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AUTHENTICITY OF THE PENTATEUCH.
NATURE AND AMOUNT OF PROOF TO BE LOOKED FOR.
- STATEMENT OF THE QUESTION. - CONNEXION OF THE MIRACULOUS RELATIONS IN THE PENTATEUCH WITH LATER History, DIFFICULTY OF REFERRING IT TO ANY RECENT AGE. — APPARENT REFERENCES TO IT IN LATER Books. - ARGUMENT FROM THE NUMBER OF EARLY TEXTUAL CORRUPTIONS.
TO ITS AUTHENTICITY, FROM THE SUPERNATURAL CHARACTER OF ITS NARRATIVE, FROM SUPPOSED IMMORALITIES, AND Erroneous ViewS OF THE DEity, — FROM PASSAGES INDICATING A LATER ORIGIN, — FROM THE SUPPOSED MODERN CHARACTER OF ITS STYLE. — FAVORABLE INTERNAL EVIDENCE, - FROM THE Good INFLUENCE EXERTED BY IT, SINGLE Texts,— FROM ITS ANTIQUATED FORMS OF SPEECH, FROM ITS JOURNAL CHARACTER, FROM THE ANTIQUE SPIRIT OF its Laws, — FROM ANTHROPOMORPHITIC REPRESENTATIONS OF GOD,— FROM THE CHASM In its HISTORICAL RECORD, — FROM THE CHARACTER OF THE RELATIONS IN THE BEGINNING OF GEN
CONCLUSION FROM THE WHOLE View.
In proceeding to an inquiry into the authenticity of the books attributed to Moses, it is of the first importance to have correct views respecting the kind and amount of evidence, which it is reasonable to demand or expect. It must be allowed, that we have by no means the same degree of external testimony to the authenticity of these writings, as we have to that of the books of the New Testament; a fact, which, so far from creating either surprise or discontent, should rather call forth our gratitude, that what concerns us much the more nearly, presents itself to our minds with much the greater accumulation of proof.
But, while we speak of the inferiority of external evidence in the one case, to that possessed in the other,
we should carefully observe the bearings of the remark. If there were no more of this kind of proof for the source of the Gospel of Matthew, than there is for that of the Pentateuch, the former would, on that ground, be justly liable to a suspicion, which by no means attaches on that ground to the latter; inasmuch as the former had its origin in a comparatively modern age, and in an age of writers, who might reasonably be expected to be taking some notice of it at a period not long subsequent to that of its production. The latter is referred, by the supposition, to a remote antiquity, when there was no contemporaneous literature, which has come down to these times. The fact (had it been so) that no writer, near to the age and place to which Matthew's narrative is ascribed, had recognised its existence, would have afforded a good argument against the truth of that hypothesis, because the works of such writers are now extant. The like fact affords no such argument in respect to the narrative of Moses, because, as we have not the works of such writers to consult, it cannot be argued from any silence of theirs, that their age was ignorant of its existence. While I am free, therefore, to acknowledge, that, in my view, it would be doing great injustice to the historical claims of the books of the New Testament, to maintain that the writings now under our notice stand upon equally firm grounds of proof with them, I can by no means admit, on the other hand, that these latter are to be prejudiced by any such comparison. The question for a wise consideration in respect to these is, not whether under different circumstances, they might have been sustained by further proof, but whether we have in their support a reasonable amount of such proof, as the circumstances of their production permitted to come down to our time. If they were written by Moses, we could now produce no contem
poraneous testimony to the fact. That we cannot produce it, then, is no proof to the contrary.
Another preliminary remark is, that the question on the authenticity of the writings attributed to Moses requires to be more accurately stated, than has been usual. The critics, of highest name, who have argued for their later origin, have still held that the laws, which they contain, are either in whole, or in great part, to be referred to him as their author ; while they, on the other hand, who consider the books as his production, yet regard them as not having come down to us without more or less interpolation. The necessity of their argument calls for this admission; for, since it is agreed on all hands, that there is matter, now contained in the books, which must have been composed at a later time than that of Moses, (inasmuch as it clearly and ostensibly refers to more recent history,) the question becomes reduced within these limits;— Either the whole composition is to be dated from a later age than that of Moses, or else passages, afterwards composed, were interpolated into his work. It is clear, then, that between these parties, the question respecting these books, in their present state, becomes a question of more and less. It is a question, respecting the recent origin of a larger or a smaller portion of their contents. The one class of interpreters, while they would refer the basis of the laws to Moses, would comprehend the miraculous relations, with other parts, under the head of subsequent additions, and thus make the books, in their digested shape, to be the creation of a modern age. The other class (with better reason, as I think,) regard those parts as having a connexion with the system, as well as often with the special laws, too intimate to admit of their being thus dissevered; while they conceive that generally, if not uniformly, the smaller portions, which
must, at all events, be considered to have proceeded from a later time, present, in their construction or position, the appearance of not being integral parts of the work; that (so to speak) these parts have no essential adhesiveness to the context.
Another consideration which we ought to carry with us to the argument, is this. If the narrative of Moses' ministry, contained in these books, is true, it affords us an intelligible account of another fact, indisputable as to its reality, and of a most extraordinary character; a fact, the occurrence of which we are unable in any other way to explain ; viz. that of the existence, among the Jews, of religious institutions of a peculiar description, embodying and sustaining a pure theology. The fact no one would call in question. From the earliest period in which the Jews appear in history, they are found in possession of the doctrine of One God. Whence did they obtain it; and, when obtained, how did they preserve it? Let the Jewish views of the divine character and providence be compared with those of other nations, as the literature or the history of other nations has made their views known to us. Let the hymns of David, for instance, be compared with the Theogony of Hesiod, not very remote from them in point of time. In the former, what true and just conceptions respecting the undivided being and sovereignty of God; and, substantially, what correct and affecting views of his attributes, and his relations to man; and how perfectly contrasted with all the representations of the Greek poet upon the same subject ! All the rest of the world was abandoned to different forms of senseless and corrupting idolatry. History affords no ground for any qualification of this statement. But in Judea there shone a pure light of divine truth. To what was this owing ? Not to the greater civilization of the Jews. It would provoke a smile, to compare the culture of that people, in their palmiest days, with that of the nations from which we have the classical mythology. How came it, that this nation, otherwise certainly not distinguished above others, escaped the else universal tendency of mankind to a foolish and depraving worship? Admit the truth of the Mosaic history, and all is clear. Deny it, and the most extraordinary and perplexing problem (shall I not say ?) in all history, is presented.
I am reasoning for those who admit the abstract credibility of miracles ; and to them I submit, that the reality of the Mosaic miracles is rendered positively and strongly probable, by the known existence, in after times, of that theology, in support of which they are alleged to have been wrought. They are requisite to account for an undeniable fact. That the Jewish nation, when it emerges from the darkness of antiquity into relations with other states, and into the notice of history, is found in possession of such a theology, is a fact, only to be explained, considering the condition of other nations as compared with its own, on the supposition of its having received a supernatural revelation. Such a revelation is only to be authenticated, as far as we can see, by displays of supernatural power. If such displays of power were made, then it seems altogether more reasonable to suppose that they were the same, for whose record the nation points to books ascribed to the lawgiver himself, than to suppose that the record of miracles actually wrought is lost, and that a narrative of others has been fabricated in their place. The earlier history, if true, solves the problem of the later. It should be shown to be subject to strong objections, before it can properly be rejected, to leave that problem unexplained.