MoboReader> Literature > The Truth of Christianity


The Truth of Christianity By William Harry Turton Characters: 47203

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Importance of the Pentateuch, as the only record of the origin of the Jewish Religion.

(A.) Its Egyptian References.

These are very strongly in favour of its early date;

(1.) In the history of Joseph.

(2.) In the history of Moses.

(3.) In the laws and addresses.

(B.) Its Laws.

These are also in favour of its early date:

(1.) The subjects dealt with.

(2.) Their connection with the history.

(3.) Their wording.

(C.) The Theory of a Late-Date.

There are four chief arguments in favour of this, but they are not at all convincing:

(1.) The language of the Pentateuch.

(2.) Its composite character.

(3.) Its laws being unknown in later times.

(4.) The finding of Deuteronomy.

(D.) Conclusion.

The Pentateuch was probably written, as it claims to be, by Moses; and we must therefore admit the miracles of the Exodus.

We pass on now to the origin of the Jewish Religion-that is to say, the events connected with the Exodus from Egypt. And as the only account we have of these is contained in the Pentateuch, we must examine this book carefully. Is it a trustworthy, and, on the whole, accurate account of the events which it records? And this depends chiefly on its date. Is it a contemporary document, written by, or in the time of, Moses? And modern discoveries have at least shown that it may be so. For Egypt was then in such a civilised state, that it is practically certain that Moses, and the other leaders of Israel, could have written had they chosen. And as they somehow or other brought the people out of Egypt, it is extremely probable that they would have recorded it. But did they, and do we possess this record in the Pentateuch?

This is the question we have to decide; and we will first consider the Egyptian references in the Pentateuch, and then its Laws, both of which are very strongly in favour of an early date. Then we will see what can be said for the opposite theory, or that of a late-date; and lastly, the conclusion to be drawn from admitting its genuineness.

(A.) Its Egyptian References.

Now a considerable part of the Pentateuch deals with Egyptian matters, and it appears to be written with correct details throughout. This would of course be only natural in a contemporary writer living in Egypt, but would be most unlikely for a late writer in Canaan. The question is therefore of great importance in deciding on the date of the book; so we will first consider these Egyptian references (as they are called) in the history of Joseph, then in that of Moses, and then in the laws and addresses. They cannot of course be properly appreciated without some knowledge of ancient Egypt, but they are far too important to be omitted. It is disappointing to have to add that the evidence is almost entirely indirect, but up to the present no reference to either Joseph, or Moses, has been found on the Egyptian monuments, and none to the Israelites themselves that are at all conclusive.

(1.) In the history of Joseph.

To begin with, there are three cases where it is sometimes said that the writer seems not to have been a contemporary, since Egyptian customs are there explained, as if unknown to the reader. These are their eating at different tables from the Hebrews, their dislike of shepherds, and their habit of embalming.[26] But the inference from the first two is extremely doubtful; though that from the third is rather in favour of a late date. There is not, however, a single word here (or anywhere else) which is incorrect for Egypt, or which shows that the writer himself was unaware of its customs.

[26] Gen. 43. 32; 46. 34; 50. 3.

On the other hand, there is abundant evidence in favour of a contemporary date. The Pharaoh is generally thought to be Apepi II., who belonged to a foreign dynasty of Shepherd Kings, probably Asiatic tribes like the Israelites themselves. And this will explain the evident surprise felt by the writer that one of his chief officers should be an Egyptian, which seems so puzzling to the ordinary reader.[27] It will also account for Joseph and his brethren being so well received, and for their telling him so candidly that they were shepherds, though they knew that shepherds were hated by the Egyptians. Had the Pharaoh himself been an Egyptian, this was hardly the way to secure his favour.

[27] Gen. 39. 1.

We will now consider a single chapter in detail, and select Gen. 41; nearly every incident in which shows a knowledge of ancient Egypt:

Ver. 1. To begin with, the words Pharaoh and the river (i.e., the Nile), though they are the proper Egyptian names, seem to have been adopted in Hebrew, and occur all through the Old Testament; so they afford no indication of date.

2-4. The dreams, however, are peculiarly Egyptian. Cattle along the river bank, and feeding on the reed-grass (an Egyptian word for an Egyptian plant), was a common sight in that country, but must have been almost unknown in Canaan. And their coming up out of the river was specially suitable, as they represented the years of plenty and famine, which in Egypt depend entirely on the rise of the Nile.

5-7. In the same way wheat with several ears is known to have been produced in Egypt; but is nowhere mentioned as grown in Canaan.

8. Moreover, we know that the Pharaohs attached great importance to dreams, and used to consult their magicians and wise men when in doubt; both these classes being often mentioned-and mentioned together-on the monuments.

9-12. We also know that there were officials corresponding to the chief butler and the chief baker. And a reference has even been found to the curious custom of the former giving the King fresh grape-juice, squeezed into a cup (Gen. 40. 11), which is not likely to have been known to anyone out of Egypt.

13. And hanging the chief baker evidently means, from Gen. 40. 19, hanging up the dead body, after he had been beheaded; which latter was an Egyptian, and not a Jewish, punishment.

14. Next we are told, that when Joseph was hurriedly sent for by Pharaoh, he yet stopped to shave. And this was only natural, as the upper class of Egyptians always shaved; but it would scarcely have occurred to anyone in Canaan, as the Israelites always wore beards.[28]

[28] 2 Sam. 10. 5.

35. So again the custom of laying up corn in storehouses, to provide against the frequent famines, and for taxation, was thoroughly Egyptian, the Superintendent of the Granaries being a well-known official. But as far as we know nothing of the kind existed in Canaan.

39. We then come to the promotion of Joseph; and several instances are known of foreigners, and even slaves, being promoted to high offices in Egypt.

40. And the monuments show that it was the regular Egyptian custom to have a Superintendent, who should be over the house.

42. Joseph is then given Pharaoh's signet ring, the use of which, at this early period, has been fully confirmed by the inscriptions. And he also receives fine linen (an Egyptian word being used for this) and a gold chain about his neck. This latter was a peculiarly Egyptian decoration, being called receiving gold, and is continually alluded to on the monuments. And a specimen may be seen in the Cairo Museum, which happens to date from about the time of Joseph.

43-44. And the apparently insignificant detail that Joseph rode in a chariot (implying horses) is also interesting, since, as far as we know, horses had only recently been introduced into Egypt by the Shepherd Kings. And had they been mentioned earlier-as, for instance, among the presents given to Abraham[29]-it would have been incorrect. And the expression Abrech, translated Bow the knee, is probably an Egyptian word (Margin R.V.).

[29] Gen. 12. 16.

45. We also know that when foreigners rose to great importance in Egypt they were often given a new name. And Joseph's new name, Zaphenathpaneah, (probably meaning Head of the College of Magicians, a title he had just earned[30]) as well as Asenath, and Potiphera, are all genuine Egyptian names; though (with the exception of Asenath) they have not at present been found as early as the time of Joseph.

[30] H. E. Naville, Professor of Egyptology, at the University of Geneva, 'Arch?ology of the Old Testament,' 1913, p. 80.

49. Lastly, the usual Egyptian custom (as shown by the monuments) of having a scribe to count the quantity of corn as it is stored, is incidentally implied in the statement that on this occasion, owing to its great abundance, Joseph had to leave off numbering it.

Thus everything in this chapter, and the same may be said of many others, is perfectly correct for Egypt; though much of it would be incorrect for Canaan, and is not likely to have been known to anyone living there. Yet the writer not only knows it, but takes for granted that his readers know it too, as he never explains anything. So the narrative is not likely to have been written after the time of Moses, when the Israelites left Egypt. And this, it may be added, is the opinion of many who have made a special study of ancient Egypt. Thus Prof. Naville declares 'I do not hesitate to say that he (Moses) was the only author who could have written the history of Joseph, such as we have it.'[31]

[31] Transactions of Victoria Institute, vol. xlvii., 1915, p. 355.

There is also evidence of quite another kind that this latter part of Genesis was written in Egypt. This is afforded by six passages, where, after the name of a place, is added some such phrase as which is in Canaan.[32] Yet there do not appear to be any other places of the same name liable to be confused with these. When then would it be necessary to explain to the Israelites that these places, Shechem, etc., were in Canaan? Certainly not after the conquest, when they were living there, and it was obvious to everyone; so we must refer them to the time when they were in Egypt.

[32] Gen. 23. 2, 19; 33. 18; 35. 6; 48. 3; 49. 30.

And this is strongly confirmed by a little remark as to the desert of Shur, which lies between Egypt and Canaan, and which is described as being before Egypt as thou goest towards Assyria.[33] Clearly then this also must have been written in Egypt, since only to a person living there would Shur be on the way to Assyria.

[33] Gen. 25. 18.

And the same may be said of the curious custom of first asking after a person's health, and then, if he is still alive.[34] This was thoroughly Egyptian, as some exactly similar cases have been found in a papyrus dated in the eighth year of Menephthah, generally thought to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus.[35] But it is scarcely likely to have been adopted by a writer in Canaan, as it makes the narrative seem so ridiculous.

[34] Gen. 43. 27-28.

[35] Chabas, Mélanges égyptologiques, Third Series, vol. ii., Paris, 1873, p. 152.

(2.) In the history of Moses.

Secondly, as to the history of Moses. The name itself is Egyptian;[36] and his being placed in an ark of papyrus smeared with bitumen was quite suited to Egypt, where both materials were commonly used, but would have been most unsuitable anywhere else. And several of the words used here, as well as in other parts of the Pentateuch, show that the writer was well acquainted with the Egyptian language. In this single verse for instance, there are as many as six Egyptian words, ark, papyrus, pitch, flags, brick, and river; though some of these were also used in Hebrew.[37] Then as to the Israelites making bricks with straw. This is interesting, because we know from the monuments that straw was often used for the purpose, the Nile mud not holding together without it, and that its absence was looked upon as a hardship. So here again the narrative suits Egypt, and not Canaan; where as far as we know, bricks were never made with straw. And it so happens that we have a little direct evidence here. For some excavations were made at Tel-el-Muskhuta in 1883; which turns out to be Pithom, one of the store cities said to have been built by the Israelites.[38] And nearly its whole extent is occupied by large brick stores; some of the bricks being made with straw, some with fragments of reed or stubble used instead, and some without any straw at all. While, unlike the usual Egyptian custom, the walls are built with mortar; all of which exactly agrees with the narrative.[39]

[36] Driver's Exodus, 1911, p. 11.

[37] Exod. 2. 3.

[38] Exod. 1. 11. Transactions of Victoria Institute, vol. xviii., p. 85.

[39] Exod. 1. 14; 5. 12.

Next, as to the Ten Plagues. There is much local colouring here, and hardly one of them would have been suitable in Canaan. Moreover, the order in which they come is very significant, as it makes them agree with the natural calamities of Egypt.

(i.) The water being turned into blood cannot, of course, be taken literally, any more than when Joel speaks of the moon being turned into blood.[40] It refers to the reddish colour, which is often seen in the Nile about the end of June; though it is not as a rule sufficient to kill the fish, or render the water unfit to drink. And the mention of vessels of wood and stone[41] is interesting, as it was the custom in Egypt to purify the Nile water by letting it stand in such vessels; and the writer evidently knew this, and took for granted that his readers knew it too, though it seems to have been peculiar to that country.

[40] Joel 2. 31.

[41] Exod. 7. 19.

(ii.) Frogs are most troublesome in September.

(iii.) Lice, perhaps mosquitoes or gnats, and

(iv.) Flies, are usually worst in October.

(v.) Murrain among the cattle, and

(vi.) Boils cannot be identified for certain, but their coming on just after the preceding plagues is most natural, considering what we now know, as to the important part taken by mosquitoes and flies in spreading disease.

(vii.) The hail must have occurred about the end of January, as the barley was then in the ear, but the wheat not grown up; and severe hailstorms have been known in Egypt at that time.

(viii.) Locusts are known to have visited Egypt terribly in March, which seems the time intended, as the leaves were then young.

(ix.) The darkness which might be felt was probably due to the desert wind, which blows at intervals after the end of March, and sometimes brings with it such clouds of sand as to darken the atmosphere.[42] And curiously enough it often moves in a narrow belt, so that the land may be dark in one place, and light in another close by, as recorded in the narrative.

[42] I have noticed the same in the Transvaal, in particular a sandstorm at Christiana, on 20th October, 1900, which so darkened the sky that for about a quarter of an hour I had to light a candle.

(x.) The death of the firstborn, which occurred in April (Abib), was evidently not a natural calamity. But what is specially interesting is the statement against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments, without any explanation being given of what is meant by this.[43] It refers to the Egyptian custom of worshipping living animals, the firstborn of which were also to die; but this would only be familiar to a writer in Egypt, since, as far as we know, such worship was never practised in Canaan. The agreement all through is most remarkable, and strongly in favour of a contemporary date.

[43] Exod. 12. 12; Num. 33. 4.

(3.) In the laws and addresses.

And the same familiarity with Egypt is shown in the subsequent laws and addresses of the Pentateuch. Thus we read of laws being written on the doorposts and gates of houses, and on great stones covered with plaster, both of which were undoubtedly Egyptian customs; and the latter was not, as far as we know, common elsewhere.[44] Similarly the Egyptian habit of writing persons' names on sticks, was evidently familiar to the writer.[45] And so was the curious custom of placing food for the dead,[46] which was common in Egypt, though it never prevailed among the Israelites.

[44] Deut. 6. 9; 11. 20; 27. 2.

[45] Num. 17. 2.

[46] Deut. 26. 14.

Again the ordinary food of the people in Egypt is given as fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic, all of which were commonly eaten there.[47] But as the Hebrew names of four out of the five vegetables do not occur elsewhere in the Bible, they could scarcely have been very common in Canaan; while none of the characteristic productions of that land, such as honey, milk, butter, figs, raisins, almonds, and olives, are mentioned. The list is, as it ought to be, thoroughly Egyptian.

[47] Num. 11. 5.

It must next be noticed that a large part of the religious worship prescribed in the Pentateuch was obviously borrowed from Egypt; the most striking instance being that of the ark. A sacred ark is seen on Egyptian monuments long before the Exodus, and is sometimes surmounted by winged figures resembling the cherubim.[48] And the materials said to have been used for this worship are precisely such as the Israelites might have then employed. The ark, for instance, and also the tabernacle were not made of cedar, or of fir, or of olive, as would probably have been the case in Canaan (for these were the materials used in the Temple)[49] but of shittim, i.e., acacia which is very common near Sinai, though scarcely ever used in Canaan. And the other materials were goats' hair, rams' skins, sealskins (or porpoise skins) from the Red Sea, and gold, silver, brass, precious stones, and fine linen from the Egyptian spoils; the latter, as before said, being an Egyptian word.[50] There is no mistake anywhere, such as a late writer might have made.

[48] Comp. Exod. 25. 13-18.

[49] 1 Kings 6. 14-36.

[50] Exod. 25. 3-10.

Moreover, in other places, the writer of the Pentateuch frequently assumes that his readers know Egypt as well as himself. Thus the people are twice reminded of the diseases they had in Egypt-'the evil diseases of Egypt which thou knowest' or 'which thou wast afraid of'-and they are warned that if they deserve it, God will punish them with the same diseases again.[51] But such a warning would have been quite useless many centuries later in Canaan; just as it would be useless to warn an Englishman now of the diseases of Normandy, which thou wast afraid of, if this referred to some diseases our ancestors had before they left Normandy in the eleventh century. Such words must clearly have been written soon afterwards. Similarly the people are urged to be kind to strangers, and to love them as themselves, because they knew the heart of a stranger, having been strangers in the land of Egypt. And this again could scarcely have been written centuries after they left Egypt.[52]

[51] Deut. 7. 15; 28. 60.

[52] Exod. 23. 9; Lev. 19. 34.

Elsewhere the writer describes the climate and productions of Canaan; and with a view to their being better understood, he contrasts them with those of Egypt.[53] Obviously, then, the people are once more supposed to know Egypt, and not to know Canaan. For instance, Canaan is described as a country of hills and valleys, and consequently of running brooks; and not like Egypt where they had to water the land with their feet. But no explanation is given of this. It probably refers to the water-wheels, which were necessary for raising water in a flat country like Egypt, and which were worked by men's feet. But can we imagine a late writer in Canaan using such a phrase without explaining it? On the other hand, if the words were spoken by Moses, all is clear; no explanation was given, because (for persons who had just left Egypt) none was needed.

[53] Deut. 8. 7-10; 11. 10-12.

On the whole, then, it is plain that when Egyptian matters are referred to in the Pentateuch, we find the most thorough familiarity with native customs, seasons, etc., though these are often quite different from those of Canaan. And we therefore seem forced to conclude that the writer was a contemporary who lived in Egypt, and knew the country intimately, and as we have shown, he evidently wrote for persons who had only recently come from there.

(B.) Its Laws.

We pass on now to the Laws of the Pentateuch, which are found in the middle of Exodus, and occupy the greater part of the remaining books. And as we shall see, they also (quite apart from their references to Egypt) bear strong marks of a contemporary origin.

(1.) The subjects dealt with.

In the first place several of the laws refer exclusively to the time when the Israelites lived in the desert, and would have been of no use whatever after they settled in Canaan. Among these are the laws regarding the camp and order of march.[54] Full particulars are given as to the exact position of every tribe, and how the Levites were to carry the Tabernacle. And what could have been the object of inventing such laws in later times, when, as far as we know, the people never encamped or marched in this manner?

[54] Num. 1. 47-4. 49.

Then there is the extraordinary law as to the slaughter of animals. It is stated in Leviticus that every ox, lamb, or goat, intended for food, was to be first brought to the Tabernacle, as a kind of offering, and there killed. But plainly this could only have been done, when the people were in the desert, living round the Tabernacle. So when the law is again referred to in Deuteronomy, just before they entered Canaan, it is modified by saying that those living at a distance might kill their animals at home.[55]

[55] Lev. 17. 3; Deut. 12. 21.

Moreover, some of the other laws, though applicable to Canaan, are of such a character as to be strongly in favour of an early date. Take, for instance, the remarkable law about land, that every person who bought an estate was to restore it to its original owner in the year of Jubilee, the price decreasing according to the nearness of this year.[56] How could anyone in later times have made such a law, and yet assert that it had been issued by Moses centuries before, though no one had ever heard of it?

[56] Lev. 25. 13.

Or take the law about the Levites.[57] They, it will be remembered, had no separate territory like the other tribes, but were given some special cities. And it is scarcely likely that such a curious arrangement could have been made at any time except that of the conquest of Canaan; still less that it could have been made centuries afterwards, and yet ascribed to Moses, without everyone at once declaring it to be spurious.

[57] Num. 35. 1-8.

(2.) Their connection with the history.

It must next be noticed that the laws are not arranged in any regular order, but are closely connected with the history; many of them being dated, both as to time and place. For instance, 'The Lord spake unto Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying,' etc.[58] And several others are associated with the events which led to their being made; and these are often of such a trivial nature, that it is hard to imagine their being invented.[59] Thus the Pentateuch shows, not a complete code of laws, but one that was formed gradually, and in close connection with the history.

[58] Num. 9. 1; 1. 1; Deut. 1. 3; see also Lev. 7. 38; 16. 1; 25. 1; 26. 46; 27. 34; Num. 1. 1; 3. 14; 33. 50; 35. 1; Deut. 4. 46; 29. 1.

[59] Lev. 24. 15; Num. 9. 10; 15. 35; 27. 8; 36. 8.

And this is confirmed by the fact that in some cases the same laws are referred to both in Leviticus, (near the beginning) and in Deuteronomy (at the end) of the

forty years in the Desert, but with slight differences between them. And these exactly correspond to such a difference in date. One instance, that referring to the slaughter of animals, has been already alluded to. Another has to do with the animals, which might, and might not, be eaten. Leviticus includes among the former, several kinds of locusts, and among the latter the mouse, weasel, and lizard; all of which Deuteronomy omits.

Clearly then, when Leviticus was written, the people were in the desert, and there was a lack of animal food, which might tempt them to eat locusts or mice; but when Deuteronomy was written, animal food was plentiful, and laws as to these were quite unnecessary.

In each of these cases, then, and there are others like them, the differences must be due either to the various laws dating from the times they profess to, when all is plain and consistent; or else to the carefully planned work of some late writer, who was trying in this way to pretend that they did.

Still more important is the fact that in several places stress is laid on the people's personal knowledge of the events referred to; e.g., 'The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.'[60] And what is more, this personal knowledge is often appealed to as a special reason for obeying the laws.[61] For instance, 'I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen the chastisement of the Lord, ... but your eyes have seen all the great work of the Lord which He did. Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments,' etc. Plainly this would have had no force in later times; indeed it would have provided an excuse for not obeying the laws, since the people of those days had no personal knowledge of the events referred to. And we may ask, is it likely that a late author, who falsely ascribed his laws to Moses, in order to get them obeyed, should yet put into the mouth of Moses himself an excuse for not obeying them?

[60] Deut. 5. 3; 24. 9, 18, 22; 25. 17.

[61] Deut. 11. 2-8; 4. 3-15; 29. 2-9.

Moreover, combined with this assumed personal knowledge on the part of the people there is a clear indication of personal authority on the part of the writer. The later prophets always speak in God's name, and such expressions as Thus saith the Lord, Hear ye the word of the Lord, are extremely common, occurring altogether over 800 times. But in the laws of the Pentateuch nothing of the kind is found. They are delivered by Moses in his own name, often with the simple words, I command thee, which occur thirty times in Deuteronomy. And, of course, if the laws are genuine, there is nothing surprising in this, as Moses had been the great leader of the people, for forty years; but a late author would scarcely have adopted a style so different from that of all the other prophets.

(3.) Their wording.

Lastly we must consider the wording of the laws; and this also is strongly in favour of a contemporary origin. Thus, as many as sixteen of them, which have special reference to Canaan, begin with some such phrase as when ye be come into the land of Canaan,[62] which plainly supposes that the people were not there already. And the same may be said of numerous other laws, which the people are told to obey when they enter into Canaan; or are even urged to obey in order that they may enter in, both of which again, imply that they were not there already.[63] While several of the laws refer to the camp, and sometimes to tents, in such a way as to show that when they were written, the people were still living in a camp.[64]

[62] Exod. 12. 25; 13. 11; Lev. 14. 34; 19. 23; 23. 10; 25. 2; Num. 15. 2, 18; 35. 10; Deut. 7. 1; 12. 1, 10, 29; 17. 14; 18. 9; 26. 1.

[63] E.g., Deut. 4. 1, 5, 14; 5. 31; 6. 1, 18; 8. 1.

[64] E.g., Exod. 29. 14; Lev. 4. 12; 6. 11; 13. 46; 14. 3; 16. 26; 17. 3; Num. 5. 2; 19. 3, 14.

The wording, then, of all these laws bears unmistakable signs of contemporary origin. Of course, these signs may have been inserted in later laws to give them an air of genuineness, but they cannot be explained in any other way. Therefore the laws must be either of contemporary date, or else deliberate frauds. No innocent mistake in ascribing old laws to Moses, can possibly explain such language as this; either it was the natural result of the laws being genuine, or else it was adopted on purpose to mislead.

Nor can the difficulty be got over by introducing a number of compilers and editors. For each individual law, if it falsely claims to date from before the conquest of Canaan (and, as we have seen, numbers and numbers of laws do so claim, When ye be come into the land of Canaan, etc.), must have been made by someone. And this someone, though he really wrote it after the conquest of Canaan, must have inserted these words to make it appear that it was written before.

Practically, then, as just said, there are but two alternatives-that of genuine laws written in the time of Moses, and that of deliberate frauds. And bearing this in mind, we must ask, is it likely that men with such a passion for truth and righteousness as the Jewish prophets-men who themselves so denounced lying and deception in every form[65]-should have spent their time in composing such forgeries? Could they, moreover, have done it so skillfully, as the laws contain the strongest marks of genuineness; and could they have done it so successfully as never to have been detected at the time? This is the great moral difficulty in assigning these laws to a later age, and to many it seems insuperable.

[65] Jer. 8. 8; 14. 14; Ezek. 13. 7.

We have thus two very strong arguments in favour of an early date for the Pentateuch: one derived from its Egyptian references, the other from its Laws. The former shows that no Israelite in later times could have written the book; and the latter that he would not have done so, if he could.

(C.) The Theory of a Late Date.

We pass on now to the opposite theory, or that of a late date. According to this the Pentateuch, though no doubt containing older traditions, and fragments of older documents, was not written till many centuries after the death of Moses. And the four chief arguments in its favour are based on the language of the Pentateuch, its composite character, its laws being unknown in later times, and the finding of Deuteronomy in the reign of Josiah. We will examine each in turn.

(1.) The language of the Pentateuch.

Now in general character the language of the Pentateuch undoubtedly resembles that of some of the prophets, such as Jeremiah; so it is assumed that it must date from about the same time. But unfortunately critics who maintain this view do not admit that we have any Hebrew documents of a much earlier date, with which to compare it. Therefore we have no means of knowing how much the language altered, so this of itself proves little.

But it is further said that we have three actual signs of late date. The first is that the word for west in the Pentateuch really means the sea, (i.e., the Mediterranean) and hence, it is urged, the writer's standpoint must have been that of Canaan, and the books must have been written after the settlement in that country. But, very possibly the word was in use before the time of Abraham, when the sea actually was to the west. And in later years a Hebrew, writing in Egypt or anywhere else, would naturally use the word, without thinking that it was inappropriate to that particular place. The second expression is beyond Jordan, which is often used to denote the eastern bank; so here again, it is urged, the writer's standpoint must have been that of Canaan. But this is also untenable. For the same term is also used for the western bank in several places,[66] and sometimes for both banks in the same chapter.[67] The third is Joseph's speaking of Canaan as the land of the Hebrews, long before they settled there, which is difficult to explain on any theory, but rather in favour of a late date.[68]

[66] E.g., Deut. 11. 30; Josh. 12. 7.

[67] E.g., eastern in Deut. 3. 8; Josh. 9. 10; and western in Deut. 3. 20, 25; Josh. 9. 1.

[68] Gen. 40. 15.

On the other hand, the language contains several signs of early date, though most of these can only be understood by a Hebrew scholar, which the present writer does not profess to be. But a couple of examples may be given which are plain to the ordinary reader. Thus the pronoun for he is used in the Pentateuch both for male and female; while in the later writings it is confined to males, the females being expressed by a derived form which is very seldom used in the Pentateuch. Similarly, the word for youth is used in the Pentateuch for both sexes, though afterwards restricted to males, the female being again expressed by a derived form. These differences, though small, are very significant, and they clearly show that the language was at a less developed, and therefore earlier, stage in the Pentateuch than in the rest of the Old Testament.

(2.) Its composite character.

The next argument is that the Pentateuch seems to have had several authors; since the same words, or groups of words, occur in different passages all through the book. And this, combined with slight variations of style, and other peculiarities, have led some critics to split up the book into a number of different writings, which they assign to a number of unknown writers from the ninth century B.C. onwards. For instance, to take a passage where only three writers are supposed to be involved, Exod. 7. 14-25. These twelve verses seem to the ordinary reader a straightforward narrative, but they have been thus split up.[69] Verses 19, 22, and parts of 20, 21, are assigned to P, the supposed writer of the Priestly Code of Laws; v. 24 and parts of 17, 20, 21, to E; and the remainder to J; the two latter writers being thus named from their generally speaking of the Deity as Elohim and Jehovah (translated God, and Lord) respectively.

[69] Driver's Introduction to Literature of Old Testament, sixth edition, 1897, p. 24. A slightly different division is given in his Exodus, 1911, p. 59.

Fortunately, we need not discuss the minute and complicated arguments on which all this rests, for the idea of any writings being so hopelessly mixed together is most improbable. While it has been shown in recent years to be very doubtful whether these names, Elohim and Jehovah, occurred in the original Hebrew, in the same places as they do now.[70] And if they did not, the theory loses one of its chief supports.

[70] The Name of God in The Pentateuch by Tr?lstra; translated by McClure, 1912

And in any case there are at least four plain and simple arguments against it. The first is that the Egyptian references, to which we have already alluded extend to all the parts J, E, and P; as well as to Deuteronomy, which these critics assign to yet another author D. They are thus like an Egyptian water-mark running all through the Pentateuch. And while it is difficult enough to believe that even one writer in Canaan should have possessed this intimate knowledge of Egypt, it is far more difficult to believe that four should have done so.

The second is that all the writers must have been equally dishonest, for they all contain passages, which they assert were written by Moses (see further on). And here again it is hard to believe, that even one writer (leave alone four) should have been so utterly unscrupulous.

The third is that the curious custom of God speaking of Himself in the plural number, which would be strange in any case, and is especially so considering the strong Monotheism of the Jews, is also common to both J and P.[71] And so is the puzzling statement that it was God Himself Who hardened Pharaoh's heart, which is also found in E.[72]

[71] Gen. 1. 26 (P): 3. 22 (J).

[72] Exod. 4. 21 (E): 7. 3 (P.): 10. 1 (J).

The fourth is that parallel passages to the supposed two narratives of the Flood, ascribed to J and P (and which are thought to occur alternately nineteen times in Gen. 7. 8.) have been found together in an old Babylonian story of the Flood, centuries before the time of Moses; and also in layers corresponding to J and P.[73] And this alone seems fatal to the idea that J and P were originally separate narratives that were afterward combined in our Genesis.

[73] Sayce's Monument Facts, 1904, p. 20; Driver's Book of Genesis, 1905, pp. 89-95, 107.

Of course those who maintain that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, quite admit that he made use of previous documents, one of which, the book of the Wars of the Lord, he actually quotes.[74] Nor is it denied that some additions have been made since his time, the most important being the list of kings, who are said to have reigned in Edom before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.[75] And this brings the passage down to the time of Saul at least who was Israel's first king. But it is probably a later insertion, since these kings are referred to in a different way from the dukes, who precede and follow them. And the same may be said of a few other passages[76] such as that the Canaanite was then in the land, which must clearly have been written after the Israelites conquered the country. But they can all be omitted without breaking the continuity of the narrative.

[74] Num. 21. 14.

[75] Gen. 36. 31-39.

[76] Gen. 12. 6; 13. 7; Exod. 16. 36; Deut. 2. 10-12, 20-23; 3. 14.

(3.) Its laws being unknown in later times.

Passing on now to the third argument for a late date, it is urged that the laws of the Pentateuch cannot really have been written by Moses, since, judging from the other Old Testament Books, they seem to have been unknown for many centuries after his time. But this is scarcely correct, for even the earliest books, Joshua and Judges contain some references to a written law of Moses;[77] while both in Judges and 1 Samuel there are numerous agreements between what is described there, and what is commanded in the Pentateuch.[78] And similar evidence is afforded by the later books, David, for instance, alluding to the written law of Moses, as if it was well known.[79] So in regard to the prophets. Two of the earliest of these are Hosea and Amos; and they both contain frequent points of agreement;[80] as well as one reference to a large number of written laws.[81]

[77] Joshua 1. 7, 8; 8. 31, 32; 23. 6; 24. 26. Judges 3. 4.

[78] Judges 20. 27, 28; 21. 19; 1 Sam. 2. 12-30; 3. 3; 4. 4; 6. 15; 14. 3.

[79] 1 Kings 2. 3. 2 Kings 14. 6.

[80] Hos. 4. 4-6; 8. 1, 13; 9. 4; 12. 9; Amos 2. 4, 11; 4. 4, 5; 5. 21-25; 8. 5.

[81] Hos. 8. 12 (R.V.).

On the other side, we have the statement in Jeremiah, that God did not command the Israelites concerning burnt-offerings, and sacrifices, when He brought them out of Egypt.[82] But the next verse certainly implies that it was placing these before obedience that God condemned. And Hosea in a similar passage declares this to be the case, and that God's not desiring sacrifice means His not caring so much about it, as about other things.[83] It is also urged that there were practices which are inconsistent with these laws; the most important being that the sacrifices were not limited to one place, or the offerers to priests. As to the former, the principle of the law was that the place of sacrifice should be of Divine appointment, where God had chosen to record His name, (i.e., where the ark was), and not selected by the worshippers themselves.[84] In Exodus it is naturally implied that there should be many such places, as the Israelites were then only beginning their wanderings; and in Deuteronomy that there should be only one, as they were then about to enter Canaan.

[82] Jer. 7. 22.

[83] Hosea 6. 6; 1 Sam. 15. 22.

[84] Exod. 20. 24; Deut. 12. 5.

But for many years, owing to the unsettled state of the country, and the ark having been captured by the Philistines, the law could not be obeyed. When however, the people had rest from their enemies (which was the condition laid down in Deuteronomy) and the temple was built at Jerusalem, the law was fully recognised. After this the worship at high places is spoken of as a sin, while Hezekiah is commended for destroying these places, and for keeping the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses.[85]

[85] 1 Kings 3. 2; 22. 43; 2 Kings 18. 4-6.

The discovery, however in 1907, that there was a Jewish Temple of Jehovah at Elephantine, near Assouan in Egypt, with sacrifices, as early as the sixth century B.C., and that it had apparently the approval of the authorities at Jerusalem, makes it doubtful if the law as to the one sanctuary was ever thought to be absolutely binding.

As to the other point-the sacrifices not being offered only by priests-there is an apparent discrepancy in the Pentateuch itself; since Deuteronomy (unlike the other books) seems in one passage to recognise that Levites might perform priestly duties.[86] Various explanations have been given of this, though I do not know of one that is quite satisfactory. There are also a few cases, where men who were neither priests, nor Levites, such as Gideon, David, and Elijah, are said to have offered sacrifices.[87] But these were all under special circumstances, and in some of them the sacrifice was directly ordered by God. There is thus nothing like sufficient evidence to show that the laws of the Pentateuch were not known in later days, but merely that they were often not obeyed.

[86] Deut. 18. 6-8.

[87] E.g., Judges 6. 26; 2 Sam. 24. 18; 1 Kings 18. 32.

(4.) The finding of Deuteronomy.

Lastly we have the finding of the Book of the Law (probably Deuteronomy) when the temple was being repaired in the reign of Josiah, about 621 B.C., which is regarded by some critics as its first publication.[88] But this is a needless assumption, for there is no hint that either the king or the people were surprised at such a book being found, but merely at what it contained. And as they proceeded at once to carry out its directions, it rather shows that they knew there was such a book all the time, only they had never before read it. And this is easily accounted for, as most copies would have been destroyed by the previous wicked kings.[89] On the other hand, an altogether new book is not likely to have gained such immediate and ready obedience; not to mention the great improbability of such an audacious fraud never being detected at the time.

[88] 2 Kings 22.

[89] 2 Kings 21. 2, 21.

Nor is it easy to see why, if Deuteronomy was written at a late date, it should have contained so many obsolete and useless instructions; such as the order to destroy the Canaanites, when there were scarcely any Canaanites left to destroy.[90] Yet the people are not only told to destroy them, but to do it gradually, so that the wild beasts may not become too numerous;[91] which shows that the passage was written centuries before the time of Josiah, when there was no more danger from wild beasts than from Canaanites. Nor is it likely, if Deuteronomy was written at that time, when Jerusalem claimed to be the central sanctuary, that the city itself should never once be named in the book, or even alluded to.

[90] Deut. 7. 2; 20. 17.

[91] Deut. 7. 22.

Moreover, discoveries in Egypt have shown that in early times religious writings were sometimes buried in the foundations, or lower walls of important temples; where they were found centuries afterwards when the temples were being repaired; so the account, as we have it in the Bible, is both natural and probable.[92]

[92] E. Naville, Discovery of the Book of the Law, 1911, pp. 4-10.

On the whole, then, none of these arguments for a late date are at all conclusive, and we therefore decide that this theory is not only very improbable in any case, but quite untenable in face of the strong evidence on the other side.

(D.) Conclusion.

Having thus shown that the Pentateuch appears to date from the time of Moses, it only remains to consider its authorship, and the witness it bears to the miracles of the Exodus.

Now that the greater part should have been written by Moses himself is plainly the most probable view. And this is strongly confirmed by the book itself; for a large part of it distinctly claims to have been written by Moses. It is not merely that this title is given in a heading, or opening verse, which might easily have been added in later times. But it is asserted, positively and repeatedly, all through the book itself, both in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, that many of the events, and laws referred to (often including several chapters) were actually written down by Moses.[93] This is an important point, and it must be allowed great weight.

[93] Exod. 17. 14; 24. 4; 34. 27; Num. 33. 2; 36. 13; Deut. 31. 9, 22, 24. The first two passages in Exod. are assigned to the supposed E, the third to J, those in Num. to P, and those in Deut. to D.

And the first passage, that Moses was to write the threat against Amalek in a book, is specially interesting; because we cannot think that the book contained nothing but this single sentence. It evidently means in the book (see American R. V.), implying that a regular journal was kept, in which important events were recorded. And this is confirmed by another of the passages, which says that Moses wrote down something that occurred the same day;[94] and by another which gives a long and uninteresting list of journeys in the Desert,[95] which certainly looks like an official record kept at the time. While the concluding passage relates how Moses, when he had finished writing the book, gave it to the Levites to keep beside the ark, in order to preserve it, and anything more precise than this can scarcely be imagined.[96]

[94] Deut. 31. 22; comp. Exod. 24. 4.

[95] Num. 33.

[96] Deut. 31. 24-26.

Moreover, the frequent references of Moses to his own exclusion from Canaan, and his pathetic prayer on the subject, have a very genuine tone about them.[97] And his bitter complaint that God had broken His promise, and not delivered the people,[98] could scarcely have been written by anyone but himself; especially after the conquest of Canaan, when it was so obviously untrue.

[97] E.g., Deut. 3. 23-26; 1. 37; 4. 21; 31. 2.

[98] Exod. 5. 23.

And his authorship is further confirmed by the fact that so little is said in his praise. His faults are indeed narrated quite candidly, but nothing is said in admiration of the great leader's courage, and ability, till the closing chapter of Deuteronomy. This was evidently written by someone else, and shows what we might have expected had the earlier part been the work of anyone but Moses himself. Nor is there anything surprising in his writing in the third person, as numbers of other men-C?sar, for instance-have done the same.

But now comes the important point. Fortunately it can be stated in a few words. If the Pentateuch is a contemporary document, probably written by Moses, can we reject the miracles which it records? Can we imagine, for instance, a contemporary writer describing the Ten Plagues, or the Passage of the Red Sea, if nothing of the kind had occurred? The events, if true, must have been well known at the time; and if untrue, no contemporary would have thought of inventing them. We therefore conclude, on reviewing the whole chapter, that the origin of the Jewish religion was confirmed by miracles.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top