmers forth, and all later transformations have been able to cast fully into darkness neither the elevated remains of writing of the earliest time, scattered in the work, nor the whole history of the origin of the work—at least with the more accurate search which alone is the fruitful as it is the becoming one.
My reader will now understand what Dr. Dods means when he says of the historical writers of Scripture, “Meaning by the historical writers of Scripture not always those who brought the books into their final shape, but those, whoever they were, who first recorded the revelations made”: only remembering that Scripture is not a revelation. For Dr. Dods God’s public acts are that, Scripture only an account of them. His “theory of inspiration “as to these books is that there is none at all. We have nothing really from God but old legends, the first a hundred years after Moses, containing a chapter and a half about Jethro, and then a number of books, the two principal writers in the Judges’ and Solomon’s time, but transformed (umgestaltet), worked up (umarbeitet, verarbeitet) and added to, for centuries, and at last Deuteronomy and Joshua added, and the whole brought into form. Prophecies of events give the date of writing, because the reference to them shewed the writer has these events before his eyes. The result is easily apparent now. What an uncommon fate this great work ran through before it received its present form! How from a little beginning, with every important change of the whole Hebrew literature on to the end of the seventh or beginning of the sixth century, it grew and was changed! In the course of the strong changes and transformations which this great work experienced, much in it has lost its original clearness and peculiarity more and more!
A comfortable look-out this for those who sit down to read the word of God, or even a credible history of God’s revelations of Himself!
I turn to Bleek. He is, in certain respects, more sober and moderate than others, but rejects all inspiration avowedly, and in his statements there is no ground left for any at all. I shall quote enough to shew this, but be more brief, as the main general principles are already given from Ewald, and as to details none of them agree. Bleek rejects Ewald’s system, as Ewald had done one of his own previously formed. Bleek says, “Ewald there (in G. I.) assumes, as we have said, but for the most part without bringing forward any actual proof.” And again, after speaking of Ewald’s system, he says, “I cannot say, however, that I see anything at all to lead me to this view, but the contrary,” etc.
Bleek holds to the notion of Elohistic and Jehovistic documents invented by Astruc,45 but that with more sober judgment than most, holding that the great body of Moses’ laws were made for the desert, as shewn by expressions in them, and written contemporaneously with their enactments, but that discrepancies, dislocations, repetitions of the same scenes, prove other hands, and diverse documents to have been made use of in compiling it. But his proofs of Moses’ authorship or of that of contemporaneous authorship of the laws from the allusions to the camp and the naming of Aaron, Riehm (Stud.-u-Krit.) holds not to be at all valid. Indeed we have only to read the various systems of the writers to see how untrustworthy they all are. United in one thing the denial of inspiration asserted explicitly by the apostle Paul, whom they ignore, as indeed by the Lord Himself, who teaches us to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (and where are these to be found if Scripture be not inspired?) not one of them agrees with the other. Each frames a system for himself, and often changes his own, as Ewald himself and Bleek did.
Note here the immense difference as to the intelligence of Scripture involved in inspiration, and the way they are thrown into these false systems by denying it. First, the general purpose of God, the mind of God, is lost. It is the notion or feeling of the individual writer which governs the statements. All true clue to the bearing of the passage is lost, the difference between grace and government under law. But, further, as the denial of inspiration precludes prophecy, where any allusion to subsequent facts is made, this must be written after the things had happened.
Paul tells us further, “these things happened unto them for ensamples (types, tupoi), and they are written for our admonition on whom the ends of the world are come.” Now, if God be the author, I have here, to be sought patiently and numbly, what the admonition is in the things which happened for this purpose; but if a possibly credible history framed by the feelings of the writer be all I have, I cannot look for what the apostle tells me is there.
Again, as an illustration of their dislocations (Num. 19), the red heifer ought to come after the sacrifices in Leviticus. Now this only shews total ignorance of the mind and grace of God in these things. In the beginning of Leviticus we have all the aspects of the sacrifice of Christ in the most exquisite detail, and the exact expression of its divine truth and bearing: but as it is in itself, and its various value as the basis of our approach to God. Numbers gives us our journey through the desert, where we are in danger of defiling our feet, and rendering ourselves unfit for communion, though belonging to the Lord and under the efficacy of the atonement through which the Lord imputes no sin. Here, therefore, exactly in its place, the provision for the defilement which interrupts communion is made known. But, where there is no inspiration, there is no mind of God to be sought for. A mere credible arrangement of facts with human motives gives no ground for it. For these writers, consequently, there is no thought of a mind of God in the book at all. If there is such a thing, therefore, they have wholly lost the clue to the interpretation and order of the books. Thus it is not a question of a theory of inspiration. There is in the book no revelation of the mind of God at all.
Bleek does not conceal this, nor make really any middle system between verbal inspiration and human authorship. Carpzov, he says, holds that the Biblical historians generally received the whole contents of their works both in matter and form by immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and not by means of tradition or independent inquiry. But such an assumption is altogether unnatural and untenable, if we take an impartial view of the contents and form of the historical works in the Holy Scriptures. Opinions, indeed, vary as to the exact mode in which the Holy Spirit co-operated, etc.; but it will be acknowledged by all without further question, that, if their history treats of times and events which they had not themselves lived in or taken part in, the knowledge of them must have come to them by means of tradition… But the probability of the purity of tradition handed down from ancient times is always greater if it comes through writings removed as little, as possible from the date of the events than when it is merely oral.
I have some doubt of this. Oral tradition may be vague, of course, but written accounts of this kind are not sober history but myths, and arranged by priests in connection with their false gods, ancestral worship and what ministers to their influence. Take the written accounts in Cory’s Ancient Fragments, the Vedas and Puranas, or even G. Smith’s account of the flood, one of the most striking of these legends, or Deucalion’s, or the history of the Titans; and see whether written accounts secure accuracy. I shall be told that these are poetry and myths. All of them are not, save (which is the very point I insist on) that these ancient accounts always seek the marvellous. Accounts are handed down, and when by men left to themselves, they make myths of them in every country, whilst Scripture gives the divine account of events which in man’s hands were made myths of.
But there must be more than man to present the truth, the divine view of it, and to give even a certain account of events far back in the world’s history. Besides, who is to select the facts which are morally important so as to bring out responsibility, and promise, and law in their order, and lay the foundations of grace in sin and God’s sovereign love, giving hope by prophecy, while law and .responsibility were insisted on, till the rejection of the Son of God come in love shewed that grace only could avail for man; while the ordering of the sacrifices gives a far fuller view of that of Christ than anything in the New Testament, though when offered, after all they were not understood? It is a whole which certainly man never put together. I have no objection at all, as I have long ago said in reply to this infidelity elsewhere, to a thousand documents, provided it is God who out of them gives me His mind.
But to return to Bleek. He accepts the Elohistic and Jehovistic theory of Astruc and others; and the main body of history he accounts with many to be the Elohistic one, the same, he declares, as Ewald’s Book of Origins. But repetitions of the same story as Bethel, Beersheba, etc., prove it was put together, not written by Moses, or one Mosaical author. But there is more. As to this he is very decided. The idea of inspired prophecy is not admitted. He might assume with Ewald that the interest in Joseph might arise from its being from a northern author, if their composition happened so late as Ewald states it. But if so, how came Judah to receive it? As to God’s having anything to say to the history, that is not in question. He then settles that this Elohistic writing extended down from the creation to Saul. The references to taking possession of the land of Canaan, and Joseph’s bones, so again the promise that kings should descend from Abraham, are proofs of the date at which it was written. This is done in such a way that it may be supposed with great likelihood that he had the fulfilment of these promises before his eyes; so that it was not written, at the earliest, before the days of Saul. No other author but one who had set forth the command of Joseph concerning his bones would have related so trivial a circumstance as their burial. The certainty of faith that God would fulfil His promises, noticed withal in Hebrews n, never enters their head. It was doubtless drawn from more ancient accounts by the Elohistic writer; but it was natural that they should be interested in such a part of their ancestors’ history, and this was revised and expanded in our book of Genesis. However, Ewald’s account of it is lacking in proof and clearly arbitrary. It would seem, however, that the author of our Elohistic ground writing did not employ the materials he derived from the earlier records exactly in the same way as the Jehovistic completer of the work dealt with his sources. Instead of simply appropriating them in all their original peculiarities of form, he adopted them in accordance with his own individuality as an author.
The Elohistic “writing endeavoured to avoid introducing references to Mosaic or post-Mosaic circumstances and regulations into the patriarchal times.” Thus there is nothing of clean and unclean beasts. Did Noah make the difference, or did he not? “It does not certainly admit of a question that the author of the Elohistic writing formed his narrative in general accordance with the historical tradition as he found it already existing, in ancient, perhaps pre-Mosaic, records. But we should expect from the individuality which he exhibits as an author, if he himself had belonged to a time when David and Solomon had raised the tribe of Judah to such great distinction and pre-eminence over all the other tribes, that the ancestor of that tribe would have come forward far more prominently among his brethren than is actually the case.” Ewald’s view is quite inadmissible, etc.
The sum of the discussion in which he seeks to refute Ewald is based on the principle that the whole character of the writing is produced by the circumstances in which the author found himself, whether under Saul, as he says, or Solomon, as Ewald holds. But it is too long for me to introduce here: Only all this shews that there is not a thought of God’s hand in it or inspiration, or even God’s guardian care, but simply and solely of man. But I will add a few passages to confirm this on Exodus 15. As to a part of it, he says, from the context, and the whole relation which this bears to what precedes, it is not likely that Moses would have expressed himself in this way immediately after the passage of the Red Sea, etc. Again, “These unmistakable inaccuracies and things not agreeing with the context could not in any way have got into the narrative, if the latter had been appended to their laws by Moses himself or a contemporary of his, and above all, not very easily if the whole were the work of a thoroughly independent historian.” … The circumstances attending it lead us to think that the visit of Jethro to Moses is placed too soon in the history; also, that the Mosaic ordinances on the institution of the tabernacle of covenant likewise have too early a place. It is likewise previously remarked that in other respects the narratives are in themselves somewhat obscure and inaccurate, not rightly agreeing at least with other accounts of the Pentateuch.
Now I do not hesitate to say that all this judgment flows solely from ignorance of the divine mind in the passages, and consequent inability to estimate the perfect and admirable order and connection in which the passages occur. They are a series in which that divine order is singularly striking; but those who leave out God in the matter cannot, of course, discern His wisdom or His order in it. “There are several times in Exodus accounts of something being written down by Moses, once in reference to historical matters of fact, and twice as to legal ordinances, yet there is plainly nothing about them which, by its whole internal character, would shew them to be genuinely Mosaic. In Leviticus 26 the author of this admonitory discourse, as it here runs, probably had the circumstance under his notice that the people had been punished, at least partly, by expulsion from their country, and consequently its composition in its present form must have occurred at a later date than that of the Jehovistic. This last is perhaps not later than the reign of David, and not quite in the latter part of his reign.” (Vol. 1, 299, Venables’ Translation.) As to Balaam’s prophecy, I think it must be assumed that the speeches of Balaam were not literally recorded just as he delivered them, since even a contemporary Israelitish author could not easily have gained an exact knowledge of them. We have reason to suppose that the prophecies received the form in which we now have them through the Hebrew author, who composed the whole narrative and perhaps knew nothing more definite of their purport than that the foreign seer, instead of cursing the Israelites conformably to the wish of the Moabitish king, had repeatedly blessed them. Can we have a more complete setting aside of God in the whole matter? After further dwelling on the language (Hebrew), and the name Jehovah, neither of which the Mesopotamian would have used, he says: “Now if our assumption as to the authorship be correct, we may, of course, very well suppose that the circumstances by which he himself was surrounded floated across the mind of the Hebrew composer of the narrative, and in this way he came unconsciously to intermingle with it references bearing the marks of his own time, or the wishes and hopes which he entertained.” Thus he ascertains the date. He is disposed, though it be difficult, to decide it was in Saul’s reign. Hence the Elohist may have written it, otherwise the Jehovist must have met with and adopted it. There might perhaps have existed in the Elohistic writing a shorter and somewhat differently-shaped narrative of Balaam’s history; and this is pointed out to us in chapter 31:8-16, since Balaam here appears under somewhat different circumstances… It is not to be denied, however, that the last verses in Balaam’s speeches present great difficulties. … To me it continues to be the more probable view that the conclusion of his discourse ran somewhat differently in the original narrative than it does at present, and that its present form belongs to a later time than the composition of the rest of the account, and of the whole book of Numbers, etc.
To such straits do those reduce themselves who deny inspiration. Denying the possibility consequently of prophecy, they fix the date of composition by the circumstances mentioned in it, and, when there are several as here, are at their wits’ end. But the ridiculous notion of a credible contemporary history disappears as much as inspiration; and what have we got instead of the word of God?
But these, as we have seen, are substantially on the same ground, be it in the sober speculations of Bleek, or in the enthusiastic admiration of the more poetic Ewald. The historic books of scripture are treated as mere traditions worked up by human authors; that is, as human compositions, and if any part has the form of prophecy, it is used as a proof that the author lived at the time the event referred to happened, and then put it in a prophetic form into the mouth of Moses or Abraham, etc.
I do not think Dr. Dods, in the very flimsy sermon and excuse for it which he has published, honest on the point. He says, so far as regards the narration of events, in which God has revealed Himself, we find the historical writers of scripture, in thorough agreement with criticism, asserting that the prime requisite is knowledge of these facts at first-hand; and he quotes Luke, and quotes him falsely, making him say exactly the contrary of what he does say. But what has this to do with the matter in question? This is substantially the inspiration of the Old Testament, where he passes over the fact that in the most important parts of it such a principle can by no possibility apply. There are no accounts written by eyewitnesses, as in a measure (though not as to large and most important parts) in the New Testament. In all the law-giving part of the Old Testament divine communications are asserted to have existed. Jehovah, or Jahve if they like it better, spake unto Moses. This does not go on the ground of credible witnesses, nor are they facts they could be witnesses of. They are not facts in which God revealed Himself, but words from the mouth of God. This is either true or false. God did speak to Moses or He did not. But it was not that of which any could be a witness save at the first revelation at the foot of Sinai. The great law-giver might prove Jehovah had spoken by him by making the earth open her mouth and swallow up those who resisted the authority he had by it; not God’s way, no doubt, in these days of grace. But this only proved that in the communications there were no witnesses. Yet this large part of the Pentateuch is not the case of credible witnesses to God revealing Himself in facts, but God giving a revelation of His will by His word without any fact at all. As to the fall and all the circumstances of it, it is the weightiest fact, save the coming of the blessed Lord to redeem us from it, that ever happened in the world, knowledge at first-hand being just nonsense, unless it be first-hand from God Himself, which Dr. Dods openly denies.
But Scripture does not simply give facts in which God has revealed Himself. It tells us things in which man has revealed himself when there was no divine fact at all; in which the devil has revealed himself and will, and his ways and wiles, till he be cast into the lake of fire, and all the development of the various relationships between God and man till he rejected the Son of God: I may say the whole history of the world as related to God, with all in man and in God, and in Satan that it depended on; minute facts historically in which God had no part, but on which all depended; responsibility and life-giving power in all their bearings and relations one to another from the garden of Eden till glory and judgment; in innocence without law, under law, under grace, through the cross and the the Holy Ghost given; up to glory and judgment. Who would have the discernment to choose the right facts to give all this? This theory lowers the whole nature and moral value of Scripture, as it is ridiculous theoretically that we are to have the facts of Genesis from credible eye-witnesses.
I do not think it honest of Dr. Dods to talk about a theory of inspiration. Wisely or unwisely, men may have theories about this, generally unwisely I think; for God’s way of communicating, though He has partially in the case of Miriam and Aaron spoken of it, is not much within our ken, nor, as I have said, if I were inspired could I communicate the manner of it to one who was not. If it be said “The word of the Lord came “is clearly direct inspiration, what is the meaning of that as to the manner of it? But it is not honest, because Dr. Dods denies as to the historical parts of scripture that they are a revelation at all. God’s acts are the revelation; the scripture is not God’s revelation at all. Those may credibly record His acts; but this is man’s doing. It is nonsense, because the greater part of historical scripture, and that which is used in the New Testament as divine, is made up of what are not God’s great acts; yet all hangs inseparably together— what refers to man’s responsibility as well as what God often, consequently, did. It is nonsense, because of the most important part you have and can have no account from firsthand eye-witnesses at all—moral nonsense, because man would not be competent to choose the important facts on which the whole history depended morally, having, outside Scripture, proved himself incompetent even as to the great facts, by turning the tradition of them into myths, one more absurd than another, and in those most like Scripture connecting it with false gods and wrong principles, and falsifying the facts themselves, as in the recovered Babylonish account of the deluge. It is absurd, because it supposes God meant to reveal Himself to man, and yet did it so that the revelation could not in the most important points, or indeed in any, reach men with any certainty at all. And further, it is, as to the word of God, infidelity. According to Dr. Dods there is no such thing at all.
Let not Dr. Dods flinch. May his conscience indeed feel the destroying the whole ground of faith for simple souls! But he expressly declares that the revelation is some act in which God revealed Himself; that Scripture is at best a credible account of it by man. I see nothing in it but the effect and flimsy reproduction of the more open infidelity of the Germans discussing Hebrew literature; and the note can leave no question as to its source in any mind acquainted with German writers. But it goes beyond, not their principles, but their statements; happily for others, unhappily for Dr. Dods, in that he denies that the historical part of Scripture is a revelation at all. I should have a great deal to say to many details of his reasonings; but I am not going to merge in a controversy of details the great and vital question, Have we in Scripture (that is, the historical part) a revelation from God? I say the historical part, because Dr. Dods so expresses himself; but it would involve all the words of Christ and the apostles, for they all treat it as such.
I may add, though it be of little moment in view of the all-momentous subject, that Riehm (though differing from Bleek in many details, as all these writers do from one another, constantly rejecting utterly the grounds on which their proofs are based;46 yet) in all that is important, entirely agrees with him. Genesis 17:6 is a proof that it was written in David’s time! Bleek put it too soon in Saul’s; he is right in holding that Deuteronomy was written in Manasseh’s reign! The Deuteronomist had the four first books of the Pentateuch before him (see Studien und Kritiken, 1862)!
I add also that we may see what man and tradition make, not of creation, for none believe in that, but of the formation of things out of chaos (Sanchoniathon quoted by Eusebius in Cory’s Fragments).
He supposes that the beginning of all things was a condensed dark misty air, or a breeze of thick air, and a chaos turbid and black as Erebus, and that these were unbounded, and for a long series of ages destitute of form. But when this wind became enamoured of its own principles (the chaos),47 and an intimate union took place, that connection was called Pothos (cupid or desire), and it was the beginning of the creation of all things. And it (the chaos) knew not its own production, but from it with the wind was generated mist, which some call Ilus, mud, but others the putrefaction of a watery mixture. And from this sprung all the seed of the creation, and the generation of the universe. And there were certain animals without sensation from which other animals were produced, and these were called Zophasemin, that is, the overseers of the heavens, and they were formed in the shape of an egg; and from mist shone forth the sun, the moon, and the greater and lesser stars.
I need not go farther; other such statements may be found, and less absurd perhaps in the records. This is Phoenician. But it is not only for the absurdity I note it, but to remark that we have a vague tradition of the Spirit of God (it is pneuma, the same word as wind) moving on the face of the waters, and find what it becomes when His account is not given in its purity by the hand and inspiration of God. It is connected with all the worst principles of the heavenly powers of the zodiac and of astrology; mere human generation, a great principle of heathenism; and in other accounts, as the Babylonish, with the creation of the false gods, the mundane egg, encircled by the serpent and after the flood, of which the tradition was naturally better known, though the facts are falsified and connected with idolatry, the tower of Babel and the like, but all falsified and turned to the setting up false gods and mythological fables. Out of Scripture where is there credible testimony? how came it there only? The theory is a gross absurdity, contradicted by well-known facts. What a mercy it is to have the blessed Word of God, and to believe it, authenticated by the Lord Jesus and the apostles! What do men fall into where they have not got it? I have taken my review of Bleek’s statements from Venables’ translation, and Ewald from the original. I might have multiplied quotations from both; but the system is plain from what I have quoted.
As to Deuteronomy, the author cannot well have been Moses. We have already seen that the Deuteronomic legislation contains those very laws which by their form and purpose are very unlikely to have been promulgated by Moses in this shape, for example, the precept as to kings, and the legal ordinances as to military concerns to which many others might be added; also that there are certain passages in these discourses of Moses which contain much that it is most improbable should have been spoken by him in this way. The view taken of the high places is a great topic with Bleek and all these writers in connection with subsequent history. Hence he concludes: “It is evident from what goes before, that it (the date) cannot be fixed until a long time after Solomon, perhaps not before the age of Hezekiah, king of Judah”; Hezekiah having been the first who rooted out not only idolatry but also the high places. He rejects the postponing it to the Babylonish captivity; there would have been more reference to it in the threats. He rejects the Josiah fable, and puts it between Hezekiah and Josiah. What is said of the Josiah story he declares often quite uncertain, often absolutely improbable. The blessing of Moses is not from him, as he once thought. It was probably written about 800 in Jeroboam II and Uzziah. …” The purport of most of the sayings, and particularly the conclusion of the whole song, leaves us no room to doubt that it was composed at a time when the Israelitish people, the ten tribes, were, as a whole, in happy circumstances. For if present circumstances can alone account for such being referred to, we must guess at the time of composition.” He rejects here also Ewald’s view and says, “We may consider with the greatest probability that the author of Deuteronomy was also the last editor of the whole Pentateuch, and that the work received from him the extent and arrangement in which we now have it… We may easily imagine that by his hand perhaps certain things were altered or inserted in the previous books.” And I might add, from his remarks on Judges, Samuel, Kings, a multitude of similar— perhaps of stronger passages; but the same principle of human composition and judging. Such is the account by the very soberest of these German speculators on the Pentateuch, on the date by the notices of events, which could only be known by their being in the author’s own day. One who rejects the wild statements of the bolder infidels believes the Mosaic laws in general refer to the desert, and rejects the fable about composing Deuteronomy in Josiah’s time. Not that we gain much by that, for it was after Hezekiah’s; but inspiration is utterly rejected by all, credible history and contemporary history not believed in; the most recent part of the history, the Exodus and Moses’ time composed some 500 years afterwards, part of it 700 or 800 years with some traditions no doubt; and the whole under the influence of the state of things the composer was in and the supposed prophecies drawn from the circumstances in which the composer lived.
And this is called a literary consideration of the Pentateuch, as contrasted with the religious point of view! Contrasted it is surely. Only one must remember that the literary point of view denies all that makes the scriptural history a religious book at all. The later editors have composed it according to their views, and the writers arranged it according to theirs. God had no part in it at all, as far as appears in either. And I beg my reader to notice that I have not quoted here the more openly infidel, but the most solid and sober, Bleek, translated into English by Canon Venables, who, though not agreeing with everything, translates it as a specially valuable introduction to the Bible. But they are all alike in their rejection of divine inspiration. It is not “every scripture is given by inspiration of God,” but no scripture is. Dr. Dods does not go so far; he admits the prophets are when they say, “Thus saith the Lord.”
Mr. Smith with versatile inconsistency, which on such a subject is the most culpable want of seriousness, says that he believes for other reasons in inspiration, when he has published what he holds to be proof, borrowed indeed from others, that they are mere human compositions; and draws from and authenticates, unless I much mistake, the worse class of infidels, that is, those who are more open and impudent in their treatment of Scripture.
36 A review of Dr. Marcus Dods’ sermon, Inspiration and Revelation, with a preface (Edinburgh, 1877); and the system of rationalism of Dr. Ewald of which it is a popular echo.
37 In his pamphlet Broad-Churchism in Scotland.
38 And note here, there is a difference between revelation and inspira-tionj a point for many reasons I should insist on. But revelation is to the divine vessel or instrument: inspiration is the communication he makes of it. The spiritual apprehension is in him who personally profits by it.
39 In the Bible, then, we meet with two things—God’s revelations of Himself, and the literature in which these revelations are recounted and preserved. Speaking of the flood, he says: “That is the revelation, and the Bible gives us an account of this revelation.”
40 Reprinted from vol. 1, Bible Witness and Review.
41 The tabernacle, some of these doctors tell us, could not have been made or exist in the wilderness, did not in the land, as the history of the nation proves, but was invented, being copied from the temple when it was known. This shews the importance of the principle, for it was made after the pattern in the mount; and it is so treated in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
42 He refers what is said of Jethro to this, and I think this only.
43 Or “goes off to” flüchtete.
44 In the English translation we read: I have written to them the great things of my law. Ewald translates “great thing,” rebehv myriads, and I suppose does not heed my law torathi.
45 Ewald had resisted this but (it seems) changed his mind; so he says little about it.
46 Thus Bleek of Ewald. Ewald’s view is much more involved; much, however, in it is incapable of proof and part quite erroneous. Again, the opinion of Bertheau, which is generally allied to Ewald’s and likewise quite groundless. Such passages are common.
47 This explanation is Cory’s.