Chapter 2 Principal Features of Modernism

Before summarizing the results of this revolutionary treatment of the Bible and its effect upon our own religious faith it may be well to enlarge a little upon its principal features under the following four heads: (1) The road traveled by criticism; (2) The method used by criticism; (3) The course of Bible history as traced by criticism; (4) The origin and making of the Bible according to the latest explanation of criticism.

Simply a statement of the modernistic view of the Bible is given in the following consideration of these features. The refutation of that view will occupy us in subsequent chapters.

(1) The road traveled by Criticism. It is thus described:

The view of the Bible taken by our ancestors a few generations ago differed greatly from the view toward which the professional scholarship of the modern world has been moving in the last hundred years or so. During the Middle Ages, and up to the opening of the nineteenth century, it was the universal belief of the Christian church that the Bible was the product of a mechanical sort of inspiration which left little or nothing of essential importance for the human writers of it to do. In the same way, it was believed that the religion.8 of the Bible came into the world by a sudden stroke of power, in a purely miraculous and quite supernatural manner. These views were formed at a time when the prevailing ideas about human history, and about the earth on which we live, and about the universe at large, were much different from the ideas that now reign supreme in all well-informed circles. The progress of scientific research has gradually and unobtrusively changed the vast body of belief that characterized the Middle Ages … The world in which we live is now revealed as a floating speck in a cosmos that staggers the greatest intellect. The disclosure of this fact is one of a series of brilliant scientific discoveries in relation to such matters as the geologic formation and age of the world, the vast length and evolutionary character of human history, man’s place in nature, and other subjects of equally vital importance.

The rising tide of discovery brought with it a slowly mounting scientific interest in the Bible and its religion. The truth forced itself into the minds of careful investigators that the Bible was compiled from other books far more ancient than the Scriptures. It became clear that the books now standing first in the sacred library were among the latest to be composed, while other books, which had hitherto been supposed to be of late composition, were among the earliest written. The old formula, “The Law and the Prophets,” was reversed, so as to read “The Prophets and the Law.” It was discovered that the prophets were chiefly preachers to their own times; that they were but little concerned with predicting future events; and that it was largely through their efforts that the religion of the Hebrews was purified from its original heathen, or pagan, elements.

[This] new view of the Bible is bound up with a new idea of Hebrew history and a new conception of the religious life of Israel. The religious experience of Israel is now seen to have been a rise toward a higher and purer faith, instead of a decline toward a lower one. The new views have largely displaced the older doctrines in all the leading universities and theological seminaries. They are held in various forms by different scholars; but there is a common basic agreement which rapidly grows larger as the fundamental facts are better understood by professional minds.

The interested public, standing outside the academic world, is aware that great changes have taken place and are even now going on; but the real nature of the new scientific view of the Bible, and the evidence upon which that view is based are but little understood by the laity.9 The public as yet scarcely realizes the extent to which the evolutionary principle has been applied to the religion of Israel. Professional investigators, who have given the most and closest attention to the Bible, firmly believe that the idea of God by which ancient Israel finally came to be distinguished, is the result of a slow process of psychological, or spiritual, development, corresponding in some way to stages in the national history of the Hebrews… As a rule, the modern biblical investigator holds that the religion began on the level of what we commonly call “paganism,” or “heathenism.” He believes that “Yahweh,” the national deity of Israel, was at first regarded as a local god, one of a large number of divinities that populated the mind of the ancient world; that the people’s thought about him slowly rose to the height at which we find it in the great prophets and Jesus; and that this religious evolution was a process guided and controlled by the one true God of the universe who was gradually raising men’s thoughts upward through the medium of their daily experiences. We shall now quote another sample of “the belief and faith of a devout scholar,” representing “the attitude of by far the large majority of those who have approached the problem of the Bible in a scientific way.” It is that of George Adam Smith, M. A., D.D., LL.D., Prof, of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis, Free Church College, Glasgow:

The god of early Israel was a tribal god; and His relation to His people is described in the same way as Israel’s neighbors describe the relation of their gods to themselves. Israel looked to Jahweh [Yahweh] as the Moabites looked to Chemosh… They prayed to Him to let them see their desire on their enemies, ascribed their victories to His love for them, their defeats to His anger, and they devoted to Him in slaughter their prisoners of war, and the animals they captured from their foes; all exactly as their Moabite neighbors are reported, in very much the same language, to have done to Chemosh, the god of Moab. Moreover, they regarded the power of Jahweh as limited to their own territory, and His worship as invalid beyond it (1 Sam. 26:19 [in the Hebrew and Modern Revised Versions]). Though, like all Semites, they felt their duty to one God as the supreme Lord of themselves, they did not deny the reality of other gods.10 This relates, it is said, to the historical, objective aspects of the Hebrew situation; but the same writer’s theological view of the subject is:

Behind that national deity of Israel, and through the obscure and vain imaginations the early nations had of him, there was the Character and Will of God Himself, using the people’s low thoughts and symbols to express Himself to them, lifting them always a little higher, and finally making Himself known as He did through the prophets as the God of the whole earth, identical with righteousness and abounding in mercy.11

While there are considerations which lend apparent support to this reading of Israel’s history, the preponderance of the evidence is in favor of regarding that history as a story of decline instead of origin. After they touched bottom, a gradual lifting of the people free from idolatrous practices and associations did occur which culminated in the great prophets and was finally completed through the purging process of the exile. Upon their return from it, and in fact ever since, no form of polytheism or idolatry has prevailed among the Hebrews. But from the altitude of pure religion thus reached in their history, they entered upon a second decline which had reached the low ebb of Pharisaism and worldliness in the days of John the Baptist, and culminated in the Crucifixion of Jesus and the final Dispersion of the Jewish people. There accompanied this closing phase of their history in Palestine the development of the new and revivifying ministry of Christianity which began, indeed, with a remnant of this very people who had so greatly departed through successive stages of decline from the faith committed to them.

There is one simple but unvarying process in constant evidence, three-fold in character, in Biblical history, consisting of: (1) perfection at the point of origin; (2) decline or decay in the after history thus set in motion; and (3) restoration to another, better, and higher plane in the final issue of the process. Within the scope of this great development, as it affects the universe, or the nations, or Israel in particular, or the Church, or individuals, doubtless many minor instances occur of the operation of what might almost be termed this law of history.

The modern scholar then goes on to explain that while he:

does not identify “Yahweh” with the true God, he believes that the true God was using the idea of Yahweh in such a way as to cause that idea more and more to take the character of a worthy symbol of religion. This theological position, as a matter of fact, puts far less strain on the modern intellect than does the older orthodoxy, and makes it possible for men to remain within the church who would otherwise be outside of it. The reverent scholar believes that God uses the history of Israel, and the history of the world, for an ineffable, divine purpose which works out slowly across the ages… We take for granted that Bible students “must acquire the art of historical construction by which… they may … reproduce the history of Israel’s religious experience, from those early days when Jehovah [Yah-weh] was a tribal God who went out to battle against the gods of other desert tribes.”

Now, why the true God should have chosen this particular “idea,” why He should have selected and used as His symbol this Yahweh of Israel in preference to the god Chemosh of Moab, or, for that matter, any other national god, is an enigma to modern scholarship. Even Well-hausen confesses he cannot explain it. Nor have these scholars explained how Israel came to have this Yahweh, and there seems very little hope that they will ever know. The case is stated thus:

The Bible declares that Israel and Yahweh became connected by a covenant, which was made at a specified moment of time and in a particular place. In the words of Hosea: “I am Yahweh thy god from the land of Egypt” (Hos. 12:9). In thorough accord with this, we are told by the book of Exodus that Israel and Yahweh entered into a solemn covenant at Mount Horeb-Sinai, just after the Exodus from Egyptian territory… “I will take you to me for a people; and I will be to you a god” (Ex. 6:7). “And thou, Yahweh, became their god” (2 Sam. 7:24). Now, the question here is, How came the religion of Israel to have this covenant character?… It is to this that Hosea, Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophetic writers refer, either expressly or by implication. The covenant of the prophets [is that] of Sinai, in which Yahweh became the god of Israel. If Yahweh thus became the god of Israel at a certain time and place, it follows, according to the logic of primitive religion, that he must have been connected with some other people before the Israelites entered into relation with him. The Old Testament says that the covenant was made in the Arabian wilderness, prior to the invasion of Canaan. Whatever this transaction was, it lies on the borderland between Israel’s prehistoric, nomadic age in the desert and the historic period after the settlement; and there is difficulty in reconstructing its details upon the basis of the evidence at our disposal.

The material referring to this period is of too uncertain a character for us to form a definite idea of the situation; and the history of the Israelites in the Arabian desert must remain shrouded in darkness. We have seen that the Hexateuchal [Hexateuch is the critical name given to the Pentateuch with Joshua added, which are considered as forming one body of literature distinct from the remainder of the Old Testament] view of the Israelite invasion and settlement of Canaan has much lower historical value than the corresponding narratives in Judges and Samuel; and this consideration, along with many others, leads us to use the Hexateuch with extreme caution at all points. The outstanding impression left upon us, after going over the evidence, is that the cult of Yahweh became current among the Israelites through their contact with a pastoral clan whose wandering ground was in the Sinai peninsula. But Old Testament scholarship is coming to agreement that we cannot envisage the nomadic history of Israel in any clear light.

The conclusion reached is that Yahweh came to the Israelites through a covenant with another clan, probably the Kenites, and that “it is becoming evident that the historic fact in the Hexateuch is the importation of a desert god and a nomadic morality into the midst of settled Amorite civilization” when, of course, Israel entered Canaan. Further:

The work of Moses was rather that of introducing or emphasizing the cult of Yahweh than of expounding a new system of ethics; and whatever he may have done, the vital conditions of Hebrew religious development are to be sought in Canaan, and not in the desert. For this process, our chief authorities are the books of the Judges, Samuel, Kings, and the various prophets; while the Hexateuch has only a secondary value.12

This, then, is criticism’s remarkable answer to the question of the origin of the religion of Israel. It relegates the matter to some kindness of an obscure desert tribe (the Kenites) to Israel who adopted its god, but how Yahweh happened to be the deity of that tribe remains a mystery upon which not one ray of light has yet fallen, for all that scientific investigation has progressed so marvelously. Since the Hexateuchal account of origins must be rejected because it is pervaded by supernatural and miraculous elements, and since only explanations by natural processes are acceptable to the critical mind, there does not seem to be any other tribe than the Kenites to select as a source, for the other peoples with whom Israel came in contact had gods whose names are known. The Kenite deity, not being directly known, or mentioned, must have been this Yahweh of Israel. He never would have been known to us but for the generous act of Moses in adopting and proclaiming this insignificant deity instead of originating some new god.

But while this is an account of the road over which biblical investigators have thus traveled, we are advised to remember “that they have not yet reached their destination. This reminder is given by the leading exponents of modern biblical research and interpretation… The ‘partial and imperfect dawn of a new era of interpretation’” is stated to be the general attitude “of all candid biblical investigators whose method and standpoint are those of the prevailing school of scientific research. We have compared the modern school to travelers who have not reached their destination; but another figure may also be employed. The scientific view of the Bible is like a house in process of construction. Most opponents of the evolutionary view of Israel’s religion make the tactical mistake of assuming that the house is completed; and they criticize it on the basis of that assumption.”13

Our criticism will not be of the superstructure. That it is incomplete we make no question. Our criticism will be of the foundation upon which this as yet unfinished house is being erected. It would be a long and tedious process to demolish piecemeal the extensive shell of a building already constructed by the critics. This can be left to totter and fall of itself when once the foundation is destroyed. The foundation in this case is the evolutionary view of Israel’s national history which in turn is taken to explain the development of its religion, and the growth of Bible literature.

Having marked out the road over which modern Biblical criticism is traveling, let its method of procedure now be stated.

(2) The method used by Criticism.

Modern scientific investigation of the Bible, after all, is only a special application of methods already employed in examining the literature and history of the world’s great nations. Scientific biblical research, therefore, is not a thing in a corner. It is answerable to the progress of method in the study of all human history. The ‘historical method’ took its rise among the ancient Greeks, who were the first to achieve emancipation from the reign of mythology.

The Greeks had a literature, once considered as credible history, which described the early age of heroes, recounted divine interventions and communications between gods and men, and told of various miracles. This store of legend and myth formed a sort of Bible to them. It exercised a very great influence upon both their religious and literary life. But the time came when their historians sought to disengage fact from fiction in this mass of mythic story and poem. Thus they established the critical method which has been “taken up by modern historical scholars.”

The same is true of ancient Roman history. The Roman people, like the Greeks, made their mythology a matter of literal and serious belief for many centuries. Though the Greeks made an effort to disengage their own history from “its mythic envelope,” only in modern times and within the last few generations has Roman history been carefully investigated and rewritten. In this work Niebuhr was a foremost leader, reconstructing Roman history according to the new method of historical criticism, in the application of which he was a pioneer and pathfinder. Now, “the earliest way of treating history [consisted] in accepting uncritically all traditions that come down from the past, and weaving these traditions together into a connected narrative. The mythological part of tradition may relate to ‘the gods,’ or it may turn around actual historical characters… [so] whoever would really know human history … must reckon with the important fact of mythology. It was the perception of this principle with more or less vividness that led the ancient Greek historians to lay the foundations of the critical, historical method. The realization of the same truth in a fuller degree has been a factor of high importance in the modern progress of historical science. Thus, opposition to the historical method necessarily carries one back toward mythology… The scientific historian, first of all, seeks to ascertain ‘facts,’” not interpret them, but simply “lay bare what may be called ‘the raw material of history.’ This fundamental inquiry is dealt with by analyzing the evidence that bears upon the situation… The primary work of the scientific investigator of history, then, is to draw the distinction between myths and fact. On the one side, he accumulates a mass of real or supposed myths; and on the other, he gathers a mass of real or supposed facts. The myths are not cast into the limbo of mere curiosities. They are held aside for later study and interpretation. As a rule, they are not mere idle tales; and they teach positive lessons about history even when they are not accepted as literally true.”

“After facts [real or supposed] have been separated from their mythic envelope, the demands upon the historian become different. There now emerges the leading question, What are the connections between the facts? How are the facts related to each other? How is history to be controlled and interpreted? In other words, after the historian has taken his material apart (analysis), he is called upon to put it together (synthesis).”

Now in the development of scientific writing of history there have sprung up a number of different departments each of which has its specialists; but it must be recognized that the work of each (whether political, religious, moral, domestic, economic, or legal, etc.) is not independent; instead, it stands related to the whole science of history, which, in fact, is “the biography of human society” and “must be treated as an ‘organic whole.’” With this must be combined the science of sociology which treats of the origin and development of what history records. It “approaches history from the standpoint of the ‘social group,’” that is, it considered history as relating “to the evolution of organized groups or communities” which people form. These may be of only local interest, as in the case of the Greeks, whose social mechanism consisted of independent clans reaching back to the nomadic period and whose development worked out in the construction of small “city states” such as Athens and Sparta, but never achieved any real national unity; or they may assume the importance of development in a national form as with the Romans and the Hebrews.

The idea, then, is that group-development is the only basis for the interpretation of history, and that as to all phases of life. This principle is applied to the particular religious interest which centers in the Bible, and leads to the explanation of its origin, development, and interpretation from the evolution of the social group known as the Hebrew nation.14 This, then, explains the method pursued by the historical criticism of the Bible. The entire explanation of its religion and literature is made to turn upon the answer to the question, How did the social group known as the Hebrew nation originate and develop? “This method of approach to the Bible is a logical application of modern results in historical and social science; and it opens before us the chapters of an intensely absorbing story.” This may now be briefly sketched.

(3) The course of Bible history as defined by Criticism. This deals not simply with secular aspects, but with the religious elements which so manifestly dominate its course, and constitute the preeminent theme of the Bible. The course, then, of Bible history is now outlined and interpreted by scientific historians in the following manner:

The older view of the Bible and its religion did not suppose that the history of the Hebrew people had anything to do with shaping, or ‘causing,’ the religious ideas peculiar to Israel; and the thought of such a connection is even yet a novelty to most Bible readers. But it should be observed at once that the old view of the nature and origin of the Hebrew religion is bound up with a view of Hebrew history which has been discredited in all the foremost institutions of learning. According to the old view, the nation called ‘Israel’ consisted of the descendants of a single race, or family. It was organized at a single stroke, in the wilderness of Arabia. Taking the form of a mighty army, under the generalship of a single commander, the militant nation attacked the land of Canaan, drove out the ‘Amorites,’ and then divided the entire land by lot among the different clans or tribes which constituted the invading army. This view is based on the first six books of the Old Testament known as the Hexateuch.” …This view, sociologically, means “that the group-organization of the Hebrews was determined and fixed by law at the very beginning of the national history, and was not the result of development.15

“But modern historical investigation has demonstrated that the Hexateuch in its present form is a very late product of Hebrew life;16 that it was unknown to the Hebrews throughout the larger part of their time of residence in Palestine;17 and that the conception of the national history just cited is impossible.”18 Further, the books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings must be accounted “older than the Hexateuch;” and “the story which they tell about the origin19 of the Hebrew nation [which] departs conspicuously from that of the narratives embodied in the first six books of the Old Testament”20 must be used as the historical starting point. “According to these older documents [Judges-Kings], the land of Canaan was invaded, not by a ‘nation’ organized as a grand army under one general, but by a number of independent clans which had no common organization. These clans coming in from the desert, merely succeeded in planting themselves here and there in the highlands of Judah, Ephraim, and Gilead. They did not drive out or annihilate the Amorites; but the previous inhabitants remained in possession of a long list of walled cities, most of which were in the lowlands. The Hebrew nation, as known to history, arose at the point of coalescence between the incoming Israelite clans and the Amorite city-states already established in Canaan. The Amorite cities remained for a long time independent (throughout the period of the Judges and reign of King Saul); but under the House of David, the earlier inhabitants became assimilated with the Israelite monarchy, and lost their racial identity. During the long period between the original invasion and the great Babylonian captivity, the Hebrew people and their kings did not observe the law of the national constitution recorded in the Hexateuch;21 and this law was finally brought forward in its completed form, and adopted after the Captivity, by the ‘Jews,’ a remnant of the old Hebrew people. This general view … is a commonplace to the scholar who is in possession of the results of scientific investigation of the Bible.”

Now the historico-sociological viewpoint and interpretation is that consequent upon this invasion by a nomadic people and their contact with the settled, city-dwelling and so-called civilized peoples inhabiting Canaan, “a great struggle arose between the standpoints of” these groups finally resulting through fusion “in the development of the Hebrew nation.” But the conflict of different social and religious ideas continued, and “in the long run, the two sides of the struggle came to be symbolized by the terms ‘Yahweh’ and ‘Baal,’ which indicate the gods of the races that combined in the national group. By one and the same process, the national deity Yahweh became identified with warfare against ‘other gods’ and warfare against ‘injustice.’” The conflict between the local Baal worship, derived from the Amorites, and that of Yahweh, the national deity, along with which was associated a different social mechanism, resulted in bringing forward the great prophets who, like reformers of their day, preached against polytheism and various forms of social abuses and injustice, connected in their minds with the Baal-system of Amorite origin, so that the movement thus commenced and carried into post-exilic times accomplished the purification of the Hebrew religion, giving to it its final, spiritual, universal, and exalted form which the prophetical books chiefly set forth in a way “that has pierced through the ages and illuminated the history of the world.”

This unique development is considered to be due to the religious element which persistently characterized the conflict of different social standpoints engendered by nomadic Israel’s invasion of settled and civilized Canaan. It is true that similar invasions by primitive peoples had taken place in Babylonia and Egypt, but no similar conflict had ensued, for these conquering nomads had found an already established national unity, social and religious, to which they had to accommodate themselves.

But in Canaan nothing like this was found by Israel; instead of unity in government and religion there were independent city-states or provincial bodies, each worshipping its own god, or Baal. In the conflict of Canaan’s different social standpoint with that of nomadic Israel, Hebrew development took place, producing in its course national unity and organization with Yahweh, who at first was only the tribal god of the invaders, now become a national deity.

Thus social and religious elements were combined on both sides of the struggle, and out of its throes, after a duration of centuries, there emerged the result described above. This struggle has been staged nowhere else. It has been acted out only in Hebrew history. Because of this distinctive and peculiar combination of elements, social and religious, the Hebrew-group evolution is considered to be “unlike that of any other ancient people.”

It may be necessary for the sake of clearness further to define what is meant by this conflict of differing social and religious elements. The ideas and usages of all migratory, unsettled races, such as Israel was at first, are of a different form from those of settled civilized peoples such as the Amorites. With the former, social consciousness put brotherhood foremost—the good treatment of the individual members of clan or tribe—and manhood was held at par value. With the latter, manhood was held at a discount; the common man was looked upon with scant respect. Most of the inhabitants in settled Oriental countries were in the toils of some kind of slavery, while a small, upper class used all the machinery of government and religion to tighten their grip upon the masses still more firmly. Abuse of individual right, and much injustice prevailed with a small privileged class always in the ascendant.

The reverse is true of the nomadic social and economic standpoint, for it maintained a much higher standard of individual right and a more impartial administration of justice. The religious element of the Amorite civilization reflected its social viewpoint. In it the leading men of the upper social class were called “baals” and their gods were “Baals” to whom the people conceded the same thought, place, and action as that which they attributed to their own human lords or owners.

Nomadic Israel, on the contrary, had one tribal god. He was interjected abruptly among the Amorite Baals on Israel’s invasion of Canaan along with the social customs and laws of nomads, and so was precipitated the conflict of different religious and social elements. This resulted in generating aa new ‘variety’ of religion. The contact with the cult of civilization produced a ‘cross-fertilization of culture’ which led to the birth of a unique religion. A new body of spiritual thought was born which avoided the religious evils of civilization and nomadism, and combined their virtues.”22

According to Criticism, this is a description of the course of Hebrew history along with the explanation of the birth and development of Bible religion.

4. The origin and making of the Bible as now explained by Criticism. From the preceding sections the reader will already have gleaned something of what may be expected under this heading.

As to the origin of the Bible religion, we are told that this must be sought in the conflict of diverse forces as just described. It is “not the outcome of one special thread of influence, but the product of many tendencies and circumstances working together.” This process has been briefly described in the outline of the course of Hebrew history, as now defined by Criticism. It began with the shock occasioned by the meeting of the opposing standpoints represented by nomadism and civilization, complicated by a keen religious competition between the multitudinous Baal-worship of the Amorite civilization and the Yahweh-worship, observed in common by all the tribes of Israel, which they brought out with them from the wilderness.

The contact of these alien social-religious groups produced the conditions of the Judges-period. During it there was a constant alternation of victory and defeat for the invading nomads, who assimilated in the process certain forms of the Baal-worship while still giving their own Yahweh first place. The conflict continued even during Saul’s reign, but a fusion of these elements took place under David’s conquest, and this new national development naturally gave the god of the conquering Israelites a great new prestige which was celebrated in the building of his great temple by Solomon. Nevertheless the Amorite-Baal influences remained in the midst of the Hebrew nation.

Toward the close of Solomon’s reign and after the disruption, these influences burst again into prominence, especially acquiring prominence in the northern kingdom. The result was really the vogue of a kind of pantheon of gods, with Yahweh as the chief divinity. A system of polytheism prevailed, and in the new conflict with this, the conflict of opposing social law and custom, which had been much suppressed during the reign of David and Solomon again came to the forefront. In Ahab’s reign, this condition reached a crisis when Elijah with unexampled boldness attacked Baal-worship and social injustice,23 and demanded that the supremacy of Yahweh be fully recognized.

This reformation did not prove permanent, however, the old conditions returned and even grew worse as they had a habit of doing in the ancient imperialistic form of civilization.

But ancestral influences kept the tradition of the nomadic social forms of law and custom, with their greater measure of practical righteousness, justice, and brotherhood, alive among the common people of the kingdoms, oppressed though they were, and impoverished by despotic methods and exactions to satisfy the extravagant luxury of the Court and of the small upper social class who also reveled in Baal-worship. Yahweh, on the other hand, was always identified with the ancestral social standpoint by both the oppressor and the oppressed. There was a constant alternation of supremacy between the conflicting standpoints: now Amorite-Baalistic influences dominated, then the ancestral Israelite influences rose to the top. This antithesis receives recurring and increasing emphasis in the history of the Kings.

What thus long smouldered, or expressed itself in convulsive effort, as in the case of Elijah, broke out into a great flame of protest, expostulation, and sound teaching with the rise of the literary or writing prophets, beginning with Amos and Hosea. The work thus begun, was followed up and developed by successive prophets, and it crystallized religious thought, emphasized righteousness, individual and national, justice and brotherhood. The original idea of Yahweh expanded. From the one god of a group of tribes he grew to be a universal Deity, and the figure of the one true God emerged out of this age-long struggle in Canaan. As already told, He was at work all the time behind the scenes in this drama. By means of the tribal, and later the national deity of Israel, God was preparing the way, finally to reveal Himself fully as “the God of the whole earth, identical with righteousness and abounding in mercy.”24

All this means that the books of the prophets must be taken as the great foundation strata of Bible religion and literature. The Hexateuch did not exist, nor Judges through Kings at the commencement of the period of the literary prophets, only separate documents, containing some early traditions, a few simple, primary laws and some records of history were in existence, in a scattered form, for they were not combined until later into a body of literature. The movement to collect and compile them took rise during the era of the prophets, whose work gave stimulus to it. Their success in stressing and expanding the idea of Yahweh gave substance to the idea of instituting a one only valid and central sanctuary with an authorized priesthood and ritual. Thus Deuteronomy25 was written just before Josiah’s reign, hidden in the temple, and suddenly “discovered” to be used as its compiler originally intended, as the lever to inaugurate a religious reformation conforming to the standpoint of the prophets. Deuteronomy thus set in motion a great literary development, extending through several centuries during which the scattered documents and records which gave Israel’s original mythology, traditions and history, were collected, sifted, edited and pieced together, sometimes very skillfully, again rather loosely, in the books that we name the Pentateuch, Joshua, and Judges through Kings.

This whole literary development, although the work of many hands and minds is characterized by the general purpose of selecting such things as would be useful in strengthening and embellishing the framework constructed by the Prophetic-Deuteronomic-Priestly schools which began to be formed in the days of the first literary prophets —Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah.26

Everything thus was ordered to contribute to the advancement of the central idea—the absolute supremacy, unique glory and perfect righteousness of Yahweh as against all the Baals and the social customs connected with them. In the recognition that allegiance to Yahweh was the paramount issue, lay the key to all blessing, individual, national, universal. The adversities and disasters of the national history, culminating in the captivities, were also made to serve this cause. These were selected for special emphasis by Jeremiah. During the exile and after, this great religious movement continued, gaining rather than slowing up under exilic conditions, so that in the Ezra-Nehemiah period it reached its final form, particularly as to laws and ritual. In brief, this was the process of the establishment of monotheism as true religion in contrast with polytheism.

Concurrently, a world-wide perspective developed, in which the Yahweh of tribal Israel who had previously become the national god of the Hebrew nation, became the Redeemer of Mankind, the one only true and living God. This is the grand climax to the social-religious conflict staged in the land of Canaan, carried on between the opposing standpoints of invading Israel and the indigenous Amorites.

Thus the great pivot upon which the making of Scripture turns—the center from which it evolves like an ascending and expanding spiral of religious thought of ever increasing spirituality and breadth of vision—is condemnation of the Hebrews for adopting Amorite law and morals instead of remaining true to the ancestral tribal god, Yahweh, and the code of ethics associated with him by reason of their nomadic origin.

This completes our brief general sketch of the origin and making of the Bible and its religion as now understood and taught by the critics.

Additional details may help to elucidate their scheme further and prove not uninteresting in themselves. Generally speaking, the critics look at the books beginning with Genesis and on through Kings as composed of various documents which were brought together and gradually added to by a school of writers during the seventh to the fifth centuries B.C. Only toward the end of this period did this body of literature receive its present form practically. The labors of these critics have been devoted to distinguishing, analyzing, and separating these documents into their originals, which they claim to be able to do by reason of certain literary forms, phrases, special words and distinctive lines of thought or special viewpoints peculiar to each of them. They believe that each of these originals can be chronologically located by sifting out parallelisms between these features peculiar to it and the actual history of the Hebrew people.

Chronologically speaking these documents and the compositions added to them are then placed in the following order:

1. Two sets of narratives, called Elohistic and Yahwehistic because they make use in large measure of the names “Elohim” and “Yahweh” [Jehovah], respectively are separated out in which it is claimed that there exist marked divergences and contradictions in their treatment of the same events. The editors distributed these double accounts throughout our Hexateuch, in some cases dovetailing passages to each together in such fashion that the critics have found it necessary in certain places actually to split verses, assigning part to one source and part to another. Both these sets of duplicated narrative began with the myths of creation as found in Genesis and carried the story into the Judges period. These narratives did not supply any of the material embraced in what we know as Leviticus and Deuteronomy, nor parts of Numbers, and parts of the Tabernacle and Law sections of Exodus. Leviticus and Deuteronomy and these parts of Numbers and Exodus were produced at a much later date.

2. There were certain other books of record, probably contemporaneous to some extent with the above mentioned documents.27

3. The book found in the temple by Hilkiah in Josiah’s reign. This is supposed to have comprised most of the present book of Deuteronomy.

For about one hundred years previous to its discovery several of the prophets—Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah— had been delivering their messages. This prepared the way for the production of the “Hilkiah book.” “The majority of the critics believe this book of the law to have been the result of a pious fraud promulgated by Hilkiah and Shaphan with the intention of deceiving Josiah into the belief that the reforms which they desired were the express command of God revealed to Moses.”28

It is then supposed that this book Hilkiah found was used as a nucleus by a school of writers, now called Deuteronomistic. In conjunction with the prophets who arose after its discovery, Jeremiah in particular, they expanded it into our present Deuteronomy. This is considered demonstrated by the fact that Baal-worship derived from the Amorites is constantly referred to in it.29 “The worship of the Baals is equated, or identified, with everything that the prophets abhor.”

To this same school of writers, for their labors extended over many years, is attributed the final compilation of the present books of Judges, Samuel and Kings. They took the old records and stories of past history (Elohistic, Yahwehistic, etc.) which were available, and added to them the special emphasis which is laid by them in their present form upon the evils of Amorite Baal-worship, customs and morals. This is the process by which these books become such a strong witness to the use of anti-Baal propaganda to enforce the cult of Yahweh.

This led the way to a combination of the Elohist and Yahwehist documents, and the various laws and ceremonies, after their codification, which were found needful in developing the religious reformation set in motion by the famous “Hilkiah book.” The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, as soon as it occurred, made the writing down of these priestly practices still more essential and it was taken in hand during the exile. Ezekiel is credited with the first step in this direction, and the result was his ideal plan and constitution for the service of the temple when restored. He was a priest, and other priests followed in his steps. Thus all the older practices and related laws were written down, as well as, doubtless, additions made during a period which reached into post-exilic days; the final result being what critics call the Priestly Code. Leviticus is entirely made up of this material, and other parts of it are found distributed throughout the Hexateuch.

To recapitulate: The order that we have now reached is: the Elohist document, the Yahweh document, certain books of record, the Hilkiah book, then Deuteronomy and the Judges-Kings series, the writings of the prophets before and during the exile, and the production of the Priestly Code bringing us to post-exilic time.

Now the next step was the combination of E (Elohistic), Y (Yahwehistic), D (Deutoronomistic), and P (Priestly), probably in the Ezra-Nehemiah period, thus finally producing the Hexateuch (Genesis-Joshua) as we now possess it.

Ezra and Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Chronicles, were put into finished form during the fourth century B.C. Daniel is placed in the second century B.C. As to the other books, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, etc., little is known concerning them, except that they were in all probability incorporated in the body of accepted sacred literature during the post-exilic period.

The problem of the composition of the Hexateuch is aptly described by one of the critics, who makes the principle underlying it applicable to all Scripture. He says:

Let us suppose a problem of this kind: Given a patch work quilt, explain the character of the original piece out of which the bits of stuff composing the quilt were cut. First, we notice that, however well the colors may blend, however nice and complete the whole may look, many of the adjoining pieces do not actually agree in material, texture, pattern, color, or the like. Ergo, they have been made up out of very different pieces of stuff. So far, we have only proved what may turn out to be … a conglomeration of fragments. But suppose that we further discover that many of the bits, though now separated, are like one another in material, texture, etc., we may conjecture that these may have been cut out of one piece. But we shall prove this beyond reasonable doubt if we find that several bits when unpieced fit together, so that the pattern of one is continued in the other; and, moreover, if all of like character are sorted out they form, say, four groups, each of which was evidently once a single piece of stuff, though parts of each are found missing, because, no doubt, they have not been required to make the whole. But we make the analogy with the Hexateuch even closer, if we further suppose that in certain parts of the quilt the bits belonging to, say, two of these groups are so combined as to form a subsidiary pattern within the larger pattern of the whole quilt, and had evidently been sewn together before being connected with the other parts of the quilt; and we may make it even closer still, if we suppose that, besides the more important bits of stuff, smaller embellishments, borderings, and the like had been added so as to improve the general effect of the whole.”30

8 This term is to be understood as comprehending the belief of the supernatural, and the practice resulting from its acceptance, embracing life and experience, doctrines and ordinances, duties and ceremonies. It involves, therefore, revelation and related themes.

9 The book quoted (Soc. Study of the Bible) evidently intends to do its best to furnish the much needed enlightenment.

10 From Modem Criticism and the Preaching of the Old Test., pp. 128, 129.

11 From Biblical World (Aug., ’96), pp. 100-101.

12 Soc. Study of the Bible, pp. 80-82.

13 Ibid., pp. 10-17.

14 Extracts from Sociological Study of the Bible, pp. 18-23, pp. 14, 15.

15 This explains why Hebrew history is “unlike that of any other ancient people,” rather than the sociological reason given later.

16 This will be enlarged upon shortly in treating of how the Bible was made, according to Criticism. See also note 13 below.

17 This is taken for granted because the history of the nation is considered a sharp contradiction of what might be expected if the Pentateuch was in existence, and had been accepted as the Law of God in the manner recounted in its narratives. A very different and quite reasonable explanation of this history will be given later.

18 Simply because it involves the acceptance of the supernatural and miraculous, and therefore bears the same character as the myths which belong to Greece, Rome, and other nations.

19 But the question is, Do they tell of origin or decline? This critical displacement of the Pentateuch and Joshua, in favor of making an historic beginning with Judges leaves several problems demanding solution, in default of which, after a century of critical investigation, we have only the vague speculations of the Critics, like the “Kenite hypothesis” of original source referred to above. (See Hastings’ Dict. of the Bible, Ext. vol, pp. 626, 627.) Are not the Critics making their own mythology?

20 This is stated because the history of the Judges-Kings period does not show the people living up to the Pentateuchal covenant relation, or observing its accompanying legislation, or following its ritual and central sanctuary plan. Instead, the people had many altars, many sanctuaries, and others than members of the priestly house offered sacrifice. From this situation, it is concluded that the Hexateuch could not have been in existence at the time. Further, that we do not find the history in measurable agreement with the legislation of the Pentateuch, until a short period before the exile, and only in final form after it. Therefore, it must have been compiled during this late period as an instrument for use in accomplishing religious reformation and establishing definite institutions of priestly place and service with one central and only valid sanctuary. In the compiling, this body of law and literature was combined with the mythology found in current documents of early tradition and the few general laws also embodied in them so that the whole collection might be hallowed by the sanctity and supernatural character attached to the ancient mythic age of heroes, so sacred and dear to any ancient people. This does not mean to deny that Abram, Moses, and others were not historic personages, but the mere admission of their having lived becomes about the only needle of fact in this haystack of fiction.

21 According to the Critics, it was not yet in existence.

22 Quotations and extracts from Sociological Study of the Bible, pp. 242-30, 95, 135-137, 176.

23 Against all this Samuel had warned when a king was first demanded. In short a throne meant the injection of Amorite influences and conditions into Israel’s nomadic social structure. History shows this developed, and became the root of the disruption in Rehoboam’s day. This leaven of the things of Baal continued to work and spread. A weak voice now and again was raised against it, but Elijah’s thunder brought revolution.

24 See pp. 21, 22.

25 At least, most of what now constitutes that book.

26 “The book of Genesis, being written at a late epoch, reflects the struggle of the prophets against the practices and ideas of their times.” Such instances as that nomadic Abraham is the friend of Yahweh, and the Amorites pronounced wicked; that Abel the nomadic shepherd is acceptable to Yahweh, and Cain the settled worker of the soil is rejected, that Yahweh is presented as opposed to city-building and city-dwelling are some of the things presented as proof!

27 See Num. 21:14, 15; Josh. 10:12, 13; 2 Sam. 1:18-27; 1 Kings 14:19, 29.

28 Hastings’ Dict. of the Bible, “Hexateuch,” p. 368.

29 7:1-5; 12:2-4; 12:30; 20:16-18; 31:16.

30 Hastings’ Diet, of the Bible, “Hexateuch,” p. 365.