The Kingdom of God

BEFORE entering on the history of the kingdom of God under the Old Testament, it will be necessary to make a few introductory inquiries relative to its nature, extent, name, division, import, and method of treatment.
The history is divided into two great parts, the history of the kingdom of nature, and the history of the kingdom of grace. The ground of separation is formed by the different relation in which God stands to the world since the fall, already indicated in the Old Testament by the different names Elohim and Jehovah. The relation which God bears to the whole world is that of creator, preserver, and ruler. This is the kingdom of nature. It is divided, according to the condition of the creatures of God, into two parts, the kingdom of bondage and the kingdom of freedom. The former is a question of natural history in its stricter sense; the latter of civil, profane, world-history. One of its chief tasks is to point out how the providence and sovereignty of God reveal themselves in the destinies of nations and of those individuals who have exercised special influence on the whole; how all the changes of origin and decay are under His direction, and especially how His retributive justice checks the abuse of freedom, punishes it, and humiliates everything which arrogantly presumes to place itself in opposition to Him (one need only recollect Shakspere’s historical pieces, In which this forms the centre in prefiguration of all higher historical composition); finally, to show how all His arrangements have the ultimate and higher aim to prepare, establish, and confirm the kingdom of grace in humanity. While, therefore, profane history has to do with the universal providence of God; the history of the kingdom of grace has to do with His special providence. The idea of grace, in so far as it is restoration, stands in necessary relation to the idea of sin. (As mercy presupposes misery, so grace presupposes sin.) As soon as sin had once found entrance into the world, as soon as the image of God had been lost or obscured, a return to God became impossible unless God Himself would enter into humanity, unless He Himself would reunite the bond which had been torn asunder by the guilt of man; and would found a kingdom of holiness and righteousness in opposition to the kingdom of sin which had its origin in the fall. The history of the kingdom of grace is therefore the history of the peculiar arrangements of God for restoring the happiness which had been forfeited by the fall; and in necessary connection with it, the history of the way in which men as free personal beings upon whom salvation cannot be forced, but to whom it is offered for acceptance or rejection, demeaned themselves towards it, whether they accepted or rejected it.
The centre of God’s decrees for the salvation of man was from the beginning in Christ. But in order that His appearance might effect that which it was calculated to produce in accordance with the condition of men upon whom happiness was not to be forced, it was preceded by a long period of preparation; of direct preparation with regard to one nation chosen for this purpose; of indirect preparation when all other nations were concerned, although civil, not sacred history has to do with the latter. Thus God’s measures of salvation, and therefore their history, is divided into two great parts: the time of preparation; and the time of fulfilment, called by Paul in Gal 4:4 the πλήρωμα τοῦ χρόνου. These two parts have very aptly been termed the economies or dispensations. Because every relation of grace into which God enters with all humanity, or with a single nation, or with an individual, is in the language of Scripture designated a covenant,—a term which implies that God never gives without requiring; that with every new grace the question simultaneously arises, I do this for thee, what dost thou for me? that all unions into which God enters are not of a pathological, but of an ethical nature: therefore the first economy has been called that of the Old Testament, the second that of the New Testament. Their essential distinction consists in the fact, that the former is based upon the promised and future Christ, the latter upon the manifested Christ; the former is the gradual progressive preparation of salvation in Christ, the latter is the appearance of this salvation from its beginning to its final and glorious fulfilment. In this main distinction the others have their origin.
With reference to the extent of the first part, the older theologians universally begin the history of the Old Testament with the creation of the world, and carry it on to the birth of Christ. Against the starting-point which they take there is the less to be objected, since in this respect they follow the sacred records themselves. If we designate the first economy as the economy of preparation, it must not be forgotten that already in the first history of the human race there is much which may fitly be regarded as preparatory. Thus, for example, the divine sentence of punishment after the fall, and, still more, the punishment itself, was designed to awaken in man the consciousness of sin, and consequently to prepare him for the revelation of grace. In like manner the deluge was intended to set limits, at least for a time, to the depravity which was increasing with rapid strides, in order that at the beginning of the special revelations of God all susceptibility for their reception might not have disappeared. Thus the confusion of tongues, which had its origin in the diversity of minds, served, by scattering the various nations, to impede the communication of evil, and to guard against the development of a common spirit, or universalism in sin. But the main thing, the proof of the development of sin, to which chief attention is directed in the sacred records from Adam to Abraham—the reference to it forms the soul of Genesis, Genesis 1-11—furnishes that series of the more definite arrangements of God which began with Abraham, with the best basis for the foundation of the kingdom of grace, for preparation of Christ’s manifestation. When we remember how sin which entered into the world by the fall even in early times attained to such fearful power as to cause fratricide, how before long it gave rise to a nation which sought its honour in barbarity and violence, how by degrees it drew down into its whirlpool the ἐκλογή who had remained from the beginning, how it attained such supremacy that with the exception of a few individuals it became necessary to destroy the whole race of man, how among the descendants of the few who had been rescued forgetfulness of God soon broke forth anew on an enlarged scale; the measures which God had arranged for salvation, beginning with Abraham, appear in their true significance; their absolute necessity becomes manifest; and hence that which proves the necessity for the economy of preparation may itself be regarded as an element of its history. Through Adam’s fall human nature was completely corrupted; this is the key to an understanding of God’s plan of salvation. Thus the beginning with Adam is not unsuitable if we regard the first economy as the economy of preparation. And even if we regard it as the economy of promise, there is a good argument in favour of this starting-point also. For the promise begins immediately after the fall, though the promised One does not stand out with clearness; which was the case even in the promises to Abraham and Isaac. In the judicial sentence on the tempter, which has reference to the invisible cause more than to the visible instrument, there is certainly a promise to the betrayed human race of future victory over their betrayer, and over the sin he introduced. And this promise is more nearly defined soon after the deluge, in Gen 9:26-27, where it is stated that the promised salvation is to originate with the descendants of Shem, and from them to pass over to the posterity of his brethren. Whatever little reason there is, after what we have said, for rejecting this earlier starting-point, we have come to the conclusion on many accounts to adopt another, the call of Abraham. Our outward and subjective argument is based upon the wish to secure for ourselves the possibility of a thorough treatment, by the greatest possible restrictions of our space within the narrow limits which recent times accord to academic lectures, especially on this subject (Rambach read five semesters on the church history of the Old Testament), and at the same time not to encroach too much on another lecture, that on Genesis, in which it will be necessary to treat the history from the creation to Abraham’s call with particular fulness. An additional argument is drawn from the subject itself, viz. that the proper founding of the Old Testament, the proper establishment of the kingdom of God upon earth, the economy of preparation begins with the call of Abraham; so that when the earlier history is concerned, it is sufficient to draw attention to the manner in which it serves as a preparation for this founding and establishment. Against the concluding-point of the older theologians there is one objection to be made, namely, if we follow Scripture we find that the perfect end of the economy of the Old Testament consists not in the birth, but in the mediatorial death of Christ, and in the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, which takes place as a consequence of the altered relation of God towards the world, effected by Christ’s death. Forgiveness of sins and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost are already cited by the prophets, especially by Jeremiah in the classic passage Jer 31:31, etc., as essential marks of the appearance of the Messianic kingdom, and of the abrogation of the Old Testament. The Lord Himself and His disciples kept the law until His mediatorial death; and Paul makes the abrogation of the Old Testament date from the same event,—the Lord Himself declares the New Testament to be first instituted by His blood, and to rest in it. But although the efficacy of Christ certainly belongs to the time of the economy of the Old Testament, yet, in accordance with the nature of the question, it belongs specially to the economy of the New Testament, since it professes to be the necessary foundation of the facts which ushered in the revelation of this economy. In it we find the New Testament silently germinating in the time of the Old Testament. Ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο, with this fact those others were also given which led on directly to the cessation of the Old Testament. The Lord Himself, in Mat 11:13, πάντες γὰρ οἱ προφῆται καὶ ὁ νόμος ἕως Ἰωάννου ἐπροφήτευσαν, points to the appearance of the Baptist, so closely connected with His own, as the great turning-point, when the time of promise and preparation begins to give way to the time of fulfilment. Therefore we exclude the history of Christ.
On the other hand, it will not be irrelevant if, by way of appendix, we give the history of those events which, with revelation generally, lie properly without the limits of the history of the Old Testament, together with the history of the Jews from the rejection of Christ, by which they cease to be a covenant-people, to the destruction of Jerusalem. For these events throw light upon the kingdom of God under Israel, being a consequence of it, and a divine judgment which befell the former covenant-people, or more correctly their caput mortuum,—for the ἐκλογή formed the stem of the church of the New Testament,—because they had violated the conditions of the covenant which had been made. Because they are a consequence of the sovereignty of God they cannot be entirely abandoned to profane history, which is properly occupied only with the universal rule of God. Therefore we exclude the point where the New Testament passes on into the Old Testament, and on the other hand include the point where the Old Testament passes on into the New Testament.
In earlier theological phraseology the history of the Old Testament was universally termed the Historia Ecclesiastica V. T. This appellation rests upon the conviction, entirely conformable to Scripture, that the kingdom of God upon earth was not perhaps begun with Christ, but only completed; that from the time of Abraham there existed a true church of God, into which the heathen only were received; that from the commencement of the institutions of salvation till the end of the world there is but one people of God, the sons of Abraham and Israel, from whose communion unbelief and unfaithfulness exclude even those who belong thereto by birth; in accordance with the expression so often repeated in the law, “This soul is rooted up out of his land.” But on the other hand faith admits every one to equal privileges with those who are born into this community. This is a position so firmly established in the writings of the Old Testament, especially the prophetic, and in the utterances of Christ and His apostles, that it can only be contested by complete or partial disbelief in revelation. The Saviour speaks from this point of view when, in Mat 19:28, He says to the apostles, “Verily, I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” That the twelve tribes of Israel are not here named in the ordinary Jewish sense, but are intended to denote the whole church, is as certain as that the calling of the apostles has reference not to Jews alone, but to “all nations,” Mat 28:19. Even in the choice of the apostles the Lord is led by this mode of consideration, as certainly as that the number twelve has reference to the twelve tribes of Israel. In Rom 11:17-24, Paul recognises only one olive tree, one people of God, from whom unbelievers are excluded, and to whose fellowship faith admits all. James follows the same course of thought when he addresses his epistle to the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” etc.; and Peter, when he writes to the “strangers scattered throughout Pontus,” etc. It is certain that neither of them had any wish to exclude the heathen Christians, who, according to the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline Epistles, were at that time associated with the Jewish Christians in the Christian church; and just as little did they wish to include unchristian Jews. They address themselves to the true original sons, and to the adopted sons. John pursues the same course of thought in the Apocalypse, Rev 21:12, when he says that on the twelve gates of the city, which represents the church in the kingdom of glory, of the city in whose light even the heathen walk (Rev 21:24), are written names which are the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. Therefore the title of Hist. Eccl. V. T. has some significance in itself, and can only be objected to on one ground. According to the usual phraseology, which has a sound basis, the church is placed in opposition to the state. By this view, only the history of the kingdom of God under the New Testament can come under the name of Church History. For, properly speaking, an antithesis of church and state did not exist under the Old Testament, but both were inseparably joined together according to an arrangement of God, which had respect to the necessities of the Old Testament. The main argument lies in this, that the kingdom of God under the Old Testament possessed, in the spirit of Christ, no mighty principle involving the possibility of an unconditioned independent existence, but was obliged to look to the state for support. State and church formed only different sides of one and the same collective life. But we are not to understand that they formed really different sides, after the example of those who confound theocracy with hierarchy; for it is manifest that the various elements of divine sovereignty under the Old Testament are distinct: the priests have nothing to do with the civil government, but restricted themselves solely to the sphere of religion which they share with the prophets; while the civil rulers and the prophets occupy in their own sphere a position as independent and absolute as that of the priests. The distinction between the Old and New Testament is only apparently obviated by the consideration that even under the New Testament the church has various ramifications with the state. For where we find not a mere covenant but an actual union existing between church and state, as for example in the State Church of England; it is a result not of God’s institution, but of the sin of men, and therefore does not belong to the essence of the church of the New Testament, but can only be regarded as a perversion of it. In most cases, however, this intimate connection is only apparent, as for example in the Evangelical Church of Germany after its first establishment. But the fact that union with the state does not belong to the proper essence of the church of the New Testament is most clearly evidenced by the example of those Christian churches which have no connection with the state, as all Christian churches in America, Dissenters in England, the Free Church in Scotland, and among ourselves the Moravians and Separatist-Lutherans. Under the Old Testament such a community would have sunk helplessly. We infer this from the absolute dependence of religious life under the Old Testament on the personal piety of kings. Even under the New Testament a glorious blessing is attached to this piety; but it has not its former absolute influence. Nevertheless the Old Testament name of Church History is much more expressive of the thing than that which has become prevalent in the age of rationalism, viz. History of the Jews or Hebrew History, which leaves the main element untouched, the very thing which makes this history a theological discipline, the special revelation of God to this people. The appellation History of Theocracy is also objectionable, because this term, so popular among supranaturalist apologists, and indeed first originated in the apologetic region—it was introduced by Josephus—has acquired a profane, secondary signification. The Jewish historian generally uses theocracy of an ideal sovereignty; our historians speak of theocracy among the Egyptians, etc. It may also he objected to this appellation that it places the Old and New Testaments in an erroneous antithesis not known to Scripture at all: under the New Testament God is Lord and King, and only one particular form of His sovereignty is proper to the Old Testament. More suitable is the title, History of the Kingdom of God under Israel; but still better, perhaps the best, is the title. History of the Old Covenant, or of the Kingdom of God under the Old Covenant, because it not only, like the first, indicates its peculiar character, but at the same time specifies its connection with the history of the kingdom of God under the New Testament; and again because the term Israel is ambiguous, it cannot with propriety be applied only to the people of the old covenant.
As to the division of the Old Testament history, it falls naturally into two parts: the history of the period from Abraham’s call to Moses; and the history of the period from Moses to Christ. Yet in recent times these two parts have not unfrequently been placed in a false relation to one another, as Sack has well shown in his Apologetik; the first having been characterized as a mere preparation for the law, the second, as a preparation by the law for Christ; while in the New Testament, on the other hand, the close connection between the covenant with the patriarchs and the New Testament is made peculiarly prominent; and the law is designated only as an intermediate arrangement: comp. e.g. Gal 3:21-24. The covenant with the patriarchs unquestionably served at the same time as a preparation for the law; but this is not the chief aspect in which it should be regarded. The chief element in the covenant concluded with the patriarchs is, properly speaking, the promise that from their posterity salvation should go forth to all nations. Under the law itself this promise was even more clearly and definitely evolved through the medium of the prophets. Christ is the essence of prophecy. The law stands only in a subordinate relation to the promise, serving only as a means to facilitate its realization, and to call forth that necessity for redemption which is its basis. Therefore the greatest importance must be attached to the first part, and to that portion of the second which is connected with it; although the second part, owing to its greater copiousness, and to the outward magnificence of the events connected with it, as well as to its longer duration, occupies much more space.
Of these parts the second contains several subdivisions, corresponding to transition-points of special importance; both parts may be divided into the external and internal history. The former takes cognizance of the changes which took place in the outward condition of the bearers of revelation, specifies their fortunate or unfortunate relations with respect to other nations, and describes the life and character of those men who exercised special influence on the development of the nation; the latter represents the civil, moral, and religious condition of the people, examines the substance of the revelations committed to them at every period, defines the measure of religious perception, and the mode of worshipping God at each period; and together with the history of true religion gives an account of the origin of false religions, especially of idolatrous worship among the covenant-people. The representation of the theology of the Old Testament, thus given in connection with history, is more appropriate than the separate treatment of it which has so often been attempted. For under the old dispensation doctrine had not yet elevated itself to independence, but was intimately bound up with history. Occasionally it became prominent, and was contained in a series of divine deeds, directions, and institutions, or appeared in connection with them. The separate treatment of the doctrine of faith and morals contained in the Old Testament overlooks this its characteristic distinction from the New Testament. A work so purely dogmatic as the Epistle to the Romans could not have been written under the Old Testament.
We shall now treat of the aim and import of the history of the Old Testament; first, in so far as it is an independent theological discipline; secondly, in its character as a science auxiliary to other portions of theology. The chief advantage of the Old Testament history is that it confirms us in the faith, and provides us with the means of confirming others in it. This happens in many ways, but especially in so far as it proves the inner coherence of all the divine preparations for salvation, the progress from the smaller to the greater, from systematic preparation to completion and fulfilment. It is by the perception of this very connection that many are first brought to the conviction that revelation cannot possibly be a human invention: and from the knowledge of it the believer continually gathers new confidence and strength. The believer has special need of strength at this time, when a host of apparent objections attempts to shake the faith not merely in this fact, but in revelation generally. He cannot meet the temptations which arise otherwise than by profound study of the history of the Old Testament. For it alone can prove that those events which, taken separately, often appear inconsistent, ridiculous, and unworthy of God, are found, when placed in connection with the whole, to contain a glorious revelation of the divine omnipotence, wisdom, and love. What Pliny says of nature, “Naturae rerum vis atque majestas in omnibus momentis fide caret, si quis modo partes ejus ac non totum complectatur animo,” is applicable to the kingdom of grace in a still stronger degree. The history of the Old Testament also serves to confirm faith, so far as it demonstrates an essential unity of doctrine through so many centuries, and amid such a multitude of authors writing under the most varied circumstances and outward influences; showing that at all times the same ideas of God and of the world were prevalent among the bearers of revelation, and that no contradiction ever took place. It also points out how, even in the first beginnings of revelation, all those doctrines were present, at least in germ, which afterwards, when the people of revelation had become ripe for them, appeared in full development. This perception is the more calculated to impress us with a lively sense of the divinity of revelation; the more distinctly do we recognise the changeableness and inconsistency of all human systems and self-made religions. In the region of nature all things are in a state of transition, and everything has its own time. Unity must therefore make the deeper impression the less it is identity: the more it is organic the more clearly we can throughout recognise a healthy and normal growth, without disturbances and defect in development, the more clearly we can perceive its freedom from error, and prove a building up of the highest step even upon the lowest, and at the same time a gradual progress. Further, the more plainly it can be demonstrated that the progress is everywhere in harmony with the necessity and requirements of the people of revelation. To this may be added the fact, that in the history of the Old Testament God’s special providence over His whole church, and over individual believers, appeared in a form more visible, and as it were palpable, than even in the New Testament, when God, after having so perfectly and unconditionally revealed Himself in Christ, could hide Himself the more (“he wieldeth his power in secret” is especially applicable to the New Testament time); and when the greater internal efficacy of the Spirit makes such an external manifestation no longer necessary; a fact which is also for our benefit in the Old Testament times. Why should it not powerfully strengthen faith in attacks causing distress to the whole church and to individuals, if we see how God for many centuries allowed His people to be oppressed in order to purify them, without ever suffering them to be crushed; how He rescued them through mighty wonders of His omnipotence, where no human help was possible; how He fulfilled all His promises most gloriously just when hope of their fulfilment had utterly disappeared? If even under the Old Testament, as we find from numerous passages in the Psalms and prophetic books, comp. e.g. the 3d chapter of Habakkuk and Psalms 77, faith drew from previous deliverances the firm conviction that God could, must, and would prove Himself an equally powerful helper in time of present need, why should not our faith draw the same conclusion from the same premises, for we have before us the whole series of divine deliverances and proofs of grace, as well as the ultimate fulfilment of all promises through the coming of Christ? We require this confirmation of faith in the present time the more as the condition of the church is more oppressed and dangerous, and as the visible presents us with fewer bright prospects. There is certainly no reason why we should rob ourselves of a single God-given help to our faith.
The history of the Old Testament also serves for a living apprehension of the being and attributes of God, and therefore supplies that which properly makes the theologian a theologian. Nothing else can compensate for this view of the personality of God: speculation cannot, for at best it only furnishes us with abstract ideas of God, lifeless conceptions, for whose reality it can offer no security; neither cart the history of Christ in its isolation, for it does not afford us on every side a perfect view of the personality of God, and is so closely connected with the earlier revelations of God that without knowledge of them its inherent efficacy cannot be accurately estimated. We see this daily in the wretched examples of those who separate what God has united. It is this intuitive knowledge of the personality of God which alone can kindle our love to God, can inspire us with holy awe of Him, and can call forth in us the striving after a divine life; while the mere abstract theory of God is cold, leaves us cold, or even makes us so. Whoever neglects the history of the Old Testament deprives himself of one instrument toward the fulfilment of the first and greater commandment, viz. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” and makes himself incapable of leading others to its observance.
But just as the history of the Old Testament gives us a living knowledge of God, and inspires us with love to Him, it also leads us to the knowledge of ourselves, and makes us long to be freed from ourselves. The history of the people of Israel, of the nature of their relations to divine revelations, and of their frequent apostasy even after they had experienced proofs of the divine grace, is a mirror of our own inner life. It repeats itself in every age and in every individual. In it the tua res agitur is visible throughout. This mode of handling the old covenant meets us frequently even in the Old Testament. Thus, for example, in Psalms 78, Asaph, in his own person, is held up to the people of God, as a mirror in which they might see their own faces, their history, which was written for this very purpose. In the New Testament the same thing occurs in the discourse of Stephen. So in 1Co 10:6, where it is said of the people of the Old Testament, in relation to the church of the New, τύποι ἡμῶν ἐγενήθησαν. This history is to us a rich source of humility, a loud exhortation that we should work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, since our heart, like that of Israel, is a perverse and coward thing. But it shows us at the same time in the life of individuals what we may and should become, the more impressively in proportion as the helps to a divine life which were available at that time were few in comparison with those offered to us to whom Christ is openly set forth, and which we possess in the Spirit of Christ, the potentiality of the Spirit of God: it furnishes us with noble examples of the highest faith and of the most fervent love to God. In this last respect its significance is set forth by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Hebrews 11.
The following is also an important consideration. The New Testament has especially to do with the relation of the Lord to individual souls and to His church. On the other hand, the Old Testament has a prevailing national character. In the history of one single nation it brings to our consciousness the dealings of God in the guidance of the nations generally, shows us upon what their salvation and destruction rested, relieves us with respect to the future from the torment of our own thoughts, and gives us the basis of a solid knowledge. We wish to know what will become of our people, how they are to be helped, and what is our duty in relation to them; on which points we gain instruction from the Old Testament. The energetic efficiency of divine justice which is there set forth guards us against participation in those sanguine illusions of the time which promise salvation without repentance, while we are kept from enervating despair by the glorious revelation of that divine grace which after judgment and by judgment makes life proceed from death.
So much for the import of the Old Testament as an independent discipline. That it is able to perform what we have attributed to it in this respect, may be proved from innumerable examples in every age. Luther’s “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” is not in vain attached to the 46th Psalm. It is the sum of that which he had learnt from the history of the Old Testament. Let any one now inquire into the position with respect to the Old Testament of those who stand fast, as well as of those who waver and totter, and he will find that the distinction between them has its root in this, that the former have the rock of the Old Testament under their feet. Let us now say a few words on the value of this discipline as a science auxiliary to other theological disciplines. The biblical science of Introduction is certainly on our side auxiliary to biblical history. It does for it what a knowledge of sources does for profane history, secures to it the use of those sources from which it has to create, and consequently its ground and basis. For its own credibility rests upon the authority of these sources.
Yet from another point of view biblical history may be regarded as an auxiliary science to Introduction. It only can supply materials for the internal proof of the genuineness and credibility of the separate biblical books, for it alone avails to carry us back to the time of their origin; it alone can give us an insight into the historical ground and basis upon which the authors stood and worked. History stands in a similar relation to the exegesis of the Old Testament also. Exegesis provides it with the greater part of its materials; while, on the other hand, it renders the most important services to exegesis. It secures the expositor from arbitrary twisting and interpretation of those narratives which transcend the usual course of nature, making him aware that in this respect the divine mode of revelation remained the same for a thousand years; while at the same time it deprives him of all desire for such attempts by disclosing to him the inner necessity for these facts, which can only be perceived from their connection with the whole. It also shows that that which is wonderful in respect of form is most natural in respect of substance; and that in this historical, connection it must first be postulated that its non-existence would be matter of surprise. On the other hand, ‘it saves the expositor from a crude apprehension of the form of many facts transcending the limits of the moral, by proving to him that in the region of Scripture a wider margin is given to the inner sense, so that he must not at once regard every event of which the contrary is not expressly stated as a gross external thine, belonging to the department of the five senses. It also provides him with a clue to historical interpretation. Especially important is it in this respect for understanding the prophetic writings, which must be explained by the time of their origin, and upon which light is thrown by the fulfilment of prophecy. The same may be said with reference to the interpretation of the Psalms; since it leads us to seek out their authors, and explains the historical references. The more historically and individually we understand the Psalms, the more do they acquire an edifying signification. In this way alone can we rightly apprehend their meaning. Where the historical books of the Old Testament are concerned, especially those which it is not usual to explain in academic lectures, Old Testament history takes the place of a real commentary.
Its importance for exegesis is self-evident. The New Testament is, generally speaking, only the key-stone and completion; it rests entirely upon earlier revelation; and where this is not thoroughly apprehended, the understanding of its records must remain extremely deficient, not only in one but in every respect, for even that which in the New Testament appears most independent, is in some way, directly or indirectly, theologically connected with the Old Testament. We may say that the key-stone to the understanding of the New Testament is a perception of its connection with the Old. The Gospel of John, e.g., is from beginning to end interwoven with deeply concealed references to the Old Testament. And when these significant references are not apprehended, as for example in the commentaries of Lücke, De Wette, and Meyer, exposition generally can occupy only a subordinate position. At every step in such commentaries we have the feeling that we are following a guide not competent for his task. The history of the Old Testament would therefore be indispensable to the exegesis of the New, even if the latter were not indebted to it for its most important aid to historical interpretation, viz. a knowledge of the religious and moral condition of the people at the time of the appearance of Christ, of their relation to other nations, of the various schools and sects among them, and of the character of the expectations which were current respecting the Messiah. Among the other theological disciplines apologetics owe most to the history of the Old Testament. If we limit this science, as many have done in modern times, to a systematic representation of the arguments for the divine mission of Christ, the history of the Old Testament is important so far as it provides it with material for the demonstration of one of its most important proofs of the harmony of that fulfilment of salvation which took place in Christ with the preparation for it under the Old Testament. If we attribute to it the scientific defence of revelation generally, the history of the Old Testament becomes even more indispensable; it is then entirely dependent on history in one of its leading parts, and is distinguished from it only by a different form and mode of treatment.
We must speak, finally, of the consistent mode of treating biblical history. In general, whatever the mode of treatment may be, it arises from what has already been remarked concerning the import and object of biblical history. The representation must be such that those advantages which the history is able to afford may really be attained as far as possible. It must therefore have its principal aim constantly in view, that which, as an independent discipline, it professes to accomplish, and must not so far lose itself in learned details as to interfere with this aim, lest it should become a mere aggregate of detached notices, and thus lose all title to the name of an independent theological discipline. In this respect many have gone far astray—among the ancients Buddeus, among moderns Kurtz. They enter too minutely into details, and have no clear consciousness of the limits between the history and exegesis of the Old Testament. The history of the Old Testament must not, however, overlook these details; it must treat of the special Mosaic laws, of the separate events of the life of David; and must not forego theological inquiries, lest it should incapacitate itself for doing that which, as an auxiliary science, it ought to accomplish. A special demand arises, for him who elaborates the Old Testament, out of the relation which modern time has assumed towards the Old Testament. With regard to this question more than any other—in consequence of a century’s work of learned neology—a mass of prejudices, distorted views, and false arguments concerning and against the Old Testament generally, and the most important portions of its history in particular, have become prevalent, not only among the enemies of revelation, but also among the better intentioned who are really interested in arriving at truth and removing the contradiction which exists between their judgment concerning the Old Testament and that of Christ and the apostles. If it be the general task of theology to provide future servants of the church with means by which they may be able to justify, prove, and defend the faith before itself and others, the history of the Old Testament cannot consistently shrink from the duty of expressly contradicting these prejudices, in so far as they have apparent weight or value. On the other hand, care must be taken not to attach undue importance to this apologetic and polemic tendency, lest the total impression from without should be weakened; for the matter as it stands in itself, without reference to the way in which this one or that one has treated it, can only be apprehended by one mode of treatment. It will not be out of place here to draw attention to a fundamental idea throughout the history of the Old Testament which must be kept in view, which satisfactorily solves its greatest difficulties, and fills us with admiration of the divine love and wisdom, while he who is incapable of its perception sees only error and foolishness. This is the idea of the divine condescension, the συγκατάβασις, which has been profoundly and accurately apprehended by many of the church-fathers—Chrysostom for example. Its recognition becomes necessary so soon as the relation of the finite creation to the infinite Creator, the relation of sinful man to the holy God, is rightly apprehended; a truth which can only be grasped by each one as far as he walks in the light of revelation, and partakes of the Spirit of God. Man, as a finite being, can only apprehend the infinite God when He conceals the full splendour of His Godhead, and reveals His nature by means of finite forms. With the entrance of sin into the world the necessity for this condescension greatly increased; the deeper man sinks, the more he becomes entangled in matter and estranged from God; the more gross and, as it were, palpable must be the form in which God can approach him and resume the interrupted intercourse, until by degrees man becomes capable of entering into a more spiritual union with God. To reject this condescension of God, of which the fundamental condition is sinlessness, as in the deepest condescension of God in Christ, is therefore virtually to maintain that God ought to have abandoned man to misery. Such an assumption shows equal ignorance of God, of His love and mercy, and of man; and can only be entertained by one who has made himself his own God and his own man; a doubtful undertaking, since both continue what they are. It is a real denial of the ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο. For if this deepest condescension of God have any reality, it can only be the last link of a chain of condescensions. If we hold fast the idea of the divine condescension, we shall also on the other hand happily avoid the undeniable mistakes common to the more ancient elaborators of sacred history. They did not consider that although it is impossible for God to contradict Himself in His revelations, yet these, in order to be suitable, must differ according to the various requirements and receptivity of those to whom they were imparted; the earlier revelations must contain much only in germ and concealed, which is fully developed and assumes a definite form in the later. In most cases expositors set aside the distinction between the New and Old Testaments, attributing, e.g., to the patriarchs exactly the same knowledge of salvation as to the apostles. In striving after a gain which was only apparent, they lost much; the πολυποίκιλος σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ, Eph 3:10, and the πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως in Heb 1:1, drew off their attention; and the unhistorical attempt to change unity into identity called forth a reaction which still continues, whose tendency was completely to destroy the unity. It is with great injustice that I have been frequently accused of participation in this older position with regard to the Old Testament, e.g. by Oehler, Prolegomena zur Theol. des A. T., Stuttg. 1845. I am thoroughly convinced, with those who make this accusation, “that the New Testament is contained in the Old, and for this reason exists in it, as in every higher organism the higher development is already present as germ or prototype in the earlier.” The real difference between us consists only in this, that with them the process of development is disturbed by manifold defects and abnormities, while with me, on the contrary, it is healthy throughout; that in the law and the prophets they feel themselves bound to accept not only ideas which are correct, but also many which are incorrect and limited, while I attribute to knowledge generally, imperfection it is true, but nevertheless freedom from error. On which side the truth lies has already been predetermined by the authority of our Lord, who certainly does not speak from the opposite point of view when He explains the Mosaic law as inviolable to an iota and tittle; declaring that the Scripture of the Old Testament cannot be broken. The unanimous judgment of the Christian church has also come to a previous decision on this subject. The Old Testament would never have been able to assume its position as a codex of the divine revelations intended for the whole community if the problem had been first to separate the chaff from the wheat by means of theological operations. The γέγραπται, with which the Lord meets Satan in the temptation, loses its meaning in this event.
Another aspect winch is very important for the history of the Old Testament is the following. The historical books narrate things, as a rule, quite objectively. They communicate facts purely and sharply; they represent characters in their main features in an inimitably striking way, and abstain from passing any judgment—a mode of representation which we find almost universal in the historical books of the New Testament also. Their deepest argument seems to be this, that the human forms only a subordinate element of sacred history. Their glance is immoveably fixed upon the great acts of the Lord. They write as theologians, not as moralists and critics. And further, the sacred writers are the more readily satisfied with a simple representation of matters of fact, since a judgment may generally be inferred from the historical consequences; and such real judgment speaks far more powerfully to the heart than one put in words. Thus, it would appear quite superfluous in Genesis to pass a condemnatory judgment on Jacob’s cunning towards Esau and Isaac; for the striking retribution by which he was overtaken indicates with sufficient clearness in what light the matter is to be considered. Finally, holy Scripture is throughout written for exercised spiritual minds, or is so arranged that they will be exercised. The emphatic demands frequently uttered by the Lord on separate occasions,—Who hath ears to hear, let him hear; Let him that readeth understand; He who is able to understand, let him understand,—are everywhere present, though unseen. Understanding and correct judgment are not forced upon us; it is not intended that we should avow misunderstandings at any cost; but our spiritual judgment is awakened to the danger of misunderstandings.
The older theologians were always inclined to palliate and excuse, if not entirely to justify the mistakes and infirmities of the heroes of the faith, unless the Scripture narrative was accompanied by express disapproval. This was not, however, the invariable and universal mode of dealing—Calvin, Heidegger, and Rambach in part, formed praiseworthy exceptions. On the other hand, the opponents of the Old Testament,—e.g. the author of the Continued Fragments of the WoJfenhüttel Fragmentist, edited by Schmidt, Berlin 1787; Bohlen, in his Commentary on Genesis,—partly taking advantage of the distorted mode of treatment common to older theologians, thought that in exposing these mistakes and infirmities they dealt the Old Testament a fatal blow. The following is doubtless the correct mode of treatment. Proceeding from the fundamental axiom which lies at the basis of all sacred history, that honour is due to God alone, to us shame and confusion; we should judge the actions of the Old Testament believers, if we must pass judgment on them, and those of the Old Testament unbelievers, by the standard which holy Scripture itself supplies, that standard with which no praise or blame which it expressly utters is ever at variance. The endeavour to make the believers of the Old Testament into perfect saints is the more uncertain, since it must inevitably lead to misapprehension of the characteristic distinction between the Old and New Testaments which even Christ lays down in this respect when He says, the less in the kingdom of heaven, viz. the comparatively little, he who there occupies only a subordinate position (not the least, for that would give an incorrect idea), is greater than the greatest under the Old Testament.
2. Sources of the Old Testament History.
The sources of Old Testament history are partly native, partly foreign. The former are by far the most important; the latter are of comparatively little use. A great portion of the history dates far beyond the time in which history and historiography began among the other nations of antiquity. Even for later times foreign sources can afford little material. The Israelitish people had in consequence of their religion kept themselves so much apart, that it would have been impossible for any stranger to gain an adequate knowledge of their religion, constitution, and history. Surrounding nations despised the small, politically unimportant people, who, when oppressed on every side, and even after their political existence had been destroyed, still believed themselves to have the preference over other nations; and their contempt was the greater, since this preference was most emphatically asserted by those who least participated in it, comp. Rom 2:17, etc.; of whom it is there said that they are Jews, and yet not Jews, but a synagogue of Satan, Rev 2:9, Rev 3:9. Their pride was ridiculed, and they were esteemed beneath notice. The heathen could not apprehend their history in the right light, because, as we see daily in modern heathendom, they were deficient in that spiritual eye which was necessary for the perception of what was soul-exciting in them, and all else had little charm or beauty: they abandoned themselves to the most odious and absurd fictions. Moreover it was after history had become degraded that the Jews first became an object of lively interest to the heathen; but of this we find no trace, even in a Herodotus—attention was first directed towards them after the time of Alexander, and was due to the ever-widening extension of the Jewish διασπορά; and those who more nearly occupied themselves with them were rather beneath the age, were almost all writers of the lowest class. To this must be added the fact, that all the works of those who ex professo wrote concerning the Jews have been lost, with the exception of comparatively small fragments.
So much the more copious are the home sources. Among them the historical books of the Old Testament take the first place: for pre-Mosaic and Mosaic times the Pentateuch has most importance; for the post-Mosaic time until Samuel, the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth; for the history of the kings, the books of Samuel, of Kings, and of Chronicles; for the history of the captivity and the time which immediately succeeded it, the historical part of Daniel, the books of Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
To these sources the whole Jewish synagogue and the Christian church attributed not merely human credibility, but also divine inspiration, the latter on the ground especially of Paul’s explicit statement in 2Ti 3:14, etc.; a declaration which certainly does not justify many later exaggerations of the inspiration theory. Thus a greater certainty is in some measure attached to this history than to that which takes place immediately before our eyes. It is unquestionable that as certainly as there is a sacred record, so surely must such a character be postulated à priori of its main sources. It would be impossible to commit the account of God’s revelations and dealings to purely human activity without placing them in jeopardy, and robbing them of a great part of their edifying significance to the church. But a very different opinion began to assert itself in the second half of the last century. The idea rapidly gained ground that the history of the Hebrews, like that of other ancient nations, has a mythical character, viz. that it is composed of mingled truth and fiction. Heyne, who gave to the study of Greek mythology in Germany a new impulse and direction, had already hinted at this. By degrees theologians began to transfer their mythical views to the Old Testament. This happened first with reference to the oldest biblical history. Sailer, the former Erlangen historian, in other respects worthy of high honour, and Müntinghe confined the region of myths to Genesis alone. But unfortunately it was not possible to stop there. It soon became obvious that the matter which in Genesis suggested a mythical explanation was also contained in later portions of the history, not only of the Old but also of the New Testament; hence either the whole idea must be given up, or else extended to all the records of revelation. If we allow everything else in Scripture to be historical, the contents of Genesis, in accordance with its essential character, apart from all other confirmation, must be regarded as historical by virtue of the complete harmony existing between the manner of God’s revelation contained in it and that which is communicated in all the other books. It is inconceivable that a series of actually historical manifestations of God should be preceded by a number of fictions so exactly similar. This circumstance is destructive of all half-dealing in this department, and is likewise the main cause of the panic which has been excited among theologians by Strauss’s Lives of Jesus, first and second. Their own conscience told them that whoever says A must say B. They had lulled it to sleep for a time, but now it awoke suddenly. Therefore it was impossible to stop with Genesis. A purely mythical interpretation of Genesis was also of little avail for ever-increasing deism and rationalism. A system which rests upon the exclusion of all immediate action of God upon the world knows nothing of a living God; and cannot apprehend the love which brought Him down from heaven and unites heaven to earth. It does not see the angels who are continually ascending and descending on Jacob’s ladder, Joh 1:51, nor the hand out of the clouds which even now separates the waters of the sea from the world that a free passage may be granted to the people of God; nor will it be satisfied until the mythical view is brought to bear upon all the Old Testament records, because all are opposed to this view. This advance was actually made before long; among others, by E. Lor. Bauer in his Handbook of the History of the Hebrew Nation, Nürnberg 1800-1804; and in his Hebrew Mythology of the Old and New Testaments, 2 vols., Leipzig 1802; and by Meyer in his attempt at A Hermeneutic of the Old Testament, part ii. p. 543, etc. The object was to show that those various classes of myths which Heyne adopted in Greek mythology were also common to Scripture; viz. the historical myths, based upon events which actually occurred, but have been dressed up and disfigured by tradition; philosophical myths, historical embodiments of a philosophical idea; and poetic myths, historical embodiments of a poetic idea. Meyer, Bauer, and others contented themselves with treating everything which transcends the ordinary course of nature as mythical; what remained they allowed to be historical, and even defended its truth. This mode of procedure could not stand. It must soon become obvious that the principle according to which mythical and historical were distinguished, was a purely dogmatic, pseudo-theological one, and that by allowing the sources of sacred history to be trustworthy in everything which did not transcend the ordinary course of nature, involuntary testimony was borne to that which was rejected as mythical. It was therefore reserved for others to take the next step in advance, especially for De Wette. In his work which appeared in 1807, Kritik der Israelitischen Geschichte, and in his Lehrbuch der Hebr. u. Jüdischen Archäologie, § 29, he declares the whole ancient history of the Hebrews to be mythical throughout, making the historical soil to begin with Samuel; but at the same time maintains that the Hebrews never succeeded in rising to pure history. According to him, the Pentateuch has the same historical value as Homer; it is the epos of Hebrew theocracy, a term which is afterwards repeated by Hupfeld, who generally follows in the footsteps of De Wette. With the history after Samuel, De Wette deals in much the same manner in which Bauer and others have dealt with the earlier, or rather with the whole history. Rarely profound in his researches, he treats as mythical not only everything which is supernatural in this part, but also much which he cannot at once reconcile to his judgment, whatever gives him the impression of improbability, or whatever in the later history contradicts his presupposition of the purely mythical character of the earliest history, for example, the statement of Chronicles with reference to the validity of the Mosaic law. He handles the New Testament in the same manner in which his predecessors had done. He did not look upon the whole New Testament as mythical, but only as containing myths. Strauss in his Life of Jesus holds the same position where the New Testament is concerned with respect to De Wette, which De Wette occupies with regard to his predecessors in reference to the Old Testament, especially those historical books which embrace the oldest time. This view of the most ancient Israelitish historical sources, which originated with De Wette, is now almost universally given up. Ewald, Hitzig, Tuch, Bleek, Bertheau, etc., stand essentially on the standpoint of Bauer, Meyer, and Eichhorn. They emphatically protest against the view which entirely gives up the more ancient Israelitish history. But it cannot be denied that the preference for consistency is due to De Wette, and to those who distinctly attach themselves to him, as v. Bohlen. Where, as in Ewald, important portions of the history are said to be mythical, and a universal traditionary element is assumed; there can be no justification of the confidence which seeks to raise up a new building from the ruins. In detail this criticism certainly has the advantage, as in the New Testament the preference must be given to Renau over Strauss, who rests on him in principle. They are not obliged to represent as mythical that which powerfully asserts itself as historical. This mythical mode of treating the Old Testament has not been without vehement opponents. The most important protest against it is contained in monographs on separate contested books, especially the Pentateuch, Chronicles, and Daniel, which have given rise to a most lively dispute. The most distinguished among those who have occupied themselves with the subject generally is J, H. Pareau, De mythiea sacri codicis interpretatione, 2d edit., Utr. 1824. The author has handled his subject with extensive learning, in lucid order, and in beautiful, though somewhat vague language. Although he is not profound, and is frequently inconsistent and unfaithful to his own principles, yet his work, which has been almost entirely ignored by rationalistic
criticism, is entitled to attentive consideration.
A complete refutation of the more recent view concerning the historical books of the Old Testament belongs to the Introduction to the Old Testament, the germ of which is formed by inquiries into the genuineness, integrity, credibility, and inspiration of the biblical books. Yet it will not be irrelevant if we briefly give a few general arguments against the rationalistic view of the historical books of the Old Testament, and in favour of their credibility.
1. It is unquestionable that those who acknowledge the authority of Christ and the apostles, who therefore do not occupy an exclusively naturalistic standpoint, cannot without the greatest inconsistency entertain this opinion. The whole Jewish canon, as it existed in the time of Christ, is by Him and Paul expressly sanctioned as divine, comp. Joh 5:39, Joh 10:35, 2Ti 3:15-16; and all unanimously confess that the collected historical books of the Old Testament belonged to it. Many of the Old Testament events are quoted as decided, indubitable, historical truth, and precisely those which have been most disputed; such as the leading facts in the life of Abraham; the miraculous feeding with manna; the miraculous springing forth of water from the rock; cure by looking at the brazen serpent, Joh 3:14; the phenomena which accompanied the giving of the law; and the history of Elijah and Elisha, Luk 4:25, etc. Even by limiting the freedom from error of our Lord and His apostles to the religious element, we do not bring the modern view of the historical books of the Old Testament into harmony with their authority. For who will maintain that it is the same in a religious point of view whether we regard a pretended revelation as real, or not? Would it be possible for all those events which the historical books of the Old Testament narrate, and which are ratified by the testimony of Christ and the apostles, to stand in direct or indirect relation to religion, and yet for the view of God’s personality not to assume quite another aspect if these events be rejected as mythical? Even the defenders of the modern view maintain that it is by no means the same in a religious point of view, and that it is highly prejudicial to religious life and perception to regard the accounts of the historical books concerning the revelations of God under the Old Testament as true. In the alleged interest of religion they dispute the historical character of the historical books, and maintain that it would be derogatory to God to have revealed Himself in the manner therein specified. There are no acts of God which are not at the same time doctrines; all that God does reveals in some degree what He is; and it is therefore just so much religious error to attribute truth to fictitious history, in so far as it has reference to religious history as to give the sanction of its authority to false dogma. But the question here is not merely of isolated references or passing confirmations. Our Lord and His apostles are completely at home on the soil of that history which is said to be mythical. They delight in it, deriving vigour and nourishment from it. We have only to look at the history of the temptation to see how our Lord lived in the history which is declared to be mythical, and drew strength from it in time of trial. So also with regard to the crucifixion. Even in His last words Jesus had the Old Testament before His eyes. This is the more significant, since the Saviour in all that He does prefigures that which we ought to do; for behind His every action admonition lies concealed.
2. In favour of the credibility of the historical books, and in opposition to the mythical view, we may adduce the harmony which exists between this history and that of other nations. For primitive history, indeed, this harmony avails nothing. The most which has been done in this respect proves, on nearer consideration, not to be an independent confirmation of the biblical account, but to have first emanated from it, and to have originated in the time of the Alexandrian syncretism. Scarcely anything remains which we can safely rely on. Even external confirmations of the history of the flood, notwithstanding their number, and the frequency with which we encounter them (comp. for example the compilation in Rosenmüller, viz. The Old and New East, vol. i.; and in Andreas Wagner, The History of the Primitive World), will not bear a severe critical test, but may collectively be recognised as an echo of the Old Testament narrative. Not one of the heathen traditions respecting the flood seems to have an independent basis. For later times, however, the witness drawn from the harmony of the heathen accounts is conclusive and sufficient. That which is related in the Pentateuch concerning Egypt not only agrees with the accounts of Herodotus, Diodorus, and other ancient writers, but also receives remarkable confirmation from the recent discoveries made with reference to Egypt. There is no inquirer in the department of Egyptian antiquity of any note who has not by his investigations been filled with reverence for the Pentateuch; none who has even remotely assumed the same position with respect to it as the rationalistic theologians, which is certainly a remarkable witness to the prejudice of the latter. Comp. with Hupfeld on Genesis, Champollion’s Letters from Egypt; Rosellini On the Monuments of Egypt, Pisa 1830, 7 vols.; Wilkinson On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians after the Monuments, London 1837, 6 vols.; the collection of smaller books on Egyptian antiquity by Brugsch, which appeared in the year 1864; and my work, The Books of Moses and Egypt, Berlin 1811. That which we find concerning Egypt in the later historical books has also received remarkable confirmation from the discovery of the Egyptian monuments. The names of the Egyptian kings mentioned in Scripture have been found on them, such as Shishak and Pharaoh Necho. Shishak, who, according to 1Ki 14:25-26, made war upon Rehoboam, frequently appears on the Egyptian monuments under the name of Sesonchis. In the first court of the great palace at Karnak is the figure of a king, with the inscription, “The favourite of Anion Sesonchis;” and among the representatives of the nations conquered by him there is one with a beard and a manifestly Jewish physiognomy, bearing the name Ἰούδα Hamalek or Melk, kingdom of Judah: comp. Rosellini, i. ii. p. 79; Champollion’s Letters, p. 66. A mine no less rich than that of the Egyptian tombs is now discovered in the ruins of the old Assyrian capital, Nineveh, whose exploration has been prosecuted with great zeal, especially by English scholars.
The thing is still in progress, but already there have been several striking confirmations of the biblical narrative. Compare the compilation in The Commentary of O. Strauss on Nalium, Berlin 1853; also, by the same, Essay on Nineveh, Berlin 1855. The fragments of Berosus and Abydenos concerning ancient Babylonish history, especially Nebuchadnezzar, as well as the Tyrian journals, have been legitimately employed by Josephus to confirm the biblical relations. The book of Esther, one of the most disputed with regard to its credibility, has, in consequence of its harmony with the accounts of the most approved ancient writers, been characterized by Heeren as a perfectly reliable authority concerning the internal arrangements of the Persian court; and almost every single statement which it contains may be verified from the scattered accounts of ancient writers on Persia, as Baumgarten has last of all shown with great industry. Where the accounts of foreign writers are at variance with those of the Israelites, it can be proved without difficulty that the preference is on the side of the latter. All modern distinguished historians, as Niebuhr, Schlosser, Heeren, and Leo, agree in this, viz. that the Old Testament history is more authentic even in that which it relates concerning other nations than the most reliable native sources. Compare their statements in the 1st vol. of my contributions to an Introduction to the Pentateuch. If it be proved, therefore, that the historical books have in general a true historical, and not a mythical character, we have no right to reject as mythical that which has reference to an extraordinary interference of God in nature, unless, like the heathen prodigia, it stands out aimless and isolated. That it is not so, we hope all the later historical representation will suffice to prove. In the meantime we merely draw attention to the fact that miracle in Scripture goes hand in hand with prophecy, which God can completely control, and in which a power superior to nature is openly manifested.
3. A counter-proof against the mythical view is drawn from the great antiquity of the historical books, or rather of their sources. Our opponents have been so well aware of this, that they have tried all possible means to throw suspicion on the antiquity of the separate books or of their sources, or even to make it appear that a bad use has been made of their sources. Among all other nations the origin of myths belongs, at least in a great measure, to pre-historic times. Among the Hebrews, on the contrary, we find the remarkable phenomenon that they have advanced in undiminished power side by side with contemporaneous history, which would be the less explicable the more moderate, the more free from exaggerations, and the simpler, in short the more objective, the history everywhere appeared. If the Pentateuch be genuine, mythical explanations, at least where the last four books of it are concerned, are out of the question. Moses was able faithfully to impart what had taken place before his eyes; and that he designed to relate the truth, his whole character as it appears in his works is a guarantee; and even if he had not wished to do so, he must have done it, since he wrote first of all for those who had witnessed all the great events which he communicated, and to them he could not say that they had seen what they had not seen, or heard what they had not heard. Where the occurrences of Genesis are concerned, Moses is certainly not a contemporaneous narrator; but if the truth of that which is told in the last four books stands firm, God would not permit him whom He had made His ambassador to become the author of unavoidable error. To this may be added the fact, that we cannot deny to Moses himself the human capacity to receive accounts from the primitive world faithfully transmitted. Even if we suppose that he made use of no older written documents, which is by no means proved, yet there were many circumstances favourable to the pure reception of oral tradition, e.g. the long duration of the life of man, to which Moses himself appeals in reference to the facts of antiquity, Deu 32:7, etc., so that even tradition concerning events of the greatest antiquity had only to pass through a few generations; and again, the strength of memory peculiar to times when the art of writing was still unknown; but above all, the great significance which the facts narrated in Genesis had for the bearers of tradition. Then we must also notice the absence of those causes which led to the disfigurement of tradition among other nations. Among these polytheism stands first, for the traditions of Genesis were always continued in the races of the worshippers of the true God. We find no traces moreover of that wild fantasy which among the Greeks became the mother of many myths, by the mingling of its products with historical tradition—the Jewish spirit proved itself from the beginning sharp, clear, and disinclined to obscurity; nor was there a philosophical striving to investigate the causes of things, which even in later times is not to be found among the Hebrews, whose wisdom, always of a thoroughly practical nature, was an immediate product of the fear of God, and was designed to awaken it. To this we may add the simplicity of Semitic life and national character, apparent even among the Arabs, whose oldest historical traditions, as we have them in The Hamasah, The Monumentis vetustioris Arabioe by Schultens, The Monumentis antiquiss. Historioe Arabum by Eichhorn, and in Abulfeda’s Historia Anteislamica edited by Fleischer, are certainly incomplete and defective, in part traditionary, but throughout not mythical, and always with a basis of historical truth. But the great thing is the moral earnestness which everywhere manifests itself as the peculiarity of the ἐκλογή among Israel, from which the sacred literature proceeds, and which meets us continually. Mythical tendencies are incompatible with this moral earnestness. The credibility of the accounts in Genesis is also confirmed by the similarity, to which we formerly drew attention, existing between the substance of it and that of later contemporaneous books, or books taken from contemporaneous sources, from the last four books of the Pentateuch to the Gospels, and still further by the inner and inseparable connection between the relations in Genesis and the events of the last four books. This is especially observable in the history under Moses, which takes for granted the truth of the whole history of the patriarchs, and cannot be explained without it. With respect to this connection, Ranke, in particular, has made many striking remarks. The mode of representation is also an argument in favour of the credibility of the narrative. It breathes the spirit of the highest antiquity, differing characteristically from that which was employed by Moses in the description of his time. If, for example, we read the history of the transactions of Abraham with the children of Heth respecting a burial-place in Genesis 23, we shall find it impossible to divest ourselves of the impression of great antiquity. The same may be said with reference to the account of the march of the kings from Asia to Palestine, in Genesis 14. But the strongest proof of the genuineness of the history is its inner character of truth, its grand simplicity, its worthiness of God, its naturalness, and the striking manner in which it depicts character—everything as it could not be imitated even by the highest art. Nor must we forget to draw attention to the firmness and security with which Genesis ascends to the first beginnings of peoples; for example, in the accounts concerning the Horites, Edomites, Ammonites, and Moabites. That we have not to do with fantasies and floating traditions is obvious from the complete consistency of the most remotely scattered notices. Besides the last four books of the Pentateuch, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are contemporaneous; and most probably, agreeably to arguments drawn from the history of the canon, Esther also. Its statements are certainly taken from a contemporaneous and official source quoted in itself. The remaining books have either been put together from contemporaneous records, or drawn from contemporaneous sources. The former is the case with the book of Joshua. We gather from many passages that its author was an eye-witness of that which he narrates, most unmistakeably from Jos 5:1. The later author of the book in its present form has done little more than put together the separate contemporaneous documents which had till then been disconnected, and were probably composed by Joshua after the example of Moses; adding a few historical, geographical, and other remarks. Respecting the book of Judges we cannot so certainly prove the prevailing use of contemporaneous records; and that these were not at the disposal of the author seems probable from the circumstance that the narration is in many parts incomplete, giving only the names of many of the judges; an argument which, however, on nearer consideration, has no weight, since the fact is explained by the aim and plan of the author, who desired to write not a perfect history, but rather a historical abstract. The theme is, the people of God may at all times learn from the history of the time of the judges that sin is destruction. For such a deduction, short and slightly mentioned facts afford little interest. That the author knew far more than he told, that he might have availed himself of the whole fulness of facts which occurred in the time of the judges, appears from the appendices, in which, by way of example, he expressly imparts some facts concerning that period which in the book itself is treated only summarily and from a single point of view; and there can be no doubt that these appendices belong to the beginning of the time of the judges. Such special knowledge with reference to a time already some centuries past could only have been possessed by the author on the supposition that he made use of contemporaneous records. He narrates so naturally, and at the same time so graphically, carries us back so vividly to the period whose history
he describes, is so free from anachronisms, and has so little which transcends the ordinary course of nature, that even our opponents, from Eichhorn to Studer and Bertheau, cannot help conceding a high degree of credibility to his narrative. The author of the books of Samuel does not indeed expressly quote his sources, but we may infer that they were contemporaneous from the fact that Chronicles cite as their source for this period a historical work begun by Samuel, and continued by the prophets Gad and Nathan. That the author of the books of Samuel made the same contemporaneous source the basis of his work, follows from the almost verbal agreement between the sections which both writers have in common. In the books of Kings, the annals of the kings of Judah and the annals of the kings of Israel are generally quoted at the end of each reign, as the sources employed. We gain nearer information concerning the nature of this source from the books of Chronicles. It is always quoted there, but together with it special sources, descriptions of the lives of the separate kings, written by contemporaneous prophets. That these must stand in some relation to the annals of Judah and Israel, the common source, follows from the fact that the books of Chronicles are in the closest verbal agreement with the books of Kings, where they quote these special sources. In reference to two of the adduced special sources we have also the express statement of the Chronicles that they were incorporated in the annals of the kingdom, 2Ch 20:34, 2Ch 32:32. Thus the credibility of the historical books is supported throughout by the fact of their antiquity. Accordingly the writers of the books of Kings and Chronicles must generally have made use of contemporaneous sources. Their credibility is therefore open to suspicion only on the assumption that they have used their sources unfaithfully; but the contrary may be proved not only from the character which they manifest, and which secures them against all suspicion of intentional falsification, but also from the bearing of the parallel relations in the books of Samuel and of Kings on the one hand, and in the books of Chronicles on the other, as well as of the historical passages of Isaiah and Jeremiah to the parallels in the books of Kings. The almost verbal agreement which here exists shows that they do not, in accordance with the general custom of Oriental historians, work over their sources, but take from them almost verbal extracts of that which is suitable for their purpose.
4. The credibility of the historical books of the Old Testament follows from their close agreement with the historical accounts and references in the Psalms and Prophets. In numerous passages we find the more ancient history of the people with all its marvels described exactly as related in the older historical books, and thus raised above all doubt. (Comp. for example the long Psalms 78, which was sung as early as David’s time, and which gives the nation, as a warning, a survey of its whole history, beginning with the time of Moses.) Where matters of fact are concerned, it exactly agrees with the Pentateuch, even to the smallest details. If we compare also the historical Psalms 105 and Psalms 106, composed in the time of the captivity, with Psalms 78, and with the historical books, we cannot fail to be convinced of the narrow bounds within which poetry is here confined: its scope is throughout limited to the sphere of the formal. (Comp. with the narrative in the book of Judges the references to the facts there detailed made in Jos 9:4, Jos 10:26; Hab 3:7.) The traditions of profane history, on the other hand, have a highly uncertain character; in them we find no evidence of that firm state of national consciousness characteristic of later times; their poetic character has passed into oblivion, and not two among late writers of any note substantially agree concerning them. A national consciousness so steady throughout is quite unexampled with respect to fictitious events, myths. The historical references of the Psalmist and the Prophets to the peculiar relations of their time always exactly coincide with that which the historical books narrate—the respective accounts mutually explain and confirm one another, as Moses has proved with regard to Chronicles, and as I have endeavoured to show in my Commentary on the Psalms. To adduce only one very striking example: Every feature of the graphically told narrative in 2 Chronicles 20 of the campaign of Jehoshaphat against the allied Ammonites, Moabites, and Arabs, receives confirmation from the three Psalms which have reference to these events—Psalms 46, Psalms 47, Psalms 83.
5. The truth of the historical narrative as a whole is ratified by the remarkable agreement and connection of the occurrences which are related in it, as must in some measure he perceived even by the unenlightened mind. The historian Woltmann says: “The history of the Old Testament has a truly iron connection, by virtue of the unchangeable manner of revelation, which constantly continues alike, and the historical personality of God;—by the absence of that love of the marvellous which leads to the fabrication of miracles, exemplified by the fact that wonders are related only where some object worthy of God can be pointed out, where manifestly a grand crisis takes place, where the question relates to the existence or non-existence of the kingdom of God—as in Egypt, in the time of Elijah, and during the captivity;—and by the circumstance that in many periods where no such phenomena are recorded, the narrative adheres to the ordinary course of nature; as, for example, in the period from the death of Joseph to the appearance of Moses; throughout nearly the whole time of the Judges; in the time of David and Solomon; and in the period succeeding the Babylonish captivity, the history of which is recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah;—and finally, by the fact that, even in the relation of wonderful events, as, for instance, the Egyptian plagues, the passage through the Red Sea, the feeding with manna and quails, etc., there is no concealment of those natural causes whose efficacy was merely intensified by God, or directed in a peculiar manner, so that the supernatural, as it is most clearly set forth in the plagues of Egypt, rests almost throughout upon naturalistic ground, while a mythical representation either ignores this connection, or wilfully destroys it.” To this we may add, that an interest can nowhere be discovered in behalf of which fiction has been carried on for more than a thousand years. Glorification of God, and that of the holy God who is an enemy to every lie and scorns fictitious praise, is the highest and only aim of all the historical books of the Old Testament. Among all other nations history has never been emancipated from the service of a false patriotism. They betray a universal tendency to glorify their founders and greatest men, even at the cost of truth; but in the Old Testament it is otherwise. The ancestors of the Israelitish people do not appear, like those of other nations, as deified heroes, but as simple men, with limited power. Their faults and errors,—as, for example, Abraham’s weakness in Egypt, Isaac’s similar weakness, Jacob’s deceit, which was punished by a long series of painful, divine chastisements, the atrocity of Jacob’s sons at Shechem, Reuben s incest, the crime of Joseph’s brethren, etc.,—are related with the same ingenuousness as their excellences and their great deeds, upon which no emphasis is laid. Even with regard to Moses we find no trace of mythical glorification. Everywhere he appears only as a weak human instrument of God: we find the carnal zeal set forth without reserve, which led him to slay the Egyptian; his original striving against the divine call; his sinful indulgence with relation to his wife, from love to whom he omitted to circumcise his son, a breach of duty which was heavily punished by God; and the weakness of faith on account of which he was excluded from the land of promise. In the same unprejudiced way the faults and errors of later men, the most famous of the nation—of a Samson, David, and Solomon—are related. But the historical books betray even less tendency to the direct glorification of the people than to their indirect glorification by magnifying their important men. From the exodus out of Egypt to the leading away into the Babylonish captivity they are always represented as stiff-necked, unbelieving, ungrateful, even after visible proofs of the divine grace; and are always addicted to the grossest idolatry. Leviticus 26 and Deu 28:29, Deuteronomy 32 are a sufficient preservative against the assumption of such tendency: even single verses might suffice; for example, Deu 9:24, “Ye have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you;” Deu 31:27, “For I know thy rebellion and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death?” The author of the book of Judges, in the introduction, in Jdg 2:11, etc., lays down his theme, which he afterwards carries into detail, thus: “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, and provoked the Lord to anger. And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers,” etc. The author of Psalms 106 points out in Psa 106:6 the lesson to be drawn from the whole history of the past: “We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedness;” and then proceeds to particularize the various sins of the nation. Israel became a proverb among the nations on the ground of their historical books: the strict and impartial criticism which is there brought to bear upon Israel has made the history of this people a mirror, in which every one who has any knowledge of himself and of human nature may perceive his own image and that of the human race in sharp and correct outline. Neither do we find a tendency to exalt and magnify any particular station. Many former opponents of revelation have asserted this to be the case with regard to the priestly office; and to this party Leo joined himself in the outset of his career, in his Lectures on Jewish History, Berlin 1828, which he afterwards himself recanted in his History of the World, vol. i.; while von Bohlen and others again took up what he had let fall, meliora edoctus. They maintain that Jewish history was designedly misrepresented by the priests, in the interest of the hierarchy. As in the middle ages men sought by all manner of deceit to sanction the abuses of the Papacy; appealing to an older warrant, for example the Pseudoisidorian Decretals; so the Jewish priests sought to justify all their claims and abuses by interpolating in the Pentateuch laws respecting them which they had forged. In the remaining books also the hierarchy tries to assert itself by every kind of fabrication. But it is scarcely conceivable how even the most prejudiced should be so completely blinded, should go so directly counter to the most palpable facts. How very differently must the Pentateuch have been constituted if it were to correspond to this hypothesis! The ancestor of the Levites had an equal share with the other brethren in the crime against Joseph, the only one of Jacob’s sons who has been magnified; in Genesis 49, in the blessing of the dying Jacob, the outrage which Levi perpetrated on the Shechemites is rebuked in the hardest terms, without a word of mitigation or fatherly affection; and as a punishment, it is declared that his descendants will be scattered throughout all Israel. We find a counterpart to this in the openness with which Exodus and Numbers condemn the sins of the first high priest, Aaron—his sinful compliance with the worship of the calf, the jealousy which prompted him to exalt himself in opposition to Moses, Numbers 12, and his weakness of faith in the last year of the wanderings, which was the cause of his exclusion from the promised land. So in Leviticus 10 the sin of the two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the divine judgment which befell them in consequence, are recorded as an emphatic warning to the priesthood of all ages. In the revolt of the people, Numbers 16, Korah the Levite was the chief ringleader. It is true that in the Mosaic legislation there are rights and revenues granted to the priests; but the former are circumscribed in many ways. With the civil power, over which the priests had immense influence among other eastern nations—among the Egyptians, from whose midst the Israelites had been taken, it wa
s almost entirely under their control—the Hebrew priests had nothing whatever to do. The confounding of theocracy and hierarchy, of which those opponents of the Old Testament are guilty, shows how the Old Testament must have been conditioned if their hypothesis were correct: in every respect the Mosaic state was entirely independent of the priesthood. Only in the administration of justice the priests had a certain share; and this was merely in the capacity of intelligent men, as expounders of the Mosaic law-book, which, according to Deuteronomy 17 and Deuteronomy 31, was entrusted to the civil no less than to the spiritual rulers, so that the latter stood under constant control; while among the Egyptians, on the other hand, the civil power was under the guardianship of the priests, and must accept as a divine command whatever the priests represented as such. In a religious point of view also the Levites and priests were placed side by side with the prophets, whose rights were secured by a special law. The revenues of the Levites were certainly not unimportant; but at the same time it must be remembered that they were without landed property, that the remaining tribes were therefore bound to compensate them for their legitimate share in the land of Canaan, and that they owed their revenues to the goodwill of the people, depending on their pious disposition, which Moses had distinctly foretold would in a great measure, and through long periods, have no existence whatever. And this was really the case; for, except perhaps in the time of David and Solomon, the tribe of Levi was generally much worse provided for than any of the remaining tribes: especially after the separation of the kingdom, when the revenue of the ten tribes was completely and for ever lost to it. But above all we must recollect that the whole character of the Old Testament religion necessarily demanded a suitable maintenance for its servants; and again, that the whole impulse had gone out from those who, in doing homage to the common principle of utilitarianism, failed to appreciate the importance of an office which was designed for the preservation of the higher interests. It is a remarkable testimony to the absence of all evil priestly influence, that this office, so long as it fulfilled its destination, was honoured and wealthy, in accordance with the principle which even the New Testament lays down in this respect, 1Co 9:11, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? “But as soon as it degenerated it became poor and despised, subject to the curse pronounced upon its ancestor, which was effected in this way;—the law made the position of the Levites quite dependent on the goodwill of the people, which rested upon their piety, and this again was dependent on the piety of the Levites. No dotation in landed property, as among the Egyptians, no guarantee of an income by the state. We may confidently ask the rationalism which raised this objection, whether under similar conditions it would be inclined to undertake service in the church. American voluntaryism is in some measure prefigured in the position of the Levites. With regard to the remaining books the assertion proves itself even more absurd, for this reason, that either their authors, or the authors of their sources, were not priests, but prophets. This was the case with the books of Chronicles, which with that of Ezra are the only ones composed by priests. And, moreover, they give no prominence to the priestly office; nothing great or glorious was accomplished by it; its efficacy was throughout quiet and unobtrusive; it was limited to the service of the sanctuary and the religious instruction of the people. Nothing is there represented as an encroachment on their rights except that which was really so, as the incense-offering of Uzziah. In whole periods, as, for example, in the time of the judges, there is no mention of the priests; nor is any word of censure passed on Samuel, who, though not a priest, exercised priestly functions. Priestly jealousy would not have been so freely related, nor should we have been told how, at the bringing in of the ark of the covenant, David, at the conclusion of the whole ceremony, blessed the people; which appears to have been contrary to the letter of the law, if indeed it were not at direct variance with the spirit of it, as the narrative of Melchizedek and others seems to show. Some have sought to escape from this difficulty by associating the prophethood with the priesthood. But in order to be convinced of the worthlessness of this theory, it is only necessary to look through the prophecies of Jeremiah. Even in the time of Malachi, when the priesthood gave far less offence, at least externally, than formerly, the priestly office forms the principal object of the denunciation of the prophets. Isaiah, in Isa 43:27, strikes a blow at the vanity of Israel respecting their own merit, in the words, “Thy first father (the high priest) hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me.” And since the assumption of a tendency to glorify the royal power would be just as reprehensible as the assumption of a tendency to magnify the priesthood, the prophetic office alone remains. But even in this assumption we become involved in insuperable difficulties. The prophets formed no close corporation, not at least in the kingdom of Judah, which is the only question now at issue. It was somewhat different in the kingdom of Israel, where there was certainly some kind of membership and organization; for in it prophets alone performed the service of the true God, after the abolition of the Levitical priesthood. In the kingdom of Judah, where they had only to wall up the gaps, the prophets appeared singly, as they were inspired by the Spirit of God. It is therefore not conceivable that through centuries they should have followed a common plan, and carried on an artful system of deception. And again, in the history before Samuel, the prophets stand far in the background, and prophethood meets us only in isolated, spasmodic phenomena. If the history of the Israelites had been dominated by a prophetic interest, this interest must also have taken possession of earlier times, and must have exercised a powerful influence on the description of the founding of the state. In the time of the kings also there are long periods in which we find no trace whatever of a decided importance of the priesthood. In the kingdom of Judah it properly began to acquire such an importance in the time of Uzziah, when the corruption of the people increased more and more, and the great judgments of the Lord took their course. Consider also the whole character of the prophets as it appears in the history. Nowhere do they seek their own interest; they wish to be nothing more than instruments of God; they follow no selfish aims; even the greatest prejudice can only regard them as enthusiasts (as such they were esteemed by the godless in Israel, comp. 2Ki 9:11), but not as deceivers. The essence of prophetism is briefly and well characterized in Micah, Mic 3:8 : “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgressions, and to Israel his sin.” Thus we find no trace of a carnal interest of any kind; and the reason why we can never unconditionally trust the native sources of the history of all other nations of antiquity is because their interest is everywhere observable. In this department the saying holds good, “If the design be marked, mistake is impossible.”
6. Those facts, which are undeniably true, are inexplicable if the narrative of the historical books as a whole be not true, especially in those points which have been most disputed. How, for instance, can it be explained, apart from this assumption, that the Hebrew is the only one among the nations of antiquity which was in some respects far more developed; in which we find, not perhaps abstract monotheism, but at least a reference of the whole life to the one, true, and only living God, a profound moral influence produced by such doctrine, a living faith, with its indispensable basis, a profound conviction of sin—in short, the only people in whose hearts God found a place? How can we explain the phenomenon that among the Hebrews we find religious characters such as Abraham, Moses, David, the invention of which would presuppose a depth of inner experience and of spiritual life such as have been found in no heathen? Or how can we explain the fact that the eyes of this people alone were directed forwards, while the eyes of all other nations were turned backwards in disconsolate longing for what was irrecoverably lost; and that this very people, and none other, should from their first origin (Gen 12:3) have cherished the firm conviction through all centuries, that from their midst salvation would spread over all the earth; and that this conviction should have been justified by the result? To these, and a multitude of similar questions, history, as we have it in the historical books, affords a most satisfactory answer; while, on the other hand, those modern writers who reject this history have no resource but to explain them away. At the time when the Hegelian school was predominant, every exertion was made to furnish the desired explanation of facts from purely human causes: by the most powerful critical operations the lowest was put uppermost in order to produce the appearance of a steady, natural development. This is the course recently pursued by Planck, The Genesis of Judaism, Ulm 1843. But even with the help of such procedure, which is altogether arbitrary, being now directed by the re-awakened non-historical sense, no step in advance has been gained towards the main question. Even if we place at the close of the history of the Israelites that which meets us at the beginning, we still find nothing similar in any nation of the earth; not one has in the course of natural development attained to such religious advancement. The main question has reference not to the time when such a thing occurred, but to the fact that it did occur; and to answer this question we are and remain incapable.
The weight of the arguments adduced is very much strengthened if we look at the weakness of those which our opponents have advanced in favour of the mythical character of the historical books. The main argument, drawn from the impossibility of miracles, is purely dogmatic, and therefore need not be considered here. Where there is living faith in God the worthlessness of this argument is at once perceived. The assumption of the aimlessness of miracles must be surrendered when we see how long the nation was spiritually sustained by the great deeds of the Lord in Egypt; how through centuries, in every time of their need, when they were as the rose among thorns, the small flock in the midst of wolves, it was by virtue of those great deeds that they reached a living faith in their God. Amyraldus on Psalms 106 says, ‘Haud fere minus est frequens in V. T. liberationis ex Ægypto et transitus maris rubri mentio, quam in novo redemtionis cujus Christus nobis auctor est.’ In like manner it may be shown, that to assume the representation of our historical books to be not of a purely historic nature, because what they narrate as history cannot be constructed, or explained by the natural sequence of cause and effect, is purely dogmatic, being based on the Pantheistic or Atheistic exclusion of all supernatural causality, and has therefore no significance whatever to any one who does not occupy this standpoint. It belongs to the very essence of a revelation not to allow of construction. Add to this, what we have already indicated, that the originators of this assumption prove themselves incompetent to furnish the natural explanation of assured historical facts which is demanded. Another argument is taken from the analogy subsisting among all other nations, where the beginnings of history are universally mythical. Why should the Hebrews alone form an exception, particularly as so many narratives of the historical books present such striking relationship to the myths of the heathen—for example, the cosmogonies, the theophanies, etc.? But the analogy of other nations can prove little in itself. Even among them there is a great difference with respect to the mythical character of primitive history. Among the Arabs, for example, as already noticed, we find scarcely any evidence of such a mythical character; although their tradition must have been orally transmitted for many centuries; for the introduction of the art of writing does not date far beyond the time of Mohammed. The tradition of the Mexicans is also, comparatively speaking, very simple; and even the earlier history of the Romans has a far less mythical character comparatively than that of the Greeks, even if we allow the results at which Niebuhr arrives in his works to be established—results pointing rather to a traditional than to a mythical character of this history. If even among heathen nations we find so great a difference in this respect, how much less should we expect a mythical character to belong to the history of a people among whom we find none of the causes which in other nations called forth their differences in a smaller or greater degree, of which the deification of nature and of men was perhaps the most influential; among whom the knowledge and exclusive worship of the one true God were preserved in their purity by special divine arrangements; in whom we find everywhere, instead of the misty heathen confusion, the sharpest and clearest separation, definite distinctions, limitations, the absolute antithesis of God and man, the angels separated by exact boundary-lines from God on the one side, and on the other from men. The conclusion leading to like effects is rational only where like causes canbe pointed out. Where these are wanting, we must not à priori expect similarity, but dissimilarity of results. If we concede that the Hebrew nation, in respect of its religious consciousness, forms an exception to all other nations of antiquity; it becomes highly irrational, from the analogy of myths—the production of heathen, religious consciousness—to conclude without further consideration that the Israelites must have had myths; just as irrational as if we were to conclude, from the sinfulness of all men, that Christ also was infected with sin. The analogy of other nations would only apply to the mythical character belonging to the narrative of the very earliest times. For among others, especially the Greeks, the mythical character of history ceases as soon as historiography begins. Among the Hebrews, on the contrary, the alleged mythical character was much stronger in later times, long after history had begun to be written down, than it had been at an earlier period. The history of Elijah and Elisha, for example, and even the events narrated in the Gospels, contain far more which transcends the ordinary course of nature than the record of the first chapter of Genesis. Hence the analogy tells far more against than for the mythical character of the historical books. For if on its account we must regard the later history as purely historical, then we may justly draw an inference respecting the earlier history; for, as we remarked before, they must stand or fall together, on account of their great similarity of character, and the close connection which existed between them, and cannot possibly be separated. But in reference to the argument taken from the relation of Old Testament history to the myths of other nations we may observe, that this relation exists only in a limited measure, and in conjunction with infinitely greater diversity. Moreover, the myths of these nations are generally a consequence of sin, and tend to promote it; their marvels have no object, unless it be to deceive; and we find a multitude of gods interfering in the affairs of men, more powerful and wiser, but not better than they; and withal at variance among themselves: in Old Testament history everything is in direct or indirect relation to religion and morality, to the establishment, confirmation, and spread of the worship of the true God; every miracle has an obvious connection with exalted divine institutions of salvation, nor do we find any employment of unholy means for a holy end; we have the simple antithesis between an almighty, holy, merciful God and weak, sinful man, angels only mediating between both, mere instruments and servants of God. In ancient heathendom we see the self-interested attempt of every nation to glorify itself, to place its origin in the most remote antiquity, and by mingling the divine and human to derive it from the gods: in the Old Testament there is none of this self-seeking; the whole duration of the earth in its present form is fixed within comparatively narrow limits, in harmony with the results of sound natural philosophy; we are told how a multitude of nations were already in existence when the ancestor of the Hebrews was still unborn; nor is there any concealment of the fact that he was a weak man, a mere shepherd-prince, who could not call a foot-breadth of land his own. Among the heathen there is an unmistakeable, historical envelope of physical speculations and poetic views; it is obvious at every step that we are in the region of personification, where the fact is but a light and transparent veil, the thought which it conceals misty and floating: in the Old Testament, on the contrary, there is no trace of philosophizing concerning the reasons of things and the forces of nature; the historical representation is indeed adapted to the spirit of the age, it is living and vivid, but at the same time extremely simple, and strictly separated from the poetic element, everything being clear and defined. When a relationship actually does exist, we must first of all inquire whether it has an independent character or not. This is least of all the case with respect to those very cosmogonies to which reference is most frequently made, for these, in so far as they strikingly agree with the cosmogonies of the Israelites, are an emanation from them, and belong to a very late period, that of syncretion—this is especially the case with the cosmogony of the pretended Sanchoniath
on, of Berosus, etc. The same may be said also of the heathen traditions of the flood. But when the relationship shows itself to be independent, it proves far more in favour of the historic truth of the historical books of the Old Testament. Thus the universality of feigned theophanies among the nations of antiquity points to the fact that there is an indelible longing inherent in man for the nearer union of heaven and earth; and since this longing is innate, it must somewhere find a satisfaction which is not merely imaginary but real. We may, therefore, look upon feigned theophanies as a prophecy of real theophanies, and by virtue of their aim, a prophecy of the incarnation of God in Christ. We might even venture to say that there can be no real theophanies when there are no fictitious ones; for if such were the case, that necessity for a general revelation, and especially for a revelation in this form, would be wanting, which forms the basis of its reality. Thus the pretended prophecies among the heathen point to an actual satisfying of the demand which gave rise to them in connection with religion. In this case the Old Testament explains itself even with regard to the relation between what existed among Israel and the apparently similar among the heathen; an explanation which is available for everything of the same nature. In Deuteronomy 18 all fortune-telling and necromancy are most strictly forbidden. But this mere negative command would have made no impression. Therefore a promise is superadded: the Lord gives to Israel that which they may not seek elsewhere, and cannot find. He will raise up prophets to them; them shall they hear. Thus with regard to the history of the fall, the myths of other nations of antiquity show this much at least, that it is inscribed on the human heart in indelible characters; that the condition of man and of the earth, as we find it, cannot have been the original one, so that on this ground it is certain an occurrence of the kind related in Genesis must have taken place; and we may also observe that those elements in heathen tradition which incidentally agree are also transferred from the Old Testament; a fact attested by the age to which the writings belong that contain harmonious features. If, therefore, the monstrous exaggerations of other nations respecting the great age of the first men confirm the corresponding statements of Genesis, we may assume either that an obscure knowledge of this historical fact had been transmitted to the nations by tradition; or else that the legend was only the individual expression of a universal consciousness, viz. that the human race, alienated from God, is continually subject to increasing deterioration; which latter assumption is the more probable, since fragments of tradition from the primitive world, having their origin among the heathen, can never be certainly discriminated; the fact seems rather to have been that a fantastic impulse had completely obliterated the historical remembrance of the most ancient times at the period when men attained to a clear consciousness, and historiography was developed among them. But the deepest reason of the agreement between heathen myth and Israelitish history may be found in the fact that mythus and sacred history have to some extent a similar foundation, viz. idea, which mythus clothes in historic garb, while in sacred history it is actually historical. This is the truth underlying the mythical view; and he who is not able to recognise it, or grant it the importance which it deserves, who has not accurately and profoundly grasped the distinction between myth and fable on the one side, and between sacred and profane history on the other, will be incompetent to the task of refuting it. The distinction does not indeed lie in the mere fact of being historical, but chiefly in the idea itself, which was only dimly apprehended in heathenism, and presents itself there in the degenerate form of the carnal and natural. Another argument for the mythical character of the historical books is taken from the rudeness of early times, which does not justify us in expecting a priori an historical perception, from the sensuousness of their manner of thought and expression, and from their ignorance of natural causes, which is said to have derived immediately from God much which could have been explained on natural grounds. As to the former, viz. the assumption of a development of man from the condition of animals, from animal barbarism, everything is against it,—not only the testimony of the Old and New Testaments, but also the wisdom and goodness of the Creator, who must have provided better for His noblest creature; and again, a series of experiences which show that individual men who through special circumstances sank into animal barbarism, never attained to a rational state, or to the use of language, except by the advice and instruction of others; that savage nations have never of themselves risen to a state of civilisation, but in every case only by intercourse with cultivated nations; and, finally, the impossibility among the most ancient nations, as, for example, the Egyptians, of proving the steps of such a development; as also the concurrent tradition of the most diverse nations, according to which the oldest races of men enjoyed special gifts and a union with God particularly close, a tradition whose significance is not lost, but rather enhanced if we attribute to it a theological value only, not a historical one. That the higher condition was antecedent to the lower, and that barbarism was only deterioration, is partly conceded, even by those who by no means stand on the ground of faith in a revelation. A. W. von Schlegel, in his preface to the German translation of Prichard’s Sketch of Egyptian Mythology, Bonn 1837, p. 16, speaks thus: “The more I look into the ancient history of the world, the more I am convinced that civilised nations have deteriorated from a purer worship of the Supreme God; that the magical power of nature over the imagination of the race of men then in existence, afterwards gave rise to polytheism, and, finally, quite obscured spiritual conceptions in the popular faith.” Schelling in his Lectures on the Method of Academic Study, which appeared in 1803, says, “There is no condition of barbarism which is not the product of a degraded civilisation. It is reserved for the future labours of the history of the earth to show how even those nations, living in a state of barbarism, have only been separated from the rest of the world by means of revolutions, and are in some measure severed nationalities which, being deprived of intercourse and of the means of culture they had already acquired, have fallen back into their present condition.” Sensuousness of conception and representation cannot be regarded as necessarily conditioning the mythical character of a narration; it acts prejudicially only when a falling away from the truth has already preceded it. When this is not the case the form alone is affected, leaving the essence untouched. Otherwise children could not speak the truth. Moreover, the sharp intelligence which characterizes the Jewish nation may be seen in germ even in the first beginnings of Israel. Finally, the assertion that much in the Old Testament is referred immediately to God, to the exclusion of secondary causes, is without foundation. Every attempt which has hitherto been made to explain by purely natural causes, what the Scriptures represent as really miraculous, as, for example, the plagues in Egypt, has been unsuccessful, even though it should be capable of easy proof that in many cases, indeed almost universally, God only permitted causes already existing in the ordinary course of nature to come into operation at an unusual time, in unusual succession, and to work in a strengthened and intensified degree; which is just what forms the characteristic distinction between true and false miracles, and stamps the wonders of revelation with the seal of credibility. It is certain that we find a religious mode of thought prevailing even with respect to natural things, when we are told, for
example, that God thunders, He feeds the birds, He clothes the lilies. But, at the same time, there is no denial of the fact that God works by natural causes. The examples which are generally represented as containing a false reference of the natural to God, prove on nearer examination to be far from pertinent. When, for example, Bezaleel had by human means acquired considerable skill in the school of the Egyptians, is this circumstance incompatible with the fact that God elevated and sanctified his talent and skill for the good of the church? Experience, reaching even to modern times, teaches that an art which truly serves the church of God cannot be acquired without His help. A spiritual taste can only be learnt in the sanctuary of God. And if under the New Testament every χάρισμα has its natural ground, on which it proves itself efficacious, can we maintain, in direct opposition to Scripture, that the χαρίσματα themselves are natural? It is usual to appeal to the hardening of Pharaoh. But here Scripture is in harmony throughout with the results of a sound empiricism, which teaches that sin indeed everywhere belongs to man, but the form in which it finds expression (and in the case of Pharaoh the question turns on this alone) belongs to God, who invariably controls the circumstances under which the germs of sin in man develop themselves. And we have already observed how carefully, even in the relation of marvels, those natural causes are adduced which God employed in their performance. The more the sacred writers lived in view of the divine necessity of the ordinary course of nature, the less they felt themselves tempted to destroy or even to conceal the necessary sequence of things, the close connection of the marvellous and the natural,—the less they felt themselves disposed to invent miracles, which to them were not an object of wonder. A love of the marvellous belongs only to godlessness; so that the assumption that God performs miracles presupposes godlessness. Hence even those who are deceived respecting the condition of human nature must regard miracles as aimless. Finally, our opponents urge that for the honour of holy Scripture, and out of regard for religion, it is incumbent on us to preserve the mythical interpretation. But we need not enter more closely into this argument. It is probably only a jest; an attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the simple. Even De Wette, who has carried the mythical view to its utmost extent, gives expression to a very different sentiment. In his Kritik on the History of the Israelites, p. 408, he says: “Happy were our ancestors who, in ignorance of the art of criticism, themselves truly and honestly believed all they taught. History lost at least in this respect, that she faithfully related myths which she was obliged always to continue to relate as truth, even while, from love to the doubter, adding the warning that they were myths; but religion gained. I have not been the first to commence criticism; but since the dangerous game has been once begun, it must be carried through, for only that which is perfect of its kind is good. The genius of humanity watches over the race, and will not suffer it to be robbed of the noblest which exists for men.” These latter words have verified themselves in a remarkable manner. At the time when they were spoken sacred history as such had been already borne to the grave. Now it has risen again with the church.
But it is time we should pass on to the other native sources of the history of the Old Testament. Among these the remaining books of the Old Testament take the second position. From these we obtain not merely isolated historic notices, such as we find especially in the Psalms and the writings of the prophets; they often afford us the most vivid picture of the times in which they were written. We learn more of the condition of religion and morality in many periods from the predictions of the prophets, than from the notices of the historical books, which in some cases are but brief, and in which great care must be taken to keep the prophetic standpoint continually in mind. Nor must it be forgotten that the prophets lived in view of the infinitely high destination of the covenant people, applied to the actual the strict measure of the ideal, and unsparingly condemned that which was not conformable to it; turning their attention as preachers of repentance to offences rather than to existing good. We have an excellent supplement to their representations, which are in some measure one-sided, in the Psalms, which clearly lay before us the heart of the ἐκλογή in Israel. If we had not the Psalms, we should be tempted to put a much lower value on the results of true religion than they really deserve, particularly as most of the historical books were written by prophets, and from a prophetic standpoint. The Psalms afford us the deepest insight into the inner life of the most noble among the nation, more especially as the only one who specially speaks in them repeatedly declares himself to be an organ of the whole community to which he belongs, of the just, the God-fearing,—many of whom awaken in us a vivid idea of religious collective life under the Old Testament. Thus, for example, the so-called Psalms of Degrees, or more correctly Pilgrim-Songs, intended to be sung by festive processions on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Psalms 120-134). And we must attach the greater significance to the Psalms, because they accompany us through the whole history of Israel, from the time of David through whom this great gift was first imparted in full measure to the people of God, after they had already had a foretaste of it by Moses (Psalms 90), till after the return from exile. Throughout this long period there is no great event of which the Psalms do not treat; no great trouble or joy which does not there find expression. In this connection we encounter two principal groups, the Psalms of the Davidic time, and those which belong to the period of the captivity,—the latter partly in anticipation of misery preparing a treasure of comfort and hope, as Psalms 91-100, partly in the midst of it, mourning and despairing, and rising to resignation and confidence, as for example Psalms 104-106; partly giving thanks after the deliverance, and praying for a continuation of the work begun, as in Psalms 107-150, with the exception of the interpolated Psalms of David. Between these two groups are the Psalms which celebrate the great deliverance of the Lord under Jehoshaphat, Psalms 46, Psalms 47, Psalms 83, and those which have reference to the oppression and deliverance under Hezekiah, Psalms 48, Psalms 75, Psalms 76. As to the authorship of the Psalms, they belong partly to David, partly to the Schools of Singers which arose under his influence, to the Asaphites and the Sons of Korah; and partly to unknown authors, which is especially the case with regard to those which were composed after the return from captivity. The Psalms and the writings of the prophets are especially instructive in reference to the contrast between the true and false Israel, between the just and the wicked, believers and unbelievers; the latter being again divided into those who utterly despise the kingdom of God, and those whose unbelief is based on self-righteousness, a division afterwards verified in the sects of the Pharisees and Sadducees. This constantly recurring antithesis—in order fully to appreciate it we must compare Psalms 22 and Isaiah 65—points to a later separation, under the New Testament, of those heterogeneous elements which had formerly been united in the external theocracy; and as a preparation for the church of the New Testament, of which it contains a prediction, must be kept constantly in view. A new, holy, and pure church of the Lord is frequently foretold by the prophets, comp. for example Isa 4:3-4. The non-historical writings have also special importance with regard to the further development of the doctrinal system, which in the history of the Old Testament, so far as it aims at being a history of divine revelations, must necessarily be considered with care. Legislation ended with the Pentateuch, i.e. religious legislation; for the purely civil maintains its ordinary course. The civil rulers of after-time were not at all limited to it; but the Pentateuch has to do with it for all ages, only in so far as it rests immediately upon a religious and ethical foundation. It is not so with doctrine; respecting this, God by His instruments gave to later times, viz. those previous to the Babylonish captivity, disclosures for which earlier times were not yet ripe. These disclosures were most important when they had reference to the doctrine of the Messiah, a doctrine which even in the Psalms had made considerable advance, owing to the union of the promise made to David of eternal kingship in his family, 2 Samuel 7, with the already existing Messianic hopes; and which was afterwards developed on every side by the prophets; but even with respect to other doctrines, viz. of the resurrection, of the angels, and of Satan, there is an important advance on what exists in the Pentateuch only in germ, but is nevertheless constantly present; everything later is only further development and advance.
The third native source is formed by the apocryphal books of the Old Testament. Of these the books of the Maccabees alone are historical; for wherever else we find historical form it is merely envelope. This is the case with Tobit and Judith, whose historical character Wolf, a Silesian superintendent, has recently undertaken to defend—an attempt truly absurd; so also with the book of Baruch, in which an Israelite in the διασπορά puts his own sentiment? in the mouth of Jeremiah and his amanuensis Baruch, especially in horror of the heathen idolatry. Of the books of Maccabees the first is the more important. It comprises the religious oppressions under Antiochus Epiphanes, with the history of the wars under Mattathias and his sons, Judas, Jonathan, and Simon; and is, therefore, the most significant period of the whole history, from the close of the old dispensation under Ezra and Nehemiah unto Christ. An accurate knowledge of it is of importance, because on this depends the understanding of many of the Old Testament prophecies relative to this period, especially those of Zechariah and Daniel. And here we must observe that in the exposition of the prophets, in pursuance of a falsely literal method which culminated in the supranaturalistic expositors of the second half of the last century, especially in Venema and J. D. Michaelis, more honour has been assigned to it than is due. For many have sought to discover in it the fulfilment of prophecies which found at most but one fulfilment—a mode of dealing which is the result of incapacity to apprehend the idea which inspires the prophets, and to appreciate the distinction between prophecy and divination. A more perfect knowledge serves to reveal the worthlessness of this mode of exposition, showing how little the reality in this time corresponded to that which the prophets by inspiration hoped for; and how necessary it is, therefore, to advance further, to fix the glance upon Him in whom all the promises of the prophets are yea and amen. And it is evident that this period lies without the region of canonical history from the fact that it is unduly estimated by those who make it a principal object of prophecy, as well as from the circumstance that it is completely destitute of prophecy itself. A time which proves itself so deficient in the higher vital powers in operation under Israel, cannot be regarded as that to which the prophecy of earlier times had main reference. It is equally certain that prophecy concerns Israel only in so far as they are a covenant and consequently a spiritual people. By these remarks we also obviate another attempt to give honour where it is not due, viz. the effort of Hitzig and others to assign to the Maccabean period by far the greater portion of the Psalms. Prophecy and psalmody go hand in hand throughout the whole history of Israel. When the former was entirely extinct, the latter could not flourish. And, moreover, if it had flourished, the period could not lie without the region of canonical history. The thing itself was far from making any such pretensions. It had little spirit; but it was conscious of this, and therefore leaned humbly upon the more spiritual past. It is certain that the first book of Maccabees is not without important mistakes, particularly in the statements respecting foreign geography and history. Thus, for example, the account of the Romans in 1 Maccabees 8 is incorrect almost throughout. In 1Ma 1:1, the author proceeds on the false assumption that the Persians were driven from the possession of Greece by Alexander the Great. In 1 M 1:6-8 he states, contrary to all authentic history, that Alexander during his lifetime divided his kingdom among his assembled generals. But the most flagrant error occurs in 1Ma 6:1, where he changes the large territory of Elymais into a town in Persia. These and other errors have been pointed out by Wernsdorff in his acute and learned work, De fide historica Librorum Maccabaicorum, 1747; which, however, is not entirely free from polemic embarrassment: it may be compared with the commentary of J. D. Michaelis On the First Book of Maccabees. The two supplement one another. For Michaelis goes too far in an opposite direction. He often tries to vindicate the author when he cannot possibly be justified. In Grimm’s Commentary on the First Book of Maccabees we recognise an attempt to maintain the proper mean between the two extremes. But when the author confines himself within the limits of Palestine and of the nearest past, he proves himself on the whole to be reliable, accurate, and careful; notwithstanding his poetical-prose style, which in many passages, though not always, is somewhat pompous, departing from the simplicity of canonical history, contrasting disagreeably with the attractive simplicity and objectivity of the canonical history of the Old and New Testaments. Here his statements are very generally confirmed by coins, and by those foreign writers who have occupied themselves with the same period. Because the book contains a faithful account of a most remarkable providence of God, it may with a certain degree of truth be said to be a sacred book, if not by virtue of its composition, yet on account of its contents. We cannot accurately fix the time of its origin. From 1Ma 16:23-24, we learn that it cannot have been composed until long after the beginning of the reign of John Hyrcanus; and it is probable that it belongs to a period prior to his death, which would otherwise have been mentioned. The assumption of a later authorship is untenable for this reason, that we should then be unable to explain the universally admitted credibility, and especially the chronological accuracy of the book; for nowhere do we find any trace of the employment of older written sources, not even in passages such as 1Ma 9:22, where we might expect to find a reference to them, especially if we compare 1Ma 16:23-24; and, moreover, the author speaks of the Romans, upon whom he bases great hopes, in a manner which presupposes that they had not yet revealed their true character with reference to the Jews. For the rest, the book was originally written in Greek; and we do not hold with most scholars that the Hebrew or Aramaic book of Maccabees, mentioned by Origen and Jerome, is the original, but only a translation. So also the Aramaic Matthew has often erroneously been regarded as the original, on the false assumption that only Aramaic could be written for born Jews. The numerous hebraisms can prove nothing to the contrary, since they are to be found in all Greek works written by Jews; on the same ground we might prove a Hebrew or Aramaic original for all the books of the New Testament. The alleged errors in translation rest on false assumptions. That our Greek book is the original follows from the fact, that the author employs not the Hebrew text but the Alexandrian version of the books of the Old Testament, especially of Daniel; as the use of the LXX. also forms a strong argument in favour of the originality of the Greek Matthew; that Josephus draws always from the Greek as the authentic; and finally, that the book, as even Grimm must concede, is distinguished from the LXX. by a much easier and more flowing Greek, whence its language does not bear the character of a translation.
The second book of the Maccabees is inferior to the first. It is divided into two parts. The first part is formed by two documents contained in the first two chapters, professedly sent by the Jews in Palestine to the Jews in Egypt after the victories of Judas Maccabeus, in order to summon them to take part in celebrating the consecration of the Temple. There can be no doubt that these letters are a literary fiction; for the whole second book of Maccabees is not so much a proper historical work as a mixture of truth and fiction—an historical romance, something like Wildenhahn’s Spener. They contain strange fancies; and the author is so bold as to refer to the writings of Moses, of Jeremiah, and of Nehemiah, in which there is not a word of all these things. Hence the references cannot be seriously meant. The second part contains a historical sketch of the time of the Maccabees; it embraces, however, only a comparatively short period. Beginning almost at the same starting-point as the author of the first book, the writer continues the narrative only through a period of fourteen or fifteen years, till the measures taken by Demetrius Soter against Judas Maccabeus in the year 161; while the first book embraces a period of forty years. (The second book runs parallel only with the first seven chapters of the first book.) This second part professes to be an extract from a large work in five books, on the Acts of the Maccabees, written by Jason of Cyrene, with a prologue and epilogue. Of this work we do not find the least trace anywhere else; and since the first part resembles the second in construction, there is reason to believe that the author of the pretended letters was also the author of the pretended abstract; a view which has been recently contested by Grimm on insufficient ground. Thus we are to some extent justified in doubting whether this work had any existence whatever. It is possible that it may belong to the region of fiction to which the author has given so much scope. He wrote at a time when dull fictions were in fashion; as may be seen, for example, in Philo of Byblos and the self-named Manetho. However that may be, there can at least be no doubt, especially after the argument of Wernsdorff in the above-mentioned work, that the second part is not much superior to the first, in so far as its historical character is concerned. Of the author’s mistakes when he touches upon foreign geography and history little need be said, since he has them in common with the author of the first book, although he surpasses him in this respect. But even in the history of the nation itself there is much that bears an unhistorical character. The narrative of the first book is in conformity with the character of the whole period from the Babylonian exile to Christ, of whom we have an anticipation in the fact that this period did not become an object of sacred history entirely on natural ground. The author betrays a constant tendency to the marvellous, a weakness of character which this period itself recognised as belonging to it, for it looked to the future alone for the restoration of the prophetic gift, 1Ma 14:41 Macc. 14:41; renouncing at the same time the possession of supernatural influences. In all other portions of sacred history wonders and prophecies are intimately connected; and this very admixture of the miraculous, which is wanting in the first book, appears to have been a main object of the author in undertaking his work. A judgment which pronounces narratives of this nature to be lies, is scarcely legitimate. The book must not be judged merely from the same point of view as the first of Maccabees; but may be classed with the books of Tobit and Judith. The author intends at the outset to give truth and fiction. We may compare his work to the Cyropaedia of Xenophon in profane literature. The chronology is throughout incorrect; all events are placed a year too early. The Greek diction of the book is generally pure; but the style is declamatory, with rhetorical ornament, containing moral remarks and digressions; thus contrasting with the objectivity which is maintained by the sacred historical books, whose object throughout is to influence by means of the facts themselves, and whose only care it is to set them forth in clear features and sharp outlines. From these remarks it follows that the book can only have a subordinate value as a historical source, although it contains many valuable historical notices. But on the whole, the historical basis remains always inviolable; and the separation of truth and fiction can generally be accomplished without difficulty. The fiction is for the most part but loosely laid on. The date of composition cannot be fixed. If we may conclude anything from the complete ignorance which Josephus and Philo betray respecting it, it must have been composed at a late time. The oldest allusion to the book is to be found in Clement of Alexandria. The arguments brought forward by Grimm in his Commentary on the Second, Third, and Fourth Books of Maccabees, Leipzig 1857, to prove that the book must necessarily have been composed before the destruction of Jerusalem, are not conclusive. Even the references to it in the New Testament, accepted as such by Stier, are liable to well-founded suspicion.
The third book of Maccabees stands much lower, and no longer belongs to the collection of apocryphal works recognised by the church. The title is scarcely appropriate, since it describes a persecution which Ptolemy Philopator (he reigned from 221 to 204 B.C.) is said to have inflicted on the Jews in Egypt; it is however correctly named so far, that the narrative of the author is a romance based upon the relations of the Maccabean time. The book is either pure fiction, or else the circumstance on which it is founded is so enlarged, distorted, and interwoven with the marvellous, that it can no longer be recognised. This requires no proof, as is universally conceded, and is obvious to every one who reads. The work is an Egyptian product, which was not known till very late; and has not been translated in the Vulgate, nor even by Luther. We may regard the Egyptian-Greek insurrection against the Jews as the historical occasion, which occurred in the time of the Roman imperial dominion. The author, writing for the encouragement of his fellow-countrymen, transfers the relations of this time to that of the Ptolemies, in which, according to the testimony of history, no such insurrection took place. He invents a persecution after the pattern of that which occurred in the time of the Maccabees; and sets forth a miraculous, divine deliverance, in order to encourage the Jews in Alexandria under their oppression.
There is still a fourth book of Maccabees, sometimes mentioned by the church fathers. This is in all probability the book of Maccabees which is to be found among the works of Josephus, but which does not belong to him, as may be seen from the gross historical errors which appear in it. It is found also in many mss. and editions of the Alexandrian version. That the book has no properly historical, but only a philosophical tendency, is evident from the title, περὶ σωγροσύνης, or αὐτοκρατόρος λογισμοῦ. The author wishes to treat of the relation which ought to subsist between the rational will and the sensuous impulses. In order to show the possibility of a reckless limitation of the latter, he relates the histories of the Maccabees from the Maccabean time. According to Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., iii. 10, the book was composed in the latter half of the first century. In 1Ma 13:14 there is an allusion to Mat 10:28, whence, however, we are not at liberty to conclude that the book was written by a Christian, against which there are many data.
In the remaining apocryphal books also, especially in those of Tobit, Judith, Baruch, etc., are to be found many historical statements; but on account of the whole historical character of the books, and the time and region from which they went forth—they are mostly Alexandrian productions—these statements must be used with great caution, and can only serve to confirm what has been drawn from other sources. The books of Tobit and Judith are historically clothed fictions; the former throughout a contemplative, lovely poem; the latter presenting offences against morality, but at the same time containing a noble germ—a fund of ardent faith and a lively fear of God. They are important as monuments of the spirit of the time in which they were written—in this respect also the books of Jesus Sirach and Wisdom are of equal importance, which together with Tobit, Baruch, and the first of Maccabees, are the noblest products of apocryphal literature.
The fourth native source is formed by Jewish writers whose works are to be found neither among the canonical nor among the apocryphal books of the Old Testament. Among these Flavius Josephus takes the first rank. Born in the year 37 A.D., in the reign of the Emperor Caligula, and carefully instructed in the Jewish code of law, he joined himself to the sect of the Pharisees. When his people revolted against the Romans, he contended boldly at their head, acting as field-general in Galilee; but was taken prisoner by Vespasian. To him he foretold the imperial dominion, in an interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 9, according to which Jerusalem was to be destroyed by a heathen prince; and when this prediction was fulfilled he was set free by the Emperor and richly rewarded. He now received from his patron the surname of Flavius, and accompanied Titus, in the 33d year of his age, to the siege of Jerusalem, where he assumed the office of a negotiator, and besought its inhabitants to surrender—but in vain; the penetration which saw through existing relations could avail nothing against fanaticism—the less, because his character was not calculated to inspire confidence. After the conquest of Jerusalem he went to Rome with Titus, who was particularly gracious to him, and whose favour he sought to use as much as possible for the good of his unfortunate countrymen. In the year 93 he was still alive. That of his death is unknown. The following are his works, in chronological order:—
1. Seven books of the Jewish war and of the destruction of Jerusalem. This work was originally written in Syro-Chaidaic, and was afterwards translated into Greek and presented to Vespasian and Titus. Considerable credibility is due to it. Josephus tells in his autobiography that Titus with his own hand wrote upon it the command that it should be publicly made known, χαράξας τῇ ἑαυτοῦ χειρὶ τὰ βιβλία δημοσιεῦοσαι προσέταξεν, words which some have erroneously understood to mean that Titus, famed for his readiness in writing, copied out the whole book himself. Josephus tells also in his autobiography how King Agrippa assured him that he had written this history the most carefully and accurately of all. We must take care, however, not to place too much value on their assurances. They only testify to the historical truth as a whole. In many details, especially where chronology is concerned, we perceive that want of the true historic mind, which appears in his remaining works, and for which no autopsy can compensate. The fact that many have undertaken to justify all these details (especially v. Raumer in his Geography of Palestine) betrays the lack of a complete view of the individuality of Josephus. The analogies which he brings forward with much learning in favour of everything strange and improbable could only hold good if his individuality had been quite different from what it really was; if he could be cleared from the reproach of credulousness, of superstition, and that love of exaggeration and of obscurity which leads him to follow not only the great aim of the historian, viz. truth, but at the same time other subordinate ends. That the description of the temple which Josephus gives in this work, as well as that in his Antiquities, are in many details confused and in others undoubtedly exaggerated; that national vanity and the peculiarity of his position led him to embellish and beautify for the glory of his nation—all this has been thoroughly established by Robinson in his Travels, part ii. p. 53, etc. But, on the other hand, we cannot fail to see that we have to do with a contemporary and perfectly informed historian who on the whole wished to tell the truth, and was obliged to tell it.
2. Ἰουδαικὴ ἀρχαιολογία, Jewish history in twenty books, from the beginning of the world to the year 66 A.D., when the Jews again rebelled against the Romans; so that the work may be regarded as a continuation of the Jewish war. It was written at Rome. Josephus states at the end of his last book that he completed it in the thirteenth year of Domitian, in the 56th year of his age. It is therefore almost contemporaneous with the last book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse, which was written about three years later. In the choice of a title, and in his division, Josephus seems to have imitated Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who had written a Roman archaeology in twenty books. The value of this history is various, according to the times of which it treats. The period embraced in the historical books of the Old Testament is comparatively small, and may be reckoned a help rather than a source; having for the most part no greater authority than a modern elaboration of the Old Testament history, so that it becomes a matter of great surprise that many, even in recent times, should thoughtlessly quote Josephus as an authority for the history of the period. Besides the books of the Old Testament, which he read mostly not in the original, but the Alexandrian translation, which is in some parts very defective, and which we, with our aids, can understand much more thoroughly, he employed no native sources except oral tradition, of whose miserable state we have ample proof in the accounts he has taken from it; for example, the history of the march of Moses against the Ethiopians, of the Ethiopian princess who offered him her hand, of the magic arts of Solomon, etc. If we take pleasure in such stories, it is just as easy to invent them for ourselves as to borrow them from Josephus. He is also deficient in the power of transporting himself to ancient times, partly owing to his participation in the unhistorical Alexandrian tendency, a circumstance which leads him also to adopt the allegorical mode of interpretation; but what is more prejudicial to his work is the fact that he continually aims at writing history in a way which should give no offence to the heathen for whom his work was specially intended, but might rather remove their prejudices against the Jews, or their contempt of them. Sly tact, cunning, and craftiness—such is the character of Josephus as he appears in his own description of his personal relations; and we recognise the same characteristics in his history. The fact that his aim is not purely historical, that history serves him rather as a means to a special end, is the key to explain a multitude of phenomena which his work presents. The injury which must accrue to history from such an apologetic attempt has been seen whenever that course has been adopted; but it appears most strikingly in the second half of the last century, when theologians like Michaelis, Less, and Jerusalem diluted and distorted biblical history, attempting by the most far-fetched hypotheses to make it agreeable to the spirit of a time which was alien to it. In Josephus, the detrimental influence of this mode of treatment may be seen in double measure. First, he seeks to place his favourite people higher than they are placed in the sacred record, and to invest them with the attributes which the heathen prized most highly. Like Philo, he assigns to the Patriarchs and Moses a wisdom like that which he found among the Greeks and Grecizing Romans of his own day. Again, in recording the miraculous events which demanded particularly strong faith, fearing to compromise himself or to lose a favourable hearing for that which was to be accepted, he either speaks in vague language or by silence weakens the impression of the miraculous. Thus, for example, he remarks on the narrative of the passage through the Red Sea that he relates the story as he finds it in the holy Scripture, leaving it to each one to decide whether the circumstance was effected by direct divine influence or by natural causes. We can scarcely suppose that remarks of this nature are suggested by Josephus’ own doubt and uncertainty, as is the case with the above-named theologians of the last century; but must regard them rather as the product of a pedagogic prudence, so to speak; which frequently appears elsewhere in reference to the Messianic hopes for example, where far too little distinction has been made between what Josephus says and what he believes. But that which gives him some value even where ancient history is concerned, is the use of foreign historical authors who are lost, from whom he has brought forward many explanations and confirmations of the biblical narrative. Yet we must use great caution with respect to this evidence; for the writers belong to a bad period, that which succeeded Alexander, where historic falsification played a very important part, especially in Alexandria, in which authorship was made a profession; prefiguring our present literary activity, and authors wrote in the service of the various national vanities which there intermingled, seeking in literature the satisfaction denied them in politics. On nearer consideration, the really important extracts of Josephus are reducible to a very small number. What he quotes from Menander’s Greek Elaboration of the Tyrian Journals is by far the most important. Next in value are the communications from Berosus, which, however, are of importance only so far as they have reference to the time of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors. For the history of the last period comprised in the books of the Old Testament no dependence can be placed on Josephus. Here he has little which is original, little that surpasses the canonical Ezra and the books of Nehemiah and Esther; and even this little is of inferior quality. It is in a great measure taken from the apocryphal book of Ezra, whose statements, in themselves uncertain, are still further distorted by the conjectures and false combinations of Josephus. He used no other sources for this period. Comp. the translation of Kleinert, Treatise on Ezra and Nehemiah, Dorpat Contributions, part i. p. 162 et seq. But Josephus has far greater weight when he treats of the time from the conclusion of the Old Testament to the end of his work. For whole periods, from the conclusion of the Old Testament to the Maccabees, he is almost our only source, though indeed very meagre. At this time the causes which led him to represent the earlier periods had mostly disappeared; and his credibility respecting it may be gathered partly from the internal character of his narrative and partly from the accounts of profane writers. Where we might feel tempted to question his statements, as in the account of Alexander’s sojourn at Jerusalem, a closer examination sometimes serves to confirm them. It cannot be denied, however, that great caution should be used in accepting what he says, even where it has reference to this period; and that not a few incorrect statements are to be found; for he never quite belies his character. His testimony is unreliable particularly when he treats of the time he assigns to the apostate priest Manasseh, and to the beginning of the temple at Gerizim. He is not even accurately acquainted with the succession of the Persian kings. From the great poverty of his sources, it is evident he does not draw from important ones. Historic certainty increases as he comes nearer to his own time, but is not unqualified even here; for the absence of other, earlier occasions of error, are replaced by a new one, his personal vanity.
3. De vita sua, autobiography of Josepheus, valuable first of all for the knowledge which it reveals of his individuality, so indispensable to the formation of a just estimate of his larger works; and also for the knowledge of the history of his time, and of the contemporary religious and civil condition of the Jews. In determining the date of the composition of his Antiquities, we fix that of this book also. It forms, as Josephus himself tells us at the end of the twentieth book, an appendix to it; and is therefore not improperly quoted by Eusebius under the name of the Antiquities. It is not so much a complete biography as a record for the vindication of his conduct in the Jewish war, which was attacked on so many sides.
4. On the antiquities of the Jewish nation. Josephus was prompted to undertake this work by the quackish polyhistor Apion, who had attacked the antiquity of the Jewish nation, and had brought forward many unfounded calumnies against them in the interest of the Greco-Egyptian enmity to the Jews, which was prevalent in the time of the Roman imperial dominion, especially in Alexandria. But Josephus was not satisfied to refute him alone; he also noticed the calumnies of Apollonius Molo and other writers. This book is important for Old Testament history, because it contains a number of fragments from lost works of Phoenician, Egyptian, and Babylonish historians; with reference to which, however, we must repeat the remark already made respecting the Antiquities, The defence of Josephus is often as inaccurate as the attack against which it is directed. Without criticism he heaps together everything which can serve his purpose. The historically-veiled polemics he combats had adopted Jewish accounts of ancient history, altering them to suit themselves; and had then represented them as resting on independent heathen tradition. Josephus never fully uncovers this literary deception; he unmasks the impostors only so far as it serves his national interest; and allows their testimony to pass when he can turn it to his own advantage. Nor has he any hesitation in overlooking the deception of the Jewish writers who represented themselves as heathens, that in this character they might more effectually weaken heathen calumnies and glorify the antiquity and grandeur of their nation by testimony apparently coming from an enemy. He never seems to entertain the idea of unmasking them. It follows from these remarks that the books against Apion can only be used as a historical source, with the greatest caution.
Among the Jews Josephus found little acceptance, partly on account of the language in which his works (with the exception of the books of the Jewish war) were written, partly also because he was looked upon as an apostate. So much the more highly was he valued by the Christians, for whom the books on the Jewish war must have had special interest, as forming an excellent apology for Christianity against Judaism; and for all that relates to the relations existing in the time of Christ, which to the present day forms an invaluable mine in proving the genuine historical character of the Gospels. Even the earliest church writers, as Clement of Alexandria and Origen, show an intimate acquaintance with him. Eusebius, in his Church History, quotes whole sections from his books on the Jewish war. The Latin translation was several times printed in the fifteenth century. A German one, by Hedio, was also in existence, Strasb. 1531, when at Basle 1544, the first edition of the Greek original appeared. The most common edition is that by Ittig. By far the best, however, is that of Haverkamp, Amsterdam 1726, 2 vols, fob; indispensable for every one who wishes to become thoroughly familiar with Josephus. It is provided with a tolerably rich critical apparatus, but is unfortunately very inadequate in respect of exegesis.
To the native sources we may reckon also the pseudo-epigraphs of the Old Testament, collected by Fabricius in the Cod. Pseudepigr. V. T., Hamb. 1713, 1723, 2 vols.—viz. such writings as are falsely attributed to the most important men of the Old Testament—Enoch, for example; while the apocryphal books are certainly genuine, but not canonical; and are distinguished from native works, like those of Josephus, by a certain authority which they have obtained in the synagogue, and in the church as a sort of uncanonical supplement to the canon. The pseudo-epigraphs have the dignity of sources more with regard to- later Jewish modes of thought and dogmas than in reference to isolated facts; for where the latter are concerned, they must in the nature of things be highly uncertain, and do in fact abound with absurd fables. Even Philo (born in the year 20 B.C.) is only so far to be regarded as a source as his writings set forth the character of Alexandrian Judaism; the peculiar form which Judaism assumed in Egypt, owing to contact with the Greek mind. For historical facts he is a bad guarantee; owing to his morbid dominant subjectivity, which always transfers itself to the object; and on account of his unhistorical, idealising manner of thought. Even where he speaks of the present, and from his own observation, as in his account of the Therapeutse, there is such a mixture of truth and fiction, of the ideal and the actual, that we must regret, in the absence of more sober witnesses, to be obliged to accept him as our authority. The historic accounts of the Talmud belong to a time when the perception of truth among the Jews had so utterly disappeared, that the narrators themselves were no longer conscious of the distinction between truth and fiction. This is also the case with respect to other old Jewish writings, such as the book Sohar, and the ancient allegorical commentaries on the Bible known under the name of Rabboth. In all history there is scarcely an example of a nation in whom the perception of truth generally, but especially of historic truth, was so completely enfeebled as among the Jews after the destruction of Jerusalem. In this respect they are related to other nations in an inverse ratio to their ancestors; a phenomenon which will appear strange only to those who are incapable of apprehending its deeper causes, comp. Joh 5:43; to which we may add national vanity in union with the deepest degradation—a union which everywhere proves itself a potentiality destructive of history, but most strikingly in Egypt—isolation; a base mind thinking only of gain; and the one-sidedness of studies directed to mere subtleties. The analogy of the modern Greeks to the Greeks of antiquity suffices at least to show how little we are authorized to infer the unhistorical tendency of Israel from that of later Judaism.
The only national monuments which serve to illustrate the history are coins of the time of the Maccabees, whose genuineness was triumphantly established in the contest between Bayer and Tychsen, amply detailed in Hartmann’s biography of the latter.
Let us now pass to the foreign sources of Old Testament history. These are divided into two classes—accounts which directly refer to the Jews, and those which indirectly bear upon Hebrew history in setting forth the history of the nations with whom the Jews came into contact. We shall speak first of the former. In the later East we find strange traditions and sayings concerning Old Testament history, which, though not without manifold interest, have but little historical value,—the less because they may generally be recognised as embellishments and distortions of the accounts preserved in later times by Jews and Christians. This is especially the case when they have reference to the Koran; and what has not been sufficiently recognised—to the traditions of the Arabs concerning their own early history and their descent from Kahtan (Joktan) and Ishmael, which have perhaps no independent basis, being certainly developed under Jewish influence, which was very powerful in Arabia in the centuries preceding Mohammed.
Greek and Roman authors were not well informed respecting the affairs of the Jews, and drew from bad sources; from contempt they did not trouble themselves to inquire into the truth, and from hatred they would not see it. But especially regarding the more ancient, the pre-Babylonish history of the Jews; Greek and Roman history contributes very little which is valid, as may be inferred from the remarkable circumstance that previous to the time of Alexander no Greek author mentions the name of the Jews. Herodotus represents them only as Syrians in Palestine; and has evidently very obscure ideas respecting them; although what he tells of the conquest of Cadytis by Necho is of no little importance for the conflict between Egypt and Judah in the time of Josiah, of which the books of Kings and Chronicles tell nothing. Many writers, most of whom, however, seem to belong to the lowest class, composed separate works on the Jews; but none are now in existence. Fragments are to be found in Josephus, c. Ap., and in Eusebius, in the Chronicon and in Praepar. Ev. These two works are important for the history of the Old Testament. In the Chronicon the sole aim of Eusebius is to bring forward confirmation of Old Testament history from heathen authors whose works have for the most part been lost—whether they gave accounts concerning the Jews, or only explained and confirmed what the Scriptures told of foreign nations. For a long period we had to content ourselves with fragments of Jerome’s Latin translation of this chronicle, which were collected and learnedly discussed by Scaliger under the title of Thesaurus temporum, first at Leyden 1606, afterwards in a second enlarged edition at Amsterdam, 1658. But the whole has been preserved in the Armenian language; and first appeared in the year 1818, in Armenian and Latin, at Venice, in 2 vols., with many annotations. This is an addition to the treasury of sources for Old Testament history. To it we owe many illustrations and confirmations of that history, taken from otherwise unknown fragments; especially with regard to the objects of the embassy which, according to the book of Kings, was sent from Babylon to Hezekiah; and concerning the narrative in the six first chapters of Daniel. The whole ninth book of the Praeparatio Evangelica serves the same purpose. For the rest, that which has been said of Josephus also holds good in the case of Eusebius. We must be particularly cautious in using his authorities; for they are generally bad late writers who quote as the original a copy of the copy of the Old Testament narrative, in which but few genuine features remain. Everything which these authors—Nicolaus Damasc, Alex. Polyhistor, Artapanus, Eupolemus, etc.—can tell of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and even of Moses, bears the same relation to the Old Testament as the statements of the Koran; and is of no more importance; so that we cannot help wondering how men like Hess can make so much of these statements; or how v. Bohlen, Tuch, Lengerke, Bertheau, and others can treat them as almost equal in value to the Mosaic account. Other Greek and Latin authors still extant give passing accounts of the Jews. Thus Diodorm Siculus, lib. i. chap. v.; Strabo, in the tenth book of his Geography; Justin, in the second chapter of the thirty-sixth book of his extract from Tragus Pompejus; Tacitus historiarum, lib. v. chaps. ii.-xiii. Horace, Juvenal, C. Pliny the younger, and Martial also make passing mention of the Jews. The passages from these authors which have reference to the Jews have been diligently collected and explained by many scholars, especially by Schudt, in his Compendium historiae Judaicae potissimum ex gentilium scriptis collecium, Fkf. a. M. 1700. The latest collection, that of Meyer, Judaica, Jena 1832, is incomplete, containing simply the Greek text.
So much for those who occupy themselves directly with the Jews. The nations with whom the Hebrews came most into contact, and whose history is therefore of special importance as bearing upon theirs, are the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. With the exception of the Phoenicians, these very nations, and they alone, appear in the Apocalypse as the successive possessors of the sovereignty of the world, under whose yoke the people of God sighed—six heads of the seven-headed beast, under the symbol of which the sovereignty of the world is represented; the seventh head was still future at the time of the Apocalypse. We give here only the principal sources for the history of the five first nations, assuming that the sources of the history of the Greeks and Romans are already known.
The sources of Egyptian history are very meagre. The Egyptians were extremely deficient in the historic faculty, about as much as the Indians. Truth and fiction, mythology and history, were separated by a fluctuating barrier. In olden times, in records which did not relate to the intercourse of common life, they generally made use of hieroglyph or picture-writing, which was liable to much misapprehension in the lapse of time, and gave rise to strange misunderstandings. This source was the more necessarily fluctuating, because such defective writing contained only pompous descriptions of actual or alleged exploits, never forming a properly historical work, which Egypt does not seem to have possessed at all before the supremacy of the Greeks. Yet to this source, to uncertain oral tradition, and to old monuments, the Egyptians were limited in the time of Herodotus; and to them, not to mention the Old Testament, we owe directly or indirectly all we know of Egyptian history. We must remember, also, that national vanity induced the priests to conceal their ignorance by fabrication; to be silent respecting many facts that were disagreeable; and to distort others. They had one particular quality, which has been very aptly designated virtuosity by O. Müller in his work Orchomenos and the Minyans, by virtue of which they appropriated foreign histories and traditions respecting their country; and after metamorphosing them to their own advantage, gave them out as originally Egyptian; a virtuosity by which they often imposed on the Greeks, but which they also applied to the Jews. Among native Egyptian authors the most important is Manetho, which is not saying much unfortunately,—he was professedly a priest at the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, about 260 years B.C. He wrote by order of the king, as is alleged, a copious history of his people in the Greek tongue, from the oldest traditionary time to that of Darius Codomannus, who was conquered by Alexander. But my treatise, Manetho and the Hyksos, as an appendix to the work entitled The Books of Moses and Egypt, brings forward many important reasons why Manetho could not have written as a born and exalted Egyptian under Ptolemy Philadelphus; and assigns to him or to the person who appropriated his perhaps honoured name, a much later time, probably that of the Roman emperors. Fragments of what the alleged Manetho wrote concerning the sojourn of the Hebrews in Egypt and their exodus, have been preserved by Josephus, in his first book against Apion. These fragments, which have been so much built upon, are more important for a knowledge of the Alexandrian spirit than of the events they record. We might just as well follow the Uranios of Simonides as take Manetho for our guide in this matter. The lists of the Egyptian kings have been excerpted by Julius Africanus; from whom Eusebius transferred them to his Chronicle. These lists of names have more importance than anything else that has been preserved. Although even here the ground is very uncertain, especially in the whole series of the first fifteen dynasties, for the most part the result of patriotic fabrication; yet many names receive confirmation from the most recent discoveries. But we are not authorized to infer the correctness of his narrative from that of these lists of names, for he had very different sources at his command for the names; they occur numberless times on the monuments, and from them a certain number of kings’ names might very readily be copied with accuracy. In the time of the Roman emperors an Egyptian named Chiiremon, notorious even among the ancients for his ignorance and unreliableness, wrote a work on Egyptian history, which has also been lost; but Josephus in his first book, c. Ap., has preserved the part which relates to the Hebrews. As a reason for the odious accounts which these and other Egyptian writers, such as Lysimachus and Apion, give of the Jews, Josephus adduces the ancient national hatred perpetuated from the time of the settlement of the Hebrews in Egypt. But there was unquestionably a far more powerful cause in the envy of the Egyptians, whose hatred was afterwards transferred to the Greeks dwelling in their country,—envy on account of the favours which the Jews enjoyed in Egypt after the time of Alexander, combined with a knowledge of the accounts of their forefathers contained in the Pentateuch, which, especially in the Alexandrian version, were extremely offensive to the national vanity of the Egyptians. So far as we know at least, there is no reason for assuming that the Egyptians had independent traditions relative to their original relations with the Hebrews. They sought to supply this deficiency by inventions, which may be recognised as such because they are throughout based upon the biblical narrative, and give such a turn to the history, and that generally in a very awkward way, that it no longer offends but subserves the national vanity. Since so little of the native writings of the Egyptians has been preserved, we must welcome even what has been said by foreign writers concerning ancient Egypt. Of these, the oldest and most important is Herodotus, who collected accounts of ancient history, from the mouth of the priests, about seventy years after the subjugation of the Egyptians by the Persians. Although the source was very muddy even then, it flowed considerably purer than at the time of Manetho. Thus Herodotus knows nothing of the whole Hyksos-fable of Manetho; nor is this to be wondered at, for the cause was not yet in existence which afterwards gave rise to it, viz. the relation to the Jews. Among the editions of Herodotus that by Bähr is the most important and indispensable for the elaborators of Old Testament history, on account of its rich apparatus. Next in value comes the manual of Stein. Four hundred years later, Diodorus Siculus gave a compilation of accounts respecting ancient history, partly from oral inquiries made in Egypt, partly from Greek authors. Diodorus has taken a fancy to set up the Egyptians as a model; and we seem often to be reading a historical romance rather than a history. In Plutarch, also, we find an exaggerated reverence for the Egyptians, and an effort to make them the representatives of his ideal. It is only with the utmost caution that we can avail ourselves of the historical material of these and similar writers. Each one finds his favourite idea realized in the Egyptians. This unhistorical tendency meets us in its grossest form among the Neo-platonists. In recent times, especially since the French expedition to Egypt, Egyptian antiquity has been made the subject of many learned investigations. The results of these are principally contained in the works of Rosellini and Wilkinson. Recent discoveries, however, have imparted less knowledge of the history of ancient Egypt than of its domestic, civil, and religious condition; for the numerous pictures and sculptures in the subterranean recesses afford such superabundant materials for the latter, that a recent English author has justly remarked that we are better acquainted with the court of the Pharaohs than with that of the Plantagenets. Notwithstanding the work of Bunsen, so rich in hypotheses, which Leo has followed far too incautiously in the third edition of his History of the World; and in spite of the work of Lepsius, the history still remains in confusion, from which it will never be possible to extricate it let us discover and decipher what we will, because the Egyptians never had a history.
For Phoenician history, so far as it is incorporated in that of the Old Testament, we possess no native sources, since the fragments which have come down to us from the alleged Greek translation of the very old Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon, edited by Orelli in a separate collection, contains only a cosmogony and theogony, and can therefore be of use only for that portion of the Mosaic narrative which lies beyond our province. Moreover, the alleged translation is certainly an original, the whole a composition of Philo who lived under Nero until Hadrian; and a Sanchuniathon for whose existence we have no testimony except that of Philo probably never lived at all; comp. my Contributions, ii. p. 110 et seq. Josephus accords special praise to Dius, from whom he gives a fragment relative to the relation between Solomon and Hiram, in his book against Apion. Besides this, he communicates isolated fragments from Menander of Ephesus, who wrote in Tyre, and drew from Tyrian annals a history of Tyre. These fragments show that the alleged works bore quite another character than the composition of Philo, which had no historical aim whatever, but only a dogmatic one, viz. to bring forward an ancient authority for his atheism. But even these authors are not to be trusted without qualification. What Dius relates of riddle-contest between Hiram and Solomon, which he professed to draw from an old Phoenician source, is, to judge from the fact on which it is based, manifestly of Jewish origin; supplemented by ready additions which owe their origin to Tyrian national vanity. Owing to the scantiness of native historical sources, Greek authors are almost the only co-narrators for the biblical authors with reference to their statements concerning Phoenician history, and are certainly very ill-informed.
For Assyrian history also, we have till now no native sources. What knowledge we may gain from the discoveries made in the last ten years (it is believed that annals of the Assyrian kingdom have been found written on the bricks) must in the main be waited for. Till now a safe contribution has been gained only for archaeology, not for history. Even Marcus Niebuhr, in his History of Assyria and Babylon, has not ventured to build with certainty upon the alleged decipherments of Assyrian texts. Till now the principal sources have been the fragments of Ktesias, best edited by Bähr, with a copious historical commentary; and the compiler Diodorus Siculus.
The history of the Babylonians and Chaldaeans was for a long time distinct,—the Chaldaeans were represented as having been first transplanted into Babylon Proper by the Assyrians, but have been proved to be identical by recent inquiries, especially by Hupfeld, and Delitzsch on Habakkuk,—the Chaldeans being the original inhabitants of Babylon, or a separate, prominent branch of them. Thus we possess two native sources for the history of these nations, both important for Old Testament history, although they have come down to us only as fragments of comparatively small compass. Berosus, a priest of Bel at Babylon, wrote professedly under the dominion of the Seleucidse about the year 262 B.C., a Chaldsean or Babylonish history in three books, of which fragments are preserved by Josephus, and by Eusebius in the Praep. Ev. and in the Chronic, and have been put together in a separate work by Richter. The work of Berosus was highly esteemed in ancient times, and is frequently quoted by Greek and Roman authors. To judge by the fragments, which have come down to us, it seems on the whole to have deserved its good name, though even here the influence of the fatal period in which it originated is unmistakeable. When Berosus does not wander into prehistoric times, and when his national vanity found no opportunity of exercising its injurious influence on him or his guarantees, his statements are trustworthy and of importance for the explanation and confirmation of the Biblical narrative, especially in the history of Nebuchadnezzar. The Chaldaean historical consciousness probably did not go beyond the period in which that people first attained to historical importance. What lay beyond was full of mythologumena and borrowed matter, on which the stamp of the Babylonish spirit was impressed. With respect to primitive times especially, the whole East is dependent on the Old Testament; an important position, which will be certified by every sound historical investigation. Nothing but the most determined prejudice can avoid seeing this in Berosus. What he tells of the Flood, of the Ark in which Noah was saved, its resting upon the summit of the Armenian mountains, cannot have been drawn from old native records, notwithstanding his express assertion to that effect—(1.) because it coincides too exactly with the statements of Holy Scripture; and (2.) because at the time when the Jews were still shut out from intercourse with the world, no trace is to be found among; the heathen of such accounts. The second author who has drawn directly from Chaldaean tradition is Abydenus. (Comp. Niebuhr’s observations respecting him in the treatise, On the Historical Gain to be derived from the Armenian Chronicle of Eusebius, printed in vol. i. of his historico-philological writings.) The time in which he lived cannot be accurately determined. It is certain that he wrote later than Berosus. We infer this partly from the circumstance that he knew and made use of that work; and partly from the fact that he found tradition in a much more disfigured condition. Eusebius has preserved fragments of his work, περὶ τῆς τῶν Χαλδαίων Βασιλείας, in the Praep. Ev. and the Chronicon. Abydenus is far inferior to Berosus; he narrates in such a confused and uncertain way, that it is difficult to gain any clear sense of what he means. Nevertheless his fragments are of some importance; not, indeed, as is generally thought, for the first eleven chapters of Genesis, where we willingly allow the confirmation which he is said to afford, especially for the building of the Tower of Babel; but for the time of the captivity and that which immediately followed it. He gives some welcome notices of the history of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors. Among Greek authors we find only very scattered, scanty, and uncertain notices of ancient Babylonish and Ohaldsean history. A remarkable proof of the great ignorance of the Greeks in this portion of history is, that none of their historians, not even Herodotus, has a syllable relative to the great world-conqueror, Nebuchadnezzar.
For the history and antiquities of the Persians we possess no native written sources. Their national annals, so often mentioned in Scripture, have been lost. The decipherment of old Persian inscriptions is a recent thing; and however interesting the results already attained may be as they are put together in Benfey’s work, Persian Cuneiform-inscriptions, with a Translation and Glossary, Leipzig 1847, and briefly in the last edition of Leo’s World- History; yet they have contributed nothing of any moment for our immediate purpose, the explanation of Old Testament history. The most important thing which has yet been deciphered is the inscription of Bisutan, in which Darius Hystaspis describes his achievements—the Darius of the books of Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah. We must, therefore, adhere to the older Greek historians, who drew from Persian sources, which, however, were unfortunately very much obscured by national vanity; hence their accounts are frequently contradictory in the most important matters. Those who have most weight are Ktesias, preserved only in fragments; Herodotus, and Xenophon. Of the latter the Cyropaedia is important, especially for the period in which the history of the Persians comes into contact with that of the Israelites. Notwithstanding its ideal tendency, this work has in many respects more historical credibility than Herodotus and Ktesias; and strikingly coincides with biblical-historical statements, especially those in the book of Daniel. The knowledge of the religion of the ancient Persians is of importance for the religious history of the Old Testament. No heathen religion presents so many separate coincidences with the Old Testament. It is enough, by way of illustration, to draw attention to the doctrines of the creation, of the fall, of evil spirits, of a revealer of the hidden God, and of a Redeemer. And here arises the interesting problem, how these coincidences, which really contain an infinitely greater difference, are to be explained; a problem which cannot be solved without a thorough knowledge of the history of the Persian religion. The first who gained great merit concerning Persian religious history was Hyde, in the work entitled De Religione vett. Persarum. With great diligence and acuteness he made use of those sources which were available in his day, so that his work is still indispensable. New disclosures were made when Anquetil du Perron found the Zendavesta among the descendants of the ancient Persians in India, who had there remained faithful to the religion of their forefathers while in Persia itself the ancient religion had been supplanted by Mohammedism; he made it known in a French translation now recognised as very inaccurate, with learned researches, Paris 1771. Its genuineness was at first attacked by many scholars; afterwards, for a long time, doubts seem to have been almost entirely silenced; while the most exaggerated assumptions respecting the antiquity of these books, and the period in which their alleged author, Zoroaster, appeared, were universally accepted. To Stuhr, particularly in his Religious Systems of the East, p. 346 et seq., belongs the merit of reviving the old doubts, and of having proved that Zoroaster himself probably did not live till the time of Darius Hystaspis. The matter is very uncertain, however; and Niebuhr has justly remarked that, owing to the prevailing mythical character of the accounts of Zoroaster, it will never be possible to succeed in ascertaining with certainty the period in which he lived. Stuhr showed also that the religious books in their present form belong to a very late time; and that, in judging of them, we must distinguish between the original matter and later additions. With this correct settlement of the age of the Zend books, the treatment of the earlier indicated problems is brought back upon the right track, from which an uncritical admiration of the books had withdrawn it. So long as the Zendavesta was placed fifteen hundred years before Christ, there were but two solutions of the problem possible—either the coincidence was to be explained from common participation in the original revelation; or else the Israelites must be made dependent on the Medo-Persians. Now, on the contrary, a far more natural mode of explanation has been suggested. Spiegel, Avesta, part i. p. 13, says: “Obviously very little in the writings of the Zendavesta which have come down to us proceeds from Zoroaster himself, perhaps nothing at all; the greater part is the work of different, and mostly later authors.” He observes also, p. 11: “In this historical time the Persians certainly borrowed much from their more cultivated Semitic neighbours. If a statement accords with a foreign one, we may, in most cases, assume that it is borrowed.” Krüger, according to whom Zoroaster was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah, in his History of the Assyrians and Iranians, Frankfort 1856, assumes Jewish influence in the history of our first parents and their fall. Thus, after the relation had for a long time been reversed with great confidence, we have gone back essentially to the very point where we were two hundred years ago. The learned and sober Prideaux makes Zoroaster to have appeared under Darius Hystaspis, maintains that he borrowed much from the Old Testament, and draws a parallel between him and Mohammed. Heeren, in his Ideas, has made most successful researches into the Zend religion in its relation to the Persian State; and Rhode, in his work entitled The Religious System of the ancient Bactrians, Persians, and Medes, Frankfort 1826, has explained the religious system, as such, with acuteness, it is true, but from utterly untenable, uncritical presuppositions, and with a great tendency to arbitrary hypothesis. The totally divergent representations of Stuhr, and of Röth, in his History of Western Philosophy, 2d ed., 1863, show how far the inquiry is still removed from a satisfactory conclusion. Owing to the nature of the subject, a really satisfactory result is scarcely attainable; for the Persian religion, by its fluctuating character, is not open to exact determination; and in consequence of the Persian tendency to mix religions, favoured by this character, it has appropriated a multitude of foreign elements from Judaism, from the Indian religion, from Christianity, and from Mohammedism, which it is very difficult to discriminate, and can often be done only by conjecture. The Orientalist, Roth of Tubingen, has given an interesting survey of the religious system of the Persians, Tübingen Theological Year-Book of 1849, in two parts. To the Persian religious books, in their present form, he assigns no greater antiquity than the end of the Sassanide kingdom, in harmony with the tradition of the Persians themselves, according to which their old and original religious books are said to have been lost (comp. Leo, p. 193). Röth places Zoroaster considerably earlier than Stuhr. Röth agrees with the latter in other respects, but assumes that in the Persian religious books Zoroaster had already become a mythical personage.
The sole foreign monument for the illustration of Israelitish history was for a long time the triumphal arch of Titus, still standing at Rome, upon which are represented the golden table, the golden candlestick, together with two censers and the trumpets, perhaps also the holy codex, all of which, according to Josephus, were publicly carried in triumph. This monument has been copied and learnedly discussed by Hadrian Reland in his work, De spoliis templi Hierosolymitani in arcu Titiano Romae conspicuis, Utrecht 1706. A new edition, with valuable observations by Schulze, appeared in 1765. It was reserved, however, for the present century to discover important monumental confirmations of Old Testament history in Egypt. The scene in a grave at Bui Hassan, strangers arriving in Egypt, is doubtful, though some have regarded it as a representation of the entrance of the Children of Israel (comp. The Books of Moses and Egypt, p. 37); but, on the other hand, a monument which has been discovered in Thebes, representing the Hebrews making bricks, is undoubtedly genuine and of great importance. Rosellini first gave a copy and description of this (comp. The Books of Moses and Egypt, p. 79 et seq.). The earlier mentioned representation of the personified kingdom of Judah on an Egyptian sculpture of the time of Rehoboam, is also genuine.
3. Aids to the History of the Old Testament.
The literature of Old Testament history properly begins after the Reformation, for the only coherent representation of the time of the church fathers, viz. the Historia Sacra of Sulpicius Severus, best edited by Halm, Vienna 1867, can scarcely be taken into consideration; since it possesses no other excellence than pious thought and elegant language. It begins with the creation of the world, and continues the history to the end of the fourth century. Those Greek and Latin authors of the middle ages who have expatiated on Iraelitish history are still less deserving of mention; for they were deficient in almost every requisite for the success of their undertaking. Yet there are many excellent things, many correct points of view, many single observations relative to the history of the Old Testament, which the historian must not overlook in the works of the church fathers; especially in those of Augustine, particularly in his work De civitate Dei; of Chrysostom and of Theodoret. The same may be said of the writings of the Reformers, none of whom has contributed a proper treatise on Old Testament history. They first brought to light again that distinction of the Old and New Testament which had been obscured in the middle ages, and had been very imperfectly apprehended even by the church fathers. Thus a basis was secured for Old Testament history, without which it must necessarily have missed its aim. In matters of detail, also, their works afford rich resources, especially those of Luther, particularly his Commentary on Genesis; and of Calvin, especially his Commentary on the Pentateuch, the Book of Joshua, the Psalms, and Daniel, as also his Institutes. The numerous works on the history of the Old Testament, written after the Reformation, of which we can here name only the most important, are divided into three classes—those written before the spread of rationalism, works of rationalistic authors, and works of authors who still believed in revelation after the beginning of rationalism.
The first class may be subdivided into two different kinds of works—those in which the theological, and those in which the historical, element preponderates. The most important of the former class are the following: From the Catholic Church, the Historia Ecclesiastica V. et N. T., by Natalis Alexander, Paris 1699, 8 vols, fol., and several times later edited. From the Reformed Church, Frederick Spanheim, Historia Ecclesiastica a condito Adamo ad aevum Christianum, in the first volume of his works, Leyden 1701; and the Hypotyposis Historiae et Chronologiae Sacrae, by Campeg. Vitringa, still valuable as a compendium, published in Frankfort 1708, and frequently since; also a careful monograph, the Historia Sacra Patriarcharum, by J. Heinrich Heidegger, 2 vols. 4to, 2d ed., Amsterdam 1688. From the Lutheran Church, the Historia Ecclesiastica V. T. of the excellent theologian Buddeus, published in Halle 1715, 4to, 3d ed., and in the same place, in 2 vols., 1726, 1729. This may be regarded as the most important book of the period, which does not however imply that the author made deeper investigations than all others—in the Compendium of Vitringa there is more independent research than in his copious work—but only that no other work is better calculated to represent this period; a characteristic which it owes in part to the circumstance that the author disclaims all attempts at independence and originality. Buddeus is in general neither an actual inquirer nor a compiler, but an eclectic. Here we find the older material for a history of the Old Testament put together with great completeness. With diligence, circumspection, and sound judgment, the author has employed the sources and helps available in his day; elaborating, and everywhere expressly citing, his authorities. The order is luminous, the language good and fluent, and the whole, notwithstanding the total avoidance of everything ascetic, is penetrated by the spirit of piety. The Collegium Historiae Eccles. V. T., by Joh. Jac. Rambach, edited after his death by Neubauer, Frankfort 1737, has no scientific value, but in this respect rests principally upon Buddeus; on the commentaries of Clericus, which contribute much that is useful for Old Testament history, although the author in Theologicis is very superficial; and on some other works. It is however distinguished by a treasure of excellent practical remarks; and is therefore always valuable, especially for the prospective clergyman. On the other hand, the works of Joachim Lange on the same subject, Mosaic Light and Truth, etc., which were much read in their day, are now of little use; owing to their prolixity, and deficiency in independent research. Lange possessed the power of writing seven sheets in a day, without exertion.
Let us now point out the general character of this period, and in so doing we must naturally notice only the comparatively better writers belonging to it. As in every department of theology, so here also, this period is distinguished by firmness of faith, by its absolute acceptance of divine revelation, and its unconditional submission to the divine word; by a conscientiousness in research, which has its root in this cardinal virtue; and by a diligence and a thoroughness proportioned to the prevailing view of the importance of the subject. But on the other hand, there are also unmistakeable defects; so that even the best works of the period no longer suffice for ours, even apart from the fact that the representation of the truth now demands distinct reference to error in that form in which it appears at variance with the truth; and the progress of recent times, especially in the history of antiquity, for which so many new sources have been discovered, and to which so many noble powers have been devoted, must also afford considerable gain for Old Testament history. Ancient writers of church histories of the Old Testament speak too much from a doctrinal point of view; so that we cannot expect from them a perfectly satisfactory representation of the divine institutions of salvation adapted to the condition of men. The πολυποίκιλος σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ is concealed from them, Eph 3:10; they do not understand the πολυτρόπως; in Heb 1:1; the astonishing development from the germ to the fruit is hidden from their sight. They are wanting in that principle which ought to govern the presentation of the whole religious history of the Old Testament, insight into the divine condescension. In the unity of the two testaments they forget the diversity. Thus, for example, they seek to prove that the patriarchs already possessed a perfect knowledge of Christian truths in their full extent, or at least with only a slight difference in clearness; and attribute to the believers of the Old Testament a clear knowledge of the mystery of the Trinity, of the atoning sufferings of Christ, and of everlasting life, forcibly setting aside those passages which represent the future life as more or less concealed. Their prevailing intellectual tendency deprives them of the power of transference to ancient times; they are deficient, like all their contemporaries, in historical intuition. This deficiency appears most strikingly in the representation of false religions, to which nearly all church histories of the Old Testament have devoted a special section. What they have contributed in this department, is now almost entirely useless. The heathen consciousness remained almost closed to the authors of these works,—a want which is not indeed peculiar to them, but is characteristic of the whole period. The origin of a symbolism and mythology really deserving of the name is due to our century. To Creuzer belongs the merit of having led the way in this department.
To the second subdivision of the first class belong, first, those who have treated Old Testament history with special reference to chronology. The most important among them are the more worthy of mention, since we are almost entirely dependent on their works: knowledge of this kind has made very little advance. And here we must in many respects assign the first place to the Annales V. et N. T. of the pious and learned Irish archbishop Usher, first published in London 1650, 1654, 2 vols, fol., afterwards in many impressions,—a work of long and arduous diligence, which opened a pathway in this department, and even now deserves attentive notice. A worthy parallel to it has been contributed by the Jesuit Petavius, De Doctrina Temporum, Antwerp 1703, 3 vols.—a more comprehensive work, in which, however, the biblical chronology is treated with peculiar diligence, with great acuteness, and much care, and on the whole in a clear, unprejudiced spirit. We must also draw attention to the Chronologie de l’Histoire Sainte, from the exodus from Egypt till the Babylonish captivity, by Alphonse de Vignoles, Berlin 1738, 2 vols. 4to, which deserves to be mentioned with distinction. The most recent solid work in this department is Hartmann’s Systema Chronologiae Biblicae, Rostock 1777, 4to, which deserves to take precedence of all others as a handbook of chronology, with Vitringa’s summary.
Others made it their principal object to unite the biblical accounts with those of profane writers. The principal work of this kind is that of Prideaux, first published in English, London 1716, 1718, 2 vols., and again in this century in a new edition in England and America; in Germany, under the title H. Prideaux A. und N. T. in Zusammenhang mit der Juden-und benachbarten Völker-Historie gebracht, first published in Dresden 1721, two parts, 4to. The work begins with the time of Ahaz. For the period from the exile to Christ, it is still one of the most useful helps. The use of sources is extensive; and as an inquirer the author proves himself indefatigable. A want which is observable in almost every work of the kind, as well as in those of a prevaiHng theological character, is that of an able historical criticism. We find accounts of profane writers compared with the statements of holy Scripture, without regard to the condition of these authors, the degree of their credibility, or the sources from which they drew. Yet there were exceptions in this respect. Perizonius and Vitringa give evidence of decided critical talent; the latter especially is free alike from credulousness and from an unhealthy scepticism. We have testimony to his truly critical tendency, not only in his Hypotyposis, but also in his Commentary on Isaiah, and his Observationes Sacrae, which present much that is excellent for biblical history.
Let us now pass to the second class of helps to the history of the Old Testament, viz. the works of rationalistic authors. The direct advantage which these afford can only be small. That which we have designated the principal aim of the historian of the Old Testament, viz. the promotion of faith and love, cannot be realized by works of this kind. The history of the people of God becomes a history of human deceit and error in the hands of those who obliterated every trace of God from it. To discover this and to set it forth was for a long time a principal object. The first copious work is that by E. Lor. Bauer, Manual of the History of the Hebrew Nation from its Origin to the Destruction of the State, Nurnberg 1800, 1804, 2 vols. 8vo, incomplete, continued only to the time of the Babylonish exile. The chief strength of the author consists in the natural explanation of miracles; he does not even make use of the most common sources and aids. De Wette, in the sketch of Jewish history in his Compendium of Hebrew-Jewish Achaeology, is too brief to do anything but set forth the view of the author and of those who agree with him respecting Hebrew history. The estimate to be put upon Leo’s Lectures on Jewish History may be inferred from the circumstance that he makes it the principal aim of his undertaking to show from the example of the Hebrews what a people should not be. The author himself afterwards retracted his opinions, in the first volume of his History of the World. Ewald’s work, History of the People of Israel, 3 vols., also belongs essentially to the rationalistic standpoint, notwithstanding all its high modes of speech. For here too the history of the people of Israel is treated throughout as a purely natural process of development. The book is out and out anthropocentric. This mode of treatment reaches its climax in the History of Christ, which appeared in the year 1854, nominally as the fourth volume of the History of Israel. Here Ewald himself states that it is one of his main objects to prove there was nothing in Christ which any one may not now attain. Where he differs from De Wette and his followers is in this, that while the latter confine themselves to destruction, Ewald always attempts to build up something new in the place of what has been destroyed. Many of his performances in this respect are however mere castles in the air; he is deficient not only in the mind for sacred history, but also in the historic sense generally. This is evident from the one circumstance that he regards Manetho as a historical source co-ordinate with the biblical writings. Here even more than in his later writings the author is in bondage to his subjectivity, so that he can no longer see simple things as they really are, but is constrained to make history. To this he adds tiresome length and prolixity. The gain which the book brings is limited to the impulse it affords, no small merit certainly; and to single correct apprehensions, luminous rays, which are not wanting in any of the works of Ewald, although they appear but rarely in his earliest writings. On account of these luminous points we cannot overlook his work. Thus rationalism has not contributed any important direct advance in Old Testament history.
Indirectly, however, rationalism has exercised a salutary influence on the history of the Old Testament. This may be clearly seen in the works of the Old Testament historians who continued to believe in revelation after the rise of rationalism. They happily avoid those errors which had been censured in authors of the first period. Doctrinal embarrassment has in a great measure ceased. The power of transferring themselves into antiquity is greatly increased. Careful consideration is bestowed on the gradual development of the divine institutions of salvation. On the other hand, we cannot fail to recognise the injurious influence of rationalism on many works of this period. From fear of giving offence—partly, too, from weakness of faith—some have attempted either by forced explanations entirely to do away with single miracles of the Old Testament, or at least to make very little of them. Thus an inconsistency appears, of which their opponents at once take advantage; comp., for example, the observations which Strauss makes on Steudel in the 1st Heft of the Streitschriften. Fearing lest they should go too far, or perhaps depending on the inquiry conducted by unbelief, they sometimes extinguish the light of the Old Testament when it is actually luminous; they strive unceasingly to forget all they have learnt from the New Testament, and to go back completely to the standpoint of those who lived under the Old Testament; they suffer themselves to be guided too much by apologetic attempts; and try to establish the plan of the divine institutions of salvation too surely and specially, in order by this means, by allowing nothing which is incomprehensible and inexplicable to stand, by pointing out an aim and meaning in everything, by proving the reference of each to the whole—to compel, as it were, their opponents to the acknowledgment of the divine elements in Old Testament history, a proceeding which could only attain its object if human nature were constituted otherwise than it really is. The most important works of this class are the following:—History of the Israelites before the time of Jesus, Zurich 1776-1788, 12 vols. 8vo, by Joh. Jac. Hess, with which we may connect the Doctrine of the Kingdom of God, 2 vols., by the same author; and Kern’s Doctrine of the Kingdom of God, in which latter work, that appeared in the year 1814, we have the author’s performances in mice and in their greatest ripeness. These have throughout a groundwork of learned research; although the author rather conceals than displays it. In respect of learning, however, they bear only a secondary character; and in the years which have passed since the appearance of the principal work, the study of history has received so great an impulse from the discovery of new sources, from the development of historical criticism, and from enlargement of the intellectual horizon, that in this respect they no longer suffice. We are somewhat shocked also by the wide and extended view they take, and to which we are not accustomed. Our time demands much in a small compass. The author gives himself too much trouble in elucidating the plan of God for the salvation of mankind. He often sacrifices depth to clearness. He grasps the idea of the divine condescension somewhat roughly at times—too much after the manner of Spencer. (J. Spencer wrote a work entitled De Legibus Hebraeorum Ritualibus, first published in 1686, in which he sought to derive the Old Testament ceremonial law from an accommodation of God to the heathenizing tendencies of the people: ineptioe tolerabiles.) Hess does not make it sufficiently clear that it is God who condescends; and suggests that perhaps the Israelites merely drew Him down to them in their thoughts, as in the account which the author gives of Israelitish worship;—indeed, his whole view of the theocracy has a mixture of bad anthropomorphism; and if it had been conformable to Scripture, it would have thrown doubt on the divine origin of this institution. The tendency of the author, moreover, is too purely historical; he is less able to comprehend the doctrinal contents of the Old Testament. Yet all this does not prevent his work from belonging to the most important which have been written on the history of the Old Testament; and the author’s standpoint appears the more worthy of honour, the more we take into consideration the time in which and for which he wrote. The book has exercised a very considerable influence. Many have been preserved by it in a time of apostasy; or have been led back into the right way. In Count Stolberg’s well-known History of the Religion of Jesus Christ, the first four volumes treat of the history of the creation of the world till the birth of Christ. We find scarcely a trace of the influence of rationalism in this work. It is lively and suggestive, only written in somewhat too pretentious language, with spirit and with deep piety. Sometimes, however, the author introduces the dogmas of his church; and, from a learned point of view, the work has very important defects, or, more correctly speaking, is almost without excellence. Ignorant of the Hebrew language, the author, in his exposition of the Old Testament, has almost throughout been obliged to follow absolutely the somewhat antiquated and rather shallow works of the French Benedictine, Calmet; a cognate spirit to Grotius and Le Clerc. The mistakes of the works of the first period, especially the mingling of the later with the earlier, here return; the author has made pretty extensive use of foreign sources and aids for Hebrew history, especially for the history of false religions, which he has copiously treated, but has used them in a manner which is truly Roman Catholic, without criticism or sifting, and with too ready an acceptance of that which serves his aim. This is exemplified in the supplements to his first volume, On the Sources of Eastern Tradition, and Traces of Earlier Tradition respecting the Mysteries of the Religion of Jesus Christ. Here we altogether lose sight of the former Protestant; while his ever-recurring subjectivity is manifestly a beautiful dowry he has taken with him from the Evangelical Church. For the clergyman who knows how to test it, the book remains still useful in many respects. Zahn’s work. On the Kingdom of God, is also worthy of notice. It was published in Dresden in 1830, and afterwards in a second and third edition, but remained almost unchanged. The first volume embraces the Old Testament; the second, the history of Christ; the third proposes to give the history of the Christian Church. In a scientific point of view it is only second-rate; in separate learned researches the author mostly follows either an earlier or a later guide. But the style is lively, vigorous, and full of spirit; the author has made suitable choice of a considerable number of excellent passages on Old Testament history from Christian authors of every century; everywhere we find firmness of faith without doctrinal embarrassment. Yet the book is very unequally worked out, and becomes more and more meagre as the author proceeds. Kurtz’s Compendium of Biblical History found acceptance among many; and though properly designed only for the highest class of schools, it presents a diligent and comprehensive use of existing helps. Of the larger work by the same author only two volumes have yet appeared, containing the time of the Pentateuch. The author has amassed materials with great diligence; and in many respects his work promises to be for our time what Buddeus’s was for his. There is a want, however, of thorough research and sharp criticism; especially of a simple historical sense. The author too frequently gives himself up without investigation to the influence of the work of v. Hofmann, Prophecy and Fulfilment, which, with a spiritual tendency, is excellently adapted to give suggestions, but against the results of which we must be on our guard; for in many cases they are not the product of a genuine historical view, but rather of history-making. He also adheres too closely to Baumgarten’s Commentary on the Pentateuch, a work which contains much th
at is immature and fantastic; and fails to control Delitzsch’s Commentary on Genesis with sufficient sharpness. It is a lamentable phenomenon that the simple and the natural are so little apprehended. In this respect many an ecclesiastically-minded author might have learned even from a Gesenius. The principiis obsta holds good here; for whoever once enters on this course can hardly leave it again. It is of special importance, therefore, to begin betimes to walk in the footsteps of men who, like the Reformers, Job. Gerhard, Bengel, and Vitringa, are fundamentally opposed to such far-fetched spiritual subtleties, and whose aim it was, not to say something new but true. The History of the Old Testament, Leipzig 1863, by Hasse, who died in the year 1862, Professor of Theology in Bonn, is an excellent little book. It is written in a truly historic sense, in clear and simple language, and is well adapted to furnish a preliminary survey. The performances of recent times are also of some importance for the religious history of the Old Testament, especially Steudel’s Lectures on the Theology of the Old Testament, edited by Oelder, Berlin 1840, which, as a whole, belongs too exclusively to a transition period, and to the supranaturalistic standpoint, to be able to afford much satisfaction, but has in detail much that is able; and the Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus, by Bähr, Heidelberg 1837, 1839, to which, however often we may differ from the author, we cannot deny the great merit of having given a powerful impulse to the weighty subject, and of having introduced it once more into the circle of theological treatises. Hävernick Lectures on the Theology of the Old Testament, published after the author’s death, have little depth; but are well calculated to afford the first survey. V. Hofmann’s Schriftbeweis is only for the more advanced and mature; the thorough and able examination of Kliefoth serves to correct him in his numerous aberrations.